Watching You is the breathtaking new thriller by international bestseller Arne Dahl, creator of the A Unit. This is the first book in what promises to be a brilliant new series.
Someone is sending Detective Sam Berger a message. At each abandoned crime scene there’s a hidden clue: a tiny metal cog, almost invisible to the naked eye, left by someone who knows that only Sam will understand the cryptic trail.
When another teenage girl disappears without trace, Sam must convince his superiors that they’re dealing with a serial killer. As the police continue the hunt to find the latest victim, Sam is forced to unearth long-buried personal demons. He has no choice if he is to understand the killer’s darkly personal message before time runs out.
Read on for an extract from Watching You!
The aspen leaves are trembling. He can hear them even though he’s running, even though he’s running like he’s never run before, through meadow grass that reaches up to his chest.
Just before the meadow opens out the rustling gets extra loud. He slows down. The trees are suddenly so oppressive that it feels like someone is trying to get through from another time. But then he stumbles, and the rustling sound grows weaker once more. He manages to stop himself falling, but the golden-yellow hair up ahead almost disappears from view between the tall blades of grass, and he has to push himself even harder to avoid losing any more ground.
It’s a summer’s day, the sort that comes all too rarely. Feather-light clouds cut thin lines across the clear blue sky, every last blade of grass shines with its own particular shade of green.
They’ve been running a long time, first down the increasingly deserted road from the bus stop, then out across the meadow. Now, in the distance, is the barely perceptible sparkle of water.
He won’t be able to see the boathouse while he’s running this fast – he’s aware of that – but he knows it’s there, hidden among the trees by the edge of the shore, greenish-brown and ugly and quite wonderful.
The golden-yellow hair slows down ahead of him. As the head begins to turn he knows he’ll be astonished. He has never stopped being astonished, will never stop being astonished. And just as the first hint of the irregular profile becomes visible, he hears it again.
There are no aspen trees nearby. Yet he can’t hear anything except the rustle of aspen leaves, which becomes a whisper, which becomes a song.
There’s someone, somewhere, who wants something from him.
Then they’re standing eye to eye.
He’s still gasping for breath.
Sunday 25 October, 10.14
The aspen leaves were trembling, and even though the sky was dark with rain in that almost medieval way, a rustling sound, just a little too loud, seemed to be forcing its way out from the fluttering leaves. Berger shook his head, suppressed all superfluous impressions and forced himself to lower his eyes from the treetops. The wooden planks pressing against his back, so rotten they felt soft, instantly reasserted their raw chill.
He glanced towards the other ruined buildings, only just visible through the increasing downpour. Two colleagues were crouched by each one, water dripping from their bulletproof vests, weapons in their hands. All eyes were fixed on Berger. Waiting for the signal. He turned and saw a pair of wide-open eyes. Deer’s face was streaming with water, as if she were weeping.
Six cops standing around some ruined buildings in the pouring rain.
Berger peered round the corner. The little house was no longer visible. They could see it as they crept in from the side road and spread out across the terrain. But the rain had swallowed it up.
He took a deep breath. There was nothing for it.
A nod towards the two men by the closest building. They set off at a crouch into the storm. A nod in the other direction: another two men followed the first, disappearing into a murky broth. Then Berger himself set off, Deer’s breath almost a whimper behind him.
Still no house in sight.
One by one his colleagues emerged from the rain, four crouching figures radiating concentration.
Plank by plank the house was conjured forth out of the gloom. Dark red with white trim, black roller blinds, no sign of life.
Close now. Close to it all. Possibly even close to the end.
Berger knew he mustn’t think like that. Now was all that mattered. Here and now. No other place, no other time.
They gathered at the bottom of the steps leading to the peeling yellow porch. The bottoms of two drainpipes were spewing cascades of water at their feet. Everything was utterly drenched.
Faces looking at him again. He counted them off. Four, plus Deer’s breathing behind his back. Berger gestured her forward, looked into ten eyes. Then he nodded. Two men started up the steps, the shorter one with adrenaline shining from his pale green eyes, the taller one with the battering ram in his hand.
Berger stopped them. Whispered a reminder: ‘Look out for traps.’
The rain was suddenly their ally. Its drumming on the roof tiles drowned out their footsteps as they went up to the porch.
The ram was raised. Safety catches of various weapons were released in succession. A dull crash of splintering wood forced its way through the rain.
A deep darkness opened up.
The man with the pale green eyes slipped in with his weapon drawn.
Berger heard himself breathing through the sound of the rain, peculiarly slowly. Time stretched.
A noise cut through the roar of the storm. At first it didn’t sound human. Then it morphed into a sound more surprised than pained. The clearest tone of mortal dread.
The officer with the pale green eyes emerged from the darkness, his face as white as chalk. His service weapon fell to the porch floor with a thud. Only when he toppled sideways did the noise become a scream. It still didn’t sound human. The blood merged with the water on the decking as two colleagues dragged him off to one side. There was a knife sticking out from each arm.
Berger heard his own groan, the pain in it, a pain which mustn’t be allowed to take root, mustn’t stop him. He glanced quickly into the darkness, then turned round. Deer was crouching below the window, gun ready, torch out, her brown eyes bright and lucid.
‘Trap,’ she whispered.
‘Too late, again,’ he heard himself say as he made his way inside.
The mechanism was mounted on the wall of the hall. It had fired blades at a specific height, in a specific direction. Deer shone her torch to the left, towards a half-open door. Probably the living room.
The screaming out on the porch had risen to pain now, no longer pure, astonished dread. There was, paradoxically, something hopeful about it. It was the scream of a man who believed he was going to survive after all.
Berger gestured to two officers behind, pointing them up the staircase to the right.
His colleagues set off upstairs, beams of light playing briefly on the ceiling above the stairs, then everything was dark again. Berger and Deer turned slowly back to the half-open door to their left.
Out with mirrors, to check for traps. All clear. Berger slipped into the darkness first, followed by Deer, as they covered each other. The weak torchlight revealed a bare, spartan living room, a clinical little bedroom, an equally scrubbed kitchen. No smell at all.
The kitchen extinguished the last hope. So clean.
And so empty.
They went back out into the hall as the two officers were coming down the stairs. The first merely shook his head.
It was lighter in the hall now. The wounded man was no longer screaming, just whimpering. Two long, thin knife blades without handles lay on the decking. The rain had washed the blood from them, from the whole porch.
Berger looked up. In the distance an ambulance was heading towards the gates of the large, overgrown property. There were already two police vans there, their blue lights flashing next to two rival media vehicles. Curious onlookers had started to gather by the cordon. And the rain had eased to a heavy shower.
Berger’s gaze settled on the porch steps – almost two metres high – then he marched back into the hall again.
‘There’s a cellar.’
‘Do we know that?’ Deer said. ‘There’s no cellar door.’
‘No,’ Berger said. ‘Look for a hatch. Gloves on.’
They pulled on plastic gloves, spread out, rolled up the blinds. Light filtered in, refracted through the water. Berger pulled the bed out, dragged the chest of drawers aside. Nothing. He heard noises from the other rooms, then finally Deer’s muffled voice from the kitchen.
‘Come here!’ She was pointing at the wooden floor next to the fridge.
He could make out a slightly paler rectangle. They worked together to push the fridge aside with help from the three uninjured officers.
Between the fridge and the cooker, a rectangle had been cut into the floorboards, but there was no handle.
Berger stared at the rectangle. When it was broken open everything would change. The true descent into darkness would begin.