Episode Seventy-One


Avoid Spoilers! Read from Episode One

[The 12th sign of the zodiac; victimised and moody]

Michael Anders catches his breath, still reeling from his realised horror. He watches as the envelope falls to the floor, the business name printed on the front of it burning into his mind. Peppercorn Patch Hospital. Michael now understood who had attacked Amber.

Doctor Peter Smith.

How had he not seen it earlier? The letter that was written to Amber Harp threatening her and her family was poetic in style – all the hallmarks of The Poetry Predator.

Had Doctor Peter Smith also murdered Amber’s husband, Steven Harp? Was that the real reason Amber was in Peppercorn Patch – hunting down her husband’s killer? Michael Anders was desperate to find answers so that he could locate Amber and protect her.

He buries his head in his hands, trying to think about what to do next.

The stillness of the empty house is suddenly interrupted as the sound of someone knocking on the front door echoes hauntingly through it. Michael jumps, startled. His heart almost stops beating. He heads timidly to the front door.

He peers through the front window to get a glimpse of his guest, before opening the front door in a wave of confusion. “What the hell are you doing here?”

Joanne Evans looks around the small room again. It is empty apart from a desk and three chairs, all of which had seen better days. The walls, painted a light green colour, needed some attention. She could see a few expletives etched into the table, and wouldn’t be surprised if the underside of the table was a wasteland of expired chewing gum. She didn’t want to look, and dared not feel under the table.

Her lawyer had been taking what felt like a lifetime. She had been stuck in here for most of the morning, waiting for her trial to start. The small waiting room in the courthouse was her current prison. Before long she would know whether a prison sentence was in her future.

Her friend, Cathy Gilmore, had been to the courthouse earlier in the day and had delivered Joanne a change of clothes for the trial. The light purple jacket and matching skirt would supposedly make Joanne appear feminine, but also the right balance of powerful and vulnerable, or so her lawyer had told her. She was willing to try anything, for she had been charged with a serious crime. She was looking at a life of imprisonment if she was found guilty of the murder of Leading Senior Constable Kyle Cook.

She hadn’t worried so much about the prospect of being in prison for the rest of her life before – besides she had pulled the trigger and killed Kyle Cook. She had been prepared to take responsibility for her crime, so long as her son, Ricky, was well looked after, and she knew that Cathy Gilmore would see to that. However, she was worrying now. Ever since the recent acquittal of her biological father, Doctor Peter Smith, she knew that she couldn’t go to prison. She had to get out and protect her loved ones from that demented psychopath. She knew he would stop at nothing to continue destroying the lives of those around him.

She was so angry that it had all come to this.

“What the hell are you doing here?” Michael Anders says as he opens the front door of Amber Harp’s house.

His uninvited guest looks up at him. A relieved look on her face.

“How did you find me here?” Michael continues to ask.

Valerie Pickering steps up to Michael Anders and pulls his hands in to hers. She pulls them up to her face and a tear falls down her cheek. “It’s so good to see you, Sergeant Anders.”

“Val, I don’t understand…” Michael begins.

“Neither do I,” Valerie admits. “It’s these hallucinations I’ve been having. Ever since the kidney transplant I’ve been having these weird premonitions.”

Michael suddenly puts one of his hands onto his lower back. He swears he can feel where the kidney was taken out begin to ache.

“We have a connection,” Valerie continues. “Maybe because of the kidney, maybe more.”

“Your premonitions led you here?” Michael asks, still bewildered.

“Yes, my sweet child,” Valerie says, now taking a hold of Michael’s face. “I dreamt that I would find you here.”

“But why did you come?”

“It’s not me who needs you,” Valerie offers. “Joanne is on trial for killing Kyle. She needs your support right now. You should come back with me so she has a friend to help her through this.”

Michael sighs sympathetically, closing his eyes. “I wish I could do more,” Michael says. “But I really need to stay here and keep looking for Amber. I’m sorry about Joanne.”

“That was the other reason I came,” Valerie offers.

“I don’t follow.”

“I also had a premonition about Amber,” Valerie tells him.

“You know where she is?” Michael asks excitedly.

“Not exactly,” Valerie says, “but I might be able to help.”

“I fear she is in danger. I think Doctor Smith is responsible for attacking her and maybe even killing her husband,” Michael explains.

“That was the premonition I had about Amber,” Valerie confesses. “Doctor Smith was acquitted and released from prison. Now he’s out there looking for her, too.”

“We have to find her before he does!” Michael asserts.

The door to the small court waiting room creaks open and Joanne sees an unsuspecting face enter the room.

“What are you doing here?” Joanne asks, puzzled.

Doctor Joel Prasad pulls out a chair and takes a seat next to Joanne. “I’m here for support. How are you holding up?”

“I want this all to be over,” Joanne tells Peppercorn Patch’s newest doctor. “I just want to go home and pretend none of this ever happened.”

“I know it must be hard,” Joel says, putting a comforting hand on Joanne’s. “I just wanted to say that you have the support of a lot of people. You have a lot of friends that care about you.”

Joanne puts her free hand over Joel’s. “I know.” She attempts a smile.

“If you ever need anything when you return home, I’m more than happy to help out,” Joel tells Joanne.

“That’s if I ever do get to go home,” Joanne sighs. “I’ll probably be stuck inside a prison, while the real monster, Doctor Smith, will be out there doing God knows what!”

Joel Prasad stands, pulling Joanne up with him as he does so. He leads her towards the door without saying a word.

“What are you doing?” Joanne says. “Where are we going?”

Joel pushes the door open, turns to face Joanne and gives her a big smile. “Home. I’m taking you home.”

“What are you on about?” Joanne’s heart is racing.

“You’re free to go home, Joanne,” Joel informs her. “The charges against you have been dropped.”

Joanne nearly collapses to the floor with the news. Joel tries hard to hold her up. “I don’t understand…” she stutters.

“Thomas Helling walked into the courthouse just moments ago and gave himself in,” Joel explains. “He’s just been charged with the murder of Kyle Cook.”

Next Episode – Monday June 19

Theme Music Composed by Ian Camilleri Music

Episode Illustration by Grey Alexander
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