Edgar Award winner and international best-seller Mo Hayder is known for her nightmarishly dark, impeccably-plotted thrillers. In Wolf, now in paperback, Hayder ratchets up the terror yet another notch with a bone-chilling novel about a family held hostage in their country home. When a vagrantthe Walking Man, a recurring character in Hayder’s fictionfinds a dog wandering alone with a scrap of paper with the words “HELP US” attached to its collar, he’s sure it’s a desperate plea from someone in trouble and calls on Detective Inspector Jack Caffery to investigate. Caffery is reluctant to get involveduntil the Walking Man promises in exchange new information regarding the childhood disappearance of Caffery’s brother. Meanwhile, the Anchor-Ferrers, a wealthy local family, are fighting for their lives in their remote home ten miles away. As their ordeal becomes increasingly bizarre and humiliating, the family begins to wonder: is this really a random crime, or have they been chosen for a reason?
“The home invasion novel to end all home invasion novels . . . Not unlike John Connolly’s Charlie Parker novels or T. Jefferson Parker’s Charlie Hood books. Wolf is exceptionally original in premise and nightmarish in its rendering.” BookPage
“Mo Hayder is a master of ratcheting up tension throughout a bookto the point that one must simply finish it before doing anything else. Such is the case with Wolf.” Deadly Pleasures (Rating: A-)
“Mo Hayder’s books featuring Jack Caffery are always an entertaining and engaging read, and this one doesn’t disappoint.”Euro Crime
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Picking Elderflowers in the Evening, Near Litton, Somerset
Amy is five years old and in all of those five years she's never seen Mummy acting like this before. Mummy's in front of her on the grass, standing in a weird way, as if she's been frozen by one of those ice guns what the man in The Incredibles have got in his hand most of the time. She's on one leg, with one arm out, like she's been running and got told to stop and stay still as a statue. Her mouth is open too and her face is white. It would be really funny if her eyes weren't all opened up and weird, the way her face goes when she's looking at something scary on the television. Behind her is a line of fluffy white clouds in the sky – like on The Simpsons – except the sky's a bit darker, because it's nearly night-time.
'Amy?' After a while Mum puts her foot down. Stops balancing on it. She does this funny little sideways dance like a puppet what's about to fall over, and when she gets her balance again her face changes. 'AMY?'
She starts running and as she runs she's screaming, 'Brian!?! Brian, I've found her. Brian? Come NOW. I've found her. Over here in the trees.'
Before Amy can say anything Mum has grabbed her up. She's still screaming out to Dad, 'Brian Brian Brian,' and she's hugging Amy the way she hugged her that day she was about to go into the road and almost got squished by a bus, which Mum says is the most scary thing what ever happened to her, but Amy didn't think was even half as scary as the Puzzler man off of Numberjacks on CBeebies.
'Where've you been?' Mum puts her back down on the ground with a bump. She squats and runs her hands up and down her arms and legs, straightening her blue dress and pushing her hair out of her face. Staring at her, all worried. 'Amy? Amy, are you all right? Are you all right, darling?'
'I'm all right, Mummy. Why?'
'Why?' Mum shakes her head, like the times when Dad says something really stupid. 'Why? Oh baby, baby, baby. My baby.' She closes her eyes, drops her head against Amy's chest and squeezes her. It's a really hard hug and Amy can feel her insides squishing up, but she doesn't want to squiggle away coz it might upset Mum.
'Amy!' Dad comes running along the path. The field is very big and very green and sloping and all the people from the cars that were parked here before have got out and they're all standing staring at her. 'AMY?' Dad's not carrying the container they were putting their flowers into any longer, instead he's got his phone in his hand. He's taken off his nice jumper and his shirt's all wet and yucky under the armpits. Mum says that's where he leaks when he runs too fast so he must of been running for a long time. His face is just like Mum's, all white and scared, and Amy wants to laugh a bit, coz they do look funny both of them, all white like Halloween masks, except it's hard to tell if Dad's really cross or really sad.
'Where were you? Where have you been?' His voice is really shouty. 'How many times have I told you not to go out of our sight?' He turns and yells at the people over at the cars. 'We've found her. We've found her.' Then he turns back to Amy. He's cross, definitely cross – you can tell by how squinty his eyes have gone. 'You've been ages, you've made your mother cry now. This is the last time we pick elderflowers. The last time.'
'Brian, be quiet. She's all right, that's the main thing.'
'Is she?' He puts a hand on Mum's shoulder and moves her out of the way so he can bend and look into Amy's face. His eyes go up and down and side to side, taking in every inch. 'Are you all right? Amy? Where've you been? Have you spoken to anyone?'
She bites her lip. Her head feels all nasty and hot and there are some tears in her eyes that fall out of under her eyelids and go running down her cheeks.
'Amy?' Dad shakes her arm. 'Did you speak to anyone?'
'Only the man. That's all.'
Dad goes all funny when she says this. Suddenly his hands aren't nice any more but are like bird's claws, digging into Amy's arms. 'The man?'
Mum's mouth starts quivering. The black make-up stuff on her eyes has gone runny and it's all trickling down her face. 'I told you we shouldn't be out here at this time of day, Brian, this is when they all come out – all of them. And we're not far from the Donkey Pitch. Remember? The Donkey Pitch?'
'What man?' Dad says. 'Amy, tell me in the most grown-up way you can, because this is serious. What man?'
She turns towards the woods, lifting her hand to point. But as she does she sees that he's gone – the man who likes dogs. He's gone away. And he must of taken the puppy, coz that's gone too.
'He was really cute.'
'Cute?' Mum says. 'Cute?'
'The puppy was called Bear.'
'Oh, for God's sake!' Dad rubs hard at his forehead. 'There's always a puppy. Always a shagging puppy.'
'It's the oldest trick in the book: I've got a poorly puppy – come into the woods and I'll show you. We're taking her to the police. She needs an examination.'
Amy frowns. The man in the woods didn't say that the puppy was poorly, and he didn't ask her to come into the woods to look at it. She was the one what found the puppy, before she met the man.
'I don't want no exam, Mum – I don't want one of them.'
'See, Brian, you've scared her. Now, Amy ...' Mum sits down on the grass. She pats her leg. 'Come here, sweetie. Sit down.'
Amy sits on Mum's lap. She wipes her nose with her hand. Sniffs up the rest of the snot, which is yucky. She wishes Dad wasn't cross – she doesn't understand why he's cross, coz the man wasn't horrid. He looked a bit funny, with a big hairy beard like a goblin, or like a Santa Claus in reverse, because his beard was black, but he spoke to her very very nice and made her a promise, a proper pinkie-promise which everyone in the world knows is the most proper. And another thing is that he called her Crocus, which was the bit she liked the best – when he said she was as pretty as a crocus. Because crocuses are really pretty and they're sometimes purple and sometimes yellow and sometimes both. Miss Redhill at school says they're the second flower of spring after the snowdrops have died and gone back into the ground.
'Amy,' Mum asks. 'This man ... was he nice to you?'
'Yes. And he was nice to the puppy.'
'Was it his puppy?'
'Then whose puppy was it?'
'I don't know.' She puts her finger in her nose and picks it thoughtfully. She thinks that maybe the puppy wasn't a puppy for real but a grown-up dog – sometimes a big dog can be little if it's a puppy and sometimes an old dog can be smaller than a puppy, even though it's really lots older. It's all about something called 'breeds' what can be small or big. 'He came after I found the puppy. I just said that, didn't I?'
Dad straightens up. 'Come on. Show me where you found this puppy.'
Mum lets Amy jump off her lap. She holds her hand as they walk into the trees. It's a bit more spooky in the wood coz it's dark in here now. But she can see Dad's white shirt, and Mum does that thing as they go, with her hand, where she squeezes Amy's thumb to let her know everything's OK. Amy squeezes her hand in return.
Amy takes Mum and Dad to the place she met the puppy. It's getting really nighttime now and the trees are all silent and dark. No puppy. The man made a promise to take the puppy somewhere safe.
'I was here,' she says. 'And I was putting the flowers in the ... There it is!' She sees the Tupperware container. She goes and picks it up and turns round to show Mum and Dad all the flowers inside. Which are the best flowers without none of them worms like the ones Dad found earlier.
'I was only getting the flowers off of here and I was getting the flowers and this puppy comes up and he's got a poorly paw.'
'A poorly paw?' Dad looks at Mum with his eyebrows all arched.
'Yes, with blood and stuff. And the person of it wasn't there and the man didn't know who the grown-up of the puppy was neither, so I was going oh puppy puppy and I was going to bring it back to you, Daddy, because if it didn't have a nowner, it needed to be —'
'An owner,' Mum says.
'An owner,' Amy repeats. 'And if it didn't have an owner then it needed one and I thought that it could of lived at our house, under the cooker – coz there's that place that gets really warm, and I don't mind giving it my pocket money, Mum, to buy it some milk.'
Mum wipes her eyes and laughs a little. Which is nice. She hasn't laughed at all since all of this happened.
'Amy ...' She gives her a hug. More gentle this one. 'He didn't touch you, Amy, did he? Did he ask you to do anything you didn't like?'
Amy sucks her fingers for a while. They taste of grass and the stems off of the flowers. She wishes she could of kept the puppy.
'Amy? Did he ask you to do anything you didn't like?'
'No. He didn't do nothing. He was nice to me and he's going to help the puppy. Honest, Mum. Honest.'
Dad lets out his breath in a long sound like a balloon what's had a pin put in it. He shakes his head. He tucks the phone back in his pocket and stands up and walks around a bit with his back to Amy and Mum, shouting into the woods.
'Hello? Hello – do you want to come and have a chat with me? Any puppies you want to talk about, you fucker?'
There's a long long silence. Then he comes back and it's amazing coz Mum doesn't say anything about the rude word he just said.
'Come on, let's go – you should have been in bed hours ago.'
Mum takes Amy's hand and they follow Dad back to the van – Dad's white van he drives for work. Amy uses her thumbnail to try to get rid of the green stains what's got themselves all over the inside bits of her hands. The flowers here are supposed to be very puffy, which is why they've come here today, and you can make really really nice drinks out of them if you put in enough sugar, but that takes a grown-up because of the heat and how hot it gets. Hot enough to make your finger fall off if you put it into the saucepan. With blood and everything.
Amy's teddy, Buttons, is on the front seat. She clambers in after Mum and snatches Buttons up, holding him to her face to get his fluffiness on her. When Dad turns the engine on with the keys, Amy moves the seat belt around so she can kneel up, put her nose to the window and look back at the woods. Mum doesn't stop her.
Dad drives the van off of the grass and on to the road. It's bumpy going along and Amy bounces around, but she doesn't stop watching the trees. She wonders if the reverse Santa Claus man will find the puppy's owners.
When the van gets further up the road and she can't see the trees any more and can only see the road and the other cars and buildings whizzing past, she sits down and gets the seat belt more comfortable. She puts Buttons in her lap. He looks up at her with his nose what needs mending and his bad paw, just like the puppy.
'Mummy,' she says when they get to the place that's at the end of their road, the place where someone has sprayed a picture of a Moshling on to the road sign. 'Mummy, what word does it make if you put that "huh" letter Miss Redhill makes when she puffs on her hand —'
'Aitch you mean?' says Mum.
'Yeah – what happens if you put aitch next to eggy "e" and lollipop "el" and the "puh" sound. You know, that letter you make when you blow out candles on your birthday cake? "Puh"?'
'Aitch, ee, ell and peee?' Mum says. 'That spells "help". Why?'
'And what about umbrella "uh", and snakey "sssss"?'
'You and esss? That spells "Us". Help us.' Mum looks down at Amy, a puzzled smile on her face. 'Help us? Why? Why are you asking that?'
Amy bites her lip. Something was attached to the puppy-dog's collar. A teeny-weeny piece of paper what had been writed on in blue pen. It was all torn and the letters were all smudged and spread into big blue pools so you couldn't read them properly. Except for those letters.
'Amy? Why're you asking?'
Amy looks at the side of Dad's head. If she mentions puppy-dog again, Dad's going to start shouting. So she shakes her head.
'Nothing,' she says as they pull up outside the house. She wishes she had a little puppy-dog. And different parents. Parents what would not get cross when she told them things what are true. 'Nuffink.'CHAPTER 2
Earlier that Day: the Pig Man
The pig man. That's how Oliver Anchor-Ferrers views himself. Like something lifted whole from the pages of a Victorian bestiary. Nine weeks ago the doctors in the Mayo Clinic in London gave him drugs to thin the blood. They opened his pericardium with stainless-steel rib retractors, connected multiple cannulas to his body and rerouted his blood to mechanical membrane oxygenators which carried out the job his heart should have been doing, delivering oxygen to his tissues and organs. His own heart the medics stopped by injecting a cardioplegic solution to induce paralysis. For almost an hour on the operating table Oliver was dead. Once they'd cut out the valves he'd had from birth and replaced them with valves from a specially bred pig, the surgeons closed the aorta and secured the sternum with steel wire. In spite of his appearance – that of a perfectly normal man in his sixties – the truth is that Oliver Anchor-Ferrers is being kept alive by a piece of foreign flesh flickering inside his heart. He's half man, half swine.
Valve replacement is a common enough procedure, an operation that's been in use for years – there must be several thousand pig men walking the planet, by his reckoning – but Oliver can't rest easy about it. Since the moment he woke in the ward he has been listening to his pulse, wondering how it is linked to his brain and whether the mechanical, ancient survival parts of his cerebellum have yet recognized the foreignness. Since the op he lies in bed at night listening to it thrum-thrumming in his chest. He wonders what control he has over it. He wonders who is choosing to live – him or the pig.
Keep beating, he sometimes whispers under his breath, pig-heart, keep beating ...
Oliver is sixty-four and he is worth several million pounds. England is his native country – he owns two properties here. His chief home, a Regency end-of-terrace, is in Knightsbridge. But it is in the second, where he is now, a rambling Victorian house set high on a hill in the Somerset Mendips, that he feels most at home. His favourite chair, scruffy and old and moulded to his skeleton, is in its usual place, next to the inglenook. He's been looking forward to this chair for what seems like ages. It's taken almost two months for the London doctors to give him the allclear to come down here.
He stretches out his legs and settles back, gazing around in contentment. The fire isn't made, not now that it's summer, and there is a basket of dried flowers in the hearth to fill the space. But all the familiar hallmarks of a family visit are here. They left London at the crack of dawn and arrived late morning and it's a typical first day, passed in amiable chaos. Everywhere are dotted the groceries and bits and pieces that Matilda brings down from London: endless Waitrose bags and papery deli bundles and boxes of cereals and fruit juices. The only unwelcome addition is his pale pink medication tray on the windowsill.
Matilda comes hurrying in from the boot-room, all colour and fragrance. She is dressed in her blue-and-pink gardening apron – the one Kiran gave her years ago. She's tying a spotty-print tool pouch to her waist and Oliver notes that, as is her custom, she has wiped her face of London make-up. Instead of postbox-red lipstick and foundation her skin is bare and peach coloured. Her lips are their natural soft pink, like the inside of a fig. Matilda is sixty, and grey now, but her skin is as clear as a cloudless sky, and when Oliver looks at her the light still does the same strange dance around her that it has always done, from the moment they first met all those years ago.
'Sweetheart.' She stops and smiles at Oliver. It's a smile that conveys everything: love and pity and a shared desperation that it's come to this – to heart surgery and medication in numbered boxes. 'Sweetheart, do you mind if I ...?'
She wants to go into the garden. It's less than half an hour since they've arrived and already she wants to be outside. In the twenty-eight years they've owned this house she has poured her heart into the flowers, shrubs and borders. He smiles. 'You must, darling. In fact, I think I can hear the plants calling you.'(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Wolf"
Copyright © 2014 Mo Hayder.
Excerpted by permission of Grove Atlantic, Inc..
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