Marc Everitt lives in Swindon in Wiltshire, England.

Marc has a degree in English Literature & Philosophy from the University of Hertfordshire and works as a Mortgage Advisor. This is Marc‟s second novel, and he is writing his third and fourth novels concurrently.

Marc Everitt

Restitution Road

Copyright © M a r c E v e r i t t The right of Marc Everitt in to be identified as author of this work has been asserted by him in accordance with section 77 and 78 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without the prior permission of the publishers. Any person who commits any unauthorized act in relation to this publication may be liable to criminal prosecution and civil claims for damages.

A CIP catalogue record for this title is available from the British Library. ISBN 978 1 84963 301 7 First Published (2013) Austin Macauley Publishers Ltd. 25 Canada Square Canary Wharf London E14 5LB Printed & Bound in Great Britain

For Kayla, Charlotte, Joseph and Hayden – who give me purpose, found a place in the story and helped me write it. Mostly thanks to you for reading.

Exordium of Terminus
2nd July 1916 La Boiselle, Northern France The men of the 11th Battalion, Cheshire Regiment had lived through hell in the previous twenty-four hours. The whistle had sounded at 7.30am and the soldiers had climbed out of the trenches that had been their homes for weeks, and then walked slowly across the fields towards the enemy positions. All had been scared, but most had been confident that the German numbers had been severely depleted by the days of bombardment from the Allied artillery, and that they were now merely mopping up the remains of the enemy force. The British officers, in consultation with their Allied compatriots, were confident that 60 to 80 percent of the German troops would have been rendered ineffective by the shelling and this had been relayed to the men of the 11th Battalion as well as the dozens of other battalions across this part of the Western Front. The machine gun fire had not commenced straight away and survivors would look back and wonder if this had been due to the Germans waiting for the British to walk closer or just that they hadn‟t been able to believe their enemies were presenting such an easy target. Of the 12,000 tons of artillery which had been fired at the German entrenchments over the past days, two thirds of it was shrapnel and only 900 tons of it was capable of penetrating the bunkers. Less than four percent of the German military force had been killed by the bombardment, and the rest were sat waiting for the enemy to advance. When the gunfire did start, however, it was deafening and lethal. Bodies had fallen in such numbers the ground was stained red with blood in less than a minute. Soldiers had to climb over the dying bodies of friends and brothers to continue their advance, before being hit in the back as they tried to return to their trenches, human nature winning out over military discipline. The stench of death was already hanging over the fields of The Somme by half past nine, and the British army kept advancing until a little after four pm. Those that survived to return to England would later learn that 54,470 casualties had been suffered by the British Army on the 1st of July 1916 including a stunning 19,240 men killed that day. By far the bloodiest day in the history of the British Army. The men of 11th Battalion had known nothing of this earlier that day as they sat in the cold, thick mud waiting for the dawn; and the call to climb the ladders and walk once again from the purgatory of the trenches to the hell of No Man‟s Land, advancing on the German guns. All these men knew was that each of them had lost almost all of the friends they had joined up with in a few confusing, terrifying moments. There were

barely any officers left, thanks to a regrettable decision for the officers to dress distinctly different from the enlisted men, combined with the fact that the German machine gunners had been trained to know exactly who to aim for. Those officers that were still alive were shouting encouragement to the men, trying to instil a sense of purpose into them, that they themselves did not feel. One of these officers, a Lieutenant who had just turned twenty-four years old, was walking through a particularly unpleasant section of the trench carrying medical supplies to help one of his men who had been shot in the shoulder the previous day. The officer knew this man was one of the lucky ones, as he was now unable to carry a weapon and would shortly be shipped back to medical facilities in the nearby town of Montauban, several miles away from their front line position. Word was just coming through that the next push may be delayed until the following day, but this had not raised the morale of the shell-shocked, traumatised men cowering in the trench. As the officer neared the injured man he passed a Private, shaking and rocking forward and backward in the mud with his arms wrapped around his knees. The Officer thought he recognised this man from the battlefield the previous day. He seemed to remember pulling the man to the ground as a particularly large piece of shrapnel flew past both their heads, but he could well have been mistaken as so many of the young men looked the same, most of them wearing almost identical expressions of terror and desperation. The officer stopped, stooped down and tried to speak to the petrified fellow, but could get no response from him. He realised on closer examination that he was not at all sure he had seen the man before, but he felt for him nonetheless. The young Private, who the officer thought could not be more than twenty years old, merely sobbed uncontrollably and shook violently; his eyes wide and unseeing as he continued to rock back and forth. The Officer decided he could not help the man and stood once more, pausing only to tuck a half empty pack of cigarettes into the Private‟s top pocket before continuing along the trench with his small package of medical supplies. The young Private, who had only turned nineteen in the past month, yet already had a pregnant wife back in England who would never see him again, did not see him leave, just as he had not seen him arrive. And then something odd happened. No one was watching at that moment to notice and, even if they had been, they would more than likely have witnessed far too many horrors to give the occurrence much thought. The young Private suddenly stopped rocking and became perfectly still. Life appeared in his eyes and expression returned to his face, an initial confusion followed by a small sad smile. He rose to his feet calmly and slowly, no longer shaking with fear, picked up the bayonet his friend had given to him the day before and walked purposefully after the Officer who had been with him moments before. Several fellow privates who knew the young man well tried to speak to him, pleased he had snapped out of the state he had been in for hours, but he walked past them without seeming to know who they were. He merely smiled as he passed, relieved to hear the sound of English around him. He caught up with the young Lieutenant and grabbed the larger man by the left shoulder, pulling him round to turn him. The officer opened his mouth to say something that would never be heard.

The Private was quick, raising the blade from his bayonet with his right hand and slicing it across the other man‟s throat. Blood sprayed onto the Private and two of the men that were stood nearby, mixing indistinguishably with the blood of so many men who had been killed that day. The Lieutenant was not able to speak before he fell dead to the floor of the trench, but he had tried to, his mouth silently moving to form one word; “why?” This was a question the private was never able to answer in the weeks leading up to his court martial and execution. Within seconds of the Lieutenant hitting the ground, the Private too had collapsed to the floor as if someone had taken out his batteries. The other soldiers had tied his hands as he lay unconscious in the mud and when he woke, somewhere in the region of ten minutes later, he was shaking and wide eyed once more. His fear was added to by the fact that he was being told he had killed an Officer and would certainly be shot for it. He claimed to remember nothing and had vomited when forced to look at the dead officer‟s body. He tried to scream his innocence but eight men had been close enough to see him swing his blade, all had liked the Lieutenant and all were happy to testify at the Private‟s court martial. In the grand scheme of what would later be called the First World War, this murder would seem unimportant and the actions of the Private would later be seen by his family as being caused by what was by then beginning to be recognised as shell shock. Regrettable, but just another example of the madness that grips men placed in situations where the stresses and pressure can barely be credited by those who weren‟t there. Sadly, the full magnitude of what Private Clifford Lewis had done, why he had done it and the effects it would later have on the world, would never be known by a living soul. There were others, however, that would know both exactly what had occurred and precisely what it meant.

12th June 2009 Wiltshire, England Constable Nicholls was beginning to wonder why she was still at number 17 Westcott Terrace; her shift had finished an hour ago and her relief had turned up on time. For a moment she thought it might have been that her strong sense of duty and professionalism was keeping her there until the detectives on the scene had some sort of answer as to why the owner of the property had killed himself. That notion was quickly chased out of her head by the dawning realisation that it was more than likely the main reason she was still working when she could have been out of uniform and trying to start some sort of conversation with the coach potato she had married, was the strangely attractive man she was taking a statement from. If truth be told, she could have wrapped up her interview with him many minutes earlier, something he seemed now to have realised, but something about him drew her in. Her shift had been nothing to write home about until around seven pm, with the usual combination of youth crime and household disputes to keep her busy, if not stimulated. She supposed she had been wishing for a change to the run-of-themill police duties for some time and so it shouldn‟t have been a surprise to her

when it came; but, of course, it was. The call had come through her police radio that a gunshot had been reported by a homeowner in Westcott Terrace and could she, as the nearest officer, attend number 17 as soon as possible. On arrival she had been greeted by an old lady, hair in curlers and slippers on her feet, who stood outside number 19 and looked at her watch disapprovingly, “Took you long enough”, she had said scornfully, in spite of the fact that it had only taken Constable Nicholls six minutes to get there from the moment the call had come through to her. The old lady had gone on to tell Nicholls, with no small amount of pleasure it seemed, that she had heard a gunshot from the house next door to her – which had interrupted and greatly disturbed her viewing of her favourite soap opera – and then she had knocked at the door with no reply so had taken a look in the front window. Thanking her and ushering her back to her own house, Nicholls had taken a moment to ring the doorbell at number 17 herself and, on getting no reply, had also looked in through the window. She hadn‟t been able to see the whole of the body, but the blood all over the carpet had given her enough cause to radio in to the station. Other officers were soon at the scene and had beaten the door down to gain access. The young man‟s body was splayed on his lounge floor, pistol still clenched in his dead hand. She had been listening to the pathologist confirming the self inflicted nature of the gunshot wound, when her Detective Inspector had asked her to take a statement from the man who lived on the opposite side of the deceased from the old lady who had initially phoned the police. When she had knocked at the door of number 15, the door had been answered by a man she couldn‟t seem to take her eyes off of. Not handsome exactly but strangely striking. She had almost forgotten to breathe. He had seemed to have been expecting both her and the news of the death of his neighbour, although he had also seemed immensely saddened by the confirmation. This she found strange in hindsight as, by his own admission, the neighbour barely knew the deceased and had only moved into number 15 in the previous few days. He was apparently a care worker who was new to the area and had taken up the tenancy of number 15 when the previous tenant had mysteriously decide to pack up and move out without giving the landlord any notice at all. On taking the particulars, she had learned his name and that he preferred to be called something like Uri – although she had thought he didn‟t look particularly foreign – and that he lived alone. In the course of her interview with him she learned very little of use about the deceased. Uri had told her he had introduced himself to the deceased, one Mr Daniel Lewis, the day he had moved in to 15 and also that he, Uri, wished he could have helped him. It might have been the signs of real pain and anguish in Uri‟s eyes that made Constable Nicholls want to put her arms around him and give him a hug, but she thought that was probably just because he was hot. With an act of almost supreme will, she tore her eyes away from him on hearing her Detective Inspector approach them. “Anything new, Nicholls?” he barked. She stood a little straighter without consciously meaning to and replied swiftly,

“No sir, this is Mr – er – Uri from next door. He didn‟t know the deceased well, unfortunately”. The Detective Inspector looked from her to the man she had been interviewing with a frown that panicked Nicholls. She cleared her throat. “I‟d better get off home, sir, unless you need any more from me? ” “No,” he replied dismissively, “you get yourself off. This one looks pretty cut and dried.” Nicholls made her way away from the scene and dared a glimpse over her shoulder to where she had left the gorgeous neighbour, thinking a quick wave and a flirty smile couldn‟t hurt. He was gone. The door to number 15 was still open and she could still see into the hall, but the man was no longer anywhere to be seen. Turning back and walking swiftly to her car, she assumed the man had simply ran into his house and forgotten to shut the door. Strange, but then that tended to come with the job. As she fastened her seat belt and started the engine, the effect the man seemed to have had on her began to fade and she found herself curiously struggling to remember what exactly he had looked like. Her thoughts turned to the dead man, currently lying on the lounge floor of number 17 Westcott Terrace. She wondered what could have driven him to take his own life; how unhappy he must have been and how pointless the future must have seemed. Still, she thought, whatever the problems were Mr Daniel Lewis, late of 17 Westcott Terrace, had put them behind him and wouldn‟t be worried about any more problems. She couldn‟t have known that she was half right. Daniel Lewis had just put his earthly worries behind him but was, at that precise moment, working his way through a whole new set of concerns.

Chapter One
Nex quod vita denuo
24 hours earlier Daniel Lewis had not had a good day. Not good at all. He was sat slumped in his armchair staring at the TV and wondering what the hell it was that he was watching. The programme seemed vaguely familiar to him, but he was sure he had never seen it before. It dawned on him, as he absent-mindedly scratched his lightly stubbled cheek, that the familiarity the show stank of was because it was almost exactly like everything else on the airwaves these days. He dropped the remote control on to the table and sank even further into his chair than most people would consider either reasonable or advisable. His mind wandered back over his day and he immediately wished it hadn‟t. Daniel had not been enjoying life much since he had split from his girlfriend almost eight months earlier, but he had definitely noticed things taking a noticeable turn for the worse over the past few weeks. He had been with her for a little over two years and they had even gone as far as having a baby, which had seemed perfectly natural to them at the time. They had not been together for more than six months when she had fallen pregnant, and they had felt so much in love they thought it would be the best idea to keep the baby. It hadn‟t occurred to them that by the time the little boy was not even a year old, his mother would have decided that she wanted to move in with another man, and her son would be going with her to meet his new daddy. Daniel had grown to love his son, a happy blond haired boy called William, in the months he had been able to see him, but he had not seen or heard anything from him or his mother since the day she left him. He doubted very much that he was ever likely to see anything of his young son again, for that matter. The only sign in Daniel‟s life that his son even existed was the maintenance money that left his account each month to allegedly pay for William‟s food and clothes. He had no idea what, if any, benefit his son drew from the money he gave the boy‟s mother. This was merely part of what Daniel considered to be a tapestry of annoyances that others would call their life. He was not a religious man by any stretch of the imagination, but he knew of the story of Job and identified with him. Daniel felt that he, too, was being tested or tormented beyond the limits of human endurance. Why this should be was something he didn‟t know. He certainly didn‟t consider himself to be a bad man, but then, he supposed, did anyone ever really consider themselves to be worthy of heaven sent torment? It wasn‟t impossible that he was being paranoid, but it just felt to him that his troubles were coming in increasingly large numbers. He sighed deeply and ran his fingers through his light brown hair, remembering the day he had just been through and wondering how many more like that he could cope with.

He had woken up late with his alarm failing to go off again, something he could find no explanation for. If he set the alarm clock for a time five minutes ahead and waited for the alarm to go off, it worked fine. Likewise, if he set the alarm first thing on a Saturday morning, eight hours later, he would always hear it go off. Yet, setting it for eight hours later between him going to bed and needing to wake up again in the morning seemed to cause it to, without fail, stay silent and stubbornly uncooperative. In his increasingly frequent paranoid moments, he almost believed the clock was being turned off deliberately while he slept. In any case, however the alarm clock was failing to go off, it had certainly failed to do so that morning. So he had gotten up roughly forty minutes later than he should have to start the day off. Rushing to the bathroom, he had been unable to get any hot water for a shower or a bath as his ever unreliable boiler wasn‟t working. Washing himself in a cold shower, he had been in a hurry to get out of the shower and so had fallen over the bottom of the shower cubicle tray and banged his head on the side of the sink. Getting himself dressed had been relatively uneventful in comparison, as had setting off for work. This was surely a mere lull in the catastrophe that was to be his day. Traffic was heavier than usual and fast extended how behind schedule Daniel was, so much so that he had ended up walking into his office over an hour late. He was the customer services manager at a large hypermarket and he had come into the store to find he already had two complaints to deal with, plus a message to go and see the store manager as soon as he was able. Daniel had received a rather energetic and vigorous dressing down from the store manager, an unpleasant little man called Wesley Simons. Daniel had always hated Wesley and, as he sat in the armchair of his lounge, he thought of ways he could get back at the annoying little man. Although Daniel would be the first to admit he deserved to be admonished earlier that day for being so late, his stubborn pride and unreasonably high feelings of self importance meant he couldn‟t bear for it to have happened. His green eyes looked up and to the left as he pondered various inventive ways to make Wesley Simons suffer, none of which Daniel would ever actually do. At least, none of which he thought he would ever actually do; something inside him screamed for him to do it, something angry. That same something had screamed at Daniel for most of his adult life, always daring him to turn into oncoming traffic and to hell with the consequences or to let loose a primal roar of rage and smash up Homebase for no reason at all. Daniel merely ignored this slightly unhinged part of his psyche and had come to assume, by the age of thirty-three, that this was just his creative side finding a way of venting its frustration. He had long thought that the word frustration was one that described him well and he considered himself to be a consummate nearly man. Nearly very good at a lot of things. He could play the guitar, but not well enough to make a living out of it. He could sing, act, write poetry, stories and novels but could do none of these things well enough for any record label, theatre producer or publishing house to be interested. He had always been the boy most likely to succeed at school, but had just never moved on from that; as if this teenage glory would somehow give him a free pass through the trials of adult life. No one who knew him ever thought of him as anything other than a really nice

guy; funny, clever, talented and so on and so forth. He, knowing himself better than all of them, knew better. He knew he was coasting through his life, that the time when he should have forged a career for himself and built a life around it had long since been and gone, and that now he was just getting by. His job was reasonable, but he knew he could and should have been something more by now. He was terrible at managing money, so however much he earned, he never seemed to have any. He knew this made him terrible husband material and supposed this was one reason why he had never become one. He had got close a couple of times, but had never made it to blissful wedlock. Deep down he knew this was probably best for the young ladies concerned and that they were better off with the men they eventually settled down with – men with pension plans, investments, contingency funds and golfing trousers. Men who attended strategy meetings and corporate regional sales conferences, and who Daniel felt were impossibly bland and who made his skin crawl at the thought of his exes touching them. Daniel knew, though, that the ladies concerned were happy with what they had and so stayed away. Daniel also knew, and had always known, that there was something wrong with him. Something different. It was this difference that had made him arrogant enough to assume life would automatically look after him, and therefore he needn‟t really put the effort in. It was also this difference that meant he found it hard to connect to people. He knew hundreds of people and they all liked him well enough, but few of them he knew even moderately well and none of them knew about him. He spent more time alone than anyone he knew. The world seemed to be getting on perfectly well out there without him. His family was all gone now. Whereas his peers, colleagues and acquaintances of similar ages mostly had both parents still alive and some even had grandparents knocking about the place, Daniel had lost his father to cancer two years previously and his mother to a traffic accident eighteen months after that. He only had one brother and no sisters, but had heard nothing from his brother since their father‟s funeral. As was so often the case in times of grief and stress, some families grow closer and some grew apart. Daniel‟s had most definitely grown apart. He had spent a year or so trying to contact his brother, but calls went unreturned or unanswered and eventually his pride told him to stop making a fool of himself. Observers found it strange that the Lewis family had disintegrated so easily after the death of the patriarch, but lots of things about Daniel‟s life were strange. Nothing major, or important enough to merit anyone particularly noticing but regular, odd occurrences that made Daniel feel he was unwittingly starring in a black comedy of a life and that someone, somewhere was laughing at him. If he had a day‟s holiday booked off work, he‟d be ill that day and feel terrible. If he was a home waiting for the gas man and had been given a window of between twelve and four, Daniel would lay money at ten to one that the doorbell would go at five to four, thereby wasting the whole afternoon and preventing him going out. Unless, of course, he did go out at twelve when invariably he would return at quarter past to find the gas man had posted a note through the door in his absence asking for him to call to make another appointment. Now, while these things may seem to happen to most people in the world from time to time, they happened to Daniel all the time. And not just this sort of minor annoyance. Some fairly

frightening levels of coincidence seemed to surround and restrict him. Daniel had long since come to the conclusion that if an alien scooped him up in the middle of the night and relocated him to a facsimile of his life but one where all variables had been carefully arranged to cause him the most annoyance and the viewer the most sadistic pleasure, Daniel wouldn‟t have noticed any difference. His life was one of those stories you heard told by one friend in a bar to another to mock someone they knew who had just had a really bad day. Today had just been another fine example of this. After the wrist slapping from Wesley Simons, Daniel had gone back to his office and decided to finally ask the pretty brunette who worked behind the deli counter if she fancied a drink sometime. She had politely declined, if laughing and turning her nose up could be said to be a form of politeness. Daniel had reassured himself she was probably more interested in women herself. Another couple of hours had passed with only an irate customer and the inexplicable loss of one of his cufflinks to occupy his attention. At lunch, Daniel had almost spilt his coffee down his shirt when the handle of the mug detached itself from the mug itself; saving himself from that embarrassment with a swift hop backwards and then wondering why he had bothered as he fell backwards over a canteen stool and landed hard on his back and felt the back of his skull thud against the tiled floor. His head had spun for several minutes, but no serious damage had been done. For most of the afternoon he had had to listen to his spotty, ASBO magnet of an assistant customer services manager, Dave, telling him about the date for the evening he had just secured over lunch with a certain pretty brunette from the deli counter, as well as an annoyingly graphic description of what Dave wanted to do with her. The afternoon had got worse when the heel of his shoe had fallen off, giving his gait an unbalanced and slightly deranged appearance, and making both colleagues and customers look at him with a combination of pity and bewilderment. Once you felt self conscious and that everyone was looking at you, Daniel had often found, then everyone may as well have been looking at you, even if they were probably too caught up in their own problems to care. Once he got it in his head that everyone had noticed something was wrong with him then Daniel would generally be absolutely convinced that the entire world was aware of the issue and was laughing at him maniacally. Daniel sat in his armchair and considered whether to get himself completely drunk and try to forget all about the rotten day he had just been through or not. He decided that he would just have a quick drink and see how he felt from there. He rose from his armchair and slowly padded his way to his kitchen to grab some cheap and nasty cola from his fridge to which he fully intended to add some equally cheap and nasty bourbon. As he reached for the fridge door handle, his phone began to chime, demanding his attention. He froze rigid, remembering the problems he had encountered earlier in the day that had started with him answering the phone. Mid afternoon, as he had just started to shake off the feeling that he was being watched by everyone due to his faulty shoe, his mobile had rung. The ringtone, an old pop song from the 1980s, and the mild vibration that went with it had drawn his hand to the small silver clam shell hand set within a couple of seconds. On answering, he just as quickly wished he hadn‟t. The lady on the other end of the phone had a perfectly pleasant voice but had terrible news

for him. The colour had drained from his face as Daniel had listened to her explaining that he had missed too many payments on his car, had not responded to letters he had been sent and the company she represented had no option but to repossess the car within the following forty-eight hours. Feeling numb, he had confirmed that he had understood and had hung up the phone. From that point until the end of the working day he had found things a little hard to cope with. He was not one of those men who was obsessed by cars, not by a long chalk. In fact, he found the men who obsessively worshipped the TV shows where overweight middle aged men drove some cars too fast and poured scorn over other cars as if their word was law, to be very irritating. Daniel didn‟t really care what size his cars‟ engines were or whether they had injection or bucket seats or any of the other paraphernalia that young men tended to lust after. He did, however, like to have a car and didn‟t want someone taking his from him. He also hated the fact that he was sufficiently poor with his money that the car was being repossessed. The actual act of repossession hurt him more than the impending loss of the car. It had taken at least twenty minutes after the conclusion of the phone call before Daniel had been able to focus on his work and, of course, during that time, the customer complaints came in thick and fast and left him behind on his workload. By half past three he had managed to claw himself back to a stage where he was only disastrously behind in his work, when his mobile phone had rung again. This time, the number on the screen showed as withheld and this should have been an indication that he possibly might have wanted to dodge the call. He realised that now as he stood listening to his phone ringing whilst stood in his kitchen remembering the day he had just had. In the space of half a second he remembered the content of the second of his two earlier phone calls. He had answered the call and been greeted by the pleasure of a conversation with a terribly officious and nasal sounding banking advisor from Daniel‟s own bank. After advising him that he had reached an unacceptable level of overdraft and that his bank cards had just been cancelled, he let Daniel know that he would need to call in to the local branch and meet with the manager in order to sort out a payment plan to clear the unauthorised overdraft. Daniel had felt as if all his chickens had come home to roost, and had then decided to burn down their hen house and spray pro-chicken anti-human graffiti on the wall of his farmhouse. He had almost fallen into his rickety office, prompting a snigger from his co workers which he had no energy left to react to. He had known full well that financial problems had been creeping up on him, but had been hoping against hope that some miracle inheritance or lottery win would come to his aid. He had resolved immediately that he would use the last of the change in his battered, leather wallet to buy a lottery ticket for the following days rollover draw, if only to give himself a further days suspension of reality. This was something he regularly resorted to, thinking of his life as if reality and the cause of his fate were scripted elsewhere and that all would be well “at the end of the film”. Even at this stage, with the end no more than twenty-four hours away, Daniel had still clung to the fantasy that there would be a happy ending, as if the rules of the world did not really apply to him. The rest of his day had seemed bland in comparison with merely a punch in the face from a total stranger in a futile argument about how Daniel had parked

his car outside the corner shop, where he had stopped on his way home to buy the lottery ticket, using the same „lucky‟ numbers he always used – 1, 7, 11, 17, 24 and 42 and him snapping his front door key off in the lock as he tried to get in adding spice to the mix. He had almost immediately found his new neighbour, a strange man with a foreign sounding name, who stood by him offering to help. An offer which Daniel had declined almost politely, as the tears of frustration began to well up in his eyes. He had seen the man next door on a couple of occasions over the previous few days, and had nothing against him, despite being curious as to what had happened to Paul – the man who had been living next door to Daniel for most of the past two years. Daniel had found it odd that Paul had moved out so suddenly and without bothering to say goodbye to him. They had not been exactly what you would call firm friends, but certainly Daniel would have expected to been told his neighbour was moving out. The new guy seemed nice enough, but Daniel suspected he was gay as he always seemed to look at him strangely and seemed overly interested in Daniel‟s well-being. Certainly, that particular day, Daniel had not been in the mood to talk through his day with the man and had excused himself quickly and walked round to the back of the house to climb over the rear gate and use his back door key. He had then sunk into his chair, rising only to be stopped on the way to the fridge by the phone. Answering hesitantly, Daniel had been pleasantly surprised to hear from someone he actually wanted to speak to. The young lady on the other end of the line was a one night stand from some four months earlier that he had long since given up hope of hearing from again, convincing himself he had accidentally given her the wrong number in his hurry to write it down. Carly was someone he had met in a pub and who has obviously been as desperate as he was at that time because she hadn‟t put up much of a fight and he had soon ended up at her flat, leaving early the next morning to walk the half a mile into town in order to catch a bus home to change and get himself to work. He had spent the following days waiting for her to call, having not thought to take her number, becoming increasingly convinced she was playing hard to get. As days had evolved into weeks, he realised she wasn‟t going to call and had adopted the rationale that he had written the number down wrong to avoid the harsh reality that he had clearly been a mistake. She sounded exactly as he remembered from the last time Daniel had spoken to her, throaty and sensual. This time, however, there was something else in her tone he was having trouble placing. Could it be anger he could hear under the surface he wondered. His question was soon answered though, as she gave him both some shocking news and an ultimatum. She was pregnant with his baby and would be going to the Child Support Agency for formal maintenance unless he gave her a thousand pounds for an abortion and her trouble. She told him he had a month to get the money together or he would be hearing from her solicitor and told him she would be getting a letter to him to let him know where to contact her because she was sure he didn‟t remember where she lived. She was wrong there, he knew exactly where she lived; he could remember everything about the night he met her. He chose not to say this to her then in case she decided to add a restraining order to his problems. He simply mumbled his agreement to her demands and

slammed the phone down, only now thinking of clever things to say. He was not entirely sure how it was possible for his day to get any worse. He finished making himself a drink and returned to his armchair. He thought about the month he had to find a thousand pounds for Carly, knowing full well that she might as well have given him a year, or a hundred years. He was currently about as likely to be able to raise the Titanic as he was able to raise a thousand pounds. Thinking about money, he switched the television on and waited for the lottery draw. Ten minutes of deluding himself by planning what he would do with the winnings, if he won, which he knew he wouldn‟t. He knew full well that he was statistically more likely to correctly guess the telephone number of a total stranger than he was to win the lottery. But what else was there for him? He had his lucky numbers – 1, 7, 11, 17, 24 and 42 – that he always used on the rare times he bought a lottery ticket. The planning of how to spend the money was a game he often played when he needed something to take his mind off of things, but it was always a double edged sword. The warm feeling as he spent money in his head he was occasionally realistic enough to know he would never have was always followed by a hollow feeling that accompanied the wrong numbers appearing on the screen. He sat back and waited for the wrong number, or rather someone else‟s winning numbers, to come out of the machine. He absent-mindedly wondered where he had put his ticket, checked his wallet and saw the familiar pink colour of the lottery ticket poking out from between a couple of receipts. The first number came out of the machine and he was amused to see it was the number 24, one of his. When this was followed by the number 11, he began to hope that he would be in line for a tenner. Strangely, the third number out was the number 7 and Daniel smiled ruefully. On another day, he might have been pleased to have got three numbers, but after the day he had just been through it would take a lot more than ten pounds to cheer him up. The next number to roll out of the clear plastic tube and be picked up by a minor soap star was number 42 and Daniel sat himself up straight in his chair and began to smile. He wasn‟t exactly sure how much you could win with four numbers but he was pretty confident it was into hundreds of pounds. His jaw began to fall to the floor as he saw the number 17 appear on the screen and pinched his leg hard through his trousers. He felt the pain, so was fairly sure he wasn‟t asleep and dreaming that he felt the pain. When the number 1 rolled out and they recapped the numbers in ascending order 1, 7, 11, 17, 24 and 42, the same number he had always used for the lottery, he decided he didn‟t care if he was dreaming – he wasn‟t sure he wanted to wake up. The man on the television informed the watching public, and Daniel amongst them, that the estimated jackpot was £12.7 million pounds. Daniel screamed so loud with sheer relief and unbridled joy that he was sure his weird neighbour must have heard. His head span and he nearly fell to the floor, grasping the arm of the chair and forcing himself to remember to breathe. He laughed out loud and stood up from his chair, unable to stop himself from dancing from foot to foot in a style he was fairly sure made him look mad. Except it didn‟t matter now, nothing did. He was rich enough, as far as he was concerned, to do what he wanted; and besides, rich people weren‟t mad, they were eccentric. For the next hour he phoned everyone he could think of, including people he

barely knew and told them of his good fortune. Most of them either said, or assumed but were too polite to say, he was drunk or playing some sort of joke on them, but he didn‟t care in the slightest. They‟d soon see, he thought, as he drank the remains of his bottle of cheap and nasty bourbon, when he pulled up outside their work places in a Ferrari or the like. At one point in the evening he crashed back down to earth by convincing himself he had made a mistake and that the numbers drawn weren‟t his lucky numbers. It took him eight awful minutes to check online before he had been able to reassure himself his numbers had, indeed, come up. He knew exactly what his first action would be the following day, and it would give him great pleasure he was sure. He retired to bed, more than a little drunk but incredibly excited and more alive than he had felt for what was probably fifteen years. And so, the clock by the side of Daniel‟s bed passed from 23.59 to 00.00 and he unknowingly entered the last day of his life. He woke early, like a small child on Christmas day and showered, dressed for work, leaving the house with a song on his lips and a smile on his face. He hadn‟t even got to the end of his front garden when he noticed his neighbour had appeared on the path that ran parallel to Daniel‟s own path. No, he thought, “appeared” wasn‟t right; his neighbour must have simply walked out of his own house – it was just that Daniel, in his understandably distracted state, had failed to notice him. “Daniel”, greeted the strange neighbour evenly, “how are you today?” As always, he sounded as if he actually meant the question as opposed to just saying it as a standard greeting or formality. That unnerved Daniel, as this guy seemed to have a knack of doing to him. Not for the first time, Daniel felt there was something not quite right about his new neighbour, but he was determined to not let anything ruin his day; not even his odd, and possibly gay, neighbour. “I‟m good, thanks,” he said, over his shoulder as he walked towards his car, “really, really good.” He heard his neighbour call after him as he used the remote to his car, which he suddenly realised he could soon replace with something far more expensive, and zapped the driver‟s door open. “Remember Daniel, I‟m always here if you need me. In case you have a bad day.” Daniel gave him a cheery wave and muttered under his breath. “I bet you are. Weirdo. I think I‟ll move pretty quick to a new house, you nut job.” And with that, Daniel was in first gear and pulling away, still seeing his neighbour watching him in his rear view mirror. He supposed he should be grateful, the guy obviously fancied him rotten and the attention should flatter him, even if he didn‟t swing that way. He put his neighbour out of his mind and smiled as he thought of the fun he was going to have when he got to work. He reached into his bag on the passenger seat and pulled open his wallet, seeing the lottery ticket still inside, and put the CD player on. He was singing at the top of his voice to “Kung Fu Fighting” from his 70s collection when he pulled into the store‟s staff car park. He didn‟t concern himself too much with fitting his car carefully into a marked space and marched into the store as bold as brass. “Morning Mavis,” he shouted at one of the old ladies already sat on the checkouts, “you look gorgeous today,” Mavis, eighty if she was a day and not blessed with the most robust sense of humour, ignored him. Daniel almost skipped to the deli counter, casting his eyes along its glass frontage until he saw

the young girl he was looking for. She was deep in conversation with her friend, no doubt regaling her with the story of her previous evening‟s fun with Daniel‟s pimply colleague. He ran round the side of the glass counter and marched up to her. She turned as he approached. “Hi,” he beamed, and kissed her full on the lips. Her friend gazed in amazement and then hilarity as the young girl pulled away from Daniel and slapped his face hard. “You dirty ape, wait till my boyfriend hears about this”. Daniel laughed, he couldn‟t care less today. He winked at her and walked away, heading for the store manager‟s office. Ten minutes later, having told the stunned Wesley Simons that not only could be stick his job up his hairy arse but that also that he was probably the most hated man in the store and that the rest of the staff prayed for him to move on to a new store, or to drop dead. Daniel had spent almost five minutes elaborating on exactly what he thought of Wesley, before finishing his tirade by picking up the other man‟s own glass of cola and pouring it over his head before laughing out loud and tearing his name badge off and leaving the office. Daniel was still laughing when he reached the lottery kiosk, chuckling merrily when he was told to wait while they checked his ticket and humming a happy tune to himself and saying odd things to passers-by and people waiting to buy a ticket for the next draw. “Sorry love,” said the middle aged woman with a hint of a moustache who was handing him back his ticket from behind the kiosk, “this is five numbers, not six.” Daniel‟s smile vanished from his face as quickly as if it had never been there at all. He snatched the ticket from her and looked the numbers – 1, 7, 11, 18, 24 and 42. 18? he thought, I always use 17. He reached into his wallet and pulled out the lottery bingo card that he had completed to get his ticket. His eyes widened and his heart sank as he saw the pen line that he had meant to draw through the number 17 had, in fact, gone through 18 instead. “Still, 5 numbers can win you a lot,” said Magnum PI from behind the kiosk without the merest twitch of a smile. “How much?” he asked hopefully. She told him he had to call the claim line to find out for any prize over 4 numbers and pointed out where on the ticket the number could be found, before asking the irritated man behind Daniel if she could help him. Daniel stepped to one side, his blind panic ebbing away as he remembered that people with five numbers usually won tens or hundreds of thousands of pounds. As long as he won enough to pay for his car, the money to pay Carly off, pay off the bank and give him – say – thirty thousand to live on and put some away for little William, he was sure he could cope with the fact that he had no job any more. Come on, he thought as he used his mobile to dial the claim line, be at least fifty thousand pounds. It seemed to Daniel to be hours before the automated system asked him to key the code number from his „winning ticket‟ and still longer while he was informed the system was checking it‟s database to see how many other lucky winners were sharing the prize fund with him. The almost eternal wait came to an end finally when the automated machine-like voice told Daniel that it was sorry for the slight delay in checking it‟s database but that “due to a unprecedented and unusually large number of five number prize winners” for the preceding evenings prize draw the amount his winning ticket had

earned him was a fabulous £958.17. Daniel noted with some irony that he was still going to be £42 or so short from having the money to pay off Carly, let alone pay his debts. He let the ticket fall to the floor and walked, dazed, out of the store and towards his car. That, he thought decisively, is about it. About as much as he could take. He was worth more dead than alive, he reasoned not for the first time, due to a small life insurance policy he paid £10 a month into; his solitary attempt at being a grown man. Although he had no desire to leave his life insurance money to William‟s mother, and was not entirely sure they would pay out anyway from the horror stories he had read in the papers, he couldn‟t face any more. He had written a will several months ago that all his estate, such as it was, would be passed to his son, or held for him until he was of age, so he could only hope that his insurance money would find its way, at least in part, to his little boy. Strangely, his drive home seemed to take no time at all and before he knew it he was walking up to his back gate, his front door still unusable due to the key being broken off in the lock. He should have been surprised to find his neighbour coming out of the gate next to Daniel‟s at just the right time to bump into him, but he wasn‟t. Daniel saw this as just another annoyance in a dreadful day. “Hello Daniel,” his neighbour said with a smile, “you seem upset. Maybe I can help.” Daniel was in no mood to be overly polite and just ignored him and walked into his rear garden, leaving the gate open behind him. “Let‟s talk,” continued Daniel‟s neighbour persistently. “Things are never as bad as all that.” Daniel laughed ironically as he shut his back door behind him and grabbed the expensive whiskey he had been saving for a special occasion. He couldn‟t, at that moment, think of an occasion more special than what he was about to do. Kicking off his shoes he slumped into the chair and opened the bottle, drinking deeply from it. The strength of the whiskey surprised him and he nearly gagged before getting his larynx under control and gulping back the rising nausea. A couple more mouthfuls of this, he thought, should get me nicely drunk before I go upstairs and reach on top of the wardrobe and fetch down the small black case with the clip fasteners and cut out carrying handle. The drink might even make him drunk enough that he wouldn‟t think about the mess he had made of his life, the distance he had fallen from what he had expected to achieve and why he had never really felt he fitted in. If the whiskey could distract him from what he was fairly sure was his neighbour banging on the back door and asking Daniel to let him in so they could talk, then so much the better. He was beyond caring about the crazy neighbour now, he winced as he swallowed another mouthful of whiskey. His head was beginning to cloud a little and he thought it wise to go up and get his carry case from its hiding place above the wardrobes. He staggered up the stairs and almost fell on one occasion, but made it to his bedroom safe and slightly unsound. He reached on top of the wardrobe, feeling for the plastic handle of his carry case. He found it and grabbed the handle, pulling the case down and opening it reverentially. He picked up the pistol from inside the padded insides of the case, and ran his index finger down the cold, metal barrel. He picked up the separate ammunition clip and loaded it carefully into the handle of the pistol before locking it closed and peering down the sights. For a second, he thought he could hear his mobile ringing downstairs in the lounge, but if it had been then it had stopped now, so it couldn‟t have been

that important. If he had been thinking a little more clearly he may have realised that the phone had stopped ringing due to his voicemail kicking in and that actually, if he had checked the message, he would have considered the potential content of the call very important indeed. One of the police officers investigating his death would check Daniel‟s voicemail in approximately two days‟ time to see if any clue as to his mental state could be uncovered and would be surprised to hear a message from a lottery helpline letting Mr Daniel Lewis know they had made an unfortunate mistake due to an unfathomable computer error and that he was actually due winnings from his winning ticket of a little over half a million pounds. As it happened, this amount would go unclaimed. Daniel decided he must have been imagining hearing his mobile ringing and walked slowly and steadily back down the stairs pistol in his right hand and picked up his bottle of whiskey with his left. He put the bottle to his mouth and drank as deeply as he was able, then placed the bottle on the table that sat by the side of the armchair and raised the gun in a hand that was suddenly starting to shake. He thought, once more, about his son and wondered if the happy little blond boy he used to know was still the same, or would ever remember anything about Daniel himself. He wondered if his life insurance would pay out, and whether William would ever see any of it. His hand shook violently and Daniel felt very scared. His eyes began to well up with tears. Suddenly, it was very clear to him that he was being stupid and about to make a very big mistake. He lowered the pistol and took a deep breath, his head spinning and his cheeks wet with tears, the taste of the salt sneaking into the sides of his mouth. Then he thought about going back to work and asking for his job back, about missing his son and the lad growing up calling someone else dad, about the bitter irony of a lottery win that wasn‟t quite enough to pay a debt he had only been given the previous day and, most of all, how much of a waste of potential his life had become. He was strangely calm as he lifted the pistol and placed the barrel in his mouth. The gunshot interrupted the old lady next door who was trying to watch one of her favourite soaps and made the man on the other side of number 17 shake his head sadly. Daniel Lewis was dead before his body hit the floor, the last thing he saw through tear filled eyes being a picture on top of his television of himself smiling and holding a baby. The next thing he saw was something of a surprise to him.