[11th sign of the zodiac; individuals of the zodiac – detached and unpredictable]
Michael Anders steps up to the front door. He peers inside the window to see if he can see any sign of life inside the house. The place looks like it hadn’t been lived in for quite some time, which isn’t a surprise given the letterbox is overflowing with unopened mail.
Michael walks around the front verandah of Amber Harp’s Holgate house. He had managed to find out where she had once lived with her husband and son, and hoped that he might be able to find her here. It didn’t look like they had returned yet. Michael was at a loss. He really wanted to find Amber Harp, for he feared that she was in danger. He pulls the crumpled handwritten note that she had secretly given him out of his pocket and reads it again: It’s all a lie. I’m in grave danger. Please come find me.
Pulling a tool out of his back pocket, Michael pushes it into the back door’s keyhole. He gives the tool a few turns before hearing the click of the bolt opening. A trick he picked up in his time as a police officer.
Stepping inside the house, Michael hopes that there will be something he will be able to find that will point to the location of his missing lover. “Where are you, Amber?” he says to himself as he looks around the still and quiet house. A slight musty smell fills the air. Michael reasons that the house must have been closed up for some time.
Michael steps into the kitchen and opens the fridge. It is almost empty, apart from a few containers of food and vegetables, which now sport an array of mould and other living things. A foul smell quickly escapes the cool tomb and fills the air. Michael holds his breath and slams the fridge door closed, trying hard not to gag.
Moving to the front of the house, Michael locates what looks like a study. He enters the room and sees a number of university degrees adorning the wall. Amber Harp, they read. Bachelor of Communication and Journalism. Amber’s study.
Michael looks at the neatly arranged items on the desk. The pens are neatly stored in a cup on the desk’s corner. The folders holding Amber’s investigative research are neatly stacked. Just as I remember Amber, Michael thinks to himself. He remembered her as someone who was neat and organised, forever chastising him for his sometimes careless manner. She had even helped him organise his desk in the Peppercorn Patch Police Station once, though the organisation that she had achieved for him didn’t seem to last long. His desk may have looked a little like a warzone at times, he had told her, however it was more organised chaos than anything else. He always claimed to know where all the files were that he needed.
Amber Harp and Michael’s relationship had begun a little under two years ago. As the sergeant of Peppercorn Police he had been responsible for investigating the murder of Joanne Evans’ husband, Richard. A crime reporter for the newspaper, The Holgate Times, Amber had arrived in Peppercorn Patch to cover the story. Not long after that, Joanne started to receive threatening letters in the form of poetry, leading to her eventual capture. Michael and Amber were there, assisting each other with the investigation and the subsequent unmasking of the Poetry Predator.
Amber and Michael became more than just colleagues. More than just friends. They fell in love.
That was until Amber was attacked one night. Her attacker fled in the cover of darkness, leaving Amber with a head injury which left her with a permanent injury – seizures would most probably plague her for the rest of her life.
Michael didn’t know for sure who had attacked Amber, but he had his suspicions. Amber had been adamant that his deputy, Leading Senior Constable Kyle Cook, was somehow involved in the murder of Joanne Evans’ husband, Richard. Michael had wondered whether Kyle could have attacked Amber, knowing that she was getting too close to his secret.
Michael opens the desk drawer and looks inside at the neatly arranged items. He notices an envelope and pulls it out. Amber’s name is handwritten on the front. He opens the envelope and pulls out its contents. A handwritten letter rests in his fingertips.
18 months ago
Amber Harp had been in Peppercorn Patch much longer than she had originally planned. After the murder of her husband, Steven Harp, Amber had sought revenge. She wanted to bring the person or people responsible for her husband’s murder to justice.
When she had heard of the murder of Richard Evans, she had jumped quickly on the case, convincing her boss, the editor of The Holgate Times, to let her travel to Peppercorn Patch to cover the story. What she had neglected to tell anyone was her true intentions.
It was the threatening letter that had really brought her to Peppercorn Patch. The letter that had been sent to her which threatened her family if she continued with the investigation that she had been undertaking. It was a handwritten letter that had been imprinted on Amber’s memory. She could never forget it, especially once her husband had been murdered. No one would want to mess with her again. She swore she would seek vengeance for her husband. All she had to do was follow the clues. And the biggest clue of all had been on the envelope.
Michael Anders reads the letter for the second time, noting something familiar about the way it was written. It was something that he had seen before.
He puts the letter down and inspects the envelope again. He screams out in horror as he finally sees it, throwing the envelope as far away from him as possible.
18 months ago
Yes, Amber Harp had stayed much longer than she had originally planned to. She had no doubts about who had murdered her husband and was biding her time, waiting for the opportune time to strike.
In the meantime, she had also become deep in the investigation of Richard Evans’ death and was certain she knew who the real killer was.
Amber stood at the gravesite of Benjamin Pickering, the flashlight she held illuminating the headstone. She couldn’t help but think of what the site looked like only a few short months earlier. Benjamin Pickering’s body had been dug up and burned in a fire at the local high school. Everyone assumed it was Thomas Helling.
“He couldn’t have done this by himself,” Amber said to herself. “There’s no way he could have dug this grave up and pulled out a body on his own.”
Amber heard the sound of the leaves rustling. She shone her flashlight up into the tree.
The attack came unexpectedly from behind.
The deafening crack of a metal object smashing into Amber’s skull echoed through the cemetery.
Amber’s attacker ran off into the darkness.
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. Peppercorn Patch Hospital. Michael now understood who had attacked Amber.
18 months ago
Amber instinctively reached for the back of her head, collapsing to the ground from the force of the blow. The baseball bat used to attack her rested on the grass next to her. Her head throbbed as she tried to call out for help, but no sound escaped. As she drifted in and out of consciousness, Amber could see a figure running off in the distance.
Amber recognised her attacker. Amber recognised her husband’s killer.
Amber recognised Doctor Peter Smith.
Next Episode – Monday June 12
Episode Illustration by Grey Alexander
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