It being the deja vu blogfest, where we go back to a favourite post from the past, I thought I'd revisit July last year, when I produced this for the blogfest of death (a blogfest within a blogfest. If I keep going do we achieve the effect of standing between two mirrors?) I've picked this one because it's one of my favourite sections of writing, and because it also shows just how long the publishing process is, given that the book this is from comes out in January.
Being the second half of the first bit of the third novel (sorry, I'm in that sort of mood) my entry into the Blogfest of Death:
Grave pushed the memory away and went back to searching. A few seconds of further effort yielded a pair of neatly wrapped egg and cress sandwiches and a folded piece of paper, only slightly stained so far by its stay in Grave’s possession. He unwrapped the sandwiches and ate one handed while scanning the paper. It was always best to check these things. Three names had been crossed off, in a mixture of pens that had, in the general manner of pens, proved impossible to find twice. Three other names were still neatly printed below.
‘Elizabeth Peters,’ Grave rumbled to himself, sending a faint spray of breadcrumbs into his beard.
Something skittered in the darkness at the sound, and Grave absentmindedly kicked a discarded can in its direction. A resentful squeak told him he’d connected. He was in the right place at least. That was a blessing. There’d been that time when he’d been sent over to Egypt and had found himself on the wrong side of the Nile. He’d had to swim. Come to think of it, didn’t he still have a pair of crocodile skin boots from that somewhere? Or was that some other time?
Grave sighed. Other times. There were always other times these days. A thousand years of other times, all tangled up like the web of some giant arachnid. He’d probably hunted one of those too, back in the twelfth century, or was it the thirteenth? His memory played tricks if he let it.
A faint scent brought his mind back to the present. Like cinnamon, but not quite, mixed in with the usual scents of humanity. Even over the car-fume stink of the city, it was easy to pick out. Grave took a quick look at the remains of his sandwich, wondering whether he should finish the thing or push it back into his pockets. The first raised the possibility of trying to do his job with a mouth full of egg and cress, while the second seemed like a recipe for pockets Grave could never put his hands in again. He threw it off to one side instead, hearing the scurry of rats as they scrambled for it. Grave filed the information away for later.
For the time being though, there were more important things to do. Now, which pocket? His massive hands resumed their search, darting between the inner surfaces of his coat, and fetching out objects almost at random. A piece of string? Usable, but no. An unused ticket to an opera that had closed two hundred years before? An antique silver cow creamer? How had that got in there?
Grave’s movements grew more frantic as footsteps came closer. They were a woman’s footsteps, light and fast, with the click of heels striking concrete. That was good. Even though Elizabeth Peters took the same route back from her work each evening, it was better to be certain about these things.
It would have been good, at least, if he could just find the right pocket. A tulip bulb? No. A pair of reading spectacles that weren’t even his? This was getting embarrassing.
She came round the corner right on time. Thirty years old, attractive, though looking worn out from a day spent planning marketing strategies. Elizabeth Peters was huddled in the jacket of her business suit against the evening chill. She didn’t even look across to where Grave stood. Everything was perfect, or should have been. At this rate, he was going to have to improvise, and the foremost Huntsman of the Courts working with… he looked down… an expired library card, just wouldn’t look right.
Elizabeth Peters was past him now, making her way along the side street. Much further and he’d have to go with what he had. One more try. Grave’s hand dipped into another pocket and he smiled as his fingers closed around the hilt of a knife.
‘Ah, finally,’ he muttered, loudly enough that Elizabeth Peters turned, startled that she’d walked past someone without noticing. The movement meant she was just in time to meet the sweep of the knife as it slashed across, throat high. She held her hands to her neck for a moment, her eyes wide with shock, before her knees buckled.
Grave caught Elizabeth Peters as she fell, lowering her carefully to the ground and watching as the light started to fade from her eyes.
‘Well,’ he said amiably as he stood, ‘that was almost a complete cock up. Still, all’s well that ends well.’
Cleaning the knife, he resolved to make a special note of which pocket he put it in this time. Grave walked to the mouth of the street as casually as someone the size of a small giant could, checking that no one would be running to Elizabeth Peters’ aid. That sort of thing was always annoying. About halfway there Grave stopped, looking around, and then sniffed as something came to him on the breeze. He sniffed again, just to make sure. His broad forehead wrinkled in puzzlement.