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Bad Jokes & Body Parts – Read Chapter 2 Now!

I see dead people.

And I’m not the only one. They’re even on Facebook….

“Zombies don’t exist. You told me they don’t exist.”

“There’s a corpse clawing its way out of a grave over there. I’m open to the possibility that I may have been wrong.”

I see dead people.

And I’m not the only one. They’re even on Facebook.

The dead are rising, and if we don’t stop them before the infection spreads any further, we’re going to be knee-deep in the zombie apocalypse before you can say mmm, brains.

The only problem is, we don’t know why they’re rising, who started it, or how to stop them.

But G & C London, Private Investigators, are on the case. Just as soon as we get through dealing with disapproving reapers, irate magicians, zombie-fied chickens, and a small internal case of undeadness.

Trust us.


Edit: Of course, A Contagion of Zombies has now been out for rather a while, which means that you can grab your copy in ebook or paperback right now from your favourite retailers! Happy reading – and watch out for stray arms …


Lovely people, did you catch the first chapter of Gobbelino London’s new adventure last week? If not, head over here and read that one first!

A Contagion of Zombies, Gobbelino London PI’s second book, is out very soon! Much sooner than I seem to have got my head around, actually, but that’s not surprising. Disorganisation plus the fact that many of us are unsure what day it is? Yep, I’m glad the actual publish button thing is automated …

Anyhow, as it is automated, Contagion is going to be hitting shops on Friday 22nd, and if you’d like it to arrive all magic-like (nice magic, not raise-the-dead magic) on your e-reader for only 99p, get your pre-order in at your favourite retailer now!

As always, of course, I wanted to give you a little bit of a taster first, so read on for chapter two. (And chapter one is here if you need to read that first!)

Happy reading, and mind the, ah, body parts…

gobbelino london, book 2, contagion of zombies, new books, new releases

Gobbelino London & a Contagion of Zombies

Chapter Two – Mostly ‘Armless

Our building wasn’t one of the better ones on the block. Hell, there were two derelict mills just down the street that looked more structurally sound than it did. But they didn’t have little bedsits (with en suite. I mean, we were living the high life) for rent at a price even a broke PI firm could afford. And, to be fair, it had been in better condition before the events of the autumn, when a book of power had tried to tear reality apart, with our building at the epicentre of an interdimensional storm. That takes a toll on the best of places.

We pushed our way through the main door, which had never locked. Since the whole reality storm thing, it didn’t close at all. One side was higher than the other, and there were some disturbing cracks in the wall, but until it actually fell down around us we weren’t going anywhere. Cheap housing-slash-office space in Leeds is not easy to come by.

Yeah, I know. Gobbelino London, but I live in Leeds. I really wish people would stop asking me about that. Sugar in the wound and what have you. Or is it spice? Whatever, leave it alone. Some memories are best left where they are. It’s not always healing to revisit the past.

We headed upstairs, taking care to jump over the gap under the bottom step. Strange winds whispered in the dark, and there was a pile of fish bones outside it. Well, they looked like fish bones from jumping distance. I wasn’t going to go any closer. We ignored the gap, and so far the gap had ignored us. As I say, there were some scars.

Our little apartment door with the classy black plaque that said G & C London, Private Investigators was still locked, although I was pretty sure even Petra could have pushed it down with one hand. It was less the fact of it than the principle though, that thing of having a door to lock the world out. It’s not something stray cats get much of, and it’s not something we pine for. PI cats, on the other hand, are quite fond of having a door to protect their microwaveable bed and sardine supply.

Callum hung his coat on the back of the bathroom door and put the kettle on in the tiny cupboard that passed as a kitchenette.

“Custard?” he asked.

“Won’t say no,” I said, and jumped onto the desk. Callum opened the desk drawer and let out a small green snake. The snake wriggled onto the desk, hissed at me, I hissed back, and, pleasantries over, he got on with whatever snaky things he had to do. Green Snake was a leftover from the book of power thing too. I’d have preferred the underfloor heating had stayed, but snake it was. That’s just how our luck tends to run.

“What do you think about the arm?” Callum asked, putting a little bowl of custard in front of me and going back to fix his tea.

“It was gross,” I said, trying the custard. Callum was insisting on lactose-free versions, and I was unconvinced.

“Well, yeah. It was a dismembered arm. But did you smell anything?”

“Decaying flesh?”

“Gobs.”

I licked my chops and stared at him as he sat down in the big desk chair, mug of tea in one hand. The snake wriggled off the desk and slipped onto Callum’s leg, where he draped himself comfortably. “What? Was there magic involved, you mean?”

“Yeah. Or, you know, leftovers from the book thing. It seems like a bit of a coincidence, don’t you think?”

Coincidence. Yeah, I don’t believe in them, but … I thought about it, remembering the whiff of rot and silence and deep, still places in the boneyard. The book had been anything but still. It had been alive with power. It had been hungry. “I don’t think so,” I said. “I mean, it was just an arm. Maybe they had an oops with a grave-digging machine or something.”

“You’d think they’d notice that. And it was pretty fresh – it’s not like they dug into an old grave accidentally.”

Hmm. Grave robbers?”

“Still had jewellery on it.”

“Bloody territorial moles, then. I don’t know, Callum. I couldn’t smell any magic. Dead bodies are really only of interest to ghouls, and they tend to like their meat a little more well-seasoned.”

“Ghouls?”

“Yeah. Ghouls.” I popped my front claws out and pawed the air, baring my teeth. “Bring out your dead!

“That was the Black Plague,” he said.

“Ghouls loved that. Bodies were seasoned before they even hit the ground.”

He wrinkled his nose and opened a packet of dodgy-looking off-brand custard creams. They hadn’t even spelt the name right – the packet said Cuttard Crems. “Should I be worried?” he asked.

“Not unless you have the plague. Ghouls have plenty of dead to munch on. They don’t usually worry about making their own.”

“Usually,” he said, dipping a Cuttard Crem into his tea.

“Hey, there’s always a first time.”

“Great,” he said, and leaned back in his chair so he could put his feet on the desk. “You can keep watch for them, then.”

“Sure. They don’t eat cats.”

“There’s always a first time,” he said, and picked up his book while I glared at him. The snake stared at me with eyes that matched his scales, and I tried to think about other creatures that hung around the dead. There weren’t many. The living were always more interesting.

#

We didn’t fancy being arrested for grave desecration, so we gave it until after midnight before we headed back to the cemetery, when even the champion bottle-smashers in the alley had given it a break until morning. It had started raining as the dark came in, a heavy, persistent drizzle that said it was here to stay, so we ran through it to the car, the growing puddles on the road splashing up into my face and making me snort. This is the problem with being low-slung and elegant.

Callum let me jump in the driver’s side door and over to the passenger seat, then folded his long legs and already sodden jacket in and started poking and pulling things in an effort to get the car started.

“That coat’s not even waterproof,” I told him.

“It’s more a style choice than a practical one,” he said, trying the key. The car did the vehicular equivalent of sticking its tongue out at him.

“What style’s that? Dead man chic?”

“Well, it’s appropriate for the evening then, isn’t it?” he said, and turned the key again. The car stuttered a couple of times, then caught. “There we go.”

“I can’t believe we still haven’t got a new car.”

“Well, find us some high-paying cases, then.”

I sighed, and set to cleaning some of the water off my coat. High-paying cases did not seem to be in our job description. The book of power case could have been high paying, but we’d sort of had to destroy the thing before getting it back to its rightful owner, which had come out of our pay cheque. Then the rightful owner, the glorious and terrifying Ms Jones, had paid us a not un-generous retainer based on my passing any information I could get to her about the Watch, the cat council that keeps humans and magical Folk apart.

Unfortunately I’d had no contact with the Watch since, and people – well, clients – kept breaking things in our office, so most of our money went toward replacing chairs and stuff. And we’d ended up with a rush of Folk cases, which were all very well, but they kept paying us in waterproof goblin-hair blankets and weirdly flavoured pixie cakes, which, oddly enough, didn’t pay the rent. And Callum kept accepting it, because he said who else was going to help them? I personally thought that, if that was the case, they could sort their own problems out, but that’s Callum. He likes cake, even if it is hawthorn and thistle flavoured.

So old car it was. But that still didn’t excuse him wearing that coat.

#

We parked across the road from the cemetery, finding a gap in the queue of cars parked outside the terraced houses that lined the block. There were no lights on in any of them, no TV showing blue through the curtains, just the yellow of the streetlights and, down on the main road, a garage shining pale and lonely among the residential buildings. Callum switched the engine off and we sat for a little while, watching the rain on the windscreen and making sure a police car on patrol wasn’t about to pop around the corner, or more body parts appear out of the bushes.

“Looks alright,” I said eventually.

“Dead quiet,” Callum said, and grinned at me.

I spared a moment to envy Cyril his rolling eyes and said, “Genius. Shall we go?”

“You’re no fun.” He opened the door and stepped out into the soggy night, pausing to grab the shovel off the back seat. We hurried across the road and into the shadow of the half-naked trees that lined the outside of the wall, hiding the dead from the living – or vice versa. I wasn’t sure. My own experiences of death had been violent and thankfully short, so I wasn’t sure what human afterlife looked like. As far as my own went, I was already emerging into my next life before I had time to form much of an opinion, other than the fact that dying hurt. A lot.

I crouched by the wall, then launched myself at it, skittering up the ragged stone with my claws out and my ears back. Stone was always easier than brick – more claw-holds. It didn’t half hurt if you bumped your nose on a pointy bit, though. I perched on the top and peered around, the night rendered in shades of grey and violet and the rain trickling through the thin fur around my ears.

“All clear. Come on up.”

“Heads.” Callum chucked the shovel over the wall, then jumped to grab the smooth stone top. He muscled himself up, boots scrabbling for grip, until he could swing one leg over and pause next to me. The trees still surrounded us, even if the shelter was a bit patchier up here under their leafless branches. We scanned the long lines of markers rubbing stone shoulders with each other while the crypts hunched in silent contemplation under the cover of more leaning trees. “Looks okay,” he said.

“I did say.”

“So you did.” He swung his other leg over and dropped to the ground, landing with a stumble and a curse.

“Alright?” I asked, sliding my forepaws down the wall then jumping after him.

“Bloody nettles,” he mumbled, fishing the shovel out of a clump and scratching his hand. “Ow.

“Diddums.” I picked my way out of the bushes into clearer ground. “Maybe Petra can rub some lotion on for you.”

He grunted as he followed me. “Where did we leave the arm?”

I stopped and stared at him. “You’ve forgotten?”

He covered his mouth with one hand and widened his eyes. “Oh no!”

“Don’t say it,” I warned him.

“We’re ’armless!”

“Oh, gods,” I sighed. “You cabbage. This is why you don’t date, isn’t it?”

He grinned, shouldering the shovel. “I also don’t want to have to explain why I live with a humourless cat.”

“That was not humour. That was painful.”

“You have no taste.” He led the way along the edge of the trees, peering into the undergrowth. “Here we go.” He pulled a bin bag out of one of his over-sized coat pockets,

shaking it out noisily and making my ears twitch. He used the bag like a glove to pick up the arm, then turned it inside out over the limb and bundled the top closed, his nose wrinkled. “Ew.”

I waited until he picked the shovel up again, then padded off into the graves, heading for where Cyril had been careering around earlier. “It must be somewhere around here. The bloody dog was all over the place.”

“What did you do to get him digging up graves?”

“I didn’t. I flicked a couple of stones around, then boom, unattached arm.” I stopped by a grave and sniffed the decorative stones that had tumbled onto it. “Here. I chucked a stone from here, then ran over here,” I loped a couple of graves over and jumped on top of the marker. Yes, I could smell dog drool and my own faint, familiar scent. “And from here I flicked it … somewhere.” I gazed over the graves.

Callum had followed me, and now he stood on his tiptoes to peer over the rows. “Well, it should be easy enough to spot.”

“You’d think.” We headed for the next row, but there was nothing to see except uneven lines of markers, some leaning a little forward as if ready to collapse, others leaning back as if someone was pushing them up from below, the stone dark with rain and the old flowers left on some of the graves looking brown and forlorn. We moved on, and Callum gave a little huh.

“That must be it.”

“Looks like it,” I said, and followed him as he crossed to the raw wound of earth doming out of a new grave. It was churned up and uneasy looking. The marker read, Gladys Foster, beloved wife, sister, mother, and said nothing about her being missing an arm.

Callum stared down at the dirt then said, “I’m not opening the coffin.”

Ew. No. Can’t you just kind of shove it in there somewhere?”

“Well, I’ll try to do a bit better than that, just in case anyone else walks their dog around here.”

“I’m pretty sure that’s not the done thing,” I told him, jumping to the top of the gravestone to watch him. The dirt was seeping to mud in the grass, and I could feel it getting between my toes. “Why were we here, even?”

He shrugged. “Better than the park, isn’t it?”

Well, that was fair. The park was less grass than dead earth scarred by old fires, and more cigarette butts and discarded cans than flowers. And that was before you even mentioned the duck pond full of bobbing wine bottles (but no ducks), and the fact that there were a lot of interesting people camping in the bushes. Some of them were human, some of them not so much, and one had grabbed my tail and tried to shove me in a pressure cooker last time we were there. It wasn’t my favourite spot.

But still. A cemetery? I watched Callum as he started digging, the rain slicking his hair to his head and cheeks and running off the tip of his nose as he worked. He didn’t seem inclined to discuss it further.

#

The loose dirt made digging easy, and before long Callum had a trench a bit longer than the arm and almost the same depth. I say before long, but I was shivering. The rain had eased to a drizzle, but only after finding its way right through my long outer fur and the protective undercoat as well, painting cold fingers down my spine. He placed the bin bag in the trench and stared at it, then at me.

“Well?” I said. “Job’s a good’un.”

“Should we say something?” he asked.

“Like what?”

“A prayer, or something.”

“We have no idea if she was religious. And anyway, do you know any?”

“No,” he admitted, and scooped some dirt onto the shovel. “Well, sorry about all that, Gladys. Be at peace, I guess.”

“Yep. Rest in pieces.” I snorted, but he ignored me and kept filling in the mini grave, which was a bit off. That was at least as funny as his jokes had been.

I watched for a bit, then jumped to the ground and stretched, strolling down the row. There were some fairly fresh graves in this area, wedged in among the older ones. I guess it got crowded, and they just had to fit everyone in where they could. There were always so many dead.

I jumped to the top of a shiny marble gravestone to investigate a dripping pinwheel turning slowly under the weight of the rain, and as I leaped I felt the earth give softly under my paws. I stumbled but still made the jump, then turned to peer back down at the grave. I couldn’t see anything – there must’ve been a pocket of loose dirt. I looked up, checking on Callum, but he was still digging. I scanned the full circuit of the cemetery again. As far as I could see we were alone.

A shiver of movement caught my eye and I looked back, whiskers twitching. A vase of flowers on the grave below me trembled, then fell over. Weird. They were definitely having some burial-related issues at the moment. I jumped off the marker, making sure I stayed well clear of the grave itself – not that I was worried about walking over someone’s grave, of course, because there’s nothing in them except bones, but I had no intention of falling into some coffin-filled sinkhole.

There was a whisper in the air over my head as I ambled back to Callum, and I stopped to watch a flight of bats skittering past, their movement swift and jerkily graceful, their faint squeaks making my ears flick. They were chasing tiny critters across the dim sky, and their cries of joy as they caught them were little shivers of sound running through the last traces of the rain.

Callum was patting the dirt back onto the grave carefully as I stopped next to him.

“Shouldn’t there be turf on top of it?” I asked.

“I thought so too, but there doesn’t seem to be any. Maybe Cyril did just dig it up.”

I eyed him. “I’m pretty sure coffins are compulsory.”

“You can get cardboard ones these days.”

“Did you even get as far down as the coffin, cardboard or otherwise?”

He sighed. “No. But I can’t work it out. If it was grave robbers, they would’ve taken her rings and so on. And you say it can’t be ghouls. Are you sure there’s nothing else?”

I sat down and scratched my shoulder with one hind leg, the circular sucker scars from the beast of the Inbetween still itching and stinging. “Roaming packs of starving wolves. Maybe a horde of impoverished medical students. Or zombies.”

He snorted. “You told me zombies don’t exist.”

“They don’t,” I said, and yawned. “The rest are possible, though.”

“Sure they are.” He gave Gladys’ grave a last, reassuring pat, then shouldered the shovel like a rifle. “Home? I could do with a cuppa after that.”

“I could do with a hairdryer,” I said, and started to follow him, but I’d barely taken two steps before a flicker of movement caught my eye. I stopped mid-stride and turned toward it. Not bats, I didn’t think. It had been low to the ground, deeper among the graves. Too small to be someone walking. I squinted into the rain, but it didn’t come again. Had it been another cat, perhaps? That could be awkward. I mean, we weren’t doing anything wrong, exactly. We were, in fact, righting a wrong, but if it was a Watch cat they could be … prickly. And most took a dim view of cats who talked to their humans, unless their human was a Watch-approved cat lady.

There. A flutter of movement, hard to catch in the low light. It looked like it was coming from the new grave I’d been investigating. The one with the falling flowers. “Callum,” I said.

“What?” He turned back to me.

“There’s something out here.”

What?” He dropped into a crouch, peering around anxiously. “Where?”

“Over there,” I said, lowering my voice. “Down the row. About six graves along. See the big marker? There.”

He swore, crouching a little lower and staring into the dark. “Night watchman?”

“I don’t know,” I said, thinking of the way the earth had given under my paws and the unsettling image of sinkholes. “I don’t think so. Can you see?”

He shuffled back to me in his half-crouch so he could peer down our row without being silhouetted against the night. Enough light filtered in from the streets outside that he hadn’t needed the torch while he was digging, but it still must’ve been dim to his eyes. “I think I can see something moving. It’s not a person. Rats, maybe?”

I squinted. The movement was ill-defined, but it didn’t have the busy industry of rats. It made me think of moles, but I hadn’t seen any molehills anywhere. I kind of thought they’d be pretty unpopular in a graveyard, to be honest. Humans are kind of squeamish about such things.

The movement came again, and now I was thinking of moles it suddenly resolved itself into something that made sense, like buildings emerging from mist. Well, it made a shaky sort of suspend-your-disbelief sense, but cats aren’t humans. We don’t run around shouting that things can’t be so when the evidence is right in front of our eyes, shaky or not. “Dude,” I said. “It’s a grave.”

“It’s a what?” Callum spoke too loudly, and when I looked at him I could see his hands were so tight on the shovel that the white of his knuckles showed even through the dirt.

“It’s a gods-damned grave.” Even as I spoke, the earth heaved and two arms appeared, reaching rather dramatically for the sky. A head followed them, and the hands pawed clumsily at the face as the mouth opened in a moan, then there was a pause while their owner looked around. “You know,” I said, “I may have to rethink my stance on the whole zombie thing.”

Callum just stared at me.


gobbelino london, book 2, contagion of zombies, new books, new releases

Lovely people, if you fancy a little more snarky cat in your life, head on over to your favourite online retailer and grab your copy from your favourite retailer now!

Happy reading!

book 2, chaper two, contagion of zombies, excerpt, Gobbelino London, new release

  1. Lynda Dietz says:

    “Well, sorry about all that, Gladys. Be at peace, I guess.”

    That is one of the lines that cracked me up every time. It’s so wonderfully understated.

    You realize every time I see these excerpts, I still read them as if I’ve never seen any of it. I love that Callum tries to be funny and Gobbelino will have none of it, and then Gobbelino tries to be funny and no one gets it. I mean, BABY GOATS.

    1. Kim Watt says:

      I love so much that you still find them funny – I mean, you’ve read them near enough as much as me by now!

      And I’m keeping baby goats. I don’t know why, but I have to. I tried to explain it to the SO the other day, and he sort of laughed dutifully, so I’m not sure it translates, but still…

      1. Lynda Dietz says:

        I think what I love so much about baby goats is that everyone just wants to hurt him when he says it (or starts to say it), lol. Or they just stare at him. And I’m laughing just picturing the whole thing.

        1. Kim Watt says:

          But does he care? No. Of course not. 😉

Comment away! (Points awarded for comments involving cats, tea, or baked goods)

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