Today sees the launch by Crooked Cat Publishing
of the second book in the ‘Avenging Cat’ series
featuring Catherine Vibrissae:
Catacomb, a subterranean cemetery:
a place where ancient corpses are found – or new ones are dumped…
After their recent success in Barcelona, both Cat and Rick continue their vendetta against Loup Malefice and his global company, Cerberus, penetrating the lair of Petra Grimalkin in Nice.
But death stalks the pair, as do the dogs of law from the NCA, Basset and Pointer.
Cat’s trail of vengeance next leads to the Cerberus health food processing plant in the Maghreb… She puts her skills to good use in Morocco where she again confronts the psychotic killer, Zabala. From the exotic streets of Tangier to the inhospitable High Atlas Mountains, danger lurks and a deadly ambush awaits…
If you haven’t read the first in the series, Catalyst, now is the time – it’s available at an e-book bargain price! (Sorry, the paperback is still the standard price, though still a bargain, folks!)
The third book in the series is Cataclysm and will be published by Crooked Cat Publishing on 15 December 2015.
(Excerpt from Catacomb)
Cat scales a building in Nice in the rain and breaks into Petra Grimalkin’s apartment…
Chapter One: Cat on a hot wet roof
… Opening her belt pouch, she grabbed a slim lock-pick. The apartment door was alarmed, she knew from earlier reconnaissance. But the French window wasn’t. Within seconds, she opened the door, stepped inside, glad to get out of the rain.
She shut the door behind her as a strong cloying mixture of perfume smells hit her; she shouldn’t be surprised, since one of Grimalkin’s roles was as head of Cerberus’ Cosmetics Division.
Hastily, she removed from her pack a sheet of polythene, unfolded it and stood on it, so the drips of rain that slid off her would collect there. She unfastened her belt and its pouches, lowered them to the plastic, and these were followed by the backpack. She slipped off her shoes, stripped to her black underwear, removed a small towel and dried herself, all the while studying the long lounge-dining room.
Overhead lights were on, as she’d noted from the rooftop; the bedrooms and bathroom were also lit. Petra Grimalkin wasn’t cost-conscious or ecologically concerned about wasted electricity.
Immediately in front of her was the apartment door that opened onto the corridor, complete with spyhole. To her left was a dining table, six chairs, a wall-mounted TV screen, two armchairs, and beyond were three open doors; apartment plans indicated these led to a bathroom and two bedrooms. On her right was a walnut drinks bar with two matching stools.
A red light flickered on the answerphone on the bar counter, next to a large empty silver ice bucket. Cat resisted the urge to check it. Instead, she hunkered down and from another belt pouch she retrieved her mobile phone, and fitted the earpiece. She selected Rick’s number, and when he answered, whispered, “I’m in.”
He let out a sigh in her ear. “Good. I reckon you’ve got an hour, that’s all. Zabala’s supposed to be bringing Petra back then.” He’d only been in Petra’s apartment once, before he’d met Cathy, but on that occasion he had located the safe – behind the bar unit.
“Back from where?” Cat queried.
“The invitation was for the pair of them to visit an art show, given by one of Loup’s protégés. Then they have to return, collect their bags and fly on to Tangier.”
Now, Cat noticed a couple of red Samsonite suitcases standing at the nearest bedroom door. She heard a shower dripping, as if in counterpoint to the rain that pattered against the windows.
She tugged on a pair of latex gloves and then padded across the thick pile carpet, the sensation quite pleasurable for her bare slightly damp feet. She lowered to one knee and swung open a cupboard door. Inside she recognised the type of safe, with its distinctive handle and combination wheel. “Found it.”
“Glad it’s still there!”
“Me, too. I’ll be in touch.” She closed the call and tucked the phone in her briefs. Now, for the first time, she would test her safe-cracking skill in earnest. Compared to her other pursuits, this had taken what seemed like an inordinate time to master.
After she opened the safe, she pulled the phone from her briefs and photographed where everything lay. She whistled softly. On the shelf were several thick bundles of pristine fifty-euro notes amounting to €500,000. At the back, behind the money, was a black velvet bag. She opened it, poured into her palm a diamond necklace and an exquisite gold filigree brooch with a diamond at its centre. It was tempting to take some of this loot, if not all, but she didn’t want anyone to know that the safe’s contents had been compromised. On the floor of the safe were five folders. Fortunately, Petra Grimalkin was Malefice’s bag-lady as well as one of his heads of division, so carried important documents when accompanying her boss; that fact had prompted this latest break-in. Cat grabbed all of the folders and stood at the bar, checking the titles.Tangier
Rick had mentioned Tangier; she wondered if he’d heard of Cerberus operations in these other places. She shrugged; no matter. A quick flick through them revealed that every folder contained a half-dozen sheets; they might prove useful in her ongoing war of attrition against Loup Malefice and his organisation.
Cat diligently photographed each document from the folders, then replaced them as she’d found them, checking with the photo on her phone. She shut the safe door, twirled the combination wheel. Petra Grimalkin wouldn’t be aware that anyone had tampered with the contents of her safe.
“I’ve got the full details,” she informed Rick.
“Good. Now, please get out.” She loved him for that, the measure of concern in his tone. Not strident, but firm.
She returned to the bundle of clothing and her shoes on the polythene sheet. They were still wet, understandably, and a small puddle surrounded them. She dabbed the towel in the puddle, absorbing most of the rainwater, glanced around and spotted the ice bucket and bundled her jeans, T-shirt and towel in there, then carried it to the bathroom. She’d squeeze the surplus water into the bidet. The clothing would be marginally easier to put on then.
She passed the two suitcases at the bedroom doorway, glanced in.
The bedding was in disarray. She stopped, puzzled. Perfume bottles lay scattered over the top of the dressing table, a few of them broken. The smell was pungent, even from here.
Maybe Petra and Zabala had argued.
She stepped into the bathroom and instantly dropped the ice bucket. Luckily, it missed her toes by inches; it emitted a ringing sound as it rolled over the tiles.
Cat gagged, felt the bile rising, kicked aside her wet clothes and the ice bucket and rushed to the bidet on her right. She was just in time. Her lunch erupted, her stomach suddenly cramping. She ran the tap, careful not to send the water-stream full force, and washed away her weakness. She clutched the porcelain rim; her heart pounded against her chest as she leaned over. Gradually, she sensed her pulse slow and turned off the water. The strong perfume smell throughout the apartment couldn’t alleviate the powerful stench of vomit in her nostrils.
Snagging a toilet roll from the rack next to the bidet, she tore off sections and wiped her mouth and nose and then discarded it in the WC bowl, and flushed it away.
She got to her feet, stood on wobbly legs.
Trembling, she stared, her heart fluttering. She’d never seen anything like this. Ever. She fumbled at her briefs, gripped the phone. Selected Rick, punched dial.
“Are you out yet?” Rick asked.
She shook her head, tears blurring her vision. “Did you see them both leave?” she demanded, her throat raw, dry, her voice croaking.
“What, Zabala and Petra?”
“What’s the matter, Cathy?”
“Well, did you?”
“No, I’m going on what I overheard in the lobby… Why, what’s wrong?”
“Petra never went to the art show.” Cat stared at Petra Grimalkin, her naked body eviscerated, lying in the open shower cubicle. A small trickle of blood dribbled off her soaked corpse and snaked towards the plughole. “She’s dead – murdered.”
Chapter Two: Marmalade cat
Her mind reeled as she stood, unmoving, her mobile phone tucked in her briefs, Rick’s words echoing in her mind, “Get out, Cathy. Now!” That was her first instinct, too. But she couldn’t. Not yet. Adrenaline pumped through her veins; she could barely keep her hands steady. Violent death was not something she’d ever encountered. This was only the third dead person she’d seen in her life; her mother’s death had been natural, if premature. Her father was killed in a car crash – murdered, she reminded herself; but he hadn’t looked like this: he had appeared to be asleep, serene.
Dark red swam before her eyes and she felt as if the whole building vibrated through her bare feet. She struggled to think rationally, to take it all in, to observe.
Hunched in the corner of the shower unit, her legs splayed out, Petra stared sightlessly at her. That stare gave Cat a jolt. A sheet was bundled at Petra’s feet, soaked with blood and water. The tiled floor all around the base of the shower was wet but mercifully there was no blood outside the cubicle. The shower head dripped droplets of water onto Petra’s head; her brunette hair hung lank and glistened blackly.
Think! Difficult. She’d known Petra, briefly, and hadn’t liked her. That dislike had intensified when Petra and Zabala held her prisoner in Malefice’s Barcelona office. She shuddered, remembering their catfight on the jetty. They’d struggled, Petra’s vibrant warm flesh against hers, inflicting hurt and pain. It was hard to grasp that this still, pale form, its innards exposed, had been a living, breathing vital person.
Petra stared. Cat wanted to close those eyes, but didn’t dare go near. She told herself she had no intention of contaminating the murder scene, but she suspected her reason was more primal than that; probably plain fear of violent death. The dead can’t hurt you? If she left traces of her presence, maybe Petra’s death could harm her, Cat thought.
She screwed shut her eyes and remembered seeing her father in his coffin. Petra’s boss had engineered Daddy’s death. Hold onto that. She gritted her teeth, opened her eyes and looked away.
Her heart fluttered and her stomach scrunched up, as if she’d been punched. Trying to ignore these symptoms, she stooped, picked up her fallen clothing and the towel and hurriedly squeezed tightly each item over the bidet, getting rid of as much rainwater as possible. Would the crime scene people notice the different type of water here? She doubted it. She left the ice-bucket where it was, a mystery for the investigators, and turned, went into the lounge dining-room.
A little awkwardly, she tugged on her wet clothing and put the mobile in her back pocket. She left the towel on the polythene sheet and came to a decision.
She returned to the safe. Having remembered the combination, she opened it again and lifted out the bundle of money. Now, there was no sense in not taking this. If Malefice was aware of it, then its loss could be blamed on the murderer. She decided to leave the safe door open.
Her heart still pounding, she wrapped the money in the towel and tucked it in her backpack. She fastened her belt, slipped on her shoes and removed the latex gloves, and bagged them.
One last glance. Nothing left behind. The carpet was damp near the French door. She opened the door, and then carefully carried the polythene to the door, tipped the little pools of water onto the balcony floor, then folded the sheet, dumped it in the backpack. She stepped onto the balcony. The wind’s direction had altered by some twenty degrees, and it was light drizzle now. She was so grateful to feel the rain on her flesh, to taste the fresh air, to get away from the cloying perfume smell. Grateful to be alive. But now she must get away.
CATACOMB - Universal purchase link HERE