The Seeds Are Sown

The Helling Family Story so far

The Helling Bros.

The Helling brothers, Robert and Edward, used their father’s inheritance to purchase land and establish a farm that made some meagre profits growing strawberries. An accidental discovery one day lead the brothers’ profits to sky rocket. What Robert and Edward thought to be a weed actually turned out to be the biggest money maker they ever could have imagined. It was a peppercorn tree.

The groves of peppercorn trees soon filled the farmland from one end to the other. It didn’t take long for them to take off and not long after that the Helling brothers were making a small fortune.

Within 5 years of establishing their business, Robert and Edward Helling had built large factories and the small community had grown into a lively little village. The river was renamed in honour of the brothers to Helling River and the little township was born.

Robert married and had children, living in a part of the factory which was converted into living quarters while Edward, the younger brother, built himself a house overlooking the farm and township on the highest hill.

The Great Depression of 1929 hit the Helling Bros. business hard. The township soon halved in numbers as many of the workers left to find employment elsewhere. The Helling brothers were losing money, and fast.

To make matters worse, the peppercorn tree groves were hit by a bushfire which destroyed most, if not all, the precious trees.

Robert Helling himself spiralled into depression as he struggled to make ends meet for his own family. It came as no surprise to many the day that Robert Helling disappeared. He left a letter to his wife and children apologising for abandoning them. He wrote of his inability to continue living with the constant pressures of caring for them. He too had packed his bags and left town.

It was Edward Helling who stepped in to take care of his brother’s family. He took on the role of family man and became a father figure to Robert’s two children. Robert’s wife, Gretel, had also maintained hope that Robert would someday return to his family. But he never did. Gretel fell in love with Edward and they were married soon after. They lived as a happy family in the house on the hill that Edward had built.


Jack and Elias Helling

Over ten years had passed since the Great Depression of 1929 and Edward and Gretel Helling’s peppercorn farm was once again booming. As was the town. Edward had become a father to Gretel’s two children. They had grown older and helped out on the farm.

Jack and Elias Helling were both barely of age when they enlisted in the military in 1941. The young Helling brothers soon left to fight for their country. Even though Edward and Gretel would see little of their children during the war, Jack and Elias would write home often. Hearing from their children is what got them through and they were counting down the days that they would see both their sons again.

It was the letter they received from Elias Helling in 1942 that told them that both of their sons were returning home. One son, however, would not be returning alive.

Jack Helling was one of the first to be buried in Peppercorn Patch’s cemetery.


Gretel Helling

Edward Helling had been the last person to see Gretel Helling alive. She had left the house one morning as she had done nearly every other morning to go on her morning walk along the tracks through the hills behind the Helling House.

Edward and Elias Helling set out on a quest that morning in search of Gretel. Their search ended an hour later at the foot of a rocky cliff.

Mystery remained as to whether Gretel had accidentally fallen on her walk, or whether she had decided to end her pain and take her own life.


Years passed and Edward and Elias both managed the running of the Helling Bros. business. Fairly soon they were being offered large sums of money for the farm land they were using. Over time they sold off most of the land until they only had a small parcel of land left. By this time the Helling Bros. business had ceased to exist and Elias Helling had set up the local camping grounds to cash in on the booming tourist industry. Elias married and had a child of his own; a daughter named Constance.

An elderly Edward Helling years later sat propped up in his bed. His son, Elias, sat by his side. Edward knew that he only had a few short breaths left before he would say goodbye to his son for the last time.

“My son,” Edward spoke slowly to Elias. “You have been my pride and joy. You would have been my brother’s pride and joy too.”

“You’re my father. Not Richard. You have been the one that has been there to look after me and treat me like his own son,” Elias fought to hold back tears.

“There are many things in this world that will remain a mystery, Elias,” Edward informed his son. “There are some things from our family’s past that should also remain a mystery.”

Elias Helling was intrigued by what his elderly father was trying to say to him.

“Our family has many secrets, Elias,” Edward continued. “And if you ever want to find out what they are, then all you need to do is open this box.”

Edward handed Elias a small brown wooden box. On the front of the box was a bronze keyhole surrounded by the engraved initials, H.B.

“Only open if your heart tells you, Elias,” Edward warned his son. “But remember that some things are best left unopened.”

Elias looked the box over. “Where’s the key?” he asked his father.

It was too late. His father had found peace.


Constance Helling

Constance pulls out the wooden box that her father, Elias Helling, had given her from her handbag. She opens the box and lifts out its contents. She twirls a golden skeleton key in her fingers. “What am I supposed to do with this?”

Constance pulls a faded pink bed sheet off of one of the nearby tables and its dust flies through the air making her cough. As she throws the sheet on the floor, she notices a wooden box sitting on the table – a jewellery box with a hand-carved pattern of flowers on the outside.

Constance lifts the jewellery box up and notices a name carved in the top: Gretel.

“My grandmother’s jewellery box,” Constance says excitedly.

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.


The newspaper clippings sit on the floor surrounding Constance Helling. They all date back to 1965. Constance picks up one of the newspaper articles and skims through it hastily before throwing it to the side and picking up another. She had found the clippings in an old folder sitting next to the jewellery box she had found in the shed.

“I don’t understand…” Constance says to herself as she picks up another clipping to read. She skims the first few lines of The Holgate Times article:

At least 20 human skeletal remains have been located at the site of the old dam in the small town of Peppercorn Patch. Local law enforcement have advised that the bodies have yet to be identified, however all have been found to be missing their teeth.


Having entered the town of Holgate, Constance Helling slows to a stop outside a large grey coloured building. Its drab façade does not make for a warm welcome.

“I knew I’d seen it before,” Constance says to Dustin as she points up to the large sign above the building’s entrance. “I walked under it nearly everyday for years.”

Dustin turns to Constance and gives her a blank look.

“I used to work here,” she continues, “as a nurse.” She pulls out a small wooden box from her handbag and shows it to Dustin. He looks the box over and his eyes suddenly light up. He looks quickly up at the building’s sign again.

“This box belonged to my grandmother,” Constance runs her finger over the initials, H.B., on the front of the box. Above them, on the building’s sign, they can see the same initials.

Holgate Bedlamites.” Constance smiles at Dustin. “Welcome to the asylum.”

“The mental hospital?” Dustin asks.

“Yes, I initially thought the initials stood for Helling Bros, as in the business my grandparents founded, but then I remembered the hospital I used to work at; Holgate Bedlamites. The small wooden boxes were used to store medication for the patients.”

“So your grandmother was a patient?” Dustin asks.

“No,” Constance says to the elderly councillor, “she was a nurse, like me.”


“Robert and Gretel Helling’s first child was actually a girl. A daughter named Maria,” Dustin says, continuing to shield Constance from the rain. “Maria was born with a condition which meant she would never have any teeth.”

Constance hides her shock from Dustin, and recalls the jewellery box of human teeth that she located.

“She didn’t survive,” Dustin informs her. He leans over and pats the small grave that Constance is kneeling in front of. There is no gravestone to identify the grave, only a small cross.

“She was only a baby,” Constance says. “They must have been heartbroken.”


Councillor Dustin Harris

“I believe that my father was killed, murdered even,” Dustin tells Constance. “He disappeared without a trace when I was a boy, and I believe that his body was one of the skeletons that was found.”

Constance looks at the man in front of her, her mouth wide open in shock.

“I was hoping that by helping you,” Dustin continues, “I would be able to find out the truth about my father. And help you in the process.”

“I knew you weren’t telling me the whole truth,” Constance says.

“I didn’t want to make you feel like your family wasn’t important, but I’ve been trying my whole life to find out the truth about my father.”


“There’s one other thing I haven’t told you yet,” Constance says, picking up a brown paper bag. “I found this with the newspaper clippings.”

Constance passes the brown paper bag to Dustin. He looks at her quizzically before opening the bag up and peering inside.

“It’s a diary,” Constance tells him, “belonging to my grandmother, Gretel Helling.”

“We have to read it,” Dustin says. “What if it has all the answers we have been searching for?”

“I couldn’t read it by myself, but maybe we can read it together.”

Dustin unties the leather bind at the front of the diary and opens it up to the first page. “Are you ready to do this?” he asks Constance. “Are you ready to find out about your family?”


Season Three begins Monday September 14

Season One Recap

Cover

It continues…May 18.

In the meantime, catch up with Season One of Obnoxious Weeds with the below recap.


Joanne Evans

Joanne loved and adored her father. He was the only family she had, as her mother had died when Joanne was born. Joanne was the apple in Benjamin’s eye. Every day she reminded him of his wife, and he lived to ensure that Joanne had the best upbringing she could possibly have.

Benjamin Pickering was killed instantly when he was crossing the road one day on his way to his office in the heart of Peppercorn Patch. It was a hit and run accident that left the whole town in shock and one little twelve year old girl without a father.

Young Joanne had only one place to go – to live with her Aunty Val. Valerie Pickering owned the local pub, The Grand Hotel, and was very troubled with alcohol dependence. Joanne, although still at a very young age, learned to grow up quickly. At times she felt as if she was the adult looking after her aunty.


Joanne is struggling to see through the smoke around her. She tries to call out for help again but all she manages to do is breathe in more smoke. It is making her cough and eyes are in pain. So are her legs. She can’t move them. Around her the building continues to collapse. The house shudders and shakes violently.


“Joanne? Richard?” Constable Kyle Cook bellowed, competing with the sound of the exploding house. As he entered into the burning wreckage, the house seemed to start falling down around him. He frantically looked around for any sign of life.

It was then that he saw her. Sprawled out across the lounge room floor with a splintered cricket bat laying at her feet, at first he thought Joanne was dead. An explosion from behind startled Kyle Cook as made his way closer to Joanne. He could see her stir. She was alive.

“Joanne,” Kyle called out to Joanne. “I’m here.”


It is hard for Joanne to comprehend that less than 24 hours ago she was watching television on the lounge with her husband, Richard Evans.

Devastatingly, her attacker, Thomas Helling, had left Joanne unable to move her legs. The hospital staff had informed Joanne that she would have a long recovery ahead of her.


Joanne quickly tears the envelope open and reads the short letter that has been written for her. Without hesitating, Joanne picks up her mobile phone and dials the police sergeant’s number.

“Sergeant,” Joanne says to Sergeant Anders when he answers his phone, “I’ve just received a delivery from Thomas. He knows where I am.”

She reads the poem out loud to the police officer:

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall,
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.
All the best surgeons and all the best men,
Couldn’t put Joanne back together again.


Cathy Gilmore

“Cathy!” a colleague calls Cathy Gilmore over to the nurse’s station and hands her a sealed envelope. “This arrived for you.”

Cathy takes the envelope and looks it over. It is blank apart from her name written on the front. Curious, Cathy tears the envelope open quickly and pulls out the contents; a handwritten letter.

As quickly as she tore the envelope open, Cathy rips the letter into little pieces and dumps them into the closest rubbish bin.

She can’t help but think about the words written on the letter:

 Roses are Red. Violets are Blue. Life would be perfect – if it wasn’t for you.


Richard Evans

The plastic binds hold Richard Evans’ hands together behind his back. He can no longer feel his arms due to the pain that has taken over.

Richard tries to look around him but everything is dark apart from a few scattered candles which have been lit and provide a dim glow. He can see the windows of the room he is in have been blackened out by thick black plastic.


Richard stares confused at an increasingly excited Thomas. Thomas suddenly darts across the room and rips the black plastic down from one of the windows. Both men are suddenly blinded as sunlight rushes into the room.

As his eyes adjust to the light, Richard can see treetops disappear into the distance.

“My great grandfather built this house, Rich,” beams a proud Thomas. “And I’m here to restore it!”

Both men gaze down over the quiet town below them from the house high up on the hill.


Constable Kyle Cook bursts into the room. Thomas goes to lunge at the police officer with his scalpel, but Kyle Cook’s drawn hand gun fires a shot towards Thomas and he drops to the floor.

Kyle can see Thomas Helling lying motionless on the floor. He grabs the scalpel from Thomas’ grasp and rushes over to assist Richard.

Without saying another word, Constable Kyle Cook takes the scalpel he is holding and its sharp blade slashes open Richard Evans’ throat sending a river of blood gushing to the floor.


Kyle Cook

As Kyle Cook worked alongside Richard Evans and his two other friends in reviving Thomas Helling once they had pulled him from the water, he couldn’t help but think of his responsibility as a new police recruit. He felt proud that he was able to rescue Thomas.

It was the lack of acknowledgement that hurt Kyle Cook the most. Richard Evans had claimed sole responsibility for rescuing Thomas and Joanne and, to top it off, Richard had been making moves on Joanne. Kyle felt betrayed. After all, he was the one who saved the couple. Without him that evening, neither would be alive today, especially Thomas. Joanne should have been falling in love with him, not Richard.

 Once he heard that Thomas Helling had awoken from his coma, he hatched a plan and raced to Thomas’ side.

“I’m here to look after you,” Kyle had promised his new friend. “Joanne has been taken from you, but I know what you need to do to get her back. Richard Evans needs to die.”


Thomas picks up the bloody scalpel from the floor and starts waving it towards Kyle. “Maybe I am crazy like everybody says.” Thomas is the one now smiling.

Without warning, there is a flash of bright light as the door bursts open. Both men are startled by the flashlight that Sergeant Michael Anders is wielding.

Michael Anders shines the light over the room as he quickly takes everything he is seeing in. His flashlight shines over Richard’s bloody body in the corner of the room.

“I was too late,” Michael Anders can hear Kyle Cook crying. “I’m sorry, Sergeant. I was too late to save Richard.”

Thomas Helling suddenly lunges at Kyle Cook with the bloody scalpel he is holding. “You bastard!” Thomas yells.

Through the open window, Constance Helling peers into the candlelit room. She looks on in horror as three bullets leave Sergeant Michael Anders’ handgun and explode through Thomas’ body.


Constance Helling

“What brings you back to town?” Valerie Pickering asks the large woman in front of her.

“Well, if you must know,” Constance leans in close to Valerie over the bar, “I drove in from Holgate this morning to see my father. He’s not well. He’s in hospital and I don’t think he’ll last the week. I’ll stay for a few days.”

“I’m sorry to hear,” Valerie says to Constance.

“Don’t be sorry. He’s had a good innings. He is acting a bit strange though. He gave me this box.” Constance lifts a small wooden box out of her bag. Valerie can see the initials H.B. engraved on the front.


Constance Helling can see the destruction around her. The half renovated house looks very different to how she remembered it as a child.

Constance walks to the back of the house and into the small bedroom which was once hers. Kneeling down in the corner of the room, she uses a metal tool to pry open a loose wooden floorboard.

Lifting the piece of floorboard from its place, Constance puts her hand inside the small hole and finds a silver key inside. She pulls the wooden box her father had given her from her handbag and slides the key inside the lock. As she opens the lid of the box, she looks down at the contents of the box in puzzlement.


Joanne Evans

Joanne peers down at her father’s grave. “I have some flowers for you, dad.” A bunch of white tulips sit on her lap. As she reaches down to unlock her wheelchair’s brakes, the flowers fall to the ground.

She struggles for a few moments to pick up the flowers that are now out of her reach, before suddenly hearing footsteps on the grass behind her.

“Let me help,” Joanne can hear a woman’s voice.

“Thank you,” Joanne says as the woman places the flowers back onto Joanne’s lap. All Joanne can see is a vision of red. The woman’s dress is the same colour as her bright red hair. “I’m still getting used to this thing,” Joanne points to the wheelchair.

“No problem at all, Joanne,” the woman in red smiles. “I’m happy to help.”

Joanne stares hesitantly at the woman. “I’m sorry,” Joanne says, “but do I know you?”

The woman in red reaches down and takes Joanne’s hand. “Darling, Joanne,” she smiles again. “I’m your mother.”


Season Two begins Monday May 18

Episode Twelve

Heaven and Hell

One Week Later.

Those assembled in the small church are in awe of Joanne Evans. Once again she has shown the small town how strong she can be in the face of adversity. Seated at the front of the church, Joanne turns her head and takes in the view behind her. She sees many friendly faces in the crowd, mostly with a look of sadness in their eyes.

Father Bolton, Peppercorn Patch’s local priest, looks to Joanne and gestures with a nod of his head that he is about to begin the service. Joanne takes a deep breath and breathes out slowly.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” Father Bolton begins, “we are gathered here today to mourn the passing of a loved one. It’s always a hard time to say goodbye, especially to family members who were so close. Today is also a day to celebrate the life we shared with our loved one. Today we say goodbye and celebrate the life of Richard Evans.”


Joanne took hold of Richard’s hand and he led her gently down the small church’s aisle. She couldn’t wipe the huge smile off her face as she peered down over those who had gathered to see them wed. As she walked down the aisle hand in hand with Richard, she locked eyes with her aunt, Valerie Pickering.

Joanne could sense how proud the woman was, but she couldn’t help feeling that she was still missing something. She knew her mother and father were looking down from their place in heaven. She raised her hand to her neck and held tightly onto her mother’s jewellery.


After the service for Richard Evans concludes, the townspeople offer their condolences to Joanne one by one in the church’s garden. Joanne feels emotionally drained but feels obliged to greet each person who has attended to pay their respect to Richard.

After what seems like an eternity to Joanne, all the well-wishers disappear and Joanne is left on her own. For the first time in a couple of days, Joanne sheds a tear. Not for herself, but for Richard. She feels like she hasn’t had a chance to mourn him properly yet. All she has been able to think about is Thomas. Thomas Helling has hauted her dreams since the day that Richard died.

As if out of nowhere the large frame of Constance Helling is suddenly standing in front of her and she is again reminded of Thomas.

“I’m sorry, Joanne,” the woman whispers.

Joanne looks down to her shoes but cannot manage to look and face the woman in front of her. She can’t seem to escape the horror of Thomas Helling.

“Thank you,” Joanne manages to say softly. “I’m sorry for your loss.”

“Thank you,” Constance Helling says softly back, before turning and walking away.


It had been somewhat of a mystery to many as to why Thomas Helling had returned to Peppercorn Patch to seek revenge on Joanne Evans. One thing that was clear to Constance Helling was that he had returned to Peppercorn Patch to renovate her father’s house. She’d only recently discovered that Thomas had left Holgate, where he had lived since he had awoken from his coma, when she received a handwritten letter in the mail from him.

Constance Helling hadn’t entered the house since she herself was a young girl. When her parents separated when she was only 11, she moved with her mother closer to the centre of town. Her father stayed and lived in the house up on the hill for many years, however her mother never allowed her to go to the house again. Her mother believed that evil spirits inhabited the house and that if young Constance was to enter then she would herself be at risk of being inhabited by evil. As Constance grew older, she realised the stories she was told by her mother were probably a way for her mother to keep her from seeing her father. In any case, Constance Helling no longer believed in evil spirits. That was until one week ago when she witnessed her son, Thomas Helling, possessed by something truly unholy.

“Are you sure you want to go in?” Sally Somers, the local real estate agent, asks Constance. “You know that everyone is now calling this place Hell House?”

“Sorry?” Constance asks Sally, only half listening to the woman next to her.

“You know; Helling, Hell. I mean, after all that’s happened here in the last week,” Sally says, oblivious to Constance Helling’s quizzical look.

“How dare you!” Constance shouts at the real estate agent. “My family built this town from the ground up. The Helling name will not be used in such a vulgar manner!”

“Sorry, Constance,” Sally says as she unlocks the front door to the house.

Constance takes a step inside the front door. “I won’t be needing your services any longer, Miss Somers,” Constance says. “You’ve helped me make my decision. I’ve decided that this house needs to stay in the Helling name. I’m the new owner.”

Sally Somers stares down blankly at the unsigned sales contract that seemed to have so quickly slipped through her fingers, and realises why Constance Helling is known to many locals as Constant Hell.


The wheelchair rocks violently over the gravel pathway leading away from the church. Valerie Pickering pushes the chair slowly towards the carpark. Her niece, Joanne Evans, sits silently in the chair.

As Valerie nears her car, she parks the wheelchair next to the passenger door. “We’re going to have to get a bigger car,” she says, jokingly.

“I want to see him,” Joanne says, looking up at her aunty. “I want to see my father.”


Constance Helling can see the destruction around her. The half renovated house looks very different to how she remembered it as a child.

Constance walks to the back of the house and into the small bedroom which was once hers. Kneeling down in the corner of the room, she uses a metal tool to pry open a loose wooden floorboard.

Only recently she remembered using this as a hiding spot when she was a child, discovered accidentally as she was playing in her room one day. The small wooden box she had been given by her father had reminded her. She knew she had seen the initials H.B. before.

Lifting the piece of floorboard from its place, Constance puts her hand inside the small hole and lifts out another wooden box. It was the same box she had discovered as a child, but was too scared to open. She isn’t scared now, though. Without hesitating, Constance opens up the unlocked wooden box and reveals a silver key inside.

Tossing the now empty box aside, Constance pulls the wooden box her father had given her from her handbag and slides the key inside the lock. She can hear a click as her heart begins to beat faster. As she opens the lid of the box, she looks down at its contents in puzzlement.


Valerie Pickering wheels her niece to Benjamin Pickering’s gravesite. He had been reburied only a few days earlier. Joanne had not yet seen the gravesite since the reburial.

“Thanks, Aunty Val,” Joanne says. “I wouldn’t mind just a little time to myself.”

“Of course, dear,” Val says as she turns to walk away. “You just call out when you’re ready.”

Joanne peers down at her father’s grave and can’t help but think of the letter and flowers she received from Thomas a week ago when she was in hospital.

“I have some flowers for you, dad,” Joanne says. A bunch of white tulips sit on her lap. As she reaches down to lock her wheelchair’s brakes, the flowers fall to the ground.

She struggles for a few moments to pick up the flowers that are now out of her reach, before suddenly hearing footsteps on the grass behind her.

“Let me help,” Joanne can hear a woman’s voice.

“Thank you,” Joanne says as the woman hands the flowers back to Joanne. All Joanne can see is a vision of red. The woman’s dress is the same colour as her bright red hair. “I’m still getting used to this thing,” Joanne points to the wheelchair.

“No problem at all, Joanne,” the woman in red smiles. “I’m happy to help.”

Joanne stares hesitantly at the woman. “I’m sorry,” Joanne says, “but do I know you?”

The woman in red reaches down and takes Joanne’s hand. “Darling, Joanne,” she smiles again. “I’m your mother.”

The white tulips fall to the ground for the second time.


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Episode Eleven

Blood

After the angels had rescued her and Thomas from drowning in the river that night, Joanne had spent many long days and nights at Thomas’ bedside in Peppercorn Patch Hospital. Thomas had been saved, however he still had a long fight ahead of him. Thomas had fallen into a coma and the life support machines invading his body were keeping him alive.

Coming to terms with the fact that she had almost lost her niece, Valerie Pickering started drinking more. At a time that Joanne needed her aunt’s support the most, she had to support her aunt as well. Valerie Pickering was admitted to hospital and began one of her many recoveries back to health. Joanne tried to do everything she could to stay strong for Thomas and Aunty Val. She also tried to stay strong for herself.

Days turned into weeks, then into months. Thomas remained in a coma. The hospital staff had told Joanne that there was probably only a small chance that Thomas would wake, but Joanne was determined to have faith that Thomas would make a full recovery.

“You’ve been so strong. It’s very impressive,” Richard Evans had come to visit Joanne and Thomas in hospital two months after the accident.

“I don’t feel impressive. I feel exhausted,” Joanne sighed. She couldn’t help but feel a little flattered by her rescuer’s remarks.

“You need to have a break away from this place,” Richard Evans suggested. “Between your aunt and Thomas, it’s no wonder you’re exhausted.”

“I need to be here in case he wakes up. He needs me,” Joanne had replied.

“He’s in the best hands here in the hospital. Let me take you out for a coffee.”

Richard Evans was a few years older than Joanne and was originally from Holgate. Over the years he had often visited Peppercorn Patch with his family and friends to go camping along the river. He had decided that he loved living in Peppercorn Patch and, having just finished his university degree, started work as a teacher at the local high school.

Joanne enjoyed Richard Evans’ company so much that she soon found herself enjoying his company more and more. Their coffee dates became a daily recurrence and soon turned into dinner dates. Joanne felt happy to have formed such a close friendship with Richard. He would sit and chat with her for hours while she stayed at Thomas’ bedside waiting for him to wake from his coma.

“I’m moving to Holgate,” Constance Helling, Thomas’ mother, announced to Joanne one day, “and I’m taking Thomas with me.”

Joanne was distraught, but there wasn’t much she could do. Constance Helling was Thomas’ legal guardian. Arrangements were made soon after and Thomas was transported to Holgate Hospital where he remained in his coma. Joanne tried to visit whenever she could, but the long distance made it difficult for her to see Thomas often.

Another two months passed before Thomas finally woke from his coma. When Joanne found out, she phoned Constance Helling immediately.

“He doesn’t wish to see you,” Constance had told her. “It’s for the best, Joanne. He’s not the same person anymore.”

Joanne realised that the Thomas she had once loved had been taken from her on that fateful night. She also realised that she had fallen in love with Richard.


Constable Kyle Cook stands over Richard Evans’ limp and bloody body. He drops the bloody scalpel he is holding and it tap dances on the wooden floor.

“You could have killed me!” Kyle Cook can hear a voice. He squints through the darkness and makes out the face of Thomas Helling in the candlelight.

“I have a good aim,” Kyle Cook says dryly, “and I wasn’t aiming at you.”

Kyle Cook takes the flashlight out of his holster and shines the bright light into Thomas Helling’s face.

“Turn the light off!” Thomas yells insistently at Kyle. “It’s too bright! It might be seen!”

“Why wasn’t he dead already?” Kyle flashes the light at Richard’s body.

Thomas looks over to Richard’s body and then quickly looks away. He closes his eyes tightly to hold back tears that are starting to form. “I couldn’t do it,” he murmurs.

“That wasn’t part of the plan!” Kyle Cook is angry. He can see Thomas starting to cry. “What have I told you Thomas? No tears! Tears won’t get you anywhere in life!”


Kyle Cook was Richard Evans’ best friend. They had attended school together in Holgate and had always been there for each other. When Richard had asked Kyle and two other friends to join him on a camping trip in Peppercorn Patch, Kyle had jumped at the opportunity. Kyle had just been accepted into the police force and was to spend the next few months training at a police academy a few hours’ drive away. It would be the last chance he would get to spend with his friends for a while.

As Kyle Cook worked alongside Richard Evans and his two other friends in reviving Thomas Helling once they had pulled him from the water, he couldn’t help but think of his responsibility as a new police recruit. He felt proud that he was able to rescue Thomas. He had lead the rescue mission, directing Richard and his friends that night, and was certain that he had found his calling as a police officer. To Kyle, this was only a taste of what was to come. He was sure of it.

It was the lack of acknowledgement that hurt Kyle Cook the most. Richard Evans had claimed sole responsibility for rescuing Thomas and Joanne and, to top it off, Richard had been making moves on Joanne. Kyle felt betrayed. After all, he was the one who saved the couple. Without him that evening, neither would be alive today, especially Thomas. Joanne should have been falling in love with him, not Richard.

While training at the police academy, Kyle’s anger grew as he learned of Joanne and Richard’s blossoming relationship. Once he heard that Thomas Helling had awoken from his coma, he hatched a plan and raced to Thomas’ side.

“I’m here to look after you,” Kyle had promised his new friend. “Joanne has been taken from you, but I know what you need to do to get her back. Richard Evans needs to die.”


Constance Helling is seated in one of the booths near the back of Valerie Pickering’s establishment, The Grand Hotel. She brings a hot mug of coffee to her lips before putting it back down on the table.

“I don’t understand,” she says to Valerie, “Thomas wouldn’t do such a thing.”

“Joanne says it was him,” Valerie says to Constance. “And if you say he was back in town, then why else would he be here?”

“I don’t believe it!” Constance reaches for her handbag. “I can’t stay here any longer and listen to these accusations.”

As Constance moves to leave the hotel, Sergeant Michael Anders runs in through the front door.

“Valerie!” he shouts as he sees Valerie Pickering. He is surprised to also see Constance Helling standing next to her. “Constance,” he says, bewildered. “There’s been a report of a light from the house on the hill. I’m going up to check it out.”


“You didn’t follow the plan,” Kyle says angrily at Thomas. “You were supposed to leave Richard to die in the house fire and bring Joanne up here.”

“She hadn’t seen me in years,” Thomas starts to cry again. “I thought she would be happy to see me.”

“What did you expect, Thomas?” Kyle says mockingly. “She was going to run back to you?”

“You said I could get her back. You said she would love me again,” Thomas sulks.

“Don’t you get it, Thomas? It was me that was going to win Joanne over, not you.” Kyle gives Thomas a broad smile. “It was all part of my plan.”


“It’s time,” Kyle said to Thomas seven years after the accident. “Remember the plan?”

“Richard dies in the house after I tie him up and set fire to it,” Thomas recounted the plan. “And I take Joanne to the house on the hill.”

“Very good,” Kyle said approvingly. “And then Joanne will be yours.”

In actual fact, Kyle’s plan was not for Thomas’ benefit. Kyle planned to burst into the house, kill Thomas and rescue Joanne, making him the hero. Joanne was sure to then fall in love with him.


“What part of the plan didn’t you understand?” Kyle is becoming increasingly more furious.

“I’m not stupid, Kyle!” Thomas screams. “I know you want me dead. Everyone in this godforsaken town wants me dead! If I couldn’t have Joanne, then you certainly weren’t going to have her!”

Thomas picks up the bloody scalpel from the floor and starts waving it towards Kyle. “Maybe I am crazy like everybody says.” Thomas is the one now smiling.

Without warning, there is a flash of bright light as the door bursts open. Both men are startled by the flashlight that Sergeant Michael Anders is wielding.

Michael Anders shines the light over the room as he quickly takes in everything he is seeing. His flashlight shines over Richard’s bloody body in the corner of the room.

“I was too late,” Michael Anders can hear Kyle Cook crying. “I’m sorry, Sergeant. I was too late to save Richard.”

Thomas Helling suddenly lunges at Kyle Cook with the bloody scalpel he is holding. “You bastard!” Thomas yells.

Through the open window, Constance Helling peers into the candlelit room. She looks on in horror as three bullets leave Sergeant Michael Anders’ handgun and explode through Thomas’ body.


Final Episode – Monday 6th April

Episode Ten

Angel

The car continued to sink into the black water. Joanne felt helpless as she thought of Thomas trapped inside the car. It was dark and she was wet and cold. She didn’t know what to do.

“Tom!” Joanne screamed out to her lover. As the car began to sink further under the water a wave of fear grasped Joanne. She didn’t want to be dragged under with the car herself. Grabbing onto the muddy bank, Joanne tried to pull herself out of the water. She struggled to pull herself up and fell back into the unforgiving water.


Joanne Evans looks up into the night sky. From her hospital bed she can see the glittering stars through the open window. Only a few hours ago the clouds had parted and the rain had stopped. It is hard for Joanne to comprehend that less than 24 hours ago she was watching television on the lounge with her husband, Richard. She feels like she has been asleep for years and it is difficult for her to remember clearly the events that unfolded the night before.

The only thing that is clear to her now is that she has lost the use of her legs. Her attacker left Joanne unable to move her legs. The hospital staff had devastatingly informed Joanne that she would have a long recovery ahead of her.

Joanne stares out of the open window at the twinkling stars. She feels overwhelmed and doesn’t feel a tear when it rolls down her cheek. A shooting star suddenly catches her attention.

“Dad,” she whispers to herself. “I miss you so much. I wish you were here with me. I need you right now.”

Suddenly, another star shoots across the sky. “Mum, I know you’re up there somewhere looking out for me. I never knew you, but I know you’ve always been with me. Please keep Richard safe.”


From the open window in the house high up on the hill, Richard Evans had seen the afternoon showers roll in and out of the small town and the darkness of the night sky take hold. He too saw the two shooting stars dart across the sky and instantly thought of Joanne. He hadn’t seen her since the night before when he was taken from his house by Thomas, leaving an injured Joanne laying on the lounge room floor with the house beginning to fall down around her. He made two wishes for her safety.

“What are you thinking, Rich?” Thomas leans in close to Richard, who can see the devil dancing in his captors’ eyes.

“I hope Joanne’s still alive, otherwise there will be hell to pay!” Richard replies as he spits in Thomas’s face.

Thomas head butts Richard which sends Richard, along with the chair that he is tied to, flying to the floor. Thomas wipes Richard’s saliva from his face and kicks Richard in the side of his ribs.

“You’re the one that’s going to pay, Rich!” Thomas screams hysterically at Richard. “You’re the evil one!”


It was when she was trying to climb out of the water for the second time that Joanne saw the angel in the distance. She could make out the angel’s outline from the glowing white light behind it. She momentarily forgot where she was as she was drawn to the mystical being moving closer towards her.

“Help!” Joanne suddenly realised the danger she and Thomas were still in and called out to the angel. “Help!”

In front of her, the angel seemed to morph itself into more than one being, and Joanne realised that there were now four angels approaching her. They now seemed to be running at her. The angels started becoming blurry as Joanne felt herself disappear underneath the water.


There is a knock on the door and into Joanne’s hospital room walks the night nurse carrying a bouquet of flowers.

“Joanne, honey,” the nurse says to Joanne, “these arrived for you.”

“They’re beautiful,” Joanne can see her favourite flowers, white tulips.

The nurse fills up a vase with water and places it on the side table. “Looks like they’ve travelled some way to be here,” the nurse jokes as she places the flowers into the vase and leaves the room.

Joanne looks at the flowers and realises what the nurse has meant. The tulips are starting to wilt and are covered with a thin layer of brown dirt. She pictures herself kneeling beside her father’s grave only the day before and placing white tulips at the site.

Joanne can see that the nurse has also left an envelope on the table. Her name is handwritten on the front. She quickly tears the envelope open and reads the short letter that has been written for her. Without hesitating, Joanne picks up her mobile phone and dials the police sergeant’s number.

“Sergeant,” Joanne says to Sergeant Anders when he answers his phone, “I’ve just received a delivery from Thomas. He knows where I am.”

She reads the poem out loud to the police officer:

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall,
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.
All the best surgeons and all the best men,
Couldn’t put Joanne back together again.


Four angels came to Joanne and Thomas’ rescue on that fateful night when the car they were travelling in disappeared into the river. Richard Evans and three of his friends had been camping alongside the river when they heard a car screeching and then careening into the dark water. By the time they grabbed their flashlights and headed for the sound of the accident, the car had been completely swallowed by the water. They could see Joanne struggling to free herself from the river. It wasn’t until they pulled Joanne to safety that they realised that another soul needed their help.

“Thomas!” Joanne screamed at the angels. “He’s still in the car!”

Richard Evans and his three friends worked together quickly to free the trapped man from the car. When they eventually brought him to the riverbank he was not breathing.

“Hold on, mate,” Richard pleaded with Thomas as the four men worked at reviving him.


“I saved your life, Thomas!” Richard cries. “You wouldn’t be here today if I hadn’t have rescued you.”

Thomas stands over Richard who is still lying on the floor tied to a chair. Thomas twirls a sharp scalpel between his fingers.

“You rescued me, Rich, only to then ruin my life!” retorts Thomas. “You took everything I loved away from me!” Thomas leans down over Richard and presses the sharp blade next to Richard’s face. A line of blood starts to run from his cheek.

“Joanne and I fell in love, Tom. We didn’t mean for it to happen. It just did,” Richard says, trying to stay brave. “Joanne looked after you for months when you were in a coma, and we didn’t know if you’d make it or not.”

“You both wanted me dead!” Thomas screeches into the night air.

“That’s not true. Joanne loved you.”

“I’ll tell you who did care for me, Rich.” Thomas beams a wide smile at Richard. “My angel.”

Richard looks up at Thomas. He heard the man speak of the angel the night before but doesn’t know what he is talking about.

“My angel helped me to recover when I woke from my coma,” Thomas continues, “and told me about you and Joanne. My angel told me the only way to get Joanne back was to get you out of the way. And the best way to do that was to kill you!”

Thomas raises the scalpel to his own throat and makes a threatening gesture to Richard as he pretends to cut his own throat. All Richard can do is stare at the mad man above him in disbelief. There is nothing he can do to save his own life.

Suddenly, both men can hear a door opening from the next room and then a voice. “Is anyone in here?”

“Don’t say a word!” Thomas points his scalpel again at Richard.

Thomas moves quietly over to the door leading to the room next door. He hadn’t been expecting any visitors.

“Help me!” Richard suddenly screams out. “I’m in here!”

“You stupid bastard!” Thomas screams out in rage, as Constable Kyle Cook bursts into the room. Thomas goes to lunge at the police officer with his scalpel, but Kyle Cook’s drawn hand gun fires a shot towards Thomas and he drops to the floor.

Kyle can see Thomas Helling lying motionless on the floor. He grabs the scalpel from Thomas’ grasp and rushes over to assist Richard.

“Aren’t I glad to see you!” Richard starts to cry as Kyle lifts him and the chair he is still attached to from the floor. “I didn’t think I was going to make it out of here alive.”

“Are you alright?” Kyle can see the blood dripping from Richard’s face.

“I am now that you’re here,” Richard can’t help but laugh and cry at the same time. “Is Joanne okay?”

“She’s in hospital, but she’ll be fine.”

“Thank God!” Richard says quietly to himself.

“But I’m not so sure about you,” Kyle says to Richard.

“What do you mean?” Richard asks the police officer.

Without saying another word, Constable Kyle Cook takes the scalpel he is holding and its sharp blade slashes open Richard Evans’ throat sending a river of blood gushing to the floor.


Next Episode – Monday 30th March

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Episode Nine

Heartbeat

The town of Holgate is situated approximately 60 kilometres south of Peppercorn Patch. Its population of roughly 50,000 people far surpasses that of Peppercorn Patch’s 4,000. There is only one road that leads out of Peppercorn Patch and it winds its way over mountain ranges known as Holgate’s Gap. The treacherous terrain keeps the two towns divided, though both towns rely on each other heavily. Holgate relies on Peppercorn Patch’s residents to visit its many major services that the smaller town cannot provide, whilst the town of Peppercorn Patch depends on the abundance of tourists visiting from Holgate each year, especially during the warmer months. The tourists come to flock at camping grounds along Helling River, as well as to trek along the many walking tracks in the hills that surround the small town.

Valerie Pickering knows all too well of the town’s reliance on the tourist economy. As the owner of the local pub, The Grand Hotel, those tourists help her to make ends meet. Any day that she does not open her establishment, she loses money. And it’s money that Valerie cannot afford to lose.

“Joanne, honey,” Valerie Pickering stirs Joanne Evans from her sleep. “I’m sorry to leave you, Jo, but I need to go open The Grand. It’s pretty warm and I’m sure there’ll be a pretty thirsty crowd.”

“Of course, Aunty Val,” Joanne smiles at her aunty. “Please don’t worry about me. I’ll be just fine.”

Valerie leans over Joanne’s hospital bed and kisses her niece on the forehead before squeezing her hand. “I know you’ll be just fine. You are a brave one, my little Jo.”

“You’re the brave one, Aunty Val,” Joanne replies. “You’ve always been there for me.”

“Not always…” Valerie starts to say.

“You’ve always done the best you can.”

“You’re the one who’s always looked after me, Jo. And it’s my time to look after you. When they let you out of this place, you’re coming back to live with me and I’m going to take care of you.”

“I know you will.” Joanne squeezes Val’s hand this time.

“I promise I will, Jo. And I’m going to quit drinking.”


Edward Helling had been the last person to see Gretel Helling alive. She had left the house one morning as she had done nearly every other morning to go on her morning walk along the tracks through the hills behind the Helling House. When she hadn’t arrived home at the usual time an hour later, Edward had begun to get worried. He had known that Gretel hadn’t been herself in the few months that had passed since her son, and Edward’s adopted son, Jack Helling, had been killed. She had fallen into a depressed state and had hardly left the house apart from her daily trek through the trees. She had once told Edward that the daily walk was her refuge.

“Your mother hasn’t returned home yet,” Edward anxiously informed Elias Helling, his other adopted son. “We have to go look for her.”

Both men set out on a quest that morning in search of Gretel. Their search ended an hour later at the foot of a rocky cliff.

The townspeople gathered in large numbers again to farewell another one of its residents. Many were saddened by the loss of one of the town’s most popular residents, particularly Edward and Elias Helling, whose family had been halved in only a few short months. Gretel’s cause of death had been clear; she had died from injuries sustained from her fall from the top of the cliff. What hadn’t been clear was how she had fallen. Mystery remained as to whether Gretel had accidentally fallen on her walk, or whether she had decided to end her pain and take her own life.


The rain clouds that start forming over Peppercorn Patch during the afternoon drive many of Valerie Pickering’s potential customers away and results in a fairly quiet shift for the publican. As the afternoon rolls on, the rain clouds become heavier and the heavens open up.

Only a few locals remain by night fall, and Valerie finds herself eager to have a drink or two with her regulars. It is the thought of her niece, Joanne, in the hospital bed, however, that stops her. She knows that Joanne will need her help in recovery over the next few months. And she’s made a promise to her niece. A promise that she intends to keep.

“What does one have to do to get a drink around here?” Valerie can hear a familiar voice say behind her as she busily cleans the bar. Her heart begins to beat faster as she recognises who the voice belongs to.

“Could it possibly be?” Valerie turns to face her new patron.

“Here in the flesh! Have you missed me Val?”

On the other side of the bar stands an ominous figure which makes Valerie partly fearful. She hasn’t seen the woman in front of her for many years and the last time they saw each other they almost nearly killed each other.

“Constance?” Valerie is still bewildered.

Constance laughs heartily as her large body shakes. “It’s me dear! I’m back!”

Without saying another word, Valerie Pickering picks up a bottle of Scotch, pours a large amount into a glass and swallows the entire amount in one go.


Years passed and Edward and Elias both managed the running of the Helling Bros. business. Fairly soon they were being offered large sums of money for the farm land they were using. Over time they sold off most of the land until they only had a small parcel of land left. By this time the Helling Bros. business had ceased to exist and Elias Helling had set up the local camping grounds to cash in on the booming tourist industry. Elias married and had a child of his own; a daughter.

An elderly Edward Helling years later sat propped up in his bed. His son, Elias, sat by his side. Edward knew that he only had a few short breaths left before he would say goodbye to his son for the last time.

“My son,” Edward spoke slowly to Elias. “You have been my pride and joy. You would have been my brother’s pride and joy too.”

“You’re my father. Not your brother, Robert. You have been the one that has been there to look after me and treat me like his own son,” Elias fought to hold back tears.

“There are many things in this world that will remain a mystery, Elias,” Edward informed his son. “There are some things from our family’s past that should also remain a mystery.”

Elias Helling was intrigued by what his elderly father was trying to say to him.

“Our family has many secrets, Elias,” Edward continued. “And if you ever want to find out what they are, then all you need to do is open this box.”

Edward handed Elias a small brown wooden box. On the front of the box was a bronze keyhole surrounded by the engraved initials, H.B.

“Only open if your heart tells you, Elias,” Edward warned his son. “But remember that some things are best left unopened.”

Elias looked the box over. “Where’s the key?” he asked his father.

It was too late. His father had found peace.


“What brings you back to town?” Valerie Pickering asks the large woman in front of her.

“What kind of welcome is that?” Constance says to Valerie.

“You’ve certainly given me quite a surprise,” Valerie explains.

“I can see that your habit hasn’t died yet!” Constance points to the third glass of scotch that Valerie has poured for herself.

Valerie pours the scotch into the bar’s basin and pushes the empty glass across the bench.

“Well, if you must know,” Constance leans in close to Valerie over the bar, “I drove in from Holgate this morning to see my father. He’s not well. He’s in hospital and I don’t think he’ll last the week. I’ll stay for a few days.”

“I’m sorry to hear,” Valerie says to Constance.

“Don’t be sorry. He’s had a good innings. He is acting a bit strange though. He gave me this box.” Constance lifts a small wooden box out of her bag. Valerie can see the initials H.B. engraved on the front.

“What’s inside?” Valerie asks.

“Who knows? And my father doesn’t know either apparently,” Constance rolls her eyes. “He says he never opened it. Something about leaving things unopened…or so he says his father told him. I might just throw it in the trash. Seems pretty worthless to me.”

“He wouldn’t have given it to you if he thought it was worthless, surely,” Valerie suggests.

“Maybe I’ll just hold onto it and give it to my son when I’m old,” Constance laughs. “Speaking of my son, I did get a message from him telling me that he was visiting Peppercorn Patch.”

Valerie Pickering’s heart begins to beat fast again as she fears what she has to tell the woman in front of her.

“Have you seen him?” Constance asks Valerie. “Have you seen my Thomas?”


Next Episode – Monday 23rd March

Episode Eight

Poetry

Benjamin Pickering was Peppercorn Patch’s guiding light – he had been the town’s saviour for many years as the local mayor. He had represented the townspeople on many occasions, particularly in fierce battles to preserve the natural environment of the town. Needless to say, he was well respected and liked in his community. He was also highly regarded by many because he was able to raise his only child, Joanne, on his own. His wife had died giving birth to Joanne.

Joanne loved and adored her father. He was the only family she had, apart from her father’s sister, Valerie, whom she had little contact with growing up. Joanne was the apple in Benjamin’s eye. Every day she reminded him of his wife, and he lived to ensure that Joanne had the best upbringing she could possibly have.

Benjamin Pickering was killed instantly when he was crossing the road one day on his way to his office in the heart of Peppercorn Patch. The red station wagon that hit him slowed to a stop and then sped off quickly, never to be seen in the town again. It was a hit and run accident that left the whole town in shock and one little twelve year old girl without a father.

Young Joanne had only one place to go – to live with her Aunty Val. Valerie Pickering owned the local pub, The Grand Hotel, and was very troubled with alcohol dependence. Joanne, although still at a very young age, learned to grow up quickly. At times she felt as if she was the adult looking after her aunty.

It was a very tough time for Joanne, however she grew to love Aunty Val. She was the only remaining family Joanne had. Even though she spent most of her time having to look after herself, she appreciated the fact that her aunty had taken her in and she had a roof over her head and food to eat – even if she did have to cook the food herself.

Thomas had also been a blessing. Joanne had known Thomas for a few years. He was in the same class as her in primary school, but they had never known each other very well. That was until her father had died.

“Your father is dead,” Thomas had whispered to her one day, “but there’s nothing to dread.”

“What do you mean?” Joanne had asked inquisitively.

“There’s nothing to fear now that I’m here,” Thomas smiled at Joanne.

“You’re a poet!” Joanne laughed for the first time since she had lost her father.


The pieces of ripped paper sit taped together on the table. Cathy Gilmore had gathered the pieces from the rubbish bin and pieced them back together again. The handwritten letter had haunted her ever since she had first read it.

“What does this mean?” Cathy asks herself as she stares at the letter in front of her. “Who could have possibly written this?”

Suddenly Cathy can hear the sound of harsh banging on the front door of her unit. She can see the handle of the door rattle as she quickly ushers the reconstructed letter into the top drawer of her desk.

“Cathy!” she can hear a male voice call from the other side of the door.

Cathy grabs her keys and unlocks the deadlock which had been latched to keep the front door secure. “Hold up!”

The front door rapidly swings open and in rushes a well-dressed man in a business suit. “Cathy!” the man shouts as he wraps his arms around her. “I’ve heard about Joanne and Richard. Are you okay?”

Cathy feels secure at last in the embrace of her husband. He has been out of town on business for a few days and she has missed him.

“I’m fine,” she says to her husband.

Her husband continues to hold her tight as she stares at the top drawer of the desk. She can’t help but think about the words written on the letter that was addressed to her:

Roses are Red. Violets are Blue. Life would be perfect – if it wasn’t for you.


The plastic binds hold Richard Evans’ hands together behind his back. He can no longer feel his arms due to the pain that has taken over.

Richard tries to look around him but everything is dark apart from a few scattered candles which have been lit and provide a dim glow. He can see the windows of the room he is in have been blackened out by thick black plastic.

From the room next to him, Richard can hear a faint noise. “Is anyone there?” Richard asks into the darkness. His voice echoes through the empty room.

Around him Richard can see large tins of paint and building tools – a construction site.

“Do you like what I’ve done with the place?” Richard is startled by a haunting voice. “I couldn’t let this place fall down to the ground.”

Richard turns his body to face the sound of the voice he hears. In the candlelight he can just make out the face of his captor.

“This building has been in my family for many years,” Richard hears the voice again. “It needed a little repairing. I’ve been here for a while making repairs. What do you think of my handiwork?”

A shiver runs down Richard’s spine as he sees the flames burning in Thomas’ eyes.

“What do you think Rich?” Thomas asks again.

Richard tries to respond but feels fear take over.

“What’s wrong, Rich?” Thomas grins excitedly. “Don’t you love what I’ve done with the place?”

“It’s…It’s good,” Richard tries.

“Just good?” Thomas seems disheartened, before adding excitedly, “Do you want to see it?”

Richard stares confused at an increasingly excited Thomas. Thomas suddenly darts across the room and rips the black plastic down from one of the windows. Both men are suddenly blinded as sunlight rushes into the room.

“Can you see it?” Thomas barks excitedly at Richard.

As his eyes adjust to the light, Richard can see treetops disappear into the distance.

“My great grandfather built this house, Rich,” beams a proud Thomas. “And I’m here to restore it!”

Both men gaze down over the quiet town below them from the house high up on the hill.


Next Episode – Monday 16th March

Episode Seven

Dust

Over ten years had passed since the Great Depression of 1929 and Edward and Gretel Helling’s peppercorn farm continued to boom. As did the town. Edward had become a father to Gretel’s two children. They had grown older and helped out on the farm. Seeing as the two children were Helling brothers themselves, Edward and Gretel saw them as fitting successors to the Helling Bros. business. That was until the day the world changed forever.

Jack and Elias Helling were both barely of age when they enlisted in the military in 1941. The Second World War had been raging for two years and both men felt an obligation to fight for their country. Naturally their parents were proud of them; however they were both very frightened for their lives, especially Gretel.

The young Helling brothers soon left to fight for their country. Even though Edward and Gretel would see little of their children during the war, Jack and Elias would write home often. Hearing from their children was what got them through and they were counting down the days that they would see both their sons again.

It was the letter they received from Elias Helling in 1942 that told them that both of their sons were returning home. One son, however, would not be returning alive.

Jack Helling was one of the first to be buried in Peppercorn Patch’s cemetery. It seemed like the whole township of Peppercorn Patch had turned up to say goodbye to one of its fallen soldiers. Amongst the mourners were Edward and Elias Helling. Gretel Helling had been too distraught to attend the memorial service. She looked on from a safe distance from the house high up on the hill.


Sergeant Michael Anders brings his police vehicle to a stop outside the entrance to Peppercorn Patch Cemetery. He looks over to his passenger, Constable Kyle Cook. “I still can’t make sense of this,” he says.

“None of this has made much sense,” the constable replies.

“I’m just not sure why Thomas has done this. Why has he decided to come back now? After all this time?”

“We won’t know until we find Thomas. Until we do many things may remain a mystery.” Constable Cook looks out of the passenger side window then back to Sergeant Anders. “I’m sorry about last night. I was just trying to save Joanne.”

Sergeant Anders opens his door and starts to exit the vehicle. “We’ll discuss this later,” he says. “We have other things to worry about at the moment.”

Both men enter into the cemetery and head towards the large peppercorn tree in the middle of the grounds. As they move closer to the tree they can make out a large mound of dirt piled next to a deep hole.

“Oh my!” Constable Cook exclaims as he nears the edge of the large hole.

Sergeant Anders remains silent as he peers down into the hole. Inside it, he can see a wooden coffin. Its lid sits pried open by a shovel. The inside of the empty coffin has been covered in a layer of dirt.

“It’s true,” Sergeant Anders whispers to himself. “Doctor Smith was right.”


No one had been closer to Joanne Evans than Cathy Gilmore. Cathy had been with Joanne through many hard times. It was no different now. Joanne needed Cathy more than ever.

“Joanne, honey,” Cathy says gently to Joanne. Joanne stirs from her shallow sleep and sees the nurse standing over her hospital bed. “I’m just about to finish my shift. I wanted to say good bye before I left, but I’ll see you again tomorrow morning.” Cathy leans over and kisses Joanne on the forehead.

“Thank you for everything Cathy.” Joanne grabs onto the nurse’s hand and squeezes it gently as she closes her eyes and falls back to sleep.

Cathy gently closes the door behind her as she walks out into the busy hospital corridor. She looks down the corridor and catches a glimpse of Valerie Pickering seated in the hospital’s waiting area. She can see the woman lift a brown paper bag to her lips and take a drink.

“Cathy!” a colleague calls her over to the nurse’s station and hands her a sealed envelope. “This arrived for you.”

Cathy takes the envelope and looks it over. It is blank apart from her name written on the front. Curious, Cathy tears the envelope open quickly and pulls out the contents; a handwritten letter.

As quickly as she tore the envelope open, Cathy rips the letter into little pieces and dumps them into the closest rubbish bin. Her head starts to spin as she digests the contents of the letter. She spots Valerie Pickering again and rushes over to her.

“Val!” Cathy shouts at a surprised Valerie Pickering. “What are you drinking?”

“I wasn’t…” Valerie starts to defend herself.

“Give me that now!” Cathy says to the woman as she grabs the bottle of whiskey wrapped in brown paper. Cathy lifts the bottle to her mouth and takes a swig of the brown liquid. “I need a drink.”


“Doctor Smith matched dental records of our burned body from the high school,” Sergeant Anders explains to Constable Cook. “I needed to see for myself that it was true.”

“So Thomas dug the body up here and took it to the high school?” asks Constable Cook.

“Looks that way,” agrees Sergeant Anders. “We really need to find Thomas before someone else gets hurt.”

Sergeant Anders looks down to the grave that has been disturbed. Underneath a pile of dirt he can see something white. A bunch of white tulips lay half buried. Sergeant Anders reaches down to lift the tulips out of the dirt and uncovers the marble headstone sitting atop the empty grave. Its words bring a tear to the sergeant’s eyes: Here Lies Benjamin Pickering. Devoted Father to Joanne.


Next Episode – Monday 9th March

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Episode Six

Glow

The house had been completely destroyed by fire. Only a few hours had passed since the fire had been put out by the emergency service workers and the remains of the building were still smouldering. Joanne and Richard Evans’ house, along with all of their possessions, had been lost. Richard Evans had also been lost.

At the site, a number of police officers sift through the wreckage. They are hoping to uncover anything that can help them with their investigation. Among the officers is Constable Kyle Cook. He had been sent ahead by Sergeant Michael Anders to lead the investigation.

Through the lens of his camera Constable Cook can see the charred remains of the building and the prized possessions of the Evans couple. His crime scene photographs will serve as evidence if ever required in legal proceedings.

Constable Cook kneels down on one knee and scrapes away some ash and burned wooden material. Underneath the ash he can see a pair of eyes stare back at him. He scrapes away more ash and uncovers another pair of eyes. A wedding photo. Joanne and Richard Evans in happier times. Much happier times.

“So sad,” Constable Cook says to himself, lifting the framed photograph out of the wreckage. Remarkably it has remained relatively untouched by the fire which has destroyed the rest of the house. The cracked glass panel covering the photo is the only evidence of trauma.

“What have you found there, Constable?” Kyle Cook hears a voice behind him. He turns to see Sergeant Michael Anders who has finally arrived at the scene.

Constable Cook lifts the photograph up for Sergeant Anders to see. “Looks like the only thing to survive.”

“A broken dream,” Sergeant Michael Anders sighs.


Through the smoke, Joanne could see her angel getting closer. She could also hear the angel speak again. “Joanne, stay with me. I’m here now…” The angel’s voice was muffled by the crackling fire surrounding her.

As the angel moved closer to her, its bright white halo shone blindingly into her eyes. Unexpectedly, Joanne could feel her body start to float up from the ground. She realised quickly that she had been lifted by her angel and was now safe in her angel’s wings.

“I’m going to get you out of here,” her angel promised. “Stay with me.”


“Anything else of significance?” Sergeant Anders asks Constable Cook.

“Looks like kerosene was used to start the fire. Ignited in the kitchen and took hold from there,” Constable Cook informs his Sergeant.

“Any other sign of what happened here last night? Any other clues as to why this happened?” Sergeant Michael Anders tries to search for answers.

“Nothing at the moment, Serg.”

“You should put that wedding photo in an evidence bag. It’s all we have at the moment.” Sergeant Anders instructs Constable Cook. Sergeant Anders looks over the devastating wreckage that was once Joanne and Richard’s sanctuary. “Poor Joanne,” he shakes his head.

“Were you able to talk to her?” Constable Cook asks.

“She doesn’t remember a lot,” Sergeant Anders begins to say as he pauses to look at Constable Cook. “You know,” he continues, “she did remember one thing.”

“What was that?” Constable Cook is intrigued.

“She remembered who saved her from this very house last night. She mentioned something about an angel. Her guardian angel. And it supposedly rescued her from a most certain death.”

A long silence follows as Constable Kyle Cook stares into the wreckage and then at the photograph of Joanne and Richard on their wedding day.


Kyle Cook saw the orange glow in the distance. Instead of driving for home, he decided to head towards the direction of the glow in the night sky. As he drove closer towards it, he could see the house in the distance. He quickly realised that the orange glow was fire.

The house itself was quite secluded. Situated on old farming land, there were no neighbouring houses close by. Kyle Cook’s heart sank as he realised who the house belonged to. He knew that Joanne and Richard Evans had only just moved into the new house they’d worked so hard to buy. They’d only recently been married and were beginning to enjoy being newlyweds.

Kyle Cook drove up the driveway and parked his car outside the burning house. As a police officer, his first instinct was to make sure that there was no one in danger inside the house.

“Joanne? Richard?” Kyle Cook bellowed, competing with the sound of the exploding house. As he entered into the burning wreckage, the house seemed to start falling down around him. He frantically looked around for any sign of life.

It was then that he saw her. Sprawled out across the lounge room floor with a splintered cricket bat laying at her feet, at first he thought Joanne was dead. An explosion from behind startled Kyle Cook as made his way closer to Joanne. He could see her stir. She was alive.

“Joanne,” Kyle called out to Joanne. “I’m here.”

Through the smoke, Kyle could see Joanne’s eyes light up as they radiated with a sense of awe. She squinted as the bright light from his headlamp shone in her eyes.


“I know you’re angry,” Constable Kyle Cook says to Sergeant Michael Anders. “I didn’t follow protocol.”

“Angry? I’m pissed!” Sergeant Anders yells at his constable. “You could have been killed!”

“I know,” Constable Cook replies. “I just knew there wasn’t enough time to wait. Joanne would have died if I hadn’t of gone in…”

“You both could have died!” Sergeant Anders is furious. Constable Cook hangs his head and decides not to say anything further. “You both could have died,” Sergeant Anders repeats himself.

A vibration from Sergeant Michael Anders’ vest pocket ends his conversation with Constable Cook and he reaches for his ringing mobile phone. “What?” he answers the phone.

“Sergeant, it’s Doctor Peter Smith,” Sergeant Anders can hear the voice on the other end of the line. “I have some news for you regarding our body.”

“That was quick. What have you got for me, Doc?” asks Sergeant Anders.

“I pulled some dental records and it didn’t take me long to get a match,” the doctor informs the police officer. “No match for Richard Evans.”

“What are you saying, Doc?” Sergeant Anders has been taken by surprise.

“The body doesn’t belong to Richard.”

“Then who does it belong to?”

“You might have to sit down, Sergeant,” Doctor Smith replies. “You’re never going to believe it.”


Next Episode – Monday 2nd March

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Who’s in the body bag?

Episode Five

Guardian

What is left of the body is badly burned. The charred skeletal remains make it impossible for the three men to identify who the victim is.

“Sorry Sergeant,” Doctor Peter Smith sighs heavily, “it may take some time to run a few tests before we can determine who this is.”

“Thanks Doc. I appreciate everything you can do,” Sergeant Michael Anders replies. “How’s Joanne holding up?”

“She’s in a bit of shock still, understandably. I’ve given her something for the pain and I’ve recommended that she rests as much as she can.”

“I would like to ask her a few questions…” Michael Anders starts to say.

“Hold up Mike,” Doctor Smith interrupts, “I just said she needs to rest. She probably wouldn’t be much help in her sedated condition anyway.”

Doctor Peter Smith takes his glasses off his face and begins to rub his temples with the tips of his gloved fingers. Michael Anders can see the dark circles forming under the doctor’s eyes. “I’m just not sure it’s a good idea at the moment,” the doctor says to Sergeant Anders.

“Sergeant, look,” Constable Kyle Cook says suddenly, pointing down towards the body on the table. Sergeant Michael Anders and Doctor Peter Smith both look down to the body. They can see something shining through the charred remains on the victim’s finger.

“Is that a ring, Doc?” Sergeant Anders asks.

Doctor Smith reaches down to the object and gently removes it from the charred finger. “Looks like a wedding ring.” He drops it into a plastic evidence bag and hands it to Sergeant Anders.

“It could help us identify the body,” Sergeant Anders says. “Doc, I really need to show this ring to Joanne so she can tell me if it belongs to Richard.”

Doctor Smith sighs heavily and looks down at the charred remains. He rubs his temples again. “Please be gentle with her.”

“I will,” the police Sergeant replies.

“Oh, and Mike,” Doctor Peter Smith calls out as the two police officers turn to leave the room. “Make sure you catch this bastard.”


Joanne is struggling to see through the smoke around her. She tries to call out for help again but all she manages to do is breathe in more smoke. It is making her cough and her eyes are in pain. So are her legs. She can’t move them. Around her the building continues to collapse. The house shudders and shakes violently.

Joanne can suddenly see a bright flash of light in front of her. Not firelight. It is white. As her teary eyes try to focus on the light through the smoke she can see an image begin to craft itself in front of her. The pain in her legs seems to disappear as she focuses on the strange image forming in front of her. She can soon see the silhouette of her saviour, bright white light glowing from behind, almost as if it has a halo. Her angel has arrived.

“Joanne,” her angel can speak. “I’m here.”


Joanne startles herself awake. The next thing she knows she is sitting up in bed with sweat dripping from her forehead. At first she doesn’t recognise where she is. She feels disorientated as she looks around for the fire. Next to her she can see a familiar face.

“It’s okay, honey,” her Aunty Val says to her, “it’s just a bad dream. I’m here.”

Joanne can feel Aunty Val squeeze her hand and caress her forehead as she lowers herself back down onto the hospital bed. She can hear the heart monitor machine next to her beeping along rapidly.

“Where am I?” Joanne tries to say but her throat is hoarse and she only manages to cough.

“Try not to speak, honey,” Aunty Val advises. “Here, use this if you need to.” Aunty Val passes Joanne an oxygen mask.

Joanne puts the oxygen mask on and tries to take a deep breath. It feels as though her lungs are filled with sand as she coughs again. Aunty Val squeezes her hand tightly.

Suddenly there is a knock on the door. Sergeant Michael Anders enters the hospital room. Joanne notices that his face looks flushed, almost as if he has just run a marathon.

“Sorry to bother you both,” Sergeant Anders says.

“Not at all Sergeant,” Valerie Pickering replies.

“How are we holding up in here?” Sergeant Anders asks no one in particular.

“She’s just woken from a bad dream.” Valerie looks at Joanne and brushes back the hair that has fallen across her face.

Sergeant Michael Anders approaches the hospital bed and seats himself on the side of it.

“I know it’s important for you to rest, Joanne, but I need to know if you remember anything from last night,” Sergeant Anders says. “Any little bit of information you can give us can help us find out what happened.”

Joanne closes her eyes. She tries to speak but can only manage to cough again. She shakes her head.

“Do you remember who brought you in to hospital? Who saved you?”

Joanne shakes her head again, but suddenly remembers the angel from her dream. “My angel,” she whispers to the police officer.

“I think she needs more rest, Sergeant,” Valerie says. “She hasn’t been making any sense since she’s been here.”

Sergeant Michael Anders looks to the plastic bag in his hand. “There’s something else I need to ask you, Joanne. We found a body at the high school this morning.”

Joanne’s eyes suddenly widen as she looks intently at Sergeant Anders.

“Who is it?” Valerie enquires.

“It was burned badly, and we have to run some further tests to find out who it is. But we did find this.” Sergeant Anders holds up the plastic bag for Joanne to see. She can see the ring inside the bag glimmer as it reflects the overhead lights.

“Joanne, I know it’s difficult, but does this ring belong to Richard?” Sergeant Anders asks.

Joanne can feel the well of tears building up and before she knows it the tears start running uncontrollably from her eyes. She cannot speak. All she can do is nod her head. Aunty Val squeezes her hand even tighter.


Joanne’s wedding to Richard was a small affair. A few close friends and family had gathered to be there to help celebrate with the couple on their special day.

Joanne was fitted in a stunning white wedding gown, fitted at her bodice and gently flaring wider at the bottom. Her hair, golden blonde, flowed from the top of her head in cascading curls.

The jewellery she wore had been given to her by her Aunty Val. “Your mother wore this jewellery on her wedding day,” Aunty Val had told her. “She would be so proud of you honey. I’m sure she’s looking down on you from wherever she is up there.” By wearing the jewellery she felt as if her mother was there with her, even if it was only in spirit. Like a guardian angel.


Joanne blinks through her tears. She feels hopeless to control the flow streaming from her eyes.

“I’m sorry Joanne,” she can hear Sergeant Anders saying to her. “I’m so sorry.”

Sergeant Anders gets up from where he is sitting on the side of the bed and starts heading towards the door.

“Sergeant,” he can hear Joanne breathlessly whisper between sobs. He turns to face her. “It was an angel that saved me.” Joanne catches her breath with an inhale from the oxygen mask.

“An angel?” Sergeant Anders is curious.

“Yes, a guardian angel,” Joanne whispers, “and I remember who it was.”


Next Episode – Monday 23rd February

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