There is a room in a house in Milton, on the nicer end of Cheapside about a miles walk from New Hill High School. It's mid morning on a sunny spring day. The house isn't much to look at, just a three up and three down terrace. These houses were formerly for the factory workers from the aeroplane parts plant just outside the town. The company went under in the seventies and the properties now were council owned. The area was nicknamed by the locals because if you were starting out on the housing ladder, you usually started in Cheapside. If you were buying there it was called West Milton. If you were renting though, Cheapside.
Let's get back to the room, in the plain house at the cheap end of town. The room is dark and windowless. It is lit by a lamp that sits on a plain office desk and the faint glow of computer screen. The tower unit sits under the table with the fan humming quietly. At the table sits a man. He is of medium build, with hazel eyes and light brown hair cropped close to the skull. He wears a pair of blue jeans and a white cotton oxford shirt with the collars buttoned down with a black Harrington jacket with tartan lining. He is average, you would walk past him in the street and not think twice.
The man is concentrating on the screen, clicking links and tabbing between windows. As we watch the man work at his task we notice that the table is bare save a pencil on a pad of paper, a six inch locking pen knife, an eraser and a glass of water. All arranged just so. Closer examination shows that the man has an economy of movement that comes with habit formed over years. We feel that he could move around this small room blindfolded and lay his hands on anything he required first time, every time. He sits bolt upright, stopping to make notes on his pad occasionally in a very neat italic hand, complemented by the hand sharpened pencil. As we watch, time passes by and the only way we can measure it is by watching the man take sips from the glass of water from time to time until it is empty. Eventually, the man opens the top of the three drawers of the desk and retrieves a pair of disposable plastic gloves which he puts on, a pen and a small white envelope on which he writes in his meticulous hand a name and an address. Into the envelope we see an invitation to the New Hill High School Reunion slip inside. The man pulls away the paper tab on the top of the envelope that reveals the gum by pulling to the right, then seals the envelope in one movement to the left.
The man stands up and walks toward the door and flicks a switch to turn two small halogen lights in the ceiling on. He flicks the lights off again, then back on. We can see more in the room now. We see that the ceiling is about eight and a half feet high and on the wall are rows of photographs of people taken from a distance with a high powered camera, mounted on cork tile that covers this wall. There are several dozen and underneath each one is a printed piece of paper with a name on it and a small box. Many of the boxes have ticks in them. As he scans the pictures, we can read the names. We see Richard Blake and Jennifer Davison, Micky Williams and Deepak Ghosh. We see David Brook, Harry Davis, Kirsty James and Jane Beazer. He stops at a picture of a glamorous woman walking out of a shop laden with bags with designer labels mobile phone pressed to her ear. Underneath the picture is the name Michelle Goldman. The man ticks the box with his pencil.
From the drawer he takes a book of stamps and puts one on the envelope then puts it in the inside left pocket of his jacket. From the second drawer he produces a packet of alcohol wipes. The man then cleans the desk top, lamp, mouse, keyboard, pen and pencil. The pen is returned to its home in the first drawer then the pencil sits atop the keyboard put neatly so the end is level with the F4 key and its tip is level with F9. The lamp is turned off, the drawer fronts are wiped clean and the alcohol wipes put away. The man puts the lock knife in his right front jeans pocket. There are a few remaining pages on the writing pad, but this matters not to the man, he picks it up and puts in a waste paper basket with a plastic liner in it.
We see the man pick up the bin liner and put his hand in his other jeans pocket to reveal two keys on a ring. With one key he locks, unlocks and locks the desk drawers. With the other he opens the lock in the door out of the room. More importantly, he opens the lock, then closes it and finally opens it again and takes the key out. He picks up the empty glass puts it in the same hand as the bin liner. With his free hand he flicks the light switch off, on then off again and walks through the door. He turns and closes it and we now see the rear of the door is built so it fits seamlessly in the wall. There is no door frame in this new room. The man puts down the bag and glass on a side table by a brown sofa and and completes his door locking ritual again: lock, unlock and lock. He lifts a chest of drawers and puts it in front of the door so you cannot see the keyhole then picks up a large abstract print and hangs this above the chest of drawers. A rug is unrolled so as to hide where the chest of drawers indented the carpet. At a glance you would never know the secret room was there at all.
The man walks through the non-descript room and into the hall of the house taking another set of keys off a hook and leaves by the front door with the familiar ritual. It is dark outside now. He walks to the end of the street to a post box and posts the invitation. He walks back to his house and goes back in. He picks up the bin liner and walks through the kitchen. With a new key he opens the back door and we see a small patio with a wooden picnic bench on it and a brazier. Taking some matches out of his pocket, the man lights the brazier using some kindling and the paper from the pad in the bin liner. When the fire is supporting itself with some small logs by the side of the brazier, the remains of the pad and the bin liner go in and briefly, the smoke smells of burning plastic.
The man takes a small wallet out of his jacket and puts the keys to the secret room and the desk inside it. We can see an old picture torn from an school paper of a beautiful mixed race woman with blue eyes. He closes the wallet and puts it back in his jacket.
The man sees a tabby cat watching him from the fence around his back garden. It jumps down and pads over to him inquisitively. The man looks out at the night. The cat purrs and rubs up against the mans legs. The man crouches down and pets it for a moment. Then, in a movement so quick even the cat can make no noise in reaction, the man snaps the cats neck like a twig, killing it instantly. As he does it, we see for the first time emotion on his face. It is hatred, pure and vicious. Holding the dead cat by the scruff he walks over to a metal dustbin and tosses the limp body in and replaces the lid.
The man turns back to the brazier and pulls off the disposable gloves and they too are tossed inside. The man looks out on the spring night, clear with faint stars and a half moon. Briefly, the smoke smells of burning plastic again.