Episode Eighty-Four

Avoid Spoilers! Read from Episode One

Act 8

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The young boy sobs quietly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Joanne follows her aunty’s instructions.

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

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

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

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

“Heart attack?” Joel inquires.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The blood drops suddenly stop.

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

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

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

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

Doctor Peter Smith’s eyes penetrate her soul.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The attacker doesn’t answer her.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

She holds the young boy close to her.

Drake Harp sobs uncontrollably.

Next Episode – Monday June 25

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