A man on the move, without a past, without a future. An unwanted package bearing police reports, disturbing photographs, hints of escalation. And a handwritten plea in a lady’s delicate hand, a summoning invocation Merlin Thorn dare not refuse.

“Come home.”

Merlin studied the cracks in the pavement as he made his way back to the family gate. That he still carried the gate key was difficult to explain. It was a convenient size for a paperweight, it doubled as a bottle opener, it could reach that itchy place on his back. He had a hundred excuses to hold onto that burden and a thousand reasons to cast it away, but here it was in his hand, and here was his hand, in front of that shadow-darkened lock.

—Coal, by Patrick O'Sullivan