What if a prank becomes murder?
Jonathan Ball Publishers has shared an excerpt from The Pact, the new thriller by Amy Heydenrych.
Heydenrych’s debut novel, Shame on You, was acquired by UK publisher Bonnier Zaffre in a two-book deal and was published in 2018. She has been shortlisted twice for the acclaimed Miles Morland African Writing Scholarship and her short stories and poetry have been published in multiple anthologies including Brittle Paper, The Kalahari Review and the Short Sharp Stories anthologies. In 2018, she was nominated was one of the Mail and Guardian 200 Young South Africans.
Read the excerpt:
It was supposed to be a prank, a stupid mistake that evaporated the next day. She never meant for her to die. Truth be told, she didn’t know exactly what she wanted. She hated herself while she did it and regretted it the second it was done. But later, beneath her begging and protestations, one fact remained: while she never meant for her to die, she did want to hurt her, just a little.
What actually happened on the night Nicole died was vague as a rumour, caught through snippets of conversation behind closed doors. By the time the neighbours had guessed at what was really going on, it was too late.
Who could blame them? It didn’t sound like death at first. A door creaked open. Her musical laugh suggested it was simply a friend stopping by. Nicole was well liked in the building, and always the first to off er a smile. Of course she would have friends over all the time! There were vague sounds – footsteps, clinking cutlery, the low hum of music through speakers. Nothing to cause alarm.
The apartments were packed like sardines, so the neighbours did what they always do. They turned the television up, they spoke a little louder, they put on music of their own. It was the usual competing cacophony that never got too loud or lasted after midnight.
But that night was different. The music got louder – the children in the building were unable to sleep. This was out of character for Nicole and inappropriate for a weeknight. The neighbours below her debated amongst themselves whether it was time to go upstairs and say something. Every sentence of her conversation was shouted, the laughter raucous. Some heard the high-pitched shriek of a woman, others the low growl of a man. The neighbours tried not to focus on it, not to let each word aggravate them further, but it was all they could think about. They should call someone, report it, it was far too loud.
Suddenly, the laughter turned hysterical. It was out-of control, hooting, belly-aching laughter, the kind that rips the breath out of your lungs. A voice. ‘What the hell?’ Then, a dull thud, like the sound of a bowling ball dropping to the ground. Something had shifted. It sounded strange, but not strange enough to investigate. The noise came to an abrupt end and all was silent.
Palpable relief flooded the building. Soon, the neighbours forgot their irritation and the strange end to the evening, and drifted off to sleep, while the killer stepped out and paced past their doorways, while Nicole’s blood spread like a halo around her, while she gasped her last breath.