Episode Seventy-Four

Avoid Spoilers! Read from Episode One

[The 3rd sign of the zodiac; The Twins]

17 years ago

Heather Strong had lived in Holgate for ten years with her family before her daughter became ill. Phoebe Strong was 10 years old when she was diagnosed with a brain tumour. She had been showing symptoms for a few months before her mother finally took her to a doctor to be looked at.

“We’ve run some blood tests,” the doctor said to Heather and Christian Strong. “I’m afraid they show some inconsistencies.”

“What do you mean by inconsistencies?” Christian Strong asked.

“Is Phoebe adopted?” the doctor asked.

“No, I gave birth to her!” Heather replied, scoffing at the doctor’s questioning.

“I don’t think that’s possible, given these results.” The doctor looks at the couple, confounded.

The night of the full moon

“I got confused and mixed up the babies,” Constance Helling sobs to Anna-Maree Axe. “Joanne Evans is your real daughter!”

“I knew it!” Anna-Maree screams angrily at Constance. “All this time you had been denying the truth!”

“I was so ashamed,” Constance cries. “By the time I realised what I’d done, it was too late. You had already left Peppercorn Patch with your husband and daughter, and Benjamin Pickering had just lost his wife. I couldn’t go and tear the one thing he had left away from him.”

“But these children,” Anna-Maree shouts, “you left them without their real families!”

“I know,” Constance sobs again hysterically, “I’m a terrible person.”

17 years ago

“What does the doctor mean by Phoebe not being our biological child?” Christian Strong asks his wife, Heather Strong, once they step out of the doctor’s office.

“I’m sure it’s just a mistake,” Heather tells him. “I’ll call the hospital in Peppercorn Patch straight away and get this sorted out. They’ll be able to send me a record of Phoebe’s birth certificate.”

The night of the full moon

“When Phoebe was sick,” Anna-Maree berates Constance, “I rang you to find out why the doctor told us there were inconsistencies with our genetic material.”

“I remember,” Constance murmurs.

“You told me that everything was fine!” Anna-Maree says emotionally. “You said there must have been a mix up with the tests the doctor had conducted!”

“I know.”

“I asked you for records from the hospital, but you said they had all been destroyed!” Anna-Maree scolds Constance. “Now I know who destroyed them!”

“I’m sorry,” Constance howls. “Please forgive me! I’m sorry!”

17 years ago

“You mean to tell me that you can’t prove that Phoebe is our daughter?” Christian Strong says to his wife.

“The hospital’s records have been destroyed,” Heather Strong informs him.

“Phoebe is not our daughter?”

“She’s our daughter, Christian.” Heather Strong tries to placate her frustrated husband. “She’ll always be our daughter.”

Without saying another word, Christian Strong turns his back on his wife and walks out of the house. That same afternoon, he checked himself into the hospital for mental illness patients; Holgate Bedlamites.

10 years ago

Heather Strong had spent many years adapting. Adapting to her husband’s rapid spiral into depression and disappearance. She was now making of life what she could. She realised that life was too short to have regrets, and she never again made contact with Christian Strong.

She had survived. Heather Strong had survived her husband’s sudden departure. She had also survived the anguish of watching her daughter struggle.

Phoebe Strong had also survived.

Phoebe Strong, now 17 years old, had survived her brain tumour ordeal. Luckily, her life had been spared. She had been through so much herself and felt mentally much older than her biological age. Phoebe, like her mother, hadn’t had contact with her father. She felt somewhat angered by the fact that her mother wouldn’t allow her to see her father.

“Phoebe, honey,” Heather would say to her daughter, “your father ran off years ago. I have no idea where he is now.”

“I want to know him. I want to see him,” Phoebe would say.

“It’s a waste of time, honey,” Heather would confide in her daughter. “He wasn’t here for you when you needed him most. He ran off and wasn’t the father he should’ve been.”

The night of the full moon

“All Phoebe wanted was to see her dad,” Anna-Maree sits down on the grass next to Constance Helling. The moonlight casts a bright glimmer across the river in front of them. “I never expected that their eventual encounter would lead to so much torment.”

“Torment?” Constance asks.

“When Phoebe finally tracked her father down in Holgate Bedlamites, he had been a patient for many years,” Anna-Maree explains. “He wasn’t the same person anymore.”

“You’ve had much heartache,” Constance puts her hand on Anna-Maree’s knee, attempting to reach out to her old friend.

“Phoebe went there expecting to reunite with her father,” Anna-Maree continues, “only to find the shell of the man once known as Christian Strong. He confessed everything to her, telling her that she was not our biological daughter.”

Constance closes her eyes, a stream of tears still managing to pour down her face.

“Phoebe was already mentally unbalanced,” Anna-Maree adds. “The years of surgery for her brain tumour had resulted in her own mental illness battles. She reacted to the news badly, thinking that I had betrayed her by not telling her the truth. Shortly after that, she faked her own death and framed me for her murder.”

“Why did Christian ultimately confess to Phoebe’s murder?” Constance asks, bewildered.

“I guess he felt guilty,” Anna-Maree explains. “Maybe he thought that it was his fault for Phoebe reacting the way that she did.”

“I see.”

“In any case, I will fight to free Christian from his wrongful conviction. Phoebe was never killed. She’s alive and well, and I know she’s been here recently. Phoebe changed her name to Melody Walker not long after Christian was convicted and she’s been on the run ever since. I need to find her so that she can get the help she needs!”

“Whatever I can do to help,” Constance offers.

Anna-Maree turns to face Constance. “If we don’t find her soon, I’m afraid more people will be seriously injured, or even killed!”

Present Day

Melody Walker looks down at the town of Peppercorn Patch from her vantage point high up on the hill.

As she looks at the town, she reflects on the carnage. It wasn’t her fault, of course, that she had been driven to kill.

When she thought her life was finally back on track after changing her name from Phoebe Strong and framing her mother for her murder, things had taken a turn for the worse.

Her lover, Mark Gilmore, had to go running back to his stupid wife, Cathy Gilmore, after she had been abducted by The Poetry Predator.

Cathy Gilmore, of course, had to pay the ultimate price.

Melody had screwed up the first opportunity she had to kill Cathy when the bullets from the rifle nearly killed the park ranger, Kelly Driver, instead.

The poisoned cookies she delivered to Cathy almost killer her, however she somehow managed to survive that attack too.

She had to resort to killing a whole lot of people just to get her revenge. When she placed the explosive device in The Grand Hotel on the evening of the beauty pageant, she knew that it would cause destruction, but it wasn’t her fault – she had been forced into a corner and she had to act!

When the dust settled and she found out that Mark Gilmore was the ultimate victim, she was surprisingly satisfied. After all, he had betrayed her love.

Now it was time to take revenge on anyone else that had betrayed her.

“I want to see her!” Michael Anders demands.

“You can’t,” Olivia says. “Amber’s in witness protection. She’s in hiding!”

“I want to know that she’s safe!” Michael says, becoming emotional at the thought of his lover, Amber Harp, being alone.

“Trust me,” Olivia declares, “she’s safe now. You don’t need to worry about her. She’s safe.”

Amber Harp sits on the bed with her son, Drake. Outside the locked bedroom door she can hear voices. The murmurs are too low for her to make out who is talking, but she can tell someone is at the front door.

She holds her ten-year-old son close to her. How she had missed seeing him all this time. Now she just hoped it was in different circumstances and she wasn’t a prisoner.

The bedroom window had been boarded up from the outside which meant the room was in constant darkness. Amber had no concept of time and she was beginning to feel defeated.

Her sister, Olivia, had tricked her. By the time Amber realised that the man claiming to be Steven Harp wasn’t her husband, it was too late. She was so confused at the time due to the seizures. She still suffered some memory loss.

Besides, when Olivia’s husband, Andy, threatened that he would hurt her son if she didn’t leave with him, she knew she had no choice. She just hoped that the note that she left Michael Anders would be enough. She was hopeful that he would find her one day.

It’s all a lie. I’m in grave danger. Please come find me.

In the meantime, she would remain a prisoner in her sister’s house.

Michael Anders pulls his car into Valerie Pickering’s driveway. They had decided to make the return trip to Peppercorn Patch once they had been informed that Amber Harp was now safe in witness protection. They had also had news that Joanne Evans had been acquitted from Kyle Cook’s murder trial. They were both eager to return.

“Thank you for helping out,” Michael says to Valerie as she opens the passenger door.

“It’s the least I could do after what you did for me,” Valerie replies, referring to the kidney that Michael had donated to Valerie’s recent transplant.

“I guess we’ll always have a connection then,” Michael smiles.

Valerie smiles back, before contemplating sullenly. “There’s something I’ve been meaning to tell you.”

“Oh?” Michael says, suddenly curious.

“I’ve wanted to tell you for a long time, only I’ve never quite known how to do it.”

“Valerie, what’s going on?” Michael asks. He looks at Valerie sceptically.

“Well…” Valerie starts. Suddenly, on the outside of the car, Joanne Evans knocks on the window.

Valerie looks out to see toddler Ricky in Joanne’s arms, before wrenching the car door quickly open and hugging her niece. Michael looks on as Joanne leads Valerie into the house, the two reconnecting after a long time apart.

Michael sighs heavily. Valerie had been so close to saying something to him. He throws his head back into the headrest and pushes his eyes closed, trying to hold back tears.

He pulls his wallet out of a pocket and rifles through it, quickly finding the Polaroid picture he had kept in it for as long as he could remember.

Michael Anders unfolds the small picture and looks at the face staring back at him.

He had been given the photo by his foster mother when he was a teenager. It was a photo of his real mother.

Michael Anders looks at the photo of Valerie Pickering. He would do anything for her. He would always look after her.

After all, he had always known the truth about her.

“Joanne Evans!” the courtroom judge yells down at Joanne in the witness stand. “What have you got to say for yourself?”

“I’m not guilty!” Joanne cries.

“I put it to you that you are guilty!” barrister Harvey Dennis suddenly shouts.

“You are guilty, Joanne!” prosecutor Virginia D’Amor chimes in.

“Please, no!” Joanne cries.

“You have to be punished for your crimes, Joanne!” the judge yells. “Your punishment, determined by me, is the removal of your son from your care!”

Joanne suddenly lets out a wail that echoes through the courtroom. “No!”

The judge tries to maintain order of the court by banging his gavel onto the bench repeatedly. Bang. Bang. Bang. Bang.

Joanne is awakened by the sound of banging.

Next to her, Ricky sleeps soundly. She is covered in sweat and realises that she had been having a nightmare.

The banging noise continues as Joanne pulls herself out of bed and heads to the front door, switching on the hallway light as she goes.

Joanne opens the front door and stares in disbelief at the person knocking at her front door.

“I’m so glad that you could join me,” Melody Walker says to the figure approaching her. “What a beautiful sight.”

“It certainly is,” the figure replies. “It’s such a beautiful town. Shame about the people who live in it, though.”

They both look down upon the town of Peppercorn Patch from the clifftop.

Melody Walker turns to face her visitor. She can just make out his face in the darkness. “I’m so happy that you are my real father,” she says to him. “I always knew that I would finally find you.”

“I’m so glad that you found me,” Doctor Peter Smith replies. “You are the daughter I never had – only now I actually do have you.”

They both look down upon the town again.

“This town will pay for what they’ve down to you, Father,” Melody Walker says through gritted teeth. “They will wish they never messed with us!”

“What are you doing here?” Joanne asks her uninvited guest. “At this hour?”

Wendy Evans steps into the house and smiles politely at Joanne.

“If I knew that you were coming…” Joanne says, pulling the dressing gown belt tighter around her waist.

“Please, Joanne,” Wendy interrupts.

Joanne looks at her mother-in-law, confused. Her late husband, Richard, had not spoken to his mother for a while before he had been killed. Wendy could never understand why Richard had moved from Holgate to Peppercorn Patch when he met Joanne.

“What are you doing here Wendy?” Joanne repeats.

“You’ve lied Joanne,” Wendy says coldly. “You haven’t been telling the truth about my son.”

Joanne is speechless. She is unsure of what Richard’s mother is trying to tell her.

“Ricky is already 18 months old and I only just found out that he is Richard’s son?” Wendy fires at Joanne. “Your games are unfair!”

“You don’t understand,” Joanne tries to tell Wendy. “You see, Kyle came onto the scene and…”

“Enough, Joanne,” Wendy exhales. She extracts a signed document from her handbag, pushing it into Joanne’s hands. “A court order allowing me to take custody of Ricky.”

“What?” Joanne tries quickly to skim through the document.

“You’ve been trying to keep my grandson away from me,” Wendy declares. “Well, not anymore. He’s coming home with me tonight.”

The courtroom judge banging his gavel repeatedly on the bench echoes violently through Joanne’s head.

Obnoxious Weeds will return later this year with Season Seven!

Theme Music Composed by Ian Camilleri Music

Episode Illustration by Grey Alexander
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