Episode Eighty-One

Avoid Spoilers! Read from Episode One


“You can come with me!” Doctor Peter Smith pulls Amber Harp from the ground suddenly. He pulls her body around and marches her further into the backyard.

Beyond the back fence, the dense bushland beckons them both. Doctor Smith forces Amber over the fence and into the bush. The undergrowth scratches her legs as she is forced further into the darkness. Away from safety.

Amber tries to struggle, but Doctor Smith is too strong.

“Keep walking,” he instructs her.

“Please,” Amber tries to plead with Doctor Smith, “just don’t hurt Drake.” She thinks about her son who had just run from the burning building only a few minutes earlier. She hoped that he was now safe and was getting some help.

“Your son is the least of my worries at the moment,” Doctor Smith huffs, leading her further and further into the bush. It’s dark and it’s hard to see.

“I know you killed my husband, Steven.” Amber begins to cry. “I was never going to let you get away with that.”

“I warned you to stop investigating me,” Doctor Smith retorts. “You gave me no choice.”

“You’re a killer!” Amber screams. “That’s all you do. You kill people. You don’t save them!”

“I’ve given my whole life to saving people!” Doctor Smith defends himself.

“You’ve left Drake without a father.” Amber tries to stay strong. “Don’t leave him without a mother too!”

“Drake is not my responsibility.”

“No, he’s not! He’s mine!” Amber screams. “So let me go so I can go and find him and look after him!”

“Stop talking!” Doctor Smith hisses, suddenly losing his footing. He falls into the long grass, letting go of his grip of Amber. She stumbles briefly before regaining her footing.

Amber takes the opportunity to run.

The stranger had only briefly managed to get some sleep. The room was finally dark and they drifted off – it was the first time in what felt like ages.

But now the stranger was awake again.

They couldn’t see it, but the stranger could feel it.

Close to the stranger’s face, warm breath. On the stranger’s chest, a heavy load. One of the dogs must have made its way onto the stranger’s bed.

“You are so beautiful,” the stranger can suddenly hear a whisper. Bad breath, the smell of rotting flesh. “I will never let you go.”

The stranger doesn’t dare open their eyes. It’s not a dog. Charles King has them pinned down.

The stranger holds their breath.

“You are so beautiful,” Charles King whispers again.

His large dirty hands start caressing the stranger’s hair and face.

The stranger lies paralysed.

Charles King’s cracked lips touch the stranger’s.

The stranger lies paralysed as Charles King kisses her.

“Aunty Val, I can’t take your money…” Joanne Evans says.

“…Don’t argue with me, honey.” Valerie Pickering says. “I don’t need the money anymore. You need it more than I do. There’ll be no more discussion on the matter.”

“Aunty Val, but how could I ever repay you?”

“A bed at your place is all I ask for,” Valerie says, suddenly pulling at Joanne’s hands and dragging her across the road, racing down towards the river. “Let’s go and have some fun!”

They race down past the newly built hotel alongside the Helling River, lit only by security floodlights from the building.

Valerie continues to race down to the water’s edge, letting go of Joanne’s hand and plunging herself fully dressed into the water.

“Aunty Val!” Joanne laughs out loud. “What are you doing?”

Valerie splashes in the dark water. “Remember this was one of our favourite things to do together when you were younger. Jump in, Jo, the water is beautiful.”

Twelve year old Joanne steps to the water’s edge. She timidly puts her toes into the river water.

“Jump in, Jo,” her aunty says, her body splashing in the water, “the water is beautiful.”

Joanne steps out into the water so that her feet are submerged. The water is cooler than she would like. She’s not keen on entering the water, but she wants to make her aunty happy. Her Aunty Val was trying to do her best to look after her, she knew that. It had been less than six months since her father had been killed. Aunty Val was trying her best to make sure Joanne was happy. As happy as she could be.

Joanne grimaces as she steps out deeper into the water. She had never been for a swim in the river before. She had an irrational fear of crocodiles eating her alive ever since she had accidentally seen that horror movie on the television screen late one night.

As she gets deeper, a feeling of peacefulness washes over her. The cool water is beautiful, just as her aunty had told her.

“See, Jo,” Valerie says, grabbing a hold of Joanne’s hand, “isn’t it wonderful?”

Joanne could have spent the whole day in that water. They both had so much fun playing in the river learning to float, learning to swim properly and developing a greater confidence in the water. She even forgot about the crocodiles.

She would never forget how much fun this was, and how much spending time with her aunty meant to her.

Joanne feels like she is twelve years old again as she splashes in the dark water with her aunty by her side. How she had longed to reminisce like this, thinking back to happier times.

“Thank you,” Joanne says to her aunty. “I needed this.”

As she wipes the water away from her face, she looks to the water’s edge.

In the darkness, almost hidden behind a tree, she can make out someone watching them.

Amber Harp runs through the scrub in the darkness. She has no idea where she is headed, but she tries to make sure she keeps her footing. She knows that Doctor Smith is probably close behind her and one false move would result in her captivity again.

As she pushes the branches from her face, she notices a clearing up ahead. As she nears the clearing, she can hear running water.

Amber stops suddenly. A steep drop opens up before her. She looks down into the dark rushing water of the Helling River.

“Give up, Amber,” Doctor Smith says from behind her. “You can’t run anymore.”

Amber pants furiously. Her heart pounds in her chest.

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

Doctor Smith steps in closer to her.

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

The current is strong and drags her underwater. She tries to resurface, but the water has a mind of its own. She pants quickly, trying to take in as much oxygen as she can. The water pulls her rapidly downstream.

The stranger lies paralysed.

Charles King’s cracked lips touch the stranger’s.

The stranger lies paralysed as Charles King kisses her.

The stranger belonged to him now, Charles King thought. After all, he had found her.

He sees the dogs upstream. The three of them are pulling at something on the river’s bank.

“Good find, girls,” he says to his dogs as he lifts the almost lifeless body up onto his shoulders. “Let’s get this one inside before they expire.”

Charles King has just altered his destiny.

Charles King has just rescued the stranger.

His hands wander down her face and neck and onto her chest.

He pulls the bed covers down and inspects her body with his hands.

Suddenly, the stranger sinks her teeth sharply into Charles King’s lips. He cries out in pain and staggers away from the bed.

Amber Harp spits out a mouthful of blood.

Next Episode – Monday June 4

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