My new residence is the shed at the bottom of His Excellency’s garden, just past the chicken coop. As I once remarked to His Most Gracious Majesty the Emperor of all Russia, Tsar of Kazan, Lord of Pskov and Grand Prince of Smolensk, I am not impressed by titles. But this is not a bad address, given that we are in the colonies and there are no castles to be had.
According to the kitchen girl (whose name is Sarah), Montagu never comes into the garden shed. ‘Which is just as well,’ she says, ‘because he don’t like cats, and everyone knows it. All he likes is that snarly little dog of the governor’s. But I like cats, Snookums, and if I want to give you a bit of the governor’s dinner, and one of the governor’s kangaroo skin rugs to sleep on, then so I shall!’
It is nice to be waited on, with cream and roast lamb. But I do not forget my mission. As soon as Sarah has arranged my new bed, and I have tested it carefully for several hours, I take up a position at the window. From here, I will be able to see everyone who goes into the cellar.
Including the creature that Montagu called Her.
I am not worried. The only one who might have worried me was destroyed in London. But it will not hurt to clean my paws again as I wait.
[Lick lick lick.]
I am just starting on that delicate area between my toes when a dreadful thought crosses my mind. She was destroyed in London, was She not?
[Lick lick lick.]
Of course She was! I never saw Her remains, but I heard the reports …
[Lick lick lick lick lick lick lick …]
The afternoon passes, and evening falls. Sarah brings me a small plate of fish. I bolt it down and politely ask for more.
‘You’re a hungry sod, Snookums,’ says Sarah. ‘But I can’t give you any more. Mr Montagu’ll send me straight back to the lockup if he catches me pinching His Excellency’s supper.’
I make big eyes at her.
She laughs. ‘All right. I’ll see what I can do.’
She comes back with custard. It is not as nice as fish, but I eat it all the same. It is not good to face one’s enemies on an empty belly.
And face them I must. The sky is dark. Sarah has gone back to the house and I am alone. I sit at the window and wait.
It is almost midnight when they come, falling out of the sky like specks of ash. I draw back into the shadows and watch. The town is as silent as a half-eaten sparrow. Even the dogs have stopped barking.
There are hundreds of them. No, thousands! They land between the cauliflowers and cabbages, and fold their spiky wings. Their eyes are red; their teeth glint in the moonlight.
They form themselves into troops, row upon row of them, all staring upward. The furball is in my throat again, and I want to cough it up, but dare not. I have only once seen vampire mice as organised as this.
That was in London.
A shadow falls across the moon. I shudder. No, it cannot be! She was destroyed!
The shadow grows larger.
My claws spring automatically from their sheaths. My teeth chatter. It is Her! I thought Her destroyed, but She is back; She is here, in Van Diemen’s Land!
My mortal enemy.
The great She-demon of London.