“You’re making a very big mistake here, Rich,” warned Linda, her face flushed with slight anger. “If you’re not careful, you’ll end up on your own with us as your enemies and not your friends. Trust me, that’s not what you want. People have been known to die because of that. People vanish and they never come back...” Her voice faded away to silence.

“So it’s threats now, is it?” Rich made another attempt to open the door, his pale hand scrabbling for the lever, but yet again he found himself blocked by Jonathan’s deceptively muscular arm. “I should have known that the ‘nice guy’ act was far too good to last. No one does anything for anyone without expecting something in return.”

“It’s for your own good...” But it always was, wasn’t it? And Rich was sick of sugar coatings and honey smeared lies. He pushed past Jonathan, climbing out of the car despite their attempts to hold him back and make him listen. “Rich, listen!” But the young man was deaf to their cries. He said nothing and did not look back until he was on the other side of the cobbled street.

“You’ll be able to find me,” he said. “It shouldn’t take long. I’ll be in the gutter, like the other jobless teenagers two hundred miles from home.” The crowd swelled around him and he was gone, hidden from view by the milling students and locals. Among them were several in fancy dress: a boy dressed as a rabbit, a girl dressed as a devil, another dressed in a sparkling silver cat suits. Term had not yet begun properly: it was party season.

Linda reached over and closed the door to keep out the draft; it snapped shut with an ominous click that seemed somehow irreversible and final, like something had ended here. Something that they could not undo.

The End

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