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About the author:
At the moment, Cathy is hard at work on her next novel The Hungry Ghost.
What inspired you to write your book?
I’ve always been in awe of the work that the emergency services do – never more so than after 9/11. They are a tight unit, more like family, which got me thinking. What if a firefighter thought a murderous arsonist was at work, and none of her comrades believed her? How would she react? What, if anything, could she do? From those questions the story was born.
Here is a short sample from the book:
Death approached, not with a scream but a whimper, as six-year-old Lucy Hamilton’s thumb slipped from her mouth. She sat up in bed and peered into the darkness, wondering what had awakened her.
Outside the wind whistled and shrieked, and she shivered as the branches of the old oak tree tapped against her window like brittle knuckles rapping for entry. She reached for her Barbie but found the bed beside her empty.
Taking a deep breath, Lucy slipped from the covers, legs trembling beneath her bright-pink nightdress. Determined not to cry, she held tightly to the mattress with one hand while the other groped shadows until she found the smooth curve of a plastic leg. With a relieved sigh, she clasped the doll to her chest and clambered back into bed.
A loud thump came from the direction of her parents’ room and Lucy froze. She heard a cry, quickly muffled, then a thud. She waited, but the sound wasn’t repeated. “It’s okay, Barbie,” she said, her arm tightening around the doll. “There’s nothing to be afraid of.” She lowered her head, nuzzling the doll’s fine blonde hair. The wind eased, silence descending once more over the house. Safe and warm with Barbie to keep her company, Lucy was lulled by its gentle whisper. Her eyelids drooped.
Lucy bolted upright. “Who’s there?”
The answer was a laugh—a laugh so cracked that her skin shrank in protest, shrivelling until it felt much too tight for her bones.
Even as she asked the question, Lucy knew it wasn’t. She held Barbie close.
The figure advanced and Lucy’s nose crinkled in disgust. No, not Mummy either. The bed dipped and a large shadowy face appeared.
Lucy began to cry.
“Ssshhh,” the voice soothed, “I won’t hurt you.”
Lucy didn’t believe him. She opened her mouth to scream, but found it blocked when a heavy hand descended.
“I’ve brought you flowers. Roses. You like roses, don’t you?” The voice hardened and the pressure on her mouth increased. “Don’t you?”
Terrified, Lucy nodded. She couldn’t breathe. Her nose was full of snot, but she couldn’t stop crying. Crazed with fear and frantic for air, she struggled to throw her attacker off, but he was too strong, easily subduing her with a forearm across her chest.
“My little birds are usually fast asleep when I visit,” he said. “They never get to see my roses, to appreciate the time and effort I put into them. It makes you special. However, it leaves me with a problem.”
The forearm on her chest lifted and Lucy heard him fumble in his pocket.
“Luckily, I came prepared.”
There was a sweet, sickly scent before the cloth covered her face and the pressure on her mouth eased. Lucy was quick to take advantage. With her voice released, she screamed in shock and pain.
There was no answer. The only sound Lucy heard as darkness reached out to claim her was the unrelenting tapping of the bony limbs on glass and the first faint crackle of fire.