[noun. inaccurate or false statements; falsehoods.]
Peppercorn Patch. The sign welcomes the couple.
“A new life,” Joseph says to his wife.
From her position in the passenger seat, Anna-Maree Axe gently touches her husband’s knee. Their car travels around the curvy bends of Holgate’s Gap and passes the sign which tells them they are almost at their destination. “Yes,” Anna-Maree agrees.
“We deserve it,” Joseph Axe adds, steering the car around another sharp bend.
“I’m sorry for everything,” Anna-Maree says.
Joseph puts his hand on his wife’s. “Don’t apologise,” he tells her. “The main thing is we’re both safe now.”
“Yes,” Anna-Maree agrees.
“It’s a new life, remember,” Joseph reminds his wife.
“A new life,” Anna-Maree repeats.
“Our past is behind us.”
Nine Months Ago
The door to the caravan makes a squeaking noise as it is opened. The large brown boots bang harshly on the caravan’s linoleum floor.
“Hello Thomas.” The Poetry Predator closes the caravan door behind him and smiles at Thomas Helling.
Thomas Helling rocks himself from side to side, forcing his body into a tight ball on the bottom bunk bed.
“It’s okay, Thomas,” The Poetry Predator says as he reaches down to brush Thomas’ dirty, unwashed hair. “I’m a friend.”
Thomas Helling looks up timidly at The Poetry Predator. “My name is Thomas?” he asks.
“Yes, it is. You were in an accident, but I’m here to look after you.”
“Who are you?” Thomas asks.
“I’m an old friend, Thomas,” The Poetry Predator says, sitting down on the bed beside Thomas. “Your accident left you with some memory loss.”
The Poetry Predator goes to brush Thomas’ hair again, but Thomas retreats, forcing his body into a tighter ball.
“I know you don’t remember me, Thomas, but I am your friend. I’m here to take you to a place where you can be looked after.” The Poetry Predator reaches for Thomas’ arm, but Thomas pushes away.
“No!” Thomas screams. “Don’t touch me!”
“Come on now, Thomas. Be a good boy.”
Thomas lets out another scream as The Poetry Predator reaches for him again. Without warning, The Poetry Predator pulls a syringe out of his pocket and jabs it into Thomas’ thigh.
“There’s no point struggling, Thomas. You can’t stay here.”
Now unconscious, Thomas is dragged by The Poetry Predator out of the caravan. The only light illuminating the night sky is from a streetlight in the distance.
After dragging Thomas into the backseat of Cathy Gilmore’s car and throwing a blanket over him, The Poetry Predator starts the car and steers it slowly to the exit of the caravan park. The streets of Peppercorn Patch are empty, and the car is manoeuvred through the quiet town.
“Say goodbye Thomas,” Doctor Peter Smith says to his sleeping passenger. “Say goodbye to Peppercorn Patch.”
“Let’s heal this poor girl from her pain and confusion,” Miranda Smart says. “Let’s pray that she recovers from her sickness.”
Kelly Driver suddenly feels the congregation in front of her throwing water at her.
“This holy water will wash away your sins!” Reginald Smart exclaims. “You have corrupted our wholesome daughter and you will now be accountable for your actions!”
“Let go of me!” Kelly screams.
In the firelight, Kelly can suddenly see a familiar face materialise. Father Bolton, the town’s local priest, moves in close to her.
“Father,” Reginald says, “we’re so glad you came. You need to help this girl attest to her sins!”
“What is this girl accused of?” the young priest asks.
“Homosexuality,” Miranda replies. “Spreading her evil ways.”
“Why, this is indeed an evil act!” Father Bolton declares, grabbing a hold of his rosary beads.
“Yes, Father,” Reginald says. “That’s why we called you here. You need to expunge this wicked girl of her sins.”
Father Bolton grips Kelly Driver’s arm firmly and ushers Miranda and Reginald to take a seat. “I’ll take over from here,” he tells them.
Kelly looks up at the priest and struggles for a moment. She realises his grip is too strong.
“Heavenly Father,” Father Bolton begins to say aloud, “please forgive these poor people for their sins.” Suddenly Father Bolton pulls Kelly in close to him. “Run!” he whispers to her, releasing his grip.
Kelly runs as fast as she can.
Behind her she can hear the local priest: “Forgive them, Father! For they do not know what they are doing!”
She runs and runs.
“You will leave this town,” she can hear Father Bolton reprimanding the members of ‘The Family’, “and never return! You are the sinners here and you are no longer welcome!”
Nine Months Ago
Doctor Peter Smith drives the car further and further away from Peppercorn Patch. Where he drives there are no streetlights and it is pitch dark outside.
“I would have loved to have gotten to know you better Thomas,” he says, looking at a sleeping Thomas Helling in the rearview mirror, “but you went and messed a lot of things up.”
Doctor Smith shifts gears and manoeuvres the car onto the side of the road and proceeds to head along the forest’s fire track. The car thumps over fallen branches.
“Do you know that Joanne is my daughter?” he asks, working hard to keep the car on the track. “I may have been a little overprotective, but I needed to look after her.”
Thomas makes a grunting noise from the backseat.
“I know, I know,” Doctor Smith adds, “you are my biological son. I was looking after your best interests too, but when you attacked Joanne, you crossed the line.”
Thomas starts to stir from his sleep.
“There was no way you could ever be with Joanne anyway,” Doctor Smith continues. “I mean, what would the neighbours say?”
Thomas tries to sit up.
“Just imagine!” Doctor Smith laughs, quietly at first, then hysterically. “Thomas Helling in love with his sister!”
“Where am I?” Thomas asks, groggily.
“You’re at the end, dear Thomas,” Doctor Smith replies, stopping the car and facing his passenger.
Thomas puts a hand to his head and blinks his eyes a few times, attempting to fix his blurry vision.
“I created you, Thomas,” Doctor Smith says, pulling a pair of pliers from his pocket, “and some things need to come to an end.”
“Hello, Father,” Kelly says from her hospital bed. “Thanks for visiting.”
“Of course,” Father Bolton says to Kelly. “That’s what friends are for.” He places a hand on her leg and Kelly thinks he can hear him praying for her.
Kelly looks at the kind man in front of her and grabs his hand. “You know,” she says, pulling him closer to her, “I consider you my own father.”
“And you a daughter to me.” Father Bolton smiles down at Kelly.
“When my real parents decided to leave Peppercorn Patch I thought I would never survive,” Kelly says. “When they up and left with ‘The Family’ I knew where my real home was.”
“Peppercorn Patch,” Father Bolton says.
“Yes,” Kelly agrees. “I could never leave with them. I realised they didn’t value me as much as they did that evil cult they belonged to.”
“I’m sorry your parents abandoned you, Kelly,” Father Bolton expresses his disappointment.
“I’m glad you took me in, Father,” Kelly says. “You more than made up for my parents.”
Father Bolton squeezes Kelly’s hand.
“I just wish Henry had the same opportunity as me,” Kelly adds. “Not a day goes by when I don’t think about what might have happened to her.”
Father Bolton squeezes Kelly’s hand even tighter.
“Kelly, my dear child,” Father Bolton says, grabbing a hold of his rosary beads, “it may be a shock to you, but I know what happened to Henrietta Smart.”
“Father?” Kelly is suddenly incredulous.
“I know what happened to her, Kelly,” Father Bolton reiterates.
Cathy Gilmore exits the hospital room of one of her patients and heads to the nurse’s station. She grabs out another cookie from the carton of cookies that her husband had sent her.
“You don’t look too well,” a nursing colleague informs her.
“I’ve just been busy today, that’s all,” Cathy says, taking a bite of the cookie. “I haven’t eaten lunch yet, so these will have to do.” She grabs another cookie from the carton and shoves it into her mouth before hurrying to her next patient.
As she reaches the door of her next patient, Cathy suddenly feels ill. She grabs a hold of her stomach; it pulsating with a stabbing pain. Nauseous, Cathy grabs a hold of the wall to keep herself upright. The room around her spins. She retches violently and vomits all over the hospital corridor’s floor, before collapsing and sending her work colleagues into a panic.
As the car rounds the next corner, the couple can see a hitchhiker on the side of the road. Joseph slows the car down.
“What are you doing?” Anna-Maree asks.
“We should give them a lift,” Joseph suggests. “We’re starting over, remember?”
Anna-Maree sighs silently. She feels unsure of picking up a hitchhiker, but trusts her husband.
“Where are you heading?” Joseph asks the hitchhiker.
“Jump in back. That’s where we’re headed,” Joseph instructs.
The hitchhiker lugs a backpack into the backseat and climbs in after it, quickly securing the bullets that begin to escape from the side pocket.
“You heading to Peppercorn Patch for work or pleasure?” Anna-Maree asks their passenger.
“Kinda both,” the hitchhiker replies, “I used to live there.”
“Well we’re moving there, so maybe you can show us around,” Joseph suggests.
“I’ll be too busy reacquainting myself,” the hitchhiker declares, slightly annoyed by the interrogation.
“Oh, I bet you’re looking forward to catching up with old friends, then,” Anna-Maree says.
“Yes, I can’t wait,” Thomas Helling replies, patting the handgun in his pocket. “I can’t wait.”
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