Excerpt from Chapter One
Back at home that evening, Tom lay in the bath trying to relax after the strange demands of the day. The bathroom swirled with steam infused with rosemary and eucalyptus from the bath oil he had poured liberally into the water. To further aid relaxation, he had dimmed the light to a shadowy half-dream. He had been in the warm water for around thirty minutes and had drifted off into a coffee-and-cream consciousness. His ears were just below the water line, which lapped against them like a gentle tide against a quay.
The relaxing sound was broken by the dull thud of something hitting the floor on the other side of the door. His breathing stopped. Tom moved his ears above the water and listened, still not breathing. He could hear nothing except for his increasing heartbeat. Another sound; this time whispering. He sat up quickly like a startled animal at a watering hole, making the bath water splash. Grimacing with both fear and anger that he had made such a loud noise, he stared at the door. Through the steam and half-glow of the dimmed light bulb, he saw the door open slowly. The pain in his chest was almost intolerable; flight or fight? There was nowhere to run. Tom was trapped and had to fight. With every ounce of courage, he leaped from the water, but stumbled and fell back into the bath causing water to rise like a tidal wave and crash to the floor. He had banged his elbow and his head, yet despite the pain, he pulled himself back up and turning to the bathroom door prepared to defend himself. To his surprise, however, the door was not open, but firmly closed.
Tom opened it carefully and checked the entire cottage, but there was no one in the house nor anything disturbed; only wet footprints tracing his anguished search. Blood dripped from a small gash on his head.
Forty-five minutes later, he was dry, dressed and checking the plaster on his forehead in the bathroom mirror. He compulsively checked the cottage again, but the only thing that had been disturbed was him.
He put his coat on and left the house. He locked the front door and pushed it hard twice to make sure it was secure. Tom turned and walked away from the house. After he had travelled just a few yards, he could not help himself and looked back at the cottage a final time. He smiled an uneasy smile to himself, trying to dismiss his recent anguish with playful self-deprecation. He knew he was fooling no one, least of all himself.
If Tom had looked back a second time before he turned into the next street and his house was out of sight, he might have seen the light in his front room suddenly flicker on, illuminating the car parked outside, and the two men watching.