I stepped into the kitchen where I had heard the noise of the radio coming from. It was on the counter where my mother was making a sandwich. Her hair was down, and wet from a shower. The shower had washed out even more of the red dye so it was almost back to it’s natural colour. She had dyed it on impulse for my arrival., but she had become too subdued to do anything else so impulsive.

She put the bread knife down and brushed the crumbs off as she turned round.

“Morning, mum,” I said, trying to sound bright, though my head was swimming with thoughts.

“What are you doing today, now it's half-term?” she asked, sitting down and picking at the sandwich.

“I’m just going out with Meena and Willow,” I provided, inching towards the door again. “You don’t need help with something?”

I glanced around the walls at the paintings and suddenly realised there was nothing remotely recent. She hadn’t painted anything since the night I had arrived when there had been the wet paintings hanging up to dry in this very room. Her paints and brushes were all packed away.

“I have to go to the gallery today and fix it up,” she sighed. “There were quite a few bits broken. Not the antique mirror, fortunately. It might have been priceless. I’m surprised they didn’t take it. Amber’s going to help me.”

Amber. I stiffened and looked back into the hall. Meena and Willow were stood at the bottom of the stairs by the post, but they could hear everything.

“Was Amber at the gallery last night?” I asked as she got up and dumped her things in the sink.

“She didn’t have anything to do with it.”

“It could have been… her mates, you know, for a laugh.”

“No, Ruby. You know what Amber’s like. She wouldn’t have that kind of friends. If she has any they’ll be the ones who like to meditate and perform Wicca or something.”

Or the ones who can shift into different forms like her, I thought. She hadn't attacked her so far, so I had to let her go and sort the gallery out.

She grabbed her jacket and walked into the hall past my friends.

“Do you need a lift anywhere?”

“No, we’re fine,” I said as she went out the door. The car started up, reversed and drove away.

“Should I have told her to stay here?” I said anxiously.

“No. She’d be suspicious that something was going on,” Meena advised. “Amber won’t hurt her since she’s still clueless.”

“Yeah,” I muttered, grabbing my own jacket from the stair post and shrugging into it. “Let’s go. Where to, anyway?”

We crunched down the drive after I had locked the door and tucked the key into a pocket.

“Well we can’t do much until we’ve discovered what your big family secret is. Then we can find out why Tenebrus and the Valkyries are all over you.”

I smiled uncomfortably. It was me we were finding stuff out about, obviously, so I couldn’t really be thrilled about discovering something that nobody else had bothered to tell me.

“I can help with that.”

Someone stepped out from the corner of the street, blocking the pavement. It was Allan - he had the pale skin and dark hair I remembered from the canteen.

"Get lost, Marx," Willow snapped. We all looked at her. Allan was smiling.

"You read my e-mail/ Good, good, so we're all on the same page. Makes things easier."

"So why did you run off earlier then?" Meena asked, eyes narrowed.

"I wasn't in the mood for a fight," he replied, smoothing down his blue collar over the black sweater vest he was wearing. "And now Ruby's here it's easier to bargain."

"We're not bargaining with you. We don't care what you have to say. If you can go digging through all sorts of private files, maybe you should check again before you come question us," Willow spat.

Allan's slate-coloured eyes looked angry. "Fine, I'll do that," he glared. We shrugged past him, but he called after us, "Don't worry, I'll find this out."

"Why does he even care?" I muttered as we walked out of earshot. "We've nothing to do with him, and he just turned up out of the blue Friday lunch time."

I realised it was now Tuesday - so far my first week in Slake hadn't been boring. Brain tumours, werewolves and vampires, and stalkers.

"Someone's put him onto us," Meena frowned. "It wouldn't be Tenebrus. He sends his puppets to get information or does it himself. He might be linked to Amber, but I don't think that's likely."

I shook my head to show that I didn't think so either. Then I was drawn back to my original question.

"So, where are we going?"

"The Archive," Willow answered simply, and Meena rolled her eyes and elaborated.

"A place where you can find everything you need if you know what you're looking for."

The End

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