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No One Ever Talks About the Book Wolves

A deleted scene from the fifth Gobbelino London book, featuring two of his least favourite things …

Lovely people, if you subscribe to my newsletter, you will know I have become intimately familiar with the term herding cats in the course of writing the latest Gobbelino London book.

Which, yes, I know is appropriate, and also, yes, I brought it on myself by choosing to write a series about a feline PI. I mean, choosing. ‘Choosing’, really. Some characters are insistent, and anyone who’s ever shared space with a cat knows just how insistent the average feline can be. Their level of willpower is entirely disproportionate to their body mass. Just like their personalities.

Anyhow. Cat herding continues, but the end result is that I’ve ended up with some very fun extra scenes when they all got away on me. Some of these I’ll share with newsletter subscribers only (yes, that’s an incredibly unsubtle hint about how you should sign up here if you haven’t already), but this one is for everyone.

Happy reading, lovely people!

Gobbelino London, exceprt, short read, fiction, funny, fantasy, werewolves


No One Ever Talks About the Book Wolves

By the time we found parking in Ilkley it was past nine, when the bookshop opened. Callum had stripped his scarf off in deference to the car’s patchy heater, so he wound it back on again as we stepped out into the chill of the streets. People bustled about in bright puffer jackets and hiking boots, as if heading off on a Himalayan expedition instead of popping to the shops, and there were more flat caps around than seemed reasonable. The buildings were grey stone, most of them no more than two or three stories, and the shops brightly lit even in the low winter sun. I could smell bread baking, and the sweet green scent of open places.

The bookshop was on a side street that led away from the town centre, and by the time we got there my paws were cold and I’d already slapped one Yorkshire terrier and hissed at a Rottweiler and a sausage dog. Callum had apologised each time, but it was the dogs’ own bloody fault. Reasonable animals don’t go sticking their noses in others’ faces. 

And then I smelled it. Smelled the heavy feral scent, all wet hair and exuberance that bordered on abandon, and the feral desire for deep wild places where old laws still held. I stopped short, and Callum glanced back at me. 

“What?” he said quietly.

I shook myself off, trying to get my hackles to lay flat. “It’s close.”

“Just up there.” He kept his voice low. “Want to sit this one out?”

Yes. “No.” I made myself start walking again, trotting alongside him as we approached the bookshop door. It wasn’t large, just one big display window looking over the street, crammed with books. Beyond it I could glimpse a sofa with a couple of humans on it, drinking coffee from mismatched mugs. Shelves wound their way back into the building, one of those places that are all nooks and crannies and hidden alcoves. Plenty of places for lurking. I shivered.

There were books on carts to either side of the door, and Callum paused for a moment, running his fingers over the titles.

“Focus,” I said, although my heart wasn’t really in it.

“You want to wait out here?” he asked. 

Everything in me was screaming that the answer was yes. Even under the dusty scent of yellowing pages and worlds corralled in words, even under the whiff of rich dark coffee and melted chocolate, I could still smell the were. It set up shivers in my spine and made my tail pouf out despite my best efforts to still it. 

But I just said, “No. If you go in there alone you’ll only come out eight hours later with two boxes of books and no info on the case at all.”

“Fair point,” he said. “Lift?”

I considered it. Going into a were den on Callum’s shoulder held a certain appeal, not least a height advantage. But there was also a question of personal dignity, even if Pru and Tam hadn’t turned up yet.

“Let’s just get this over with, shall we?”

Callum nodded and pushed the door open, setting a little bell jangling softly. The scent of coffee, old books, and barely tamed beast washed out, and we walked in.

#

There was music playing inside the shop, some soft tinkly plinky stuff like you hear in posh department stores. Yes, I’ve been into top department stores. Not with Callum, obviously. He’d never get past the door. But even cats who can’t shift can sneak into most places, because people rarely question cats. We are always where we mean to be, and as long as we’re not obvious about things, humans tend to accept that. And, as it happens, posh department stores sometimes have fancy smoked salmon samples out. Caviar, even, although that’s a bit sticky and weird. There are better parts of the fish to eat than eggs.

Callum wandered into the maze of shelves with his hands in the pockets of his old, long coat, probably to stop himself grabbing books like a papery magpie. It was warm in here, the wood floors soothing on my cold paws. I spotted an old iron radiator on the wall by the door as we walked in, and from deeper in the shop I could hear the low murmur of voices. I peered around a shelf packed with hardbacks at two women leaning toward each other over a small table, a plate of biscuits between them.

“I couldn’t possibly do another date,” one was saying, taking a sip of tea. “He only reads political memoirs!”

“At least he reads,” the other said. “My last date told me she didn’t see the point, since all the decent books were made into movies.”

They both sighed, and the first woman picked up a fat finger of shortbread, scattering crumbs as she took a bite.

“I tell you,” she said indistinctly, “I’m going to have to become a cat lady at this rate.”

“They do seem less trouble,” the other agreed.

I looked up at Callum. The corner of his mouth twitched, and he said in a low voice, “If only they knew.”

I huffed, and we left the women to their relationship woes and headed deeper into the shop. The place was crammed with books, the shelves reaching to the ceiling. Folding stepladders leaned against them in a few places, along with little notices that said, Help yourself – but please ask if you’d like assistance! Each shelf had helpful signs stuck to them, saying things like, This is modern space opera sci-fi. Round the corner for classic sci-fi! Index cards stuck out of individual books with notes recommending them for readers of other books, or suggesting that they were best read in a series or not. There were stairs off to one side, with a sign painted on rough board, Non-fiction this way! Even the wooden floor had arrows painted on it, pointing to various genres, all with an exclamation mark stuck on the end.

“Can tell it’s a were,” I said.

“How?” Callum asked.

“All those exclamation marks. Only a dog’s that excitable.”

“Pretty sure you shouldn’t call a were a dog.”

“Smell like dogs,” I muttered.

Callum ambled deeper into the shop, following an arrow that read, This way to reading fuel! The aisles of the shelves twisted and dog-legged, opening onto little nooks and crannies that were filled with overstuffed armchairs or sofas big enough for two, as long as you didn’t mind getting cosy with each other. Some of them were occupied by people with stacks of books on their laps or the floor next to them, often balancing coffees or teas on the edges of a handy shelf or the arm of the seat. It was a strange mix of clientele. There was a faery with his wings folded tight under a coat that was almost as tatty as Callum’s, reading a book with a mostly naked man on the cover. There was a woman in a dressing gown and sheepskin slippers reading about quantum physics. A dryad in a three-piece suit was reading a horticulture book and tutting loudly, and two kids who looked like they should be in school were squeezed into a sofa together, the hoods of their jumpers up over their heads and their tracksuit bottoms too short to cover their skinny ankles. They were sharing a large slice of lemon cake and reading Hamlet to each other in dramatic voices.

No one seemed to be gnawing on bones or in any danger of being gnawed on. We were evidently dealing with a rather more stealthy breed of were here. Maybe he lured them in with cake and got the scents of the tastiest looking ones so he could stalk them later. Although I supposed that could be bad for business.

We emerged from the shelves to find that the very back of the shop looked out over a garden that was mostly gravel. Through the large window we could see a collection of wooden tables and chairs scattered among half barrels of plants, and flower beds lined the walls. They were all winter-dull, but a woman was sitting at one of the tables, a large blanket wrapped around her and a cigarette burning in a saucer next to a pile of books. She looked up, and her eyes glittered. She was Folk of some sort, but it was hard to tell much else from here. Plenty of bloodlines had dispersed over the years, mixing with humans. It gave to creatures who didn’t quite fit in either world, Folk ignorant of the hidden world and humans who could see things they were told couldn’t exist. Creatures like that tended to fall through cracks in both worlds. The woman at the table didn’t look like she was falling anywhere, though. Throwing other people into cracks, maybe.

There was a wide bench seat inside the window, plus a couple of tables and chairs gathered in front of a counter that was crowned with a large, glossy coffee machine and a whole selection of cake stands, sprouting like multi-coloured mushrooms. There was no one behind the counter, and we looked at each other. Callum started to say something, then we caught the sound of someone humming, along with a wash of that now-familiar, feral scent. I scooted behind Callum’s legs, out of sight, and the were emerged from the stacks, carrying a stack of used plates and cups in one big paw.

Well, paw. Hand, I suppose, but it was a big hand, and possibly a little hairier than was necessary. Not as hairy as his face, though. He had an enormous beard that tended to ginger.

“Oh, hello,” he said to Callum. “What can I get you?”

“Um,” Callum said, glancing at me. I nodded. The stench clung to Ginger like a wet blanket. He was our were. “Tea, please.”

“Not a problem.” The were deposited the used plates on the counter. “Fancy or builder’s?”

“Builder’s,” Callum said, grinning.

“Yorkshire good?”

“Perfect.”

The were busied himself with a mug and the kettle, still humming, and I examined him while his back was turned. He was wearing skinny jeans and a green T-shirt that read, Sorry, I’m booked under a drawing of a hand sticking out from under a pile of fallen hardbacks. He was broad-shouldered and flat-bellied, and looked like he spent more time in a gym than a bookshop. I suppose weres have a good metabolism, what with all that running around tearing people to pieces.

The were set the mug on the counter, with a spoon and a saucer. “I’ll let you mash it. No point my doing it and getting it wrong.”

“Sure,” Callum said, taking over the tea as the were fetched milk from a small fridge. “Nice shop.”

“First time here?” the were asked, setting a piece of shortbread next to the mug. I’d scooted closer to the counter while his back was turned, and peered up at him suspiciously.

“Yeah, we don’t usually come out this way.”

“We? Do you need another—“ the were stopped, and I heard him sniff. It was a snuffly, inquisitive sound, and I wondered how quick he was in human form. Or if he’d risk changing with humans in the shop. Either way, I was mapping my exits. Just as a precaution, you know. “You’ve got a cat in here,” he said.

“Well,” Callum started, and the were snatched the mug away from him.

“I don’t allow cats in here.”

Callum looked longingly at the tea, then at the were. “He’s not Watch.”

“How do you know that? Because he told you? You can’t trust cats.”

I peered out from the shelter of the counter, then stepped back where the were could see me – and where I had a straight shot for the front door. “Morning.”

The were growled, a rumbling sound that set my tail off again. “You’re not welcome here.”

“Trust me, dude, I’d rather not be here either. But we have a were problem, and a certain troll told us you might be able to help.”

“Since when does a cat look for help from a were?” he demanded. His scent had intensified, thick and pungent. “Why don’t you just go to the Watch and they can run us out of town, just like always?”

“Oh, run you out of town? Terrifying. The Watch keep killing me. I probably like them less than you do.”

“The Watch, kill a cat? I doubt it.” He almost spat the words, and I caught sight of slightly pointier canines than were usually necessary.

“Then you don’t know them as well as you think you do. I’ve had three lives and they’ve killed me every time. Unpleasantly.”

We glared at each other. My heart was going too fast, and I wasn’t sure if that was memories of the Watch or the presence of the were. My nose was full of his scent, thick and heavy and feral, but at least there was no trace of that other cold steel scent from the day before. A were was enough to deal with. I didn’t want to worry about anything more.

“We really have nothing to do with the Watch,” Callum said. “We’ve lost a … friend, and there are signs weres had been at her house. We just wanted any information you could give us.”

The were’s gazed flicked from me to Callum, then back to me. “You’re definitely not Watch?”

“Cross my heart and hope you die,” I said.

He frowned at me.

“Hope to die,” Callum said.

“I have no desire to die.”

Callum looked at the were. “Sorry. I can’t figure out if he really doesn’t get sayings or is just wilfully obtuse.”

“Your sayings make no sense,” I pointed out.

“Hoping someone else dies does?”

“More than hoping I die.”

The were blinked at us both, then shook his head. “You certainly don’t seem like Watch.”

Callum looked at the tea, then at the were, and grinned hopefully. The were hesitated a moment longer, then handed it over.

“I need cake,” he said. “Want anything?”

“Got any cream?” I asked.

“You just had a cooked breakfast,” Callum said.

“It’s been a stressful morning.”

The were picked up another mug and set it on the coffee machine. “Definitely not Watch,” he said, almost to himself.

#

Five minutes later we were ensconced at one of the little tables, where the were could keep an eye on both the door to the garden and the aisles of the shelves. He kept his voice low as he said, “What happened with your friend?”

Callum took a sip of tea and sighed appreciatively. “We went to their house to see if we could find them, and the whole place was pretty torn apart.  The windows had been busted out, and the cats could smell weres.”

“You sure?” the were asked me.

“You lot are pretty distinctive.”

“That’s unusual behaviour, though. We try not to draw attention to ourselves.”

“All of you?” I asked. “I mean, I know you’re all Bookshop Bob here—“

“Ferdinand,” he said.

“What?”

“My name’s Ferdinand.”

“Really?”

“Ignore him,” Callum said. “He’s Gobbelino, I’m Callum.”

“Gobbelino?” the were said. “Really?”

I bared one tooth at him. I was becoming less worried he might dismember me and more worried he and Callum were going to start bonding over books. “So you’re all model citizens, then?”

“No,” Ferdinand said, carving a large lump of cake off with a fork. “But are all cats? Are all humans?”

“But we don’t turn into—“

“Gobs, eat your cream,” Callum said. “Ferdinand—“

“You can call me Ferds. Him, I’m not so sure about.” The were took a large gulp of coffee and dabbed foam from his moustache with a napkin.

“I don’t want to be called Ferds,” I muttered. “Gobs is bad enough.”

Callum scowled at me. “Shut up and eat your cream. Ferds, do you have any idea if there’s a … group that might be involved in some riskier stuff? Maybe doing some cash in hand work?”

“You can say pack. A lot of weres do pack up.”

I had a momentary vision of a load of wolves stacking moving crates with household goods.

“So are there any packs that might want to kidnap someone?” Callum asked.

“It’s possible.” Ferds took another forkful of cake. “A lot of us – and certainly all the weres I have contact with – just want a quiet life. Lots of us are vegetarian, and we have the changes under control. Full moon’s the only involuntary change, so we have secure rooms for that. There hasn’t been an attack or a turning by any sensible were for decades.”

“What about unsensible ones?” I asked, licking my chops. It was good cream, rich and silky, and I was probably going to have a stomach ache later.

“Well, there’s always plenty of those, too,” he admitted. “Those in particular do tend to pack up, but they also usually stick to their own territory. Rough areas, or remote spots where they can get on with things undisturbed.”

“Get on with what things? Mauling cattle and nipping maidens?”

Ferds crossed his arms. “You’re very prejudiced.”

“He’s like that with everyone,” Callum said. “No matter how many times he’s proved wrong.”

“Cats,” Ferds said with a sigh, and Callum nodded.

“Cats,” he agreed.

I glared at them both, then said, “Fine. So they don’t maul cattle and nip maidens. What things do unsensible weres get up to, then?”

Ferds shrugged. “Usually anything that needs some muscle and threat.”

“What about Dimly?” Callum asked. “Have you heard of a pack that’s moved in there?”

“Yeah, I have. I don’t think they’re based in Dimly itself, but they’re doing work there. That was pretty recent. There was some big upheaval there over the summer and it left a bit of a gap in the market – they’re taken over running all sorts of contraband. You know, human stuff in, Folk stuff out.”

“Do you know if they’d take on other jobs?” Callum asked.

“Like kidnapping? It’s possible. I don’t know them that well, but most of the packs will diversify to meet the market.”

“Diversify to meet the market? What are they, the capitalists of crime?” I asked.

Ferds snorted, and scrubbed his fingers through his beard. I half expected small birds to pop out of the thing. “You get a pretty good nose for how to fill a niche when most Folk will only deal with you when they have to.”

“You seem to do alright.”

“Even the more acceptable kinds have their outcasts. This is a safe space for all of them.”

I didn’t really have an answer for that. I could’ve done with more safe spaces over the years. Most of the ones I’d found had been safe only in the sense that there was no immediate danger of being eaten by anything. They’d been cold and lonely things, at least until I’d stumbled across Callum. Now they were just cold.

Ferds looked from one of us to the other when we didn’t answer, and his voice was gentler when he spoke again. “I stay clear of the packs. But I do have a contact in Leeds who knows pretty much everyone. She might be able to help you.”

“That would be great,” Callum said.

“Sure.” He got up, brushing cake crumbs off his jeans. “I’ll get her card. Is that all?”

“Yes. Thank you.” Callum glanced at the stacks. “I might just—“

No,” I said.

“I’m just going to look,” he said, and got up, taking his cup and plate to the counter.

I looked at Ferds, and he shrugged. “Books heal.”

“Books take up money better spent on tuna.”

“There’s more than one sort of hunger,” he said, and cleared the rest of the table. I sighed, and set to grooming my tail. It had almost calmed down, suggesting I was getting used to the stink of weres.

I didn’t know if that was a good thing or not.

Gobbelino London, exceprt, short read, fiction, funny, fantasy, werewolves


Now over to you, lovely people – any good bookshops near you? What’s the best bookshop you’ve been to? And what makes a bookshop special to you?

Let me know in the comments, and don’t forget to sign up for the newsletter for more Gobbelino excerpts and outtakes!

extra scenes, Gobbbelino London, Gobbelino, short story

  1. Carolyn says:

    papery magpie – that’s us! Love the new site particularly as it came up immediately. I’m pretty sure Ferds will reemerge in another tale – his character is good

    1. Kim says:

      They do say to write what you know, whoever ‘they’ are… 😉 And yes, I think Ferds will reappear at some stage. He was fun to write!

      I’m glad you like the site, too – I’m so glad it came up so quickly. I was really happy with the loading speed once I got done breaking things …

  2. Jenny Cocks says:

    Loved that except. Are you sure you need to leave it out! Can’t wait for the next book now. I love the dragons too, so much that I read all the books twice immediately.
    At long last we are having some sun too. Not swimming weather yet! Take vey good care

    1. Kim says:

      I wanted to leave it in so much! But this book grew all over the place, so severe pruning was needed. I may have to bring Ferds back in another book, though 😁

      And I’m so, SO glad you enjoyed the Beaufort books so much – that’s wonderful to hear! There’s no better compliment than a reread, so thank you so much.

      Enjoy the sun!

  3. Susan York says:

    I can see that I need to retrain my brain for reading this Gobbelino. As I’m reading through, I keep interpreting “the were” as “they were” and then the rest of the sentence doesn’t make sense. I have to re-read the sentence to get the correct “were” into my mind. Pretty sure I’ll have it straight by halfway through the novel! (Fingers crossed).

    That said, I found this snippet oh so delightful and oh so Gobbelino! Thank you for sharing. I would spend a lot of time and money in this bookshop!

    1. Kim says:

      Yes, Word was very disapproving of the use of ‘were’ as a noun, too! Hopefully it doesn’t make things too difficult. And I’m so glad you enjoyed the snippet! That’s wonderful to hear, and I’m really looking forward to sharing the new Gobbelino 😁

  4. Virginia says:

    Thanks for this deleted snippet! I’d hate to have missed it. Ferds’ bookshop sounds very much like City Books in Portland, which takes up a full city block and contains a maze of books of all sorts – up ramps and down stairs. Definitely the best bookstore I’ve visited.

    1. Kim says:

      I’m so glad you liked it! And City Books sounds AMAZING. I love a good maze-like bookshop – Ferds’ is sort of an amalgamation of all my favourite ones that I’ve come across.

  5. Mireille says:

    The only thing I’m worried about is the fact that it is a deleted scene…. I like it a lot, books, coffee, cake, snarky cat and a civilised were. More, please??

    1. Kim says:

      I’m so glad you liked it! This particular scene didn’t work for this book, but there’ll be plenty more to come 🙂

  6. Lynda Dietz says:

    I came back since my comment was lost! Even though I can’t remember what I wrote, of course . . . but I’m sure the sentiment ran along the lines of I MISS CALLUM AND GOBS!

    His interpretation of idioms has me rethinking all the ones I know and wondering if I even have them right—or want to.

    If this scene is what you removed, I can’t wait to see what’s left! Ferds has to come in somewhere, because his introduction is just too good.

    1. Kim says:

      That was exactly the sentiment – I’m so glad you’re still looking forward to more G&C London! Thank you so much for coming back to comment again, and I will try VERY hard not to break my site again and so lose everything …

      And I’ve been wanting to write Ferds for AGES, but he ended up just not quite working for this book. However – this does not mean he won’t work for another, because I like to stash random characters about the place for later reference …

  7. Joe says:

    Monday morning, 6am (groan).

    The start of another long work week (even bigger groan)

    And yet I’ve a smile on my face, a cranberry orange scone in hand, and a lovely cup of Earl Grey steeping. Both of which finish a distant second to the treat your wonderful work has provided.

    I must agree with all other commenters, Ferds is a terrific character and since he didn’t make it into the forthcoming Gobbelino book, it at least heightens my expectation for another story after the current one!

    That makes for TWO Gobbelino’s to anticipate plus another Beaufort story!

    So, take that! You dreary Monday! (actually it’s sunny and quite pleasant) you won’t bring me down! Not with all this wonderful reading I get to look forward to in the future! My only regret, I only packed one scone when I left the house this morning.

    And thank you Kim! Your books, your blog posts always brighten my day!

    1. Kim says:

      You only packed one scone?? This is a terrible oversight! Everyone knows that Mondays call for at least two scones, and probably some clotted cream as well, just to make sure things go smoothly. But I’m glad the outtake helped alleviate the Monday gloom (figurative if not literal)!

      And there will certainly be more Beauforts forthcoming, as well as at least one more Gobbelino after the next. I’m having far too much fun to stop now 😉

      I hope you have a lovely rest of the week!

  8. Diana Flagg says:

    I have to tell you I like Ferds a lot. I think he could be brought into any C&G book with his own back story. I enjoyed this out-take like everything else you write! Gobs is a master of sarcasm and unbalanced idioms and reminds me very much of my beloved cat, Ariel. True Manx, all black and a very human aspect. Her favorite pastime was to sit beside me while I snacked and allow me one chip (crisp?) before putting her paw on my arm to remind me it was her turn. She was absolutely telepathic and could tell when I needed to stop my activities and rest. Or maybe she just wanted a comfy seat (my lap) for her rest. Either way any of my friends and family will tell you she was no ordinary cat. I miss her most of all when I’m quietly reading. And I’d like to add my favorite book store but they are all sadly going away. My favorite reading spot was the public library in Baltimore, Maryland, with a wonderful room dedicated to Edgar A. Poe. There were written manuscripts and oversized high-backed leather chairs with pictures of Mr. Poe on the walls and that luxurious air that only old books, leather and perfect lighting can produce. I still visit my local library in Ormond Beach, Florida, buts it’s just not the same atmosphere. I love your books so much that I try to slow my reading when I’m getting near the end to prolong the enjoyment.

    1. Kim says:

      Ariel sounds absolutely beautiful! Of course, I do have an extra-soft spot for black cats. 😉 She sounds like a wonderful companion, and it always amazes me how they seem to know when and how to help us rest. Even the Little Furry Muse, who was 70% grumpiness and 30% just plain weird, always knew when I needed extra kitty time. They’re wonderful wee creatures.

      And the Baltimore library sounds amazing! What a wonderful spot – it’s true that while modern libraries are wonderful, they never have the same atmosphere as a building that’s been collecting dust and stories for decades.

      Thank you for your lovely comments regarding the story, and my stories in general! That’s wonderful to hear. And I wouldn’ be surprised if Ferds pops up again. I find some characters just hang around until it’s their time 🙂

  9. suttonreader says:

    I’m so looking forward to hearing more about Gobbelino. I hope they get paid enough for a good grocery order.

    1. Kim says:

      Thank you so much! I’m so glad you’re looking forward to more Gobs 😁

      As for the getting paid bit … I always hold out hope, but they have terrible decision-making when it comes to cases … 😉

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

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