Episode Eighty

Avoid Spoilers! Read from Episode One

Act 5

Sergeant Michael Anders steps up to the front of the Helling house.

“What do you want?” Constance Helling snaps as she opens the door.

“Constance, I need to come inside to speak with you,” Sergeant Anders tells her, looking behind him again, before adding, “privately.”

Constance gives the police officer a quizzical look. She thinks about Joanne Evans having just given her son, Ricky, over to Anna-Maree Axe. Was he here to take Ricky away from the family already?

“I’m not sure…” Constance starts.

“Trust me,” Sergeant Anders says, pushing his way past Constance into the house, “you’ll want to hear me out.”

Constance closes the front door and follows the police officer down the hallway. “What is this about, Sergeant?”

“I think you should take a seat,” Sergeant Anders says.

“I’m really not in the mood for playing these silly games…” Constance huffs, folding her arms across her chest.

“I understand, Constance, but there is nothing silly about what I’m about to tell you.” Sergeant Anders motions for Constance to take a seat next to him on the lounge. “Please sit down.”

Constance huffs again and pushes her large frame down onto the lounge opposite Sergeant Anders. “So, tell me what’s so important, Sergeant.”

“Constance,” Sergeant Anders says, “it’s important that you’re honest with me and tell me everything you know. Otherwise you might be in some real trouble.”

Joanne Evans looks back up the hill towards the Helling house. She can see the house lights twinkle in the darkness of the night. “Are you sure Ricky will be okay with Anna-Maree?” she asks her aunty, Valerie Pickering.

Valerie looks up at the house and grabs Joanne’s hand, squeezing it gently. “I’m sure he’s going to be just fine, Jo.”

They continue walking towards Joanne’s townhouse. Along the way, they pass the main street of Peppercorn Patch and come to a stop outside the site of where Valerie’s business, The Grand Hotel, had once stood. In its place, an empty dirt patch and construction fencing.

Joanne puts a hand on her aunty’s shoulder. “I’m sorry.” Her mind flashes back to when the building exploded, killing Cathy Gilmore’s husband, Mark Gilmore, and injuring many others.

Valerie sighs out and smiles politely. “I’m not. I think it’s for the best.”

“But you loved this place,” Joanne says.

“It had been holding me back for many years, Jo. My drinking problem would have been fixed a long time ago if I had just got rid of this place sooner.” Valerie feels her lower back suddenly tingle and she reaches for where her kidney transplant had taken place.

Joanne hugs her aunty. “After everything that’s happened, Aunty Val, you are the strongest person I know.”

Valerie holds her niece in close to her. The two hold each other in silence for what feels like an eternity.

“I just received the insurance payout,” Valerie speaks first, interrupting their hold. “For The Grand Hotel.”

“Oh,” Joanne says, curious. “Are you going to rebuild?”

Valerie laughs, then pulls Joanne’s hands into her own. “I’m giving the money to you, Jo.”

“Aunty Val?”

“You could use it, with the custody battle coming up and all,” Valerie informs Joanne. “Plus you can use it to look after Ricky.”

“Aunty Val, I can’t take your money…”

“…Don’t argue with me, honey. 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!”

“What do you know about Dustin Harris’ death?” Sergeant Anders ask Constance.

“Councillor Dustin Harris?” Constance asks, swallowing hard. “He had a heart attack, didn’t he? In hospital?”

“He did,” Sergeant Anders agrees. “Were you there?”

Constance scoffs. “What are you insinuating?”

“I’m not insinuating anything, Constance,” Sergeant Anders says. “I’m just following up on some information that I received recently.”

“He’s been dead for some time now,” Constance says. “What’s so important now?”

“Constance, did you have any reason to harm Dustin Harris?”

Constance stands up from the lounge suddenly. “Out!” she screams at Sergeant Anders. “How dare you! Get out!”

“Constance, I have a witness that says you were with Dustin Harris when he died,” Sergeant Anders continues.

“What witness?”

“His grand-daughter,” Sergeant Anders reveals.

“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?”

“His grand-daughter?” Constance says, exasperated.

“Her name is Maggie Harris,” Sergeant Anders informs her.

“I don’t understand what this is all about,” Constance huffs, turning her back to the police officer and rubbing her face with a hand, the flashback continuing to haunt her.

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.”

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

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

“Maggie saw you exit the hospital room as Dustin was dying,” Sergeant Anders says.

“I didn’t kill him,” Constance protests. “He was already unwell. There was nothing I could do for him.”

“The truth is,” Sergeant Anders explains, “I don’t believe that you did kill him.”

“Then why are you here?” Constance is impatient.

“You claimed that Dustin Harris was responsible for the deaths of all those people that were discovered in that dam in 1965,” Sergeant Anders says.

“Yes, he confessed to me.”

“They were all missing their teeth,” Sergeant Anders continues. “And so far the teeth have never been recovered.”

Constance swallows hard again. “I’m not sure how I can help you, Sergeant Anders.”

Taking the key from around her neck, Constance silently makes the sign of the cross, praying that the box opens.

The lock of the jewellery box clicks and a surge of excitement shoots through Constance’s body. She slowly lifts the lid of the jewellery box up to reveal its contents.

“Oh my!” Constance gleefully exclaims as she sees the white pearls inside the box. She reaches down inside the box to lift out the shiny beads before suddenly reeling back and screaming out in horror.

The jewellery box is knocked to the ground, along with its contents. Hundreds of pearly white beads disperse across the floor. Constance looks down in disbelief at the sea of human teeth.

“Maggie Harris doesn’t believe that her grandfather was responsible,” Sergeant Anders explains. “There is no evidence that he was involved and, quite frankly, I agree with her.”

“This is ridiculous!” Constance is becoming increasingly more agitated. “Just tell me what you’re doing here!”

“Maggie is suing you for defamation,” Sergeant Anders tells her. “She claims that you know who the real killer is and you’re covering it up.”

“I told you before to get out!” Constance suddenly snaps.

“Constance,” Sergeant Anders tries to reason, “if you lose the defamation case you’re going to lose everything. Not only that, if you have information about a mass murder that you haven’t disclosed, you could be in serious trouble. Obstruction of justice could land you behind bars.”

“I’m not speaking to you anymore without my lawyer,” Constance says, suddenly calm.

“Constance, let me help you.”

“There’s nothing to help with,” Constance dismisses the police officer.

“Where is the box of teeth?” Sergeant Anders asks.

Constance looks at him quizzically.

Sergeant Anders steps in close to her. “Let me help you hide them!”

Next Episode – Monday May 28

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