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First pages

1

Ever since I discovered my sensitivity, shit has done its very best to turn up on my doorstep. Today's shit is a missing girl. But rather than doing anything practical to track her down, I'm stuck here, waiting.

Waiting is the majority of the job. I've become a little too good at it. Sitting or standing just out of view, sometimes in plain sight. The key is to think yourself invisible, passive enough to be ignored. Inconspicuous. Nonchalant. You get good at word games and coming up with synonyms when most days are nothing but killing time. Without them, all this loitering isn't great for one's sanity. The mind wanders whilst the body lies fallow. I'm sat on a lone wooden bench inexplicably placed in a small patch of suburban wasteland. There used to be grass and trees here, a visual respite from the surrounding buildings, hiding behind a knee high redbrick wall.

Sometime recently, the council had some money to burn, an underspend that needed to be overspent. They ripped up the grass, shifted a few trees and dumped tarmac down to make a path. A slim island of grass still remains, a few feet wide by maybe ten foot long, but it looks like someone clumsy took a sledge hammer at the wall, to let the path meet the street. Not that much money to waste, obviously, or they would have made it all pretty. Maybe these days this is the city equivalent of woodland. A dogshit stained oasis. A little bit of green to relax the eyes from the monotopian greys and browns that lie beyond its borders.

I'm loitering just off a nice street, South Bedford. They call this 'The Georgian Quarter', and if the facades were more cared for, they'd probably feel illustrious, affluent, erudite. But the house I'm staring at hasn't been painted for years. Brickwork cracking, paint peeling from the door and window frames. No longer are these the million pound houses fit for a wealthy family. They've long since been broken up into apartments, as many as can be shoved into the weary flayed skin of once-great buildings. Rooms constructed of thin plasterboard walls, a former magnificent sitting room turned into an open plan lounge and kitchen, two bed and bath. That's how we live these days; either sharing a fraction of a relic from a bygone era; or in a newly constructed cube that lacks anything close to character or charisma. A soulless void with some IKEA trimmings to make it something close to habitable. Desmond Morris knew this was coming, that western society was building itself a zoo. He saw the isolation epidemic decades before it had a hashtag, Spotify ads and support line.

This level of isolation is an amorphous beast, thriving off dark thoughts, growing in the crevices of the subconscious. Spreading roots through the unobserved backward swamps of neural tissue. Laying foundations of loneliness with a mighty thicket of demonic foliage. Stretching contorted vines, night blooming flowers blossoming from thorny black stems. Sickly, putrefied pollen of despondence carried on the gentle breeze of absent minded thoughts, whisked on a forlorn wind of half-remembered nightmares. A weakened mind is prone to an allergic reaction, an assimilation of those twisted, sorrowful notions as one's own.

Knowing that those crippling, chronic, paralysing feelings of dejection aren't your own don't make it any better. There's no easy or quick fix. Not if you don't have a support system, or the faculties to escape a self-destructive mindscape. You start to become invisible. Disappear in plain sight. To catch eye contact from a stranger gets the paranoia bubbling. 'Why would they be looking at me?'

Another smoke will clear the air. Figuratively, at least. Sitting in one place for too long can be mad-making. A casual observation becomes a rant becomes a deconstruction. All presented in a soliloquy, to an audience of one, that already knows the lines, reading from the same damn page. Therapy was not helpful. It encouraged this, if anything.

I've been here for close to two hours. If patience is a virtue, what does that make waiting? The path to equanimity? An off-ramp for the potentially virtuous? Eleven cigarette butts lie by my feet, the twelfth soon to join them. Normal people have watches, I have smoking as my sundial, cancer as my copilot. I know I should stop, but at thirty-two, I've been smoking for more years than I haven't. It's part of who I am, etched into my bones, the grain in the wood. And if I stopped, how would I get through all this waiting? Other PIs have a healthy podcast addiction, but the only ones I listen to tend to result in laughter, and a guy giggling to himself doesn't make great for inconspicuous. Plus, I got to keep my head in the game.

He intended to return in twenty to thirty minutes. That was a half hour or so before I got here. Junkies can't keep time for shit, unless it's for their appointment at the dole office. That's unfair, a broad statement. I should appreciate a day sitting outside in the sun, right? Even if I can only glimpse it through the canopy of leaves above. Be happy that it's not grey or cold or raining.

But there's a girl missing, every second could count, and I've wasted 7200 seconds sitting here waiting for this shitbag to get back. I think about moving, going back to his door, getting another read on it. Maybe I missed something, maybe he left a memory of where he was going. People do that, when they're thinking clearly. Unfortunately, his mind was a thick opiate sludge. Like trying to find a needle in a rotting, pulsating, oozing haystack of disjointed thoughts, decisions, intents. Sense memories seen through a fog of drug-seeking aimlessness and distraction. I don't know how these people function. Fifteen minutes becoming two hours. Time stretched, contorted, every second elongated beyond recognition. There's probably a Nobel prize waiting in the wings for whoever figures out the correlation between junkie time and normal time.

If only the building didn't have a key fob entry, a magnetic lock on the door, I could have been in and out by now. An hour and a half closer to finding her. Need to learn about RFID frequencies, work out how to hack them. Been waxing lyrical about investing time and money into that shit for nigh on ever. Times like these it'd be handy. Yet I keep putting it off, as if I've got other, more important things going on.

In all honesty, nothing is more important than the work. Yet I procrastinate from learning things that would be handy to the job. Sensitivity has made me apathetic. Knowing the deepest, darkest thoughts and the most closely guarded memories of strangers has made me hate the world around me. Hate people, all of them. Everyone seems to have something they're ashamed of, or something they should be ashamed of, that they keep locked up deep inside. Not deep enough when someone like me is around... There are no secrets you can keep from a sensitive.

2

Another cigarette meets my boot heel as he finally returns. Looks different to the image of himself I got from the read. In the sense memory, he was more clean cut, cleaner in general, with designer stubble and quaffed hair. His imagined self is probably built on facets of his former self; doesn't slouch, his hair isn't thinning, his clothes don't look like hand-me-downs from a hobo. It's amazing how different people's perceptions of themselves are to the truth. Everyone is like that, not just junkies. As a species, they seem to have perceptual dysmorphia about their appearances.

We, not they. I'm still human, I am human. Even though it's increasingly difficult to remember that, or hard to admit it, given the filth I crawl through on an almost daily basis...

The dysmorphia, that's only usually a diagnosis for people with eating disorders, the ones who look at their skeletal frames and still feel like they could still lose ten pounds. Them, and sensitives. We see everyone else's distorted perceptions, and after this long, the way we see ourselves has pretty much lined up with reality. We're maybe the only ones who see ourselves as we really are, and in truth, it's yet another checked box in the long list of reasons why this is a damn curse. Delusion, fantasy of one's appearance would be nice every now and then.

God, he's taking forever getting to that door. Tiny, snail-pace footsteps, like he's thinking long and hard about each one. Heel-toe, heel-toe. He's moving slow, but erratic, looking over his shoulder like he expecting to be followed, stopped, searched. Doesn't he know that when you look as suspicious as this fettered dickspurt, you're more likely to get stopped than not. He's clutching the record bag hanging off his bony shoulder like his life depends on it. There's probably a brick in there, already cut with powdered milk, maybe caffeine. When he bags it up, he'll cut it down again for sure, with flour or talc I reckon. Cheap and dumb cutting.

On reflection, I've spent too much time reading dealers and their doors. Nobody needs to know this kind of junk unless they're in the trade, and I keep my addictions on the legal side of the fence. I know I should put a call in, get this prick and his gear off the streets, but it'll have to wait 'til after I get what I need.

As he reaches the door, I get up from the bench and start to make my way out of the urban faux-asis. Slowly. Don't want him noticing me, but also don't want the door to slam shut before I can get to it. He struggles with the key fob, refusing to let go of the bag, as if allowing it hang from his shoulder without two hands grasping it is a massive risk. I'm at the edge of the pavement, about to cross the road. Come on arsehole, open the damn door...

The fob meets the security panel, beeps, door clicks as it unlocks. From my read, I know it's about eight seconds from when someone enters to when it swings shut and the maglocks screw my day up.

A faster strut, he's not looking over his shoulder now he's inside. I burst into a jog, get across the road, back on the pavement, through the gate and up the path, planting a boot just as the door is about to slam. Hold my breath. Stay perfectly still. Will he notice the latch didn't meet the strike plate? Hopefully his opiate haze and thrill of success will keep him from turning back

I wait a moment, just to be sure, then push the door open, keeping hold of it with my gloved hands as I enter, gently letting it swing back. I don't want it slamming, don't want his ears pricking up, let him know that someone else has come in, set his paranoia bubbling away.

The hallway is dilapidated. Wallpaper curling down the walls, as if a giant was about to turn a page in a building-shaped book. The carpets are thin, patchy, stained. No one gives a damn about this place. The owner's probably just in it for the rent cheques. This used to be a grand old house, that's what I got from the read. Refined people used to live here – and now it's filled with whatever scum can drop eight hundred a month. Six years ago, when I first moved to the city, the rent here was probably about half that, maybe less. You pretty much have to be a drug dealer to afford that now, or have a real job, I guess. This isn't exactly a 'real' job.

All these doors look alike. Four of them on this floor, stairs ahead lead up to another two floors, probably four or six apartments on each of those. I don't want to have to read them all. This is where deduction comes in. Sherlock Holmes shit.

First door has a welcome mat. Who the hell has a welcome mat? Old couple, or hipsters being ironic. Second door is new, painted, someone trying to make a good first impression on whoever comes by. Definitely not my guy. Third still has the keys in the door. Bingo. Paranoia does not mean you're smart.

I pull the black leather glove from my left hand. Take a moment, a breath, knowing that this is about to suck and probably leave me with a residual opiate hangover. He'll have touched this door as much high as straight, maybe more so, and the former is going to kick my medulla in its balls.

Another breath. Readying myself. Exhale, stretching fingers out and psyching myself up. Grit my teeth, before I lay bare skin on the door.

*

Getting reads off inanimate objects isn't so bad. There's a jolt, a spasm up the spinal column, a punch at the base of the neck. It's worse if the object is older. This door is cheap, a thin veneer posing as wood, ten years old at a push. Its earliest sense memories are of the factory it was made in, from a chimera of original materials, none of which make up enough of the surface area to retain anything from before that time.

I always go back to the first memory. It's not intentional, it's just how my sensitivity works. They say the first memory you pull in a read speaks volumes about you. If you go straight to a sexual experience or whatever then I guess that makes sense. I go to the beginning of the story, get the full picture. Maybe that's a refraction of myself. Who I became when the light hit the surface of this lake of watery bullshit.

The girl was here before her disappearance, and had been here regularly before that. She honestly didn't seem the type from the photos, or the way her parents talked about her. But what do parents know? All they see is their sweet little girl, pigtails and smiles, great grades at school. They don't know her. Nobody ever knows anyone. Not like a sensitive can know them.

She didn't want to show the cracks, let her doting folks see the stress she was under. When she first came here, she was just after something to help her concentrate. He dealt at the door back then, flogged whatever Adderall or Ritalin knock off was cheap at the time. The more she visited, the more he took to her, the more he fantasized about her, the more he pushed on her to manipulate the situation. Pretty soon the deals were going on in the apartment. She was in and out in five minutes at first, then ten to fifteen, then longer, and longer. But that's all the door can tell me.

*

I pull out of the read, lift my fingertips from the veneer. I've got everything I can from the door. There's only so much of the story it was going to be able to tell. I turn the key in the lock, and slowly, silently, lean my shoulder against it. Pushing it wider without making skin contact and getting lost in another read, knowing that the hinges will creak as their arc hits around thirty degrees.

I know that, because the sense memories are still floating around in my head, will be for a little while at least. They start to fade after contact is broken, with a shorter half-life than real memories. But they're still there, time-mapped to my neural circuits, older ones vague, the newest crystal clear. Not just memories of the girl and her deals, but all the deals and all the girls. All the junkies. All the dealers. Not to mention neighbours banging their fists on it to complain about the noise. If someone touched the door, I've got the memory of it. Most of them are ignored, pushed down, like trying to forget an embarrassment or an ex. You know the memory is there, somewhere in the back of your mind, but you concentrate on anything else so you don't get overwhelmed.

Overwhelmed. That's an understatement. Most sensitives are completely fucking insane. Not so much the touch ones, like me. But the others, I don't know how you could discover you're a sight or sound sensitive and not lose your mind the first day in. Smell and taste sensitives are kinda on the middle ground, could go either way. That probably makes me one of the lucky ones.

Lucky. Jesus, people who say things like that can't even comprehend this Goddamn life.

Carpeting throughout the apartment, now that's lucky. I can get a read on all the footfall and narratives without having to venture too deep into the flat, risk ending up on the wrong side of the guy's steak knife. I bend down onto one knee and let my hand make contact with the scratchy, discoloured fibres.

*

The carpet doesn't have sense memories from before the discount carpet warehouse, where it was priced it at fifty pence a square meter. The guy still felt like he was overcharging for it, given that his dog pissed all over the roll. There's a nice memory of a close-up of a dachshund's urethra, which I really don't really need floating around inside my head.

There are too many memories of scumbags who've trodden their shit-stained boots through here. Sensitivity is an art, not a science. You have to think of the memories as an extension of your own, but seeing as you don't have context for the new memories, it becomes a game of finding a face and following that narrative thread as far as it will go until the next memory of the same person.

Found her. But it's not pretty... When she was short on cash she offered herself to him. Handjobs at first, but soon she was part-exchanging pussy for a score. But that's too far along, I'm missing something.

Door deals became hallways deals became sit-down-and-smoke deals. He filled her 'prescription' for kiddie speed, hooked her up with weed for the come-down, gave her freebies of molly every now and then, convinced her to try crystal and crack.

She liked him.

I don't get how, but she really did.

“What the fuck y'think y'doin, la?!” shouts a voice. For a moment I wonder if it's a memory. But deep down, I already know it's not.

*

Pull my hand from the carpet, pull out of the sense memories and look up. Shitbag junkie is standing over me. He's wirey, twitchy, shifting on the balls of his feet like a kid that needs to go take a piss. He thinks he's imposing, scary. He's not. His words are slurred, slow. I could take him. Got twenty pounds of muscle on him, and I'm at least two and a half thoughts ahead. Could go for a shot to the balls and a headbutt as he keels over. A quick glance to his crotch; dry semen crusting around the fly. Hit that with my ungloved fist and I'll get a first-person view of the inside of his scrotum, until a load is shot clumsily into a sock. And the headbutt would take me out for longer than it would him. Rather take the punch I see coming, his skinny shoulder swinging back, elbow cocking like the hammer of a short-range pistol made of bone. He doesn't have the muscle mass to do serious damage. What's another broken nose? Maybe it'll fix the bend left by the last one.

The friends I have left tell me I get punched in the face too much. I like to think I get punched in the face just the right amount, and by the right people. All in the service of doing the job.

Don't even feel his knuckles crunching into what's left of the mangled cartilage that once used to be a proud Semitic nose. As soon as his skin touches mine, I'm already reading him, and my head feels like it's about to explode.

*

If reading inanimate objects was a knock at the door, reading people is having the door blown in by a rocket propelled grenade. Electricity surges up the spine. it feels like it engorges, quickly starts ploughing away at the soft, squishy meat of the brain. A skullfucking of rapid thrusts sending the entire body spasming, as pulses of borrowed memories are woven over your own. Singeing fragile neural tissue with echoes of a life you never lived.

Neglect, that was his first memory. Abandonment. Then foster home after foster home, beaten and neglected some more. What a cliché. I should feel sorry for him, and I almost do, until I remember where he's just been. Where he's left the girl.

Totally worth a fist to the face.

3

He only hit me the once. Must have backed off as soon as I started seizing and hit the ground. Bet a little part of him is proud of that, he'll spend the rest of his life telling the tale of how he knocked a guy unconscious and into a seizure with a single punch. Little does he know that he only needed to make the slightest skin contact to knock me to the floor and turn me into a human vibrator with a twenty three second battery life.

It's always twenty three seconds,across the board for all sensitives. Nobody on the forums or message boards knows why, but they're rife with speculation. Twenty three is a number loved and obsessed over by conspiracy theorists. It's Robert Anton Wilson's fault. He brought it into public perception, after hearing a story about it from William S. Burroughs. As much as I love the idea of some magical and mystical reason for our skin-contact seizures lasting twenty three seconds, chances are it's just a coincidence. You look for anything hard enough and you're going to see it everywhere.

I come-to in the hallway, groggy, the ephemera of every drug he's ever taken coursing through my system. Right boot is half off my foot, he must have dragged me out his flat whilst I was doing the horizontal shimmy and shake. I consider knocking on his door, telling him it's not good practice to move someone while they're having a seizure, but that isn't important now. His memories are still mingled with my own, and I've got to get the hell out of here.

Pulling my glove back on, I leave his building and call Mary, the girl's mother. The glove has some dull memories to impart of its time in my pocket since I took it off, as does the phone as I hold it to my ear. With inanimates that stay in close proximity, the first touch is full of memories, but following touches are essentially status updates, short bursts of the moments since contact was last made.

Again, there's no science to it, no real science at least. Psi-entists have claimed it's something to do with morphic fields, but most others have pretty much called bullshit.

Mary answers on the first ring. She's been my contact through this whole show. As far as I can tell, the father's been near-catatonic since the girl disappeared. Blames himself, I reckon. Although, curiously, he wouldn't let me shake his hand. His wife had nothing to hide. Nothing of consequence at least, just a little shame that she has a closer relationship to her hitachi than her husband. I always find it suspicious when a person who's come to me with a problem doesn't want to be read. But I get it. Privacy is a big deal these days. And while it's one thing for a faceless corporation to know what posts you like and porn you watch, it's another thing to be face to face with someone who knows literally all the secrets you've held through your entire life. He didn't have anything to do with his daughter's disappearance, that's clear, but I'm pretty sure he's having an affair. Not that it's my business. Not unless the wife comes back to make it my business.

“Have you found her?” there's a tremble in her voice. Sounds like she's either been crying, or is about to cry.

“I think I know where she is.” I say, trying to think of the nicest way to put the situation. “We're going to need to... barter for her.”

“Barter?” the word croaks over shallow breaths.

I didn't phrase that well. Need to be more careful about the words I use. “I know this is hard to take in, especially over the phone, but Lisa was...” take a breath, don't want this to sound like a tabloid headline. “She was a drug user, and fell in with the wrong people.” not much better, sounds like a damn public information film. She's crying now. There had to be a better way to lay it out. Idiot. “She's being held as collateral for a deal. But we can get her back.”

I pause while she takes it in and gets over the flurry of emotion. No point shovelling more shit on the pile if she's not in a fit state to absorb the situation, let alone what needs to be done next.

While I wait for the crying to stop, I start walking back down the street, hanging a right at the main road and walking round the block. The dealer's house is only five minutes away, I can do recon whilst she composes herself.

The street is full of kids. Three universities in the vicinity, all of these teens and twenty-somethings living in a world of obnoxious ignorance. No clue of the scum and bullshit that lie just feet away from their self-involved conversations, stressing about relationships and exams and homework. Like that will actually matter in a year or two when they have a useless piece of paper that declares them an expert in pop culture references of the 70s through 80s. They're going to get a big shock when they realise there are fifteen hundred applicants for every job out there, and after three years and twenty-one grand, all they're qualified for is standing in line for jobseeker's allowance.

“How much do we need?” she asks. I had almost forgotten I was holding the phone to my ear, waiting for her to fight through the tears.

“Two thousand.” I say. “Can you get that together today?”

She sniffs, breath heavy, through quivering lips. “Of course.” she says. “Whatever it takes.”

“I'll text you an address.” I tell her. “And act as intermediary. You don't need to meet these people, don't need to see how they've been treating her.”

“I want to...” she starts.

“No.” I say, insistent. “You really don't.”

4

I sit outside at a cafe, round the corner from the house the girl's being held.

Lisa. I keep thinking of her as 'the girl', trying to take the human out of the equation. Make it about a theoretical entity rather than a person, a daughter, a three dimensional human being. Building a wall of separation, trying to keep emotion from becoming involved, even if it's only vicarious emotion I borrowed from my read of the mother. If she's a person, if her parents are anything but clients, if I empathise, then it becomes more than just a job. It becomes personal. Being attached clouds judgement, that's why I want the mother meeting me here, rather than outside the house. Who knows what idiot thing she'd do if she was shown where the daughter was being held. Not that she seems like a stupid person, but even the smart ones do stupid things. Especially when they're overcome by emotion.

If there's one good thing to come out of the loneliness and isolation from my sensitivity, and 'good' is relative here, it's an increasing lack of emotion. Or should that be a decreasing amount of emotion? A utilitarian calm pervades all situations, almost robot-like. When I first noticed it, thought I must have had a stroke at some point in the night. Then I put it down to adult-onset autism. Neither were true, and both were vaguely humorous distractions. In truth, I knew all along. It was the sensitivity.

We all have it. The forums are awash with other sensitives trying to come up with explanations, like knowing why we're emotionally numb makes a damn bit of difference. I make the most of it though... Whilst it's not great for a normal, it's the perfect state for a PI who's suddenly found themselves in the role of negotiator. And as soon as I walk into the building, that's all I'll be.

As I bring the take-out cup to my lips, I relive its creation, packaging, unpacking and stacking. The searing shot of coffee boils my insides as it pours out of the machine, joined by boiling water filling me up to the brim, steam licking under my skin. It's recycled, biodegradable. A short life repeated over and over. The karmic cycle in microcosm. Made of a myriad pulps, each with their own personalities, lives lived to various lengths, but only fragments are present in this current iteration. My tongue takes in the recent sense memories of the water and grounds, but they don't go back further than when the coffee was brewed. I'm fortunate in that regard; experiencing the water cycle from the dawn of time is not what I need right now.

Bringing the cigarette back to my lips, I relieve its creation, packaging, being stacked in the corner store, sold, unpacked, rolled, ignited. I know that life story as well as I do my own, and find a smile on my lips, a small modicum of appreciation. I could have it so worse if my sensitivity didn't stop with touch. A taste sensitive would have to suffer the complete memories of every drop of water in the cup, every bean ground. They'd probably remember the growth, harvest, preparation and packing of every single leaf of tobacco. Their lives must be hell.

I read that they feed themselves intravenously, try and avoid using their mouths as much as possible. There was one in the news, maybe three years back, who sewed her lips shut so she wouldn't accidentally swallow a fly or inhale dust floating on a breeze. The things we do to try and be normal...

Maybe I'm remembering that wrong, it seems too theatrical. Maybe she just superglued her lips shut. That's how I'd do it. Sewing flesh is harder than you'd think. You need a good needle. Wish I didn't know that from personal experience.

A car pulls up, and I drop the cigarette butt in what's left of the coffee, throwing it in in a wheely bin before walking over to the car. The husband's in the driver's seat. No wonder it took her twice as long as it should have to get over here.

“I'm coming with you!” he says, as he battles with his seat belt and gets out, slamming the door aggressively. That kind of anger could get his girl killed.

“Bad idea.” I say, eyeing his wife, who looks away. She wants no part of this conversation. “These people aren't going to like me turning up, let alone you.” I'm trying to be diplomatic. I'm not good at diplomacy. “Don't want to spook them any more than we have to. I'll be in and out, as little contact as possible. You're emotional --”

“--Damn right I'm emotional!” he grunts. He's angry. At me, but also at himself. Definitely blames himself. Thinks he should have seen this coming, like you can see anything like this coming...

“Emotion is only going to risk your daughter's safety.” I say. “This needs to be a quick negotiation, hand the cash over and get out with your girl. You have to let me do this alone.”

He stares me down. Then huffs, and throws an envelope across the roof of the car. Even now he doesn't want to get too close to me. Part of me wants to take a glove off and plant a hand on him. Screw the pain and seizure, forget the girl and her rescue. When someone is this much of an arsehole, when they're hiding something so obviously, I just want to know. Like the ex you stalk on Facebook, there's an easy way to find out what's going on. But I don't take my glove off. I won't.

The first rule I set myself when I discovered my sensitivity, after I picked up the pieces of my life, was to never read someone without a good reason. Preferably with their permission. He had no part in his daughter's disappearance, that's clear from the evidence. He's just a paranoid piece of shit. Worst he's done is cheat on his wife and steal office supplies.

I grab the envelope and walk up the street, taking a right onto the dealer's road. I can hear their car. They're following me. I glance back over my shoulder and give them a knowing look. The father at the wheel, edging along behind me. His wife is in the passenger seat, looking away, wanting no part of it. I sigh, turn on my heels and pull off a glove as I walk over to their car. His eyes open wide as I approach, he reaches for the lock, but I wrench the open with my gloved hand before it clicks shut. I hold my bare hand in the air in front of him, wave my fingers and bring them towards him.

“What are you doing?!” he squeals.

“You're following me.” I say, narrowing my eyes, reaching deeper into the car. “You're jittery. You were almost catatonic and now you're ablaze with emotion.” he's pulling back, trying to get out of his chair, over to the passenger side, clambering over his wife whilst the seatbelt constrains him from getting too far. “You're hiding something, and I'm going to find out what.” my fingers are millimetres from his skin, he's sweating, nervous, terrified of what I might find.

“I'll stop! I won't follow you!” he begs, whimpers, almost in tears.

I stop encroaching on his personal space, freeze in mid-air, study his face. He's telling the truth. He cares more about his secrets than he does punching some junkie shitbag. “Ok.” I say, pulling my hand back, replacing the glove. Turning back towards the street, coming closer to the house from the dealer's memories. I don't hear the car.


AUTHOR Q&A

About me

Lee Isserow is an award-winning screenwriter and filmmaker, with over fifteen years spent trawling the back streets and dark alleys of the 'entertainment' industry. He's pretty sure he has some traits of autism, because he's been constantly working and obscenely prolific for the entire duration, writing over a hundred screenplays, many of which he's adapting into books, because few people are willing to turn them into movies. For now. He lives in Liverpool, England because he accidentally

Q. What is the inspiration for the story?
A.
The loneliness epidemic that's sweeping the western world. It's one of those things, like depression, that people don't talk about. We're all connected, but as a species we've never interacted less. Those thoughts turned into a detective who knows everything about people by touch, but is isolated.
Q. Which writers inspire you?
A.
I love and adore Margaret Atwood, JG Ballard, Iain Banks, Charlie Brooker, Warren Ellis, Neil Gaiman, William Gibson, Joe Hill, Kurt Vonnegut, and so many more... Their prose has made me a better writer in innumerable ways.
Q. Why do you write?
A.
Asperger's. Wish I had a better answer, but essentially, I can't stop. I have 98 more books lined up, on top of the 14 already written, which is why I've been releasing one a month for the last year, so I can get some headspace back for normal things, like baking cakes in the shape of your face.

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