“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.
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.
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