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. She doesn’t notice him.
Sergeant Anders waits for her patiently. She must notice that he’s standing there soon enough.
As he waits, he looks around the reception area. On the walls, he sees photos of the newspaper’s staff. They smile back at him as if they are welcoming him. He scans the photos quickly and sees a familiar face. Amber Harp smiles back at him from her place on the wall. Amber Harp. Crime Reporter.
“Can I help you?” the receptionist finally acknowledges Michael’s presence. “We’re just about to close for the evening.”
“I need to speak to someone in charge,” Michael offers.
“I’m in charge of reception,” the receptionist says, deadpan, not taking her eyes off of her computer screen. “What do you want?”
Michael senses he is not going to get far with the woman. “I’m a police officer investigating the disappearance of one of your employees, Amber Harp.”
“Amber Harp?” she asks, suddenly interested. “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.”
Anna-Maree Axe sits on her bed. In front of her, strewn across it, is the paperwork that she had taken from the deposit box when she had visited the local bank. She pushes the paperwork to the floor as she rummages through it, still unable to find what she has been looking for.
“Where is it?” she says to herself, impatiently.
There is a knock at the locked bedroom door. Her husband. “Anna?” Joseph Axe calls out. “Are you still sleeping? I’ve made some dinner if you want some.”
Anna-Maree hurriedly collects the paperwork strewn across the room and dumps it into the wooden chest sitting next to the bed. She throws a blanket on the top of the paper and closes the chest’s lid.
“How long have I been asleep for?” Anna-Maree feigns, opening the door groggily.
“About an hour,” Joseph replies, hugging his wife.
“You’re such a good husband,” Anna-Maree says. “Thanks for dinner. I might grab a bite to eat later, but I just need to go for a walk.”
“Sure, honey,” Joseph says. “Don’t be too late.”
“I’m so lucky to have you,” Anna-Maree says, grabbing a coat off the stand and exiting the front door.
“Marry me, Joanne,” Kyle Cook says. He takes Joanne Evans’ hand and squeezes it gently.
“Kyle, I don’t know what to say…” Joanne stutters.
“Just say yes, Joanne,” Kyle says to her. “Make me a happy man and say yes.”
“I don’t know,” Joanne says to him, taking the ring out of the glass with her fingers.
“You don’t want to marry me?” Kyle asks. “You don’t want to make me happy?”
“I just don’t know if I can get married again, after losing Richard.”
“I’m not Richard.” Kyle puts his hand on her elbow to comfort her.
“I know,” she says faintly, looking off into the sunset. She catches herself quickly, returning his gaze and smiling politely. “I’ve just been through so much. I’m just not sure about anything anymore.”
“I was afraid you’d say no,” Kyle sulks. “So maybe you need some coercion.”
Anna-Maree steps down to the water’s edge. It was the same meeting point that she had used to meet up with her old acquaintance when she first arrived in town. Next to the river. In the dark. She hoped that no-one could see her.
“Thank you for meeting with me again,” Anna-Maree says when her guest arrives.
“I don’t have time for this,” her acquaintance huffs.
“I have to know where it is,” Anna-Maree pleads. “I know that you’ve taken it.”
“You shouldn’t have come back.” Her acquaintance goes to move off. “You don’t know what you’re doing.”
“I need to know,” Anna-Maree continues to plead. “Don’t just walk away from me!”
“Some things are just better left alone.”
Anna-Maree steps towards her acquaintance and pulls them around to face her. She pushes the hood of their jacket off in desperation.
Constance Helling stares back at Anna-Maree Axe.
“Constance,” Anna-Maree pleads. “For Joanne’s sake, you need to tell me where it is.”
“Get your hands off of me!” Joanne cries out, trying to stand up.
“Oh, Joanne, honey,” Kyle laughs, “I was just joking around with you.”
“Not funny, Kyle,” Joanne reprimands, pushing her lover away from her.
From behind them, Kyle and Joanne both hear a sound. The sound of leaves and twigs cracking under foot.
“Who is it?” Joanne says, panicked. The sun is gone and it is now dark apart from the few candles now lighting the picnic rug.
Kyle jumps up and takes hold of Joanne, trying to comfort her.
“You heard her,” they hear a voice from amongst the trees. “Let go of her!”
“Thomas?” Kyle asks, and begins to laugh nervously. “Is that you?”
Joanne sees Thomas Helling step forward through the trees. His face is illuminated by the dull glow of the candles. She is suddenly feeling terrified.
“Let her go, you bastard!” Thomas screams at Kyle.
“Don’t move any closer,” Kyle warns. “Joanne knows how dangerous you are!”
Joanne almost can’t breathe. She releases herself from Kyle’s hold and collapses on her knees onto the ground.
“Joanne!” Thomas yells. “Don’t believe anything he says to you!”
“Shut up, you evil monster!” Kyle yells back at him. “Why would she believe you? You killed her husband!”
“You know that’s not what happened!” Thomas yells. “Don’t believe him Joanne!”
Joanne continues to pant heavily. She looks up at Thomas and notices the handgun he is holding. “Thomas, please don’t.”
“Joanne,” Thomas steps closer to her. “I never wanted to hurt you.”
“I said stay back!” Kyle screams out loud, his voice echoing through the valley. “You’ve already hurt Joanne, and I’m not about to let you do it again!”
Joanne sees the tears in Thomas’ eyes. She reaches out to touch him.
“You’re my sister, Joanne,” Thomas says softly. “I don’t want to hurt you.”
“What!?” Kyle says incredulously. “What’s he saying Joanne?”
Joanne ignores Kyle and reaches further out to Thomas. “I know,” she says to her biological brother. Before he knows it, she reaches for the handgun. Thomas grabs Joanne’s hand, struggling at first, then stopping and gazing into her eyes. Tears flow.
“Put the gun down, Thomas,” Joanne whispers to him. “You don’t want to hurt anyone else.”
Thomas sobs, allowing Joanne to guide the gun to the ground. Once it touches the ground, she kicks in the direction of the shrubbery.
Thomas continues to sob. “Don’t believe him, Joanne.”
Joanne Evans reaches out her hand to take Thomas’. She feels compelled to comfort him. She wants to forgive him.
“Thomas,” Kyle Cook says. Joanne and Thomas both look up towards Kyle, his police-issued handgun pointing in their direction. “You’re never going to hurt anyone again.”
With that, Leading Senior Constable Kyle Cook fires his handgun. The bullets rip through Thomas. Joanne watches on as her brother is killed instantly.
“No! Stop!” Joanne screams. She runs towards Kyle, narrowly missing being shot herself.
Kyle drops his gun and reaches out for Joanne. He holds her firm within his grasp. She kicks her body around, screaming.
“It’s okay,” Kyle says to Joanne, trying to hush her. “He won’t be able to hurt you ever again. I’m here, it’s okay.”
Joanne pants heavily, finding it hard to breathe.
“Now,” Kyle smiles at her, “how about saying yes to my marriage proposal?”
Thanks again for another year of your support!
Full Moon. Full Circle. October 31.