Authors: Nick Green
Strident Publishing Ltd
22 Strathwhillan Drive
The Orchard, Hairmyres
East Kilbride G75 8GT
Tel: +44 (0)1355 220588
Text © Nick Green, 2011
Illustrations © Lawrence Mann, 2011
The author has asserted his moral right under the Design, Patents and copyright Act, 1988 to be identified as the Author of this Work.
A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library.
Typeset in Bembo by Lawrence Mann
Illustrations & Cover by lawrencemann.co.uk
teenage boy walks down a street as if he owns it. He’s already mugged a man in a public phone box and is feeling a foot taller than
usual. He plants a stolen cigarette between his lips and snaps a flame from a steel lighter. Through the first bloom of smoke – aah – he spies a new victim. A stylish woman with short,
straw-coloured hair, stopping to look in her handbag. The boy breaks into a trot and the bag is his before she can cry out. A shove to unbalance her and then he’s off, sprinting towards the
next alley. It’s as practised as brushing his teeth.
He turns the corner to find the woman standing there.
‘Mine, I think.’ She takes the bag. He tries to grab it back. The woman whips it out of his reach. She’s slender, about his height, might be thirty. Her features are sharp, her
eyes green. The boy lunges and lunges for the handbag that’s always an inch from his grasp. As if she’s playing with him.
It’s not a good idea to make this kid angry. He throws a punch. She catches it.
‘When did you last scrub your nails?’ She studies his fingers. ‘Today’s youth is going to the dogs, it really is. And
is a filthy habit.’
Suddenly there’s only half a cigarette in his mouth. The smoking tip rolls into the gutter. The boy steps back. He has a flick knife in his pocket. Something tells him to leave it there.
He makes one last attempt to save his pride.
‘Nearly got it that time!’ The woman twirls the handbag on her outstretched wrist. Then she swings it at his face. He has just enough wit left to duck.
‘Pretty fast.’ She nods, grudging. ‘You know I nearly didn’t hear you coming? Such a shame you’re flushing your life down the toilet.’
‘Let– let me go,’ stammers the boy.
‘I’m not touching you.’ A spark of humour lights her eyes. ‘You’re curious. Reckless. And – I’m guessing – alone. Like me. But I have friends in
high places. You might like to meet them. Or you can carry on with what you’re doing. Falling.’
‘I don’t–’ His mouth has dried up. ‘Who are you?’
The blonde woman smiles. ‘My name is Felicity.’
A PAW PRINT
At last Ben gave up and admitted he was lost. Here was the bus shelter with the cracked pane of glass that he had passed twice already. Here was the corner where he’d
stood ten minutes ago, frowning at the road signs. He was lost. But he knew exactly where he was.
A car splashed past and he dodged the sheet of spray instinctively. He had walked these streets ever since he
walk, and he knew every puddle. He knew where he was. How could he be
He was supposed to be strolling home from school. Now it dawned on him that he’d been wandering in circles. Whichever way he turned, he strayed back to this wretched crossroads. He had a
good idea why. On his right lay Crusoe Crescent, which led to Riversmead Drive, which was where Tiffany lived.
Ben sighed and took the turning. It was either this or traipse round Stoke Newington till it got dark. Some mischievous imp was steering him towards Tiffany’s door, no doubt to make him
apologise for those stupid things he said yesterday. He needed a peace offering, fast. In his pocket he found the last of a tube of Rolos. That would do nicely.
. The faint cry came from somewhere off to his left. He stopped, suddenly tense, as if a teacher had picked on him. It was silly but, in spite of everything, cats still made him
The few friends who knew Ben – really knew him, in the way that most did not – found this hilarious. He didn’t blame them. After all, when he concentrated in just such a way,
Ben himself could see in dim light, like a cat. If he tried, he could hear high and faint sounds like a cat. Tricks he had learned in his pashki class could let him stalk like a cat, jump like a
cat and climb like a cat. He could seem, fleetingly, to have whiskers like a cat. All this was true. Yet Ben Gallagher wondered if he would ever simply
The mew repeated. A cry of loneliness, or pain. He had an awkward thought. Tiffany’s cat, Rufus, surely roamed around here. What if the daft thing had got hurt or trapped? She’d
never forgive him for ignoring it.
. It was coming from Moll Walk, a gloomy alley.
‘Here, boy,’ he crooned. No, wait, that was dogs. How did you call a cat? Did it matter, since they ignored you anyway? ‘Cat! Hey, cat.’
Cutting between houses and a high brick wall, the alley drew him into shadow. Broken glass crackled underfoot. He could see the light at the far end, crossed by cars. He listened but heard no
more cries. Turning to leave, he happened to smell the air. Oh. . . wow.
Only a year ago, it had been a bland weed he never would have noticed. Now it caressed his nostrils like the scent of chocolate mints. Something around here reeked of catnip. Delicious wafts of
it were pouring over the wall. Was it growing in a garden on the other side?