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Fur-Face


COMING OCTOBER, 2011: THE PAPERBACK VERSION OF FUR-FACE (Echelon Press)


"This book is so much more than I expected out of a cat book." Pensive BookEaters

". . . a very enjoyable book for younger readers featuring (among others) a wise-cracking cat and a hilariously polite gorilla."
Peadar Ó Guilín   author of The Inferior

"When Roald Dahl meets the EBook." Catherine Schaff-Stump author of Hulk Hercules Professional Wrestler 

"
Kids of all ages will enjoy this funny, charming, and highly original adventure." Kam Oi Lee

"
Think The Secret of NIMH meets Agatha Christie." Karen Wester Newton

"Likeable characters, parents that weren't total dufuses, the best cat I've read since Crookshanks." Terri-Lynne DeFino author of Finder


Here's an excerpt:
                                                                                            Chapter One
   
                                                                                                           A Change of Plan


  
Getting it back would be dangerous. Snowy would have to return tomorrow, and that meant avoiding Razor for one more night.
   He decided to risk it, hiding out in the stables behind Daft Aggie's place, where the stench of horse manure and urine-soaked hay masked his scent. Hungry and miserable, he didn't dare show his face. Razor was out there somewhere, watching, waiting.
   At dawn, he crept past the sleeping horses into the fresh air, then set off through the village, keeping an eye out for any sign of pursuit. By the time he passed the old church, the sun had risen. To his near color-blind eyes, it hung in the air like a plate of molten silver, casting its benevolent glow over the village of Little Chumberry.
   When he reached Mrs. Willikin's cottage, he hauled himself over the low stone wall in front, then made his way along the side. At the far end, he poked his head around the corner, closing his mouth to avoid the overpowering smell from the flowers that smothered most of the back yard.
   Keeping his head low, he scurried across the grass to hide amongst the rose bushes.
   Despite the grumbles from his empty belly, he allowed himself a smile. When the new owners arrived, he'd sneak inside, retrieve his prized possession and be on his way. By nightfall, he'd be miles from the village. With any luck, Razor would never find him.
   A cruel voice called out from the bottom of the garden. "Hello, Snowy."
   At the sound of his name, Snowy let out something between a scream and a hiss. He jumped six inches off the ground, turning in mid-air to land facing Razor, who stepped out from behind the garden shed.
   Looking less than happy, Razor trotted up the garden path, sunlight reflecting off the peculiar metal helmet on his head. "Haven't heard from you in three days. I hope you aren't planning to run out on me. You enjoy my protection now, but try to leave before the job's done and I'll tear you inside out."
   Snowy backed away, wary of the prickly thorns behind him, but all too conscious of the sharp teeth and claws on the animal in front. "I need more time."
   "You've had plenty. You were supposed to find a human to help me, but all I ever see you do is beg them for food."
   "I don't beg. I just let them feed me sometimes…when I'm starving…or hungry…or feeling a bit peckish."
   Razor paced up and down on the grass verge. "Fur-Face took my family. I need a human to get them back."
   "I know, but it's not that easy. Look, I speak their language, we both do, but none of the humans I've approached can hear me. What if I can't find anyone?"
   "That would be unfortunate…for you." In a blur of motion, Razor bit the head off the nearest rose and spat it into the air. The torn petals gave off a bitter-sweet fragrance as they spiraled to the ground.
   Razor leaped onto the water-barrel by the shed door, then looked back over his shoulder. "Remember, I can find your trail as easily as a bird finds the sky. Don't disappoint me." Without waiting for an answer, he jumped over the wall.
   Snowy pawed at the ground.
   I'm shredded either way. I've tried every human in the village. None of them can hear me. No, don't think like that. Keep your nerve. When the new owners arrive, nip inside, get it back, then head out across the fields toward the theme park. What with all those stale car fumes from the main road, even Razor won't be able to pick up your scent.
   His ears pricked up. There it was again, a faint rustling sound, coming from beneath a nearby shrubbery. He saw movement from the corner of his eye, then pounced. After a short while, he returned to the rose bush, still thirsty, but no longer hungry.
   
                                                                                  * * *
  
   At midday, a car and a small van pulled up in front of the cottage. Snowy trotted over to investigate. Out of sight of the newcomers, he crept along the base of the low wall that separated the front yard from the road. As he reached the gate, a woman pushed it open. She hurried up the path, rummaging through her handbag as she went.
   Snowy followed. At the front door, the woman had trouble with the lock. He sat on the path behind her, his tail twitching. "Get a move on, love. I haven't got all day."
   Oblivious to the impatient cat at her heels, the woman pulled out another key.
   "Move yourself, furball." A man tottered up the garden path behind Snowy, his legs buckling beneath the weight of the huge bundle on his back. Not wishing to be flattened, Snowy scampered off the path.
   "Where do you want this carpet, Mrs. Euston?"
   "Upstairs, on the landing," the woman said. "That is, if I can ever get us inside."
   She put her shoulder to the door. It flew open, but Snowy didn't dare approach now, for fear of getting trampled on.
   "We moved the bedroom furniture in last night," Mrs. Euston said. "My husband's due here in a couple of hours with the children and the rest of our things. Will you have finished by then?"
   Snowy didn't hear the reply, because she closed the front door. He clawed at the welcome mat. Last night! I don't believe it. If I'd have just stayed here, I could have got in then.
   An awful thought struck him. What if they took it? He banished the idea from his mind. What would humans want with an old chew-toy? Hell, most cats wouldn't even give it a second glance, but it was all he had left to remind him of her, and to get it back, he'd risk anything–even Razor's sharp teeth.
   A drop of water splashed on his whiskers.
   Another fell, and another. He scurried across the grass to shelter beneath the apple tree in the middle of the front lawn.
   When the workmen left, he made another attempt to get in the house, but Mrs. Euston shooed him away. Damp and dejected, he went back to the tree and scrambled onto the lowest branch to wait for a better opportunity.
   By the time the rest of the family's belongings arrived, the sun had come out again. A taxi pulled up behind the removal truck. A nervous-looking boy got out, followed by a man carrying a little girl. The toddler squealed with delight when she saw her new home.
   The boy seemed less enthusiastic. As they walked up the garden path he held out a cell phone to show his father. "No signal. I knew it."
   Snowy loitered near the front door. Several times, he managed to walk in behind one of the laborers as they carried a seemingly endless procession of cardboard boxes inside the house, but someone always chased him out before he reached the stairs.
   Just when he began to think he might never get inside, his chance came. As the removal men manouvered a fridge-freezer through the kitchen doorway, one of them knocked a packing box off the table. It hit the ground with an expensive crash, spewing broken china across the tiled floor.
   While the humans scrambled to clear up the mess, Snowy dashed through the front doorway.
   The house reeked of new carpet. Even with his mouth closed, the smell of it all but took his breath away. He scampered up the stairs, keeping to the wall where no one could spot him from the kitchen, but when he reached the landing, he snagged his front, right paw in the lush, bottle-green carpet.
   He tried to pull free, without success.
   Another tug, harder this time. A few inches of thread unraveled. He rolled over and over in an effort to twist free. If anything, it made things worse.
   Standing on three legs, facing the staircase, Snowy examined the mesh of green fabric around his claws and paw. How did it get so tangled?
   Someone flushed the toilet in the upstairs bathroom behind him.
   Frantic now, he scratched and clawed at the twined threads that tethered him to the landing. The frayed edges billowed like candy floss, but held firm. At the sound of running water he redoubled his efforts, this time using his teeth.
   The door opened.
   The children's father backed out of the bathroom, waving a can of air freshener about him. Snowy gave a last, desperate heave. The thread snapped. He scampered to the bedroom at the far end of the landing as a cloud of lavender mist descended behind him. He charged through the open doorway, then dived sideways to hide beneath the twin bed which had not been there the last time he'd been in the room.
   The boy sat slouched over a desk by the window, staring off into the horizon. The little girl lay on the bed, watching TV with the sound off.
   From his hiding place, Snowy listened for signs of pursuit.
   Nothing.
   On the day he'd returned to the cottage to find himself locked out, he'd left his keepsake in the built-in closet on the far wall, along with Mrs. Willikin's TV remote and a halfeaten candy bar. The closet door was closed now. He could open it, but not without the children seeing him. Can't risk getting caught, he decided.
   If they chuck me out again, I might never get back inside. I'll wait till things settle down. Once I get it back, I'll hide out until someone opens the front door, then scarper.
   He curled into a ball and tried to settle down, but a strange sound came from by the window, like blunt claws scratching on a smooth surface.
   Curious, Snowy crawled forward to see what made the noise. The boy was bent over his desk, with a colored pencil in his hand.
   An artist. No wonder he looks so bloomin' miserable.
   He crawled back out of sight. Despite the unfamiliar smells and constant noise, he soon fell asleep.
   Some time later, he woke with a start to find that night had fallen. He could hear slow breathing coming from the bed above. Otherwise, aside from a soothing tick…tock…tick…tock from somewhere downstairs, the rest of the house was quiet.
   Not quite how I planned it, he thought, but the same result.
   He crept out from his hiding place.
   It was time.