[The 5th sign of the zodiac; fixed, hot, positive, masculine and dry]
The night of the full moon
Joanne takes in small breaths, making sure that she doesn’t make any noise. Her body is still frozen.
“It will all be over soon, Joanne!” Kyle calls out in the darkness.
In the moonlight, Joanne sees something glisten under the shrubbery. She pushes herself forward and reaches down, grabbing the object. She can feel the cold metal of Thomas’ handgun. She holds it firmly in her hands.
Joanne Evans suddenly feels brave.
“It was all a lie!” Joanne calls out, stepping out of her hiding spot.
“You’ve come to your senses,” Kyle remarks, turning in the direction of Joanne’s voice.
“I never loved you!”
“You lie,” Kyle scoffs. “You needed me.”
“You thought I wouldn’t remember,” Joanne continues, walking towards Kyle, the handgun hidden at her side. “You thought I wouldn’t remember that you were the one who attacked me in my own home. You crushed my legs with a cricket bat and left me for dead in that burning house.”
“I rescued you from that burning house, Joanne,” Kyle argues.
“After deforming me!” Joanne screams. “You thought you would be the hero!”
“I am the hero!” He sees Joanne, illuminated by the moonlight, walking towards him.
“But guess what, Kyle?” Joanne berates him. “I remembered! I’ve always remembered! I swore to seek vengeance on you because I knew that you had something to do with my husband’s death. That’s why I never stopped looking for Thomas – to find out the truth. That’s why I kept you close to me. That’s why I became your lover!”
“Maybe I am,” Joanne laughs. “I’ve had my eye on you from the beginning. And you never suspected a thing!”
“You’re just saying that now! You’re making this whole thing up!”
“You can’t even do basic maths,” Joanne laughs again.
“What are you talking about?”
“My pregnancy!” Joanne tries to spell it out. “I became pregnant to make my plan even more believable. You thought the baby was yours, but it’s not.”
“You’re psychotic!” Kyle sniggers.
“It couldn’t have been Richard’s because I wasn’t pregnant when he died,” Joanne adds. “So you believed it was yours. But Richard had frozen some sperm a few months back before he died. We did it just in case, and it was one of the best things we ever did. Little Ricky is certainly my little miracle baby – Richard’s miracle baby.”
“You don’t deserve me!” Kyle screams, deciding that he’s heard enough.
Joanne Evans steps up face to face with Kyle Cook.
“The perfect illusion.” Joanne feels strong.
“You think you’re so clever,” Kyle snarls.
“This one is for Inspector Manning. This one is for Thomas. This one is for Richard. This one is for my baby, Sylvia. This one is for Ricky. This one is for me!”
Joanne Evans raises the handgun and shoves it into Kyle’s chest. The cold barrel clinks on one of his buttons.
The explosion rings in Joanne’s ears and she feels her face being splattered with warm, sticky blood. The smell of gun powder is overpowering.
“My final act of revenge.” Joanne smiles, looking down at Kyle Cook’s crumpled body. “It’s been a long time in the making.”
Joanne Evans drops the gun. She lets out a deep breath. She cries. She collapses to the ground.
Six months later
The courtroom is packed.
There is not a single seat left in the crowded courtroom, with journalists having to stand against the back wall, their pens scribbling down notes furiously as they listen to the proceeding.
There is silence as Joanne Evans appears and takes her place in the witness stand. She closes her eyes and takes a deep breath. She realises she has to stay strong. She has been so strong up to this point, she tells herself.
“Can you please state your full name for the court,” the criminal barrister instructs Joanne after she has been sworn in.
“Joanne Annette Evans,” Joanne replies.
“And where is your normal place of residence?”
“Peppercorn Patch,” Joanne says, almost inaudibly.
“You’ll have to speak up, Joanne,” the criminal barrister, Harvey Dennis, tells her.
“Peppercorn Patch,” Joanne repeats, louder this time.
“Tell me about your relationship with Thomas Helling,” Harvey Dennis inquires.
“Thomas?” Joanne is confused.
“Yes, Thomas Helling. Tell the court about your relationship with Thomas Helling.”
“We were childhood friends,” Joanne begins. “We grew up together and Thomas was there for me when my father, Benjamin Pickering, died. He helped me through some rough times. I was only 10 years old when my father died.”
“Were you ever more than just friends?” Harvey Dennis prods.
“We dated in high school and Thomas finally asked me out before our high school formal,” Joanne recounts.
“So you were boyfriend and girlfriend?”
“Yes, we were going out.”
“Why did you end the relationship?” Harvey Dennis pushes even harder.
Joanne closes her eyes and the vision of the light green Ford Cortina belonging to Thomas’ father, Douglas Lawson, careening into the dark river flashes through her mind.
“It was an accident that destroyed our relationship. Thomas was in a coma for months and I no longer loved him the same way.” Joanne can hear the beat of her own heart drumming through her head.
“An accident, you say?” Harvey Dennis asks.
“Yes, Thomas swerved to miss a kangaroo and the car crashed into the river. He was lucky to survive. We both were.”
“It intrigues me that on that fateful night,” Harvey Dennis says, preparing for his king hit, “that the three men in your life were all there.”
“I don’t follow,” Joanne says, almost inaudibly again.
“Who rescued you, Joanne?” Harvey Dennis asks. “Who rescued you and Thomas Helling from that river?
Joanne begins to shake. “Richard Evans and his three friends.”
“Richard Evans?” Harvey Dennis almost laughs. “Your future husband?”
Joanne wants to run from the courtroom and cry. “Yes, we became close after the accident.”
“What happened to Richard Evans?”
Joanne closes her eyes and takes a deep breath. “He was killed.”
“Killed by Thomas Helling?”
“Supposedly,” Joanne sighs.
“Killed by Thomas Helling in a jealous rage,” Harvey Dennis informs the court.
Joanne says nothing. She stares blankly at the crowded courtroom.
“But you weren’t finished there, were you?” Harvey Dennis continues.
“I don’t understand your question,” Joanne says.
“You began a relationship with another one of your rescuers?”
“Yes, Constable Kyle Cook.”
“Leading Senior Constable Kyle Cook, is that correct?”
“Yes,” Joanne says quietly.
“Who is also now deceased?” Harvey Dennis prepares for his final blow.
Joanne lets out a deep sigh and nods her head.
“We need an answer from you for the record, Joanne,” Harvey Dennis informs her.
“Yes, Kyle Cook is deceased.”
“This doesn’t look good for you, does it Joanne?” Harvey Dennis asks.
“I’ve had my fair share of misfortune,” Joanne says.
“Fair share?” Harvey Dennis laughs. “Joanne, do you seriously believe a jury is going to consider that all of these things were out of your control?”
Joanne shuffles uneasily in her seat. She tries hard to hold back the tears waiting to explode over her face.
“Tell me about your father, Joanne,” Harvey Dennis continues.
“Benjamin Pickering?” Joanne asks. “He died when I was 10 years old.”
“No,” Harvey Dennis stops her. “Your biological father, Peter Smith.”
Joanne’s face suddenly changes from sadness to anger. “He will never be my father.”
“You’ve accused him of some pretty horrible crimes, Joanne,” Harvey Dennis continues to prod.
“He attacked me!” The court can now hear Joanne loud and clear. “He would have killed me given the chance!”
“That’s a pretty strong allegation you’re making, Joanne,” Harvey Dennis says to her.
“It’s true! He’s a monster!”
“But, you see, Joanne,” Harvey Dennis says, preparing for another blow, “all of your stories are hard to believe.”
“I swear it’s the truth!” Joanne’s anger is building.
“It’s hard to see where the truth lies and the fantasies begin, Joanne,” Harvey Dennis says smugly. “Your life is a colourful drama. You live for the drama. You long for it.”
“He’s a monster!” Joanne shouts, the tears escaping finally.
The courtroom judge leans towards Joanne and tells her to take a minute to compose herself. Joanne indicates to him that she wants to continue.
“Joanne,” Harvey Dennis continues, “this is a very serious offence.”
“I’m not referring to your accusations, Joanne,” Harvey Dennis informs her. “I’m referring to your lies to this court.”
“I’m not lying!” Joanne yells.
“Well, I put it to you that you are, Joanne!” Harvey Dennis yells back at her. “You’ve been lying your whole life! Your whole life has been a lie! You trap people in your web and play the victim!”
“That’s not true!”
“This jury will believe it is, Joanne.”
“I’m not lying!” Joanne says again, exasperated. “My father, Doctor Peter Smith, is the Poetry Predator, and he should be punished for his crimes!”
Joanne looks over to the courtroom dock. Through the tears in her eyes, she can see the accused sitting handcuffed. Doctor Peter Smith looks back at Joanne and gives her a menacing smile.
Joanne’s body shakes as she takes another deep breath.
Next Episode – Monday May 1