Now We Are Dead extract

Category: Extract

 

The utterly brilliant Stuart MacBride is back with the gripping standalone Now We Are Dead – now out in paperback! Read the first chapter below, or head over to Stuart’s Facebook page to see an extract read by the man himself…

 

Tufty lunged, arm outstretched, fingertips just brushing the backpack … then closing on thin air. Too slow.

The wee scroat laughed, shoved his way through a couple of pensioners examining the pay-as-you-go phones, and exploded out through the doors. His mate hurdled the fallen oldies, hooting and cheering. Hit the pavement and ran right, twisting as he went to stick both middle fingers up through the Vodafone shop window.

Tufty sprinted after them. Burst through the doors and out onto Union Street.

Four-storey buildings in light granite lined the four-lane road, their bottom floors a solid ribbon of shops. Busses grumbled by, white vans, taxis, cars.

The foot traffic wasn’t nearly thick enough for the pair of them to disappear into a crowd. They didn’t even try. Running, laughing, hoodies flapping out behind them. A couple of mobile phones clattered to the paving slabs, screens shattering amongst the chewing-gum acne.

Look at them: neither one a day over thirteen, acting like this was the most fun they’d ever had in their lives. Expensive trainers, ripped jeans, one bright-blue hoodie – violent orange hair – one bright-red – dark with frosted tips – both with stupid trendy haircuts. Earrings and piercings sparkling in the morning sunlight.

Tufty picked up the pace. ‘Hoy! You!’

The clacker-clack of Cuban heels hammered the pavement behind him.

He glanced back and there she was: Detective Sergeant Steel, actually giving chase for once. Didn’t think she had it in her. Her dark-grey suit was open, yellow silk shirt shimmering, grey hair sticking out in all directions like a demented ferret. Face set in a grimace. Probably hadn’t done any serious running since she was a kid – trying not to get eaten by dinosaurs.

A man wiped coffee off his jacket. ‘You rotten wee shites! I was drinking that!’

An old woman grabbed at her split bag-for-life, its contents rolling free. Off the kerb and into the road. ‘Come back here and pick this up, or I’ll tan your backsides!’

Up ahead, the one in the blue hoodie barrelled through a knot of people stopped in the middle of the pavement chatting, sending one bouncing off a solicitor’s shop window with a resounding ‘boinnnngggggg’, the others clattering down with their shopping. Another couple of mobile phones, still in their boxes, joined them, spilling out of the open backpack.

Hoodie Red sprinted past the e-cigarette shop where the granite buildings came to an abrupt end. A pause in the street, marked by a short row of black iron railings, a small gap, then a sort of fake two-storey-high neo-classical frontage thing, with a graveyard lurking behind its Corinthian pillars.

A grin and Red jinked right, into the gap and down the stairs.

Tufty gritted his teeth. Come on: faster.

He scrabbled to a halt in front of the railings.

Red was right there, dancing from foot to foot on the stairs, unable to get any further than a quarter of the way down due to the bunch of mothers wrestling pushchairs up.

The stairs led down about fifteen/sixteen feet to a narrow cobbled road that disappeared under Union Street.

Ha! Got you.

Red pulled a face, gave Tufty the finger again, then jumped. Clearing the handrail. Dropping six foot onto the top of a Transit van, parked below. A boom of battered metal. Then he rolled off, landed square on his feet and took off into the tunnel. Still laughing.

The driver leaned out of his window, shaking his fist. ‘Hoy!’

Blue clearly didn’t fancy his chances. Instead he went left, sprinting across the bus lane, hooting away as car horns blared – a taxi and a truck slammed on their brakes, inches away from turning him into five stone of hoodie-wearing pâté.

Blue or Red? Blue or Red?

Steel’s voice cut through the horns. ‘Get out the sodding way!’

A quick look – she shoved her way through a couple of gawkers and some well-meaning souls helping pick up the old lady’s shopping.

Blue or Red?

The stairs were still jammed with mothers and pushchairs.

Red.

Deep breath. ‘Oh God…’

Tufty stuck one hand on the rail and swung his legs up and over into thin air.

It whistled past him, then, boom onto the Transit’s roof, just as it pulled away. He had time for a tiny scream as the world flipped end-over-end, then the cobbles broke his fall with a lung-emptying thud.

Argh…

They were cold against his back. Little flashing yellow lights pinged around the edges of the bright blue sky, keeping time with the throbbing high-pitched whine in his ears.

Steel’s face appeared over the railings, scowling down at him. ‘Don’t just lie there, get after the wee sod!’ A shake of the fist, and she disappeared again.

Urgh…

Tufty struggled up to his feet. Shook his head – sending the little yellow lights swirling – and lurched into the tunnel.

{text break}

Roberta shook her head. Silly sod. Having a wee kip in the middle of the road while the thieving gits got away. Never trust a stick-thin, short-arsed detective constable. Especially the kind with ginger hair – cut so short their whole head looked like a mouldy kiwi fruit – and watery pale blue eyes the same colour as piddled-on Blu-Tack.

That’s what she got for taking the new boy out on a shout.

Well Tufty had better sodding well catch Hoodie Number Two, because if Tufty didn’t Tufty was in for a shoe-leather suppository.

And in the meantime…

She charged across the pavement and out into mid-morning traffic, one hand up on either side of her eyes to shut out the view. ‘Please don’t kill me, please don’t kill me, please don’t kill me…’ Horns blared. Something HUGE slammed on its brakes – they squealed like pigs, hissed like dragons.

An angry voice: ‘YOU BLOODY IDIOT!’

And pavement! Beautiful, beautiful pavement.

She dropped her hands.

Wasn’t difficult to see which way Hoodie Number One had gone – just follow the trail of swearing people sprawled across the beautiful pavement, leading west along Union Street.

Roberta dragged out her phone, dialling with one hand as she ran past McDonald’s. Jumped over a young woman with a screaming toddler in her arms, sprawled beside the bus shelter.

A bored woman sighed from the mobile’s earpiece, followed by: ‘Control Room.’

‘I need backup to Union Street, now!

‘Nearest car is two minutes away. How severe is the situation? Do you need a firearms team?’

Roberta threaded her way through a clot of idiots outside Clarks, all staring after Hoodie Number One. ‘Shoplifter: early teens, blue hoodie, orange hair, ripped jeans—’

‘Oh you have GOT to be kidding me. We’re not scrambling a patrol car for a shoplifter!’

{text break}

The tunnel under Union Street spat Tufty out between two tall granite buildings. Cold blue-grey in the shadows, the windows at ground level either bricked up or barred. He limp-ran to the end, making little hissing noises every other step. Like his left sock was sinking its teeth into his ankle.

Oh let’s go after the red-hoodied shoplifter. Let’s jump off a bridge…

That’s what you got for being brave: a whack on the cobblestones and a carnivorous sock.

He burst out from between the buildings and into the Green. Aberdeen Market was a massive Seventies concrete hatbox off to the left, making the stubby end of a blunt triangle – old granite buildings on the other two sides and…

There he was: Red. On the other side of a barricade of big council recycling bins. Still laughing. Twirling around on the spot, middle fingers out again. Waiting for him. Taunting him.

Then off, running down the middle of the Green. Getting away.

Not this time.

Tufty put some welly into it. Onward brave Sir Quirrel!

He jumped, hip-sliding across one of the bins marked ‘Cardboard Only’, Starsky-and-Hutch style. Landed on his bad ankle. Hissed.

Started running again.

Red looked back, grinned at him, barrelling headlong towards a fenced-off eating area outside a wee bar/restaurant full of loved-up couples eating a late breakfast in the sun. Red jumped the barrier, feet clattering on top of the tables, sending plates and glasses flying.

Diners lunged for him.

A man jerked back as his bloody Mary introduced itself to his lap. ‘Hey! What the hell…?’

A woman bared her teeth. ‘Get your manky feet out of my eggs Benedict!’

Then bang – Red was out the other side.

Tufty pumped his arms and legs harder. Leaned into the sprint as he skirted the dining area. Ignoring the sock eating his ankle. Closing the gap…

{text break}

Horrible Hoodie Number One did a wee dancy twirl around an old man with a walking stick, showing off, hooting. Then disappeared around the side of Thorntons.

Sodding hell…

Roberta gripped her phone tighter. ‘He’s gone down the steps to the Green.’

Another sigh from the bored woman on the other end. ‘I don’t care if he’s gone down on Nelson Mandela’s ghost, you’re not getting a patrol car.’

The wee sod’s face popped back around the corner again, joined by a double-handed two-fingered salute. He jiggled the V-signs in her direction, then vanished.

‘But—’

‘You’re not a child, for goodness sake. Surely you can catch a shoplifter without a SWAT team!’

Roberta wheeched around the corner, grabbing onto a big bearded guy to stay upright. ‘Well bugger you, then!’

The big guy flinched back. ‘What did I do?’

She jammed her phone in her pocket and skidded to a halt at the top of the stairs.

Oh … wow, that was a long way down.

The stairs weren’t far off vertical, at least three-and-a-half-storeys-worth of thin granite steps, with a handrail at either side and one down the middle. Fall here and it’d be bounce, crack, bang, wallop, thump, crunch, scream, crash, splinter, THUD. Followed by sirens and nine months in traction.

Hoodie Number One was already halfway down the stairs. Taking them two at a time.

A boxed iPhone spilled from his backpack and bounced off the granite steps.

Gah…

She stuck both hands out, hovering them over the railings. And ran.

Going to die, going to die, going to die…

Down at the bottom of the stairs, Hoodie Number Two – the one dressed in red – hammered past, laughter echoing off the grey buildings.

And Hoodie Number One was nearly at the bottom too, grinning over his shoulder at her.

Where the hell was Tufty when you actually needed him?

How could one detective constable be so completely and utterly, totally

He ran into view, staring straight ahead. Which was a shame, because Hoodie Number One wasn’t watching where he was going and smashed right into him.

BANG!

They both hit the cobblestones in a twisted starfish of arms and legs. Thrashing and bashing and crashing as she hurried down the last two flights of stairs and into the Green.

They rolled into the ‘Pedestrian Zone ENDS’ sign with a faint clang.

‘Aaaargh, gerroffus gerroffus!’

Roberta skidded to a halt at the foot of the stairs. Looked right.

Hoodie Number Two was just visible as a red smudge – running deeper into the tunnel that led under the St Nicholas Centre and out to the dual carriageway. He turned and treated them to his middle fingers. Then his voice thrummed out, amplified by all that concrete and granite, ‘CATCH YOU LATER, MASTURBATOR!’ That red smudge vanished into the gloom.

‘Sodding hell…’ Roberta bent double, grabbing her knees and puffing like an ancient Labrador.

Tufty hauled Hoodie Number One to his feet, both hands cuffed behind the wee sod’s back.

A cough, then Tufty wiped a hand over his shiny forehead. Gave his prisoner a shoogle. ‘You are comprehensively nicked.’

The wee sod just grinned and stood on his tiptoes, shouting after his friend: ‘IN A WHILE, PAEDOPHILE!’

Kids today.

Extract | While You Sleep by Stephanie Merritt

Category: Extract

While You Sleep

 

Prologue

 

It begins, they say, with a woman screaming.

You can’t tell at first if it’s pleasure or pain, or that tricky place where the two meet; you’re almost embarrassed to hear it, but if you listen closer it comes to sound more like anguish, a lament torn from the heart: like an animal cry of loss, or defiance, or fury, carried across the cove from cliff to cliff on the salt wind.

If you stand on the beach with your back to the sea, they’ll tell you, looking up at the McBride house, you might catch, behind tall windows on the first floor, the fleetest shift of a shadow. All the rooms dark through glass; not even the flicker of a candle, only the shape that shivers at that same window and vanishes, quick as breath, under the broken reflections of clouds and moon. They’ll say the woman’s keening grows louder as the gale seeks unprotected corners of the house, swirls around the pointed gables, shakes the weathervane on the turret and rattles the attic windows in their frames. But listen again; when the wind drops, there is nothing but the wild sea, and the occasional drawn-out moans of the seals beyond the headland.

Only on certain nights, the islanders will tell incomers; when the moon is high and the air whipped up like the white-peaked waves in the bay. Be patient and you might hear her. Plenty will swear to it.

 

The two boys crouch by a ridge of rocks at the foot of the cliff, watching the house. It is still half a ruin; naked beams poke into the moonlit sky like the ribs of some great flayed beast. They hesitate, each waiting for the other to move. They have come this far to test the old stories, they can’t lose face now. The summer night is mild and clear; too balmy for ghosts. They are girding themselves when the screaming starts. They turn to one another in astonishment; fear makes them giggle.

‘Let’s go,’ whispers the nimble, ginger boy. He has his phone in his hand, ready to capture it on film.

But his companion has frozen to the spot, stricken, his eyes stretched wide and fixed on the house.

‘Come on, we’ll miss it.’

The heavier boy retreats a few paces, shaking his head.

The ginger one hesitates, his lip curling with scorn. ‘Pussy.’

He sets off over the sand and marram grass to the half-open door, his phone held out at arm’s length. Left behind on the beach, his friend watches him disappear into the shadows.

The waves break and retreat, over and over, dragging layers of shingle into the restless water. A new scream echoes across the beach, a child’s cry this time. The last traces of light ebb from the sky and behind the windows of the McBride house there is nothing but solid darkness.

***

 

On a remote Scottish island, the McBride house stands guard over its secrets. A century ago, a young widow and her son died mysteriously there; just last year a local boy, visiting for a dare, disappeared without a trace.

For Zoe Adams, newly arrived from America, the house offers a refuge from her failing marriage. But her peaceful retreat is disrupted by strange and disturbing events: night-time intrusions; unknown voices; a constant sense of being watched.

The locals want her to believe that these incidents are echoes of the McBrides’ dark past. Zoe is convinced the danger is closer at hand, and all too real – but can she uncover the truth before she is silenced?

 

This Halloween read the chilling, unputdownable thriller that will send shivers up your spine! OUT NOW and only £2.99 in eBook.

 

Our Spookiest Reads

Category: Favourites

With Halloween just around the corner, we’ve put together our edit of seriously spooky reads. Bestselling psychological thriller While You Sleep is sure to give you chills, and prepare for a sleepless night or two with the truly terrifying serial killer thriller Stalker. Don’t miss out on our pacy debut of the season Forget Me Not – which you can nab in ebook for just 99p!

 

While You Sleep by Stephanie Merritt

While You Sleep packshot

A house full of secrets. A woman alone at night. A threat that lurks in the shadows.

The McBride house lies on a remote Scottish island, isolated and abandoned. A century ago, a young widow and her son died mysteriously there. Last year, a local boy – visiting for a dare – disappeared without a trace.

For Zoe Adams, the house offers an escape from her failing marriage. But when night falls, her peaceful retreat is disrupted—scratches at the door, strange voices—and Zoe is convinced she is being watched.

The locals tell Zoe the incidents are merely echoes of the house’s dark past. Zoe is sure the danger is all too real—but can she uncover the truth before she is silenced?

 

The Quaker by Liam McIlvanney

The Quaker packshot

His name fills the streets with fear…

Glasgow, 1969. In the grip of the worst winter for years, the city is brought to its knees by a killer who hunts in the shadows: the Quaker. He takes his next victim – the third woman from the same nightclub – and dumps her in the street like rubbish.

The police are left chasing a ghost, with no new leads and no hope of catching their prey. DI McCormack, a talented young detective from the Highlands, is ordered to join the investigation. But his arrival is met with anger from a group of officers on the brink of despair. Soon he learns just how difficult life can be for an outsider.

When another woman is found murdered in a tenement flat, it’s clear the case is by no means over. From ruined backstreets to the dark heart of Glasgow, McCormack follows a trail of secrets that will change the city – and his life – forever…

 

Forget Me Not by A.M. Taylor

Forget Me Not ebook

What happened to Nora?

When Maddie met Nora, their friendship felt as easy as breathing. And when Nora disappeared, all the air went with her. Without her best friend, Maddie’s life became impossible.

Ten years later, Nora is still missing and Maddie is still searching. People have been questioned. People have even been accused. But no one has found Nora.

Then, in the same spot where Nora went missing, the murdered body of Nora’s little sister is found. Convinced this is no coincidence, Maddie resolves to uncover the killer and find Nora – dead or alive.

But will she be able to cope, when she learns what really happened to Nora…?

 

Stalker by Lars Kepler
Stalker packshot

You thought you were alone. Think again.

A film arrives at Stockholm’s National Crime Investigation Department showing a woman in her own home, plainly unaware she is being watched. The police don’t take it seriously … until she is found murdered.

When the next video arrives, Detective Margot Silverman frantically attempts to identify the victim. But it’s already too late. Because at the time the video was sent, the killer was already inside their house…

Soon Stockholm is in the grip of terror. Who will the Stalker target next?

 

The Hangman’s Hold by Michael Wood

The Hangman's Hold packshot

There’s a killer in your house. He knows your darkest secrets. And he is closer than you think.

The Hangman waits in the darkness. He’ll make you pay for all the crimes you have tried desperately to forget.

DCI Matilda Darke is running out of time. Fear is spreading throughout the city. As the body count rises, Matilda is targeted and her most trusted colleagues fall under suspicion.

Can she keep those closest to her from harm? Or is it already too late?

 

In A Cottage In A Wood by Cass Green

In a Cottage in a Wood

Her dream home will become her worst nightmare…

Late one night, Neve comes across a troubled woman called Isabelle on Waterloo Bridge. Isabelle forces a parcel into Neve’s hands and jumps to her death into the icy Thames below.

Two weeks later, as Neve’s wreck of a life in London collapses, an unexpected lifeline falls into her lap – a charming cottage in Cornwall left to her by Isabelle, the woman on the bridge. The solution to all her problems.

But when Neve arrives, alone in the dark woods late one night, she finds a sinister-looking bungalow with bars across its windows. And the house of her dreams quickly becomes her worst nightmare – a house hiding a twisted secret that will change her life forever…