After the angels had rescued her and Thomas from drowning in the river that night, Joanne had spent many long days and nights at Thomas’ bedside in Peppercorn Patch Hospital. Thomas had been saved, however he still had a long fight ahead of him. Thomas had fallen into a coma and the life support machines invading his body were keeping him alive.
Coming to terms with the fact that she had almost lost her niece, Valerie Pickering started drinking more. At a time that Joanne needed her aunt’s support the most, she had to support her aunt as well. Valerie Pickering was admitted to hospital and began one of her many recoveries back to health. Joanne tried to do everything she could to stay strong for Thomas and Aunty Val. She also tried to stay strong for herself.
Days turned into weeks, then into months. Thomas remained in a coma. The hospital staff had told Joanne that there was probably only a small chance that Thomas would wake, but Joanne was determined to have faith that Thomas would make a full recovery.
“You’ve been so strong. It’s very impressive,” Richard Evans had come to visit Joanne and Thomas in hospital two months after the accident.
“I don’t feel impressive. I feel exhausted,” Joanne sighed. She couldn’t help but feel a little flattered by her rescuer’s remarks.
“You need to have a break away from this place,” Richard Evans suggested. “Between your aunt and Thomas, it’s no wonder you’re exhausted.”
“I need to be here in case he wakes up. He needs me,” Joanne had replied.
“He’s in the best hands here in the hospital. Let me take you out for a coffee.”
Richard Evans was a few years older than Joanne and was originally from Holgate. Over the years he had often visited Peppercorn Patch with his family and friends to go camping along the river. He had decided that he loved living in Peppercorn Patch and, having just finished his university degree, started work as a teacher at the local high school.
Joanne enjoyed Richard Evans’ company so much that she soon found herself enjoying his company more and more. Their coffee dates became a daily recurrence and soon turned into dinner dates. Joanne felt happy to have formed such a close friendship with Richard. He would sit and chat with her for hours while she stayed at Thomas’ bedside waiting for him to wake from his coma.
“I’m moving to Holgate,” Constance Helling, Thomas’ mother, announced to Joanne one day, “and I’m taking Thomas with me.”
Joanne was distraught, but there wasn’t much she could do. Constance Helling was Thomas’ legal guardian. Arrangements were made soon after and Thomas was transported to Holgate Hospital where he remained in his coma. Joanne tried to visit whenever she could, but the long distance made it difficult for her to see Thomas often.
Another two months passed before Thomas finally woke from his coma. When Joanne found out, she phoned Constance Helling immediately.
“He doesn’t wish to see you,” Constance had told her. “It’s for the best, Joanne. He’s not the same person anymore.”
Joanne realised that the Thomas she had once loved had been taken from her on that fateful night. She also realised that she had fallen in love with Richard.
Constable Kyle Cook stands over Richard Evans’ limp and bloody body. He drops the bloody scalpel he is holding and it tap dances on the wooden floor.
“You could have killed me!” Kyle Cook can hear a voice. He squints through the darkness and makes out the face of Thomas Helling in the candlelight.
“I have a good aim,” Kyle Cook says dryly, “and I wasn’t aiming at you.”
Kyle Cook takes the flashlight out of his holster and shines the bright light into Thomas Helling’s face.
“Turn the light off!” Thomas yells insistently at Kyle. “It’s too bright! It might be seen!”
“Why wasn’t he dead already?” Kyle flashes the light at Richard’s body.
Thomas looks over to Richard’s body and then quickly looks away. He closes his eyes tightly to hold back tears that are starting to form. “I couldn’t do it,” he murmurs.
“That wasn’t part of the plan!” Kyle Cook is angry. He can see Thomas starting to cry. “What have I told you Thomas? No tears! Tears won’t get you anywhere in life!”
Kyle Cook was Richard Evans’ best friend. They had attended school together in Holgate and had always been there for each other. When Richard had asked Kyle and two other friends to join him on a camping trip in Peppercorn Patch, Kyle had jumped at the opportunity. Kyle had just been accepted into the police force and was to spend the next few months training at a police academy a few hours’ drive away. It would be the last chance he would get to spend with his friends for a while.
As Kyle Cook worked alongside Richard Evans and his two other friends in reviving Thomas Helling once they had pulled him from the water, he couldn’t help but think of his responsibility as a new police recruit. He felt proud that he was able to rescue Thomas. He had lead the rescue mission, directing Richard and his friends that night, and was certain that he had found his calling as a police officer. To Kyle, this was only a taste of what was to come. He was sure of it.
It was the lack of acknowledgement that hurt Kyle Cook the most. Richard Evans had claimed sole responsibility for rescuing Thomas and Joanne and, to top it off, Richard had been making moves on Joanne. Kyle felt betrayed. After all, he was the one who saved the couple. Without him that evening, neither would be alive today, especially Thomas. Joanne should have been falling in love with him, not Richard.
While training at the police academy, Kyle’s anger grew as he learned of Joanne and Richard’s blossoming relationship. Once he heard that Thomas Helling had awoken from his coma, he hatched a plan and raced to Thomas’ side.
“I’m here to look after you,” Kyle had promised his new friend. “Joanne has been taken from you, but I know what you need to do to get her back. Richard Evans needs to die.”
Constance Helling is seated in one of the booths near the back of Valerie Pickering’s establishment, The Grand Hotel. She brings a hot mug of coffee to her lips before putting it back down on the table.
“I don’t understand,” she says to Valerie, “Thomas wouldn’t do such a thing.”
“Joanne says it was him,” Valerie says to Constance. “And if you say he was back in town, then why else would he be here?”
“I don’t believe it!” Constance reaches for her handbag. “I can’t stay here any longer and listen to these accusations.”
As Constance moves to leave the hotel, Sergeant Michael Anders runs in through the front door.
“Valerie!” he shouts as he sees Valerie Pickering. He is surprised to also see Constance Helling standing next to her. “Constance,” he says, bewildered. “There’s been a report of a light from the house on the hill. I’m going up to check it out.”
“You didn’t follow the plan,” Kyle says angrily at Thomas. “You were supposed to leave Richard to die in the house fire and bring Joanne up here.”
“She hadn’t seen me in years,” Thomas starts to cry again. “I thought she would be happy to see me.”
“What did you expect, Thomas?” Kyle says mockingly. “She was going to run back to you?”
“You said I could get her back. You said she would love me again,” Thomas sulks.
“Don’t you get it, Thomas? It was me that was going to win Joanne over, not you.” Kyle gives Thomas a broad smile. “It was all part of my plan.”
“It’s time,” Kyle said to Thomas seven years after the accident. “Remember the plan?”
“Richard dies in the house after I tie him up and set fire to it,” Thomas recounted the plan. “And I take Joanne to the house on the hill.”
“Very good,” Kyle said approvingly. “And then Joanne will be yours.”
In actual fact, Kyle’s plan was not for Thomas’ benefit. Kyle planned to burst into the house, kill Thomas and rescue Joanne, making him the hero. Joanne was sure to then fall in love with him.
“What part of the plan didn’t you understand?” Kyle is becoming increasingly more furious.
“I’m not stupid, Kyle!” Thomas screams. “I know you want me dead. Everyone in this godforsaken town wants me dead! If I couldn’t have Joanne, then you certainly weren’t going to have her!”
Thomas picks up the bloody scalpel from the floor and starts waving it towards Kyle. “Maybe I am crazy like everybody says.” Thomas is the one now smiling.
Without warning, there is a flash of bright light as the door bursts open. Both men are startled by the flashlight that Sergeant Michael Anders is wielding.
Michael Anders shines the light over the room as he quickly takes in everything he is seeing. His flashlight shines over Richard’s bloody body in the corner of the room.
“I was too late,” Michael Anders can hear Kyle Cook crying. “I’m sorry, Sergeant. I was too late to save Richard.”
Thomas Helling suddenly lunges at Kyle Cook with the bloody scalpel he is holding. “You bastard!” Thomas yells.
Through the open window, Constance Helling peers into the candlelit room. She looks on in horror as three bullets leave Sergeant Michael Anders’ handgun and explode through Thomas’ body.
Final Episode – Monday 6th April