PROLOGUE

Christopher Beckett was many things.

While the rest of the world knew him as Beck, his father had always opted for calling him a dreamer. It was a word that was flung around in wonder and in frustration, thrown into recurring arguments and used as a steady reprimand – nonetheless, it was a word he'd always strived to become. Where Jonathan Beckett Sr was determinedly pragmatic, Beck was relentlessly creative; when his father sat hunched over paperwork, he sat cross-legged under a sycamore tree, book in hand and nose in book. Dreaming was a waste of time in the eyes of his father, but in Beck's, there had never been a better pastime.

To his mother, he was and would always remain a child, even though his height had exceeded six feet long before his eighteenth birthday. For as long as he could remember, his mother had been a constant concoction of self-knitted scarves ready to be wrapped around his neck and Tupperware filled with homemade lemon drizzle cake to pass on to his friends. Celia Beckett's hands were forever maternal and magic; oranges were tossed into lunch bags, mismatched socks were reunited with their twins only to be rearranged on Beck's feet, impossibly tousled hair was patted down with a simple touch. Afternoons spent reading in the park or in the backyard were always followed by a cup of cocoa, even after Beck began to prefer the bitter taste of coffee. Songs played on his grandfather's hand-me-down piano were listened to with endless attention, even after Beck traded lullabies for songs too alternative for his mother's taste. Beck may have been the oldest and tallest child on the block, simply because he never had the heart to tell his mother he'd grown up.

To Jonathan Beckett Jr, Beck was simply brother, a rare and formal kind of sentiment. He had never been a partner in crime – no crime could be committed in the tidy presence of Jon – but rather a mess for his older brother to clean up. Traces of orange peel were ordered out from under Beck's fingernails, whitewashed sycamore bark was plucked out of his sweaters, homework was blue-penciled and proofread, shoelaces nearly tied themselves. Sometimes, Beck felt like a recurring set of muddy footsteps on the glossy marble floor that was Jon. Sometimes, it seemed Jon was the only one patient enough to wait for Beck to bring his head back out of the clouds.

Beck was a close friend to few, but determinedly friendly to all. He was hopeless at trigonometry and solving an equation where the answer couldn't be debated; he was a relentless conversationalist and an incurable romantic. He was a grin rather than a smile, a running-out-of-breath laughter rather than a chuckle. Yes, Christopher Beckett was many things.

As of October 10th, however, perhaps the most important, irrevocable and unfortunate of all things was the fact that he was, well, dead.