What is left of the body is badly burned. The charred skeletal remains make it impossible for the three men to identify who the victim is.
“Sorry Sergeant,” Doctor Peter Smith sighs heavily, “it may take some time to run a few tests before we can determine who this is.”
“Thanks Doc. I appreciate everything you can do,” Sergeant Michael Anders replies. “How’s Joanne holding up?”
“She’s in a bit of shock still, understandably. I’ve given her something for the pain and I’ve recommended that she rests as much as she can.”
“I would like to ask her a few questions…” Michael Anders starts to say.
“Hold up Mike,” Doctor Smith interrupts, “I just said she needs to rest. She probably wouldn’t be much help in her sedated condition anyway.”
Doctor Peter Smith takes his glasses off his face and begins to rub his temples with the tips of his gloved fingers. Michael Anders can see the dark circles forming under the doctor’s eyes. “I’m just not sure it’s a good idea at the moment,” the doctor says to Sergeant Anders.
“Sergeant, look,” Constable Kyle Cook says suddenly, pointing down towards the body on the table. Sergeant Michael Anders and Doctor Peter Smith both look down to the body. They can see something shining through the charred remains on the victim’s finger.
“Is that a ring, Doc?” Sergeant Anders asks.
Doctor Smith reaches down to the object and gently removes it from the charred finger. “Looks like a wedding ring.” He drops it into a plastic evidence bag and hands it to Sergeant Anders.
“It could help us identify the body,” Sergeant Anders says. “Doc, I really need to show this ring to Joanne so she can tell me if it belongs to Richard.”
Doctor Smith sighs heavily and looks down at the charred remains. He rubs his temples again. “Please be gentle with her.”
“I will,” the police Sergeant replies.
“Oh, and Mike,” Doctor Peter Smith calls out as the two police officers turn to leave the room. “Make sure you catch this bastard.”
Joanne is struggling to see through the smoke around her. She tries to call out for help again but all she manages to do is breathe in more smoke. It is making her cough and her eyes are in pain. So are her legs. She can’t move them. Around her the building continues to collapse. The house shudders and shakes violently.
Joanne can suddenly see a bright flash of light in front of her. Not firelight. It is white. As her teary eyes try to focus on the light through the smoke she can see an image begin to craft itself in front of her. The pain in her legs seems to disappear as she focuses on the strange image forming in front of her. She can soon see the silhouette of her saviour, bright white light glowing from behind, almost as if it has a halo. Her angel has arrived.
“Joanne,” her angel can speak. “I’m here.”
Joanne startles herself awake. The next thing she knows she is sitting up in bed with sweat dripping from her forehead. At first she doesn’t recognise where she is. She feels disorientated as she looks around for the fire. Next to her she can see a familiar face.
“It’s okay, honey,” her Aunty Val says to her, “it’s just a bad dream. I’m here.”
Joanne can feel Aunty Val squeeze her hand and caress her forehead as she lowers herself back down onto the hospital bed. She can hear the heart monitor machine next to her beeping along rapidly.
“Where am I?” Joanne tries to say but her throat is hoarse and she only manages to cough.
“Try not to speak, honey,” Aunty Val advises. “Here, use this if you need to.” Aunty Val passes Joanne an oxygen mask.
Joanne puts the oxygen mask on and tries to take a deep breath. It feels as though her lungs are filled with sand as she coughs again. Aunty Val squeezes her hand tightly.
Suddenly there is a knock on the door. Sergeant Michael Anders enters the hospital room. Joanne notices that his face looks flushed, almost as if he has just run a marathon.
“Sorry to bother you both,” Sergeant Anders says.
“Not at all Sergeant,” Valerie Pickering replies.
“How are we holding up in here?” Sergeant Anders asks no one in particular.
“She’s just woken from a bad dream.” Valerie looks at Joanne and brushes back the hair that has fallen across her face.
Sergeant Michael Anders approaches the hospital bed and seats himself on the side of it.
“I know it’s important for you to rest, Joanne, but I need to know if you remember anything from last night,” Sergeant Anders says. “Any little bit of information you can give us can help us find out what happened.”
Joanne closes her eyes. She tries to speak but can only manage to cough again. She shakes her head.
“Do you remember who brought you in to hospital? Who saved you?”
Joanne shakes her head again, but suddenly remembers the angel from her dream. “My angel,” she whispers to the police officer.
“I think she needs more rest, Sergeant,” Valerie says. “She hasn’t been making any sense since she’s been here.”
Sergeant Michael Anders looks to the plastic bag in his hand. “There’s something else I need to ask you, Joanne. We found a body at the high school this morning.”
Joanne’s eyes suddenly widen as she looks intently at Sergeant Anders.
“Who is it?” Valerie enquires.
“It was burned badly, and we have to run some further tests to find out who it is. But we did find this.” Sergeant Anders holds up the plastic bag for Joanne to see. She can see the ring inside the bag glimmer as it reflects the overhead lights.
“Joanne, I know it’s difficult, but does this ring belong to Richard?” Sergeant Anders asks.
Joanne can feel the well of tears building up and before she knows it the tears start running uncontrollably from her eyes. She cannot speak. All she can do is nod her head. Aunty Val squeezes her hand even tighter.
Joanne’s wedding to Richard was a small affair. A few close friends and family had gathered to be there to help celebrate with the couple on their special day.
Joanne was fitted in a stunning white wedding gown, fitted at her bodice and gently flaring wider at the bottom. Her hair, golden blonde, flowed from the top of her head in cascading curls.
The jewellery she wore had been given to her by her Aunty Val. “Your mother wore this jewellery on her wedding day,” Aunty Val had told her. “She would be so proud of you honey. I’m sure she’s looking down on you from wherever she is up there.” By wearing the jewellery she felt as if her mother was there with her, even if it was only in spirit. Like a guardian angel.
Joanne blinks through her tears. She feels hopeless to control the flow streaming from her eyes.
“I’m sorry Joanne,” she can hear Sergeant Anders saying to her. “I’m so sorry.”
Sergeant Anders gets up from where he is sitting on the side of the bed and starts heading towards the door.
“Sergeant,” he can hear Joanne breathlessly whisper between sobs. He turns to face her. “It was an angel that saved me.” Joanne catches her breath with an inhale from the oxygen mask.
“An angel?” Sergeant Anders is curious.
“Yes, a guardian angel,” Joanne whispers, “and I remember who it was.”
Next Episode – Monday 23rd February
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