Exposed, p.1
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       Exposed, p.1

           Alex Carver
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  Alex R Carver

  Copyright © United Kingdom 2016

  All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or utilised in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying or recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.

  This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events or locales is entirely coincidental.

  The publisher does not have any control over, and does not assume any responsibility for author or third party websites or their content.

  © 2016 by ARC Books

  A hand snaked out from under the covers to turn off the alarm before the first note had finished, leaving the room to return to silence. It remained that way for only a moment though, for with an explosion of energy that was unlike that displayed by the average person upon waking, Julian threw back the sheet that covered him and all but sprang from the bed. The move would have been silent, were it not for the floorboards that creaked under him as he landed.

  Once on his feet he looked around. To anyone else the room would have been pitch black, too dark to see anything, but he had no problem making out the interior of his bedroom. Everything was just as it had been when he went to bed, not that he thought anything was likely to have changed since he had incredibly sensitive hearing, and would almost certainly have woken had anything, no matter how minor, happened. It was habit, though, for him to check for changes or danger the moment he woke, as so many of the things he did were habit.

  Having satisfied himself that everything was alright, Julian made his way out of the bedroom and along to the bathroom, which was only a few steps away. It wasn’t until he got there that he turned a light on - the sudden glare made him blink his steel grey eyes rapidly for a moment. He ignored the mirror over the sink, looking in it was a human reflex he had trained himself not to respond to, and climbed into the shower, where he gave the tap a quick twist; it spun until it stopped of its own accord and the water lashed his skin with the force of a whip.

  The water had barely reached its maximum temperature, hot enough to have most people wincing and reaching for the cold tap, when he finished cleaning himself. Giving the tap another quick twist he shut the flow of water off and ran his hands over his body, stripping off the excess water; invigorated, as he always felt after such a shower, he snagged a towel from the rail next to the cubicle and stepped out so he could rub himself dry before dropping the wet towel in the laundry basket.

  The last thing Julian did prior to leaving the bathroom was clean his teeth - he spent more time doing that than he had showering. Dental hygiene was very important to him and he brushed and flossed until he was sure his teeth were as clean as they could be.

  Returning to his bedroom once he was done in the bathroom, he made his way over to the window. Pulling back the heavy curtain, which prevented even the smallest amount of light from entering the room, he looked out. He spared a quick glance for his car, a battered old VW Golf, making sure that it hadn’t been stolen or vandalised, a possibility given the neighbourhood he lived in, which was in a part of town known for trouble, and another for the street. He then turned his gaze to the cloudless night sky. He was always amazed by how peaceful the simple act of gazing at the moon, especially when it was full, could make him feel.

  Tearing himself away from his contemplation of the sky, Julian glanced quickly down the street again, wondering if he should go out and have a bite to eat before work. He decided, after a moment, that he wasn’t hungry enough and stepped back from the window, pulling the heavy curtain closed once again.

  He got dressed after that, and made his way out of the small one bedroom flat he occupied when he was finished; as always, he stopped in the doorway where he went through his pre-departure ritual, which involved him patting his pockets, to be sure he wasn’t forgetting his mobile phone, wallet or keys, and then checking the zip on his trousers in case he hadn’t done it up. The last thing he did was run his fingers along his neck to ensure that the silver chain, which had once belonged to his grandfather and was the only piece of jewellery he ever wore, was still there.

  When he was satisfied that he had not forgotten anything, Julian closed and locked the door before making his way out of the building. There was no lift, a lack that annoyed a few of the residents, but didn’t bother him; there weren’t all that many stairs, and they didn’t trouble him, even when he descended at a jog, as he did then.

  He slowed to a walk when he reached his car, though he didn’t stop; the petrol station where he worked the night shift was less than a mile away, and he saw no reason to be lazy and drive when the sky was clear, with no suggestion of bad weather. The only reason for him to drive, other than bad weather, was because he was running late, and as usual he had plenty of time to get to work before his shift start.

  “How many times do I have to tell you not to do that?” Julian asked rhetorically in an exasperated voice as he grabbed hold of the old man outside the petrol station.

  “Hey, it’s the night guy.” The drunk continued pissing up against the side of the building as he looked round, bleary-eyed, to see who had grabbed him. “Hey, night guy, where are we?”

  The question was slurred, and barely audible, but after more than a year of working the night shift there, Julian was able to understand what he was saying.

  “You’re at the petrol station, and you’re pissing against the wall, again!” Giving the drunk a shove, he ignored the man’s protest when he splashed himself. “Now, get out of here, you drunken pain in the ass.” Julian gave him another shove, this time in the direction of the street. “And take your friend with you,” he said sharply, aiming a kick at the second drunken figure, who was leaning against the building, rather than pissing on it.

  He was not surprised that his name hadn’t been remembered; the drunk old man could barely remember his own name, let alone those of people he encountered on an almost daily basis. As well as his name not being known by the drunk, Julian didn’t know the drunk’s name, and he wasn’t particularly bothered by that lack; as far as he was concerned the old guy was no-one for him to be bothered about, not unless he was pissing against the building, which he did with a regularity that was annoying.

  Julian watched the two drunks to be sure they were not going to return - they showed no sign of turning round, they simply continued on in the direction they had been pointed – and then he made his way round the side of the building to the carwash, where he grabbed the hose so he could wash off the wall. Generally, he liked his job, it wasn’t too demanding, and he didn’t have to worry about a boss breathing down his neck all the time, but he did find dealing with the drug addicts and drunks who lived in the local area distasteful at times, especially the ones who were so far gone they couldn’t take proper care of themselves.

  Once he was done with the hose, he allowed himself a few moments to enjoy the peace and quiet that only occurred in that area at such a late hour – it was almost four in the morning and the street was devoid of traffic, and had been for a while, with the exception of the two drunks who had decided to use the petrol station as a toilet. He knew that the peace and quiet wouldn’t last, much as he would like it to; he had maybe an hour before people started appearing on the street, the first wave of people heading either to or from work.

  With a last glance at the moon, he pushed open the door and entered the shop, where the radio was playing quietly, just loud enough to be heard.

  As if there had been no interru
ption, Julian returned to cleaning the shelves and checking the best-before dates on the various products as he put them back; it was work that he invariably left until a Sunday night, when he had the most free time, because his colleagues rarely rotated the stock when they filled up during the day and it took most of the shift to complete.

  He had made it to the end of the shelf, and was just beginning to remove the chocolate bars from the next shelf down, when he heard a car pull onto the forecourt. Standing up, he looked out at the car; it was not unheard of for people to come in at that time on a Monday morning, but it was unusual enough to make him curious to know who was out there. He immediately guessed that the couple who got out of the car were returning from a holiday.

  The lights that illuminated the forecourt were the sort to make all but the darkest of people look anaemic and sick; he could make out a hint of a tan on the faces of the couple, however, and he could see suitcases on the back seat of the car. In addition to the cases and the slight tan, both of them were dressed in clothes that were better suited to a warmer climate than to Northern England in the winter.

  Julian’s guess, had anyone been around to ask him, was that the couple had just flown back from
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