Chapter Forty-One

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Feels Like The End

When I wake up after some sleep, the sky is a crisp blue.

Sunlight peeks through my curtains as I open my eyes, highlighting dust particles that float in golden streaks. For a second, as I squint at the light, I forget about everything. It's that blissful moment when you wake up from a nightmare and forget that you're living one, that everything in your life has changed overnight.

But when I do remember, it comes back to me in waves. Riley standing over Ellie remains at the forefront of my mind, and it's this image that pounds me awake like a jackhammer against my head.

Stretching my arms and ignoring the following cracks of my bones, I step out of bed and open the curtains, peeking through the window to find police patrolling the grounds. Dressed in their dark uniforms, they look like moving shadows; their faces are etched with lines that remind me of old, crinkled paper and their frowns seem stitched into their skin, as though any hint of a smile would tear it open.

At the height of the sun, I guess it's mid-afternoon.

Across the concourse by the carpark, vans of every size sit idle. This must be their hub, I think. A group of important-looking people stand in a circle, hands filled with papers or files as other policemen walk to and fro.

The whole charade reminds me of an ants' nest – the group standing in the carpark are the queens and the police walking beneath my window are the workers, moving back and forth, feeding on information as it comes.

I grit my jaw as I watch them, running my hands up my arms to push away the cold draft that leaks through the glass. What you lack during any investigation is time – I see this worry in every face, in their eyes that stray from their position on the concourse to the gazebo where Ellie lays.

With every passing hour, evidence slips away. Crime scenes in particular are vulnerable to not just people, but elements too; rain can wash away blood, wind can blow away a fibre of hair, the sun's heat can rot organisms that lay stagnant in the dirt. As the clock strikes each hour after the event, you move away from the solution until it's so out of reach that you can barely see it anymore.

I close my eyes and take a deep breath. My head pounds and my muscles feel sluggish. It's like cement has been injected into my skin whilst I slept, flooding each connecting part of my body until I feel so heavy that I can no longer move.

Pulling myself away from the window with a sigh, I slowly walk to the bathroom and turn on the shower. I take the meds that sit on the side of my sink, swallowing them with a glass of water as wet steam rises with the hiss of the shower.

Just the thought of leaving my room turns my stomach to ice – will anybody notice if I don't come out? I gave my statement last night when the police first arrived, so surely they won't need anything else from me?

I'm not sure how much more I can give.

With each passing moment, it feels like pieces of me are falling off into the air, drifting away until it's as if that part never existed. It's the idea of facing Eden that worries me, too.

Our conversation last night, while revealing, didn't do much to ease my suspicions. She was acting as if the threat is gone, that now Riley has been taken away by the police, there's no need to worry. And whilst the logical part of my brain is fighting for a way to make it all make sense (Riley was, after all, the one who 'accidentally' left the flat open for Archie to walk in), my heart is saying that there's still more to the story.

After my shower, I step into my room and begin to get dressed. Once I'm finished, I know I'll have no choice but to step through the barrier separating me from whatever's going on out there, so I take time drying my skin, wringing the water from my hair and treading through a stray pair of black leggings that I'm not sure have been washed.

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