“Please, no!” Joanne Evans pleads. She can see the dark figure standing in the doorway, the end of the rifle only inches from her head. The moonlight from the open door illuminates the dark space, and Joanne can see the rain glistening outside.
“Joanne?” A flashlight is pointed at Joanne’s face. Joanne shields the bright light with her hands.
Joanne can hear the movement of a raincoat as the figure rushes towards her. Now kneeling beside her, the figure takes Joanne in their arms. “You’re okay, now,” the figure says to her.
As Joanne’s eyes adjust to the blinding light of the flashlight, she can make out the shape of the person kneeling next to her. The dark figure pulls the hood of their raincoat off to reveal a head of frizzy grey hair.
In front of her, Joanne can see the local park ranger, Kelly Driver, pulling off her raincoat and offering it over for warmth.
Constance Helling sits at a small table on the deck of Helling House overlooking the town of Peppercorn Patch below. The rain that continues to pour down obscures the normally breathtaking view of the town surrounded by national park. Councillor Dustin Harris sits opposite Constance, a small cup of tea in one hand.
“Have you heard anything about Thomas?” Dustin asks Constance about her son.
“Not yet,” Constance replies. “Joanne has been found. Sergeant Anders is going to be talking with her shortly to see if she knows anything.”
Dustin takes a sip of his tea. “Do you think it was Thomas? That took Joanne, I mean?”
“I don’t know what to think of anything anymore,” Constance says, sounding exhausted. “I’ve had nothing but heartache since I came back to this town.”
“I’m sure they’ll find Thomas.”
“I hope he’s okay,” Constance says. “I can’t bear the thought of him out there on his own, especially after everything that’s happened.”
Dustin doesn’t know what else to say. He swirls the remaining contents at the bottom of his cup before drinking it. “Well,” he says. “I must make tracks.”
“Before you go,” Constance turns to face the elderly man, “there’s been something on my mind.”
Dustin raises his eyebrows, curious.
“I haven’t been able to shake it,” Constance continues. “At first I thought that you were just being helpful, but the more I think about it, the more I feel that you know more than you’re letting on.”
“Oh,” Dustin is taken by surprise. “Straight to the point.”
“Why are you so interested?” Constance presses.
Dustin sets down his empty cup and takes a deep breath. “You’re right,” he concedes. “I am interested. I’ve been helping you because I believe we can help each other.”
“Help each other with what?” Constance asks.
“Finding out about our families.”
“Yes, I admit it. I’ve been a little selfish in not sharing my true intentions.”
“I believe that my father was killed, murdered even,” Dustin tells Constance. “He disappeared without a trace when I was a boy, and I believe that his body was one of the skeletons that was found.”
Constance looks at the man in front of her, her mouth wide open in shock.
“I was hoping that by helping you,” Dustin continues, “I would be able to find out the truth about my father. And help you in the process.”
“I knew you weren’t telling me the whole truth,” Constance says.
“I didn’t want to make you feel like your family wasn’t important, but I’ve been trying my whole life to find out the truth about my father.”
Constance quickly processes what she has been told. Everything she has learnt about her family flashes through her mind, before coming to a screeching halt. The image of her grandmother’s jewellery box falling, sending a mass of human teeth spilling across the floor, gives her an idea.
“I may be able to give you an answer,” Constance says to Dustin. “I may be able to help you to find your father.”
“I didn’t recognise who it was,” Joanne says to Sergeant Anders, tears falling down her face. “I wish I could help more, but I didn’t see his face.”
Joanne Evans sits across from Sergeant Michael Anders and The Holgate Times reporter, Amber Harp. Michael Anders had allowed the reporter to sit in on his interview with Joanne in the hope that they could quickly identify and apprehend the person that was involved in Joanne’s abduction.
“Joanne, I need you to think very carefully,” Sergeant Anders says to Joanne. “Do you remember seeing Thomas Helling?”
Joanne shakes her head and wipes her face with a tissue. “I don’t remember.”
“Take your time and have a good think, Joanne,” Amber urges.
“I’ve sent a couple of my officers over to the shed now to see if they can find anything. I’ll wait to see if anything comes up,” Sergeant Anders tells Joanne.
After their questioning, Sergeant Anders and Amber Harp assist Joanne to Cathy Gilmore’s car. Cathy folds the wheelchair up and lifts it into the boot of her car.
“I’ll take her to go see Valerie,” Cathy says to Sergeant Anders.
“How is she doing?” Sergeant Anders asks.
“I think it will do her good to see Joanne,” Cathy says.
“Such a shame. She was doing so well.”
“Yes, but she’s had a bit of stress lately that would drive anyone to drink,” Cathy reasons. “She’ll be in hospital for some time.”
Darkness fills the sky. Cathy Gilmore had endured a long day at work as a nurse at the local hospital. She had taken Joanne to see her aunt, Valerie Pickering, at the hospital. She had been hospitalised due to her alcohol dependence, which had taken a turn for the worse. Cathy had managed to find Joanne a bed in the hospital for the night where she knew her friend would be safe and hopefully get a good night’s rest after her ordeal.
Walking in the front door of her unit in which she lived with her husband, Mark Gilmore, she throws the mail she collected from the letterbox onto the dining room table. Her husband was away on business in Holgate tonight, so Cathy knew she would be home alone.
Pulling off her jacket, Cathy skims through the envelopes sitting on the table. One of them catches her eye. Addressed to Mr and Mrs Gilmore, it is correspondence from a bank in Holgate.
Tearing open the envelope, Cathy reads the contents:
Congratulations, Mr & Mrs Mark & Melody Gilmore on the purchase of your new house in Holgate.
Everyone here at Holgate Bank wish you all the best for your new future together!
“Melody?” Cathy says out loud. Cathy’s head spins as she thinks about why her husband’s receptionist is listed as Mrs Gilmore. Her head continues to spin as she remembers all the extra work that her husband has been doing of late. Her husband seemed to have been working away from home in Holgate more and more recently.
Cathy throws the letter on the table in disbelief and she tries to hold back tears that are starting to well up. “That bitch!” she says in anger. “That bastard!”
She collects her thoughts for a few moments before rushing quickly around the unit and packing a small suitcase of clothes. She pulls out a pen and scribbles down a message on a piece of paper:
Enjoy your life with that whore!
Please do not come looking for me. I am going to head to my mother’s place for some time to think about what I’m going to do.
Do not even try to contact me!
Your forgotten wife.
She pins the note to the front door and slams it behind her. She is thrown into darkness. The streetlight that normally lights the front of the house has been out for a few days.
Opening the boot of the car, she throws her suitcase into it. Suddenly, she can feel something grab her from behind. She tries to turn around and free herself from the grip, but before she knows it, she is lifted from the ground and hoisted into the boot. She tries to let out a scream, but the boot is swiftly closed. Thinking quickly, she reaches for her mobile phone, but realises that she doesn’t have it with her anymore.
Cathy starts banging on the roof of the boot with her fists. She tries to scream out as loud as she can.
The car’s engine starts and she rolls abruptly around the boot as the car jolts forward.
The Poetry Predator pushes his foot down on the accelerator and the car disappears into the distance.
Final Episode – Monday August 3