Episode Fifty-Six

Avoid Spoilers! Read from Episode One


Tick. Tick. Tick.

Joanne Evans slices open the envelope which had been addressed to her. She pulls out the piece of paper and instantly recognises the header on top of the letter. Holgate Bedlamites is embossed in a burgundy red, followed underneath by the mental hospital’s address.

Joanne knows the address well. She had spent four months at the hospital, having been treated for her mental illnesses suffered after the traumatic events that had unfolded in the preceding year, culminating in the death of her daughter; a twin she named after her biological mother, Sylvia.

Joanne holds the paper tensely between her fingers; the paper’s thick and creamy texture firmly in her grasp.

The penmanship, Joanne can see, is lacking in finesse and legibility. A doctor’s hand.

The realisation makes Joanne angry, not afraid. Doctor Peter Smith, her deranged biological father was locked away in the hospital and could no longer hurt her.

My daughter, Joanne, the letter reads,
I have only one wish.
I should have been a man
But instead, I was selfish.
I can’t take away your pain,
Or your desire to see me perish.
My wish is for you to gain
Something to love and cherish.

“Bastard,” Joanne whispers, reading the poem a second time. “Poetry Predator strikes again.”

Joanne takes the letter, scrunches it into a ball and pitches it across the room.

Tick. Tick. Tick.

Almost time. Be patient. It’s almost time.

Tick. Tick. Tick.

Geraldine Jenkins assists her daughter into a dress. She pulls the zip up carefully, stepping back to take in the view of Cathy Gilmore.

“You look stunning,” Geraldine says to her daughter. “You’re going to kill them tonight!”

Cathy smiles, something she did rarely these days. Ever since her hands had been mutilated at the hands of The Poetry Predator, she hadn’t been the same person. Ever since she found out that her husband, Mark Gilmore, had been cheating on her with his mistress, Melody Walker, she hadn’t been the same person. Ever since her life had been threatened, not once, but twice since she had returned to work as a nurse at the local hospital, she hadn’t been the same person.

“I feel beautiful,” Cathy says to her mother.

“You are beautiful.” Geraldine takes Cathy’s hands in her own. “You are the most beautiful person I know.”

“Beautiful enough to win?” Cathy laughs.

“You’ve already won,” Geraldine says, “but you’ll win the beauty pageant for sure.”

Cathy looks to her hands. The missing pinkies suddenly remind her of the torment. She isn’t sure that she could ever consider herself beautiful again.

Scrunched up paper, I see you here,
Scrunched up paper, I see you there,
Scrunched up paper, flying through the air,
Scrunched up paper, I see you everywhere.

Melody Walker puts the finishing touches of makeup onto her face. She looks up into the mirror and sees a hand being placed on her shoulder. “You’ll kill it tonight,” Joel Prasad says.

“Thanks, babycakes,” Melody says. She turns and gets to her feet to face Joel. “You’re a judge, so I expect that I will win!”

Joel laughs and looks shyly to the floor. “Anything for my Melody.”

The two embrace, kiss and then laugh about the smeared lipstick now on Joel’s lips.

“You are beautiful,” Joel says, eyeing his lover up and down.

“We’re beautiful together,” Melody remarks. Joel looks to the floor again, bashful.

“I best get ready to judge.” Joel suddenly turns to exit the room. “The pageant will be starting soon, so I best be on my way.”

As Joel moves away, Melody grabs his hand. “Remember, babycakes, to meet me outside just before the verdict is announced.”

“Oh, and why is that again?” Joel asks curiously.

Melody lifts her dress slightly and guides Joel’s hand up her leg. She smiles seductively at him before gently biting his earlobe.

“Understood.” Joel Prasad goes red in the face before rushing out of the room.

Tick. Tick. Tick.

Where is he? He better be here. Doesn’t he know what danger he’s in?

Tick. Tick. Tick.

Joanne Evans steps out onto the makeshift stage. The bright lights and loud cheer from the audience make her slightly dizzy for a second. She manages to regain her composure and makes a few poses in her evening dress.

Inside The Grand Hotel, the audience cheers on raucously for their favourite beauty queen. Joanne had stolen the small town of Peppercorn Patch’s hearts. She had suffered enough, they had decided. It was time for Joanne to have some victory.

Joanne looks down upon the audience. She sees familiar faces. Townsfolk who had gathered in her Aunty’s establishment to wish her only the best. Among them are the local ranger, Kelly Driver and the local priest, Father Bolton; the town matriarch, Constance Helling; and Cathy Gilmore’s husband, Mark Gilmore, and mother, Geraldine Jenkins.

Seargeant Michael Anders and Doctor Joel Prasad sit at the judge’s table, along with her partner, Leading Senior Constable Kyle Cook. She only wished that her aunty, Valerie Pickering, could be there to see here too. She was still in hospital.

As Joanne steps up to the microphone to answer some of the judge’s questions, she has a thought. She wants to scream out for peace. Not for world peace, but her own. I want peace! she wants to scream out loud. At that moment she sees a scrunched up piece of paper flying through the air. It unravels as it moves through the air, almost floating in midair and letting out the demons of her past. Joanne Evans realises then that peace for herself can never be attained, just as wishing for world peace is a pointless sentiment.

Tick. Tick. Tick.

There’s no time left! Where in the hell is he?

Tick. Tick. Tick.

The final beauty pageant contestant graces the stage and the judges are left to their deliberations. Among those that the judges are to consider for the title of beauty queen are Cathy Gilmore, Melody Walker, and the crowd favourite, Joanne Evans.

Melody Walker pushes open the front door and exits The Grand Hotel, leaving those inside to continue to drink merrily from the assortment of alcoholic beverages from the bar. She walks along the footpath and glances down at her watch impulsively.

Tick. Tick. Tick.

“Almost time,” she whispers to herself. “Be patient. It’s almost time.”

She glances at her watch again impatiently. She can see the time getting close. She knows that she shouldn’t be here. She looks back to the entrance and waits for Joel Prasad to exit.

“Where is he? He better be here. Doesn’t he know what danger he’s in?”

She lights a cigarette and inhales it, the smoky exhale filling the still night sky.

Tick. Tick. Tick.

“There’s no time left!” She puffs faster and faster, watching the minute hand on her watch getting closer. “Where in the hell is he?”

Melody sucks in her cigarette and tosses the butt to the gutter. As she turns to walk further away from The Grand Hotel, she hurriedly looks at her watch again.

Tick. Tick. Tick.

Without warning, the building behind her erupts in a booming sound. Melody Walker is thrown to the ground. The force from the explosion behind her catapults her body harshly into the bitumen.

A giant fireball lights the night sky and The Grand Hotel seems to explode into a thousand pieces. The sound of shattering glass pierces every corner of the small town.

Scrunched up paper inside my head.
Scrunched up paper with a message I dread.
Scrunched up paper and a sea of red.
Scrunched up paper, surrounded by dead.

Next Episode – Thursday October 6

Welcome back to Peppercorn Patch for the remainder of Season Five!

Prepare for Vengeance. Retribution is here.

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