I have only ever met one human who was taken over by vampire mice, and that was in Lond—
No, I do not wish to think about that time. Especially not when I am helpless.
Montagu carries me out of the bedchamber, still holding me by the back of the neck (which is mortifying at my age). His head is cocked to one side, as if he is listening to a small voice.
A small rodent voice.
I am beginning to fear for my life. ‘Human,’ I say, in my most persuasive voice. ‘If you will put me down, I know a nice place for lizards. I am happy to share them with you.’
Montagu sniggers. No, the vampire mouse in his pocket sniggers, and the sound comes out of Montagu’s mouth.
‘Harry-le-beau,’ says Montagu/the mouse, ‘you will not be needing lizards any more. Not after She has finished with you.’
I have a dreadfully tight feeling in my throat. I tell myself that it is a furball, and say, nonchalantly, ‘She? Who is She?’
Another snigger, and the vampire mouse pokes its head out of Montagu’s pocket and says, in its own voice, ‘You do not remember Her, Harry-le-beau? Tsk tsk tsk, She will be so hurt. She certainly remembers you.’
Then the nasty little creature scurries up the human’s robe until it is perched on his shoulder. ‘Take him to the cellar,’ it orders. Its grey wings rub against the human’s neck.
‘I shall take him to the cellar,’ murmurs Montagu, as if the idea was entirely his.
We go back through the kitchen, passing a ridiculous little black lapdog on the way. It looks up from its bed and yaps.
Montagu ignores it. He throws open a door and carries me down a short flight of stairs. The light of his candle flickers on brick walls. The floor is made of earth, and the smell of vampire mice is so strong that I am afraid I will choke.
(I am trying very hard not to think about who She might be.)
‘There,’ says the mouse, pointing to a spot on the ground. ‘Stake him out on his back.’
‘I shall stake him out on his back,’ murmurs Montagu dutifully.
He throws me to the ground. I struggle and scratch and bite, until his hand is bleeding in a dozen places. He doesn’t seem to notice. But the vampire mouse looks pleased.
‘Bite him again, Harry-le-beau,’ it whispers. ‘His blood is sweet. Do me a favour and bite him again.’
I do not want to do a favour for the vile creature. So I stop biting— And in that moment of stillness, Montagu flips me onto my back and pins me to the ground.
He ties me there with cords and stakes. Then he stands up and says, ‘It is almost morning. She will not come so close to daylight. But She will come tonight, Harry-le-beau. Oh yes. She will definitely come tonight.’
I am lost. I am captive. And tonight She is coming.