All the time we are surrounded by coincidences. Some we pay a second thought to and then forget about. Some fill us with wonder. Some we never even notice. But there are some which can scare us.
When Kieran Whyteleafe starts to see little coincidences happening around him he decides to investigate their meaning. The coincidences seem to centre around the word Spireclaw. Why does the word keep appearing in places only meant for Kieran's eyes? Is it connected to the suicide of his old school friend? And what is the significance of the archive boxes that turn up mysteriously at his work.
Kieran's desire to solve some of the puzzles that surround him has pitched him on a trajectory of discovery, and his investigations will culminate in a revelation that is too shocking for him to comprehend.
The day the word appeared to him again, Kieran Whyteleafe was woken by the sound of the wind. He realised he was awake for a good minute before he opened his eyes; enough time to convince himself that his frightening dream had not been real.
His bedroom was orange. The streetlight outside was shining through a gap in the curtains casting a vertical beam of light on the far wall. It was still dark, and the swaying leaves on the tree in the front garden cast oscillating shadows in the gloom.
The wind outside was fierce and blustery, the gale whipping up and whistling around the house. Kieran could hear the leaves outside swishing along the street, undoing the work of the children who had built piles of them on the way home from school the day before.
The sash window rattled in its frame.
Kieran's face was cold. The heating hadn't come on yet. He was cosy under the covers as long as he didn't move to a colder part of the bed. He twisted his head to look at the clock radio.
In his dream, he had been confined to a police cell. He was awaiting trial for committing a terrible murder, and to his own horror, he knew he had actually done the dreadful deed. He had known he was guilty and had signed a full confession. In his dream, Kieran had thrown his life away, for the sake of one single act of brutality. And now he was going to hang for it.
He didn't even know who he had murdered, or even how and why. But often in dreams, the fine details of the picture didn't matter. It was the broad strokes, the basic lines and framework; the initial sweeps of the brush on the canvas that forged the emotions that he would carry through to the waking world.
Kieran got out of bed, opened the bedroom door and made his way through the flat to the kitchen to make a cup of tea, which he sipped slowly whilst standing at the window, smoking a cigarette and watching the apple tree at the end of the garden sway back and forth in the relentless gale.
Not surprisingly, later that morning, Kieran woke up late for work. He checked the alarm. He'd forgotten to set it.
He hurriedly showered, ironed his shirt and fed the cat.
There would be no time for breakfast for himself though.
He was still putting on his tie as he ran for the underground station, and he was totally out of breath when he punched his card in at work
'Sorry I'm late. My alarm didn't go off.'
'I don't believe you,' said Mr Cray, who was the postal supervisor for the office block. Mr Cray sat in his high chair behind his high desk up by the mail entrance, looking down at all the ant workers in the mailroom and signing courier packages in and out. He liked to shout at his subordinates. 'I think you slept through it.'
'It's the God's honest truth,' said Kieran.
'I don't care whose it is,' Mr Cray added, 'Anyway I got Taylor to do your round for you. Lots of boxes. Lucky you missed it. I suggest you buy him a beer.'
'I will,' said Kieran as he ambled across the empty post room past the vacant pigeonholes over to the rest area. He sat down and picked up a newspaper off the coffee table.
'Uh, uh, uh. No. Kieran!' said Mr Cray, clicking his fingers as though he was summoning a waiter. 'Just because you missed the mail round, doesn't mean there isn't work to be done.'
Kieran sighed and dropped the paper back on the table.
Mr Cray was pointing at three storage boxes stacked against the back wall of the post room. 'They need to go into one of the cages in the sub-basement. You can take them down.'
Kieran looked at the boxes. The name on the side of each was Edward Gosnell, along with a code, "R14", which indicated the sub-basement location where Mr Gosnell had requested that the boxes be taken. Aisle R, cage 14. The boxes would probably contain his old documents for the last year, ready for archive. Kieran knew a fair bit about the psychology of data archiving, and he wouldn't have been surprised if Mr Gosnell would never need to look at those files again. But Kieran wouldn't be the one
ticking the box marked "Incinerate", so he went to find himself a trolley.
Stepping out of the post room into the main corridor was a little like jumping into a fast-running stream. Even down here in the basement of the huge office building, there were scores of people hurrying along looking like they had been burdened with the most important piece of news ever bestowed upon a messenger. Then Kieran remembered that the subsidised coffee shop was in the basement, and it was about that sort of time when the hordes had dropped off their coats and bags at their desks, switched on their PC's and had a brief natter to the person at the next desk about the weekend they'd just had. Then it's "I think I need a Lattucino", before they go rummaging in their handbags and wallets for the small change they'd emptied the 20p jar out for last night.
Kieran walked against the flow of the river to the next door along; to the room where they kept the trolleys.
'Morning Kieran. Shouldn't you be doing your mail round right about now?'
Tim sat behind the desk by the door in the tiny room. He had a wide grin on his face. There was a radio on the windowsill, playing "Blue Roses" by Prefab Sprout.
Kieran smiled, 'I've worked out a way of getting out of it.
I shall name it "waking up late".'
Tim laughed and rocked back in his chair, tapping his pencil on the desk, 'I bet he gave you an earful for that,'
'Well, he let me know it had been noticed. Now I've got to take some flipping boxes to the sub-basement. Can I get a trolley?'
'Over there,' Tim pointed to the corner where a few upright and flatbed trolleys sat. On the radio, Nik Kershaw began to sing "Your Brave Face".
Kieran took the handle of a flatbed and wheeled it towards the door. Tim's phone began to ring.
'I'll have it back in half an hour,' said Kieran. Tim nodded absently as he reached for the phone.