“And there’s nothing else missing?”

Derek Bradley scowled at the policeman.  “I don’t care if anything else is missing.  They can take the whole bloody house if they want.  But the one thing – the only thing they took was the one thing I cannot do without.”

The policeman tapped his biro on his notepad, adding to Bradley’s irritation.

“And you’re sure it just hasn’t been misplaced.  It’s not going to turn up somewhere.”

“Of course it bloody isn’t!” Bradley snapped.  “How many exams did you have to fail to get your bloody job?”

The policeman gave a patient smile.  Men like Derek Bradley didn’t need reminding to keep a civil tongue in his head.  That would have the same effect as poking him with a sharpened stick.

“The description you gave,” he glanced at his notes, “About the size of a fist, you said, grey like pencil lead and porous like a pumice stone…”

“Yes,” sighed Bradley.  “How many more times/.  Surely by now you should be out there making an arrest.”

“The item has value then?”

“Beyond measure!” Bradley cried.  “Oh, I don’t mean money.  Rare as it is, it’s not the money.”

“Sentimental value then.”

“Well, no… well, yes.  Yes and no.  Without it – the moonrock – my marriage will fall apart.”

“Your wife will be cross?”

Bradley emitted a bitter laugh.  “Oh, you don’t know the half of it, mate.  Cross?  She’ll bite my bloody head off.”

“I see…”  Although it was clear from the policeman’s tone that he didn’t.  “And your wife has access to the alarm code?”

“Of course she does!”

“Anyone else?”

“No!  No, I’m very strict about that kind of thing.  Just me and Anoushka.”

“I’m sorry?”

“Mrs Bradley.”

“And she won’t have moved it – the moonrock.  Taken it to show someone, perhaps?”

“No, no!  She wouldn’t – she couldn’t!  You see, my wife is unable to touch the moonrock.  It’s just not possible.”

The policeman rubbed his eyes.  “Mr Bradley.  There is no sign of forced entry.  The alarm has not been tampered with and all that’s missing is some lump of rock.”

But Bradley wasn’t listening.  He was chewing his thumbnail and pacing the carpet, casting anxious glances at the clock.

“It’ll be dark soon.  If Anoushka comes back and the moonrock’s not here…”

He opened the door and tried to usher the policeman through it.  “You had better go now while there’s still time.”

“Do you want the theft reported or not?”

“Just go!  Please!”

But the policeman remained in his seat and folded his arms.  “I think, Mr Bradley, you had better tell me exactly what is going on.”

While Derek Bradley jabbered on, ever conscious of the impending twilight, several miles away on a coastal clifftop, Mrs Anoushka Bradley tossed a grey object the size of her husband’s fist into the sea.

At once she felt better.  She pulled off the lead-lined gauntlets she’d ordered off the internet and chucked them off the cliff too.

As she drove home, she wondered how Derek was getting on with the policeman.  He’s bound to have told him all about me by now, she reckoned.  My Transylvanian background.  My dependence on the moonrock to keep my human form…

Well, there’d be no more of that.  No more of Derek controlling my every move.

She put her foot down.  If she timed it right, she could be home as night fell and there’d be two men to sink her fangs in and not just her measly husband.

As the sky darkened, Anoushka threw back her head and howled, and for the first time since her wedding day, her fur began to sprout.





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