The short moment of glee that Constable Kyle Cook feels is soon extinguished. The heart rate monitor continues to beep along unchanged. Thomas Helling continues to breathe – without the use of the ventilator.
“Why can’t you just die?” Kyle yells at Thomas, before realising his raised voice might attract unwanted attention. He leans into a still sleeping Thomas. “Just die you cockroach!”
Suddenly Kyle can hear handle of the hospital room’s door turn. He can feel his heart start booming loudly in his chest. He is still holding the detached ventilator tube in his hand.
Kyle can see the door open and a nurse walk into the dark room, illuminated only by a small overhead light.
“What are you doing?” he can hear the nurse interrogate.
The sound of her high-heeled shoes rap along the paved sidewalk. She holds her brief case above her head to stop the rain from drenching her body. Amber Harp comes to a stop under the awning outside The Grand Hotel. She reads the decal printed on the window next to the door.
“Proprietor,” she reads aloud, “Valerie Pickering.”
Amber shakes her briefcase of its water and brushes off the tops of her shoulders. She thinks briefly about the cost of the suit she is wearing. She had only bought it the day before. She hopes that there is a dry cleaner in town.
“Valerie Pickering,” she mutters to herself again. “Just who I want to see.”
“Constable Cook?” Cathy Gilmore squints into the semi-darkness. She switches on the room light and it breaks the darkness. “What are you doing?”
“Just came in to check in on the patient,” Kyle Cook replies. He had managed to quickly reattach the tube to the ventilator before the nurse noticed.
“I can’t believe he’s being kept alive,” Cathy says. Kyle is surprised to hear the nurse’s honesty. “He killed Richard and almost killed Joanne.”
“And me,” Kyle adds.
“He should have been left to rot,” Cathy sighs. “Now I’m stuck here having to look after him.”
“You’re a good nurse,” Kyle says. “You’re just doing your job.”
“Honestly,” Cathy walks over to Kyle, looking over her shoulder to make sure no one else can hear, “sometimes I think about switching off the ventilator.”
Kyle almost bursts out laughing. “I’m not sure that’s such a good idea.”
“I know, I know,” Cathy already regrets telling the police officer. “I would never do it of course.”
“Perhaps it doesn’t work,” Kyle suggests. “What if he kept breathing? What then?”
“Well, there’s always the possibility of him continuing to breathe on his own,” the nurse concedes. Kyle can almost see Cathy’s brain ticking over, thinking of another way to end Thomas’ life. She looks up at him with an almost guilty look.
“Well?” Kyle asks. “How would you kill him?”
“Are you Valerie Pickering?” Amber Harp asks as she seats herself on the stool at the bar.
“I am,” Valerie answers from behind the bar. She throws the tea towel she is using to dry some glasses over her shoulder. “What can I get you?”
“I’m not sure what I need from you is behind that bar,” Amber replies. “I’m Amber Harp.” She presents an outstretched arm to Valerie.
Valerie shakes Amber’s hand and looks quizzically at the young woman in the expensive looking suit. “Amber Harp,” Valerie thinks out loud. “Amber Harp from The Holgate Times?”
“That’s me,” Amber smiles.
“No, no,” Valerie says. “I told you over the phone that I wasn’t speaking to any newspaper, Ms Harp.”
“I only need a short amount of your time,” Amber says. “Anything at all for my story.”
“You’re very persistent.” Valerie is getting frustrated. “I’ve been telling you for months that neither myself or Joanne are interested in being interviewed for your story.”
“But Joanne has such a great story to be told,” Amber tries to reason. “Surviving her attack, dealing with her husband’s murder, and now her long recovery back to full health.”
“Who do you people think you are?” Valerie snaps. “I think you need to leave, Ms Harp. How many times do I have to say no before you understand?”
“I wouldn’t be a very good journalist if I stopped every time someone said no to me now, would I?” Amber picks up her brief case and heads towards the front door. “I’ll be in town for a little while if you change your mind and want to talk.”
Amber opens the front door and then turns to face Valerie again. “Can you tell me where I can find Constance Helling?”
Constance Helling had been living in the house high up on the hill ever since her father had died almost three months ago. Now commonly referred to as Hell House by many locals as a result of the events that took place there, Constance had continued to have it restored. Her son, Thomas Helling, had started to restore the house before he was shot and almost killed. The house was still in her father’s name, but she had since inherited the property. It wasn’t the only property she had inherited. The camping grounds and caravan park along Helling River now belonged to her as well.
Nearing its complete restoration, the only thing that Constance had left to tackle on the house was the large garden shed at the back of the property. It was full of all sorts of odds and ends: furniture, clothing, books and antiques; a collection of Helling family items from almost 100 years.
Constance opens the shed and takes a look around its dark and dusty surrounds. She feels overwhelmed and doesn’t know where to start. She knows she needs to go through the items and remove anything that is no longer needed.
“Where to start?” she asks herself. She pulls a faded pink bed sheet off of one of the nearby tables and its dust flies through the air making Constance cough. As she throws the sheet on the floor, she notices a wooden box sitting on the table – a jewellery box with a hand-carved pattern of flowers on the outside.
Constance lifts the jewellery box up and notices a name carved in the top: Gretel.
“My grandmother’s jewellery box,” Constance says excitedly.
She attempts to open the box but finds that it is held closed by its gold plated lock. She looks at the lock for only a few seconds before realising that she can possibly open it. The golden skeleton key that she had inherited hangs around her neck. She had placed it there in the hope that one day she would locate its home.
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.
Next Episode – Monday June 8