Hello and Happy Wednesday, Dear Readers (whoa, a lot of capitals in that line)!
Today, as the faintly golden fingers of dawn crept through the gap in my curtains, I blinked, stretched, sighed - and experienced that sinking feeling known as 'Oh Cr*p, I've Got To Blog Today' which descends on a hapless blogger when they have completely forgotten to think of anything to talk about. This was not, I hasten to add, because I don't love you all with a deep and passionate devotion. It's because I wrote eighteen notebook pages of the first draft of Big Secret Project yesterday and that pretty much sucked my creative juices dry.
So since my lack of a witty and sparkling blog topic is really all Big Secret Project's fault, I thought it was only fair that Big Secret Project help me out of my blogging dilemma by providing an intriguing snippet. As always, since I'm still working on this book and it has not been sold or edited, everything you read in a teaser is subject to massive change or even deletion. An interesting fact about this section: the character name comes from a lovely blog reader who bid in the Authors for Japan auction. She won the right to have her namesake in this book, and if she checks the blog today, this will be her first sight of the result.
Teaser hidden there under the cut. Let me know what you think...
Bel Downing swore when the lights in her tiny office started to flicker. Her finger slammed down on the ‘Save’ icon, and she sighed with relief when the command executed successfully, without the computer crashing.
She reached for her mug of tea, found it contained only cold dregs, checked the time and swore again. No wonder her back was killing her. She had to stop doing this. It wasn’t like the British Museum was going to spring for overtime when she was writing her own dissertation.
When the lights stopped blinking she shut down her computer and had a long, spine-cracking stretch, trying to decide what takeaway to hit for dinner. She was weighing up noodles versus pizza when she heard a sound echo down the empty corridor outside.
“What the – ?” There it was again. That was definitely a meow. How had a cat gotten into the museum?
Remembering the chaos wrought by a trapped pigeon a few months before, Bel got up hastily and pushed the door of her office fully open. She peered up and down the shadowy corridor, but there was no sign of any living creature there.
She debated going for one of the night watchmen, to help her search. But what if the animal was on the move? In the five or ten minutes it would take to fetch help the stupid animal could have gotten into anything. Another meow made her mind up. The sound was coming from the Japanese rooms. She headed in that direction, passing the shadowy statue of Kudora Kannon as she entered the first room. Her footsteps echoed softly, and Bel debated putting on the powerful overhead lights. She couldn’t walk around in the pitch dark, but then again a sudden flood of light might scare the cat into hiding. After a moment she switched on the display lights instead. The soft spots highlighted the exhibits and gave her enough light to move around without falling over anything.
Bel heard another pitiful meow and felt a momentary pang of pity for the lost cat. She wasn’t much of a pet person, but all this noise must mean that the poor thing was frightened, and wanted to be found.
“Here, puss,” she said, making kissy noises as she moved deeper into the gallery. “Here, kitty. Where are you? Come out.”
There was another meow, right behind her. She turned quickly and gasped, mouth falling open.
One of the exhibits – an ancient grave offering, a stone roughly carved into the shape of a cat – was broken. Shards of rock glittered in the display case amid a pool of dark liquid.
The viscous fluid, thick as blood, flowed down the sides of the broken exhibit’s pedestal and somehow squeezed out under the sealed glass of the case, dripping onto the floor. As she watched, it seemed to bubble, spreading further. Torn between disbelief and fasination, Bel hesitated, then took a step back.
Her shoe squelched. She looked down and saw that in the few seconds she had stood gaping, the black liquid had circled her feet.
The hairs all over Bel’s body raked up as a low, wicked chuckle echoed through the gallery. One by one, the display lights all over the room began to wink off, plunging the room into deeper darkness.
This can’t be happening. This isn’t real.
Bel turned to run.