It is just past midnight, and thunder is crashing out of the clear night sky. Lightning zigzags across the lieutenant governor’s garden.
The great She-Demon of London has landed.
I have heard that She can take many shapes, but I have only ever seen Her in one, and that one is truly awful. Her eyes burn holes in the night. Her beak is a weapon that not even a mighty hunter like myself can stand against. The vampire mice cower before Her.
‘WHERE IS HE?’ She screeches.
One of the mice wriggles forward on its belly. ‘He is tied up in the cellar, oh Glorious One.’
The whole garden seems to shake. ‘BRING HIM TO ME!’
A battalion of vampire mice dashes towards the cellar.
A lesser cat than myself would think this was a good time to attack. A lesser cat would leap from the shed and launch himself onto Her back; he would try to shred Her with his claws while She was still recovering from the surprise.
But I, Harry-le-beau, know that it is more sensible to stay where I am, and plot my next move.
Montagu emerges from the house, with the vampire mice on either side of him. The mice are shaking with fear, and so is Montagu. He throws himself to the ground in front of the She-demon.
‘He is gone, Mighty One. He has escaped!’
The smell of brimstone is overpowering. It catches at my throat. The great She-demon raises Her wings and roars Her displeasure. The night grows suddenly colder.
If I were not so busy plotting, I would enjoy what comes next. She snatches up a score of vampire mice and swallows them whole. Then She plucks Montagu from the ground. He dangles from Her beak, an inch away from death.
Actually, I am enjoying it. ‘Eat him,’ I whisper. ‘He treated me like a common garden cat. Eat him bit by bit.’
Her head jerks towards the shed, as if She heard me. But that is impossible!
Still, I edge away from the window, as quietly as I can. (I would stop and fight, but the custard is heavy in my belly and I am not at the top of my form.)
There is a pile of old sacks in the corner, and I scramble behind them. The night has fallen silent again. I listen with every speck of my being, and hear nothing.
Perhaps She has gone. Perhaps devouring Her minions was enough to satisfy Her. Perhaps She—
The door of the garden shed creaks open.