Episode Sixteen

Thunder and Lightning

Joanne Evans sits in the wheelchair next to her aunty, Valerie Pickering. Before them, the principal of Peppercorn Patch High School stands in front of the newly rebuilt school library. A small gathering of locals is in attendance to see the plaque unveiled and the new library dedicated to one of the school’s teachers, the late Richard Evans. The historic building had been completely destroyed as a result of the fire that took hold of it three months earlier.

“Richard Evans,” the principal, Alicia Davies-Crampton, addresses the small crowd, “will always be fondly remembered as a dedicated educator, great friend and colleague, and tireless campaigner for improving the resources for our small town. It is with great honour that I dedicate this new library in his name.”

The plaque unveiled by the principal shows the name of the new library; The Richard Evans Resource Centre.

Joanne can’t help but feel proud of her late husband. He had been the inspiration for her career choice. She too had decided to enter the teaching profession, and also taught at the high school.

After the small ceremony, Alicia Davies-Crampton approaches Joanne. “It’s so good to see you, Joanne,” she says. “I’m sure the students would love to see you back here soon.”

Joanne hadn’t returned to work since her attack. She wasn’t sure when she could return.

“I’m sure they would. I’m just not sure I’m ready,” Joanne replies.

“Of course, of course. You take all the time you need,” Principal Davies-Crampton says.

Joanne’s mind drifts as the principal and her Aunty Val strike up a conversation. She looks to the building and can’t help but shake the horror that she knows her husband must have endured at the hands of Thomas Helling.

Suddenly, as if out of nowhere, she sees a flash of red. In the distance, beyond the crowd, she can see the woman who once claimed that she was Joanne’s mother. There was no mistaking her bright red hair.

“Excuse me,” Joanne says as she wheels herself away from her aunty and the principal. “I just need to go and see someone.”

Joanne wheels her chair across the pavement in the direction of the woman. She can see the woman standing behind a tree.

“Hello!” Joanne calls out to the woman. She wheels the chair even faster, trying to catch up with the mysterious woman.

By the time that Joanne reaches the tree, however, there is no one in sight. The woman in red had disappeared again.

“Amber Harp,” Amber introduces herself to Constance Helling.

“And what does a Holgate Times reporter want from me?” Constance inquires.

“I’m doing a story for The Holgate Times about Joanne Evans.”

“I have nothing to say about her,” Constance says.

“What about your son, Thomas?” Amber probes the large woman.

“What about him?” Constance snaps. “He’s in a coma. Leave the poor boy alone!”

“But he did attack Joanne, and he killed Richard Evans.”

Constance stares at Amber before looking away defeated. “He was never the same after his accident,” Constance concedes. “I can’t explain his actions.”

Amber smiles gently at Constance. “I can understand how traumatic this must be for you as his mother.”

“I still love my son,” Constance says. “And I still can’t believe everything that has been said about him.”

Amber grabs hold of Constance’s hand. “Do you want to know what I think?”

Constance looks at Amber quizzically. “What?” she asks.

“I don’t believe Thomas acted alone.”

Joanne wheels herself to the front door of Doctor Peter Smith’s house. The doctor had been a great support to Joanne throughout her recovery, as well as helping her to deal with her loss.

Before Joanne is able to knock on the front door, it quickly swings inwards. Doctor Peter Smith smiles down at Joanne. “I heard the wheelchair. Bloody noisy. Do you ever have to oil those things?”

Joanne laughs as Doctor Smith guides Joanne and her wheelchair into his office in the front room of the house.

“How was today?” the doctor asks as he seats himself behind his desk.

“Better than I thought, actually,” Joanne replies. “I thought it was very fitting to name the library in Richard’s honour.”

“You must be proud,” Doctor Smith says. “I hear your physio sessions are going well. You’ll be up and walking in no time.”

“A slow, painful process. But I’m determined.”

“How are the nightmares?” Doctor Smith asks.

“Nightmarish,” Joanne replies.

“They’ll disappear in time,” Doctor Smith promises Joanne. “You’ve been through a traumatic event.”

Joanne looks at the doctor, thinking about the real reason she has come to visit him.

“You’re the doctor who delivered me, aren’t you?” she asks Doctor Smith.

“Yes, Joanne,” Doctor Smith replies. “I’ve known you your whole life.”

“What happened to my mother?” Joanne cuts to the chase.

“Joanne, I don’t think it’s a good idea to be discussing this right now, particularly with your fragile state of mind.”

“Please tell me.”

“I wish I could have done more. It was a terrible accident,” Doctor Smith lowers his head in sadness and rubs his temples with his fingertips.

“So my mother died?”

“Yes, Joanne,” the doctor says. “I tried to save her. Please believe me. I tried to save your mother, but there was nothing I could do.”

It is late by the time Joanne returns home to her aunty’s house. Her aunty was working late at The Grand Hotel, but had left Joanne dinner in the fridge. For Joanne, it seems strange after all these years that her aunty would be cooking for her. Growing up, Joanne had become used to doing all the cooking, as her aunt would often be too intoxicated.

These days, however, Joanne was proud of her aunt. Valerie Pickering was attending Alcoholics Anonymous and hadn’t had a drink for almost three months. She had decided to get herself in check ever since Joanne was attacked. Joanne couldn’t think of anyone better to help in her recovery than her aunt. In a way, they were helping each other.

Sitting down to eat her dinner, Joanne notices the pile of mail on the dining room table. She sifts through the pile of bills before spotting an envelope with her name handwritten on the front.

Curious, Joanne rips the envelope open and pulls out the piece of paper inside. She reads the handwritten letter.

She reads it again.

And again.

Shaking, she dials the number for Sergeant Michael Anders’ mobile phone.

“Sergeant,” Joanne nervously says to the police officer when he answers. “I received another letter.”

“From Thomas?” Michael Anders asks.

“It can’t be from Thomas. It must be somebody else.”

Joanne reads the handwritten letter to the police officer:

Mary had a little lamb,
His throat was sure as slit.
And everywhere that Mary went,
She was sure to be haunted by it.

Next Episode – Monday June 15

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