Exerpt from “A Moonlit Task”

Hey all! Here is an exerpt from Chapter One of A Moonlit Task, up for pre-order now. See you on February 7th! – Tom

 

Nancy turned onto Edna’s street. Right outside the entrance to Edna’s posh renovated loft was a large moving van. Two men and a woman were hefting a couch into the front door. The lamplight overhead cast elongated shadows into the street. Why were people moving in this late at night?

“Now how am I supposed to get in?” She glanced down at the time. Three minutes until the show started. They were pushing it as it was, and now the moving van blocked the entrance to the underground parking lot.

“Just pull up in front of the alley. We can move the car after the show.” Edna pointed to the alley a dozen feet ahead of the moving van.

Nancy hesitated for a moment, pondering the legality and the sensibility of leaving in front of an alley before finally going for it, parking and turning off the car.

As soon as her hand left the dangling keys, an overwhelming feeling washed over her, like someone whispering directly into her head. “I need to go down the alleyway.” Her own words surprised her, as they sounded otherworldly, like someone had taken control of her voice for a moment.

Edna looked at her quizzically. “What are you talking about?”

Nancy tried to shake the intrusive feeling that had come and gone. “Sorry … I don’t know, I just had a sudden desire to go down the alleyway.”

Edna narrowed her eyes, leaning forward a bit. “Is this related to your dreams? You refuse to tell me what the woman keeps saying to you every night. Are those still going on because if they are I know someone …”

She trailed off as she looked at Nancy’s eyes wide with shock.

A small squeak escaped Nancy’s lips.

“What’s …”

Something large, orange, and heavy slammed into the passenger door, hurling Edna toward the middle of the car. Nancy’s heart raced. The back of her hand hit the steering wheel. Pain shot up her arm. She tasted blood in her mouth.

The large shape jumped onto the hood of Nancy’s car, cutting off the lamplight streaming in through the windshield.

It was a gigantic cat with large, dark stripes across it’s back. The weight of the massive feline lurched the car downward, stressing the shock absorbers. Streetlights cast oddly beautiful wave-like shadows on the hood of her car. Its tail swished back and forth in graceful but jerky, agitated strokes.

Edna sneezed, then hiccuped.

Nancy gasped. What the hell was a tiger doing in downtown Madison, Wisconsin? Her mind raced, trying to make sense of the situation. “Oh, God!” She remembered the headline on the newspaper: the vicious deaths of late. A shudder ran up her spine, but she set her jaw. She wasn’t going to be the next victim.

The large cat looked at both women for a long moment then opened its mouth and bared its teeth before lifting its paw to its mouth to lick.

“Lock your door.” Nancy’s could barely hear her own voice over her thundering heart.

Both women locked their doors. The cat eyed Nancy. Her heart froze. Something deep inside her chest tugged, like a distant memory trying to rise to the surface. You have nothing to worry about. Nancy shuddered again.

The large cat turned away, continuing to groom itself.

Edna craned her head up an inch to look at the cat. “We should call someone.”

Nancy nodded, slowly. “Yes, please do.” Her voice was distant, methodical.

“My purse is in the backseat.”

“Can you reach it?” Nancy didn’t dare take her eyes off the beast.

Edna rooted around with an arm behind her, trying to reach her purse in the backseat while keeping her face forward. “I don’t think so. Can you honk?”

Nancy pursed her lips, thinking through her options. Suddenly she came upon an idea. She turned the key a click, grabbed the turn signal, and twisted.

The wipers sprang into action, squeaking along the outside of the windshield. A half second later, the sprayers kicked in, wiper fluid spewing all over the glass.

The cat looked up again and bared its teeth at the women. With a swish of its tail and a squeak of the shocks, it jumped off into the street and bounded through Central Park before disappearing into the night.

Nancy and Edna sat in silence for a while, the elevated breathing between them eventually calming down.

When they dared a glance at each other, Edna was the first one to lose composure. She roared with laughter. Nancy followed immediately after.

They settled down after a minute of nerve-calming hysterics and, after a careful look around the car to ensure the cat was truly gone, dared venture out. Nancy stood watch while Edna reached into the backseat to get at her cell phone. That was when Nancy heard the moan from the alleyway.