EPISODE 6

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Out in the garden, stood within a halo of stone, Sabina Begum sang. The orange embers of the dying dusk cast the song weaver in a warm light as birds of every size and colour perched atop the henge in quiet regard. The whole school was there, stood silently encircling the sacred space. Rhian would have been impressed and proud of her friend finding the courage to sing publically if she wasn't so blooming angry.

She scanned the crowd for Gareth, with two hundred and fifty students all dressed in matching blazers it wasn't an easy task. Between a pair of stone slabs Emmanuel and Lewis chatted with Gretchen. Grez must have finished up earlier than she'd expected, that or Rhian had spent longer packing up Afia's things than she'd thought. Rhian headed over, Gareth's letter bulging in her pocket.

Wicker men hung from the boys' belt loops. Grez must have made a talisman for all of them. She's scared, and why wouldn't she be with Gareth still on the loose. Sabina hit a twittering high note and a chorus of birds joined in. The cord struck in Rhian's mind a truth she'd been skirting around. She stopped and took in the scene, the mourning student body, worried staff, shy Sabina's elegy. Afia was dead, along with Julia Silva and who knows how many other students. Gone, never coming back, drained of their life energy by a mad man, until dead. It was almost Gretchen. It could have been her. It still could be with Gareth free. Rhian spied him not far from her group of friends, scowling.

"You did this!" Rhian stormed up. "You're a murderer!" She shoved her hand into her pocket and snatched the letter. "A monster. Don't even try to deny it."

Gareth looked around with red eyes before settling on her. "Piss off."

Rhian held the paper up. "I found this in Afia's room."

"Did you read it?"

"I read enough to know you wanted her dead."

"Merch twp," Gareth muttered. "You don't belong here."

There it was. Eight people dead because of Gareth Harris' bigotry. A tower of flame shot up from Rhian's palm. "What gives you the right to decide that?"

The singing stopped and birds took flight. Flame and fear flashed in Gareth's eyes, but a credit to either his braveness or stupidity, he stood his ground. He squared his shoulders and glared. "You not being able to read decided that." He put out his hand. "Give it to me."

"No."

"Rhian, stop. You're wrong about Gareth," Alaric Strumbottom invaded her mind. Rhian's tower shrank as she looked around. Teachers pushed through students.

He killed her.

"He didn't. He loved her."

Gareth's shoulder collided into Rhian's chest. Air shot from her lungs and her flame sputtered out. He snatched the letter from her hand.

"What's the meaning of this?" Mr Jones, the crating instructor, was the first teacher to arrive, smelling of clay and looking like an overgrown rabbit.

"She attacked me." Gareth shoved Afia's letter into his trouser pocket.

"Aye, no need to be dramatic, Mr Harris. If Ms Peregrine did more than peacock, it'd be evident. Unless you have a fire resistance?"

"No, sir."

"There we are then. Now give to me what you took from her." Mr Jones put out his hand. "And Ms Peregrine stay where you stand. Your behaviour here has been most unacceptable."

Rhian rubbed her chest. As if she'd go anywhere. "I found that letter in Afia's room, the hands the same as the charm on the door that night. He threatens her in it and — "

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