The wind had dropped with the sunrise. It was a beautiful May morning, with the soft, pearly light so typical of the south-west corner of Scotland, but it was cool still; vapour clung to the tops of the trees and there was a sweet, damp, earthy smell after a heavy dew. He got up to have a chilly shower – he must see if something couldn’t be done about the hot-water supply – then dressed in his working jeans and checked shirt and went down the rickety staircase and across the living room to open the door.
The wooden shack, his home since he was freed on licence six months ago, had walls weathered by time and the elements to a soft silvery grey. It stood in a clearing surrounded by rough grass studded with the stumps of felled trees, crumbling and mossy now. Beyond that, a tangle of undergrowth formed a natural enclosure: at this time of year the grass had feathery seed heads and thecreamy flowers of hawthorn and cow parsley gleamed against the lush dark green of nettles and docks. From a snarl of brambles, a robin was shouting a melodious challenge to all comers. Sitting down on the dilapidated bench outside the back door, he drank in the peace and freedom which remained a novelty still.