PROLOGUE Saturday, November 23
Blue lights . . . that’s his first lucid thought after he opens his eyes.
He can’t have been unconscious for more than a few seconds, a tiny micropause in his head. But the world seems so strange, so unfamiliar. As if he weren’t quite awake yet.
Blue reflections are dancing around him. In the rearview mirror, bouncing off the concrete walls, the roof, the wet road surface, even off the shiny plastic details of the dashboard.
A car. He’s in the driver’s seat of a car, going through a long tunnel.
The pain catches up with him. He has a vague memory of it from before he blacked out. A brilliant, ice-blue welding arc cutting straight through the left-hand side of his skull and turning his thoughts into thick sludge.
He can even identify the way it smells.
Metal, plastic, electricity.
Something’s happening to his body, something serious, threatening his very existence, but weirdly he doesn’t feel particularly frightened. He tightens his grip on the steering wheel, feels the soft leather against the palms of his hands. A pleasant, reassuring sensation. For a moment he almost gives in to it and lets go, tracing those smooth molecules all the way back into unconsciousness.
Instead he squeezes the wheel as hard as he can and tries to get his aching head to explain what is happening to him.
“Your name is David Sarac, and . . .”
The car is still driving through the tunnel, and one of the many incomprehensible instruments on the dashboard must be telling him that he’s going too fast, way too fast.
He tries to lift his foot from the accelerator pedal but his leg refuses to obey him. In fact he can’t actually feel his legs at all. The pain is growing increasingly intense, yet in an odd way simultaneously more remote. He realizes that his body is in the process of shutting down, abandoning any process that isn’t essential to life support until the meltdown in his head is under control.
“Your name is David Sarac,” he mutters to himself.
Various noises are crackling from the speakers: music, dialing tones, fractured, agitated voices talking over each other.
He looks in the rearview mirror. And for a moment he imagines he can see movement, a dark silhouette. Is there someone sitting in the backseat, someone who could help him?
He tries to open his mouth and sees the silhouette in the mirror do the same. He can see stubble, a tormented but familiar face. He realizes what that means. There’s no one else there, he’s all alone.
The light in the rearview mirror is blinding him, making his eyes water. The voices on the radio are still babbling, louder now—even more agitated.
The shutdown of his body is speeding up. It’s spreading from his legs and up toward his chest.
“Police!” one of the radio voices yells. The word forces its way in and soon fills the whole of his consciousness.
He looks away from the rearview mirror and laboriously turns his head an inch or so. The effort makes him groan with pain.
“Your name is David Sarac.”
Some distance ahead he can see the rear lights of another car. Alongside them is a large warning sign, an obstruction of some sort, and an exit ramp. The rear lights are suddenly glowing bright red.
He ought to turn the wheel, follow the car ahead of him out of the tunnel. His every instinct tells him that would be the sensible thing to do. But the connection to his arms seems to be on the way to shutting down as well, because all he can manage is a brief, jerky movement.
The obstruction is getting closer, a large concrete barrier dividing the two tubes of the tunnel. The reflective signs are shimmering in the glare of the car’s headlights. He tries to look a few seconds into the future and work out whether he’s in danger of a collision. But his brain is no longer working the way it normally does.
The shutdown reaches his face, making his chin drop.
The distance to the barrier is still shrinking.
The word is back, even more insistent this time, and suddenly he realizes why. He’s the police; the blue lights are coming from his own car.
His name is David Sarac. He’s a police officer. And . . . ?
The pain in his head eases long enough for him to be able to piece together a coherent chain of thought. What is he doing here? Who is he chasing? Or is he the one being chased?
The lights in the rearview mirror are getting closer and closer. Burning into his head.
Fear overwhelms him, sending his pulse racing. The ice-blue pain returns, even stronger this time. His eyelids flutter; all the noise around him fades away into the distance. He tries to remain conscious, fighting the shutdown process. But there’s no longer anything he can do.
A brief jolt shakes the car. But he hardly notices it. The
shutdown process is almost complete and he is more or less unconscious again. Free from pain, fear, and confusion. All that remains is a stubborn, scarcely noticeable signal in his tortured brain. An electrical impulse passing between two nerve cells that refuses to let itself be shut down—not until it’s completed its task.
Just before his car crashes into the concrete barrier, the second before the vehicle goes from being an object with clearly defined parameters to a warped heap of scrap metal, the impulse finally reaches its target. In a single, crystal-clear moment he suddenly remembers everything.
Why he is in this car. What it’s all about.
Faces, names, places, amounts.
The reason why all of them, every last one of them, must die.
All because of him. Because of the secret . . .
An immense feeling of relief courses through his body. Followed by regret.
His name is David Sarac. He is a police officer.
And he’s done something unforgivable.