Episode Twenty-Seven

14 Weeks

The day of the wedding

“You are not obliged to say or do anything unless you wish to do so,” Inspector Wesley Manning says across the table to Dustin Harris, “but whatever you say or do may be used in evidence. Do you understand?”

Dustin Harris rolls his eyes and sighs heavily. “Yes.”

“We’ll get started then,” Inspector Manning says, opening up the large folder of paperwork in front of him. “Can you please state your full name and date of birth.”

“Dustin James Harris. 19th of May, 1925.”

“You’re 90?” Inspector Manning asks, almost surprised.

“You were expecting me to be older?” Dustin says mockingly.

“You’re fit for your age,” Inspector Manning replies, before adding: “You were born in Peppercorn Patch?”

“Yes, to Lillian and Phillip Harris – both English migrants who moved here to work as labourers on the peppercorn farm.” Dustin smiles faintly, thinking about his parents. “They were hard workers. The true founders of this town.”

“What happened to them?” Inspector Manning asks.

Dustin shakes himself from his memories. “What has all this got to do with my parents?” Dustin pulls his handcuffed hands up to show the police officer in front of him.

“Just answer the question.”

“My father disappeared in 1942,” Dustin says, pausing briefly. “I was 17 years old. My mother was so distraught she killed herself.”

“Do you know what happened to your father?” Inspector Manning asks.

“He was murdered.”

“How do you know that?”

Dustin Harris looks across the table to Inspector Manning and a wide smile erupts on his face. “I met his killer, Inspector. I know who killed him.”

Five and a half months earlier

The sound of his mobile vibrating on the bedside table wakes Sergeant Michael Anders. He pushes the bed covers back and reaches for his mobile phone. It is early in the morning and he has only had 4 hours of sleep.

“Sergeant Anders,” he says into the phone as he answers it.

There is a sound of heavy breathing on the other end of the line, followed by a click as the call is ended.

“Bastard,” Sergeant Anders cries loudly into the phone.

“Not again,” a voice comes from the other side of the bed.

“Someone’s trying to play games with me,” Sergeant Anders throws the covers back over himself and nestles next to his companion. “They don’t know who they’re messing with.”

“Lucky for me,” his companion says, laughing, “I do know who I’m messing with.”

Sergeant Anders brushes the brown hair out of Amber Harp’s face, before wrapping his arms around her.

“I’ve been naughty, Sergeant,” Amber says, planting a kiss on his lips. “You might have to handcuff me.”

Doctor Peter Smith enters through the front door of The Grand Hotel. He looks around the establishment before seeing the couple sitting at the corner booth.

“Doctor Smith,” Joanne Evans says as she sees the doctor walking towards her.

Senior Constable Kyle Cook rises from the booth to shake the doctor’s hand.

“Thanks for seeing me,” Doctor Smith says as he takes a seat on one side of the booth.

Joanne wheels her wheelchair closer to the table. She had been looking after The Grand Hotel in Valerie Pickering’s absence. Her aunt was back in hospital.

“Not at all,” Joanne says. “Any news?”

“I do have news,” Doctor Smith nods his head. “It doesn’t look good, I’m afraid.”

Joanne shrieks out loud, before covering her mouth with her hand.

“What is it, Doc?” Kyle asks.

Doctor Smith grabs hold of Joanne’s hand. “She’s not well.”

A single tear rolls down Joanne’s face. “Is she going to be okay?” Kyle grabs Joanne’s other hand.

“It’s her kidneys, Joanne,” Doctor Smith tells her. “Valerie Pickering has kidney disease.”

“Put that thing away!” shouts Constance Helling.

Dustin Harris opens up the leather bound diary and flicks to the next page. “We haven’t read any in weeks,” he says.

“I’m not ready!” Constance protests.

“Here,” Dustin says, shoving the diary into Constance’s hands, “your turn to read. No excuses.”

“I don’t have to read it!” Constance shouts at Dustin, throwing the diary to the floor. “I know how it ends!”

“I beg your pardon?” Dustin is thrown by the woman’s remarks.

“Well, don’t you?” she asks, exasperated. “It seems pretty clear to me! That’s why I don’t want to read any more. It’s all too much.”

“I don’t follow,” Dustin says.

“My grandmother killed them all. She was protecting a family secret! She says so in her diary.”

“Do you really think that she did it?”

“My grandfather, Robert Helling, disappeared around the same time. She must have murdered him too!”

“Constance, I think you’re jumping to conclusions.”

“It makes sense, doesn’t it?” Constance asks Dustin. “Gretel Helling was a murderer. My son is a murderer! It’s the Helling family curse!”

Dustin Harris grabs hold of Constance as she collapses to the ground, sobbing uncontrollably.

“She’ll start dialysis straight away,” Doctor Smith says to Joanne.

“What about a kidney transplant?” Kyle Cook asks.

“We’d have to find a suitable donor,” Doctor Smith explains.

“I’ll do it!” Joanne says eagerly. “I’ll donate one of mine.”

“Hold on, hold on,” Doctor Smith says. “It’s not quite that easy. We have to make sure that she’s well enough to have a transplant first.”

“When she’s well enough, I’ll do it,” Joanne persists.

“You can’t,” Doctor Smith sighs. “You’re not a match, Joanne.” Joanne gives the doctor an inquisitive look. “I knew you would want to,” he continues, “so I looked up your records.”

“But she’s my aunt,” Joanne says, confused. “I should be a match.”

“Not necessarily,” Doctor Smith adds. “You would normally share only 25 per cent of your genetic material with your aunt.”

“Normally?” Joanne asks curiously.

“That’s the strange thing.” Doctor Peter Smith rubs his temples with his fingertips. “You don’t match at all.”

“What are you talking about?” Kyle presses the doctor.

“Joanne, you share zero per cent of your DNA with your aunt,” Doctor Smith says. “You’re not related.”

Next Episode – Monday October 5

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