Episode Nineteen


“Sergeant Anders!” Amber Harp runs after the police sergeant as he walks briskly towards the police station. “Sergeant Anders! I just want to have a word with you!”

Sergeant Michael Anders pauses briefly, turning to face The Holgate Times reporter. “Ms Harp, I can’t talk now! I’m busy!”

As Sergeant Anders heads off towards the police station, Amber follows him. Her high-heeled shoes rap along the uneven paved footpath. “I just need to know, Sergeant,” she calls out after him.

“Ms Harp, not now! Please!” Sergeant Anders is starting to lose his patience with the reporter.

“Is it true?” she persists. “Is Thomas Helling really missing?”

Sergeant Anders stops suddenly and faces Amber. “Who told you?”

“So it’s true?” Amber brushes the brown fringe out of her face.

“I told you I can’t talk,” Sergeant Anders turns to walk off again. “I’m busy.”

As Amber starts to run after him, one of the heels off her shoes breaks loose and she almost falls to the ground. She curses under her breath before reaching down and pulling the shoe off her foot. “This town is no longer safe, Sergeant Anders!” she calls out to him. “With Thomas Helling out on the loose, no one is safe here!”

She sees Michael Anders disappear through the entrance of the police station without looking back.

Sergeant Michael Anders races into the police station and heads straight to Senior Constable Kyle Cook’s desk. “Any news?” he asks Kyle.

“Sorry, Serg. Nothing yet,” Kyle says. “No reports of anyone seeing Thomas.”

“He can’t have just disappeared! Someone must have seen him, or knows something!”

“I’ll keep making calls,” Kyle says as he reaches to pick up the telephone. “I’ll try Constance Helling again. Maybe she’s heard something since the last time you spoke with her.”

Sergeant Anders just nods his head and turns to walk away. He suddenly sees the front door of the police station swing open.

“Sergeant!” he can hear Valerie Pickering scream out. “It’s Joanne!”

Sergeant Anders rushes over to Valerie as she collapses in his arms. Tears are streaming down her face.

“What about Joanne?” he asks her.

“I can’t find her,” Valerie continues to cry. “I went to wake her this morning and she was gone. I’ve tried calling her…”

“Val!” Sergeant Anders attempts to calm the woman down. “I’m sure she’s fine.”

Valerie stops crying and faces the police officer. She brushes the tears off her face with her hand. “She’s not fine,” Valerie sniffs. “Thomas has her!”

Councillor Dustin Harris steps up to the front door of Helling House, the house high up on the hill overlooking the town of Peppercorn Patch. He tucks the folder he is holding under his left arm, takes a deep breath and knocks on the freshly painted door. He waits for a moment before hearing the latch of the door being unlocked.

“Have you heard anything about Thomas?” Constance Helling says as she opens the door and sees the mayor.

“No,” Dustin replies. He sees a worried looking woman. He senses that she probably hasn’t slept since being told her son had disappeared. “I’m sorry, I haven’t.”

Constance lets out a big sigh as she tightens the dressing gown she is wearing around her waist. “What do you want?”

For a moment, Dustin Harris sees Constant Hell, the woman that most residents of the town despise. A heavy set woman in her fifties, Constance Helling has always made her presence known. An ascendant of the famous Helling family, she would always try to assert her authority, even when most of the time she had none. Her sharp tongue and imposing figure made many fear her, something she quite liked. Dustin Harris did not scare easily.

“I’m curious,” Dustin smiles wryly at the woman in front of him. “Why are you so interested in finding out about those bodies?”

Constance rolls her eyes, irritated. “I found the newspaper reports, that’s all. I wanted to see for myself.”

“That was all? Nothing else?” Dustin presses.

“No. Now if you don’t mind, Councillor Harris,” Constance says, starting to close the door, “my son has gone missing. I have other things to worry about right now.”

Before Constance is able to fully close the door, Dustin pushes the folder he is holding towards her. “I thought this might interest you.”

“What is it?” Constance grabs the folder and looks quizzically at the elderly mayor.

“Take a look for yourself.”

Constance opens up the folder. On a single piece of paper inside the envelope, she can see a photocopy of a birth certificate.

“How did you get this?” Constance snaps at Dustin.

“I thought you might be interested,” he smiles again. “Now you know where she was born.”

“This is my grandmother’s birth certificate,” Constance says. “Why do I need this?”

“You tell me,” Dustin winks at Constance. “Let the fun begin.”

Kelly Driver, the park ranger, stands on the bank of the Helling River. Next to her, Sergeant Anders stands looking out into the middle of the river.

“This is the exact location that Thomas’ car plunged into the river,” Sergeant Anders says to Kelly. “Seven years ago.”

Kelly says nothing, but looks out as a police diver enters the middle of the river. She had noticed something caught on some tree logs and had informed Sergeant Anders immediately.

“Joanne wouldn’t have been able to swim yet,” Kelly looks up at Sergeant Anders. He returns her look with a grim face.

Next to them, a tow truck noisily works its pulley. It pulls aggressively at a metal object in the middle of the river, prying it from its resting place under the logs.

Kelly Driver and Sergeant Anders look on as the object is dragged from the river.

“This doesn’t look good,” Kelly sighs heavily.

Before them, they see the metal object hit the river bank and the tow truck stops pulling. Sergeant Anders looks on in disbelief as he sees Joanne’s wheelchair resting on top of the black water.

Next Episode – Monday July 6

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