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Chapter 9 : Time Has Come Today
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Another note: I've had two reviews for this story taken down, because they violated the 12+ rule for language. I love my readers and especially my reviewers, but please remember that if there are too many inappropriate reviews for this story, the whole story will be removed from the archives. I could also lose my TA status, which will severely limit the speed of my updates. That being said, I hope you enjoy this chapter and continue to read and review! Hugs, FannyPrice.
Hugo did his best to focus on running. He tried to focus only on the feel of the mud as it gave and squished under his trainers, and the whoosh and snap of the ferns that grew out over the path as they raced back towards Vera's Cottage. But even the all-consuming need for air to fill his lungs and provide oxygen for his burning limbs could not erase the image of Jillian's corpse from his mind. Hugo had the distinct feeling that it didn't matter how far or fast he ran the memory would always be there with him. And that scared him more than anything.
A small whimper and a splash of mud indicated to Hugo that Lily had tripped behind him. Even as he turned to help her, she was already pulling herself to her feet. The two cousins said nothing as they continued to run, Chrys and Brian in their wake.
15 minutes earlier...
Victoire frowned as she finished looking over the menu options for the wedding. She hurriedly made a last minute note on guests with food allergies, as she turned the corner into the kitchen. She was there to meet with Mary to finalize the menu. The appetizers, especially, needed refining.
"Mary," she called as she flounced into the room. It quickly became obvious that the amiable housekeeper wasn't there, so Victoire padded over to the dining room and then back through the kitchen to the small back room where the laundry was done, her calls of Mary growing louder and softer as she passed.
Her search unsuccessful, Victoire paused in the middle of the kitchen, setting her papers down on the island countertop. Her frown deepened. There was so much to do for the wedding, and everyone's disappearances were really starting to put her behind schedule. Victoire would at least have thought that Mary of all people would have kept her appointment.
She sighed as she leaned back against the counter with the intention of waiting for the housekeeper's arrival. Her eyes rested on the stainless steel counter base next to her, where a strange image was reflected back at her. It took her a minute, with her head filled with flower arrangements as it was, to process what it was that she was seeing. Even then, as the quill slipped from her hand and clattered to the island top, Victoire still didn't believe that what she was seeing was real.
How could it be? If anything, it was a joke. She thought her cousins had grown out of such things, but she wouldn't put anything past James simply because the impossibility that there was a hand, cold and dead looking, stuffed under the cooling rack was just that, an impossibility. That didn't stop her heart from fluttering uncontrollably at the thought of it. Victoire needed to know whether or not what she saw was real, or if this wedding business had finally driven her loopy. So, with a determined air, Victoire crouched down on all fours to get a better look at the reflection in the counter.
Her scream was so loud that she barely recognized it as being her own voice. Victoire shut her eyes and hurriedly backed away from the image, like she was afraid the arms could reach out and grab her, or the unseeing eyes could bore their way through her core. In her panic, she forgot it was just a reflection that she moved away from and backed into the cooling rack itself. The force of her impact sent it rolling, fully exposing the entire, indigo colored body of Mary Turnstable.
Victoire's screams turned into disgusted sobs as she spun around and away from the corpse, slipping on the tiled floor as she tried to clamber to her feet. Finally, she managed to stand and flew straight into the arms of Teddy, who came running into the kitchen with Rose and Scorpius right behind him. Teddy clutched her tight to his chest to keep her from seeing anymore, even though he couldn't drag his own eyes away from the gruesome scene. The sound of footsteps marked the arrival of Dominique, who called out in surprise by what greeted her, and Dexter, who stared on with wide-eyed intensity.
"Dom," Teddy directed as Lysander wandered into the room, followed by the appearance of James in the doorway that led to the dining room. "Can you take Victoire into the parlor, please?"
Dominique gathered her sister tightly in her arms as Teddy, indicating with a slight nod to James that the two of them should have a look at the body. The others followed Dominique and Victoire out of the room.
"What'd you, think? Poison?" James queried, as he looked over Mary, his brown eyes taking in the array of dead scavengers that surrounded the subject. As he was still an Auror in training, he deferred to the opinion of the older Auror.
"Maybe," Teddy replied gravely. "Certainly not the Killing Curse."
They looked at each other, their earlier quarrel forgotten in the investigation. "Someone should contact, Harry," Teddy suggested, finally looking away from the image. It was definitely foul play.
James nodded. "I'll do it," he replied, "You go back to Victoire."
Teddy nodded in response and stood. James conjured a sheet to lay over the body and as the man who had always been like another brother to him headed towards the door, said, "And Teddy, I'm sorry about the wedding."
Right, Teddy thought. He honestly hadn't thought that far ahead yet, but there would be no wedding with a murderer on the loose.
Teddy walked into the parlor, where confusion and panic were beginning to take over the assembled guests. Albus stood in the middle of the room, looking around at everyone in surprise. It was apparent that they had burst in on him and no one had yet informed him as to what was happening. Victoire sat on the sofa, looking dazed. Dominique sat next to her sister with one protective arm wrapped around her shoulders and the other gesturing at Lysander while she argued with him.
"Someone's dead," she shouted, "And you keep harping on about Lorcan not being in his room!"
"I know somebody's dead," Lysander retorted, frustration apparent in his face, "Why do you think I'm so worried?"
"What are you trying to suggest?" Dex cut in, eyes alight with both fear and excitement at the thought of foul play--a true journalist.
Lysander spared an angry glance for Dexter before turning back to Dominique, who snapped her mouth shut as though he'd taken the question right from her lips.
Anger still rested behind his appeal as he quietly replied, "I think Mary was murdered."
The room went abruptly still and quiet as all eyes turned to Lysander. Albus stopped looking confused, and his eyebrows shot up into his hairline.
"At the very least, something strange is going on here," Lysander added in a stronger voice.
Of course, it was Dominique who protested, a vicious snort escaping as she quipped, "Don't be ridiculous," which, in light of the manner which Mary was found in, was a bit of a ridiculous statement in itself. It was a retort of denial, not logic.
"Lysander's right," Teddy spoke up, calling attention to his presence for the first time. Several people started in surprise. "Someone definitely had a hand in Mary's death."
"Teddy," Victoire gasped, jumping to her feet and rushing over to him as though she hadn't even heard his words. He wrapped his arms around his fiancé as if they had been separated for days rather than minutes. The rest stared on, trying to absorb the full meaning of his words.
"What does the cause appear to be, Ted?" Albus asked timidly, as he was in his second year of Healer training.
“Poison,” Teddy replied solemnly over Victoire’s head, “judging by the…color…and the other evidence.” He found it difficult to deal with situations like this when he knew Victoire had also seen what he’d seen. He’d always tried his best to keep work separate from his life with Victoire. Now, they had merged, horrifically, two days before his wedding. He kissed the top of her head tenderly, almost apologetically.
Albus rushed out of the room, no doubt to examine the body himself. Silence engulfed the room.
“There’s a killer amongst us,” Dexter stated gravely after a few minutes.
Dominique laughed, “Stop being so ominous, Dex.”
Everyone gaped at her.
“What!” she exclaimed defensively, “you don’t honestly believe that one if us is a killer?”
“There’s no one else on the island,” Dexter replied calmly.
Dominique, Teddy, Victoire, and Rose looked around at each other.
They were family.
Just then, James and Albus returned to the parlor at the same time, each one shooting a dirty glance at the other.
Then again, maybe it wasn’t so impossible after all.
Lysander looked lost in thought, and when he spoke his voice was hesitant. “Maybe Dexter’s right.”
“You think Lorcan is dead, too?” Teddy inquired sharply.
“I hope not,” Lysander replied, “but it’s not just Lorcan—it’s Lucy and-and that other bridesmaid, Jillian, and Louis.”
Victoire let out a small, choked sob at the mention of her brother.
“Stop it,” Dominique growled angrily.
“No one else thinks that it’s strange? No one else sees it? I mean Louis is your brother!” Once again, Lysander found himself addressing Dominique more than any of the others, going so far as to ignore the sound of Victoire’s crying all together.
“I’ve already told you! Lucy’s reclusive; Louis’s at work in London, and the others probably just went hiking. Why won’t you just let this go?!"
“BECAUSE I DON’T BELIEVE IN COINCIDENCES—“
“NO, JUST WRACKSPURTS THEN—“
“—AND NEITHER SOULD YOU, DOMINIQUE!”
Dominique’s eyes widened in shock and her jaw dropped open. The room rang with the sudden absence of Dominique and Lysander’s raised voices.
“Neither should you, Dom,” Lysander repeated in a softer tone.
“It was you!” she breathed.
Lysander’s brow knit together in confusion along with the others, except for Dex who looked like he was putting pieces of a puzzle together.
“What are you talking about?” Lysander asked, bewilderment crossing his face. He took a step or two back from Dominique as she sprang up from the sofa, all 1/8 of her Veela blood evident in her fury.
“What am I talking about? You just told me that I shouldn’t believe in coincidences!”
“You shouldn’t! But I still don’t know what you’re going on about!”
“You know about the brac—“
“Stop! Stop, stop!” Teddy’s clear voice cut through their anger like a knife as he supported Victoire, who looked wholly distraught as she wept in his arms. “We don’t know if anyone else has been murdered or if anyone is actually missing yet, all we know is—“
Teddy’s words were suddenly cut off by the sound of the front door being thrown open as the four hikers—Hugo, Lily, Brian and Chrys—ran into the parlor. Faces red and sweaty, Lily and Hugo raced over to their respective siblings, relief spreading over their features. Brian and Chrys stopped in the doorway as they tried to catch their breath.
Finally, Brian swallowed and announced, “Jill’s dead. We found her body in the woods.”
This was too much for Victoire. Images of Mary’s body mixed with the news of her friends demise, and jumbled together with her worries about her younger brother in a frenzied cycle. Reality slipped out from beneath her, and she caught the briefest glimpse of the glittering crystal chandelier before Teddy’s arms tightened around her and everything went black.
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