Matt was with his car in fifteen minutes and in less than thirty he covered the twenty-five miles to his home. Not the cramped apartment he had rented in Palo Alto to keep his boss, his co-workers and business partners away from his personal life, but the Woodside villa, the only place where he could seclude himself from the world.

The Vet, top down, did what it was supposed to do: the speed and the wind blew his brain free of the tension that had built up in Amsterdam. If only for a short while. The solid steel fence slid open, triggered by the remote sensor in the car. Matt zoomed into the driveway. Inches before he’d crash into the veranda that circled the house, he hit the brakes. He jumped out and fished his backpack from the passenger seat.

“Maria,” he called out, but the petite Mexican girl didn’t appear like she should have. Matt yanked the suitcase and the duffel, and dropped them on the veranda. “Maria,” he bellowed again, before he trotted in. The heavy wooden door slammed shut behind him, leaving him in the quietness of his home. He leant into the door and rested his head against the wood. “Soon,” he whispered. “Soon.”


It took time before the Modafinil chased some of the tiredness. In the privacy of the bathroom, Matt whipped out the contacts. For a moment the image in the mirror jarred him. The eyes of the Dutchman were blue too. Not the same kaleidoscopic blue as his, the color he had inherited from his mother, but close enough. He spun round and stepped into the shower.

In seconds the hot water steamed up the bathroom. Matt scrubbed his skin until his body glowed like he had been doused with boiling water. He grabbed the razor and freed his body from hair, leaving only the shortest crew-cut on his head, but shaving every single hair that could hold the tiniest grain of sand or dust.

He cracked open the door of the bedroom and pricked up his ears, but nothing other than an intense silence drifted up from downstairs. Matt scrolled through the music on his iPhone, sending Gavin Friday to all the speakers in the house. The first lines of the lyrics were not Friday’s lines but those of Oscar Wilde. Each man kills the thing he loves. Each man. Cowards like his father, with a kiss and hands of gold. He turned up the volume as he walked down to the den at the back of the house. Tonight he would work away the final slivers of stress at the gym in the basement, but for now he needed to consolidate his Amsterdam actions. He slid behind his desk, the fine-meshed seating of his chair pressing into his naked skin. He slipped the laptop out. The second he opened it, V pinged him for a chat, wanting to know what their next moves were. He ignored her. His avatar, the Dutchman, was his first priority now. He chafed his back against the mesh and moved his head left and right until the gas snapped from his joints with two loud cracking plops.