Introducing author N S Ford who shares an exclusive excerpt of her thriller ‘We Watch You’ which is currently available for pre-order.
I never fail to be amazed at the human capacity for self-delusion. You tell yourselves that everything is all right, when the case is clearly the opposite. You pretend that nothing out of the ordinary is happening, when the evidence is in front of your eyes. Even if you did grasp the truth, there is nothing you could do about it. It is better that you never find out.
Do not ask too many questions.
We watch you.
‘Hello? Are you there?’ The recorded voice pauses. ‘Maybe you haven’t seen the news today…’
There’s a stifled sob.
‘Lauren. Something really bad has happened. We need to talk about it. Please call me back.’
End of message. I stare at my phone. I can hardly believe that the caller is Jess. Her voice is too strange. Panicked, unfamiliar. I check the number, just to be sure it’s her.
Yes. Jess called me.
Shivering, I wrap the towel tighter around my body. My wet hair, recently combed, clings to my neck. The night sky seems to press at the steamed-up windows. I want to push it back. Closing the blinds, I worry over her words. ‘Something really bad has happened.’ Jess is normally so confident, ready for anything. What can have caused her such distress? If I hadn’t been in the bathroom when she called, I would know by now.
I put my phone down on the bed. I think about Jess.
We’ve been best friends for a long time. Since nursery school, in fact. Twenty-five years of friendship, supporting each other through all kinds of troubles. She’s always been braver than me.
‘You’ve got a heart of steel,’ I said to her once, after one of her break-ups.
‘I know,’ she’d said, smiling. ‘No one can hold me back.’
The number of friends I have can be counted on one hand. I find it very difficult to forge new relationships. It’s easier to stick to those I’ve grown up with. I know Jess extremely well, which is why I’m even more disturbed now that I’ve heard the message.
There was something else in her voicemail. Fear.
I’ve never known her to be scared of anything before.
My apprehension grows. I don’t want to call her, I don’t want to find out what’s happened, but the longer I hesitate, the more nervous I’ll become. Just ten minutes ago, I was so pleased with myself after completing a 5k run without stopping. As I soaped my aching body under the shower, I was thinking that I’d earned the pot of chocolate mousse which was waiting for me in the fridge. Now, the happiness has gone. The hunger has gone too, replaced by dread.
Reluctant, I reach out again for my phone.
I flip open the red leather case. My legs are weak. They won’t support me, so I slip clumsily to the floor. The wooden boards are harsh beneath my knees as I scroll through my news feed, my index finger pulling up and discarding the latest headlines. I shift to a cross-legged position and the towel loosens, leaving me exposed and chilly.
The national news is the same as usual. Another fatal stabbing in the capital. A terrorist plot foiled. An inquiry into an abuse scandal at a care home. All very depressing, but nothing that justifies Jess’s message, nothing that stands out to me. I move on to the local news.
Straight away, I see it. Today’s top story for the county.
A photo of someone I know.
‘No,’ I whisper.