Season Three Recap

Avoid Spoilers! Read from Episode One

Secrets and Lies…

March 7

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Valerie Pickering

Christmas Day, 1992

Constance grabs Valerie’s hand and helps her friend to her feet. “They took my baby away from me, you know,” Valerie says.

“You told me that you couldn’t keep the baby,” Constance pours the remaining vodka from the bottle onto the ground. “You told me that you gave it up for adoption.”

“That wasn’t my choice. It was taken from me because I was an alcoholic.” Valerie grabs Constance by both hands. “When my baby was taken from me I vowed that I would sober up and track him down.”

“That’s why you came to Peppercorn Patch,” Constance nods.

“Yes, and I did sober up. I hadn’t had a drink in over ten years!”

“I’m sorry, Val. I didn’t know,” Constance gives her friend a guilty look. “If I knew I wouldn’t have offered you that drink.”

“It’s my fault,” Valerie turns her back to Constance. “I wasn’t strong enough. And now I’ve ruined my chances.”

“It’s not too late.”

“He’s 13 now.” A tear falls down Valerie’s face. “My baby boy is 13 years old.” She turns to face Constance again, almost angry. “I’ll never get my little Michael back.”


Cathy Gilmore

The day of the wedding

“If any of you has reasons why these two should not be married,” Father Bolton looks over the congregation, “speak now or forever hold your peace.”

The congregation grows quiet and Joanne looks out over the familiar faces. She grimaces again as a contraction takes hold of her body.

“I object!” comes a call from the back of the town hall.

The silent hall is suddenly awash with voices. Who could possibly object?

From the back of the hall, a woman dressed in turquoise starts walking down the aisle. “My name is Melody Walker,” the woman says, “and I object to the wedding of Cathy and Mark Gilmore.”

“Melody?” Mark Gilmore says to the woman walking down the aisle. He grabs a hold of Cathy’s arm to reassure her. “What are you doing here?”

“I loved you, Mark,” Melody says, stepping down the aisle closer to the couple. The noise from the congregation grows louder. “You were supposed to marry me! You weren’t supposed to marry your own wife again!”


Amber Harp

The day of the wedding

“It took a bit of work to investigate, but I know you did it,” Amber pushes Kyle. “You covered it up, but I know it was you.”

Kyle stares silently at his desk before looking up at Amber and smiling at her. “Why, aren’t you a clever one. So what if I did? I got away with it.’”

Amber is shocked. She didn’t expect Kyle Cook to confess so easily.

“That son of a bitch deserved it!” Kyle grins at her. “Now Joanne is mine.”

“So you did kill Richard?” Amber pushes her chair back slightly. She suddenly feels uneasy.

“I got away with it, didn’t I?” Kyle laughs. “You’ve come to unmask me, Amber Harlot? You and that drop-kick boyfriend of yours disgust me!”

Suddenly, a beeping sound can be heard coming from Amber’s jacket pocket.

“What’s that?” Kyle quickly jumps up and grabs at Amber, reaching into her pocket. She tries to stop him but he finds her mobile phone. “You’re recording me?” he bellows, before pitching the phone violently across the other side of the room.

“I’m sorry,” Amber says, frightened.

He grabs Amber by the shoulders and pulls her close into him. His lips brush her face. “You silly, silly girl,” he says to her. “Now you have to pay!”


Joanne Evans

One month before the day of the wedding

“Get away from her!” Joanne screams out loudly. She looks around the room to try and find something to defend herself.

Doctor Smith leaves Cathy and makes his way over to Joanne. “Joanne, my baby,” he says, as he starts to stroke her face. “Oh, how I longed to have a child of my own, and here you are.”

Quickly thinking, Joanne grabs Doctor Smith’s hand and bites it, her teeth sinking deep into his skin.

“You bitch!” he bellows, pulling his hand away and slapping her across the face. Joanne is pushed across the desk, before Doctor Smith reaches to pull her up. “I am your father! You will treat me with respect!”

Pushing the paperwork on the desk to the side, Joanne grasps for the closest object. She grabs a fountain pen, and spins her body quickly around to face her biological father.

The nib of the pen pierces through The Poetry Predator’s neck and he drops to the floor in a pool of his own blood.


The day of the wedding

Joanne reaches for her belly again and grimaces in pain. She looks down at her bridesmaid dress and notices that it is covered in blood.

“Joanne, are you okay?” Father Bolton notices Joanne trying to hold herself up. As Joanne collapses to the floor, the blood continues to flow.

“Help!” Joanne whispers faintly.

Joanne looks up at the hazy vision above her. She can just make out the blurry images of people rushing to help her.

“She’s going to lose the baby!” Joanne can faintly make out her friend, Cathy’s voice. “Joanne, honey, stay with me!”

Through the haze, Joanne suddenly makes out a red object moving closer to her. As it gets nearer to her, the image focuses and she sees the woman in red standing above her.

“Joanne.” Sylvia Jessop reaches down and takes Joanne’s hand. “It’s time to leave. I will show you the way.”

Without questioning the woman, Joanne gets to her feet and follows Sylvia through the haze.

“You’ll both be welcome where we’re going,” Sylvia Jessop says.

Joanne suddenly realises she is holding something and looks down at the newborn baby in her arms. Its naked body is still covered in blood.


Season Four begins March 7

Something is amiss in Peppercorn Patch…

Episode Thirty-Seven – Christmas Special

Avoid Spoilers! Read from Episode One

Mary’s Boy Child

22nd December, 1992

Constance Helling chases a three-year-old Thomas Helling through the front door of The Grand Hotel. She grabs him by the arm, pulling him up to face her. Constance and Thomas both giggle at each other. “Say hello to your godmother, Thomas,” Constance says.

“He’s growing up so fast,” Valerie Pickering says from behind the bar.

“Too fast!” Constance agrees. “He’s also running too fast for me!” She lifts Thomas up and sits him on the bar.

“Well at least you’re keeping fit!” Valerie laughs.

Constance gives Thomas a biscuit and the boy is momentarily occupied.

“How’s Benjamin doing these days?” Constance sits herself on a stool at the bar.

“He’s much better these days,” Valerie says, picking up Thomas. “I guess every day gets easier.”

“Still so tragic, though,” Constance says. “Losing his wife like that. Poor Joanne will never know her mother.”

Valerie sighs, placing Thomas on the floor. He runs around the establishment, giggling to himself.

“Do you think Benjamin will ever tell Joanne?” Constance asks.

“Tell her what?”

“About her real mother,” Constance says. “Sylvia Jessop.”

“No, he’s not going to tell her,” Valerie replies. “She’s too young to understand anyway.”

“She’ll start asking questions about her mother, you know,” Constance persists. “There’s really no point holding the truth from her, especially when she’s old enough to understand.”

“That won’t be my place to tell her,” Valerie says. “When she’s old enough, Benjamin will tell her everything she needs to know.”


23rd December, 1992

“I’m so glad that you could come,” Constance says to Valerie, placing a platter of fruit mince pies on the dining room table. “My Christmas parties are famous!”

Valerie Pickering looks at the familiar faces around the room. “I’m glad you invited me,” she says, watching the guests around her take sips of their alcoholic drinks. “I figured everyone would be here, so I could afford to close The Grand for the night.”

Constance laughs heartily, throwing back the remainder of the glass of champagne she is holding. “I need another. Are you sure you don’t want one?”

“No, no,” Valerie says. “I don’t drink, remember.”

“Oh, come on. It’s Christmas!” Constance says. “Just have one!”

“I don’t think that’s a good idea,” Valerie protests. Before she knows its, Constance thrusts a full glass of champagne in into her hands.

“You’ve got a night off!” Constance refills her own glass. “Drink up!”

Valerie raises the glass to her lips and she smells the sweet liquid bubbling in the glass. She knows she shouldn’t, but reasons that it would be rude to turn the drink away.

“Merry Christmas, Val!” Constance taps her glass against Valerie’s. “To the best of friends!”

“Merry Christmas,” Valerie says back to her friend. She closes her eyes and takes a sip of the champagne.


24th December, 1992

Thud. Thud. Thud.

Valerie Pickering’s head thuds.

“Oh, God!” she says to herself, prying herself from her bed. “Whose idea was that?”

She gingerly makes her way to the bathroom cabinet and administers herself some paracetamol. She grimaces as she tries to recall the number of glasses of champagne that she had drunk the night before.

Drunk.

Valerie Pickering shakes her head as she remembers that she had been drinking. She ended up getting herself drunk.

“You’re not going back there, Val,” she says to herself. “You’ve worked too hard to go backwards.”


Christmas Morning, 1992

Benjamin Pickering sits underneath the Christmas tree with his two-year-old daughter, Joanne, by his side. He helps her to tear open the wrapping on one of the presents to uncover a pink coloured tricycle.

Benjamin places the tricycle on the floor and encourages Joanne to get onto it. Instead the two-year-old is only interested in the box it came in, manoeuvring her whole body inside of it.

“Where’s Joanne gone?” Benjamin says playfully.

“Boo!” Joanne laughs, making herself visible.

“You’re so clever.” Benjamin smiles at his daughter as she continues to play in the box. He looks over to the fireplace and catches someone else smiling at his daughter. Annette Pickering looks down over her family from her resting place. A portrait of Annette sits alongside a vase of her cremated remains on the mantelpiece.


Christmas Day, 1992

Benjamin Pickering sets the dining table for his guests. They would start arriving shortly for the Christmas lunch he had been preparing for longer than he cared to admit. His sister, Valerie, was supposed to have joined him two hours ago to help him prepare, but so far she had not shown up. She also hadn’t answered any of his phone calls.

“Where is that woman?” Benjamin huffs to himself as he tries dialling her phone number again. He slams down the telephone as he hears a knock at the front door and rushes to open it, rearranging some cutlery on the table as he passes.

“Where have you been?” Benjamin berates his older sister, Valerie, when he sees her at the front door.

“I told you I’d be here, Benny,” Valerie says, laughing. She holds up a bottle of wine that had been decorated with a red bow. “Here, I got you something.” She thrusts the bottle towards Benjamin.

“You said you were coming over earlier to help!” Benjamin says, taking the bottle and noticing that it has already been opened.

“I’m here now, aren’t I?” Valerie says, slurring her words.

“Have you been drinking?” Benjamin says, annoyed.

“No, of course not,” Valerie goes to give her brother a hug. “You know I don’t drink anymore!”

Benjamin steps away from the woman and stands in front of the doorway. Valerie tries to look around her brother into the house. “Where’s little Joanne?” she asks.

“I think you should leave,” Benjamin says.

“Benny, I just got here,” Valerie laughs.

“I don’t want Joanne to see you like this,” Benjamin suddenly says. “You told me things would be different. You’re not welcome in my house.”

Without hesitating, Benjamin Pickering closes the front door on his sister.

“Merry Christmas to you too!” Valerie calls out, before sauntering back up the driveway.


Christmas Night, 1992

Valerie Pickering stands at the edge of the cliff. She looks down over the small town below her, the sun starting to set in the distance. She pulls a bottle of vodka to her lips and takes a swig, grimacing before throwing the bottle to the ground, crying.

“You’ve ruined everything, Val!” she cries to herself.

She sinks to the ground, hanging her feet over the ledge of the cliff. Looking down at the lights of the town starting to twinkle, she reminisces of a time long ago.

She was twenty years old, living with her boyfriend in the town of Holgate. He had promised her the world, but had delivered on none of his promises. The only thing he had given her was something that neither of them had wanted at the time. A child. She became pregnant and four months before giving birth, the drop-kick boyfriend up and left her. She never heard from him again.

And that was the trigger.

She had to look after a baby on her own.

She didn’t know how to take care of a baby.

So she turned to drinking. That made it easier.

She sedated herself with alcohol and drowned out the cries of her baby.

Valerie Pickering is suddenly stirred from her recollection. She can hear movement behind her. “Who’s there?” she asks.

“I’ve been looking for you everywhere,” Constance Helling steps towards Valerie and kneels down next to her friend.

“Leave me be! I don’t deserve to live!”

“Stop that talk, woman!” Constance shouts. “You’re coming home with me.”

Constance grabs Valerie’s hand and helps her friend to her feet. “They took my baby away from me, you know,” Valerie says.

“You told me that you couldn’t keep the baby,” Constance pours the remaining vodka from the bottle onto the ground. “You told me that you gave it up for adoption.”

“That wasn’t my choice. It was taken from me because I was an alcoholic.” Valerie grabs Constance by both hands. “When my baby was taken from me I vowed that I would sober up and track him down.”

“That’s why you came to Peppercorn Patch,” Constance nods.

“Yes, and I did sober up. I hadn’t had a drink in over ten years!”

“I’m sorry, Val. I didn’t know,” Constance gives her friend a guilty look. “If I knew I wouldn’t have offered you that drink.”

“It’s my fault,” Valerie turns her back to Constance. “I wasn’t strong enough. And now I’ve ruined my chances.”

“It’s not too late.”

“He’s 13 now.” A tear falls down Valerie’s face. “My baby boy is 13 years old.” She turns to face Constance again, almost angry. “I’ll never get my little Michael back.”


Seasons Greetings!

See you in 2016 for more Obnoxious Weeds!

Episode Thirty-Six

Labour Pains and Acid Rain

The day of the wedding

Father Bolton stands at the front of the congregation.

“Since time immemorial, people have performed ceremonies to mark a transition, a change of status,” Father Bolton begins the ceremony. “Today we gather for the happiest of ceremonies – the change of status from single individuals to a married couple.”

The couple reach out their hands for each other as Father Bolton continues the wedding ceremony.

“Today is the public affirmation and acknowledgment of all that you are to each other.”


One month earlier

Joanne Evans lays on the basement floor sobbing, holding Cathy Gilmore in her arms. “Doctor Peter Smith is my biological father!”

Cathy strokes Joanne’s head with her bandaged hands. There’s nothing much else she can do for her friend.

Before them, they both see Doctor Smith stir from his position on the floor. He reaches for the back of his head and rubs the spot that Joanne belted his head with the wooden paling.

“We have to get out of here,” Cathy says to Joanne hurriedly.

Joanne heaves Cathy up from the floor and assists her to the basement’s stairs.


27 Years Ago

“But I love you, Syliva!” Peter Smith cried out loud.

“I’m sorry, Peter,” Sylvia Jessop said. “But it’s over.”

“You can’t just get up and leave me like this!” Doctor Smith was angry. “We were going to have children! We were going to be a family!”

Doctor Peter Smith could never just forget the love of his life, Sylvia Jessop. She, however, had seen through his inconsistent behaviour as a result of his hidden diagnosis and had ultimately ended their relationship.

“There’s a couple I want you to meet,” Doctor Peter Smith had told Sylvia Jessop a year later. ‘They’re hoping to have a child of their own and they need your help.”

Sylvia Jessop had agreed to help Benjamin and Annette Pickering to have their own child by being an egg donor. She had agreed that she would never make contact with her biological child; a daughter named Joanne.

Several years later, Sylvia Jessop received a phone call from Doctor Smith. “Our daughter needs help,” he had said to her.

“Our daughter?” Sylvia asked.

Peter Smith explained that Annette Pickering had died during childbirth and Joanne had been left without a mother. “Our daughter needs a mother in her life.”

Sylvia Jessop had then learnt the truth about Joanne.

Still obsessed about Sylvia Jessop, Peter Smith had concocted a plan to have a child with her. He used the egg donation from Sylvia to create his own child. Benjamin and Annette Pickering would never know that the IVF child that they would raise would in fact be completely unrelated to them – a mother assisting out of pure compassion, and a father with a broken heart.

“I need to tell Benjamin!” Sylvia said to Peter Smith.

“Benjamin must never know!” Peter Smith retorted.

Sylvia Jessop did not heed Doctor Smith’s warnings. For that she paid the ultimate price. As did Benjamin Pickering.

The accident seemed just that; an accident.

Doctor Peter Smith’s biggest problem was disposing of the car. It wasn’t easy to make a red station wagon just disappear.


The day of the wedding

Joanne Evans grabs her belly for what feels like the hundredth time. She knows the time between the contractions is becoming shorter and shorter.

Looking out into the crowd of onlookers, she smiles, hiding her pain. She wants the wedding ceremony to proceed as normal.

“If any of you has reasons why these two should not be married,” Father Bolton looks over the congregation, “speak now or forever hold your peace.”

The congregation grows quiet and Joanne looks out over the familiar faces. She grimaces again as a contraction takes hold of her body.

“I object!” comes a call from the back of the town hall.

The silent hall is suddenly awash with voices. Who could possibly object?

From the back of the hall, a woman dressed in turquoise starts walking down the aisle. “My name is Melody Walker,” the woman says, “and I object to the wedding of Cathy and Mark Gilmore.”


One month earlier

Joanne Evans pushes Cathy Gilmore up the last step before hurriedly slamming the basement door behind her. She had managed to free her best friend from the horror that was The Poetry Predator.

On the other side of the door, Doctor Peter Smith bangs on the door. Joanne knows that she doesn’t have enough strength to hold the crazed man at bay for much longer. Cathy, her hands wrapped in bandages, is unable to assist Joanne hold the door closed.

Cathy tries to open the front door, but it is still locked.

“Quick, into the office!” Joanne screams.


The day of the wedding

“Melody?” Mark Gilmore says to the woman walking down the aisle. He grabs a hold of Cathy’s arm to reassure her. “What are you doing here?”

“I loved you, Mark,” Melody says, stepping down the aisle closer to the couple. The noise from the congregation grows louder. “You were supposed to marry me! You weren’t supposed to marry your own wife again!”


One month earlier

“Call for the police!” Cathy screams at Joanne as they both lock themselves in Doctor Peter Smith’s office. On the other side of the door, they can hear The Poetry Predator searching for the key to the door.

“He’s coming in!” Cathy screams out, as the door opens.

Doctor Peter Smith opens the door to the office and smiles at both women. “Shall we begin with your toes now Cathy?” he laughs, pulling a pair of pliers from his pocket.


The day of the wedding

Amber Harp walks through the front door of the Peppercorn Patch police office. The Holgate Times reporter knows that Leading Senior Constable Kyle Cook is on duty, having been left solely in charge by Inspector Wesley Manning.

“Couldn’t get the afternoon off to attend the wedding?” Amber asks Kyle as she walks to his desk.

“Some of us have a job to do, Amber. I thought you’d be there yourself.”

“Weddings aren’t really my thing.” Amber pulls a chair up and sits opposite the police officer. “Confession time.”

“What are you on about?”

“I know you killed your parents,” she says calmly. “You’re a murderer.”

“Get out of here. I’m busy,” Kyle says, pointing his finger towards the front door.

“It took a bit of work to investigate, but I know you did it,” Amber pushes Kyle. “You covered it up, but I know it was you.”

Kyle stares silently at his desk before looking up at Amber and smiling at her. “Why, aren’t you a clever one. So what if I did? I got away with it. They were going to send me away. They thought that I needed help. I would never have been able to become a police officer if they admitted me to a looney bin.”

Amber is shocked. She didn’t expect Kyle Cook to confess so easily. “And Richard Evans?” she prods.

“That son of a bitch deserved it!” Kyle grins at her. “Now Joanne is mine.”

“So you did kill him?” Amber pushes her chair back slightly. She suddenly feels uneasy.

“I got away with that too, didn’t I?” Kyle laughs. “You’ve come to unmask me, Amber Harlot? You and that drop-kick boyfriend of yours disgust me!”

Suddenly, a beeping sound can be heard coming from Amber’s jacket pocket.

“What’s that?” Kyle quickly jumps up and grabs at Amber, reaching into her pocket. She tries to stop him but he finds her mobile phone. “You’re recording me?” he bellows, before pitching the phone violently across the other side of the room.

“I’m sorry,” Amber says, frightened.

He grabs Amber by the shoulders and pulls her close into him. His lips brush her face. “You silly, silly girl,” he says to her. “Now you have to pay!”


One month earlier

“Get away from her!” Joanne screams out loudly. She looks around the room to try and find something to defend herself.

Doctor Smith leaves Cathy and makes his way over to Joanne. “Joanne, my baby,” he says, as he starts to stroke her face. “Oh, how I longed to have a child of my own, and here you are.”

Quickly thinking, Joanne grabs Doctor Smith’s hand and bites it, her teeth sinking deep into his skin.

“You bitch!” he bellows, pulling his hand away and slapping her across the face. Joanne is pushed across the desk, before Doctor Smith reaches to pull her up. “I am your father! You will treat me with respect!”

Pushing the paperwork on the desk to the side, Joanne grasps for the closest object. She grabs a fountain pen, and spins her body quickly around to face her biological father.

The nib of the pen pierces through The Poetry Predator’s neck and he drops to the floor in a pool of his own blood.


The day of the wedding

Joanne reaches for her belly again and grimaces in pain. She looks down at her bridesmaid dress and notices that it is covered in blood.

“Joanne, are you okay?” Father Bolton notices Joanne trying to hold herself up.

As Joanne collapses to the floor, the blood continues to flow.

“Help!” Joanne whispers faintly.

Joanne looks up at the hazy vision above her. She can just make out the blurry images of people rushing to help her.

“She’s going to lose the baby!” Joanne can faintly make out her friend, Cathy’s voice. “Joanne, honey, stay with me!”

Through the haze, Joanne suddenly makes out a red object moving closer to her. As it gets nearer to her, the image focuses and she sees the woman in red standing above her.

“Joanne.” Sylvia Jessop reaches down and takes Joanne’s hand. “It’s time to leave. I will show you the way.”

Without questioning the woman, Joanne gets to her feet and follows Sylvia through the haze.

“You’ll both be welcome where we’re going,” Sylvia Jessop says.

Joanne suddenly realises she is holding something and looks down at the newborn baby in her arms. Its naked body is still covered in blood.


Thanks for all your support!

Obnoxious Weeds will return in 2016.

Episode Thirty-Five

32 Weeks – Part Two

The day of the wedding

The local park ranger, Kelly Driver, runs through the front door of the town hall and over to Joanne Evans.

“It’s starting to bucket down outside!” Kelly yells, brushing the drops of rain off of her dress.

Joanne throws the towel that she is using to wipe the champagne off of her dress onto the table. “What next?” she cries out loud.

Joanne watches as the wedding guests swarm into the town hall from outside.

“Joanne.” The local priest, Father Bolton, walks up to Joanne. “It’s starting to rain heavily outside. We may need to perform the ceremony inside.”

“I guess we’ll have to,” Joanne says, slightly annoyed.

“Here,” Kelly Driver grabs the towel off the table and starts mopping up the spilt champagne. “I’ll get this cleaned up. You go and get ready, Joanne.”

Without another thought, Joanne takes off to the hall’s makeshift dressing room. She realises that she doesn’t have a lot of time left to get herself ready for the wedding ceremony. As she enters the corridor, she suddenly stops in her tracks, grimacing. She instinctively reaches for the bottom of her pregnant belly.

Joanne breathes deeply for a couple of breaths before continuing on her way. She is adamant that her contractions will not get in the way of a wedding.


One month earlier

Joanne holds her breath for what seems an eternity. She had just locked herself into Doctor Peter Smith’s basement and her eyes hadn’t yet adjusted to the darkness. She listens for movement on the other side of the door, but she can’t hear anything. What am I thinking? she asks herself.

As soon as she had seen the vinyl record’s cover on Doctor Smith’s desk, the song that had been played to her on repeat while she was being held captive instantly came back to her. The song still haunted her dreams.

Anyone could have that record, Joanne thinks to herself. That doesn’t make Doctor Smith a predator. How could Doctor Smith be The Poetry Predator?

Joanne listens for any sound beyond the door. She still can’t hear anything, so she decides to head back up into the house.

Stop being silly, Joanne, she says to herself. Doctor Smith is not someone you should be afraid of.

As she reaches for the door’s lock, Joanne can suddenly hear something move behind her. Spinning around instantly, Joanne can make out a figure down below her on the basement floor.

“Joanne,” she hears a voice say. “Come down here and help.”

Joanne makes her way carefully down the basement steps in the dark. She reaches out on the wall next to her and searches for a light switch. She finally finds it and illuminates the dark space.

In front of her, the woman in red leans over a bloodied Cathy Gilmore.

“Please help, Joanne,” Sylvia Jessop calls out. “Cathy needs your help!”


13 Years Ago

“I want to see my daughter!” Sylvia Jessop ran after Benjamin Pickering.

“That’s not what we agreed on,” Benjamin shouted back at the woman. “You agreed 12 years ago that you would never be a part of her life!”

“Things change, Ben!” Sylvia yelled. She brushed the red hair out of her face. “I found out the truth!”

“The truth?” Ben asked. “What are you talking about?”

“The truth about Joanne, Ben.”

“You’re crazy, Sylvia! You will stay away from my daughter!”

“She’s not your daughter, Ben! That’s what I’m trying to tell you!”


One month before the day of the wedding

“Cathy!” Joanne screams, running to help her friend. Joanne lifts Cathy from the floor, holding her friend in her arms. Joanne notices the bloodied bandages wrapped around Cathy’s hands. “Cathy, I’m here!”

Joanne shakes Cathy, trying frantically to wake her friend. Cathy stirs momentarily.

“He’s coming!” Sylvia suddenly screams, her red dress flying behind her as she squeezes her body under the stairs.

Joanne can hear the sound of keys unlocking the basement door. The door slowly creaks open and Doctor Peter Smith’s moves slowly down the wooden steps to the basement below.


13 Years Ago

“You stupid woman!” Benjamin said. “What do you mean she’s not my daughter?”

“It didn’t happen the way you thought it did,” Sylvia replied.

Benjamin shook his head and walked away from the woman, towards the pedestrian crossing. “I’m late for work. You’re not making sense.”

Sylvia grabbed Benjamin’s arm, but he continued across the road. “The IVF!” Sylvia yelled at him. “There’s something you need to know!”

Benjamin stopped suddenly in the middle of the road as Sylvia pulled him towards her, but the move proved fatal.

Benjamin Pickering was killed instantly when the red station wagon hurtled straight towards him.


One month before the day of the wedding

Doctor Peter Smith walks slowly towards Joanne. She still holds an unconscious Cathy in her arms. She sobs as she continues to shake her friend. “What have you done with her?”

“My sweet Joanne,” Doctor Smith says. “Finally I have you again!” He steps even closer towards her, pulling on a pair of latex gloves.

Suddenly, Cathy coughs. She opens her eyes groggily and and stares up at Joanne. “Joanne?” she tries to say.

“It’s alright, Cathy,” Joanne tries to reassure her friend. “You’re going to be okay.”

“It’s Doctor Smith,” Cathy says, slurring her words. “The Poetry Predator is Doctor Smith.”

“I know,” Joanne squeezes her friend. She sees Doctor Smith look down upon her and smile. It sends a shiver down her spine.

“He’s schizophrenic,” Cathy says to Joanne. “I happened upon his medical records while working at the hospital one day. I wasn’t supposed to find out.”

“You stupid bitch!” Doctor Smith suddenly roars. “I should have just killed you, Cathy!”

From her hiding spot under the stairs, Sylvia Jessop silently creeps up behind Doctor Peter Smith. She lifts the wooden paling that she had found over her head and it makes a loud cracking noise as it smashes over Doctor Smith’s skull. The Poetry Predator crashes to the floor.


13 Years Ago

Sylvia Jessop laid bloodied on the side of the road. She made out the red station wagon slow down before speeding up and disappearing into the distance. She reached around her and found Benjamin Pickering’s hand. She grabbed onto it.

“Ben,” she said, trying to take a deep breath. “I’m sorry. I didn’t realise Peter Smith was crazy.”

Sylvia’s vision started turning hazy and she suddenly coughed up some blood. She could see people rushing around her.

“He never could accept it when I broke up with him. He never stopped loving me.”

Sylvia Jessop took her last breath, hand in hand with Benjamin Pickering.


One month before the day of the wedding

Joanne looks around the basement. She sees Doctor Smith laying on the floor, but the woman in red has disappeared. She looks to her hands and sees the wooden paling she is holding. She cries out in terror, before dropping it to the floor.

“What’s happening? Where is she?” Joanne cries.

“Sylvia Jessop was killed, Joanne. She’s not here,” Cathy says.

Joanne closes her eyes. The room around her spins and she is suddenly taken back 10 months earlier to when she was attacked in her home and left for dead. The memory had been suppressed all this time.

“I’ve given you something for the pain,” Doctor Smith says to Joanne as she lays in the hospital bed. She looks down at her legs damaged and bandaged, told that she would never use them again.

Joanne looks on as Doctor Smith injects her with more pain relief. “You won’t remember a thing,” he says to her.

Doctor Smith reaches into his pocket and pulls out a Polaroid photograph. He holds it up for Joanne to see. “A photograph of your parents, Joanne.”

Joanne blinks a couple of times, noticing her parents standing on either side of a woman with red hair. She is wearing a bright red dress.

“This woman, Joanne,” Doctor Smith says to her, pointing at the woman in red, “is your real mother.”

Joanne shakes herself out of her recollection. She looks down at her friend, Cathy. “I’ve been imagining her.” Joanne holds her hand to her mouth. “She’s in my head.”

“Doctor Smith has been drugging you, Joanne,” Cathy says. “That’s been causing the visions.”

“What if I’m schizophrenic too?” Joanne starts to cry, and cups her hand around her pregnant belly.

“What do you mean?”

“I may have inherited it,” Joanne drops to the floor beside Cathy and holds her friend close to her, the most devastating memory rushing back:

Doctor Peter Smith smiles down at Joanne in her hospital bed. “And I’m your real father, Joanne.”


Final Episode – Monday November 30

Episode Thirty-Four

32 Weeks – Part One

The day of the wedding

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.”

Dustin suddenly lets out a beleaguered laugh. “The Helling family name?” Dustin continues to laugh. “You’re protecting the Helling family name?”

Constance gives Dustin an evil glare. Dustin grimaces with pain as he holds his chest.

“Constance,” Dustin says as Constance turns to walk out of the room. “You’re not even a blood Helling!”

“How do you know that?” Constance snaps.

“Your grandmother told me just before she fell to her death,” Dustin persists. “She told me about her and my father. Jack and Elias were my father’s sons as well.”

“As far as anyone will ever know, my grandparents are Robert and Gretel Helling. I am a descendant of the great Helling family!”

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

“Shut up, you fool!” Constance is beginning to become angry.

“I am your uncle, Constance,” Dustin tries to reason with the woman.

“Shut up!” Constance yells. “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.”


One month earlier

Constance parks her car on the side of the road, looking out of her window at the destruction in front of her. In only one short month, the caravan park had been closed down and the bulldozers had been in to completely flatten the land. Akemi Helling had returned to town to take control of what Constance believed rightly belonged to her. This land had belonged to her father, not her step-mother.

Akemi Maki had won Constance’s father’s heart about 20 years ago when she arrived in town on holiday. The Japanese woman’s tenacity had instantly won her a fan in Elias Helling’s eyes. They were married soon after and lived in the small town for 10 years. Akemi had worked hard and became a successful real estate agent. So successful in fact that she opened up a whole chain of her own real estate agencies. Thirty years younger than her father, Constance knew that Akemi would not be around forever. The beautiful woman was highly sought after by many suitors, and eventually she left Constance’s father for a millionaire developer. She never remarried.

Constance steps out of her car and walks across the construction site. Akemi was intent on building one of her hotels on the site.

“What you’re doing here is illegal!” Constance shouts at a construction worker. “I will make sure each one of you pays for what you’re doing to my land!”

“It’s not your land, Connie,” Constance can hear Akemi suddenly behind her. Her father was the only person who called her Connie.

“This land belonged to my father!” Constance shouts.

“Yes, and now it belongs to me,” Akemi says. “I have the legal paperwork to prove it.”

“That stupid mayor, Dustin Harris, has no right to offer you this land!” Constance argues. “I inherited it!”

“You’re wrong, Connie. I was still married to your father when he died.” Akemi flashes a diamond wedding ring on her finger.

“Stop calling me Connie!”

“You must have it in for Dustin Harris.” Akemi smiles at Constance.

“If you must know, he confessed to me recently,” Constance snaps.

“Confessed?”

“Yes, he told me he killed my grandmother,” Constance says. “He killed all those innocent people too. He showed me the jewellery box that he kept all their teeth in.”


73 years ago

Gretel Helling had only recently been buried. Edward Helling visited her gravesite daily to adorn it with fresh flowers.

He would also regularly visit the gravesite of his step-son, Jack Helling, who was killed in the war, as well as the gravesite of Gretel’s first child, Maria.

Walking up to Maria’s gravesite one day, flowers in hand, Edward noticed a man kneeling on top of the grave. “Can I help you?” he asked the man.

Edward Helling received one of the biggest shocks in his life when the man turned to face him. Looking back at him was his brother, Robert Helling.

“Robert?” Edward had asked, surprised. “I thought you were in the asylum.”

“I had to come and see her and say my goodbyes,” Robert had replied, pointing to his daughter, Maria’s, gravesite. “I’ve left her a gift.”

Looking down at the gravesite, Edward could see a wooden jewellery box. He recognised it as one of Gretel’s.

“I’ve been searching for a while now for the perfect set. Now she has plenty to choose from,” Robert informed his brother.

“Perfect set of what?” Edward asked.

Robert didn’t reply, instead turning and walking off into the distance. Edward didn’t know what to do. He was shocked to see his brother.

Edward didn’t realise it at the time, but it was the last time he would see or hear of his brother again. Robert Helling disappeared without a trace.

Reaching down and picking up the jewellery box, Edward curiously opened up its lid. Peering down inside, he couldn’t believe his eyes.

He knew straight away of all the terrible things that Robert had done. His brother was a murderer.

It now made sense to him. Robert had returned to town not to seek retribution, but to collect the perfect set of teeth for his beloved daughter. His brother was indeed insane.

Edward knew he couldn’t leave the box where it was. He would take the box and hold onto it. He would give it to his step-son, Elias, at just the right time.

The truth, in time, would finally be revealed.


One month before the day of the wedding

Michael Anders still had friends within the police force. Even though he had been stood down, he was still able to get all the information he wanted.

Recently he had gotten his hands on the police report regarding Cathy Gilmore’s car. It been dumped in bushland. The police had found no clues inside. Only personal items belonging to Cathy.

Only one set of fingerprints was located inside the vehicle,” the report had read. “Whoever disposed of the vehicle must have been wearing gloves.

Michael Anders reads the same line over and over again. “Gloves?” he asks himself again. “Cathy’s abductor was wearing gloves.”

He closes his eyes and an image quickly flashes through his mind:

“Your everything hasn’t been good enough!” Inspector Manning bellows. “You’re off this case.”

“You can’t do this!” Sergeant Anders is furious.

“Watch me,” Inspector Manning says as he pulls on a pair of latex gloves. “I’m afraid it’s the end for you, Sergeant.”

Inspector Manning pulls on a pair of latex gloves.

Inspector Manning.

A pair of latex gloves.


Joanne Evans sits at the desk opposite Doctor Peter Smith. She had come to meet the doctor in his home office because she still needed to find out some answers about her real mother. She felt that Doctor Smith was her best bet to get the answers she needed.

“How are you going Joanne?” Doctor Smith asks.

“Just counting down the weeks now,” Joanne says, rubbing her pregnant belly.

“Only four weeks to go now, isn’t it?” Doctor Smith asks.

“Yes, not long. Kyle and I are very excited.”

“As you should be, Joanne. You’ve been through so much pain lately. It will be good for you to finally have some joy in your life.”

“I still have nightmares. The medication you’ve been giving me doesn’t seem to work,” Joanne informs her doctor.

“You’ve got to be careful with your baby, Joanne.” Doctor Smith stands from his desk and goes to head out of the room. “I’ll go get you a drink of water.”

“Tell me about her,” Joanne stops him. Doctor Smith looks at her curiously. “Aunty Val told me about my biological mother. Please tell me more about her.”

Doctor Peter Smith lowers his head and rubs his temples. “I’m afraid I don’t know much about her, Joanne. It was years ago.”

“You have to remember something,” Joanne urges the doctor.

“Let me go get you that drink,” Doctor Smith says, leaving the room.

Joanne feels exasperated. She had sought the doctor’s help and he was not forthcoming with any information.

She picks up a few medical journals on the desk next to her, rifling through a few of them before setting them down again. She picks up another journal and that’s when she sees it. The image of a man playing a guitar. She recognises the man as Roy Orbison. A record album cover. In Dreams.

Joanne can’t stop the song from repeating continuously in her head.

In dreams I walk with you.
In dreams I talk to you.
In dreams you’re mine all of the time.
We’re together in dreams, in dreams.

Joanne can suddenly hear footsteps. He’s returning.

Without hesitating, she runs from the small room quickly and heads for the front door. She tries to open it, but it’s locked. She can’t get out.

The footsteps are getting closer.

She turns around and opens the closest door she can find. It’s dark inside. She steps inside and closes the door behind her.

Joanne Evans locks the basement door.

She hides in the darkness.

She hides from Doctor Peter Smith.

She hides from The Poetry Predator.


Next Episode – Monday November 23

Episode Thirty-Three

30 Weeks

The day of the wedding

“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?”


One and a half months earlier

Constance sits at her desk overlooking the small town of Peppercorn Patch from the house high up on the hill. She is still furious about the return of her step-mother, Akemi.

“I will not have that woman come in to my town and think she can do whatever she wants!” Constance says to herself. “And if that worthless mayor thinks he is going to help her, then he doesn’t know who he is messing with.”

She had thought about going to the police and informing them of what she had learnt about Dustin Harris killing her grandmother, Gretel Helling. She knew, however, that she didn’t have any evidence, apart from what Dustin had told her. She also knew that if she went to the police, then the truth about her grandmother killing all those people years ago would emerge.

Constance thinks for a short moment before reaching into her pocket and pulling out a small silver key. Placing it into the desk’s bottom drawer lock, she unlocks the drawer and pulls out Gretel Helling’s diary. She hadn’t been able to bare the thought of reading any more of it once she started finding out the truth, but she knew she had to finish it.

Turning to the next page in the diary, Constance realises that the diary entries were few and far between. Gretel Helling had not written in the diary very often. The next entry seemed to be from a few years after the last entry made.

Dear Diary,

Today may be forever known as Gretel Helling day, for it may be the day that they hang me.

It has been years since my husband, Robert Helling, left and I remarried his brother, Edward.

Since then, my son, Jack, has been killed in the war. I seem to lose everything that I love.

Maria. Robert. Jack.

Maybe I deserve it. I do deserve it. I did a terrible thing.

That’s why Robert had to go away. He found out.

It was after Maria was born – Robert and I were devastated when she died. Robert was never the same. He didn’t love me like he used to.

I fell in love with someone else – Phillip Harris.

Constance suddenly throws the diary down in shock. “Dustin Harris’ father?” she asks herself, before continuing to read.

Phillip and I carried out a secret relationship with each other, and we had two sons: Jack and Elias.

Things were fine at first. Robert didn’t think anything of it. He thought the children were his. That was until he found out.

He went crazy and threatened to kill the boys and me. I went to Phillip for help, but he said he couldn’t. He had a family of his own. His wife, Lillian, had just had a child – Dustin.

Constance pushes the diary away from her again in shock. She reaches for the desk to steady herself as she lets the words of the diary sink in. Her father, Elias Helling, was not fathered by her grandfather, Robert Helling.

Elias Helling’s biological father was Phillip Harris.

“I’m not a blood Helling,” Constance pants, grabbing a paper bag to help her breathe. “I’m not a blood Helling,” she pants again, blowing into the paper bag.


73 Years Ago

Dustin Harris had just celebrated his 17th birthday. He had been enlisted to join the armed forces to serve in the First World War, but his parents had both died, so he was granted compassionate leave.

His mother had recently killed herself after finding out that her husband was missing. She was not able to cope on her own. Her father had been murdered, he was sure of that. There was no way that his father would have left his family.

He was on a mission to find out what had happened to his father.


Robert became increasingly more insane. Added to that was the financial pressures we were facing. He burnt down the field of peppercorn trees one day in a fiery rage.

I needed help. The only person I could turn to was Edward Helling, Robert’s younger brother. I told him everything.

He helped me write the letter. We would fake Robert’s disappearance and no-one would even know. I sedated Robert when he was sleeping one night and we took him to where I once worked; Holgate Bedlamites – the asylum for the insane. The lunatic had been admitted.


Dustin knew that it had something to do with the Helling family. He had followed Gretel Helling for weeks and she always seemed so suspicious. He had also seen her come around to his parents’ house often when his father was still alive. She had to know something.

Dustin noticed that Gretel Helling would venture out on her morning walk at the beginning of each day along the walking tracks in the vast bushland surrounding the town.

One day he decided to head out before her and meet her on her walk. He would catch her unawares and force her to tell him the truth.


Everything was fine until Jack died in the war.

I couldn’t cope very well.

That was when the death toll climbed.


Dustin hid behind a tree and watched as Gretel Helling approached his location. He saw her stop at the edge of a nearby cliff and take in the view of the town in the distance below them.

“Gretel,” Dustin said to Gretel Helling, jumping out from behind a tree.

As if in slow motion, Dustin looked on as he saw Gretel Helling cry out loud, startled. She had lost her footing and had fallen onto the ground, her body sliding down the edge of the cliff. She was suddenly out of sight.

“Gretel?” Dustin called out, rushing to the edge of the cliff. Looking down over the cliff edge, he could see Gretel gripping onto a tree branch. She had managed to save herself from falling.

“Please help me!” Gretel cried out.

Dustin reached down to help the woman up, but quickly realised the weight of the woman would cause him to fall over the edge too.

“I’ll go and get some help!” Dustin called to Gretel. “Hold on!”

“I can’t!” Gretel sang out, struggling to hold onto the tree branch. “Dustin, please know that I loved your father, and I never meant any harm to come to him.”

“What do you mean loved him?” Dustin suddenly forgot about the danger the woman was in.

“Jack and Elias,” Gretel continued, panting as she struggled to grip the branch, “are your half brothers.”

“What are you saying?” Dustin’s head was spinning. “Is that why you killed my father? Because you didn’t want anyone finding out the truth?”

Gretel gave out a scream as her hand slipped further down the tree branch. “I didn’t…” Gretel started to say, before losing her grip completely and plummeting to the ground below.

Dustin looked on in horror. Gretel Helling was dead, and gone with her was the answer to his father’s disappearance.


Our workers started to disappear one by one.

No-one really noticed or cared because most of them were foreigners without any family.

Phillip Harris then mysteriously died. I knew instantly that Robert had returned for retribution.

Robert has somehow managed to escape from the asylum.

He is out for revenge.

Constance slams the diary closed before breathing heavily into the paper bag again.

“No one must know,” she says to herself quickly, picking up her mobile phone. She dials a number and walks over to the fireplace.

“Inspector,” she says as the phone is answered. “I know who killed Gretel Helling. He also killed those other poor souls before ripping out their teeth.”

“I’m listening,” Inspector Manning says on the other end of the line.

“It was Dustin Harris,” Constance says. “Dustin Harris is a killer.”

As Constance hangs up the phone, she picks up her grandmother’s diary. She looks it over before tossing it into the lit fireplace, its pages igniting and becoming lost forever.


Next Episode – Monday November 16

Episode Thirty-Two

28 Weeks

The day of the wedding

Inspector Wesley Manning enters the hospital room and crosses over to the bed where Councillor Dustin Harris lays.

“Good to see you’re still alive,” Inspector Manning says, standing over the bed. “I would hate to see you not get the justice you deserve.”

The elderly mayor had been rushed to hospital after he collapsed from a suspected heart attack. “And what would that be?” Dustin asks, propping himself up.

“Let me see,” Inspector Manning laughs to himself. “The rest of your life in prison. You will not get away with what you did.”

“I’m 90 years old. I’m on my deathbed.” Dustin closes his eyes and listens to the heart rate monitor beeping next to him.

“Never too late. Those people deserve to have justice.”

“Those people?” Dustin asks, curiously.

“All those people you killed, Mr Mayor,” Inspector Manning leans down closer to Dustin, lowering his voice to a whisper. “Gretel wasn’t the only person you killed.”

“What are you talking about?”

“Don’t act so innocent!” Inspector Manning suddenly screams. “I was a young recruit in 1965 – a constable – when I was tasked with helping with this case.”

“You mean the bodies that were found in the dam?” Dustin asks.

“Yes, those wretched bodies!” Inspector Manning’s face is turning red. “That case nearly destroyed me! I’ve been hunting for the killer for years. I thought time was against me, but I finally found you!”

A sudden realisation hits Dustin Harris. “You think that I killed all those people?”

“I never gave up,” Inspector Manning continues, “I knew I was going to get you one day.”

“What makes you think I was responsible for all those deaths?” Dustin is trying to make sense of what he is being told.

“Who else could it have been?” Inspector Wesley says. “You were there. You killed your parents, before going on a killing rampage! Gretel Helling didn’t kill your father. She only found out what you were doing, didn’t she? Then you had to kill her too.”

“Where are you getting this from?” Dustin shouts angrily.

“You didn’t think she would tell me, did you?” Inspector Wesley says calmly.

“Who?”

“You confessed everything to her, and she came straight to me.”

“Who are you talking about?”

“Constance Helling.”

“Constance?”

“Yes.” Inspector Manning gives Dustin Harris a large toothy grin. “Constance Helling told me everything about you.”


Two months earlier

“Kyle Cook is responsible for this,” Amber Harp says to Sergeant Michael Anders.

The Peppercorn Patch Police sergeant had been stood down from the police force four weeks earlier. Inspector Wesley Manning had recently promoted Senior Constable Kyle Cook to Leading Senior Constable.

“What do you mean?” Michael Anders asks.

“Kyle Cook must have been the one that called Inspector Manning,” Amber says.

“It’s possible,” Michael says. “I’m under investigation for a few things.”

“What things?” Amber asks. “Why didn’t you tell me?”

“I didn’t want to worry you,” Michael replies, avoiding eye contact with Amber. “I’m very embarrassed.”

“You have no reason to be! They shouldn’t be treating you like this.” Amber leans her head on her lover’s shoulder to give him comfort. “Tell me.”

Michael sighs heavily. “I’m under investigation for not following up on Cathy Gilmore’s disappearance soon enough.”

“But you didn’t know about her disappearance!” Amber protests.

“I’m also under investigation for my handling of Thomas Helling, and his subsequent escape from custody,” Michael continues.

“But that was Kyle Cook’s responsibility!” Amber is angry. “He was the one that was supposed to be watching him!”

Michael turns to face Amber and laughs. “He was with you at the time!”

“Don’t you blame me for this!” Amber punches her lover playfully.

“I’m also under investigation for the handling of Richard Evans’ murder.”

“But you had nothing to do with that!” Amber protests again.

“Doesn’t matter. They need a scapegoat.” Michael Anders sighs heavily again. “They want to hang me out to dry.”


Councillor Dustin Harris stands at the entrance of the Peppercorn Patch Caravan Park next to the Helling River. He looks at his watch impatiently before looking around him again. “You’re late,” he says to himself.

A black car suddenly pulls into the gravel driveway throwing a wave of dust over the elderly mayor. Through the tinted window of the Holden Statesman, Dustin can make out the driver and his passenger. “You’re late,” he says to himself again.

The passenger door is thrown open and from it emerges an immaculately dressed woman. Her black suit fits neatly over her small frame and her jet black hair sits atop her head in a tight bun.

“So good to finally meet you,” Dustin says, rushing over to greet the woman. Dustin is thrown for a minute. He realises that she is one of the most beautiful women he has ever set his eyes on. Asian heritage. Possibly Japanese. “I’m so glad you could come,” he stutters.

“So this is it?” The Japanese woman looks around the caravan park.

“Yes, this is the caravan park,” Dustin says, leading her along the gravel drive.

“It’s a lot more run down than I remember,” the woman says.

“It has been let go somewhat. Probably the previous owner’s fault,” Dustin explains.

“Elias Helling?” the woman asks.

“Yes, but with his death, now I guess this place is yours.” Dustin pulls out a stack of papers from his briefcase.

“I will want to knock this place down,” the woman says. “It will be a great place for my hotel chain.”

“Sign this contract and you have the permission to do whatever you want with this land.” Dustin passes the woman the contract and a pen.

Without warning, they hear heavy footsteps on the gravel drive behind them. “Akemi?” They both turn to see Constance Helling running at them. “What are you doing here?”

“Constance, dear,” the woman says. “So nice to see you after all this time.”

“Akemi, what are you doing here?” Constance asks again, exasperated.

The woman holds up the contract she is holding for Constance to see. “I’m in development now.”

“You can’t develop this land!” Constance shouts. “It belongs to me. When my father died, I inherited it!”

“Not quite dear,” the woman says, smirking at Constance. “I was still married to your father.” Akemi Helling raises her hand and flashes a diamond wedding ring.

“You were separated for years!” Constance yells. “You have no legal right!”

“Akemi has more right than you, Constance,” Dustin Harris suddenly says.

“What are you on about, old man?” Constance huffs.

“Your step-mother is the legal title holder of this land,” Dustin says.

“They weren’t even together when he died!” Constance is angry. “I’m a blood relative!”

“Not quite,” Dustin bites his lip.


“Tell me more about my biological mother,” Joanne Evans says, sitting next to Valerie Pickering.

The dialysis machine that Valerie is hooked up to hums along in the background. “Sylvia Jessop was a stunningly beautiful woman with long red hair. You look very much like her,” Valerie tells her niece.

“How come you never told me about her before?” Joanne asks.

“Your parents resolved never to tell you. They thought it would be best for you,” Valerie informs Joanne. “I was just carrying out their wishes.”

“Best for me?” Joanne baulks. “Not knowing my real mother would be best for me?”

“I’m sorry, Jo. I’ve made many mistakes in my life,” Valerie says. “This one may have been my worst.”

“I want to meet her,” Joanne says. “I need to find out more about her.”

“I’m afraid that it isn’t possible, honey.” Valerie grabs Joanne’s shoulder.

“What do you mean?” Joanne looks inquisitively at her aunt. “I only saw her a few months ago. She visited me a few times. Once when I was being held captive.”

“You must have been mistaken.” Valerie is now confused. “Sylvia Jessop died many years ago.”

“But she visited me!” Joanne insists. “On more than one occasion.”

“Honey, that’s not possible,” Valerie says. “Sylvia Jessop was killed in the same hit and run accident that killed your father.”


Next Episode – Monday November 9

Episode Thirty-One

24 Weeks

The day of the wedding

“You silly old cow! I didn’t think you were supposed to be drinking anyway.” Constance Helling looks down upon Valerie Pickering, covered head to toe in wedding cake.

“I’m going to die anyway!” Valerie yells, scraping the buttercream icing off her face. “I may as well enjoy my last days.”

“Don’t say that, Aunty Val.” Joanne Evans reaches her arm out to help Valerie up from the floor. “You were doing so well on dialysis.”

“That’s just making me more sick!” Valerie cries out, struggling to pull herself up from the floor.

“Here, let me,” Constance says, giving her hand to Valerie. “I would hate to see your dress get any more ruined, Joanne.”

Constance pulls Valerie to her feet and the drunken woman continues to wipe herself down of icing and sponge cake.

“I’m sorry, Jo.” Valerie suddenly realises she has embarrassed her niece. “I didn’t mean for this to happen.”

“I can’t even look at you right now!” Joanne shouts, turning her back to her aunt. “Just leave.”

“I’ll take her home, Joanne. You don’t need to worry anymore.” Constance picks up her handbag and ushers Valerie to the back door. “Come on, Val. I’ll take you home to get cleaned up.”

“I’m sorry, Jo,” Valerie says again, as she is guided away. “I never meant to burden you.”

“Come on,” Constance says, pulling Valerie.

“This is all your fault, you know,” Valerie says to Constance. “I never used to drink until I met you.”

“Oh, and you see me falling over into cakes making an embarrassment out of myself, do you?” Constance chastises. “You know; the sooner you ask him the better.”

“I can’t do it,” Valerie starts to cry. “I can’t burden anyone else with this.”

Constance grabs a hold of Valerie’s hand and pulls it forcefully. “He will understand.”

“No, he won’t understand,” Valerie cries.

Constance pulls Valerie in close to her. “He will understand. He’s your son!”


Three months earlier

Three months had passed since Cathy Gilmore had written her note to her husband saying that she was leaving him. Three months had passed since anyone had seen Cathy Gilmore alive.

“Are you sure she couldn’t have gone anywhere else?” Sergeant Michael Anders asks Cathy’s husband, Mark Gilmore.

“I can’t see where else she would go.” Mark Gilmore buries his head in his hands. “She wouldn’t have left for this long without contacting anyone.”

Sergeant Anders gets up from his desk. “I’ll get you something to drink,” he says, and heads towards the police station’s small kitchen.

In the kitchen, Amber Harp looks on curiously out of view. “Do you think it’s him?” she asks Sergeant Anders as he enters the kitchen.

“I’ve known Mark for a while,” Sergeant Anders says. “I don’t think he is The Poetry Predator.”

“Do you have any idea where Cathy is?” Amber boils the kettle and grabs three mugs.

“If I knew, she would be home by now,” Sergeant Anders replies.

“So you think she’s still alive?”

“I don’t know, Amber!” Sergeant Anders loses his temper briefly. He grabs hold of Amber’s hand. “I’m sorry, it’s just that everything is happening at the moment.”

“I understand.” Amber smiles at her lover.

“I wish we could spend more time together, but I have so much work to do.”

“Any update on Kyle Cook?” Amber asks.

“I’ve been too busy to investigate him, Amber. I have a missing woman and a crazed lunatic on the loose sending poetry to people.”

“Don’t forget that Thomas Helling is still missing too.”

“Thanks for the reminder.” Sergeant Anders plants a kiss on Amber’s lips.


Amber Harp, the reporter from The Holgate Times, knew that she needed to take matters into her own hands.

She knew that the attack, which had left her in hospital for four weeks, was no accident. Someone had tried to hush her. Someone had tried to kill her.

Amber knew that that someone was Senior Constable Kyle Cook.

She was getting closer. Closer to working out the truth about him. Closer to working out the truth about what happened on that night six months earlier when Richard Evans was killed, and Thomas Helling was left critically injured.

“You won’t outrun me for long,” Amber says from her parked car. She can see the police officer talking to Joanne Evans out the front of The Grand Hotel. She takes a few snaps of the couple with the camera on her mobile phone.

She can see the couple embrace, before Kyle bends down and gives Joanne’s pregnant tummy a kiss.

She knew Joanne must have been traumatised shortly after everything had happened to her, including being attacked and losing her husband. Kyle Cook moved in quickly. Too quickly. To Amber, he was like a snake that wriggled his way into Joanne’s life, and then into her pants. He wasn’t Joanne’s saviour; he was her captor. He had trapped Joanne. Now she was paying the biggest price of all.

Joanne was going to give birth to the devil.


Sergeant Michael Anders pushes himself through the bush. The heavy overgrowth in the national park was not easy to get through.

“Some bushwalkers came across it this morning,” Senior Constable Kyle Cook says to his sergeant. “It’s been here a while.”

Sergeant Anders reaches the clearing in the forest and sees the vehicle in front of him.

“The car belongs to Cathy,” Kyle continues. “There’s a crew looking at it now.”

Sergeant Anders looks on as he sees a crew of forensic police officers combing the car for evidence.

“This is a Holgate crew.” Sergeant Anders looks at Kyle Cook, confused. “The car is in my jurisdiction. Who gave this order?”

Sergeant Anders can hear the crack of leaves and twigs behind him. He turns around to see Inspector Wesley Manning walking towards him.

“That was my order,” Inspector Manning says, outstretching his arm to greet Sergeant Anders. “This car is now under my jurisdiction.”

“Says who?” Sergeant Anders is beginning to lose his temper again.

“Says me. I’m taking over this investigation.” Inspector Manning smiles at Sergeant Anders. “Cathy Gilmore has been missing for three months. What have you done about that Sergeant?”

“I’ve been doing everything I can…”

“Your everything hasn’t been good enough!” Inspector Manning bellows. “You’re off this case.”

“You can’t do this!” Sergeant Anders is furious.

“Watch me,” Inspector Manning says as he pulls on a pair of latex gloves. “I’m afraid it’s the end for you, Sergeant.”

“What are you talking about?”

“I’m taking over. Peppercorn Patch Police Department is now under my control,” Inspector Manning says. “Sergeant Anders, you are being stood down from your position as a police officer, pending an immediate investigation.”


Next Episode – Monday November 2

Episode Thirty

Conception

26 Years Ago

Benjamin Pickering led his new bride down the aisle of the small church. Annette Pickering was dressed in a flowing white wedding gown, adorned with pink flowers.

“I love you, Mr Pickering,” Annette said as they stepped out into the sunshine and down the front steps of the church.

“I love you more, Mrs Pickering.” Benjamin kissed his wife.

“Hold it right there, you two,” they both heard a familiar voice say. Valerie Pickering held a camera up to her face and took a few shots. “You both look beautiful,” she said.

“I’m so glad that you were able to make it today, Val.” Annette gave Valerie a hug.

“I wouldn’t have missed my brother’s wedding for the world,” Valerie said, smiling at Benjamin.

“How long are you planning on staying in town?” Annette asked.

“I’m not sure yet, but I just feel so at home here.” Valerie wound the film on her camera and took a few more shots of the newlywed couple. “I’m in no hurry to return to Holgate just yet.”

“Well, you can stay with us for as long as you want,” Annette offered her new sister-in-law.

Benjamin smiled at his new wife, before grabbing his sister’s hand. “Well, maybe for a little while.”

Annette slapped her hand gently across Benjamin’s arm. “Don’t listen to him, Val. It will be great to have you around. I’m sure you and Benjamin have much to catch up on.”

“That we do.” Valerie took another photo. “I have much to tell you.”


“Happy birthday!” the small congregation shouted as Valerie Pickering walked in the front doors of The Grand Hotel. Benjamin and Annette Pickering, along with a few other locals had gathered at the bar to help celebrate Valerie’s 30th birthday.

Valerie held her hands up to her mouth, letting out a small gasp. “What a surprise. I didn’t expect any of this.”

“You deserve it, Val.” Annette held her hands out to offer Valerie a hug. “We’re all so happy for you.”

In the four short months since Benjamin and Annette’s wedding, Valerie Pickering had made herself at home in the small town of Peppercorn Patch. She loved living in the small town, so much so that she had purchased The Grand Hotel along with her brother.

“You two are going to make a great team,” Annette said, referring to Benjamin and Valerie’s new venture together.

“Val will do a great job,” Valerie’s younger brother said. “When I start my new job in the local council next week she’s going to be flying solo.”

A pregnant Constance Helling joined the trio and gave Valerie a hug. “Welcome to my town,” she said. “I’m sure we’re going to be best friends.”

Valerie caught Annette roll her eyes, before turning away to mingle with the other guests.

“Have you owned a bar before?” Constance continued. “Do you know what you’re doing?”

“I managed a bar in Holgate for the last 5 years,” Valerie replied.

“Here,” Constance said, passing Valerie a glass of champagne, “have a drink.”

“Oh, no.” Valerie pushed the glass away. “I don’t drink.”

“That’s unfortunate,” Constance remarked, turning from Valerie suddenly, and facing Benjamin. “Annette told me.” She grabbed a hold of his hands.

“It’s okay,” Benjamin said. “I’m sure there are other options.”

“Life is just not fair sometimes,” Constance pouted. “The two of you should be able to have a child together.”

After months of trying to have a baby, Benjamin and Annette had only recently found out that they would not be able to have one. Annette was unable to conceive her own child.

“They could always adopt,” Valerie offered.

“No, you need a child of your own, Ben,” Constance persisted.

“But we can’t have one,” Benjamin said solemnly.

“There are ways, Ben. Come and see me at the hospital. There’s a new doctor in town and apparently he has done some great things.”


“I’m so glad you came to see him,” Constance Helling said excitedly to the couple in front of her. “It’s going to be great, I just know it.”

Constance looked at her watch before giving Benjamin and Annette a smile. “I’ve got to get back to work. Let me know how it goes.” Nurse Constance disappeared down the hospital corridor leaving the Pickering couple sitting in the waiting room.

“What are you thinking?” Benjamin turned and asked his wife.

“If it’s possible to have our own baby, then I’m willing to try anything,” Annette replied, as the office door opened.

“I’m Doctor Peter Smith,” the new doctor in town introduced himself to the couple. “Nice to meet the both of you.”

Doctor Smith talked the couple through having a child using IVF. Benjamin and Annette were very excited about the prospect of being able to have a baby of their own.

“All you need is an egg donor,” Doctor Smith continued, “and I have someone in mind for you.”

“I think we’d like to meet anyone who we decide to do this with,” Benjamin said.

“Of course. I can arrange for her to meet you both.”


Sylvia Jessop leaned over the table to shake Benjamin and Annette’s hands. Her red hair fell down over her face, before she brushed it back with her other hand. “I’m so excited for you both,” she said.

“Thanks for offering to help us out,” Annette said.

“Don’t mention it.” Sylvia smiled at the couple. “I’m happy to help out.”

“It would mean the world for us to have our own child,” Benjamin admitted.

“You both deserve it,” Doctor Smith said. “Let’s capture this joyous moment.” He picked up a Polaroid camera and took a photo of Sylvia Jessop flanked on either side by the happy couple.

Sylvia Jessop’s red dress dominated the photograph.


Thomas Elias Helling was born in December of 1989. Constance Helling had named Valerie Pickering his godmother.

“He’s beautiful,” Valerie said as she held the small baby in her arms.

“I still can’t believe he’s mine,” Constance whispered from her hospital bed.

“He looks just like…” Valerie started to say, before stopping herself.

“Looks like who?” Constance asked. “What were you going to say?”

“Nothing,” Valerie handed baby Thomas back to Constance. “He just reminds me of another baby I once knew.”

“Whose baby?” Constance was ever the inquisitive one.

Valerie sat down slowly on the chair next to the bed, held her hands steady in her lap and closed her eyes.

“What is it Val?” Constance asked.

“It was my baby,” Valerie confessed. “I had a baby 10 years ago.”

“You have a child?” Constance said, surprised.

“Yes, I couldn’t take care of it myself. I gave it up for adoption. I’ve never told anyone before.”

“That must have been hard,” Constance said, holding her own baby closer to her body.

“That’s why I’m here.” Valerie stared down out of the hospital window over the small town. “I’ve come to Peppercorn Patch to find my child.”


Next Episode – Monday October 26

Episode Twenty-Nine

20 Weeks

The day of the wedding

Councillor Dustin Harris pulls his handcuffed hands up to his face and buries his face into them.

“You killed Gretel Helling, didn’t you?” Inspector Wesley Manning interrogates.

“My father was murdered,” Dustin says into his hands. “My mother killed herself.”

“And you sought retribution, didn’t you?” Inspector Manning asks. “You killed Gretel to avenge the death of your parents.”

Dustin pulls his hands down and gives the police officer a steely stare. “It’s not quite as simple as you make out.”

“Gretel Helling didn’t fall over the cliff when she was on her walk that morning,” Inspector Manning continues. “She didn’t take her own life, either. You did that, Dustin. You took Gretel’s life when you pushed her off that cliff!”

Dustin grimaces suddenly, reaching down and grabbing at his chest. “You have it all wrong!” he cries, before collapsing on the floor.


Four months earlier

Sergeant Michael Anders walks along the hospital corridor. In one hand he carries a large bouquet of flowers. He enters the room, closing the door behind him.

“How are you feeling?” he asks.

In the hospital bed, Amber Harp stirs. She had only just managed to get to sleep. “Good morning.”

“It’s actually afternoon, but I’ll forgive you,” Sergeant Anders says as he kisses Amber on the cheek. He places the flowers into a vase on the bedside table.

“They’re beautiful,” Amber says.

“I heard you had another CT scan this morning.” Sergeant Anders sits on the bed next to Amber.

“Just a final check to make sure everything is okay.”

“No brain injury then?” Sergeant Anders laughs.

“Don’t even joke about that.” Amber punches Sergeant Anders in the arm playfully. “It could have been worse.”

“You were very lucky.” Sergeant Anders puts his arm around Amber. “Do you remember anything?”

“Nothing,” Amber replies. “That’s the scary thing. The last thing I remember is being on top of your desk.”

Sergeant Anders laughs out loud. “At least it’s a good memory then!”

“Well…” Amber teases.

“Oh, really?” Sergeant Anders says, jumping on top of Amber. “Maybe we need to make some new memories.”

“Michael!” Amber laughs out loud as Sergeant Anders begins to tickle her all over her body. “We can’t do it here!”

“Who says?” Sergeant Anders asks, unclipping his holster and pulling his shirt off.

“What if one of the nurses walks in?”

“What a thrill for them!” Sergeant Anders throws his trousers to the floor and disappears under the bed covers.


Dustin Harris steps up to Constance Helling’s front door and knocks on it loudly. He had decided to see how the woman was getting on. He hadn’t spoken to her for a couple of weeks and he knew she was still having difficulty accepting that her son, Thomas Helling, was still missing. She was also still having difficulty accepting that her grandmother, Gretel Helling, was a mass murderer.

“Dustin,” Constance says as she opens the door. “What do I owe this pleasure?”

“Happy to see me, I see,” Dustin says, winking at the woman in front of him.

“I’ve misplaced the diary, if that’s what you want. I can’t find it.”

Dustin contemplates this for a second, before coming to the conclusion that Constance is probably not being altogether truthful.

“I’m here to see how you are, Constance. How are you holding up?”

“Just terrific,” Constance says sarcastically. “Everything is perfect. Now if you’ll excuse me.” Constance starts to close the front door.

“Constance,” Dustin tries to stop her. “I would really love to finish reading the diary. It may shed some light on what happened to my father.”

“I told you already, I’ve lost it,” Constance says sharply. “Besides, we both know that my grandmother probably killed him.”

“But why?”

“I have no idea,” Constance huffs. “Why are you asking me?”

“I think she was fragile,” Dustin offers. “She lost her first child, the Great Depression hit, the farm burnt down, her husband up and left her, and she had to raise two children on her own.”

“Robert Helling was gutless. He left his wife and two children. But his brother, Edward, was there for her.”

“Something must have happened. I couldn’t even begin to imagine what she was going through,” Dustin continues.

“I guess we’ll never know,” Constance says, as she goes to close the door again.

“I was there, you know,” Dustin suddenly throws at her.

“Where?” Constance holds the door ajar, curious.

Dustin lowers his head, forlorn. “I was there when Gretel died. I confronted her about the whereabouts of my father.”

“What?”

“I didn’t mean for her to fall,” Dustin says, reminiscing. “We were talking one moment, and the next moment she had fallen over the cliff.”

“It was you!” Constance screams out suddenly. “You killed my grandmother?”

“It was an accident, Constance. I didn’t mean for anything to happen.”

“Get out of here!” Constance screams hysterically. “Get the hell away from me! I never want to see you again!”


Sergeant Anders and Amber Harp’s bare feet protrude from under the covers at the end of the hospital bed.

“How was that for a memory?” Sergeant Anders laughs.

“Best one ever!” Amber pulls her lover in closer to her. They hold each other, concealed only by the bed covers.

“You should be out in a few days then, if everything is looking good,” Sergeant Anders says, kissing Amber on the forehead.

“Hopefully. I’m going crazy in here. I could have done with a few more of these kinds of visits.”

They both laugh as Sergeant Anders’ mobile phone begins to ring. He pushes back the covers and pushes himself out of the bed. He reaches down to lift the mobile phone out of his trousers pocket. “Sergeant Anders,” he says into the phone.

On the other end of the line he can hear an unfamiliar voice. “Sergeant, my name is Geraldine Jenkins. I’m Cathy Gilmore’s mother.”

“Geraldine, so good to hear from you. Everyone’s been worried about Cathy. I hope she’s doing okay.”

“That’s the thing, Sergeant. Cathy isn’t with me.”

“What do you mean? Mark told me she left a note saying she was visiting you.”

“If she did, she never made it,” Geraldine says. “I just received a call from Joanne asking about her. I haven’t seen her in some time, Sergeant.”

“No one has seen her since Mark found the note.” Sergeant Anders is starting to get worried. He begins to pull his clothes on.

“Sergeant, she wrote that note eight weeks ago,” Geraldine says, trying to hold the panic out of her voice. “My daughter has been missing for two months.”


Joanne Evans passes her aunt a glass of water over the bar of The Grand Hotel.

“You should be at home resting,” Joanne says impatiently.

“I’ve just come to see how everything is going,” Valerie Pickering says. “It looks like you’re doing a great job here.”

“I’ve got everything under control,” Joanne says as she wipes down the bar. “You don’t need to worry. You just need to focus on your health.”

“Stop fussing over me,” Valerie says, skolling the glass of water in front of her.

“Do you want some more water?” Joanne fills up Valerie’s glass and passes it back to her aunt.

“All this dialysis is making me thirsty,” Valerie says, gulping down more water.

“Have they found you a donor yet?”

“Not yet.” Valerie finishes her second glass of water. Joanne reaches for the empty glass, but Valerie quickly grabs her hand. “Thank you for taking care of things for me.”

Joanne smiles at her aunt before grabbing her other hand. “Just focus on you right now.”

Joanne goes to move away, but Valerie holds onto Joanne’s hands tightly. Joanne looks at her aunt curiously.

“You should know, Joanne,” Valerie whispers.

“Know what?”

“About your mother.” Valerie squeezes Joanne’s hands even tighter. “I never should have hidden it from you.”

“Aunty Val, what are you talking about?” Joanne pulls herself from her aunt’s firm grip. Joanne suddenly feels light-headed and steadies herself by holding onto the bar.

“Your mother couldn’t have children of her own, honey,” Valerie says, tearing up. “She was not your biological mother.”

“I don’t understand.” Joanne holds her hand to her head to try and stop it from spinning. “She gave birth to me. She died having me.”

“Yes, honey, she did.” The tears flow from Valerie’s face.

Joanne’s head continues to spin as she tries to steady herself. Her vision turns blurry and all she can see is flashes of the colour red.


Next Episode – Monday October 19