“Please don’t hurt me,” Joanne flinches as the woman in red touches Joanne’s cheek.
“Hurt you?” the woman in red says. “Why would I want to hurt you?”
“I don’t know what you want from me,” Joanne says, terrified. “Please just let me go.”
“It’s not as easy as that,” the woman in red smiles at Joanne. Both women stare at each other without saying a word for what seems an eternity before the woman in red breaks the silence. “I am your mother, Joanne.”
“My mother is dead,” Joanne tries to scream out at the woman, but she is choked up. Tears start to run down her face. “My mother died when I was born!”
“There was something you were never told about me, Joanne.”
“You’re not my mother!” Joanne shouts, crying.
The woman in red leans over Joanne again and embraces her. “It’s okay, darling,” she says, trying to comfort Joanne. “Your mother is here now.”
“Get off me!” Joanne screams, and pushes at the woman in red with all her strength. Even though she is strapped to the chair, Joanne manages to push the woman in red to the floor.
“Sssh!” the woman in red hushes Joanne. “He’ll hear us.”
“Who? Who will hear us?” Joanne almost yells again.
“The man that has you hostage here.”
“You’re the one who’s taken me hostage,” Joanne says angrily, trying to loosen herself from the binds that are holding her firmly to the chair.
“I’m your mother, Joanne,” the woman in red says, almost offended. “Why would I have done this to you?”
Suddenly, there is the sound of a door bolt being unlatched, which takes both women by surprise. “Help me!” Joanne pleads with the woman in front of her.
“He can’t know that I’ve been here,” the woman in red says, panicked.
With that, the woman in red picks herself up from the ground and disappears from Joanne’s sight.
“I didn’t recognise the initials until you showed me my grandmother’s birth certificate,” Constance Helling tells Dustin Harris. “Once I saw the Holgate connection, it hit me.”
“The mental hospital?” Dustin asks.
“Yes, I initially thought the initials stood for Helling Bros, as in the business my grandparents founded, but then I remembered the hospital I used to work at; Holgate Bedlamites. The small wooden boxes were used to store medication for the patients.”
“So your grandmother was a patient?” Dustin asks.
“No,” Constance says to the elderly councillor, “she was a nurse, like me.”
“She worked at the mental hospital as a nurse?”
“Yes, until she met my grandfather and she moved to Peppercorn Patch to live with him,” Constance says, showing Dustin a green coloured piece of paper. It was a record of employment that Constance had managed to locate. “I had no idea she was a nurse.”
“A strange coincidence that you both ended up working at the same place,” Dustin says, pulling a piece of paper out of his pocket.
“Yes, what a coincidence,” Constance agrees. “What do you have there?”
“I should have given you this earlier,” Dustin says as he hands the piece of paper over to Constance. “Your grandmother’s birth certificate wasn’t the only one I located.”
Constance grabs the paper and looks it over, confused. “Who is this?”
“It seems they had another child,” Dustin explains. “A girl. Robert and Gretel Helling had a daughter.”
The new letter that Cathy Gilmore had received was handed around the small group.
“How many of these have you received?” Sergeant Michael Anders asks Cathy.
“This is the second one,” Cathy replies. “I received the first one about three months ago.”
“Do you think it’s from Thomas Helling?” Senior Constable Kyle Cook looks to his sergeant.
“It’s possible. But we won’t know for sure until we find him,” Sergeant Anders says.
“So Joanne received these letters as well?” Amber Harp, the reporter from The Holgate Times, asks Cathy.
“Yes, I only discovered that recently,” Cathy informs the group. “Actually, it was the same night she disappeared.”
“She told me about the letters,” Sergeant Anders confesses.
“You knew that she was receiving them?” Amber inquires.
“Yes, but I thought they must have been from Thomas. I thought she was safe because Thomas was in hospital,” Sergeant Anders says.
Amber Harp looks over the letter that Cathy received. “Quite curious, isn’t it?” she asks no one in particular. “Are they all this poetic?”
“Yes, poems and nursery rhymes,” Cathy agrees.
“Bloody deranged,” Kyle Cook says. “Sick bastard.”
“If it’s not Thomas, then we’ve got someone in our community preying on others,” Sergeant Anders processes the situation.
“Yes, a predator,” Amber Harp adds, scribbling something down in her notebook, “The Poetry Predator.”
The daylight had disappeared a few hours earlier and Joanne finds herself surrounded in darkness. The only thing that she can hear is her short shallow breath. There is an eerie silence that overwhelms the large shed. Even the turntable next to her has stopped playing its repetitive tune.
Joanne struggles to free herself from her binds once again by moving her body around.
“Don’t struggle,” she hears a voice pierce the silence. Joanne stops moving and, petrified, holds her breath to listen to the sounds around her.
Joanne listens as footsteps come closer to her. She’s too terrified to move.
“You are mine,” she can hear the voice again.
“Please don’t hurt me,” Joanne cries. She can feel warm air around her neck.
Terrified, Joanne starts shaking uncontrollably. Tears start flowing down her face. “Please don’t hurt me,” she pleads again.
She can hear the crackle of the phonograph needle hitting the vinyl on the turntable next to her. The haunting song is on repeat again.
“Please don’t hurt me,” Joanne screams over the music, pleading with her assailant. “Please don’t hurt me, I’m pregnant.”
The sound of the record unexpectedly screeching to a halt plunges everything back into silence.
Next Episode – Monday July 20