Episode Seventy-Six

Avoid Spoilers! Read from Episode One

Act 1

“Has it been hidden?” Akemi Helling asks her assistant.

They both stand in the courtyard of the newly built hotel situated on the bank of the Helling River in the town of Peppercorn Patch. The complex towers them on all four sides and Akemi can see the numerous balconies of the apartments look down to where she is standing in its centre.

The assistant looks at Akemi and then points to the swimming pool in the middle of the courtyard. “It’s been buried.”

Akemi laughs, looking over to where the swimming pool is being filled with water pumped in from the local firefighting engine. “Buried?”

“Yes, underneath the pool,” the assistant confirms.

“That’s brilliant,” Akemi laughs again. “Under all that water and concrete, it will never come to the light of day again!”

The assistant gives Akemi a smile, before looking to his feet. “Preparations are on schedule for tomorrow’s grand opening, Ms Helling.”

“Wonderful!” Akemi says excitedly. “Just make sure you do a once over of all the rooms again and make sure nothing is out of place. We only get to make a first impression once, so it better be a good one. Our whole livelihoods may just depend on the success of this hotel.”

“Yes, Ms Helling,” the assistant says, before hurrying off to follow his boss’s orders.

Akemi Helling looks over to the pool again. The rushing water hitting the concrete brings a smile to her face. Soon enough this complex will be filled with families and holidaymakers oblivious to what is buried underneath the large concrete hole they will be swimming in.

Akemi turns to walk out and sees a gardener looking at his mobile phone. “I don’t pay you to stand there and do nothing!” Akemi shouts at him. “We open tomorrow morning. Hurry up and get these gardens finished!”

The gardener pushes his mobile phone begrudgingly into his pocket. He continues tending to the Japanese-inspired garden he has been busy preparing.


“Quick!” Joanne Evans calls out to her aunty, Valerie Pickering.

Valerie huffs as she tries to race up the hill behind her niece. “I’m…” she pants, “…coming as fast as I can.”

Joanne holds her 18 month year old son, Ricky, in her arms awkwardly as she too pants up the hill.

Before long, they reach their destination. They step up to the front door of the house. Breathing out heavily, Joanne looks at her aunty and knocks on the door with trepidation. “Let’s hope this works.”

There is a few seconds of silence before Joanne knocks again, this time impatiently.

An outside light illuminates the front of the house on the hill. Constance Helling opens the front door.


Crack.

The bolt sliding makes a loud noise. Amber Harp knows that noise well. It means that the door to the room would open.

Amber’s sister, Olivia, enters the windowless room carrying a tray of food for her sister and Amber’s ten-year-old son, Drake.

From their position on the bed, Amber and Drake rise slowly. The weeks of confinement meant that they were growing weaker.

Olivia places the tray on the table and heads to exit the room.

“When will we be allowed out?” Amber asks weakly, holding her son close to her.

“When it’s safe, Amber,” Olivia says. “I’m doing this to protect you both.”

“We need sunlight, Olivia,” Amber tries to plead to her sister. “We can’t stay in here indefinitely.”

Olivia turns to exit the room again, but stops. “Doctor Peter Smith is still out there, Amber. While he’s still allowed to roam freely around, neither Drake nor yourself are safe.”

“I can look after myself,” Amber retorts, trying to act strong.

“He’s too clever for you,” Olivia replies. “Look what happened to your husband, Steven.”

Amber looks to her hands. If she hadn’t noticed they were shaking before, she now did. She holds back tears as a memory of her late husband tries to take over her thoughts. She decides to hold her son closer to her.

“If I was out of here, Olivia, I’d be able to take care of myself. I’d be able to take care of Drake. I’d go hunting him down and kill that bastard myself!”

“That’s why I can’t let you out right now,” Olivia says. “I’m afraid that I’d lose you both if it didn’t work out the way you planned.”

Olivia closes the door behind her, exiting the room and silencing her sister’s pleas.


“Please, you need to help!” Joanne pleads to Constance Helling when the front door is opened.

“Joanne?” Constance is baffled.

“I need your help to save Ricky!” Joanne pleads again.

Constance looks down to see Ricky in Joanne’s arms. The young boy seems to be startled.

“I’m not sure how I can help you,” Constance says to Joanne.

“Constance, cut the crap!” Valerie suddenly interjects angrily. “You know how you can help Joanne and Ricky!”

Constance looks at Valerie, almost preparing to reply, but instead ushers the trio into her house. “How do you even know if this will work?” she asks.

“We won’t know unless we try,” Joanne replies, following Constance down the hallway and into the living room.

“Well, I’ll go see if she’s ready,” Constance says as she disappears down the back of the house.

Joanne stops at the large windows overlooking the town below them. The streetlights and lights of the buildings sparkle in the darkness. Valerie stands next to her and takes her hand, firmly giving her support.

Constance reappears a minute later. Another woman follows behind.

“Joanne?” the woman says timidly.

Joanne looks suddenly around at the direction of the voice. Joanne sees the woman for the first time. It was no longer just a myth. The woman was actually standing in front of her. Only recently she had learnt the truth. And at last she was able to see it with her own eyes.

“Anna-Maree?” Joanne asks the woman.

“That’s what I go by these days, but most people know me by the name of Heather Strong,” the woman replies.

“You claim to be my mother?” Joanne asks Anna-Maree Axe.

“Yes, your biological mother,” Anna-Maree confirms. “You were involved in an unfortunate mix-up at the hospital. Annette Pickering never died having you, Joanne. She died giving birth to Melody Walker.”


The courtyard lights illuminate the swimming pool complex. Akemi Helling is proud of what she had achieved. A little over two years ago, this land was little more than a flailing caravan park. Now it was home to a multi-million dollar apartment complex that was sure to be Akemi’s defining feat.

Akemi strolls through the courtyard’s garden, checking one last time before tomorrow morning’s official opening. A large number of residents from both Peppercorn Patch and Holgate were due to be in attendance. The hotel was the exact tourism boost the town needed.

As Akemi is about to head inside the building, she catches a flash of light from the building’s roof. She squints up to the building’s fourth-storey roof-top. The light is gone.

Suddenly there is a scream.

Akemi rushes to the side of the building, running over newly laid turf that sinks a little under her feet.

Akemi tries to hold her breath to hear any other sounds. Silence.

The building should be empty, except for the security guards manning the boundary.

Another scream.

Akemi leaps into the pool just in time. The falling body plummets to the ground where she was once standing.

Akemi struggles in the water for a few moments before pulling herself out over the side of the pool. She crawls over to the side of the building. A body lying on the pavement is still. Blood is quickly beginning to pool beneath it.

Akemi instinctively looks up to the roof and sees a dark figure back away from the edge quickly.

“Help!” Akemi calls out loudly. “I need help!”

In front of her, Akemi can see a lifeless body. She rolls the body over to face her and recognises who it is immediately.

“Oh, my God!” Akemi screams. “Help! Somebody! Help!”


Next Episode – Monday April 30

Episode Seventy-Five

Avoid Spoilers! Read from Episode One

Prologue

It hadn’t always been this way for Charles King.

But, alas, this is how it now was.

The reclusive 45 year old had kept to himself for many years. The only companions he had were his three dogs – all greyhounds – Mist, Jade and Indigo.

Charles King’s house was hidden from the outside world, nestled in the Holgate National Park and surrounded on every side by forest.

This is how he had chosen to live. And he couldn’t see how his life could be any different.

That is, of course, until the stranger arrived.

The stranger would change everything for Charles King.


The wet muddy ground is compressed under the weight of Charles King’s hiking boots. The heavy rain drums down fiercely upon his raincoat. The endless rain seems to penetrate the waterproof material.

“You three!” Charles King calls out to his dogs as they continue to race away from him. “Get back here!”

In his hand, Charles holds the dogs’ leads. He usually lets them off to go for a run around freely, but they seem to have a mind of their own today. The storm seemed to be making them have a mind of their own.

Charles King continues to chase after the dogs through the forest. Wet branches scratch his face as he tries to shield it with his hands.

He couldn’t let these three get away. There was no way of knowing where they would end up out here. He also knew the park rangers around here carried rifles and would probably shoot the dogs on the spot if they approached them.

“Mist! Jade! Indigo!” he calls out again, becoming impatient. He is slowed by the thick mud forming on the ground. It is becoming difficult to hear as well because of the ferocious noise of the rain falling on the trees. The sound of drumming water becomes deafening as Charles steps up to the water’s edge. He has reached the river. It is the same river that runs through the small township downstream; it is known as The Helling River.

He sees the dogs upstream. The three of them are pulling at something on the river’s bank.

It is slippery and as Charles King edges closer to where the dogs are located, he sinks in the mud. He worries that he’s going to lose a boot.

“Get over here!” he yells at the dogs again. The dogs ignore him and continue to pull at something, sniffing the area meticulously.

Charles King gets closer, squinting through the rain trying to see what the dogs are so curious about. He wipes the rain off his face, grunting to himself as he does so. The dogs suddenly back off. They know their place in this family, and Charles is boss.

Charles reaches down to the pile of drenched clothing.

“Good find, girls,” he says to his dogs as he lifts the almost lifeless body up onto his shoulders. “Let’s get this one inside before they expire.”

Charles King has just altered his destiny.

Charles King has just rescued the stranger.


Charles King grew up with two loving parents and received the best education available to him. Throughout his schooling, there was a small group of students whom he considered to be his friends. His parents had assisted him with gaining employment on his graduation from high school and he was even enrolled to undertake a university degree in medicine.

Despite all this, Charles King’s life was so different to how everyone, including himself, expected it to be.

He didn’t need anyone else, he had often told himself, for he had his canine companions.


The old wooden house was small, but Charles King made do with what he had. The three dogs slept together on the floor at the end of his bed. His bed was nothing much – just an old mattress that had seen better days, but it didn’t bother him as he did not sleep much. He just hoped the stranger wouldn’t find the sleeping arrangements too uncomfortable. Though, in honesty, anything was better than lying face down on the riverbed with endless rain making your skin soggy. He felt as if he could slide the stranger’s skin off straight off their body.

The dogs didn’t seem to be happy either, as Charles King had given the stranger all the blankets he could manage to find – including theirs. They looked at him suspiciously when he took it from their bed. “Well you found our stranger,” Charles King had said to them when they give him an incredulous look, “it’s your fault I’m taking these blankets.”

The stranger hadn’t awoken yet, but it had only been half an hour since they had returned from outside. Charles King was patient. He would wait as long as it would take.

Besides, it wasn’t every day that he was able to rescue someone from their ultimate death.

The stranger, for now, slept peacefully.


The storm passed that evening and the heavy rain eventually subdued. Only a light spray continued on into the evening and into the next morning.

Charles King busily emptied the five buckets situated around the building to collect the leaking rainwater into the water tank on the side of the house. He left one of the buckets for the dogs to drink out of. “From the heavens,” he says to the stranger as he fills an empty glass jar full of the water. He pushes it to the stranger’s lips. The still sleeping visitor does not respond by drinking and the water spills down the stranger’s face. Impatiently, Charles King pours the remaining water over them. “Wake up!”

The three dogs howl in unison.


Charles King was growing impatient. He no longer wanted to wait. He wanted the stranger to wake up. Wake up now.


When the stranger awoke, Charles King wanted to know about it. He didn’t want to miss out on finding out about his new companion.

The rope he tied around the stranger’s hands and feet and attached to the bed frame ensured the stranger could not escape.

The stranger belonged to him now.


“Wakey, wakey!” Charles King pours more water on the stranger’s face.

The stranger is sure to wake any day now. How much longer is he going to have to wait?

The stranger stirs, trying not to drown in the onslaught of water. Not able to move their hands or feet, their face twitches and contorts as the water invades their eyes, nose and mouth.

Mist, the largest of the dogs, jumps on the bed and licks the water from the stranger’s face.

“Well,” Charles King laughs heartily, looking at all three of his dogs, “at least you’ll have some food if this one never wakes up.”

All three dogs lick their lips in anticipation. Charles King can’t help but lick his lips in unison.


The stranger murmurs.

The stranger tries to pull their hands to their face, but the ropes hinder them.

“Good morning,” Charles King says, placing a bowl of pumpkin soup on the bedside table. “Made with pumpkins grown from my garden.”

The stranger opens their eyes, made harder by the fact they can’t rub them.

“Here,” Charles King says, using a wet cloth to wipe the stranger’s face, “let me help.”

The stranger looks around the room, confused. The three dogs sit uninterested in the corner. Charles King strokes the stranger’s legs. “I’m Charles.” He smiles at the stranger. His rotten teeth force the stranger to grimace, if only for a moment.

“What’s your name?” Charles King asks.

The stranger pulls at an arm, realising their captivity. The stranger is uncertain.

“I will let you free you soon,” Charles King tries to comfort his visitor. “I didn’t want you to hurt yourself.”

The stranger lets out another murmur. Charles King pushes a glass jar of water to the stranger’s mouth and the water is drained instantly. “You must be thirsty,” Charles King says. “Let me get you another.”

Charles King leaves the room.

The stranger can’t help but keep an eye on the dogs.

Where am I? the stranger thinks. Their head is still fuzzy and they’re not sure of anything.

The stranger looks around the room, trying to take everything in. They pull at the ropes holding them captive on the bed.

How did I get here? the stranger thinks.

The stranger tries to talk, but a raspy sound only escapes from a sore throat.

“Hush, now!” Charles King says as he enters the room with more water. “You need to rest. You’ve been here for almost a week now. If it wasn’t for me, who knows what would have happened to you.”

Charles King pushes the glass jar to the stranger’s mouth and the stranger swallows the water greedily, feeling the comfort taking hold over the parchedness of their mouth.

“Thanks,” the stranger utters, knowing they probably have to stay on the good side of their captor.

“You talk?” Charles King laughs. “Do you know who you are?”

The stranger sees flashes of a past life. Nothing clear. Nothing in focus.

The stranger can’t remember.

“You have a fractured memory,” Charles King smiles. “I’m here to help you remember.”

The stranger attempts to pull at the ropes again, unsuccessfully.

“Maybe this will help!” Charles King produces a driver’s licence. “Here’s some photo identification.”

The stranger blinks. The stranger blinks again. The stranger tries to take in the photo.

Charles King holds a small mirror up the to the stranger’s face.

The stranger looks into it.

“Recognise anyone?” Charles King asks.

The stranger can see their own reflection in the mirror. Beside the mirror they can see their photo identification. Their name is printed on it.

“It seems you’re quite famous where you’re from,” Charles King says. “Welcome to my humble abode.”


It’s true, it hadn’t always been this way for Charles King.

But, alas, this is how it now was.

This is how he had chosen to live. And he couldn’t see how his life could be any different.

That is, of course, until the stranger arrived.

The stranger would change everything for Charles King.


Welcome back to Peppercorn Patch! Season Seven has begun!

Next Episode – Monday April 23

Season Six Recap

Avoid Spoilers! Read from Episode One

Amber Harp

“Please believe me, Olivia,” Michael Anders urges. “Your sister, Amber Harp, was attacked. Not long after her attack I have reason to believe she was abducted by someone claiming to be her husband, Steven Harp.”

“But, but…” Olivia stutters, “…Steven is dead.”

“I know,” Michael continues. “That’s why I have grave dangers about your sister. I believe she may be in trouble.”

Olivia takes in a deep breath, closes her eyes and then exhales. “Amber is safe,” she says quickly.

“What?” Michael Anders asks.

“My sister and her son, Drake, are both safe,” Olivia confirms.

“What do you mean? Where are they?” Michael is incredulous.

“Look,” Olivia says, peering around the neighbourhood outside and lowering her voice. “I’m not supposed to be telling you this…”

Michael Anders and Valerie Pickering both move in closer to Olivia, trying hard to hear what she is about to tell them.

“…my sister, Amber,” Olivia continues, “is currently in witness protection with her son.”

Michael stares at Olivia, the sudden realisation of events hitting him.

“Her investigation into Doctor Peter Smith’s fraudulent activities was getting too close for comfort. After the attack on her life, she needed to be put away for safe keeping.”

“Put away for safe keeping?” Michael winces.

“She was putting herself in too much danger,” Olivia explains. “She needed to be extracted.”

Behind Olivia, in the doorway, a man suddenly appears. “Is everything okay?” he asks.

Michael Anders recognises the man instantly as the person imitating Amber’s husband, Steven Harp, in the hospital. “Steven?” Michael asks hesitantly.

“No,” Olivia says. “This is my husband, Andy. He helped to extract Amber.”

“I was there, I know,” Michael says. “But why would Amber think that Andy was her husband, Steven?”

“She was so confused after the attack,” Olivia explains. “She’s still getting her memory back, and she’s still having seizures.”

“I want to see her!” Michael suddenly demands.

“You can’t,” Olivia says, “she’s in witness protection. She’s in hiding!”

“I want to know that she’s safe!” Michael says, becoming emotional at the thought of his lover being alone.

“Trust me,” Olivia declares, “she’s safe now.”


Amber Harp sits on the bed with her son, Drake. Outside the locked bedroom door she can hear voices. The murmurs are too low for her to make out who is talking, but she can tell someone is at the front door.

She holds her ten-year-old son close to her. How she had missed seeing him all this time. Now she just hoped it was in different circumstances and she wasn’t a prisoner.

The bedroom window had been boarded up from the outside which meant the room was in constant darkness. Amber had no concept of time and she was beginning to feel defeated.

Her sister, Olivia, had tricked her. By the time Amber realised that the man claiming to be Steven Harp wasn’t her husband, it was too late. She was so confused at the time due to the seizures. She still suffered some memory loss.

Besides, when Olivia’s husband, Andy, threatened that he would hurt her son if she didn’t leave with him, she knew she had no choice. She just hoped that the note that she left Michael Anders would be enough. She was hopeful that he would find her one day.

It’s all a lie. I’m in grave danger. Please come find me.

In the meantime, she would remain a prisoner in her sister’s house.


Joanne Evans

The night of the full moon

Constance Helling tries to control her sudden outburst of grief. Anna-Maree Axe, once known as Heather Strong to Constance, kneels down next to her.

“I need to know the truth once and for all,” Anna-Maree says. “What happened?”

Constance takes in deep breaths, trying to control her sobbing.

“So much was going on that night,” Constance reflects. “Annette Pickering had just died during childbirth and you were giving birth at the same time…”

“Please, just tell me.” Tears start to roll down Anna-Maree’s face.

“I got confused and mixed up the babies,” Constance begins to sob again uncontrollably.

The paternity test reveals that Peter Smith shares no genetic material with Joanne Evans. Peter Smith, therefore, cannot be Joanne’s biological father.

“Joanne Evans,” Constance continues to cry, “is your real daughter!”


“What are you doing here?” Joanne asks her uninvited guest. “At this hour?”

Wendy Evans steps into the house and smiles politely at Joanne.

“If I knew that you were coming…” Joanne says, pulling the dressing gown belt tighter around her waist.

“Please, Joanne,” Wendy interrupts.

Joanne looks at her mother-in-law, confused. Her late husband, Richard, had not spoken to his mother for a while before he had been killed. Wendy could never understand why Richard had moved from Holgate to Peppercorn Patch when he met Joanne.

“What are you doing here Wendy?” Joanne repeats.

“You’ve lied Joanne,” Wendy says coldly. “You haven’t been telling the truth about my son.”

Joanne is speechless. She is unsure of what Richard’s mother is trying to tell her.

“Ricky is already 18 months old and I only just found out that he is Richard’s son?” Wendy fires at Joanne. “Your games are unfair!”

“You don’t understand,” Joanne tries to tell Wendy. “You see, Kyle came onto the scene and…”

“Enough, Joanne,” Wendy exhales. She extracts a signed document from her handbag, pushing it into Joanne’s hands. “A court order allowing me to take custody of Ricky.”

“What?” Joanne tries quickly to skim through the document.

“You’ve been trying to keep my grandson away from me,” Wendy declares. “Well, not anymore. He’s coming home with me tonight.”

The courtroom judge banging his gavel repeatedly on the bench echoes violently through Joanne’s head.


Melody Walker

“I’m so glad that you could join me,” Melody Walker says to the figure approaching her. “What a beautiful sight.”

“It certainly is,” the figure replies. “It’s such a beautiful town. Shame about the people who live in it, though.”

They both look down upon the town of Peppercorn Patch from the clifftop.

Melody Walker turns to face her visitor. She can just make out his face in the darkness. “I’m so happy that you are my real father,” she says to him. “I always knew that I would finally find you.”

“I’m so glad that you found me,” Doctor Peter Smith replies. “You are the daughter I never had – only now I actually do have you.”

They both look down upon the town again.

“This town will pay for what they’ve down to you, Father,” Melody Walker says through gritted teeth. “They will wish they never messed with us!”


Something is Coming…

Season Seven begins on Monday April 16

Episode Seventy-Four

Avoid Spoilers! Read from Episode One

Gemini
[The 3rd sign of the zodiac; The Twins]

17 years ago

Heather Strong had lived in Holgate for ten years with her family before her daughter became ill. Phoebe Strong was 10 years old when she was diagnosed with a brain tumour. She had been showing symptoms for a few months before her mother finally took her to a doctor to be looked at.

“We’ve run some blood tests,” the doctor said to Heather and Christian Strong. “I’m afraid they show some inconsistencies.”

“What do you mean by inconsistencies?” Christian Strong asked.

“Is Phoebe adopted?” the doctor asked.

“No, I gave birth to her!” Heather replied, scoffing at the doctor’s questioning.

“I don’t think that’s possible, given these results.” The doctor looks at the couple, confounded.


The night of the full moon

“I got confused and mixed up the babies,” Constance Helling sobs to Anna-Maree Axe. “Joanne Evans is your real daughter!”

“I knew it!” Anna-Maree screams angrily at Constance. “All this time you had been denying the truth!”

“I was so ashamed,” Constance cries. “By the time I realised what I’d done, it was too late. You had already left Peppercorn Patch with your husband and daughter, and Benjamin Pickering had just lost his wife. I couldn’t go and tear the one thing he had left away from him.”

“But these children,” Anna-Maree shouts, “you left them without their real families!”

“I know,” Constance sobs again hysterically, “I’m a terrible person.”


17 years ago

“What does the doctor mean by Phoebe not being our biological child?” Christian Strong asks his wife, Heather Strong, once they step out of the doctor’s office.

“I’m sure it’s just a mistake,” Heather tells him. “I’ll call the hospital in Peppercorn Patch straight away and get this sorted out. They’ll be able to send me a record of Phoebe’s birth certificate.”


The night of the full moon

“When Phoebe was sick,” Anna-Maree berates Constance, “I rang you to find out why the doctor told us there were inconsistencies with our genetic material.”

“I remember,” Constance murmurs.

“You told me that everything was fine!” Anna-Maree says emotionally. “You said there must have been a mix up with the tests the doctor had conducted!”

“I know.”

“I asked you for records from the hospital, but you said they had all been destroyed!” Anna-Maree scolds Constance. “Now I know who destroyed them!”

“I’m sorry,” Constance howls. “Please forgive me! I’m sorry!”


17 years ago

“You mean to tell me that you can’t prove that Phoebe is our daughter?” Christian Strong says to his wife.

“The hospital’s records have been destroyed,” Heather Strong informs him.

“Phoebe is not our daughter?”

“She’s our daughter, Christian.” Heather Strong tries to placate her frustrated husband. “She’ll always be our daughter.”

Without saying another word, Christian Strong turns his back on his wife and walks out of the house. That same afternoon, he checked himself into the hospital for mental illness patients; Holgate Bedlamites.


10 years ago

Heather Strong had spent many years adapting. Adapting to her husband’s rapid spiral into depression and disappearance. She was now making of life what she could. She realised that life was too short to have regrets, and she never again made contact with Christian Strong.

She had survived. Heather Strong had survived her husband’s sudden departure. She had also survived the anguish of watching her daughter struggle.

Phoebe Strong had also survived.

Phoebe Strong, now 17 years old, had survived her brain tumour ordeal. Luckily, her life had been spared. She had been through so much herself and felt mentally much older than her biological age. Phoebe, like her mother, hadn’t had contact with her father. She felt somewhat angered by the fact that her mother wouldn’t allow her to see her father.

“Phoebe, honey,” Heather would say to her daughter, “your father ran off years ago. I have no idea where he is now.”

“I want to know him. I want to see him,” Phoebe would say.

“It’s a waste of time, honey,” Heather would confide in her daughter. “He wasn’t here for you when you needed him most. He ran off and wasn’t the father he should’ve been.”


The night of the full moon

“All Phoebe wanted was to see her dad,” Anna-Maree sits down on the grass next to Constance Helling. The moonlight casts a bright glimmer across the river in front of them. “I never expected that their eventual encounter would lead to so much torment.”

“Torment?” Constance asks.

“When Phoebe finally tracked her father down in Holgate Bedlamites, he had been a patient for many years,” Anna-Maree explains. “He wasn’t the same person anymore.”

“You’ve had much heartache,” Constance puts her hand on Anna-Maree’s knee, attempting to reach out to her old friend.

“Phoebe went there expecting to reunite with her father,” Anna-Maree continues, “only to find the shell of the man once known as Christian Strong. He confessed everything to her, telling her that she was not our biological daughter.”

Constance closes her eyes, a stream of tears still managing to pour down her face.

“Phoebe was already mentally unbalanced,” Anna-Maree adds. “The years of surgery for her brain tumour had resulted in her own mental illness battles. She reacted to the news badly, thinking that I had betrayed her by not telling her the truth. Shortly after that, she faked her own death and framed me for her murder.”

“Why did Christian ultimately confess to Phoebe’s murder?” Constance asks, bewildered.

“I guess he felt guilty,” Anna-Maree explains. “Maybe he thought that it was his fault for Phoebe reacting the way that she did.”

“I see.”

“In any case, I will fight to free Christian from his wrongful conviction. Phoebe was never killed. She’s alive and well, and I know she’s been here recently. Phoebe changed her name to Melody Walker not long after Christian was convicted and she’s been on the run ever since. I need to find her so that she can get the help she needs!”

“Whatever I can do to help,” Constance offers.

Anna-Maree turns to face Constance. “If we don’t find her soon, I’m afraid more people will be seriously injured, or even killed!”


Present Day

Melody Walker looks down at the town of Peppercorn Patch from her vantage point high up on the hill.

As she looks at the town, she reflects on the carnage. It wasn’t her fault, of course, that she had been driven to kill.

When she thought her life was finally back on track after changing her name from Phoebe Strong and framing her mother for her murder, things had taken a turn for the worse.

Her lover, Mark Gilmore, had to go running back to his stupid wife, Cathy Gilmore, after she had been abducted by The Poetry Predator.

Cathy Gilmore, of course, had to pay the ultimate price.

Melody had screwed up the first opportunity she had to kill Cathy when the bullets from the rifle nearly killed the park ranger, Kelly Driver, instead.

The poisoned cookies she delivered to Cathy almost killer her, however she somehow managed to survive that attack too.

She had to resort to killing a whole lot of people just to get her revenge. When she placed the explosive device in The Grand Hotel on the evening of the beauty pageant, she knew that it would cause destruction, but it wasn’t her fault – she had been forced into a corner and she had to act!

When the dust settled and she found out that Mark Gilmore was the ultimate victim, she was surprisingly satisfied. After all, he had betrayed her love.

Now it was time to take revenge on anyone else that had betrayed her.


“I want to see her!” Michael Anders demands.

“You can’t,” Olivia says. “Amber’s in witness protection. She’s in hiding!”

“I want to know that she’s safe!” Michael says, becoming emotional at the thought of his lover, Amber Harp, being alone.

“Trust me,” Olivia declares, “she’s safe now. You don’t need to worry about her. She’s safe.”


Amber Harp sits on the bed with her son, Drake. Outside the locked bedroom door she can hear voices. The murmurs are too low for her to make out who is talking, but she can tell someone is at the front door.

She holds her ten-year-old son close to her. How she had missed seeing him all this time. Now she just hoped it was in different circumstances and she wasn’t a prisoner.

The bedroom window had been boarded up from the outside which meant the room was in constant darkness. Amber had no concept of time and she was beginning to feel defeated.

Her sister, Olivia, had tricked her. By the time Amber realised that the man claiming to be Steven Harp wasn’t her husband, it was too late. She was so confused at the time due to the seizures. She still suffered some memory loss.

Besides, when Olivia’s husband, Andy, threatened that he would hurt her son if she didn’t leave with him, she knew she had no choice. She just hoped that the note that she left Michael Anders would be enough. She was hopeful that he would find her one day.

It’s all a lie. I’m in grave danger. Please come find me.

In the meantime, she would remain a prisoner in her sister’s house.


Michael Anders pulls his car into Valerie Pickering’s driveway. They had decided to make the return trip to Peppercorn Patch once they had been informed that Amber Harp was now safe in witness protection. They had also had news that Joanne Evans had been acquitted from Kyle Cook’s murder trial. They were both eager to return.

“Thank you for helping out,” Michael says to Valerie as she opens the passenger door.

“It’s the least I could do after what you did for me,” Valerie replies, referring to the kidney that Michael had donated to Valerie’s recent transplant.

“I guess we’ll always have a connection then,” Michael smiles.

Valerie smiles back, before contemplating sullenly. “There’s something I’ve been meaning to tell you.”

“Oh?” Michael says, suddenly curious.

“I’ve wanted to tell you for a long time, only I’ve never quite known how to do it.”

“Valerie, what’s going on?” Michael asks. He looks at Valerie sceptically.

“Well…” Valerie starts. Suddenly, on the outside of the car, Joanne Evans knocks on the window.

Valerie looks out to see toddler Ricky in Joanne’s arms, before wrenching the car door quickly open and hugging her niece. Michael looks on as Joanne leads Valerie into the house, the two reconnecting after a long time apart.

Michael sighs heavily. Valerie had been so close to saying something to him. He throws his head back into the headrest and pushes his eyes closed, trying to hold back tears.

He pulls his wallet out of a pocket and rifles through it, quickly finding the Polaroid picture he had kept in it for as long as he could remember.

Michael Anders unfolds the small picture and looks at the face staring back at him.

He had been given the photo by his foster mother when he was a teenager. It was a photo of his real mother.

Michael Anders looks at the photo of Valerie Pickering. He would do anything for her. He would always look after her.

After all, he had always known the truth about her.


“Joanne Evans!” the courtroom judge yells down at Joanne in the witness stand. “What have you got to say for yourself?”

“I’m not guilty!” Joanne cries.

“I put it to you that you are guilty!” barrister Harvey Dennis suddenly shouts.

“You are guilty, Joanne!” prosecutor Virginia D’Amor chimes in.

“Please, no!” Joanne cries.

“You have to be punished for your crimes, Joanne!” the judge yells. “Your punishment, determined by me, is the removal of your son from your care!”

Joanne suddenly lets out a wail that echoes through the courtroom. “No!”

The judge tries to maintain order of the court by banging his gavel onto the bench repeatedly. Bang. Bang. Bang. Bang.

Joanne is awakened by the sound of banging.

Next to her, Ricky sleeps soundly. She is covered in sweat and realises that she had been having a nightmare.

The banging noise continues as Joanne pulls herself out of bed and heads to the front door, switching on the hallway light as she goes.

Joanne opens the front door and stares in disbelief at the person knocking at her front door.


“I’m so glad that you could join me,” Melody Walker says to the figure approaching her. “What a beautiful sight.”

“It certainly is,” the figure replies. “It’s such a beautiful town. Shame about the people who live in it, though.”

They both look down upon the town of Peppercorn Patch from the clifftop.

Melody Walker turns to face her visitor. She can just make out his face in the darkness. “I’m so happy that you are my real father,” she says to him. “I always knew that I would finally find you.”

“I’m so glad that you found me,” Doctor Peter Smith replies. “You are the daughter I never had – only now I actually do have you.”

They both look down upon the town again.

“This town will pay for what they’ve down to you, Father,” Melody Walker says through gritted teeth. “They will wish they never messed with us!”


“What are you doing here?” Joanne asks her uninvited guest. “At this hour?”

Wendy Evans steps into the house and smiles politely at Joanne.

“If I knew that you were coming…” Joanne says, pulling the dressing gown belt tighter around her waist.

“Please, Joanne,” Wendy interrupts.

Joanne looks at her mother-in-law, confused. Her late husband, Richard, had not spoken to his mother for a while before he had been killed. Wendy could never understand why Richard had moved from Holgate to Peppercorn Patch when he met Joanne.

“What are you doing here Wendy?” Joanne repeats.

“You’ve lied Joanne,” Wendy says coldly. “You haven’t been telling the truth about my son.”

Joanne is speechless. She is unsure of what Richard’s mother is trying to tell her.

“Ricky is already 18 months old and I only just found out that he is Richard’s son?” Wendy fires at Joanne. “Your games are unfair!”

“You don’t understand,” Joanne tries to tell Wendy. “You see, Kyle came onto the scene and…”

“Enough, Joanne,” Wendy exhales. She extracts a signed document from her handbag, pushing it into Joanne’s hands. “A court order allowing me to take custody of Ricky.”

“What?” Joanne tries quickly to skim through the document.

“You’ve been trying to keep my grandson away from me,” Wendy declares. “Well, not anymore. He’s coming home with me tonight.”

The courtroom judge banging his gavel repeatedly on the bench echoes violently through Joanne’s head.


Obnoxious Weeds will return later this year with Season Seven!

Theme Music Composed by Ian Camilleri Music

Episode Illustration by Grey Alexander
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Episode Seventy-Three

Ep 73

Avoid Spoilers! Read from Episode One

Taurus
[The 2nd sign of the zodiac; cautious, practical and purposeful]

“Phoebe is alive,” Anna-Maree Axe tells Constance Helling. “She’s been here recently.”

“Who? Phoebe?” Constance asks.

“Yes, only you probably didn’t recognise her.”

“What are you saying, Heather?” Constance’s head is spinning.

“Joanne is in grave danger. Phoebe is not herself.”

“Not herself?”

“Everyone is in grave danger. Phoebe is ill and needs help,” Anna-Maree continues. “We need to find Phoebe before it’s too late.”

“What has she done?”

“She’s out for revenge,” Anna-Maree finally explains. “Phoebe is out for revenge of anyone that stands in her way – only she’s not referring to herself as Phoebe any longer.”

“Not herself,” Constance nods in understanding.

“My daughter needs help. When was the last time you saw Melody Walker?”

“Melody Walker?” Constance gasps. “Melody Walker is your daughter Phoebe?”

“Yes,” Anna-Maree says. “That’s what I’ve been trying to tell you!”

“Nobody has seen her since the explosion at The Grand Hotel,” Constance informs Anna-Maree.

“I can tell you now that she was probably the one responsible,” Anna-Maree says.

“But why?” Constance asks, unsure.

“She’s not well, Constance. She needs help. She’s out for revenge!”

Constance lowers herself to the ground, still trying to understand the news she has just been given.

“I know it’s hard to understand,” Anna-Maree continues, “but Phoebe faked her own death. She never was quite the same after her operations to save her. The brain tumor left her damaged.”

“How did you know she was here?” Constance asks.

“I read an article in The Holgate Times about The Poetry Predator,” Anna-Maree explains. “It detailed some other incidents that had occurred, such as the shooting of a park ranger in hospital, the suspected poisoning of a nurse and then, finally, the explosion at The Grand Hotel. I knew that Phoebe had to be involved.”

“She has to be stopped before she hurts someone else,” Constance says.

“That’s why we need to find her. That’s why I’m here. And that’s why I need you to tell me the truth!”

Constance looks up at Anna-Maree, a feeling of guilt suddenly wrenching her whole body.


“Please believe me, Olivia,” Michael Anders urges. “Your sister, Amber Harp, was attacked. Not long after her attack I have reason to believe she was abducted by someone claiming to be her husband, Steven Harp.”

“But, but…” Olivia stutters, “…Steven is dead.”

“I know,” Michael continues. “That’s why I have grave dangers about your sister. I believe she may be in trouble.”

Olivia takes in a deep breath, closes her eyes and then exhales. “Amber is safe,” she says quickly.

“What?” Michael Anders asks.

“My sister and her son, Drake, are both safe,” Olivia confirms.

“What do you mean? Where are they?” Michael is incredulous.

“Look,” Olivia says, peering around the neighbourhood outside and lowering her voice. “I’m not supposed to be telling you this…”

Michael Anders and Valerie Pickering both move in closer to Olivia, trying hard to hear what she is about to tell them.

“…my sister, Amber,” Olivia continues, “is currently in witness protection with her son.”

Michael stares at Olivia, the sudden realisation of events hitting him.

“Her investigation into Doctor Peter Smith’s fraudulent activities was getting too close for comfort. After the attack on her life, she needed to be put away for safe keeping.”

“Put away for safe keeping?” Michael winces.

“She was putting herself in too much danger,” Olivia explains. “She needed to be extracted.”

Behind Olivia, in the doorway, a man suddenly appears. “Is everything okay?” he asks.

Michael Anders recognises the man instantly as the person imitating Amber’s husband, Steven Harp, in the hospital. “Steven?” Michael asks hesitantly.

“No,” Olivia says. “This is my husband, Andy. He helped to extract Amber.”

“I was there, I know,” Michael says. “But why would Amber think that Andy was her husband, Steven?”

“She was so confused after the attack,” Olivia explains. “She’s still getting her memory back, and she’s still having seizures.”

“I want to see her!” Michael suddenly demands.

“You can’t,” Olivia says, “she’s in witness protection. She’s in hiding!”

“I want to know that she’s safe!” Michael says, becoming emotional at the thought of his lover being alone.

“Trust me,” Olivia declares, “she’s safe now.”


27 years ago

“You’re going to make a wonderful mother,” the midwife, Constance Helling, tells Heather Strong, handing the baby over to her.

Heather Strong looks at the baby girl in her arms and starts to cry. “She’s beautiful.”

“She looks just like you,” Constance informs her. “She’s got your nose.”

Heather Strong laughs. “She’s too small to have my nose.”

Constance giggles to herself. “Too true. She is way too small to have your nose. But I’m sure one day she’ll look just like you.”


The night of the full moon

“That’s why we need to find her,” Anna-Maree declares. “That’s why I’m here. And that’s why I need you to tell me the truth!”

Constance looks up at Anna-Maree, a feeling of guilt suddenly wrenching her whole body. “The truth?”

“You know what I’m talking about Constance!” Anna-Maree shouts. “Where is the birth certificate? You know what I’ve been looking for this whole time!”


27 years ago

Heather Strong carries her newborn daughter out of the Peppercorn Patch hospital and approaches the car where her husband has arranged to pick her up. She opens the door and secures her daughter into the baby capsule in the backseat of the car.

“It’s going to be so sad to leave this place,” Heather says as she joins her husband in the front of the car. “We’ve made so many good friends here.”

“There’s no work for me here,” Christian Strong reminds his wife. “We need to go to Holgate so I can get a proper job to look after my family.”

“I know,” Heather says, placing a hand on her husband’s knee. “I know you want to look after your new family.”


The night of the full moon

“It was a simple mistake,” Constance says. “By the time I realised what I’d done, it was too late. There was no way I could do anything about it.”

“You stupid woman!” Anna-Maree yells at Constance. “You’ve ruined everybody’s lives!”

Constance collapses to the ground, sobbing uncontrollably. “I’m sorry,” she splutters.


17 years ago

Heather Strong had lived in Holgate for ten years with her family before her daughter became ill. Phoebe Strong was 10 years old when she was diagnosed with a brain tumour. She had been showing symptoms for a few months before her mother finally took her to a doctor to be looked at.

“We’ve run some blood tests,” the doctor said to Heather and Christian Strong. “I’m afraid they show some inconsistencies.”

“What do you mean by inconsistencies?” Christian Strong asked.

“Is Phoebe adopted?” the doctor asked.

“No, I gave birth to her!” Heather replied, scoffing at the doctor’s questioning.

“I don’t think that’s possible, given these results.” The doctor looks at the couple, confounded.


The night of the full moon

Constance Helling tries to control her sudden outburst of grief. Anna-Maree Axe, once known as Heather Strong to Constance, kneels down next to her.

“I need to know the truth once and for all,” Anna-Maree says. “What happened?”

Constance takes in deep breaths, trying to control her sobbing.

“So much was going on that night,” Constance reflects. “Annette Pickering had just died during childbirth and you were giving birth at the same time…”

“Please, just tell me.” Tears start to roll down Anna-Maree’s face.

“I got confused and mixed up the babies,” Constance begins to sob again uncontrollably.

The paternity test reveals that Peter Smith shares no genetic material with Joanne Evans. Peter Smith, therefore, cannot be Joanne’s biological father.

“Joanne Evans,” Constance continues to cry, “is your real daughter!”


Season Final – Monday July 3

Theme Music Composed by Ian Camilleri Music

Episode Illustration by Grey Alexander
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Episode Seventy-Two

Ep 72

Avoid Spoilers! Read from Episode One

Aries
[The 1st sign of the zodiac; determined, impulsive, headstrong, driven and ambitious]

“You’re free to go home, Joanne,” Joel informs her. “The charges against you have been dropped.”

Joanne nearly collapses to the floor with the news. Joel tries hard to hold her up. “I don’t understand…” she stutters.

“Thomas Helling walked into the courthouse just moments ago and gave himself in,” Joel explains. “He’s just been charged with the murder of Kyle Cook.”


“How do we know you’re telling the truth?” prosecution barrister, Virginia D’Amor, interrogates Thomas Helling. “How can we believe that you were responsible for murdering Constable Kyle Cook?”

Thomas Helling closes his eyes and takes a deep breath. He knew that it would eventually all come to this. He could never let his own sister take the blame for what had happened. Joanne Evans may have been the one that had actually killed Kyle Cook, but Thomas knew that he had to take responsibility for the events that had unfolded. He had allowed himself to be brainwashed by Kyle and the least he could do was help his sister.

“You’ll believe me,” Thomas says, “when I show you.”

“Show us what?” Virginia D’Amor asks.

“I can take you there,” Thomas informs the prosecutor.

“Take me where?” Virginia is growing impatient.

“I will show you proof of my involvement.”


Michael Anders pulls his car up to the kerb, pulling the keys out of the ignition. “I think this is the place.”

“Are you sure?” asks Valerie Pickering, who sits opposite him in the passenger seat.

“I found the address among Amber’s belongings.”

“There’s only one way to find out,” Valerie says, starting to the open the car door.

“I just don’t understand!” Michael suddenly shouts. Valerie instinctively pulls the door closed. She looks around to see if anyone has heard them.

“Michael?” Valerie asks, confused.

“I mean,” Michael contemplates, “if Amber’s husband had been killed, then who was that at the hospital? Who did she drive off with?”

“Your guess is as good as mine.” Valerie shrugs. “Maybe this place will give you some answers.”

Michael nods, stepping out of the car and approaching the front door of the house they had parked in front of. Michael knocks on the front door as Valerie rests a hand on his shoulder, a sign of her show of support.

After a few seconds, the front door opens to reveal a woman with dark hair. At first Michael thinks he recognises Amber Harp, but quickly realises that, though the woman has the same eyes as Amber, it was not his lover. “Olivia?” Michael asks the woman.

“Yes,” the woman in the house replies, seemingly unsure of the uninvited guests at her front door.

“Olivia?” Michael asks again. “Are you Amber Harp’s sister?”


Thomas Helling walks along the forest track. His hands, both handcuffed in front of his body, make his stride uneasy as he tries to navigate the uneven ground. His balance is being tested like never before.

Behind Thomas, prosecutor Virginia D’Amor steps gingerly. She realises she should have changed her clothes before attempting their venture into the national park surrounding the town of Peppercorn Patch. She pulls off her dark blue business jacket as she begins to build up a sweat.

“How much longer?” Virginia D’Amor asks Thomas.

“Just around the corner here,” Thomas calls back.

As they round the corner of trees, the five policemen escorting the duo surround Thomas. He lifts both of his handcuffed hands and points his right index finger towards some shrubbery and bushes. “In there,” he says.

Virginia D’Amor steps timidly towards the bushes. She pulls on some latex gloves as she manoeuvres her way across the uneven ground. Using some branches she finds lying on the ground, Virginia pokes her way through the undergrowth. The woody plants scratch her bare arms as she tries to shield her face. As she gets closer, she suddenly sees it.

A skeleton.

Human remains.

Virginia covers her face in horror.

“I killed him,” Thomas explains. “There’s my proof that I’m a murderer.”

Virginia turns to face Thomas Helling. “You killed Inspector Wesley Manning?” she asks.

“Yes,” Thomas says. “I killed Kyle Cook too!”


“Who are you?” Olivia snaps.

“My name is Michael Anders. I’m a police officer based in Peppercorn Patch.”

“What’s this about, then?” Olivia says, annoyed.

“Have you seen your sister, Amber Harp?” Michael asks.

“My sister?”

“Yes,” Michael explains. “We have reason to believe she may be in danger.”

“Danger?” Olivia seems confused. “How so?”

“She was in Peppercorn Patch recently,” Michael explains, “covering the murder of Richard Evans for her story…”

“…she covers lots of stories!” Olivia interrupts.

“I know,” Michael says, trying hard to explain the situation, “but she was attacked.”

“What?” Olivia puts a hand to her forehead, screwing her face up in disbelief.

“Please believe me, Olivia,” Michael urges. “Your sister was attacked. Not long after her attack I have reason to believe she was abducted by someone claiming to be her husband, Steven Harp.”

“But, but…” Olivia stutters, “…Steven is dead.”

“I know,” Michael continues. “That’s why I have grave dangers about your sister. I believe she may be in trouble.”


Joanne Evans forces the front door of her aunt’s house open and rushes inside. Doctor Joel Prasad follows, entering the house with a small bag of clothes and toiletries.

“Cathy?” Joanne shouts into the house, almost sounding too eager.

Joel places the bags down on the floor and rests one of his hands on Joanne’s shoulder. “He’s been well looked after.”

“Cathy?” Joanne calls out again.

Cathy Gilmore had moved into Joanne Evans’ aunt’s house not long after her husband, Mark Gilmore, had been killed in the bombing of The Grand Hotel. All three women had felt they had lost everything – Cathy had lost her husband; Valerie had lost her business; and Joanne had almost lost her freedom.

But one thing had kept them all going.

One thing had kept them all alive.

“Where is he?” Joanne calls out again, impatiently.

From the lounge room, Cathy Gilmore strides towards Joanne. Walking next to her, finding his feet uneasily, walks an 18 month old toddler.

Joanne kneels down to the floor, stretching her arms out and allowing a stream of tears fall down her face.

The toddler looks at Joanne timidly at first, holding onto Cathy’s leg, unsure.

“Come and give mummy a hug!” Joanne sings out as Ricky runs to his mother, giggling with glee.


Four months after the Day of the Wedding

“Joanne,” Constance Helling whispers, waking the sleeping patient. “Do you know what day it is?”

“Huh?” Joanne rubs her eyes as she wakes up.

“It’s the day you get to go home,” Constance says. “Today you get to leave this place.”

Constance sits on the Holgate Bedlamites hospital bed next to Joanne. She places an envelope on Joanne’s lap. “Your test results.”

“My test results?” Joanne is perplexed.

“Remember, you wanted to be tested for Huntington’s Disease.”

Joanne puts a hand to her head. “Oh, yes,” she says. “I almost forgot.”

“Open it in your own time,” Constance says, referring to the envelope with the test results.


Joanne Evans lies in her own bed for the first time in six months. She is so happy to be at home, surrounded by loved ones. She will be forever indebted to her best friend, Cathy Gilmore, for looking after her son, Ricky, while she was locked away in prison awaiting trial for the murder of Kyle Cook.

She rests her head on the pillow, looking over at Ricky sound asleep next to her. The infant makes a slight snoring sound as he rests his head close to hers. How she longed for this moment for months. Finally she was home.

Joanne stares at the ceiling. How had Thomas managed to convince them of his involvement? Joanne thinks to herself. She didn’t like the thought of her brother being locked away for a murder he didn’t commit, but was grateful for his sacrifice. It meant that she could carry on with her own retribution.

Her biological father, Doctor Peter Smith, had been acquitted and let free. She had to find him and stop him before he managed to destroy any more lives.

Before she did that, however, she needed to find out for herself once and for all. Her father had Huntington’s Disease and she needed to find out if she had it too. She needed to know before she ever put her own son at risk.

Joanne’s index finger rips through the yellow envelope as if in slow motion. Joanne breathes heavily as she pulls out the test results. She had been holding on to them for so long in the fear the results would destroy her.

Joanne skims through the results, trying to determine what is written on the piece of paper in front of her.

Joanne holds her breath as she reads the results. Negative to Huntington’s Disease.

A tear falls down her cheek. She is suddenly feeling overwhelmed.

Joanne reads down the report further. She doesn’t quite understand. Another test? she asks herself.

Yes, the Holgate Bedlamites hospital staff had conducted another test. A test that Joanne didn’t even know about.

Joanne pants heavily, holding her chest as the test results flutter to the bedroom floor.

A paternity test.

Joanne feels as though she can’t breathe.

A paternity test conducted on her biological father, Doctor Peter Smith.

The room spins as Joanne continues to clutch her chest.

The paternity test reveals that Peter Smith shares no genetic material with Joanne Evans. Peter Smith, therefore, cannot be Joanne’s biological father.


Next Episode – Monday June 26

Theme Music Composed by Ian Camilleri Music

Episode Illustration by Grey Alexander
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Episode Seventy-One

IMG_1192

Avoid Spoilers! Read from Episode One

Pisces
[The 12th sign of the zodiac; victimised and moody]

Michael Anders catches his breath, still reeling from his realised horror. He watches as the envelope falls to the floor, the business name printed on the front of it burning into his mind. Peppercorn Patch Hospital. Michael now understood who had attacked Amber.

Doctor Peter Smith.

How had he not seen it earlier? The letter that was written to Amber Harp threatening her and her family was poetic in style – all the hallmarks of The Poetry Predator.

Had Doctor Peter Smith also murdered Amber’s husband, Steven Harp? Was that the real reason Amber was in Peppercorn Patch – hunting down her husband’s killer? Michael Anders was desperate to find answers so that he could locate Amber and protect her.

He buries his head in his hands, trying to think about what to do next.

The stillness of the empty house is suddenly interrupted as the sound of someone knocking on the front door echoes hauntingly through it. Michael jumps, startled. His heart almost stops beating. He heads timidly to the front door.

He peers through the front window to get a glimpse of his guest, before opening the front door in a wave of confusion. “What the hell are you doing here?”


Joanne Evans looks around the small room again. It is empty apart from a desk and three chairs, all of which had seen better days. The walls, painted a light green colour, needed some attention. She could see a few expletives etched into the table, and wouldn’t be surprised if the underside of the table was a wasteland of expired chewing gum. She didn’t want to look, and dared not feel under the table.

Her lawyer had been taking what felt like a lifetime. She had been stuck in here for most of the morning, waiting for her trial to start. The small waiting room in the courthouse was her current prison. Before long she would know whether a prison sentence was in her future.

Her friend, Cathy Gilmore, had been to the courthouse earlier in the day and had delivered Joanne a change of clothes for the trial. The light purple jacket and matching skirt would supposedly make Joanne appear feminine, but also the right balance of powerful and vulnerable, or so her lawyer had told her. She was willing to try anything, for she had been charged with a serious crime. She was looking at a life of imprisonment if she was found guilty of the murder of Leading Senior Constable Kyle Cook.

She hadn’t worried so much about the prospect of being in prison for the rest of her life before – besides she had pulled the trigger and killed Kyle Cook. She had been prepared to take responsibility for her crime, so long as her son, Ricky, was well looked after, and she knew that Cathy Gilmore would see to that. However, she was worrying now. Ever since the recent acquittal of her biological father, Doctor Peter Smith, she knew that she couldn’t go to prison. She had to get out and protect her loved ones from that demented psychopath. She knew he would stop at nothing to continue destroying the lives of those around him.

She was so angry that it had all come to this.


“What the hell are you doing here?” Michael Anders says as he opens the front door of Amber Harp’s house.

His uninvited guest looks up at him. A relieved look on her face.

“How did you find me here?” Michael continues to ask.

Valerie Pickering steps up to Michael Anders and pulls his hands in to hers. She pulls them up to her face and a tear falls down her cheek. “It’s so good to see you, Sergeant Anders.”

“Val, I don’t understand…” Michael begins.

“Neither do I,” Valerie admits. “It’s these hallucinations I’ve been having. Ever since the kidney transplant I’ve been having these weird premonitions.”

Michael suddenly puts one of his hands onto his lower back. He swears he can feel where the kidney was taken out begin to ache.

“We have a connection,” Valerie continues. “Maybe because of the kidney, maybe more.”

“Your premonitions led you here?” Michael asks, still bewildered.

“Yes, my sweet child,” Valerie says, now taking a hold of Michael’s face. “I dreamt that I would find you here.”

“But why did you come?”

“It’s not me who needs you,” Valerie offers. “Joanne is on trial for killing Kyle. She needs your support right now. You should come back with me so she has a friend to help her through this.”

Michael sighs sympathetically, closing his eyes. “I wish I could do more,” Michael says. “But I really need to stay here and keep looking for Amber. I’m sorry about Joanne.”

“That was the other reason I came,” Valerie offers.

“I don’t follow.”

“I also had a premonition about Amber,” Valerie tells him.

“You know where she is?” Michael asks excitedly.

“Not exactly,” Valerie says, “but I might be able to help.”

“I fear she is in danger. I think Doctor Smith is responsible for attacking her and maybe even killing her husband,” Michael explains.

“That was the premonition I had about Amber,” Valerie confesses. “Doctor Smith was acquitted and released from prison. Now he’s out there looking for her, too.”

“We have to find her before he does!” Michael asserts.


The door to the small court waiting room creaks open and Joanne sees an unsuspecting face enter the room.

“What are you doing here?” Joanne asks, puzzled.

Doctor Joel Prasad pulls out a chair and takes a seat next to Joanne. “I’m here for support. How are you holding up?”

“I want this all to be over,” Joanne tells Peppercorn Patch’s newest doctor. “I just want to go home and pretend none of this ever happened.”

“I know it must be hard,” Joel says, putting a comforting hand on Joanne’s. “I just wanted to say that you have the support of a lot of people. You have a lot of friends that care about you.”

Joanne puts her free hand over Joel’s. “I know.” She attempts a smile.

“If you ever need anything when you return home, I’m more than happy to help out,” Joel tells Joanne.

“That’s if I ever do get to go home,” Joanne sighs. “I’ll probably be stuck inside a prison, while the real monster, Doctor Smith, will be out there doing God knows what!”

Joel Prasad stands, pulling Joanne up with him as he does so. He leads her towards the door without saying a word.

“What are you doing?” Joanne says. “Where are we going?”

Joel pushes the door open, turns to face Joanne and gives her a big smile. “Home. I’m taking you home.”

“What are you on about?” Joanne’s heart is racing.

“You’re free to go home, Joanne,” Joel informs her. “The charges against you have been dropped.”

Joanne nearly collapses to the floor with the news. Joel tries hard to hold her up. “I don’t understand…” she stutters.

“Thomas Helling walked into the courthouse just moments ago and gave himself in,” Joel explains. “He’s just been charged with the murder of Kyle Cook.”


Next Episode – Monday June 19

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Episode Seventy

Episode 70

Avoid Spoilers! Read from Episode One

Aquarius
[11th sign of the zodiac; individuals of the zodiac – detached and unpredictable]

Michael Anders steps up to the front door. He peers inside the window to see if he can see any sign of life inside the house. The place looks like it hadn’t been lived in for quite some time, which isn’t a surprise given the letterbox is overflowing with unopened mail.

Michael walks around the front verandah of Amber Harp’s Holgate house. He had managed to find out where she had once lived with her husband and son, and hoped that he might be able to find her here. It didn’t look like they had returned yet. Michael was at a loss. He really wanted to find Amber Harp, for he feared that she was in danger. He pulls the crumpled handwritten note that she had secretly given him out of his pocket and reads it again: It’s all a lie. I’m in grave danger. Please come find me.

Pulling a tool out of his back pocket, Michael pushes it into the back door’s keyhole. He gives the tool a few turns before hearing the click of the bolt opening. A trick he picked up in his time as a police officer.

Stepping inside the house, Michael hopes that there will be something he will be able to find that will point to the location of his missing lover. “Where are you, Amber?” he says to himself as he looks around the still and quiet house. A slight musty smell fills the air. Michael reasons that the house must have been closed up for some time.

Michael steps into the kitchen and opens the fridge. It is almost empty, apart from a few containers of food and vegetables, which now sport an array of mould and other living things. A foul smell quickly escapes the cool tomb and fills the air. Michael holds his breath and slams the fridge door closed, trying hard not to gag.

Moving to the front of the house, Michael locates what looks like a study. He enters the room and sees a number of university degrees adorning the wall. Amber Harp, they read. Bachelor of Communication and Journalism. Amber’s study.

Michael looks at the neatly arranged items on the desk. The pens are neatly stored in a cup on the desk’s corner. The folders holding Amber’s investigative research are neatly stacked. Just as I remember Amber, Michael thinks to himself. He remembered her as someone who was neat and organised, forever chastising him for his sometimes careless manner. She had even helped him organise his desk in the Peppercorn Patch Police Station once, though the organisation that she had achieved for him didn’t seem to last long. His desk may have looked a little like a warzone at times, he had told her, however it was more organised chaos than anything else. He always claimed to know where all the files were that he needed.

Amber Harp and Michael’s relationship had begun a little under two years ago. As the sergeant of Peppercorn Police he had been responsible for investigating the murder of Joanne Evans’ husband, Richard. A crime reporter for the newspaper, The Holgate Times, Amber had arrived in Peppercorn Patch to cover the story. Not long after that, Joanne started to receive threatening letters in the form of poetry, leading to her eventual capture. Michael and Amber were there, assisting each other with the investigation and the subsequent unmasking of the Poetry Predator.

Amber and Michael became more than just colleagues. More than just friends. They fell in love.

That was until Amber was attacked one night. Her attacker fled in the cover of darkness, leaving Amber with a head injury which left her with a permanent injury – seizures would most probably plague her for the rest of her life.

Michael didn’t know for sure who had attacked Amber, but he had his suspicions. Amber had been adamant that his deputy, Leading Senior Constable Kyle Cook, was somehow involved in the murder of Joanne Evans’ husband, Richard. Michael had wondered whether Kyle could have attacked Amber, knowing that she was getting too close to his secret.

Michael opens the desk drawer and looks inside at the neatly arranged items. He notices an envelope and pulls it out. Amber’s name is handwritten on the front. He opens the envelope and pulls out its contents. A handwritten letter rests in his fingertips.


18 months ago

Amber Harp had been in Peppercorn Patch much longer than she had originally planned. After the murder of her husband, Steven Harp, Amber had sought revenge. She wanted to bring the person or people responsible for her husband’s murder to justice.

When she had heard of the murder of Richard Evans, she had jumped quickly on the case, convincing her boss, the editor of The Holgate Times, to let her travel to Peppercorn Patch to cover the story. What she had neglected to tell anyone was her true intentions.

It was the threatening letter that had really brought her to Peppercorn Patch. The letter that had been sent to her which threatened her family if she continued with the investigation that she had been undertaking. It was a handwritten letter that had been imprinted on Amber’s memory. She could never forget it, especially once her husband had been murdered. No one would want to mess with her again. She swore she would seek vengeance for her husband. All she had to do was follow the clues. And the biggest clue of all had been on the envelope.


Michael Anders reads the letter for the second time, noting something familiar about the way it was written. It was something that he had seen before.

He puts the letter down and inspects the envelope again. He screams out in horror as he finally sees it, throwing the envelope as far away from him as possible.


18 months ago

Yes, Amber Harp had stayed much longer than she had originally planned to. She had no doubts about who had murdered her husband and was biding her time, waiting for the opportune time to strike.

In the meantime, she had also become deep in the investigation of Richard Evans’ death and was certain she knew who the real killer was.

Amber stood at the gravesite of Benjamin Pickering, the flashlight she held illuminating the headstone.  She couldn’t help but think of what the site looked like only a few short months earlier. Benjamin Pickering’s body had been dug up and burned in a fire at the local high school. Everyone assumed it was Thomas Helling.

“He couldn’t have done this by himself,” Amber said to herself. “There’s no way he could have dug this grave up and pulled out a body on his own.”

Amber heard the sound of the leaves rustling. She shone her flashlight up into the tree.

The attack came unexpectedly from behind.

The deafening crack of a metal object smashing into Amber’s skull echoed through the cemetery.

Amber’s attacker ran off into the darkness.


Michael Anders catches his breath, still reeling from his realised horror. He watches as the envelope falls to the floor, the business name printed on the front of it. Peppercorn Patch Hospital. Michael now understood who had attacked Amber.


18 months ago

Amber instinctively reached for the back of her head, collapsing to the ground from the force of the blow. The baseball bat used to attack her rested on the grass next to her. Her head throbbed as she tried to call out for help, but no sound escaped. As she drifted in and out of consciousness, Amber could see a figure running off in the distance.

Amber recognised her attacker. Amber recognised her husband’s killer.

Amber recognised Doctor Peter Smith.


Next Episode – Monday June 12

Theme Music Composed by Ian Camilleri Music

Episode Illustration by Grey Alexander
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Episode Sixty-Nine

Episode 69

Avoid Spoilers! Read from Episode One

Capricorn
[The 10th sign of the zodiac; reach new heights, beating those who are faster, yet less determined]

Six months ago

Amber Harp looks at Sergeant Michael Anders without saying anything. They stare at each other silently for a second before the sound of the car’s horn disrupts them. “Time to go Amber!” Steven Harp, Amber’s husband, shouts impatiently.

Amber pulls away quickly. Michael notices a tear fall down her cheek.

Silently, Amber enters the car and closes the door behind her.

As the car takes off, Michael can see Amber meet his gaze. She mouths the words I love you to him.

Michael brings a hand to his face and wipes the tears from his cheeks. He reaches into his pocket for a tissue. It’s then that he realises that something is in it. A piece of paper. Amber must have slipped it into his pocket while they were hugging each other.

Michael unfolds the piece of paper and reads his lover’s handwriting: It’s all a lie. I’m in grave danger. Please come find me.

Sergeant Michael Anders looks up suddenly from the piece of paper. He looks on as the car holding Amber Harp captive rounds the distant corner and exits the town of Peppercorn Patch.


The night of the full moon

The glass doors to the entrance of The Holgate Times building slide open and Sergeant Michael Anders steps inside. He walks up to the front desk where he can see a receptionist working away diligently at her computer.

“I’m a police officer investigating the disappearance of one of your employees, Amber Harp,” Michael informs her.

“Amber Harp?” the receptionist ponders. “She doesn’t work here anymore.”

“Since when?” Michael asks.

“A few weeks,” the receptionist says, looking back to her screen. “She just called me one day and said that she wasn’t returning.”

“Did she tell you why?” Michael asks, feeling anxious.

“Nope. Just said that she had met someone and was leaving, so she wouldn’t be back.”

“She didn’t tell you who she’d met?”

“Look, I’m pretty busy here, Mister…” the receptionist starts.

“…Sergeant Anders, from the Peppercorn Patch police station.” Michael is impatient.

“Peppercorn Patch, hey?” the receptionist says, taking her glasses off. “That’s where she was working before she quit. She was investigating that murder…”

“Yes, the murder of Richard Evans,” Michael agrees. “She had some theories about who had killed him.”

“Richard Evans?” the receptionist says, confused. “Doesn’t ring a bell.”

“What do you mean? That’s why she went there originally. To investigate his murder.”

“You know journalists,” the receptionist says, putting her glasses back on and going back to her screen. “They always have a cover story.”

“A cover story?”

“She was in Peppercorn Patch to investigate a murder,” the receptionist offers. “The murder of her husband.”


Six months later

Michael Anders startles himself awake. He had been having one of his bad dreams. Again. They seemed to be constant, and he felt that they wouldn’t end.

He rubs his eyes and sits up on the bed. The small motel room he is staying in has a damp musty smell.

He pulls on the clothes that are lying on the floor. The same clothes he had been wearing yesterday, and the day before that. He hadn’t yet had a chance to do his washing and had run out of clean clothes.

Michael looks into the dirty mirror in the room’s small bathroom and runs his fingers through his long hair. He notices the bushy unkempt beard which seems to have taken over the lower part of his face. It makes him look much older than his 38 years.

He couldn’t remember the last time he had eaten properly. He hadn’t slept properly. He was no longer functioning properly.

This case had taken over his whole life.

He had taken leave from his position as Peppercorn Patch’s police chief and had taken residence in a dingy motel in Holgate on the hunt for his lover, Amber Harp.

So far, though, he hadn’t been able to find out much. She was still missing, along with her son, Drake, and her so-called husband, Steven, who was supposed to be dead.

Yes, this case had engulfed every part of his being.

He wasn’t going to let go. He knew that Amber Harp needed him. Somehow he was going to find her. Somehow it was going to be okay. Everything was going to be good again.


Three years ago

Amber Harp entered the front door of her house and dropped her bag to the ground.

The house was dark, which was unexpected, as her husband and son should have been home.

“Steven?” Amber called out to her husband.

There was no answer, so she pushed her hand against the wall, trying to find the light switch in the dark. She flicked it on but the room stayed dark. Amber thought there must have been a tripped switch.

She walked further into the dark house, removing her high-heeled shoes as she did so. She felt her way, grabbing onto furniture for guidance.

As she neared the bedroom, she could hear a low murmur. Was it music?

Amber fondled for the closed bedroom door handle in the dark. She pushed the door open and was greeted with a bewildering sight.

Lit candles flickered throughout the bedroom and rose petals covered the bed. The sweet sound of classical music filled the air.

Amber moved further into the bedroom, a wide smile erupting over her face as she entered the bedroom’s en suite.

“What a wonderful surprise,” Amber said to her husband, Steven, who she saw sitting in the bubbling spa. “Where’s Drake?”

Steven Harp poured a glass of champagne for his wife and it handed it her, their glasses chinking together. “He’s with your sister for the night,” Steven informed her, “so we’ve got the whole night to ourselves.”

Amber laughed out loud as she started pulling her clothes off.

“I’ve ordered takeaway from your favourite Thai place,” Steven added as Amber entered the spa. “And we can lie on the couch together and watch that movie you’ve been wanting to see.”

Amber pulled herself over next to her husband and kissed him on the cheek. “You’re the best, you know that?”

“You’re the best,” he said back to her, wrapping his arm around her.

Amber sighed loudly, before taking a sip of her champagne.

“How was work?” Steven Harp could sense that Amber was distracted.

“It’s this case,” Amber said, stretching out her neck and rubbing it with her free hand. “I think I’m getting myself in deeper than I’d like to.”

“Crime reporter Amber Harp,” Steven said, almost laughing, “getting herself involved in something too deep? Never!”

Amber slapped her husband gently. “I’m serious, Steven,” she said, “this case I’m investigating – it’s really unsettling me.”

Steven began to caress Amber’s neck. “Well, maybe you need to stop investigating it, baby.”

Amber laughed out loud. “Crime reporter Amber Harp stop investigating?” She pushed her husband playfully under the water as they both giggled out loud. “Never!”


Amber Harp stepped up to her sister’s front door.

“I’m sorry to do this to you,” Amber said to her sister, Olivia, when she opened the door, “but I need you to look after Drake for me.”

Drake Harp, 7 years of age, held an overnight bag. His face couldn’t hide the fact that he did not wish to be with his aunt.

“Amber?” Olivia said, concerned. “What’s wrong?”

“I just need you to look after Drake for me,” Amber repeated, ushering Drake into the house with his bag. “Something has happened at work and he can’t be at home.”

“Amber?” Olivia was still concerned. “What’s going on?”

Amber pushed a hand to her forehead, before sighing. “It’s this case I’ve been investigating.”

“I knew it!” Olivia cried out. “I told you that you needed to back off! It’s too much.”

“I’ve been receiving threats,” Amber informed her sister.

“Amber?”

“I need you to look after Drake for me,” Amber said firmly, backing away from the door. “Until I get this sorted.”

“How long?” Olivia called out.

“I don’t know,” Amber said, continuing to back away from the house towards her car. “Hopefully not too long.”

“Threats?”

“A phone call. Some letters,” Amber told her.

“Does Steven know?”

Amber stopped suddenly and looked back at her sister standing in the doorway. “Please don’t tell Steven. He would make me quit my job.”

“But threats, Amber?” Olivia said. “You’re in over your head.”

“I can handle this,” Amber said, jumping into her car and starting the engine. She wound the window down and looked back at her sister. “Just look after my son.”


On the way home, Amber thought about the phone call she had received earlier in the day. A voice she did not recognise told her to back down from her investigation or her family would be harmed. She knew she needed to get her son out of the house. She didn’t yet know what she was going to tell her husband.


Amber Harp entered the front door of her house and dropped her bag to the ground.

The house was dark, which was unexpected, as her husband should have been home.

“Steven?” Amber called out to her husband.

There was no answer, so she pushed her hand against the wall, trying to find the light switch in the dark. She flicked it on but the room stayed dark. Amber thought there must have been a tripped switch.

She walked further into the dark house, removing her high-heeled shoes as she did so. She felt her way, grabbing onto furniture for guidance.

As she neared the bedroom, she could hear a low murmur. Was it music?

Amber fondled for the closed bedroom door handle in the dark. She pushed the door open and was greeted with a bewildering sight.

Lit candles flickered throughout the bedroom and rose petals covered the bed. The sweet sound of classical music filled the air.

Amber moved further into the bedroom, a wide smile erupting over her face as she entered the bedroom’s en suite.

Amber’s glee turned to horror as she saw the spa bath her husband was lying in was full of red water. She howled immediately as she saw one of his arms hanging over the bath, the escaped blood from his cut wrists making rivers across the tiled floor.

Amber stumbled to the spa bath and tried to pull her unconscious husband from the bubbling water. She screamed out for help, knowing that her neighbours probably wouldn’t be able to hear her.

“Steven!” Amber screamed. “No! Steven!”

Without realising her own strength, Amber pulled Steven out of the bath and onto the floor. The whole bathroom floor was awash with the blood-stained water.

“No!” Amber continued to scream, lying on the wet floor with her husband held tight in her arms. “Steven!”

Amber continued to sob loudly, holding her husband close to her body.

Her mind flashed to the phone call that she had received earlier that day and the threatening letter she had received at work earlier in the week. Steven Harp hadn’t done this to himself, Amber knew.

“They’ll pay for what they’ve done to you, Steven,” Amber cried. “I’ll find whoever did this to you and they’ll pay!”

Amber’s mind raced as she thought back to the letter she had received. The name of the business printed on the front of the envelope flashed suddenly in front of her eyes.

“I won’t let whoever did this to you get away with it! Trust me, I will hunt them down and kill them myself!”


Next Episode – Monday June 5

Theme Music Composed by Ian Camilleri Music

Episode Illustration by Grey Alexander
Instagram @grey418 Facebook The Drawn

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Episode Sixty-Eight

Episode 68

Avoid Spoilers! Read from Episode One

Sagittarius
[The 9th sign of the zodiac; fire]

She clenches her hands together, her fingers intertwining with each other. She can’t help but notice the empty space on the end of each hand where her little fingers should be.

Cathy Gilmore takes a deep breath and takes her position in the witness stand.

Her hands are sweating profusely. She is understandably nervous.

She takes the oath and looks around at the crowded courtroom. She tries not to make eye contact with the accused, Doctor Peter Smith, sitting handcuffed in the dock.

“Please state your name for the court,” the prosecution barrister, Virginia D’Amor, asks Cathy.

“Catherine Gilmore.”

“And you currently live in Peppercorn Patch, is that correct?”

“Yes, that’s right.”

“Do you know who that is?” Virginia D’Amor asks Cathy, pointing to the dock.

“Yes, that’s Doctor Peter Smith.”

“And how do you know him?”

“We used to work together, in the hospital,” Cathy replies. “I work there as a nurse.”

“How long did you know Doctor Smith?”

“Ever since I moved to Peppercorn Patch,” Cathy says. “About 8 or so years ago when I started working as a nurse.”

“Did you ever notice anything peculiar about him?” Virginia D’Amor probes.

“Peculiar?” Cathy ponders. “Not really. He was just the friendly town doctor.”

“Tell me about when you first noticed something was strange.”

“I was working at the hospital one day,” Cathy recounts. “I happened upon an envelope addressed to Doctor Smith.”

“And you opened it?” Virginia D’Amor asks.

“I know I shouldn’t have, but it wasn’t sealed,” Cathy says. “I was curious. I never could have imagined it would have led to what unfolded.”

“What was that?”

“I found a prescription for a drug in the envelope,” Cathy says. “A drug to treat schizophrenia. I knew then there was no way that Doctor Smith should have been still practicing as a doctor.”

“Did you tell anyone?”

“Not straight away,” Cathy explains. “I wanted to confront Doctor Smith about it first.”

“And did you?”

“I didn’t get a chance,” Cathy says. “Somehow he must have found out that I knew.”

“Why do you say that?” prosecution barrister, Viriginia D’Amor, asks.

“That’s when I received the first poem.”

Cathy closes her eyes and sees the poem in front of her.

Row, row, row your boat,
Gently down the stream.
Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily,
I want to make you scream!

“I didn’t know who it was from at first,” Cathy continues. “It was an anonymous letter.”

“When did you first learn that it was Doctor Peter Smith that had written those letters?” Virginia D’Amor asks.

Cathy takes a deep breath and her mind flashes back to the night she was held captive by the Poetry Predator in the boot of her own car.

Cathy bangs on the roof of the boot with her fists, trying to make as much noise as possible. Moments earlier the car had come to a stop and the engine had been switched off. Without warning, she hears a key entering the lock and the boot door shoots open. She can see the stars twinkle in the night sky above her. She is overcome with fear as a dark figure leans down over her.

“Hello Cathy,” the Poetry Predator says.

“What do you want with me?” Cathy tries to remain calm.

“Cathy, I think you know,” Cathy’s captor says eerily. “You’ve known the truth about me for a while now. You’re the only one that knows.”

“I won’t tell anyone, I swear,” Cathy says, trying to stay strong.

“Mary, Mary, quite contrary,”
the Poetry Predator recites out loud,
“How does your garden grow?
With silver bells, and cockle shells,
And Cathy’s fingers all in a row.”

With that, the pliers around Cathy’s little finger is clamped together. The crunch of bone is masked only by the sound of Cathy’s scream.


Joanne Evans sits in her cell. She feels angry that the defence barrister was able to upset her like he did. She knows that it must have looked bad. Some people might actually begin to doubt what happened to her. Some people might actually begin to doubt that Doctor Peter Smith was responsible at all. Worse still, the jury might doubt her. The jury might doubt her every word.


The prosecution barrister, Virginia D’Amor, takes her seat after finishing her questioning with Cathy. The defence barrister, Harvey Dennis, steps up to ask his questions. Before he does so, he smiles politely at the jury.

“Cathy Gilmore,” Harvey Dennis begins, “you’ve just told the court how Doctor Peter Smith held you and Joanne Evans captive and was responsible for mutilating you.”

“That’s correct.” Cathy grimaces at the thought of being mutilated.

“You told the court earlier that you had known Doctor Peter Smith since you moved to Peppercorn Patch 8 years ago.”

“Yes.”

“But, in fact, you moved to Peppercorn Patch much earlier than that.” Harvey Dennis refers to his notes. “Hospital pay slips and a rental agreement note that you moved there 10 years ago.”

“Oh?” Cathy is thrown. She rubs her forehead. “I’m mistaken.”

“Could it possible you could be mistaken about other things that you’ve told the court today?” Harvey Dennis continues.

“I’m not sure how I could be,” Cathy says, now looking visibly shaken.

“Cast your mind back to the evening that you were captured,” Harvey Dennis instructs. “Did you actually see Doctor Smith’s face?”

“Well…” Cathy tries to think. “It was dark. Possibly…”

“Possibly?” Harvey Dennis questions.

“I remember his voice!” Cathy urges.

“But you never saw his face?”

“It was so long ago,” Cathy sighs. “I really can’t remember. So much happened. I’ve tried to block out so much of what took place that night!”

“Do you remember being locked inside Doctor Smith’s basement?” Harvey Dennis asks.

“Vaguely,” Cathy tries to think back. “I remember Joanne being there.”

“Anything peculiar about Joanne?”

“No, only that she, too, had been captured by Doctor Smith.”

“Had she?” Harvey Dennis asks.

Cathy rubs her forehead again. “As far as I can remember. She thought that Sylvia Jessop was there.”

“Sylvia Jessop?” Harvey Dennis takes this in. “Joanne’s biological mother?”

“Yes, only she wasn’t actually there because she was killed years earlier.”

“Joanne was hallucinating?” Harvey Dennis peers over at the jury.

“Yes,” Cathy says, “but Doctor Smith had been drugging her.”

“I put it to you, Cathy,” Harvey Dennis says, “that the schizophrenia prescription you found was actually for Joanne.”

“Joanne?” Cathy is confused. “No, it had Doctor Smith’s name on it.”

“I put it to you, Cathy,” Harvey Dennis continues, “that Doctor Smith was treating Joanne Evans. Joanne Evans was the one that attacked you, Cathy, not Doctor Smith!”

“No!” Cathy screams out loud.

“Joanne Evans is the Poetry Predator!” Harvey Dennis bellows. “She’s been taking everyone for a ride!”


Joanne Evans wakes from her half sleep. She had been trying to get some much needed rest but found it difficult in the court cell in which she was located. She had been drifting in and out of sleep.

“Joanne,” she can hear the corrective services officer say to her. “There’s been some news from your father’s court case.”

“He is not my father!” Joanne says sternly.

“The jury came back with a verdict for Doctor Smith,” the corrective services officer continues.

“And?” Joanne’s heart suddenly races.

“Maybe Doctor Smith is not the Poetry Predator after all. He’s been found not guilty.”


Next Episode – Monday May 29

Theme Music Composed by Ian Camilleri Music

Episode Illustration by Grey Alexander
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