Episode Twelve

Heaven and Hell

One Week Later.

Those assembled in the small church are in awe of Joanne Evans. Once again she has shown the small town how strong she can be in the face of adversity. Seated at the front of the church, Joanne turns her head and takes in the view behind her. She sees many friendly faces in the crowd, mostly with a look of sadness in their eyes.

Father Bolton, Peppercorn Patch’s local priest, looks to Joanne and gestures with a nod of his head that he is about to begin the service. Joanne takes a deep breath and breathes out slowly.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” Father Bolton begins, “we are gathered here today to mourn the passing of a loved one. It’s always a hard time to say goodbye, especially to family members who were so close. Today is also a day to celebrate the life we shared with our loved one. Today we say goodbye and celebrate the life of Richard Evans.”

Joanne took hold of Richard’s hand and he led her gently down the small church’s aisle. She couldn’t wipe the huge smile off her face as she peered down over those who had gathered to see them wed. As she walked down the aisle hand in hand with Richard, she locked eyes with her aunt, Valerie Pickering.

Joanne could sense how proud the woman was, but she couldn’t help feeling that she was still missing something. She knew her mother and father were looking down from their place in heaven. She raised her hand to her neck and held tightly onto her mother’s jewellery.

After the service for Richard Evans concludes, the townspeople offer their condolences to Joanne one by one in the church’s garden. Joanne feels emotionally drained but feels obliged to greet each person who has attended to pay their respect to Richard.

After what seems like an eternity to Joanne, all the well-wishers disappear and Joanne is left on her own. For the first time in a couple of days, Joanne sheds a tear. Not for herself, but for Richard. She feels like she hasn’t had a chance to mourn him properly yet. All she has been able to think about is Thomas. Thomas Helling has hauted her dreams since the day that Richard died.

As if out of nowhere the large frame of Constance Helling is suddenly standing in front of her and she is again reminded of Thomas.

“I’m sorry, Joanne,” the woman whispers.

Joanne looks down to her shoes but cannot manage to look and face the woman in front of her. She can’t seem to escape the horror of Thomas Helling.

“Thank you,” Joanne manages to say softly. “I’m sorry for your loss.”

“Thank you,” Constance Helling says softly back, before turning and walking away.

It had been somewhat of a mystery to many as to why Thomas Helling had returned to Peppercorn Patch to seek revenge on Joanne Evans. One thing that was clear to Constance Helling was that he had returned to Peppercorn Patch to renovate her father’s house. She’d only recently discovered that Thomas had left Holgate, where he had lived since he had awoken from his coma, when she received a handwritten letter in the mail from him.

Constance Helling hadn’t entered the house since she herself was a young girl. When her parents separated when she was only 11, she moved with her mother closer to the centre of town. Her father stayed and lived in the house up on the hill for many years, however her mother never allowed her to go to the house again. Her mother believed that evil spirits inhabited the house and that if young Constance was to enter then she would herself be at risk of being inhabited by evil. As Constance grew older, she realised the stories she was told by her mother were probably a way for her mother to keep her from seeing her father. In any case, Constance Helling no longer believed in evil spirits. That was until one week ago when she witnessed her son, Thomas Helling, possessed by something truly unholy.

“Are you sure you want to go in?” Sally Somers, the local real estate agent, asks Constance. “You know that everyone is now calling this place Hell House?”

“Sorry?” Constance asks Sally, only half listening to the woman next to her.

“You know; Helling, Hell. I mean, after all that’s happened here in the last week,” Sally says, oblivious to Constance Helling’s quizzical look.

“How dare you!” Constance shouts at the real estate agent. “My family built this town from the ground up. The Helling name will not be used in such a vulgar manner!”

“Sorry, Constance,” Sally says as she unlocks the front door to the house.

Constance takes a step inside the front door. “I won’t be needing your services any longer, Miss Somers,” Constance says. “You’ve helped me make my decision. I’ve decided that this house needs to stay in the Helling name. I’m the new owner.”

Sally Somers stares down blankly at the unsigned sales contract that seemed to have so quickly slipped through her fingers, and realises why Constance Helling is known to many locals as Constant Hell.

The wheelchair rocks violently over the gravel pathway leading away from the church. Valerie Pickering pushes the chair slowly towards the carpark. Her niece, Joanne Evans, sits silently in the chair.

As Valerie nears her car, she parks the wheelchair next to the passenger door. “We’re going to have to get a bigger car,” she says, jokingly.

“I want to see him,” Joanne says, looking up at her aunty. “I want to see my father.”

Constance Helling can see the destruction around her. The half renovated house looks very different to how she remembered it as a child.

Constance walks to the back of the house and into the small bedroom which was once hers. Kneeling down in the corner of the room, she uses a metal tool to pry open a loose wooden floorboard.

Only recently she remembered using this as a hiding spot when she was a child, discovered accidentally as she was playing in her room one day. The small wooden box she had been given by her father had reminded her. She knew she had seen the initials H.B. before.

Lifting the piece of floorboard from its place, Constance puts her hand inside the small hole and lifts out another wooden box. It was the same box she had discovered as a child, but was too scared to open. She isn’t scared now, though. Without hesitating, Constance opens up the unlocked wooden box and reveals a silver key inside.

Tossing the now empty box aside, Constance pulls the wooden box her father had given her from her handbag and slides the key inside the lock. She can hear a click as her heart begins to beat faster. As she opens the lid of the box, she looks down at its contents in puzzlement.

Valerie Pickering wheels her niece to Benjamin Pickering’s gravesite. He had been reburied only a few days earlier. Joanne had not yet seen the gravesite since the reburial.

“Thanks, Aunty Val,” Joanne says. “I wouldn’t mind just a little time to myself.”

“Of course, dear,” Val says as she turns to walk away. “You just call out when you’re ready.”

Joanne peers down at her father’s grave and can’t help but think of the letter and flowers she received from Thomas a week ago when she was in hospital.

“I have some flowers for you, dad,” Joanne says. A bunch of white tulips sit on her lap. As she reaches down to lock her wheelchair’s brakes, the flowers fall to the ground.

She struggles for a few moments to pick up the flowers that are now out of her reach, before suddenly hearing footsteps on the grass behind her.

“Let me help,” Joanne can hear a woman’s voice.

“Thank you,” Joanne says as the woman hands the flowers back to Joanne. All Joanne can see is a vision of red. The woman’s dress is the same colour as her bright red hair. “I’m still getting used to this thing,” Joanne points to the wheelchair.

“No problem at all, Joanne,” the woman in red smiles. “I’m happy to help.”

Joanne stares hesitantly at the woman. “I’m sorry,” Joanne says, “but do I know you?”

The woman in red reaches down and takes Joanne’s hand. “Darling, Joanne,” she smiles again. “I’m your mother.”

The white tulips fall to the ground for the second time.

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