Episode Eighteen


They made their way slowly along the narrow winding dirt tracks. Neither of them could move very fast, so it took them a while to get to their destination. They stopped a number of times along the way to rest.

“Just over this hill,” Councillor Dustin Harris, the elderly mayor of Peppercorn Patch, says to Constance Helling. “It’s not far now.”

As they make their way over the small hill, both of them stop and gaze down at the large dirt hole. What was once a large dam used by the Helling family to water their Peppercorn trees had long since turned into a vast expanse of lifeless dirt.

Dustin Harris points his bony finger to the large dirt hole. “When the dam dried up in ’65,” he says to Constance, “that’s where the human remains were found.”

Constance looks down at the old dam site in wonder. She hadn’t informed Dustin Harris of her human teeth find, nor had she any intention of doing so until she could make more sense of what it all meant. All she had told the elderly mayor was that she had found some old newspaper clippings of the grisly find of skeletal remains, and that she was interested in finding out more about it.

“About forty bodies in total were found down there, though quite a few of them have never been identified,” Dustin says, giving Constance a big toothy grin and tapping his teeth with his finger. “No teeth, you see.”

“The skeletons had no teeth?” Constance asks.

“None whatsoever. Whoever brought them here must have taken them,” Dustin says.

“They were murdered?” Constance asks curiously.

“Presumed murdered. Only skeletal remains were found, so it could never be established. As far as I know, the police were looking for a killer in possession of human teeth.”

“Why the teeth though?” Constance thinks to herself, as she hears the sound of her mobile phone ringing in her handbag. “Hello,” she answers the phone.

“Constance,” the voice says on the other end of the line. “It’s Sergeant Anders. Have you seen Thomas?”

“What do you mean? He’s in hospital,” Constance says, almost irritated.

“I’m afraid not,” Sergeant Anders informs her. “He’s gone.”

“You were supposed to be here watching him!” Sergeant Anders bellows at Senior Constable Kyle Cook. “How could you have not seen him walk out?”

Both men stand inside Thomas Helling’s small room in the hospital. The equipment that was once keeping Thomas alive now lays sprawled over the empty bed.

“I’m sorry,” Kyle says. “I didn’t think he was going to be able to leave, so I took a break.”

“You left your post?” Sergeant Anders is furious.

“I went to meet Amber.”


“Amber Harp from The Holgate Times,” Kyle informs his sergeant.

“You were talking to the media? You were supposed to be here keeping guard of Thomas Helling, and you leave to talk to the media?” Sergeant Anders turns to walk out of the room, looking back at Kyle Cook. “This is on you! If anything happens to anyone, I’ll make sure you take full responsibility!”

“Trust me,” Kyle says as Sergeant Anders walks off, “this is the last thing I wanted to happen.”

Father Bolton, Peppercorn Patch’s resident priest, sits on the lounge opposite Joanne Evans. Next to her, Cathy Gilmore sits with her hand resting on Joanne’s shoulder.

“I’m sure they’ll find Thomas,” Father Bolton tries to reassure Joanne. “Sergeant Anders and his crew are out looking for him now.”

“How could this happen?” Cathy asks, tightening her grip around Joanne’s shoulder. “He’s a danger to everyone.”

“I’m sure they’ll find him,” Father Bolton says again. “Joanne, you’ll be safe here.”

Valerie Pickering enters from the kitchen with a tray of coffee mugs and passes a black coffee to Father Bolton. “I think I have a new addiction,” she says. “Coffee.”

“You’ve been an inspiration, Val,” Father Bolton lifts his mug as if to applaud Valerie. “How long have you been sober for now?”

“Just on three months,” Valerie says. “All credit goes to Joanne.”

Joanne looks to her aunt and smiles at her as she is handed a mug of coffee. “We’ve been helping each other,” she tells Father Bolton.

“You’ll be walking again in no time,” Valerie throws her arm around her niece’s other shoulder.

A moment of silence falls over the group as they each take a drink from their mugs. “I’m so scared,” Joanne breaks the silence. “Thomas is out to get me.”

“He’d be insane to return, Jo,” Valerie tries to comfort Joanne.

“He is insane,” Joanne tells the group as she pulls some paper out of her pocket. “He sent me these.”

The two handwritten letters that had been sent to Joanne are passed around the group. Valerie reads each letter a few times, trying to make sense of them.

“Oh, my!” Cathy pipes up, “I received a similar letter.”

“You got one too?” Joanne asks her friend.

“Yes, it scared me at first. But I didn’t think much of it after Thomas was captured.”

“But why would Thomas send one to you?” Joanne asks, as she looks at Cathy in disbelief.

“The devil’s work,” Father Bolton suddenly says, having read one of Joanne’s letters. “This is the work of the devil!”

Joanne lies in bed looking out into the darkness. It is late and she can’t seem to sleep. The thought of Thomas Helling out on the loose and the revelation that her best friend, Cathy Gilmore, also received a letter scares her.

She is haunted by Thomas Helling each and every day.

 She can’t seem to shake the image of the woman in red either. The woman that claimed that she was Joanne’s mother. A mother that she thought had died when she was born. A mother that everyone tells her is indeed deceased.

“Who is that woman?” Joanne asks herself. “I need to know the truth.”

She suddenly hears a noise coming from the kitchen, and supposes her aunt has returned home early from work. Switching on her bed lamp, Joanne heaves her body out over the edge of the bed and into her wheelchair. She decides to go and seek comfort from her aunt.

The glow from the bed lamp sends imposing shadows down the hallway and as Joanne wheels herself down it, she makes out a dark figure near the hallway’s end.

“Aunty Val?” she asks, hesitantly. “What are you doing?”

“Hello, Joanne,” she hears a haunting voice, realising that the figure is not her aunt. The dark figure swiftly rushes at her. Joanne lets out a short scream before her mouth is covered.

She hears the voice again:

Ring-a-ring o’roses,
A pocket full of posies,
A-tishoo! A-tishoo!
Now Joanne is mine!

Next Episode – Monday June 29

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