Episode Thirty-One

24 Weeks

The day of the wedding

“You silly old cow! I didn’t think you were supposed to be drinking anyway.” Constance Helling looks down upon Valerie Pickering, covered head to toe in wedding cake.

“I’m going to die anyway!” Valerie yells, scraping the buttercream icing off her face. “I may as well enjoy my last days.”

“Don’t say that, Aunty Val.” Joanne Evans reaches her arm out to help Valerie up from the floor. “You were doing so well on dialysis.”

“That’s just making me more sick!” Valerie cries out, struggling to pull herself up from the floor.

“Here, let me,” Constance says, giving her hand to Valerie. “I would hate to see your dress get any more ruined, Joanne.”

Constance pulls Valerie to her feet and the drunken woman continues to wipe herself down of icing and sponge cake.

“I’m sorry, Jo.” Valerie suddenly realises she has embarrassed her niece. “I didn’t mean for this to happen.”

“I can’t even look at you right now!” Joanne shouts, turning her back to her aunt. “Just leave.”

“I’ll take her home, Joanne. You don’t need to worry anymore.” Constance picks up her handbag and ushers Valerie to the back door. “Come on, Val. I’ll take you home to get cleaned up.”

“I’m sorry, Jo,” Valerie says again, as she is guided away. “I never meant to burden you.”

“Come on,” Constance says, pulling Valerie.

“This is all your fault, you know,” Valerie says to Constance. “I never used to drink until I met you.”

“Oh, and you see me falling over into cakes making an embarrassment out of myself, do you?” Constance chastises. “You know; the sooner you ask him the better.”

“I can’t do it,” Valerie starts to cry. “I can’t burden anyone else with this.”

Constance grabs a hold of Valerie’s hand and pulls it forcefully. “He will understand.”

“No, he won’t understand,” Valerie cries.

Constance pulls Valerie in close to her. “He will understand. He’s your son!”

Three months earlier

Three months had passed since Cathy Gilmore had written her note to her husband saying that she was leaving him. Three months had passed since anyone had seen Cathy Gilmore alive.

“Are you sure she couldn’t have gone anywhere else?” Sergeant Michael Anders asks Cathy’s husband, Mark Gilmore.

“I can’t see where else she would go.” Mark Gilmore buries his head in his hands. “She wouldn’t have left for this long without contacting anyone.”

Sergeant Anders gets up from his desk. “I’ll get you something to drink,” he says, and heads towards the police station’s small kitchen.

In the kitchen, Amber Harp looks on curiously out of view. “Do you think it’s him?” she asks Sergeant Anders as he enters the kitchen.

“I’ve known Mark for a while,” Sergeant Anders says. “I don’t think he is The Poetry Predator.”

“Do you have any idea where Cathy is?” Amber boils the kettle and grabs three mugs.

“If I knew, she would be home by now,” Sergeant Anders replies.

“So you think she’s still alive?”

“I don’t know, Amber!” Sergeant Anders loses his temper briefly. He grabs hold of Amber’s hand. “I’m sorry, it’s just that everything is happening at the moment.”

“I understand.” Amber smiles at her lover.

“I wish we could spend more time together, but I have so much work to do.”

“Any update on Kyle Cook?” Amber asks.

“I’ve been too busy to investigate him, Amber. I have a missing woman and a crazed lunatic on the loose sending poetry to people.”

“Don’t forget that Thomas Helling is still missing too.”

“Thanks for the reminder.” Sergeant Anders plants a kiss on Amber’s lips.

Amber Harp, the reporter from The Holgate Times, knew that she needed to take matters into her own hands.

She knew that the attack, which had left her in hospital for four weeks, was no accident. Someone had tried to hush her. Someone had tried to kill her.

Amber knew that that someone was Senior Constable Kyle Cook.

She was getting closer. Closer to working out the truth about him. Closer to working out the truth about what happened on that night six months earlier when Richard Evans was killed, and Thomas Helling was left critically injured.

“You won’t outrun me for long,” Amber says from her parked car. She can see the police officer talking to Joanne Evans out the front of The Grand Hotel. She takes a few snaps of the couple with the camera on her mobile phone.

She can see the couple embrace, before Kyle bends down and gives Joanne’s pregnant tummy a kiss.

She knew Joanne must have been traumatised shortly after everything had happened to her, including being attacked and losing her husband. Kyle Cook moved in quickly. Too quickly. To Amber, he was like a snake that wriggled his way into Joanne’s life, and then into her pants. He wasn’t Joanne’s saviour; he was her captor. He had trapped Joanne. Now she was paying the biggest price of all.

Joanne was going to give birth to the devil.

Sergeant Michael Anders pushes himself through the bush. The heavy overgrowth in the national park was not easy to get through.

“Some bushwalkers came across it this morning,” Senior Constable Kyle Cook says to his sergeant. “It’s been here a while.”

Sergeant Anders reaches the clearing in the forest and sees the vehicle in front of him.

“The car belongs to Cathy,” Kyle continues. “There’s a crew looking at it now.”

Sergeant Anders looks on as he sees a crew of forensic police officers combing the car for evidence.

“This is a Holgate crew.” Sergeant Anders looks at Kyle Cook, confused. “The car is in my jurisdiction. Who gave this order?”

Sergeant Anders can hear the crack of leaves and twigs behind him. He turns around to see Inspector Wesley Manning walking towards him.

“That was my order,” Inspector Manning says, outstretching his arm to greet Sergeant Anders. “This car is now under my jurisdiction.”

“Says who?” Sergeant Anders is beginning to lose his temper again.

“Says me. I’m taking over this investigation.” Inspector Manning smiles at Sergeant Anders. “Cathy Gilmore has been missing for three months. What have you done about that Sergeant?”

“I’ve been doing everything I can…”

“Your everything hasn’t been good enough!” Inspector Manning bellows. “You’re off this case.”

“You can’t do this!” Sergeant Anders is furious.

“Watch me,” Inspector Manning says as he pulls on a pair of latex gloves. “I’m afraid it’s the end for you, Sergeant.”

“What are you talking about?”

“I’m taking over. Peppercorn Patch Police Department is now under my control,” Inspector Manning says. “Sergeant Anders, you are being stood down from your position as a police officer, pending an immediate investigation.”

Next Episode – Monday November 2

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