1. Prologue

That night was curiously cold. Any warmth of air had deserted the street with the last of the draining daylight. There was no breeze, no rain - not even a cloud to dilute the black sky. The whole neighbourhood was in a state of elemental isolation.
Moisture hadn't graced the dry, cracked slabs of concrete for weeks. Leaves hung limply from plants half visible from murky first floor windows; cling film was slicked pitifully to the glass of every house, some windows 6 sheets thick.
Nature refused to even spare a breath to stir the wind chimes nailed to a few peeling door frames.

Eerie silence reverberated through her eardrums as she pulled the lapels of her coat tighter around her body. The hiss of curtains being pulled together pierced through that silence more than once as she passed bolted door after bolted door. She stared at her feet. She would have done the same, were it herself behind a pair of dusty curtains that day. Strangers only ever came for one thing.

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