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A figure shimmered slightly in the fog, and eventually coalesced into the shape of a man - a darker shadow in the pre-dawn dark. He was traipsing through the dense early morning fog, the night darker now than it had been when he set out. The moon had sunk below the horizon and the sun was yet to show its face. It had been a long walk from Redton station and he was unaccustomed to extended periods of exercise - the breath misting in front of his mouth and nose came quickly - but he had been reluctant to take the train for fear of being noticed and remembered. The figure approached the house slowly but eventually, feet crunching loudly in the silence, he arrived at the side gate. He slipped a practised hand through the hole in the worn boards and flicked the catch, releasing the gate to swing inwards, scraping along the loose gravel. The gate hadn't been used in a while and the figure had to push hard to exert his will against it. There was no dog, and the man entered the backyard unchallenged. He stepped through, pushed the protesting gate back home, the catch sliding closed of its own accord, and walked around to the back door. There was a covered porch area at the back of the house and to the side of the pavers lay a garden hose. The hose lay in a messy coil below the tap, still affixed at one end. The man groped in the darkness, stumbling slightly on a loop of hose and, using his hands as his only form of sight, removed the hose from the tap by pulling sharply on the plastic connecting piece. He dropped the hose end and ran the tap, the water whistling through the pipe and spurting out in a gush, splattering his shoes. He paid the mess no mind, and quickly rinsed his hands under the cold water. He pushed both his hands in the water, up to the elbow, and gave them each a soapless wash with the opposite hand. He then raised his wet hands to his face and accorded it the same treatment. The cold water was a shock to his warm face, sweaty from the exertion, but it felt good to be clean.

The man twisted the tap and shut off the flow of water, shook his arms to remove the excess, and squelched in his wet runners over to the back door. He took off his shoes and socks and, realising as he did so that his tracksuit pants were drenched almost to the knees, slipped them off too. Standing in his boxers and a grotty tee shirt, he reached out to the screen door and tried the handle. Smiling as it slid open easily and revealed the darkened laundry, he stepped into the house, dumped the dirty and wet clothes into the laundry tub, and padded quietly into the main bedroom.


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