The day of the wedding
“You know, this could have ended differently,” Constance Helling looks down upon the hospital bed that Councillor Dustin Harris is laying in.
“You mean by telling everybody the truth?” Dustin sniggers.
“The truth is what people want to believe,” Constance replies.
“You’ve made everyone believe that it was me that killed all those people,” Dustin says, trying to remain calm. “You know that it was your grandmother, Gretel Helling.”
Constance roars with laughter. “The truth is, Dustin, you will be forever known as a murderer. You killed all those people, including my grandmother.”
“Constance, you know that isn’t the truth. I didn’t do it,” Dustin protests, reaching for the breathing mask off the bedside table next to him and placing it on his face. Dustin struggles to breathe. “Why let me take the fall for this?”
One and a half months earlier
Constance sits at her desk overlooking the small town of Peppercorn Patch from the house high up on the hill. She is still furious about the return of her step-mother, Akemi.
“I will not have that woman come in to my town and think she can do whatever she wants!” Constance says to herself. “And if that worthless mayor thinks he is going to help her, then he doesn’t know who he is messing with.”
She had thought about going to the police and informing them of what she had learnt about Dustin Harris killing her grandmother, Gretel Helling. She knew, however, that she didn’t have any evidence, apart from what Dustin had told her. She also knew that if she went to the police, then the truth about her grandmother killing all those people years ago would emerge.
Constance thinks for a short moment before reaching into her pocket and pulling out a small silver key. Placing it into the desk’s bottom drawer lock, she unlocks the drawer and pulls out Gretel Helling’s diary. She hadn’t been able to bare the thought of reading any more of it once she started finding out the truth, but she knew she had to finish it.
Turning to the next page in the diary, Constance realises that the diary entries were few and far between. Gretel Helling had not written in the diary very often. The next entry seemed to be from a few years after the last entry made.
Today may be forever known as Gretel Helling day, for it may be the day that they hang me.
It has been years since my husband, Robert Helling, left and I remarried his brother, Edward.
Since then, my son, Jack, has been killed in the war. I seem to lose everything that I love.
Maria. Robert. Jack.
Maybe I deserve it. I do deserve it. I did a terrible thing.
That’s why Robert had to go away. He found out.
It was after Maria was born – Robert and I were devastated when she died. Robert was never the same. He didn’t love me like he used to.
I fell in love with someone else – Phillip Harris.
Constance suddenly throws the diary down in shock. “Dustin Harris’ father?” she asks herself, before continuing to read.
Phillip and I carried out a secret relationship with each other, and we had two sons: Jack and Elias.
Things were fine at first. Robert didn’t think anything of it. He thought the children were his. That was until he found out.
He went crazy and threatened to kill the boys and me. I went to Phillip for help, but he said he couldn’t. He had a family of his own. His wife, Lillian, had just had a child – Dustin.
Constance pushes the diary away from her again in shock. She reaches for the desk to steady herself as she lets the words of the diary sink in. Her father, Elias Helling, was not fathered by her grandfather, Robert Helling.
Elias Helling’s biological father was Phillip Harris.
“I’m not a blood Helling,” Constance pants, grabbing a paper bag to help her breathe. “I’m not a blood Helling,” she pants again, blowing into the paper bag.
73 Years Ago
Dustin Harris had just celebrated his 17th birthday. He had been enlisted to join the armed forces to serve in the First World War, but his parents had both died, so he was granted compassionate leave.
His mother had recently killed herself after finding out that her husband was missing. She was not able to cope on her own. Her father had been murdered, he was sure of that. There was no way that his father would have left his family.
He was on a mission to find out what had happened to his father.
Robert became increasingly more insane. Added to that was the financial pressures we were facing. He burnt down the field of peppercorn trees one day in a fiery rage.
I needed help. The only person I could turn to was Edward Helling, Robert’s younger brother. I told him everything.
He helped me write the letter. We would fake Robert’s disappearance and no-one would even know. I sedated Robert when he was sleeping one night and we took him to where I once worked; Holgate Bedlamites – the asylum for the insane. The lunatic had been admitted.
Dustin knew that it had something to do with the Helling family. He had followed Gretel Helling for weeks and she always seemed so suspicious. He had also seen her come around to his parents’ house often when his father was still alive. She had to know something.
Dustin noticed that Gretel Helling would venture out on her morning walk at the beginning of each day along the walking tracks in the vast bushland surrounding the town.
One day he decided to head out before her and meet her on her walk. He would catch her unawares and force her to tell him the truth.
Everything was fine until Jack died in the war.
I couldn’t cope very well.
That was when the death toll climbed.
Dustin hid behind a tree and watched as Gretel Helling approached his location. He saw her stop at the edge of a nearby cliff and take in the view of the town in the distance below them.
“Gretel,” Dustin said to Gretel Helling, jumping out from behind a tree.
As if in slow motion, Dustin looked on as he saw Gretel Helling cry out loud, startled. She had lost her footing and had fallen onto the ground, her body sliding down the edge of the cliff. She was suddenly out of sight.
“Gretel?” Dustin called out, rushing to the edge of the cliff. Looking down over the cliff edge, he could see Gretel gripping onto a tree branch. She had managed to save herself from falling.
“Please help me!” Gretel cried out.
Dustin reached down to help the woman up, but quickly realised the weight of the woman would cause him to fall over the edge too.
“I’ll go and get some help!” Dustin called to Gretel. “Hold on!”
“I can’t!” Gretel sang out, struggling to hold onto the tree branch. “Dustin, please know that I loved your father, and I never meant any harm to come to him.”
“What do you mean loved him?” Dustin suddenly forgot about the danger the woman was in.
“Jack and Elias,” Gretel continued, panting as she struggled to grip the branch, “are your half brothers.”
“What are you saying?” Dustin’s head was spinning. “Is that why you killed my father? Because you didn’t want anyone finding out the truth?”
Gretel gave out a scream as her hand slipped further down the tree branch. “I didn’t…” Gretel started to say, before losing her grip completely and plummeting to the ground below.
Dustin looked on in horror. Gretel Helling was dead, and gone with her was the answer to his father’s disappearance.
Our workers started to disappear one by one.
No-one really noticed or cared because most of them were foreigners without any family.
Phillip Harris then mysteriously died. I knew instantly that Robert had returned for retribution.
Robert has somehow managed to escape from the asylum.
He is out for revenge.
Constance slams the diary closed before breathing heavily into the paper bag again.
“No one must know,” she says to herself quickly, picking up her mobile phone. She dials a number and walks over to the fireplace.
“Inspector,” she says as the phone is answered. “I know who killed Gretel Helling. He also killed those other poor souls before ripping out their teeth.”
“I’m listening,” Inspector Manning says on the other end of the line.
“It was Dustin Harris,” Constance says. “Dustin Harris is a killer.”
As Constance hangs up the phone, she picks up her grandmother’s diary. She looks it over before tossing it into the lit fireplace, its pages igniting and becoming lost forever.
Next Episode – Monday November 16