Episode Sixty-Nine

Episode 69

Avoid Spoilers! Read from Episode One

Capricorn
[The 10th sign of the zodiac; reach new heights, beating those who are faster, yet less determined]

Six months ago

Amber Harp looks at Sergeant Michael Anders without saying anything. They stare at each other silently for a second before the sound of the car’s horn disrupts them. “Time to go Amber!” Steven Harp, Amber’s husband, shouts impatiently.

Amber pulls away quickly. Michael notices a tear fall down her cheek.

Silently, Amber enters the car and closes the door behind her.

As the car takes off, Michael can see Amber meet his gaze. She mouths the words I love you to him.

Michael brings a hand to his face and wipes the tears from his cheeks. He reaches into his pocket for a tissue. It’s then that he realises that something is in it. A piece of paper. Amber must have slipped it into his pocket while they were hugging each other.

Michael unfolds the piece of paper and reads his lover’s handwriting: It’s all a lie. I’m in grave danger. Please come find me.

Sergeant Michael Anders looks up suddenly from the piece of paper. He looks on as the car holding Amber Harp captive rounds the distant corner and exits the town of Peppercorn Patch.


The night of the full moon

The glass doors to the entrance of The Holgate Times building slide open and Sergeant Michael Anders steps inside. He walks up to the front desk where he can see a receptionist working away diligently at her computer.

“I’m a police officer investigating the disappearance of one of your employees, Amber Harp,” Michael informs her.

“Amber Harp?” the receptionist ponders. “She doesn’t work here anymore.”

“Since when?” Michael asks.

“A few weeks,” the receptionist says, looking back to her screen. “She just called me one day and said that she wasn’t returning.”

“Did she tell you why?” Michael asks, feeling anxious.

“Nope. Just said that she had met someone and was leaving, so she wouldn’t be back.”

“She didn’t tell you who she’d met?”

“Look, I’m pretty busy here, Mister…” the receptionist starts.

“…Sergeant Anders, from the Peppercorn Patch police station.” Michael is impatient.

“Peppercorn Patch, hey?” the receptionist says, taking her glasses off. “That’s where she was working before she quit. She was investigating that murder…”

“Yes, the murder of Richard Evans,” Michael agrees. “She had some theories about who had killed him.”

“Richard Evans?” the receptionist says, confused. “Doesn’t ring a bell.”

“What do you mean? That’s why she went there originally. To investigate his murder.”

“You know journalists,” the receptionist says, putting her glasses back on and going back to her screen. “They always have a cover story.”

“A cover story?”

“She was in Peppercorn Patch to investigate a murder,” the receptionist offers. “The murder of her husband.”


Six months later

Michael Anders startles himself awake. He had been having one of his bad dreams. Again. They seemed to be constant, and he felt that they wouldn’t end.

He rubs his eyes and sits up on the bed. The small motel room he is staying in has a damp musty smell.

He pulls on the clothes that are lying on the floor. The same clothes he had been wearing yesterday, and the day before that. He hadn’t yet had a chance to do his washing and had run out of clean clothes.

Michael looks into the dirty mirror in the room’s small bathroom and runs his fingers through his long hair. He notices the bushy unkempt beard which seems to have taken over the lower part of his face. It makes him look much older than his 38 years.

He couldn’t remember the last time he had eaten properly. He hadn’t slept properly. He was no longer functioning properly.

This case had taken over his whole life.

He had taken leave from his position as Peppercorn Patch’s police chief and had taken residence in a dingy motel in Holgate on the hunt for his lover, Amber Harp.

So far, though, he hadn’t been able to find out much. She was still missing, along with her son, Drake, and her so-called husband, Steven, who was supposed to be dead.

Yes, this case had engulfed every part of his being.

He wasn’t going to let go. He knew that Amber Harp needed him. Somehow he was going to find her. Somehow it was going to be okay. Everything was going to be good again.


Three years ago

Amber Harp entered the front door of her house and dropped her bag to the ground.

The house was dark, which was unexpected, as her husband and son should have been home.

“Steven?” Amber called out to her husband.

There was no answer, so she pushed her hand against the wall, trying to find the light switch in the dark. She flicked it on but the room stayed dark. Amber thought there must have been a tripped switch.

She walked further into the dark house, removing her high-heeled shoes as she did so. She felt her way, grabbing onto furniture for guidance.

As she neared the bedroom, she could hear a low murmur. Was it music?

Amber fondled for the closed bedroom door handle in the dark. She pushed the door open and was greeted with a bewildering sight.

Lit candles flickered throughout the bedroom and rose petals covered the bed. The sweet sound of classical music filled the air.

Amber moved further into the bedroom, a wide smile erupting over her face as she entered the bedroom’s en suite.

“What a wonderful surprise,” Amber said to her husband, Steven, who she saw sitting in the bubbling spa. “Where’s Drake?”

Steven Harp poured a glass of champagne for his wife and it handed it her, their glasses chinking together. “He’s with your sister for the night,” Steven informed her, “so we’ve got the whole night to ourselves.”

Amber laughed out loud as she started pulling her clothes off.

“I’ve ordered takeaway from your favourite Thai place,” Steven added as Amber entered the spa. “And we can lie on the couch together and watch that movie you’ve been wanting to see.”

Amber pulled herself over next to her husband and kissed him on the cheek. “You’re the best, you know that?”

“You’re the best,” he said back to her, wrapping his arm around her.

Amber sighed loudly, before taking a sip of her champagne.

“How was work?” Steven Harp could sense that Amber was distracted.

“It’s this case,” Amber said, stretching out her neck and rubbing it with her free hand. “I think I’m getting myself in deeper than I’d like to.”

“Crime reporter Amber Harp,” Steven said, almost laughing, “getting herself involved in something too deep? Never!”

Amber slapped her husband gently. “I’m serious, Steven,” she said, “this case I’m investigating – it’s really unsettling me.”

Steven began to caress Amber’s neck. “Well, maybe you need to stop investigating it, baby.”

Amber laughed out loud. “Crime reporter Amber Harp stop investigating?” She pushed her husband playfully under the water as they both giggled out loud. “Never!”


Amber Harp stepped up to her sister’s front door.

“I’m sorry to do this to you,” Amber said to her sister, Olivia, when she opened the door, “but I need you to look after Drake for me.”

Drake Harp, 7 years of age, held an overnight bag. His face couldn’t hide the fact that he did not wish to be with his aunt.

“Amber?” Olivia said, concerned. “What’s wrong?”

“I just need you to look after Drake for me,” Amber repeated, ushering Drake into the house with his bag. “Something has happened at work and he can’t be at home.”

“Amber?” Olivia was still concerned. “What’s going on?”

Amber pushed a hand to her forehead, before sighing. “It’s this case I’ve been investigating.”

“I knew it!” Olivia cried out. “I told you that you needed to back off! It’s too much.”

“I’ve been receiving threats,” Amber informed her sister.

“Amber?”

“I need you to look after Drake for me,” Amber said firmly, backing away from the door. “Until I get this sorted.”

“How long?” Olivia called out.

“I don’t know,” Amber said, continuing to back away from the house towards her car. “Hopefully not too long.”

“Threats?”

“A phone call. Some letters,” Amber told her.

“Does Steven know?”

Amber stopped suddenly and looked back at her sister standing in the doorway. “Please don’t tell Steven. He would make me quit my job.”

“But threats, Amber?” Olivia said. “You’re in over your head.”

“I can handle this,” Amber said, jumping into her car and starting the engine. She wound the window down and looked back at her sister. “Just look after my son.”


On the way home, Amber thought about the phone call she had received earlier in the day. A voice she did not recognise told her to back down from her investigation or her family would be harmed. She knew she needed to get her son out of the house. She didn’t yet know what she was going to tell her husband.


Amber Harp entered the front door of her house and dropped her bag to the ground.

The house was dark, which was unexpected, as her husband should have been home.

“Steven?” Amber called out to her husband.

There was no answer, so she pushed her hand against the wall, trying to find the light switch in the dark. She flicked it on but the room stayed dark. Amber thought there must have been a tripped switch.

She walked further into the dark house, removing her high-heeled shoes as she did so. She felt her way, grabbing onto furniture for guidance.

As she neared the bedroom, she could hear a low murmur. Was it music?

Amber fondled for the closed bedroom door handle in the dark. She pushed the door open and was greeted with a bewildering sight.

Lit candles flickered throughout the bedroom and rose petals covered the bed. The sweet sound of classical music filled the air.

Amber moved further into the bedroom, a wide smile erupting over her face as she entered the bedroom’s en suite.

Amber’s glee turned to horror as she saw the spa bath her husband was lying in was full of red water. She howled immediately as she saw one of his arms hanging over the bath, the escaped blood from his cut wrists making rivers across the tiled floor.

Amber stumbled to the spa bath and tried to pull her unconscious husband from the bubbling water. She screamed out for help, knowing that her neighbours probably wouldn’t be able to hear her.

“Steven!” Amber screamed. “No! Steven!”

Without realising her own strength, Amber pulled Steven out of the bath and onto the floor. The whole bathroom floor was awash with the blood-stained water.

“No!” Amber continued to scream, lying on the wet floor with her husband held tight in her arms. “Steven!”

Amber continued to sob loudly, holding her husband close to her body.

Her mind flashed to the phone call that she had received earlier that day and the threatening letter she had received at work earlier in the week. Steven Harp hadn’t done this to himself, Amber knew.

“They’ll pay for what they’ve done to you, Steven,” Amber cried. “I’ll find whoever did this to you and they’ll pay!”

Amber’s mind raced as she thought back to the letter she had received. The name of the business printed on the front of the envelope flashed suddenly in front of her eyes.

“I won’t let whoever did this to you get away with it! Trust me, I will hunt them down and kill them myself!”


Next Episode – Monday June 5

Theme Music Composed by Ian Camilleri Music

Episode Illustration by Grey Alexander
Instagram @grey418 Facebook The Drawn

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