Chapter Twenty

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I stood on the patch of lawn in front of the team's old house, gazing up at it. The lawn was overgrown, the grass straggling around my ankles, and clumps of dandelion clocks waved in the breeze. I was used to looking at this house and feeling anger or dread. I wasn't used to looking at it and feeling sadness.

"Are you sure you want to do this?" Ethan asked. He stood beside me, holding my hand.

"I'm sure."

It was barely an hour since Clara and I had returned to that road to discover that Ava's body had disappeared, and though we'd batted theories back and forth, neither of us had come up with a concrete explanation as to what had happened. Rachel was the obvious answer, but what could she possibly want with Ava's body? Killing her fitted in with Rachel's campaign of terror, but stealing her corpse? I couldn't quite wrap my head around that one.

And it had to have been Rachel. If some ordinary citizen had discovered the body, that whole road would be sealed off as a crime scene by now – it's not as if there was mistaking the fact that Ava had been murdered.

But the fact remained that she was gone, and much as it hurt to admit it, there was nothing I could do about it now.

But there was one thing I did need to do.

Ethan pulled his door key from his pocket. He gazed at it for a long moment, turning the scrap of metal over and over in his hand. "I meant to get rid of this," he said. "After that last fight with Rachel, I knew completely where I belonged and it wasn't with Noah. There was no way I was ever going back to the team. But I just forgot to take that last step and actually throw the thing away."

He handed the key to me. It felt heavy in my hand, like the chains of my old life had somehow condensed into this single object and the weight of them now sat in my palm.

"Do you want me to come with you?" Ethan asked, but I shook my head.

I turned the key in the lock and pushed open the front door, stepping into my old home. The first thing that struck me was the silence. It hung in the air, heavy and oppressive; bringing with it a sense of emptiness, like the house itself knew that no one was coming home to it again.

It had never been this quiet when I lived here.

I'd always said that I hated my time in this place, but looking around it now made tears blur my eyes.

Sophie was dead.

Ava was dead.

Noah was missing.

Marc had disappeared.

All their stuff was here, the few scraps of possessions that Noah had allowed them to accumulate, but none of them would ever come back for it. The house was like a museum, a frozen slice of time preserving the lives of the people who'd lived here.

My memories of this house would never be good, but at the same time I couldn't ignore a certain twinge of sadness to see it abandoned like this.

I headed for the stairs and my parents' bedroom.

When I'd lived here, I'd pretty much been forbidden from going inside. It was their space, not to be violated by the pesky presence of their only child. But that hadn't stopped me from snooping and on that occasion, I'd found the two secret items in Ava's possession that, to me, summed up who she really was. Or who she really had been.

The bedroom door swung silently open. The last time I'd sneaked in here, the door had creaked; someone must have oiled the hinges since then. I tiptoed into the room and froze, one foot still lifted in the air. There was no need to tiptoe – Noah and Ava weren't here anymore. I could ransack their room all I wanted and neither of them would come and tell me to stop. The realisation should have been freeing, but all I could picture in my head was the grief on Ava's face when she told me that Noah had been kidnapped, and the gaping wound in her throat that had killed her.

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