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Preview of BURY THEM DEEP by James Oswald

She hates herself.


All the way from work, back to her compact top-floor flat, she feels the loathing in her gut, even as she feels the excitement too. It’s always this way, the tug of war between the self-loathing and the desire. Showering away the grime and sweat of the day doesn’t help either. The filth is deeper than skin, resistant to soap. And, besides, she doesn’t want it to be washed away. She wants to wallow in it. That’s part of the allure.


The clothes she picks out are her disguise, and with each layer the disgust fades, the excitement grows. It’s been over a month now, the anticipation growing like a tumour in her stomach. The aache of longing.


One last look in the mirror before she goes. Her transformation is so total she can almost believe none of her colleagues would recognise her in the street. But then that’s the whole point. If they knew, she’d be out of a job. She needs that other life too much to risk losing it. Not so much for the money as for the calm, the certainty. This other world, this other her, is about excitement. It’s about risk and the sweet, sweet pleasure it brings.


A quick check of her phone confirms everything is set for this evening. A little flutter of nervous anticipation tickles her throat as she readies herself to leave. At the door she almost forgets the package, grabbing it at the last minute, slipping it into the pocket of her long leather coat. Swiftly down the stairs, out the back door, across the broken pavers and concrete drying green shared by the rest of the tenement. Through the gate that leads out to the back lane. This is the nervous time, when she might be seen, recognised, challenged. But no voice calls out, no curtain twitches. Nobody knows who she is. Who she really is.


The drive across town takes longer than she’d like, traffic jamming the roads around Cameron Toll. She’s about to turn off onto the Braid Hill road when the text comes in. Police presence at the car park. She’d laugh if she wasn’t so hyped up already.


There’s another meeting place, not somewhere she’s been before, but not far either. Satnav shows her the route.


It’s getting dark by the time she arrives. Not many other cars about, but that’s hardly surprising. She finds a suitable spot, under some trees, away from the road. Engine off, crack the window down a little, switch on the passenger compartment light. Wait.


The first tap at the window comes after less than a minute.