It was a day like any other. Or so Thomas thought. He woke up in the morning at 10 O’clock, kissed his wife on the forehead and went to take a shower. He then got dressed into his suit and ate breakfast, which generally consisted of cornflakes, or his daughter, Priscilla’s, coco pops, if he felt in the mood. Before leaving the house Thomas gave Priscilla a bear hug and then jumped into the car with a goodbye peck from his wife.
It was a cold autumn day outside the car window. A sombre and yet aesthetic scene of trees lined the road to the clinic, some bare to their wooden bones, their foliage scattered around them in seas of red and gold, others somehow still hanging on to their charges, as if wary of the loneliness their departure would bring. Thomas slowed the car to a stop outside his usual parking space down Palmeira Square and pushed open the door. The November chill tentatively crept onto his seat, tickling his ankles and scratching at the exposed skin of his face and neck. He pulled his coat tighter against his body before getting out of the car. The autumnal frost hadn’t quite stained the grass yet, but Thomas could already feel the raw bite of the cold.
He pondered for a moment on the mournful scenery surrounding him; blight and rot dominated his vision. If Summer was the peak of nature’s powers, then Autumn was its deathbed; yet there was a quiet beauty to the decay to be found. A song edged with ice whistled in the wind, a lullaby to Summer’s end and a call to Winter’s cold embrace. It was a melancholy beauty he felt only a select few could fully appreciate.
Thomas briefly danced on the spot for warmth whilst rubbing his hands together. He glanced upwards at the sign placed precariously on the front of pearl white stone slab supported by the matching two columns, typical of the architecture of Hove, which read: Smith and Gauld, Psychology Experts and Therapy Ltd. Although, the E had long since fallen off Experts and the P looked like it would soon follow suit. He made a mental note to remember to order replacements. To be honest, he and his long time friend and colleague, Jason Gauld, were incredibly lucky to even have the sign and their business here. It was something of a stroke of luck that an old client had leased them the bottom floor flat after learning about his ambition to run his own therapy clinic.
He smiled to himself, but turned away and crossed into the main square. He had something to do first. The homeless man was sitting in his usual spot on the park bench directly opposite his parking space, his back facing Thomas and his head drooping into his chest. He rummaged through the contents of his bag, pulling out a canister which gave off faint steam when it came into contact with the air. As far as he could remember, the homeless man had sat on that same park bench in Palmeira Square, and Thomas had always brought him a canister of piping hot coffee at almost precisely 11 O’clock in the morning on the dot. They were both nothing if not creatures of habit.
Thomas offered a brisk “good morning!” and sat down beside the homeless man. The man’s chin did not raise from his chest, nor did his eyes flicker in response. Thomas frowned and checked around and under the bench for any loose paper bags or bottles. He came up empty. He scratched his head; he’d never found the man asleep. Upon consideration of how he could approach this anomaly, he decided to settle with a gentle shake of his shoulder. “You alright?” Thomas said. When this failed to rouse the homeless man from his torpor, he shook the man more firmly which resulted in his body slumping onto his lap. Thomas gasped when he caught sight of the man’s now exposed throat. He didn’t know how he’d completely failed to miss the sheer amount of dried blood in the first place which covered the top of his chest and the brim of his thermal underneath his coat. He sat there – for god knows how long – in stunned silence, before managing to find some sort of composure to fumble inside his jacket pocket for his mobile and dial with shaking hands 999.