Chapter 9

Beth tried to deduce what was going on. It was difficult since on top of not being able to hear the other person, Lara had quickly become hysterical. She was wailing right there in the lobby of the salon. I won't narrate the sniffles but give you solely the gist. There had been a terrible accident. Rhidicus was dead.

Beth walked to the car with Lara practically dragging her back, sobbing into her shoulder. They drove Evianna and Arianna back to their house and then Beth drove Lara home. From there Beth walked back to her house. She immediately ran next door and knocked frantically on the door until a confused looking Gabriel answered it. Suddenly it dawned on Beth that he didn't know yet. He didn't know his best friend was dead.

"Oh Gabriel,"

"Is everything ok?"

"No, not at all,"

"What is it, my beautiful?"

"Oh Gabriel… I…. Rhi… Rhi is dead." She stuttered. His face went blank as he walked to the phone where he dialed like a zombie. He stood frozen with the receiver clued to his ear. When someone picked up on the other end, Gabriel asked for Ian, a name that sounded vaguely familiar to Beth. He proceeded to mutter something Beth couldn't understand and hang up. He did this again and again calling several other people who's names Beth somewhat recognized.

When he hung up the final time he walked towards the garage and Beth followed. He got into his car so Beth did the same. Then he started to drive without so much as a word. They drove until they got to a medieval looking stone house that belonged to lara and Connor.

When the door opened Gabriel walked right past Lara to Connor and a group of boy Beth knew by face, but not by name. She figured these were mostly the boys Gabriel had called but it didn't really matter at that moment. Left in front of her was a still sobbing Lara who as good as collapsed into Beth's arms.

Beth noticed that though Lara was openly wailing, there was no tears on her face. Curious… but not exactly pressing. Beth pushed the thought aside. She put her arms around her best friend and walked her over to the couch where she continued to sob a tearless cry.

Lucy arrived with Rhi's sister's Arianna and Evianna about an hour later. Beth suddenly remembered that they were Rhi's cousins. Both were sobbing, but Evianna like Lara had no tears. She did however run directly to Connor who enveloped her in a hug and stroked her silky red hair. It didn't match her sisters though it looked natural and all of their other features were the same. The hug was modest but Beth felt as though she was intruding, she turned away.

The group of boys finally split for the first time and Beth was surprised to see Charlie had joined them at some point. Beth's surprise grew when Charlie stood up on a chair and began to speak, "Ladies and gentlemen. You all know why you're here. My nephew was killed in a tragic accident at eleven o'clock this morning," Beth thought it was interesting that no one ever elaborated on the, "Tragic Accident," she passed it off as grieving.

Gabriel took Beth hand and they went and sat on a couch with Lara. As he traced circles on her palm with his thumb Lara gave Gabriel a reproachful look that Beth obviously wasn't supposed to see. Before Beth had time to try to understand Lara choked out another sob. Beth put her free arm around her devastated friend and let her cry for a while. As she sat in silence she thought about what would happen to her if Gabriel was gone. A silent tear rolled down her face.

Scanning the room, she saw Lucy and Charlie were consoling a red headed couple. She wondered if they were Rhi's parents and decided they probably were considering the striking resemblance between the man and Charlie. She noted that, though they shook violently, they like many others, were not actually crying. Beth was becoming suspicious of this odd characteristic so many of them were demonstrating. She also realized suddenly that Arianna and herself were the only two of about twenty people, without red hair.

Before Beth could dwell on that though, the real drama began. The doorbell rang and Connor scampered off to get it. A moment later Charlie followed as the voice of Connor and an unidentified man grew louder. "We've just come to pay our respects," whispered a woman's voice. It came from behind the man who wore a bowler hat and carried a staff taller than himself. He didn't intimidate Connor who responded by yelling at the man, "Your respects?" he accused, "You did this," Beth could have sworn his hair got brighter.

Charlie looked pointedly at Arianna and Beth the back at Connor and Howler (as Beth had secretly christened him). Bowler nodded understandingly which irritated Beth. Why could this stranger who obviously was not a friend or ally, know whatever they were keeping from her. It wasn't fair.

When Charlie spoke next his voice was calm but impatient, "There is a proper time and place for this discussion. It is neither now nor here. I would ask that you please leave," the end was evidently directed at Bowler and his wife though it seemed that the beginning may have been somewhat directed at Connor as well. After looking over Charlie and Connor's shoulders they reluctantly obliged. They swept out of the doorway with the air of smog being blown from a port.

Beth and Arianna sported twinly puzzled looks but the rest of the room merely bowed their heads solemnly. Lara got to her feet and took her brother by the elbow around a corner where she mistakenly presumed they were out of earshot. Even if the had've been, the vibe was so strong you could almost reach out and touch it. Angry… but scared.

"What did they want?" asked Lara.

"To explain I guess," Connor answered.

Lara scoffed audibly and said, "What is there to explain, they killed him, there's nothing else to it."

At this point the whole room had stopped pretending and was unabashedly eves dropping. Gabriel shook his head in disapproval but listened as intently as everyone else. Even Charlie had cocked his head to hear better his eyes darting to Beth or Arianna every few minutes. Unfortunately after that Lara just said vague things, while Connor gave vaguer responses.

This went on until the phone rang and Lara bolted to it. There was some murmuring and shuffling amongst them as they tried not to look too guilty. She mumbled to the person on the other end but nothing loud enough for anyone to make out. When Connor walked back in the room everyone stared for a moment before going back to their private mourning. Beth must have dozed off at some point because the next thing she remembered was Gabriel carrying her to Charlie's car, laying her in the back seat and kissing her forehead. The he closed the door, and Beth fell back to sleep.