Chapter Nineteen

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Aftermath Pt. 1

'Oh, my god. Are you okay? Are you hurt? What's wrong with your wrist?'

Eden's eyes are wide as she rushes to where I sit on the sofa. If those pounding footsteps didn't tell me that she ran straight here after receiving my text, her untidy bun and the fact that she's still wearing her pyjamas does.

For a second, I look at her. This might be the first time that I haven't seen Eden primed to perfection – those lower lashes are dark with unwashed mascara and her slanted lips are stained from the red lipstick she wore last night. They must have gotten home late, because her eyes are bloodshot and dark circles hang beneath them like crescent moons in a black sky.

But, despite how tired she looks, Eden is automatically aware of everyone in the room. Before she even reaches me, I watch her take note of how Wesley slouches on the countertop with a narrowed glare and how the two police officers hanging by the door watch our every move with pin-point precision. If she's confused, she doesn't show it. In an emergency, Eden is mechanical, and I can see the list form in her mind as clearly as I see the red and blue lights that swirl into the hallway from outside.

And me? I'm the first item to tick off her list.

'Haley, what happened?' Her furrowed brows are tense as she soothes a hand over my good arm. 'I thought you were at the library. I was just getting ready to meet you. Why are you so muddy?'

I open my mouth to reply, but before a single word can escape my lips, the nastier police officer slides me a look that says: keep your mouth shut.

He appears to be in his late fifties, with white hair buzzed close to his scalp. His aged skin is weary and has moulded into a permanent scowl, with years of dullness etched in by each line and wrinkle that decorates his face. A white scar that draws from his collarbone to chin tells me that this man is certainly not one to mess with.

Silently, I wonder, has he ever dealt with something like this before? Has this man ever caught a murderer? What darkness have those narrowed eyes seen? I shiver, biting my lips as I try to focus on the cooling pack that rests on my wrist. It sooths my burning skin, sinking relief into my bones where otherwise there is none.

Once again, I find myself asking, how has this happened? What is my Mum going to think?

With two deaths in under a week, it wouldn't surprise me if she drags me out of Woodcreek herself – even if it means pulling me by my hair.

Through the hallway outside, red and blue lights swirl like a lighthouse tower. If I listen carefully, I can hear sirens wailing in the distance, presumably as they drive up the mountain and through the driveway.

I've seen enough true crime to know what's going to happen next.

Soon, the campus will be swarming with police. They'll be buzzing around like bees in hives. A white gazebo will be anchored over Mara's decaying body and police tape will be tied to each entrance and exit of the woodland path. One by one, my friends and I will be pulled into questioning until there's a revelation, a glitch to our story, an anchor for the investigation to cling onto like a baby gripping its mother. And then? Who knows.

Maybe Woodcreek really does have a serial killer on their hands.

'Wesley?' Eden looks at him over her shoulder, skin growing pale. Her words draw me back to reality. 'What the hell happened? If nobody tells me anything soon, I'm going to freak out. Why are the police here? Don't we need a nurse to look at her wrist?'

'We were told to wait,' Wesley replies, stoic. 'But you'd already know that, wouldn't you?'

His eyes flash to me and, for a second, I remember how his warmth wrapped around me like a cosy, winter blanket. Mostly, I remember how much I liked it. We stare at each other for another few seconds and, when he looks away, I'm left drenched in ice. His eyes slide to Eden and those lips curl into a smile. The look sends a shiver down my spine.

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