Prologue - Bad Mojo
Have you ever gotten a bad vibe that something terrible was about to happen . . . only to have it come true? Like when you were on vacation and suddenly had a flash of your best friend screaming in agony—and she told you afterward she’d broken her arm at that exact moment? Or when you had that sinking sensation that you shouldn’t stay at that B&B in Maine—and the roof caved in that night? Or that time you swore you heard sirens at an intersection—and the town’s worst accident happened there the following week? Maybe it sounds hippie-trippy, but sometimes sixth senses are real. If a little voice in your head is telling you something is up, maybe you should listen.
In Rosewood, too many awful things had happened—especially to four pretty girls. So on a hot summer night, when one of them was randomly struck with a bad feeling that something horrible had just gone down, she tried to ignore it. Lightning couldn’t have struck again.
But guess what? It did.
Although it was almost three AM in Reykjavik, Iceland, the sky was still an eerie daybreak white. The only real clue that it was the middle of the night was the lack of people—no one was on the shores of the Tjörnin pond. The Kaffibarinn bar, where Björk allegedly partied, was empty. There were no shoppers trooping up and down the main drag. Everyone was safe in bed, blackout shades pulled tight, eye masks secured.
Well, not quite everyone. Aria Montgomery tumbled out an open window of a dark chateau called Brennan Manor just outside town. Her hip hit the cold ground, and she squealed loudly, then popped back up and shut the window fast. Inside, the alarms were screeching, but she didn’t see any police cars climbing the hill yet.
She peered through the glass for Olaf, a boy she’d just met. What the hell was she doing here? She was supposed to be snuggled in her bed at the guesthouse next to her boyfriend, Noel—not breaking and entering with a stranger. Not about to be arrested and locked up for the rest of her life.
Olaf appeared at the window, hefting a painting up to the glass for Aria to see. Bright, starry swirls swept across the canvas. The little town was upside down, the spires looking like stalactites in a cave. In the corner was the signature: VAN GOGH.
As in Vincent.
The dreamlike nausea washed over Aria once more. She had made them come here. She had found that painting and pulled it off the wall. But now she realized how big of a mistake that had been.
She looked at Olaf. “Put that down!” she yelled through the glass. “Get out before the cops come!”
Olaf hefted the window open a crack. “What do you mean?” he said in his Icelandic accent. “This was your idea. Or are you having second thoughts? Maybe you’re more like your philistine boyfriend than I thought. More American than I thought.”
Aria turned away. She was having second thoughts. She was American. They were on vacation, after all—all she’d wanted was a night of fun. Vacations weren’t supposed to end like this.
Last spring, when Noel had announced he was putting together a trip to Reykjavik for himself, Aria, Aria’s brother, Mike, and Mike’s girlfriend, Hanna Marin, Aria had been psyched. She’d lived in Iceland for three years with her family after the girls’ best friend, Alison DiLaurentis, went missing at the end of seventh grade, and she couldn’t wait to get back.
She and Hanna also needed a trip—anywhere. Along with their two other best friends, Spencer Hastings and Emily Fields, they had just endured months of being stalked and tormented by an evil text-messager called A, who was the real Alison DiLaurentis—the Ali they had known was actually Ali’s twin, Courtney. Courtney had been in a mental hospital most of her life, but she’d switched places with her sister at the beginning of sixth grade, doing so by pretending to be friends with Aria, Spencer, Emily, and Hanna. Real Ali got her revenge on Courtney by killing her the last night of seventh grade . . . and she got back at the girls by becoming A and nearly killing them.
So Aria and Hanna had been excited to come here when Noel planned the vacation. Real Ali was dead, and A was gone, and they had nothing to be afraid of anymore. Then their spring-break trip to Jamaica happened. A few other awful things had gone down, too. Now, in July, Aria and Hanna were keeping secrets once more. They’d barely spoken since they’d arrived. It didn’t help that Noel wasn’t impressed with Iceland at all, or that Mike hated the place as much as he did when they’d lived here.
Tonight, the situation had sunk to a new level. At first, Aria had simply flirted with Olaf, a scruffy Icelandic intellectual they’d met at a bar down the street, to piss Noel off. Five shots of Black Death, the local schnapps, later, and Aria found herself in the alley, Olaf’s lips locked to hers. Fast-forward a few hours, and now . . . this.
The blaring house alarm increased in volume. Olaf tried to lift the window further up, but it caught, stuck.
Aria froze. If she helped him, she’d really be abetting a theft. “I can’t.”
Olaf rolled his eyes and tried once more. It wouldn’t budge. He let the painting fall loudly to the floor. “I’ll use the door!” he yelled to her. “Wait for me, okay?”
He vanished. Aria peered through the glass, but all she saw was darkness. Then she heard a screeching noise behind her. She tiptoed out from behind the bushes and peeked around the side of the house. Three police cars were screaming up the drive, the lights atop their cars flashing blue against the house’s elegant stonework. The cars skidded to a stop, and six cops burst out of them, guns drawn.
Aria sprinted for the thick woods. She didn’t even realize Icelandic policemen carried guns.