Episode Eighty-Five

Avoid Spoilers! Read from Episode One

Final Act

The story that Joanne Evans has recounted to Doctor Joel Prasad has left them both feeling a little unsettled. The half-eaten pizza is pushed to the side and Joel puts his arm around Joanne.

“Your aunty is one brave woman,” Joel tells Joanne. “But I think you’re a pretty brave woman yourself. I mean, all the things you’ve been through and had to overcome.”

Joanne looks up at Joel and gives him a polite smile. “Thanks,” she whispers. “That means a lot.”

They are both suddenly taken by the moment and their lips touch each other’s. It had been so long since she had felt this close to anyone, Joanne realises. She doesn’t want this moment to end.

The shrill sound of Joel’s mobile phone ringing interrupts their moment. They both pull away from each other, Joel sighing as he reaches for the phone in his pocket.

“I’m sorry,” he says, “I should take this call.”

Joel answers the phone while Joanne picks up the pizza box and puts it into a nearby bin. She no longer feels hungry. Butterflies in her stomach have taken over any hunger pains she may have had.

“That was the hospital,” Joel says to Joanne as he puts the phone back into his pocket. “There’s been an accident – I don’t have all the details yet, but it sounds like an emergency. I need to get to the hospital.”

“Go, go!” Joanne urges the doctor. “We can catch up sometime during the week.”

“I’d like that,” Joel says, giving Joanne a kiss.

Joanne laughs. “I promise I won’t forget next time.”


Amber Harp places her feet on the wooden floorboards. She steadies herself using the bed for support. She still feels weak from being trapped for so long.

She makes her way over to the bedroom door and fumbles for the handle in the darkness. The door is locked. She cannot open it.

She fumbles again in the darkness, this time finding the light switch next to the door. The room is awash with light and Amber is suddenly blinded.

She sees the window on the other side of the room and rushes over to it. She tries the handle and it swings open a fraction. Amber’s excitement lasts only a moment as she realises that bars have been fitted to the outside of the window. There’s no escaping out of it.

There must be a key for the door in here somewhere, Amber thinks to herself. She looks around the room to see what’s in there.

Two large cardboard boxes in one corner of the room get her attention. She moves over to them and opens the first one. Odds and ends fill it. She rips out the contents furiously, but there is nothing of interest.

She pulls the other box close to her and opens it. Photographs fill the box and Amber sees a young boy of varying ages present in all of them. Charles King has a son? Amber thinks to herself.

She continues pulling out the photographs and comes across a photo album. She pulls it out of the box and places it on her lap, leaning her body against the wall.

Multiple newspaper clippings fill the album, and Amber immediately recognises them. The headlines are unforgettable.

English Backpacker Goes Missing in National Park

Hiker’s Tale of Terror

Three Girls Remain Missing in Wilderness

Hope Fades for Missing Mother of Two

Amber Harp doesn’t need to read the stories, for she knows them well. All too well.

She remembered the hours she had spent investigating these missing person cases. As the Holgate Times crime reporter, she had written these articles herself.

She never did know what had happened to the missing people in these stories, or who had been responsible for their disappearance.

Charles King.

Amber slams the album closed and throws it across the floor. She isn’t prepared to be another missing person.

No-one will be writing a newspaper article about her disappearance, she decides.


Only moments after Joanne sees Doctor Joel Prasad rush off, she sees an ambulance race past the town square. The blue and red flashing lights violently cut through the darkness of the night.

She prays to herself that whoever it is, they are okay. It’s a small town, and she knows most people in it, having taught many in her job as a high school teacher. She would hate to find out if someone she knew was hurt.

She is keen to return to the job that she had once loved so much. She hadn’t worked at the high school ever since her husband, Richard Evans, had been killed. So much had happened since, but she realised she is ready to start working again.

Joanne picks up her handbag and slings it over her shoulder. She steps onto the footpath leading away from the town square in the direction of her townhouse.


Akemi Helling gently reaches for the knife and it drops to the ground. She pulls the attacker in close to her and they embrace each other, a sigh of relief escaping from them both.

“I’m here now,” Akemi whispers. “It’s okay, I’m here now. Everything’s going to be okay.”

She holds the young boy close to her.

Drake Harp sobs uncontrollably.

Akemi looks down over the edge of the building into the complex’s courtyard. She sees two paramedics enter and run towards the lifeless body still lying on the pavement at the base of the four storey building. Akemi prays to herself that the paramedics can help her. The injuries from the fall looked serious.

Akemi sees the building’s security guard next to the paramedics. She realises that she needs to get his attention so that he knows where she is. She also needs to let him know what she has found up on the rooftop.

She kicks the bloodied knife further away from her with her foot and gently seats Drake on the ground. “I’m going to get us some help,” she tells him.

Akemi leans over the side of the building again and calls out.


As Joanne walks along the footpath, she passes the newly-built hotel. She looks up at in awe. Its monstrous features tower over the small town and she feels saddened somewhat that it had come at the price of the caravan park that had been an iconic part of the town for so long.

Nevertheless, she did plan on attending the grand opening ceremony the next morning. She is sure that, despite the many protests for its development, it would be an asset to the small town’s future.

Joanne stops suddenly. She strains her neck in the direction of the noise she can hear.

“Help!” the sound reverberates around her.

Joanne listens, holding her breath.

“Help!”

She hears it again.

Joanne steps over to the emergency exit door of the hotel and pulls at its handle. The door is unlocked and Joanne steps into the building.


“Help!” Akemi yells down to the courtyard below.

Drake sits by her feet, still crying. “I want my mum.”

“I know, honey,” Akemi says, lowering herself to give the boy a hug. “I know.”


Joanne realises she must be getting close. She can hear the calls for help get closer.

Inside the building, she ascends the emergency exit stairs. The calls for help must be coming from the top of the building, Joanne thinks to herself.

The calls for help stop and the only thing she can hear is her own breath. Her fear of being caught trespassing is surpassed by her need to find whoever it is that may be in trouble.

She steps up to the emergency exit door and pushes it open.


Akemi holds Drake and manages to calm him. “You’re safe now, honey,” she reassures him.

They both hear footsteps on the other side of the door. Akemi realises help is on its way.

The footsteps stop and Akemi sees the door open up.


The door swings open and Joanne looks out onto the rooftop.

She squints into the darkness. She can’t see anything. She can’t hear anything, either.

She listens for another call for help, but doesn’t hear anything.

As she turns back towards the building, Joanne is about to head back down the stairs when she hears it. The noise is only faint, but it causes her to turn back around.

Joanne reaches into her handbag and pulls out her pocket flashlight. She switches it on and shines it in front of her.

The small beam of light makes its way across the rooftop and stops suddenly. Joanne lets out a cry as she sees Doctor Peter Smith crouched in the corner, a knife in one hand and Drake Harp secured across the mouth with the other. She can see the small boy crying.

Before Joanne can react, Doctor Smith lets go of Drake and rushes at her. She drops the flashlight and runs towards the door.

Joanne feels piercing pain in her head as Doctor Smith grabs at her hair. He pulls her towards him. She struggles to free herself and he drops the knife to the ground so that he can grab her with both hands.

“You always seem to find yourself meddling in my affairs,” Doctor Smith sneers. He pushes her to the edge of the building and holds her over the rail, her hair dangling into space.

“Run!” Joanne calls out to the boy. She can’t see him in the darkness, but knows he must still be there. “Run as fast as you can!”

Doctor Smith turns around to find Drake but it’s too dark to see. Joanne manages to stand up and pushes Doctor Smith away from her.

“Where is he?” Doctor Smith sounds frazzled.

Joanne looks around the darkness frantically. She hadn’t heard the door open, so she knows the boy must be here somewhere.

“You’re going to ruin everything!” Doctor Smith grits his teeth, turning back to Joanne and pushing her into the rail again.

The flashlight on the ground sends a small beam of light across the rooftop and Joanne sees a small hand pick up the knife.

Doctor Smith cries out in pain as Drake Harp pushes the knife deep into his back. He instinctively turns to his face his attacker and the knife is plunged into his stomach.

Doctor Smith staggers backwards, holding his wound. Blood pours from his body.

Joanne catches Drake’s eyes for a moment. She can see the fear in them as tears flow.

Doctor Peter Smith orchestrates his final act.

With his remaining strength, he grabs Joanne and pushes her to the building’s edge. She screams in protest.

Drake Harp stabs Doctor Smith in the back again and, with that, Joanne is sent over the edge, plummeting onto the pavement below.


Final Episode – Monday July 2

Episode Eighty-Four

Avoid Spoilers! Read from Episode One

Act 8

Amber Harp pants furiously. Her heart pounds in her chest.

She looks down to her feet as they teeter on the side of the drop.

Doctor Peter Smith steps in closer to her. “Give up, Amber. You can’t run anymore.”

Taking a big breath, Amber forces her body over the side of the embankment and plummets into the icy water below.

Doctor Smith watches on hopelessly as Amber’s body disappears into the darkness. “Damn it, Amber!” he calls out.

“You let her get away?” Doctor Smith turns around suddenly and sees Melody Walker step up towards him.

“She won’t get far,” Doctor Smith says. “That’s if she manages to survive the fall.”

“Or drowns,” Melody adds. There is movement behind her.

“That river is pretty ferocious. Who knows where she’ll end up,” Doctor Smith agrees, noticing that Melody is holding one end of a rope. It disappears behind her.

“If she does survive,” Melody says, “it won’t be long until she’s back.”

Melody steps to one side and unveils what she has tied up behind her. Drake Harp stands frozen, his hands tied with the same rope that Melody is holding.

The young boy sobs quietly.

“She’ll be back for her son,” Melody sniggers.


Joanne Evans and Doctor Joel Prasad sit on the park bench in Peppercorn Patch’s town square. The lamp post next to them illuminates the contents of the pizza box sitting on the bench between them.

Joanne pauses for a moment, puts the slice of pizza she is holding back down into the box and turns to face Joel. “There’s something I’ve never told anyone about my aunty before,” she says to him. “It’s about time I shared it with you.”

Joanne takes a deep breath and Joel can see her trying to hold back tears.

“I was only 16 years old,” Joanne begins to recount. “As I grew older, I was allowed to stay up later…”


Valerie Pickering wipes down the bar, places an empty glass on the dishwashing rack, flings the tea towel over her shoulder and looks at the clock. It’s 11pm.

“Harry, drink up!” Valerie says assertively. “I’m closing.”

“Yea, yea, woman,” Harry, the only customer left in the establishment, slurs, taking a large gulp of his beer. “Hold your bloody horses.”

The front door of The Grand Hotel suddenly opens. A rush of cool air blows into the bar, followed by a 16 year old Joanne.

“I’ve come to walk you home, Aunty Val,” Joanne says, closing the heavy glass door, locking the bolt and turning the sign over to read ‘CLOSED’.

“We’ve just got to wait for Harry,” Valerie huffs. “Come on, Harry, you know the drill.”

Joanne walks towards the bar, passing the stool that Harry is sitting on.

“Your niece is growing up nicely,” Harry slurs, ogling Joanne. He fumbles off the stool and reaches out at Joanne, grabbing her skirt. “You’re very pretty.”

Joanne lets out a scream, trying to get away from the drunk man, but he manages to get a tight grip of her.

“Let her go, you mongrel!” Valerie screams out as she runs out from behind the bar towards them. She picks up a half empty glass bottle of whiskey on the way.

As Valerie swings the bottle at Harry’s head, he grabs her arm, letting go of Joanne. The bottle smashes to the floor.

“Call the police, Joanne!” Valerie screams at her niece, struggling to release Harry’s tight grip.

“Go anywhere near that phone,” Harry snarls at Joanne, motioning at the telephone on the wall, “and I’ll kill you both.”

“Aunty Val!” Joanne screams out, as she sees Harry tighten the grip of his arm around Valerie’s throat.

“Police, Joanne!” Valerie manages to splutter. Her eyes tell Joanne to hurry.

Joanne runs to the telephone, but Harry runs towards it as well, pushing Valerie violently to the floor. He wrenches the telephone from the wall, disengaging it.

“You are growing up so nicely,” Harry repeats, grabbing a hold of Joanne again. She cries as she tries to back away from him.

“Leave her!” Valerie screams from the floor. She tries to get up, but she grimaces in pain. “Don’t touch her!”


“Joanne,” Joel places a hand on her shoulder. “This is terrible. I’m so sorry.”

Joanne swallows hard and stares into the distance. “It’s my aunty I feel sorry for. She saved me that night.”


“Don’t touch her,” Valerie says again, calmly this time. “She’s just a girl. You don’t have to do this.”

Harry huffs, letting go of Joanne. He staggers over to Valerie, who is still lying on the floor. She holds an injured arm. He stands over her, putting two feet either side of her, and unbuckles his belt.

“Joanne,” Valerie calls out to her niece calmly, “go into the office and lock the door behind you, honey.”

Joanne follows her aunty’s instructions.

Her own sobs drown out the cries from her aunty on the other side of the door.


“We never spoke of it again after that night,” Joanne says to Joel.

“Did you ever see Harry again?” Joel asks, pushing himself closer into Joanne to comfort her.

“Only once,” Joanne recalls. “One night a week later he was sitting at the bar, heavily intoxicated as usual. I was scared when I saw him there, but Aunty Val told me not to be afraid. A few minutes later he collapsed to the floor, struggling to breathe.”

“Heart attack?” Joel inquires.

“Supposedly,” Joanne says. “He didn’t survive.”


Joanne watches on as her aunty picks up the phone to dial emergency services and holds it to her chest for a few minutes. Joanne locks eyes with her aunty and can see a tear fall down her cheek.

“Jo, honey,” Valerie says down to her twelve year old niece, “your father would have wanted you to continue being the amazing human being you are.”

Joanne continues to cry as she looks down at her father’s grave. She holds tightly on to her aunty’s hand.

“I promise I will look after you, honey,” Valerie tries to comfort her niece on the day of Benjamin Pickering’s funeral. “I will do everything in my power to make sure you are safe.”

Her aunty had saved her. Joanne would never forget the strength this woman had shown her.


Akemi rushes up the emergency exit stairs of her newly-completed complex. She pants heavily as each step seems to become harder and harder to make. She finally reaches the top of the internal stairs and pushes open the exit door leading out onto the building’s fourth floor rooftop.

She quickly looks around in the darkness, hoping to find what she has come looking for.

Her eyes take a few moments to adjust to the darkness, having just exited the lit stairway.

She takes a step out onto the rooftop and looks around again.

On the ground, there are droplets of something dark in colour. She reaches for the emergency lighting switch and instantly the rooftop is awash with bright light.

The droplets of blood lead Akemi along the rooftop. She follows as the trail of blood travels closer to the roof’s edge.

The blood drops suddenly stop.

In front of her, the image she saw earlier on the roof is no longer dark. She can see the attacker clearly in the full light.

Akemi holds her breath as she looks to the attacker’s hand. A large knife covered in blood is gripped tightly in it.

“You?” Akemi struggles to say. She is confused. “But how could you have done this?”

She looks to the bloodied knife again as the attacker’s hand moves upward.

Doctor Peter Smith’s eyes penetrate her soul.

“Please, just put the knife down,” Akemi pleads.

She can see the knife drip with blood as its blade is pointed directly at her.

“You don’t have to do this,” Akemi pleads again. “Just put it down.”

Her eyes dart between Doctor Smith’s eyes and the knife’s blade. She doesn’t know where to look.

“We can put this all behind you,” Akemi says, taking a step backward.

“You can’t leave!” the attacker suddenly screams, the blade pressing up against her.

“Ok, let’s talk about this,” Akemi tries to reason.

From the pocket of her pants, Akemi’s mobile phone squeals. Its ringing startles them both. She doesn’t dare to answer it. Her eyes stay fixed on the blade in front of her.

The ringing of the mobile starts up again. Akemi feels a sense of dread as she silently prays for it to stop.

Too sharp to notice, the edge of the blade presses into Akemi’s arm. A thin line of blood forms below the knife.

“But, why?” Akemi manages to ask bravely.

She takes her eyes off the blade and they dart towards Doctor Peter Smith’s eyes again.

The attacker doesn’t answer her.

“You don’t need to do this. Just drop the knife,” Akemi pleads.

“You’re here to hurt me too!” the attacker screams at her. Akemi feels the blade dig deeper into her skin.

Akemi looks beyond the attacker where a body lies on the ground. Akemi can see blood continuing to exit out of a knife wound.

The body, she is sure, is no longer alive.

Doctor Peter Smith’s dead eyes stare at her, unnervingly.

Akemi Helling gently reaches for the knife and it drops to the ground. She pulls the attacker in close to her and they embrace each other, a sigh of relief escaping from them both.

“I’m here now,” Akemi whispers. “It’s okay, I’m here now. Everything’s going to be okay.”

She holds the young boy close to her.

Drake Harp sobs uncontrollably.


Next Episode – Monday June 25

Episode Eighty-Three

Avoid Spoilers! Read from Episode One

Act 7

Constance Helling waves goodbye to Sergeant Michael Anders and closes the front door. She lets out a loud sigh, putting a hand to her chest where she can feel her heart pounding.

How did Sergeant Anders found out about the box of teeth? she thinks to herself. If the box was ever found, she knew she was ruined. The secret that she had been keeping would be out and there would be no hiding the darkness of her family’s past.

It was something that Akemi Helling, her estranged step-mother, had said to her only a few weeks prior that had prompted her to take action.

Akemi had mentioned to Constance that she knew about the existence of the box. Councillor Dustin Harris must have told her before he died. Constance knew that Dustin had been conspiring against her ever since she rejected his story about her grandmother, Gretel Helling, killing all of those innocent people.

“Constance,” Akemi had said to her a few weeks earlier, “if you’re found with the box of teeth, you’re going to put us all in trouble. The Helling family name will be ruined and we’ll both be put away for covering up a mass murder.”

“No-one else knows I have it,” Constance had explained to Akemi. “We’re not in any trouble at all.”

“I have a few sources that claim the opposite,” Akemi had said. “Sergeant Anders is leading an investigation.”

“You think he may come looking for it?” Constance had asked.

“Yes, you need to get rid of it before he finds it in your possession.”

Constance sighed out deeply, scrambling to think of a way that she could safely dispose of the box and the evidence that would lead to her criminal liability.

“Give it to me,” Akemi had requested. “I’ll have it hidden so that it will never see the light of day again.”

Constance wasn’t sure whether or not she should trust the woman standing in front of her. After all, she had taken her father, Elias Helling’s, land from her and developed it into the hotel monstrosity it was today. Akemi Helling was shrewd, but Constance knew she didn’t have any other options. She needed to trust her. She had given the box over.

As she stands at the front door, trying to collect her thoughts, Constance reaches for her mobile phone. She searches for AKEMI and presses dial.

Constance can hear the dial tone. It stops suddenly and connects to Akemi’s voicemail.

“Damn it, Akemi,” Constance says, frustrated. “Answer your phone!”

She presses the hang up button and looks at the time on her watch. She needed to get in contact with Akemi to make sure the woman had dealt with disposing of the box.

She dials Akemi’s number again with no success.


Akemi Helling’s eyes dart between Doctor Smith’s eyes and the knife’s blade. She doesn’t know where to look.

“We can put this all behind you,” Akemi says, taking a step backward.

“You can’t leave!” the attacker suddenly screams, the blade pressing up against her.

“Ok, let’s talk about this,” Akemi tries to reason.

From the pocket of her pants, Akemi’s mobile phone squeals. Its ringing startles them both. She doesn’t dare to answer it. Her eyes stay fixed on the blade in front of her.


Joanne Evans and Doctor Joel Prasad sit on the park bench in Peppercorn Patch’s town square. The lamp post next to them illuminates the contents of the pizza box sitting on the bench between them.

“So, tell me, what were you doing in the river?” Joel asks between bites of his pizza, trying to hide the smile on his face.

Joanne sniggers quietly. “Aunty Val’s idea of cheering me up,” she says. “We have a lot of fond memories playing in the river.”

“You seem close with your aunty.” Joel makes an observation.

“She’s like a mother to me. She’s the only family I have, apart from Ricky.”

“You’ve both been through so much. I’m sure you couldn’t have gotten through without each other,” Joel says.

“I am the person I am today because of her,” Joanne says. “She made me determined and strong.”

“Good traits to have.”

Joanne pauses for a moment, puts the slice of pizza she is holding back down into the box and turns to face Joel. “There’s something I’ve never told anyone about my aunty before,” she says to him. “It’s about time I shared it with you.”


Constance Helling couldn’t wait for Akemi to answer her phone any longer. She had decided that she needed to go to the hotel to see if she could find her.

She holds the flashlight in front of her, lighting the dark path as she makes her way on foot down the hill from her house.

“Why don’t you just answer your bloody phone,” Constance huffs to herself.

As she walks towards the hotel, she passes the cemetery. She hears a noise coming from within the gates, but, at first, ignores it.

She hears the noise again. This time closer. Bushes rustling. She shines her flashlight towards the noise and is shaken by the image illuminated in front of her.

“Are you alright?” she calls out as she rushes towards a dazed and confused looking Valerie Pickering.


Amber Harp lies in the silence. The only thing that she can hear is her own breath. Short and shallow, she tries as hard as she can to control it.

She hadn’t seen her captor, Charles King, in two days. The dried blood from his mouth still stains her lips and chin. He had run from the room and slammed the door. He had not yet returned.

Though dark, her eyes have adjusted. She looks down to her feet, tied by rope to the bottom of the bed.

She feels weak, but somehow something inside her is willing her to keep going. An internal will to survive has taken hold of her.

The lack of food and exercise means that she has lost weight, and she can feel the binds around her wrists are now loose.

Amber Harp twists her left hand slowly, edging it out of its hold. She reaches over and unties her right hand, then unties her feet.

For the first time in two weeks, Amber Harp’s feet touch the wooden floor boards.


The ringing of the mobile starts up again. Akemi feels a sense of dread as she silently prays for it to stop.

Too sharp to notice, the edge of the blade presses into Akemi’s arm. A thin line of blood forms below the knife.

“But, why?” Akemi manages to ask bravely.

She takes her eyes off the blade and they dart towards Doctor Peter Smith’s eyes again.

The attacker doesn’t answer her.

“You don’t need to do this. Just drop the knife,” Akemi pleads.

“You’re here to hurt me too!” the attacker screams at her. Akemi feels the blade dig deeper into her skin.

Akemi looks beyond the attacker where a body lies on the ground. Akemi can see blood continuing to exit out of a knife wound.

The body, she is sure, is no longer alive.

Doctor Peter Smith’s dead eyes stare at her, unnervingly.

Akemi Helling gently reaches for the knife and it drops to the ground. She pulls the attacker in close to her and they embrace each other, a sigh of relief escaping from them both.

“I’m here now,” Akemi whispers.


Next Episode – Monday June 18

Episode Eighty-Two

Avoid Spoilers! Read from Episode One

Act 6

“Maggie Harris is suing you for defamation,” Sergeant Michael Anders says. “She claims that you know who the real killer is and you’re covering it up.”

“I told you before to get out!” Constance Helling suddenly snaps.

“Constance,” Sergeant Anders tries to reason, “if you lose the defamation case you’re going to lose everything. Not only that, if you have information about a mass murder that you haven’t disclosed, you could be in serious trouble. Obstruction of justice could land you behind bars.”

“I’m not speaking to you anymore without my lawyer,” Constance says, suddenly calm.

“Constance, let me help you.”

“There’s nothing to help with,” Constance dismisses the police officer.

“Where is the box of teeth?” Sergeant Anders asks.

Constance looks at him quizzically.

Sergeant Anders steps in close to her. “Let me help you hide them!”

“Sergeant? Hide them?” Constance asks, bewildered.

“I’m joking with you, Constance,” Sergeant Anders replies. “I’m sure you would have turned in the box if you ever had found them. I’m sure you would have wanted to make things right.”

Constance stumbles over her reply. “Oh, of course. Of course I would have handed it in.”

“I must ask, though, before I look like a fool,” Sergeant Anders says, “you have no knowledge of anything that could land you in trouble?”

“Nothing,” Constance says, almost too quickly.

“That’s the only way I can help you, Constance,” Sergeant Anders explains. “I will be forced to get a search warrant from the Department of Justice soon to search your property. I need to know that you’re being truthful with me.”

“You can trust me,” Constance tells the officer.


Joanne Evans feels like she is twelve years old again as she splashes in the dark water with her aunty by her side. How she had longed to reminisce like this, thinking back to happier times.

“Thank you,” Joanne says to her aunty. “I needed this.”

As she wipes the water away from her face, she looks to the water’s edge.

In the darkness, almost hidden behind a tree, she can make out someone watching them.

“Who’s there?” Joanne calls out bravely.

From behind the darkness of the tree, Doctor Joel Prasad steps into the hotel’s security floodlight. “It’s just me,” he calls back.

Joanne begins to exit the water, picking up the clothes she had hurriedly thrown off before entering the river. Standing in only her underwear, she tries to pull the clothes on over her wet body. Joel smiles at her warmly, suppressing laughter.

“I went to your house,” Joel explains, “but you weren’t there, so I thought I’d come looking for you.”

“Oh, my goodness,” Joanne says, pulling her shirt over her head. She realises she has forgotten that Joel had asked her out on a dinner date. “I’m so sorry. I forgot.”

Joel laughs warmly, gently pulling on the shirt to help her to get it on. “No worries, we can always reschedule.”

“Never!” Joanne and Joel both turn to see Valerie Pickering exiting the river, her clothes drenched. “You two have been meaning to meet up for ages!”

“Aunty Val is right,” Joanne says to Joel, “we shouldn’t cancel.”

“Great,” Joel says eagerly, unable to hide how keen he is to finally get a chance to take Joanne out on a date. “Dinner was booked for 7, but I’m afraid we’ve missed it. Should we just grab a pizza?”

“My favourite,” Joanne says as she tries to wring the water from her hair. “Let’s grab a pizza on the way back to my place so I can change into something dry.”

“I’ll leave you two lovebirds to it,” Valerie says as she pats Joel on the shoulder. “I need to go and run a hot bath!”


Akemi Helling holds her breath as she looks to the attacker’s hand. A large knife covered in blood is gripped tightly in it.

“You?” Akemi struggles to say. She is confused. “But how could you have done this?”

She looks to the bloodied knife again as the attacker’s hand moves upward.

Doctor Peter Smith’s eyes penetrate her soul.

“Please, just put the knife down,” Akemi pleads.

She can see the knife drip with blood as its blade is pointed directly at her.

“You don’t have to do this,” Akemi pleads again. “Just put it down.”

Her eyes dart between Doctor Smith’s eyes and the knife’s blade. She doesn’t know where to look.

“We can put this all behind you,” Akemi says, taking a step backward.

“You can’t leave!” the attacker suddenly screams, the blade pressing up against her.


The combination of wet clothing and the cool night air make Valerie Pickering start to shiver. As she walks along the footpath towards Joanne’s townhouse, she longs for a hot bath to soak in.

Valerie laughs to herself. After so much pain had taken hold of Joanne and herself, there was nothing else left to do but laugh about it. Who would have believed her if she had told them of all that had happened. If she didn’t laugh, she would have cried.

As Valerie continues her walk, she reflects on her relationship with her niece.

She wishes she could have done more for Joanne as she didn’t have anyone else. Valerie was the only family that Joanne had. And for most of Joanne’s upbringing, Valerie had been under the influence of alcohol.

She had to try and make it up to Joanne. She would do anything for her niece.

A flash of bright light suddenly interrupts her thoughts. She sees it coming from the cemetery.

Valerie Pickering lets the bright light lead her through the cemetery gates and over to her brother, Benjamin Pickering’s, grave.

She looks down at the grave and lets out a loud sigh.


“Jo, honey,” Valerie says down to her twelve year old niece, “your father would have wanted you to continue being the amazing human being you are.”

Joanne continues to cry as she looks down at her father’s grave. She holds tightly on to her aunty’s hand.

“I promise I will look after you, honey,” Valerie tries to comfort her niece on the day of Benjamin Pickering’s funeral. “I will do everything in my power to make sure you are safe.”


Valerie Pickering realises the bright light is still illuminating the cemetery. She looks around her but can’t seem to locate the source.

Another beam of light shoots out of nowhere to her right, then suddenly another to her left. Before she knows it, the lights start spinning, sending the beams of light dancing across the ground.

Valerie Pickering looks above her.

She cranes her neck upwards and squints into the night sky.

The bright lights almost blind her.

She sees the large grey object suspended in mid-air, a low whirring sound echoing throughout the cemetery.

Valerie Pickering feels her body leave the ground. She floats upwards towards the grey object.

The lights spin around her frantically as she climbs higher into the air.

Valerie Pickering feels peaceful as the unidentified flying object takes her on board.


Next Episode – Monday June 11

Episode Eighty-One

Avoid Spoilers! Read from Episode One

Intermission

“You can come with me!” Doctor Peter Smith pulls Amber Harp from the ground suddenly. He pulls her body around and marches her further into the backyard.

Beyond the back fence, the dense bushland beckons them both. Doctor Smith forces Amber over the fence and into the bush. The undergrowth scratches her legs as she is forced further into the darkness. Away from safety.

Amber tries to struggle, but Doctor Smith is too strong.

“Keep walking,” he instructs her.

“Please,” Amber tries to plead with Doctor Smith, “just don’t hurt Drake.” She thinks about her son who had just run from the burning building only a few minutes earlier. She hoped that he was now safe and was getting some help.

“Your son is the least of my worries at the moment,” Doctor Smith huffs, leading her further and further into the bush. It’s dark and it’s hard to see.

“I know you killed my husband, Steven.” Amber begins to cry. “I was never going to let you get away with that.”

“I warned you to stop investigating me,” Doctor Smith retorts. “You gave me no choice.”

“You’re a killer!” Amber screams. “That’s all you do. You kill people. You don’t save them!”

“I’ve given my whole life to saving people!” Doctor Smith defends himself.

“You’ve left Drake without a father.” Amber tries to stay strong. “Don’t leave him without a mother too!”

“Drake is not my responsibility.”

“No, he’s not! He’s mine!” Amber screams. “So let me go so I can go and find him and look after him!”

“Stop talking!” Doctor Smith hisses, suddenly losing his footing. He falls into the long grass, letting go of his grip of Amber. She stumbles briefly before regaining her footing.

Amber takes the opportunity to run.


The stranger had only briefly managed to get some sleep. The room was finally dark and they drifted off – it was the first time in what felt like ages.

But now the stranger was awake again.

They couldn’t see it, but the stranger could feel it.

Close to the stranger’s face, warm breath. On the stranger’s chest, a heavy load. One of the dogs must have made its way onto the stranger’s bed.

“You are so beautiful,” the stranger can suddenly hear a whisper. Bad breath, the smell of rotting flesh. “I will never let you go.”

The stranger doesn’t dare open their eyes. It’s not a dog. Charles King has them pinned down.

The stranger holds their breath.

“You are so beautiful,” Charles King whispers again.

His large dirty hands start caressing the stranger’s hair and face.

The stranger lies paralysed.

Charles King’s cracked lips touch the stranger’s.

The stranger lies paralysed as Charles King kisses her.


“Aunty Val, I can’t take your money…” Joanne Evans says.

“…Don’t argue with me, honey.” Valerie Pickering says. “I don’t need the money anymore. You need it more than I do. There’ll be no more discussion on the matter.”

“Aunty Val, but how could I ever repay you?”

“A bed at your place is all I ask for,” Valerie says, suddenly pulling at Joanne’s hands and dragging her across the road, racing down towards the river. “Let’s go and have some fun!”

They race down past the newly built hotel alongside the Helling River, lit only by security floodlights from the building.

Valerie continues to race down to the water’s edge, letting go of Joanne’s hand and plunging herself fully dressed into the water.

“Aunty Val!” Joanne laughs out loud. “What are you doing?”

Valerie splashes in the dark water. “Remember this was one of our favourite things to do together when you were younger. Jump in, Jo, the water is beautiful.”


Twelve year old Joanne steps to the water’s edge. She timidly puts her toes into the river water.

“Jump in, Jo,” her aunty says, her body splashing in the water, “the water is beautiful.”

Joanne steps out into the water so that her feet are submerged. The water is cooler than she would like. She’s not keen on entering the water, but she wants to make her aunty happy. Her Aunty Val was trying to do her best to look after her, she knew that. It had been less than six months since her father had been killed. Aunty Val was trying her best to make sure Joanne was happy. As happy as she could be.

Joanne grimaces as she steps out deeper into the water. She had never been for a swim in the river before. She had an irrational fear of crocodiles eating her alive ever since she had accidentally seen that horror movie on the television screen late one night.

As she gets deeper, a feeling of peacefulness washes over her. The cool water is beautiful, just as her aunty had told her.

“See, Jo,” Valerie says, grabbing a hold of Joanne’s hand, “isn’t it wonderful?”

Joanne could have spent the whole day in that water. They both had so much fun playing in the river learning to float, learning to swim properly and developing a greater confidence in the water. She even forgot about the crocodiles.

She would never forget how much fun this was, and how much spending time with her aunty meant to her.


Joanne feels like she is twelve years old again as she splashes in the dark water with her aunty by her side. How she had longed to reminisce like this, thinking back to happier times.

“Thank you,” Joanne says to her aunty. “I needed this.”

As she wipes the water away from her face, she looks to the water’s edge.

In the darkness, almost hidden behind a tree, she can make out someone watching them.


Amber Harp runs through the scrub in the darkness. She has no idea where she is headed, but she tries to make sure she keeps her footing. She knows that Doctor Smith is probably close behind her and one false move would result in her captivity again.

As she pushes the branches from her face, she notices a clearing up ahead. As she nears the clearing, she can hear running water.

Amber stops suddenly. A steep drop opens up before her. She looks down into the dark rushing water of the Helling River.

“Give up, Amber,” Doctor Smith says from behind her. “You can’t run anymore.”

Amber pants furiously. Her heart pounds in her chest.

She looks down to her feet as they teeter on the side of the drop.

Doctor Smith steps in closer to her.

Taking a big breath, Amber forces her body over the side of the embankment and plummets into the icy water below.

The current is strong and drags her underwater. She tries to resurface, but the water has a mind of its own. She pants quickly, trying to take in as much oxygen as she can. The water pulls her rapidly downstream.


The stranger lies paralysed.

Charles King’s cracked lips touch the stranger’s.

The stranger lies paralysed as Charles King kisses her.

The stranger belonged to him now, Charles King thought. After all, he had found her.


He sees the dogs upstream. The three of them are pulling at something on the river’s bank.

“Good find, girls,” he says to his dogs as he lifts the almost lifeless body up onto his shoulders. “Let’s get this one inside before they expire.”

Charles King has just altered his destiny.

Charles King has just rescued the stranger.


His hands wander down her face and neck and onto her chest.

He pulls the bed covers down and inspects her body with his hands.

Suddenly, the stranger sinks her teeth sharply into Charles King’s lips. He cries out in pain and staggers away from the bed.

Amber Harp spits out a mouthful of blood.


Next Episode – Monday June 4

Episode Eighty

Avoid Spoilers! Read from Episode One

Act 5

Sergeant Michael Anders steps up to the front of the Helling house.

“What do you want?” Constance Helling snaps as she opens the door.

“Constance, I need to come inside to speak with you,” Sergeant Anders tells her, looking behind him again, before adding, “privately.”

Constance gives the police officer a quizzical look. She thinks about Joanne Evans having just given her son, Ricky, over to Anna-Maree Axe. Was he here to take Ricky away from the family already?

“I’m not sure…” Constance starts.

“Trust me,” Sergeant Anders says, pushing his way past Constance into the house, “you’ll want to hear me out.”

Constance closes the front door and follows the police officer down the hallway. “What is this about, Sergeant?”

“I think you should take a seat,” Sergeant Anders says.

“I’m really not in the mood for playing these silly games…” Constance huffs, folding her arms across her chest.

“I understand, Constance, but there is nothing silly about what I’m about to tell you.” Sergeant Anders motions for Constance to take a seat next to him on the lounge. “Please sit down.”

Constance huffs again and pushes her large frame down onto the lounge opposite Sergeant Anders. “So, tell me what’s so important, Sergeant.”

“Constance,” Sergeant Anders says, “it’s important that you’re honest with me and tell me everything you know. Otherwise you might be in some real trouble.”


Joanne Evans looks back up the hill towards the Helling house. She can see the house lights twinkle in the darkness of the night. “Are you sure Ricky will be okay with Anna-Maree?” she asks her aunty, Valerie Pickering.

Valerie looks up at the house and grabs Joanne’s hand, squeezing it gently. “I’m sure he’s going to be just fine, Jo.”

They continue walking towards Joanne’s townhouse. Along the way, they pass the main street of Peppercorn Patch and come to a stop outside the site of where Valerie’s business, The Grand Hotel, had once stood. In its place, an empty dirt patch and construction fencing.

Joanne puts a hand on her aunty’s shoulder. “I’m sorry.” Her mind flashes back to when the building exploded, killing Cathy Gilmore’s husband, Mark Gilmore, and injuring many others.

Valerie sighs out and smiles politely. “I’m not. I think it’s for the best.”

“But you loved this place,” Joanne says.

“It had been holding me back for many years, Jo. My drinking problem would have been fixed a long time ago if I had just got rid of this place sooner.” Valerie feels her lower back suddenly tingle and she reaches for where her kidney transplant had taken place.

Joanne hugs her aunty. “After everything that’s happened, Aunty Val, you are the strongest person I know.”

Valerie holds her niece in close to her. The two hold each other in silence for what feels like an eternity.

“I just received the insurance payout,” Valerie speaks first, interrupting their hold. “For The Grand Hotel.”

“Oh,” Joanne says, curious. “Are you going to rebuild?”

Valerie laughs, then pulls Joanne’s hands into her own. “I’m giving the money to you, Jo.”

“Aunty Val?”

“You could use it, with the custody battle coming up and all,” Valerie informs Joanne. “Plus you can use it to look after Ricky.”

“Aunty Val, I can’t take your money…”

“…Don’t argue with me, honey. I don’t need the money anymore. You need it more than I do. There’ll be no more discussion on the matter.”

“Aunty Val, but how could I ever repay you?”

“A bed at your place is all I ask for,” Valerie says, suddenly pulling at Joanne’s hands and dragging her across the road, racing down towards the river. “Let’s go and have some fun!”


“What do you know about Dustin Harris’ death?” Sergeant Anders ask Constance.

“Councillor Dustin Harris?” Constance asks, swallowing hard. “He had a heart attack, didn’t he? In hospital?”

“He did,” Sergeant Anders agrees. “Were you there?”

Constance scoffs. “What are you insinuating?”

“I’m not insinuating anything, Constance,” Sergeant Anders says. “I’m just following up on some information that I received recently.”

“He’s been dead for some time now,” Constance says. “What’s so important now?”

“Constance, did you have any reason to harm Dustin Harris?”

Constance stands up from the lounge suddenly. “Out!” she screams at Sergeant Anders. “How dare you! Get out!”

“Constance, I have a witness that says you were with Dustin Harris when he died,” Sergeant Anders continues.

“What witness?”

“His grand-daughter,” Sergeant Anders reveals.


“You know, this could have ended differently,” Constance Helling looks down upon the hospital bed that Councillor Dustin Harris is laying in.

“You mean by telling everybody the truth?” Dustin sniggers.

“The truth is what people want to believe,” Constance replies.

“You’ve made everyone believe that it was me that killed all those people,” Dustin says, trying to remain calm. “You know that it was your grandmother, Gretel Helling.”

Constance roars with laughter. “The truth is, Dustin, you will be forever known as a murderer. You killed all those people, including my grandmother.”

“Constance, you know that isn’t the truth. I didn’t do it,” Dustin protests, reaching for the breathing mask off the bedside table next to him and placing it on his face. Dustin struggles to breathe. “Why let me take the fall for this?”


“His grand-daughter?” Constance says, exasperated.

“Her name is Maggie Harris,” Sergeant Anders informs her.

“I don’t understand what this is all about,” Constance huffs, turning her back to the police officer and rubbing her face with a hand, the flashback continuing to haunt her.


Councillor Dustin Harris takes a few breaths of oxygen using the breathing mask. “Why are you doing this Constance?”

“Don’t you understand?” Constance huffs. “I’m protecting the Helling family name.”

“It’s all a lie!” Dustin yells. “Your whole life has been a lie.”

“Shut up, you fool!” Constance is beginning to become angry. “No one will ever know the truth! No one is ever going to believe you! You are a murderer!”

The heart rate monitor suddenly starts beeping rapidly and Dustin Harris grabs for his chest. Constance can see him struggle to reach for the breathing mask.

“I really must get going, Dustin. I have a wedding I must get back to,” Constance says, regaining her composure.

The sound of the monitor suddenly breaks out into a long continuous sound.

Constance looks over at the screen as it shows a solid flat line. “No one is going to miss a murderer.”


“Maggie saw you exit the hospital room as Dustin was dying,” Sergeant Anders says.

“I didn’t kill him,” Constance protests. “He was already unwell. There was nothing I could do for him.”

“The truth is,” Sergeant Anders explains, “I don’t believe that you did kill him.”

“Then why are you here?” Constance is impatient.

“You claimed that Dustin Harris was responsible for the deaths of all those people that were discovered in that dam in 1965,” Sergeant Anders says.

“Yes, he confessed to me.”

“They were all missing their teeth,” Sergeant Anders continues. “And so far the teeth have never been recovered.”

Constance swallows hard again. “I’m not sure how I can help you, Sergeant Anders.”


Taking the key from around her neck, Constance silently makes the sign of the cross, praying that the box opens.

The lock of the jewellery box clicks and a surge of excitement shoots through Constance’s body. She slowly lifts the lid of the jewellery box up to reveal its contents.

“Oh my!” Constance gleefully exclaims as she sees the white pearls inside the box. She reaches down inside the box to lift out the shiny beads before suddenly reeling back and screaming out in horror.

The jewellery box is knocked to the ground, along with its contents. Hundreds of pearly white beads disperse across the floor. Constance looks down in disbelief at the sea of human teeth.


“Maggie Harris doesn’t believe that her grandfather was responsible,” Sergeant Anders explains. “There is no evidence that he was involved and, quite frankly, I agree with her.”

“This is ridiculous!” Constance is becoming increasingly more agitated. “Just tell me what you’re doing here!”

“Maggie is suing you for defamation,” Sergeant Anders tells her. “She claims that you know who the real killer is and you’re covering it up.”

“I told you before to get out!” Constance suddenly snaps.

“Constance,” Sergeant Anders tries to reason, “if you lose the defamation case you’re going to lose everything. Not only that, if you have information about a mass murder that you haven’t disclosed, you could be in serious trouble. Obstruction of justice could land you behind bars.”

“I’m not speaking to you anymore without my lawyer,” Constance says, suddenly calm.

“Constance, let me help you.”

“There’s nothing to help with,” Constance dismisses the police officer.

“Where is the box of teeth?” Sergeant Anders asks.

Constance looks at him quizzically.

Sergeant Anders steps in close to her. “Let me help you hide them!”


Next Episode – Monday May 28

Episode Seventy-Nine

Avoid Spoilers! Read from Episode One

Act 4

On the outside of the door there are roaring and popping noises as the fire takes hold of Olivia’s house.

The smoke has become thick and Amber Harp’s eyes water. She can no longer even see her son who is standing next to her.

“I love you, mum,” Drake manages to cough.

Amber grabs hold of her son and holds him close to her. “I love you too, honey!”

Before they both know it, the window behind them smashes. Amber instinctively looks behind her but she can’t see anything through the smoke. She knows the windows were boarded up with wooden palings, but someone on the outside could have removed them.

“Stand back,” Amber says to her son as the sound of glass smashing continues.

The black smoke instantly rushes from the room and out of the broken window. Amber can make out the silhouette of someone wearing a breathing apparatus enter the room. The light on the helmet shines across the room and into her eyes, blinding her suddenly.

“Mum?” Drake calls out.

“Drake, honey,” Amber says calmly, “go with the man with the helmet.” Through the smoke, she sees their rescuer take hold of Drake and usher him to the broken window to escape.

Amber cautiously makes her way to the window as well. She senses her rescuer is close and puts her arm out to grab hold of him.

As she lifts her leg up to climb over the bed, she loses her balance and tumbles backwards. She grabs on instinctively to her rescuer’s shirt and, in the process, pulls him down on top of her.

“I’m sorry,” Amber manages to splutter. She looks up at the rescuer who is trying to regain his own feet. He falters on his own feet and the breathing apparatus slips down his face.

Pure horror runs through Amber Harp’s body. She is frozen momentarily as she looks up to face Doctor Peter Smith.

As Doctor Smith tries to get to his feet again, Amber swings her legs at him, kicking him into one of the room’s side walls. His helmet is knocked off of his head.

“Drake!” Amber screams out loud. “Run! Run and get help!” She can hear her son exit the broken window and his small footsteps pound against the outside pavement.

Doctor Smith manages to get to his feet. He stands over Amber Harp, pushing the weight of his leg onto her arm to restrain her.

The fire quickly engulfs the whole building and before long all that remains is a pile of ash.


Police investigators shine their torches into the burnt building’s rubble, searching for Amber and her son, Drake.

“Doctor Smith attacked me and then set fire to my house!” Olivia screams out in anguish. “He’s killed my sister!”

“Over here!” an investigator suddenly shouts as he shines his torch into the smoky rubble. “I think we’ve got something!”

Everyone looks on as the investigator pulls an object from the rubble. It is passed around to a number of police officers before ending up in front of Olivia.

“Do you recognise this?” the officer asks Olivia, holding up a dirtied helmet, once bright yellow but now the colour of a well-used fireplace.

“Doctor Peter Smith was wearing that when he attacked me.” Olivia rubs a bruised cheek with her fingers. “I ran to get help straight away, but it was too late!”

“There’s no sign of anyone in the wreckage,” the officer says. “We think they may have escaped, maybe with the help of Doctor Smith.”

“Help?” Olivia scoffs, before starting to cry. “He wanted to harm my sister. This fire was no accident, officer. The Poetry Predator has my sister, and her son!”


Sergeant Michael Anders steps up to the front of the Helling house.

Before knocking, he looks over his shoulder and sees Joanne Evans and Valerie Pickering walking down the steep hill.

He wonders why they were here, especially since he knew there was much animosity between the pair and Constance Helling.

He faces back to the door and knocks, taking in a deep breath as he does so.

“What do you want?” Constance Helling snaps as she opens the door.

“Constance, I need to come inside to speak with you,” Sergeant Anders tells her, looking behind him again, before adding, “privately.”

Constance gives the police officer a quizzical look. She thinks about Joanne Evans having just given her son, Ricky, over to Anna-Maree Axe. Was he here to take Ricky away from the family already?

“I’m not sure…” Constance starts.

“Trust me,” Sergeant Anders says, pushing his way past Constance into the house, “you’ll want to hear me out.”

Constance huffs as she looks out at Joanne Evans and Valerie Pickering fading into the distance down the hill and then closes the front door.


“Drake!” Amber screams out loud. “Run! Run and get help!” She can hear her son exit the broken window and his small footsteps pound against the outside pavement.

Doctor Smith manages to get to his feet. He stands over Amber Harp, pushing the weight of his leg onto her arm to restrain her.

Amber struggles with the weight upon her. She also chokes from the acrid smoke engulfing the small room she is trapped in.

She is dragged to her feet by Doctor Smith and before she knows it, she is lying face down on the backyard’s grass. She feels a sense of relief that she is now outside the burning house, but afraid of her captor’s intention and fearful for her son’s safety.

“You should have kept well away!” Doctor Smith demands. “This is what happens when you go sticking your nose into everything!”

Amber pants heavily, her face flush with the grass, the taste of dirt sitting on her lips. She finds it difficult to see the stars in the night sky through the thick smoke filling the backyard.

The sound of the house collapsing just metres from them echoes in Amber’s ears. Doctor Smith’s heavy knee still sits in her upper back. She cannot move.

“You had no right to kill my husband!” Amber grits her teeth into the dirt. She feels brave, regardless of her current situation. Her son, she knows, has escaped.

Doctor Smith pushes her face further into the grass. “I warned you!” he spits.

In the distance, Amber can hear a siren. Rescue is on its way. A smile crosses her face.

“You can come with me!” Doctor Smith pulls her from the ground suddenly. He pulls her body around and marches her further into the backyard.

Beyond the back fence, the dense bushland beckons them both. Doctor Smith forces Amber over the fence and into the bush. The undergrowth scratches her legs as she is forced further into the darkness. Away from safety.

Amber tries to struggle, but Doctor Smith is too strong.

“Keep walking,” he instructs her.

The fire quickly engulfs the whole building and before long all that remains is a pile of ash.


Akemi rushes up the emergency exit stairs of her newly-completed complex. She pants heavily as each step seems to become harder and harder to make. She finally reaches the top of the internal stairs and pushes open the exit door leading out onto the building’s fourth floor rooftop.

She quickly looks around in the darkness, hoping to find what she has come looking for.

Her eyes take a few moments to adjust to the darkness, having just exited the lit stairway.

She takes a step out onto the rooftop and looks around again.

On the ground, there are droplets of something dark in colour. She reaches for the emergency lighting switch and instantly the rooftop is awash with bright light.

The droplets of blood lead Akemi along the rooftop. She follows as the trail of blood travels closer to the roof’s edge.

The blood drops suddenly stop.

In front of her, the image she saw earlier on the roof is no longer dark. She can see the attacker clearly in the full light.

Akemi holds her breath as she looks to the attacker’s hand. A large knife covered in blood is gripped tightly in it.

“You?” Akemi struggles to say. She is confused. “But how could you have done this?”

She looks to the bloodied knife again as the attacker’s hand moves upward.

Doctor Peter Smith’s eyes penetrate her soul.


Next Episode – Monday May 21

Episode Seventy-Eight

Avoid Spoilers! Read from Episode One

Act 3

Akemi Helling struggles in the water for a few moments before pulling herself out over the side of the pool. She crawls over to the side of the building. A body lying on the pavement is still. Blood is quickly beginning to pool beneath it.

Akemi instinctively looks up to the roof and sees a dark figure back away from the edge quickly.

“Help!” Akemi calls out loudly. “I need help!”

In front of her, Akemi can see a lifeless body. She rolls the body over to face her and recognises who it is immediately.

“Oh, my God!” Akemi screams. “Help! Somebody! Help!”

Through the doors leading into the building, Akemi suddenly sees a security guard running out towards her.

“Call an ambulance!” Akemi screams at him. “We need help here!”

The security guard grabs out his mobile phone and dials for emergency assistance. Akemi leans in close to the bloodied body, trying to look for any signs of life.

“Come on, please still be with me!” Akemi pleads.

She suddenly hears a sound coming from the rooftop again. She looks up towards it and notices a dark figure again.

“Where are you going?” the security guard asks Akemi as she heads towards the building’s doors.

“I’m heading up to the rooftop to find out who is up there,” Akemi calls back. “You stay here.”

“I don’t think it’s wise to go up by yourself, Ms Helling.”

“I need to find out who did this to her!”


“Take Ricky for me,” Joanne Evans steps towards Anna-Maree Axe and pushes her son forward.

“Joanne?”

“I need to keep him from Wendy Evans,” Joanne explains, placing Ricky in Anna-Maree’s arms. “If you’re Ricky’s biological grandmother, then there won’t be a legal problem with you taking him.”

“But…”

“You would be saving Ricky’s life.” Joanne kisses her son on his forehead. “If Wendy ever got hold of him, I’d never see him again.”

“Are you sure you want to do this, Joanne?” Constance asks, watching on as Anna-Maree holds her biological grandson for the first time.

“No, but I need to do something to keep him from Wendy,” Joanne offers.

Anna-Maree smiles down at Ricky. He peers back at her with uncertainty. “Hello, there.”

“Please take good care of him,” Joanne instructs Anna-Maree. “I’ll be back for him in a couple of days once this custody issue is sorted.”

“Joanne, it could go on for weeks, months even,” Constance says.

Joanne looks at her son one last time before leaving the house. “I won’t let it.”


As the fire engines arrive at what was once the house belonging to Amber Harp’s sister, Olivia, darkness shields at first the devastation that has taken place.

Once emergency lighting has been set up, it becomes evident just how quickly the fire had taken hold of the house and how little of it has been left standing.

The blue and red lights from the emergency vehicles ignite the neighbourhood.

“She was in the spare bedroom,” Amber’s sister, Olivia tells a police officer. “With her son, Drake.”

“Maybe your sister was able to escape?” the officer points out.

Olivia wipes tears from her face. “It wasn’t possible. They would have been trapped.”

“Why?” the police officer asks an increasingly distraught Olivia.

Olivia puts a hand to her forehead. A large purple wound sits above her right eye. “I was attacked by someone. I was knocked out and came to just in time to get out myself. Amber and Drake were locked in the bedroom.”

“Locked?” the officer asks curiously. “Do you know who attacked you?”

Olivia holds her injury with her hand. “I didn’t see him, but there’s only one person it could have been. I was protecting my sister, you see, and her son. They were in grave danger. I was trying to protect them.”

“I don’t understand,” the police officer says. “You’ll have to be clearer.”

“I was protecting them from Doctor Peter Smith.”

“Smith?” the officer repeats. “The Poetry Predator?”

“Yes!” Olivia screams. “I knew he would hurt her!”

Police investigators shine their torches into the burnt building’s rubble, searching for Amber and her son, Drake.

“Doctor Smith attacked me and then set fire to my house!” Olivia screams out in anguish. “He’s killed my sister!”

“Over here!” an investigator suddenly shouts as he shines his torch into the smoky rubble. “I think we’ve got something!”


As Joanne exits the front door of Constance Helling’s house with her aunt, Valerie Pickering, they are encountered by a familiar face.

“Joanne?” Sergeant Michael Anders says.

“Sergeant,” Joanne says politely to him, not able to look him in the eyes. She feels a rush of panic and hopes that the police officer isn’t here to take her child away.

“Beautiful night,” Sergeant Anders says, looking up into the clear night sky. He sees the bright stars twinkling up above.

“Yes,” Joanne manages.

“Sorry, Sergeant,” Valerie suddenly says, “but we must get going.”

“Of course, I won’t hold you up,” Sergeant Anders says. “I came to see Constance.”

As Joanne and Valerie hurry off, Joanne turns to her aunt, panicked. “Do you think he’s here to take Ricky?”

Valerie tries to reassure her niece. “I doubt it. He’s on our side, remember.”


Akemi rushes up the emergency exit stairs of her newly-completed complex. She pants heavily as each step seems to become harder and harder to make. She finally reaches the top of the internal stairs and pushes open the exit door leading out onto the building’s fourth floor rooftop.

She quickly looks around in the darkness, hoping to find what she has come looking for.

Her eyes take a few moments to adjust to the darkness, having just exited the lit stairway.

She takes a step out onto the rooftop and looks around again.

On the ground, there are droplets of something dark in colour. She reaches for the emergency lighting switch and instantly the rooftop is awash with bright light.

The droplets of blood lead Akemi along the rooftop. She follows as the trail of blood travels closer to the roof’s edge.

The blood drops suddenly stop.

In front of her, the image she saw earlier on the roof is no longer dark. She can see the attacker clearly in the full light.

Akemi holds her breath as she looks to the attacker’s hand. A large knife covered in blood is gripped tightly in it.

“You?” Akemi struggles to say. She is confused. “But how could you have done this?”

She looks to the bloodied knife again as the attacker’s hand moves upward.


Next Episode – Monday May 14

Episode Seventy-Seven

Avoid Spoilers! Read from Episode One

Act 2

“Are you ready to have something to eat yet?” Charles King leans down over the stranger, whose binds still hold them captive to the bed.

“I’m not hungry,” the stranger replies, trying not to look their captor in his eyes.

“Oh, come on,” Charles King sulks. “You have to eat. Besides, I’ve been cooking this all day for you.” He pushes a plate of roast vegetables towards the stranger.

“When are you going to let me go?” the stranger asks, trying not to sound fearful.

Charles King looks at the stranger, then to the bedroom’s window. Beyond the glass pane, there is darkness. A few stars twinkle in the night sky. “What? You want to go right now?” he laughs. “I can’t let you go right now. It’s too dark – you’d get lost.”

“Please,” the stranger begs, “I’m so thankful that you saved me, but…”

“Is that all the gratitude I get?” Charles King raises his voice. “Nothing for you then!” With that, he takes the plate of vegetables and tips the contents onto the floor where his three dogs eagerly eat it up.

“Please,” the stranger continues to beg, “I’m sorry, it’s just…”

“You’re not sorry!” Charles King snaps. “You want to hurt me.”

“No, no, that’s not true!” the stranger attempts to argue. The stranger tries to be brave.

“You don’t even know who you are!” Charles King says.

“You showed me my driver’s licence,” the stranger reminds him.

“But you don’t actually remember who you are,” Charles King continues. “If I hadn’t shown it to you, you wouldn’t even know who you are.”

The stranger lies in the bed, looking up at Charles King feeling defeated. It was true, without the photo identification, it was hard for the stranger to remember anything about themselves or their life prior to this point.

“You can’t leave just yet,” Charles King goes on. “Not until you get your memory back. You’re going to stay here with me and I’m going to look after you.”

The stranger sighs silently. They had tried hard. Just like the many other times before this one. Maybe one day the stranger would succeed and finally gain Charles King’s trust. Until then, they would stay here. There wasn’t any other option at the moment.

Charles King gives a final look at the stranger before turning off the light and closing the door. “Sweet dreams.”


“You claim to be my mother?” Joanne Evans asks Anna-Maree Axe.

“Yes, your biological mother,” Anna-Maree confirms. “You were involved in an unfortunate mix-up at the hospital. Annette Pickering never died having you, Joanne. She died giving birth to Melody Walker.”

“This was all your fault?” Joanne looks at Constance Helling.

Constance looks at Joanne, shakes her head slightly before stuttering, “The mix-up was my fault, yes, but I never meant for it to happen. It was an honest mistake, Joanne. Please believe me.”

“So Sylvia Jessop and Doctor Smith’s child is actually Melody Walker?” Joanne asks Anna-Maree.

“That’s right. I took Melody home with me, thinking she was my own,” Anna-Maree explains. “Only she was known as Phoebe Strong then.”

“My life could have been so different,” Joanne says softly, looking lovingly at her son, Ricky.

“It’s not too late to make up for lost time,” Anna-Maree says as she steps up close to Joanne. She wants to give Joanne a hug but fears she may be going too fast too soon. “If there’s anything I can do to help…”

“Well, actually, there is something.” Joanne looks from her son to her aunt, Valerie Pickering, and then Constance Helling before adding, “Ricky is in danger of being taken from me.”

“I’ve heard about the court proceedings for custody over Ricky,” Anna-Maree confirms.

“Richard’s mother, Wendy Evans, thinks she can take Ricky from me,” Joanne says angrily, “but she doesn’t know who she’s messing with!”

“What do you need me to do?” Anna-Maree asks.

“Take Ricky for me,” Joanne steps towards Anna-Maree and pushes her son forward.

“Joanne?”

“I need to keep him from Wendy Evans,” Joanne explains, placing Ricky in Anna-Maree’s arms. “If you’re Ricky’s biological grandmother, then there won’t be a legal problem with you taking him.”

“But…”

“You would be saving Ricky’s life.” Joanne kisses her son on his forehead. “If Wendy ever got hold of him, I’d never see him again.”


Crack.

The bolt trapping Amber Harp and her son, Drake, slides across the outer side of the door.

Amber looks to the plate of food that had been delivered by her sister, Olivia.

Drake has already started to eat it, for he is hungry. Only a handful of small meals during the day meant that Amber and Drake were feeling malnourished.

“Eat up,” Amber says to her son as she brushes his hair with her fingertips. “You can have my portion too.”

“Are you not hungry?” Drake asks.

“Not tonight,” Amber lies. She wants her son to have all the energy he can get.

Amber rarely heard loud noises coming from outside the enclosure she and her son were in, but something about the sound she suddenly hears makes her heart stop. She hushes Drake.

There is a sound as if a commotion is taking place. Some loud bangs.

Amber runs quickly to the door, pressing her ear against it to hear more clearly. The sound is muffled, though, and she finds it difficult to hear anything that makes sense.

“What is it, mum?” Drake asks.

“Sshh,” Amber hushes. She’s intent on finding out what’s happening.

“What’s that smell?” Drake is persistent.

Amber sniffs the air. She smells it too. She looks down to her feet. Underneath the door, smoke starts to filter into the room.

The door she is leaning on suddenly feels warm – hot even.

“There’s a fire out there,” Amber tells her son, panicked. She begins to bang on the door. “Let us out!”

Drake runs to Amber’s side and begins banging on the door as well. Acrid smoke continues to fill the room. Amber pulls her shirt up to shield her face from the smoke and urges Drake to do the same.

“Help us!” Amber screams as loud as she can.

On the outside of the door there are roaring and popping noises as the fire takes hold of Olivia’s house.

The smoke becomes thick and Amber’s eyes water. She can no longer even see her son who is standing next to her.

“I love you, mum,” Drake manages to cough.

Amber grabs hold of her son and holds him close to her. “I love you too, honey!”

The fire quickly engulfs the whole building and before long all that remains is a pile of ash.


Next Episode – Monday May 7

Episode Seventy-Six

Avoid Spoilers! Read from Episode One

Act 1

“Has it been hidden?” Akemi Helling asks her assistant.

They both stand in the courtyard of the newly built hotel situated on the bank of the Helling River in the town of Peppercorn Patch. The complex towers them on all four sides and Akemi can see the numerous balconies of the apartments look down to where she is standing in its centre.

The assistant looks at Akemi and then points to the swimming pool in the middle of the courtyard. “It’s been buried.”

Akemi laughs, looking over to where the swimming pool is being filled with water pumped in from the local firefighting engine. “Buried?”

“Yes, underneath the pool,” the assistant confirms.

“That’s brilliant,” Akemi laughs again. “Under all that water and concrete, it will never come to the light of day again!”

The assistant gives Akemi a smile, before looking to his feet. “Preparations are on schedule for tomorrow’s grand opening, Ms Helling.”

“Wonderful!” Akemi says excitedly. “Just make sure you do a once over of all the rooms again and make sure nothing is out of place. We only get to make a first impression once, so it better be a good one. Our whole livelihoods may just depend on the success of this hotel.”

“Yes, Ms Helling,” the assistant says, before hurrying off to follow his boss’s orders.

Akemi Helling looks over to the pool again. The rushing water hitting the concrete brings a smile to her face. Soon enough this complex will be filled with families and holidaymakers oblivious to what is buried underneath the large concrete hole they will be swimming in.

Akemi turns to walk out and sees a gardener looking at his mobile phone. “I don’t pay you to stand there and do nothing!” Akemi shouts at him. “We open tomorrow morning. Hurry up and get these gardens finished!”

The gardener pushes his mobile phone begrudgingly into his pocket. He continues tending to the Japanese-inspired garden he has been busy preparing.


“Quick!” Joanne Evans calls out to her aunty, Valerie Pickering.

Valerie huffs as she tries to race up the hill behind her niece. “I’m…” she pants, “…coming as fast as I can.”

Joanne holds her 18 month year old son, Ricky, in her arms awkwardly as she too pants up the hill.

Before long, they reach their destination. They step up to the front door of the house. Breathing out heavily, Joanne looks at her aunty and knocks on the door with trepidation. “Let’s hope this works.”

There is a few seconds of silence before Joanne knocks again, this time impatiently.

An outside light illuminates the front of the house on the hill. Constance Helling opens the front door.


Crack.

The bolt sliding makes a loud noise. Amber Harp knows that noise well. It means that the door to the room would open.

Amber’s sister, Olivia, enters the windowless room carrying a tray of food for her sister and Amber’s ten-year-old son, Drake.

From their position on the bed, Amber and Drake rise slowly. The weeks of confinement meant that they were growing weaker.

Olivia places the tray on the table and heads to exit the room.

“When will we be allowed out?” Amber asks weakly, holding her son close to her.

“When it’s safe, Amber,” Olivia says. “I’m doing this to protect you both.”

“We need sunlight, Olivia,” Amber tries to plead to her sister. “We can’t stay in here indefinitely.”

Olivia turns to exit the room again, but stops. “Doctor Peter Smith is still out there, Amber. While he’s still allowed to roam freely around, neither Drake nor yourself are safe.”

“I can look after myself,” Amber retorts, trying to act strong.

“He’s too clever for you,” Olivia replies. “Look what happened to your husband, Steven.”

Amber looks to her hands. If she hadn’t noticed they were shaking before, she now did. She holds back tears as a memory of her late husband tries to take over her thoughts. She decides to hold her son closer to her.

“If I was out of here, Olivia, I’d be able to take care of myself. I’d be able to take care of Drake. I’d go hunting him down and kill that bastard myself!”

“That’s why I can’t let you out right now,” Olivia says. “I’m afraid that I’d lose you both if it didn’t work out the way you planned.”

Olivia closes the door behind her, exiting the room and silencing her sister’s pleas.


“Please, you need to help!” Joanne pleads to Constance Helling when the front door is opened.

“Joanne?” Constance is baffled.

“I need your help to save Ricky!” Joanne pleads again.

Constance looks down to see Ricky in Joanne’s arms. The young boy seems to be startled.

“I’m not sure how I can help you,” Constance says to Joanne.

“Constance, cut the crap!” Valerie suddenly interjects angrily. “You know how you can help Joanne and Ricky!”

Constance looks at Valerie, almost preparing to reply, but instead ushers the trio into her house. “How do you even know if this will work?” she asks.

“We won’t know unless we try,” Joanne replies, following Constance down the hallway and into the living room.

“Well, I’ll go see if she’s ready,” Constance says as she disappears down the back of the house.

Joanne stops at the large windows overlooking the town below them. The streetlights and lights of the buildings sparkle in the darkness. Valerie stands next to her and takes her hand, firmly giving her support.

Constance reappears a minute later. Another woman follows behind.

“Joanne?” the woman says timidly.

Joanne looks suddenly around at the direction of the voice. Joanne sees the woman for the first time. It was no longer just a myth. The woman was actually standing in front of her. Only recently she had learnt the truth. And at last she was able to see it with her own eyes.

“Anna-Maree?” Joanne asks the woman.

“That’s what I go by these days, but most people know me by the name of Heather Strong,” the woman replies.

“You claim to be my mother?” Joanne asks Anna-Maree Axe.

“Yes, your biological mother,” Anna-Maree confirms. “You were involved in an unfortunate mix-up at the hospital. Annette Pickering never died having you, Joanne. She died giving birth to Melody Walker.”


The courtyard lights illuminate the swimming pool complex. Akemi Helling is proud of what she had achieved. A little over two years ago, this land was little more than a flailing caravan park. Now it was home to a multi-million dollar apartment complex that was sure to be Akemi’s defining feat.

Akemi strolls through the courtyard’s garden, checking one last time before tomorrow morning’s official opening. A large number of residents from both Peppercorn Patch and Holgate were due to be in attendance. The hotel was the exact tourism boost the town needed.

As Akemi is about to head inside the building, she catches a flash of light from the building’s roof. She squints up to the building’s fourth-storey roof-top. The light is gone.

Suddenly there is a scream.

Akemi rushes to the side of the building, running over newly laid turf that sinks a little under her feet.

Akemi tries to hold her breath to hear any other sounds. Silence.

The building should be empty, except for the security guards manning the boundary.

Another scream.

Akemi leaps into the pool just in time. The falling body plummets to the ground where she was once standing.

Akemi struggles in the water for a few moments before pulling herself out over the side of the pool. She crawls over to the side of the building. A body lying on the pavement is still. Blood is quickly beginning to pool beneath it.

Akemi instinctively looks up to the roof and sees a dark figure back away from the edge quickly.

“Help!” Akemi calls out loudly. “I need help!”

In front of her, Akemi can see a lifeless body. She rolls the body over to face her and recognises who it is immediately.

“Oh, my God!” Akemi screams. “Help! Somebody! Help!”


Next Episode – Monday April 30