Read Mort Online

Authors: Martin Chatterton

Mort (11 page)

Smiler had never been shot with a tranquiliser gun before.

Mort or Sir David had never had any reason to. With his electronic collar there to remind him when he misbehaved, a roomy compound and as much fresh meat as he could eat, the big cat had been easy to control.

So when Smiler slowly opened his eyes in the ballroom, he wasn't at all sure what had happened.

He thought he remembered eating a guy
in a safari suit. And then everything had gone dark.

Smiler staggered to his feet and shook himself. The wound in his side from Khan's spear throbbed and he let out a low growl. It was all coming back to him now. It was Mort who he'd been chasing in the ballroom.

Smiler looked around, puzzled. He was sure he'd had Mort right there in front of him in one bite-sized portion.

But he was nowhere to be seen.

Smiler threw back his head and let out a long, primeval roar, which echoed down the hallways of Festering. The big cat drew back his lips and snarled, his curving fangs dripping with saliva. He sniffed the air and there, to his joy, was a strong scent of human.

Mort.

Smiler bounded for the door, the floor shaking beneath his five hundred kilos.

He and Mort had unfinished business.

Almost ten storeys above the ballroom,
Goldilocks was playing tea parties on the rug in Mort's bedroom. In her left hand she held a stuffed cat she'd found pinned to the wall by a crossbow bolt. It had taken her some time to get it free but she had persevered. The cat was her special guest at a very special tea party and Goldilocks loved cats, especially sweet little purple stuffed toy ones like this.

Next to her on the rug was a woven straw basket covered with a red-and-white-checked cloth. Goldilocks propped Tiddles the cat up against the handle and sat back on her heels to pour out a pretend cup of tea.

‘One lump or two?' she said, stirring the imaginary cup with an imaginary spoon.

She threw back her golden ringlets and sat back down on the rug.

Life outside the cottage was more fun than she'd ever imagined! That horrid, horrid girl had kept her in there all this time, when out here were wonderful things like stuffed cats and big houses to play in.

She wondered if there was any porridge in the kitchen.

Goldilocks was pretty sure there would be lots of porridge in a big place like this. All the excitement had left her very hungry. A lovely big bowl of porridge would be perfect about now. Not too hot, not too cold, but just right.

She'd try to find the kitchen as soon as she'd finished playing.

Mort's scent was getting stronger.

Smiler took the stairs eight at a time, leaving a trail of smashed vases and splintered wood in his path, his razor-sharp claws scratched long, raking rips in the carpet as he neared his target. His primeval instincts screamed one word over and over again: Blood! Blood! Blood!

And then he was at the bedroom door.

There, in the room that smelled so strongly of Mort, sitting quietly on a rug, was a small
blonde girl.

Smiler growled.

He'd been hoping for Mort but this little scrap would have to do for now. She'd only be a couple of mouthfuls but food was food.

Smiler's massive muscles bunched, and with a deafening roar he leapt through the air towards his prey. His razor-sharp claws shot out and he opened his jaws, his fangs fully exposed.

This was going to be too easy.

Goldilocks' eyes glanced up at the doorway and her blue eyes lit up.

A real cat! A big one!

Goldilocks clapped her hands.

She was going to be bestest best friends with this new cat, she was absolutely sure!

But as the cat got closer and she saw its claws and teeth, a frown wrinkled Goldilocks' pretty face.

There was something wrong.

This wasn't a lovely big friendly pussycat after all. This was a big meany pussycat. A big meany pussycat with great big meany teeth and great big meany claws who looked very much like he wanted to eat little Goldilocks.

As always when something made her mad, Goldilocks felt the change flood through her body like an electric charge. In an instant, her eyes narrowed and changed colour from sky blue to acid green. Great black wings erupted from her back and two of her teeth sharpened to wicked little fangs. She tucked Tiddles into the pocket of her dress and, with a single beat of her wings, hovered above the rug and faced the sabre-tooth.

Smiler only had a split second to realise something had changed.

When he'd started his attack, the human girl had been just about the easiest snack he'd ever been presented with. Now, a millisecond before she should have been disappearing in
a bite-sized chunk down his gullet, here she was sprouting wings and teeth.

She didn't look very frightened either.

In fact she had an expression on her face that said loud and clear, ‘bring it on.'

But it wasn't important. Wings or no wings, teeth or no teeth, this human was history. Smiler angled his jaws as they locked around Goldilocks' thin, soft neck.

Instead of flesh, his teeth clamped on empty space and Smiler crashed to the rug, the room shaking and his mind trying to compute what had just happened. The child had moved faster than the big cat would have believed possible and was now hovering above his head, wagging a finger at him.

Almost exploding with rage, Smiler attacked again, this time giving it everything he had.

Once more, he connected with thin air.

It was impossible – simply impossible – but the astonishing truth Smiler was facing was
that this pathetic little squib was too quick for him. Every time he slashed or pounced she'd be there … and then she wouldn't. It was, without question, the most infuriating experience Smiler had ever had. For the next two or three minutes he thrashed wildly, his claws raking the air, splintering Mort's furniture, ripping his curtains and bedspread. Doing everything, in fact, except making any sort of contact with the green-eyed sprite.

And then, as the great cat began slowing down, things from Smiler's point of view suddenly got a whole lot worse.

Goldilocks had enjoyed playing with the big naughty cat even though he did move so slowly. Now, as the cat tired, she was getting a teensy bit bored.

And he was spoiling her tea party. It was time to stop playing.

Goldilocks feinted to the left and then, as the big cat turned his head in that direction, she darted back towards Smiler's exposed
neck and sank her fangs deep into the soft part of his furry throat.

She really loved cats.

Back upstairs, just as Agnetha was crossing the darkened Main Hall and wondering exactly how she was going to track down Goldilocks without the tracking device working, the emergency power kicked in.

Agnetha had just switched off her torch and taken another step when something landed softly on her head.

She reached up and brushed whatever it was out of her hair. When her hand came down it had a small smear of red on the palm.

Agnetha stepped back and a single fat drop
of blood landed on the floor in front of her.

She jumped back instinctively and looked up, her gun pointing upwards.

There, dangling upside down from a dusty chandelier, was Goldilocks.

She wiped a trickle of blood from her mouth with the back of her hand and fluttered soundlessly to the floor.

‘Hello, girl,' she said. ‘I'm hungry! I want some porridge.' She folded her wings back and smiled nastily. ‘Have you got any porridge, girl?'

Agnetha bobbed her head up and down. ‘Yes,' she said, trying to keep the panic out of her voice. ‘I've got lots of lovely porridge in the kitchen. Shall we go and get some?'

Not for the first time Agnetha cursed her own stupidity for ever thinking it would be fun to mix her favourite fairytale with her favourite vampire books. What had she been thinking? Goldilocks was about as far removed from fun as it was possible to be.

Agnetha still held the gun in front of her, although she doubted that Goldilocks would be stopped by even an extra-strength dart. She needed more protection.

She needed the garlic.

Slowly, very slowly so as not to alarm Goldilocks, Agnetha started unhooking the strap of her backpack.

‘PORRIDGE!' Goldilocks screeched, her smile vanishing. ‘NOW!'

Agnetha began backing towards the door. ‘Yes, of course, Goldilocks. Follow me.'

She had the backpack off now and she raised the zip to her teeth, not wanting to lower the dart gun for an instant. Fifty metres from the Main Hall, Agnetha had managed to tease the backpack open. She slipped her hand inside and found the can of garlic spray.

‘PORRIDGE!' barked Goldilocks, her eyes glowing green.

Agnetha now had two choices.

She could try to take out Goldilocks with
the spray and dart gun combination, or she could get to the kitchen and fill the little monster with porridge. Both were risky. If she took the kitchen option there was nothing to stop Goldilocks eating the porridge and then deciding she'd have Agnetha for dessert.

On the other hand, if Agnetha tried to knock Goldilocks out with the dart gun and garlic spray, and failed …

The kitchen was still a long way off. Agnetha couldn't see how, in her current porridge-and-blood-crazy state, Goldilocks could last until they got there.

Decision made, Agnetha flicked the top off the can of garlic spray and thumbed the safety off the dart gun.

Now!

She wasn't quick enough.

Goldilocks was already in the air as Agnetha lifted the can of spray. She pressed her thumb and the cloud of garlic drifted harmlessly through the empty space
Goldilocks had been in a split second before. Agnetha whirled and managed to get one dart off before Goldilocks slammed into her from behind, knocking the dart gun from her hand.

This is it, Agnetha thought as Goldilocks gripped her shoulders.

If you live long enough – and Agnetha had certainly done that – you get to experience one or two moments of amazing luck. For Agnetha, this moment was one of those. As she slammed into the carpet, with a mutant vampire ready to sink her fangs into her neck, Agnetha's gun bounced off a sideboard and a shot echoed through the corridor. Agnetha twisted round in time to see the stray dart rip through one of Goldilocks's wings. She gave a roar of pain and, more importantly, loosened her grip on Agnetha's shoulders.

This was her only chance.

Agnetha elbowed Goldilocks in the kidneys and kicked her hard in the shin. Goldilocks, for once unprepared, slammed
into a huge knobbly bit of furniture, almost knocking her out cold.

Agnetha scrabbled to her feet and ran for her life.

She had an idea. It wasn't a great one but it was an idea. If she made it to Mort's lab she might just be safe inside there.

Even from an angry mutant vampire.

Just metres from the lab door Agnetha heard the air moving behind her. Goldilocks, her face a mask of pure fury and bloodlust, swept past her and placed herself square in the corridor, blocking Agnetha's route to the door.

‘PORRRRRRRRRIIIIIIDDDGGE!' she screeched. ‘PORRRRRRIIIIIIIIIDGE!'

Agnetha's shoulders slumped and she held up a hand.

‘You got me,' she said, her breath coming in great ragged bursts. ‘Just let me –'

An explosion ripped off the laboratory door and a large chunk of the corridor wall.
The force of the blast hit Goldilocks first and she disappeared in a choking cloud of smoke and dust.

Agnetha staggered to her feet and leapt through the opening into the lab.

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