[The 9th sign of the zodiac; fire]
She clenches her hands together, her fingers intertwining with each other. She can’t help but notice the empty space on the end of each hand where her little fingers should be.
Cathy Gilmore takes a deep breath and takes her position in the witness stand.
Her hands are sweating profusely. She is understandably nervous.
She takes the oath and looks around at the crowded courtroom. She tries not to make eye contact with the accused, Doctor Peter Smith, sitting handcuffed in the dock.
“Please state your name for the court,” the prosecution barrister, Virginia D’Amor, asks Cathy.
“And you currently live in Peppercorn Patch, is that correct?”
“Yes, that’s right.”
“Do you know who that is?” Virginia D’Amor asks Cathy, pointing to the dock.
“Yes, that’s Doctor Peter Smith.”
“And how do you know him?”
“We used to work together, in the hospital,” Cathy replies. “I work there as a nurse.”
“How long did you know Doctor Smith?”
“Ever since I moved to Peppercorn Patch,” Cathy says. “About 8 or so years ago when I started working as a nurse.”
“Did you ever notice anything peculiar about him?” Virginia D’Amor probes.
“Peculiar?” Cathy ponders. “Not really. He was just the friendly town doctor.”
“Tell me about when you first noticed something was strange.”
“I was working at the hospital one day,” Cathy recounts. “I happened upon an envelope addressed to Doctor Smith.”
“And you opened it?” Virginia D’Amor asks.
“I know I shouldn’t have, but it wasn’t sealed,” Cathy says. “I was curious. I never could have imagined it would have led to what unfolded.”
“What was that?”
“I found a prescription for a drug in the envelope,” Cathy says. “A drug to treat schizophrenia. I knew then there was no way that Doctor Smith should have been still practicing as a doctor.”
“Did you tell anyone?”
“Not straight away,” Cathy explains. “I wanted to confront Doctor Smith about it first.”
“And did you?”
“I didn’t get a chance,” Cathy says. “Somehow he must have found out that I knew.”
“Why do you say that?” prosecution barrister, Viriginia D’Amor, asks.
“That’s when I received the first poem.”
Cathy closes her eyes and sees the poem in front of her.
Row, row, row your boat,
Gently down the stream.
Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily,
I want to make you scream!
“I didn’t know who it was from at first,” Cathy continues. “It was an anonymous letter.”
“When did you first learn that it was Doctor Peter Smith that had written those letters?” Virginia D’Amor asks.
Cathy takes a deep breath and her mind flashes back to the night she was held captive by the Poetry Predator in the boot of her own car.
Cathy bangs on the roof of the boot with her fists, trying to make as much noise as possible. Moments earlier the car had come to a stop and the engine had been switched off. Without warning, she hears a key entering the lock and the boot door shoots open. She can see the stars twinkle in the night sky above her. She is overcome with fear as a dark figure leans down over her.
“Hello Cathy,” the Poetry Predator says.
“What do you want with me?” Cathy tries to remain calm.
“Cathy, I think you know,” Cathy’s captor says eerily. “You’ve known the truth about me for a while now. You’re the only one that knows.”
“I won’t tell anyone, I swear,” Cathy says, trying to stay strong.
“Mary, Mary, quite contrary,”
the Poetry Predator recites out loud,
“How does your garden grow?
With silver bells, and cockle shells,
And Cathy’s fingers all in a row.”
With that, the pliers around Cathy’s little finger is clamped together. The crunch of bone is masked only by the sound of Cathy’s scream.
Joanne Evans sits in her cell. She feels angry that the defence barrister was able to upset her like he did. She knows that it must have looked bad. Some people might actually begin to doubt what happened to her. Some people might actually begin to doubt that Doctor Peter Smith was responsible at all. Worse still, the jury might doubt her. The jury might doubt her every word.
The prosecution barrister, Virginia D’Amor, takes her seat after finishing her questioning with Cathy. The defence barrister, Harvey Dennis, steps up to ask his questions. Before he does so, he smiles politely at the jury.
“Cathy Gilmore,” Harvey Dennis begins, “you’ve just told the court how Doctor Peter Smith held you and Joanne Evans captive and was responsible for mutilating you.”
“That’s correct.” Cathy grimaces at the thought of being mutilated.
“You told the court earlier that you had known Doctor Peter Smith since you moved to Peppercorn Patch 8 years ago.”
“But, in fact, you moved to Peppercorn Patch much earlier than that.” Harvey Dennis refers to his notes. “Hospital pay slips and a rental agreement note that you moved there 10 years ago.”
“Oh?” Cathy is thrown. She rubs her forehead. “I’m mistaken.”
“Could it possible you could be mistaken about other things that you’ve told the court today?” Harvey Dennis continues.
“I’m not sure how I could be,” Cathy says, now looking visibly shaken.
“Cast your mind back to the evening that you were captured,” Harvey Dennis instructs. “Did you actually see Doctor Smith’s face?”
“Well…” Cathy tries to think. “It was dark. Possibly…”
“Possibly?” Harvey Dennis questions.
“I remember his voice!” Cathy urges.
“But you never saw his face?”
“It was so long ago,” Cathy sighs. “I really can’t remember. So much happened. I’ve tried to block out so much of what took place that night!”
“Do you remember being locked inside Doctor Smith’s basement?” Harvey Dennis asks.
“Vaguely,” Cathy tries to think back. “I remember Joanne being there.”
“Anything peculiar about Joanne?”
“No, only that she, too, had been captured by Doctor Smith.”
“Had she?” Harvey Dennis asks.
Cathy rubs her forehead again. “As far as I can remember. She thought that Sylvia Jessop was there.”
“Sylvia Jessop?” Harvey Dennis takes this in. “Joanne’s biological mother?”
“Yes, only she wasn’t actually there because she was killed years earlier.”
“Joanne was hallucinating?” Harvey Dennis peers over at the jury.
“Yes,” Cathy says, “but Doctor Smith had been drugging her.”
“I put it to you, Cathy,” Harvey Dennis says, “that the schizophrenia prescription you found was actually for Joanne.”
“Joanne?” Cathy is confused. “No, it had Doctor Smith’s name on it.”
“I put it to you, Cathy,” Harvey Dennis continues, “that Doctor Smith was treating Joanne Evans. Joanne Evans was the one that attacked you, Cathy, not Doctor Smith!”
“No!” Cathy screams out loud.
“Joanne Evans is the Poetry Predator!” Harvey Dennis bellows. “She’s been taking everyone for a ride!”
Joanne Evans wakes from her half sleep. She had been trying to get some much needed rest but found it difficult in the court cell in which she was located. She had been drifting in and out of sleep.
“Joanne,” she can hear the corrective services officer say to her. “There’s been some news from your father’s court case.”
“He is not my father!” Joanne says sternly.
“The jury came back with a verdict for Doctor Smith,” the corrective services officer continues.
“And?” Joanne’s heart suddenly races.
“Maybe Doctor Smith is not the Poetry Predator after all. He’s been found not guilty.”
Next Episode – Monday May 29
Episode Illustration by Grey Alexander
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