Flicking through the local paper, I stopped to read the personal ads.
Single life had been fine for the past three years, but with my son, Angus, 17, out with mates more and more, I was ready to find someone new. Angus' mum and I had divorced after 13 years of marriage.
We'd drifted apart, but thankfully, we remained friends.
She sounds all right, I thought, reading an ad from a woman who said she was looking for a long-term relationship.
I left a message for her and the following day she called back.
"Hi Brian. My name's Wendy," she said. She lived about 100 kilometres away.
For the following month, Wendy, 41, and I chatted on the phone regularly and I soon realised she was a caring person, always helping people out.
"It's about time I came to see you," I said one day.
So that weekend I got in the car and drove to Wendy's modest home. We got on as well in person as we did on the phone so a month later, Wendy packed up and moved into my caravan.
For the first time in years, I was truly happy.
"I like her, Dad, and she clearly loves you a lot," Angus said.
The feeling was mutual and Wendy was soon acting like a mother hen around my son.
"You're so lucky to have a child. I lost a baby when I was 16," Wendy told me one day. "She died of cot death and I had to have a hysterectomy soon after."
The look of pain in Wendy's eyes was raw and I felt so sorry for her. "You would have made a great mum," I comforted.
On my 49th birthday party, we went out for a romantic dinner.
"Will you marry me?" Wendy asked, smiling.
"Of course," I laughed. We were so happy together.
A few weeks later, Angus dropped a bombshell.
"You're going to be grandparents," he said before going on to explain that his on/off girlfriend, Tina, was pregnant. It was difficult to accept the news because, at the time. Angus and Tina's relationship was fairly unstable.
By the time my gorgeous grand-daughter, Jessica*, was born, Tina was a mess.
I'd heard she was hanging about with bikie gangs and not coping well.
"I had a rough childhood," Wendy told me one day.
"So I'm going to do everything I can to help them out with Jessica."
Tina and Jessica moved into the caravan next door to ours and soon Jessica was living with us most of the time.
"Things aren't working out with Tina and me," Angus confessed one day.
"I'm glad you guys are there for her though."
Wendy thrived on having Jessica around and was like a second mother to her.
We took her to playgroup, trips to the park and bought her everything she needed.
Wendy and I got married. I felt so lucky to have her as my wife.
Life went on and we were very happy.
Then, two years later, Wendy returned from a weekend away with some news.
"My brother told me that one of my old friends, Maree, used to live around here," she said.
"I'd love to get in touch with her again so I thought I'd put an ad in the paper to find her."
At first I was pleased that Wendy was looking up old friends, but the more she talked about Maree, the more I worried that it was a mistake."She was involved with bikie gangs and had a very difficult upbringing," Wendy said. "She had a lot fo problems, but I took her under my wing and helped out where I could."
That was Wendy all over, trying to help someone else even though she had her hands full caring for our grand-daughter and trying to keep Tina on the straight and narrow.
But sure enough, Maree heard about the newspaper ad and soon moved to be near Wendy.
It wasn't just her luggage she brought.
Maree came with heaps of trouble, too.
Every day she'd come around moaning about a boyfriend or a bikie mate.
She boasted about knowing lots of people in jail, too, and never had a good word to say about anyone.
Maree always seemed hell-bent on getting revenge on someone who she thought had done her wrong.
She was a nightmare.
"She'll drag you down," I warned Wendy one day.
"You're my wife and I love you, but I'm worried Maree is ruining our relationship."
"I have to be there for her," Wendy said. "But I will try to see her less."
I tried my best to keep out of Maree's way, but I knew I'd made it into her bad books when Wendy told her why she was seeing her less.
By this time, Tina had a new boyfriend and had started to cause trouble too. I hear she was into drugs and that she had big debts to pay off.
"Jessica's going to live with me now," she told us before packing up and moving out of the caravan.
We were devastated.
"But where will you go? Wendy asked, desperate to change Tina's mind.
Wendy was so upset, I gave Tina a piece of my mind and told her exactly what I thought of her and her waste-of-space boyfriend.
Tina left in a fit of rage and took Jessica with her.
"They'll be back, love. Don't worry," I said, but Wendy wasn't so sure.
Beside herself with worry, she called Maree and asked her to come around.
"I'll fix this up for you," I heard Maree say later.
"I can get a bullet put through her head if you want, darl."
I couldn't believe my ears. I knew Maree was bad news, but I never imagined she would go that far.
And Wendy, wouldn't want ot hurt Tina, I thought.
"She'll come back when she's calmed down,"
I barked at Maree, but could see she didn't think it was any of my business.
With Tina and Jessica gone and Maree's constant meddling, our relationship soon started to disintegrate.
I was at my wits end.
"You have to stop all this" I told Wendy. "I can see this whole thing ending in strife and I don't want you getting involved"
A few weeks later, Tina got in touch, but because she was still so angry with me, it was only Wendy who was allowed to see Jessica.
"I'll talk to Tina," said Wendy. "I'm sure you can see Jessica soon."
I was crushed that I couldn't visit her.
Soon, Wendy was spending so much time with Tina and Jessica and hanging around Maree that I barely saw my wife.
One day a few months later I arrived home from work to find the police on my doorstep.
One police officer made me confirm my full name before saying he was here in relation to Wendy, Tina and Maree.
"Why, what's happened?" I asked in shock. "We've arrested all three women for conspiracy to murder," he replied.
Murder! I thought. This is some sort of sick joke.
"April Fools' Day has been and gone. Who are they trying to knock off?"
The police officer looked serious and he stepped forward.
"You" he said.