Here's a sneak preview of how the first chapter starts...
A shout in the night: ‘Open up!’ Then a fist on the door. Bang-bang-bang! ‘Open up! It’s the Guard!’
Anabara lurched awake. More hammering. She snatched up her wool robe and stumbled downstairs.
Five officers burst in. Cold night clung to their uniforms. Nets. Iron stunning poles.
‘What’s going on?’
‘Stand back.’ A grey-haired one flashed a badge. ‘Border Control. Requesting access to your property. We’ve an illegal alien cornered out the back. Go upstairs, please. Now. Could be dangerous.’ He opened the stairs door.
He thrust her through. ‘Now, Ms Nolio.’ The door closed behind her.
For a moment she stood in the dark stairway, heart galloping. She could hear them in her yard. Shouts. Over there. Quick! That’s it, close in. Net! Net! Net!
Dear God, what was out there? Some kind of feral Fairy criminal? She fled up the stairs to her room, got back under the quilt. More shouts. What if it overpowered them and broke in? She turned the lamp on to keep fear at bay. Please, please let them catch it.
Suddenly a scrabbling overhead. It was on her roof! Anabara bit back a scream. Her eyes locked on to the porthole window in the roof. It doesn’t open, it’s too small, nothing can get in!
A hand, clawing. Oh dear God! And a face. A tiny pointed face.
No! It was a child. A Fairy child. For a second the black eyes stared into hers. Alien eyes from a different reality, stranger and wilder than any hawk’s. Then the creature was wrenched off the roof, nails scratching down tiles. Gone.
A cheer from the yard below. Back-slapping. They were trouping through her house. Job done.
A child. Anabara pressed a hand to her mouth. Five men armed with nets and irons to hunt down a child? She felt sick.
‘Ms Nolio?’ a voice called up the stairs. ‘All finished now, thanks.’
She trembled as she made her way back down, knees buckling on each step.
It was the grey-haired Guard. He saw her face and put a hand on her arm. ‘Sorry, love. I know, I know. Rough business.’
‘But it was a child, Officer!’
‘Routine precaution. Could have been an assassin using a cloaking charm.’
‘That’s ridiculous! How likely is that?’
‘Still, safety regs—got to comply. But we got the parents earlier, so yes, in all probability it was a genuine child.’ He gave her a little squeeze. ‘We’ll have her back with Mum and Dad in no time, safe and sound, so don’t you fret.’
She snatched her arm away. ‘Don’t patronise me, Officer! I know you’re going to deport them.’
He looked at her, blew out a sigh. ‘Well, let’s not get into all that now. It’s been a long night. Sorry to drag you out of bed.’
‘Don’t try and fob me off! They’re refugees, they—’
‘Now, now.’ He had his hand up. ‘If they want to cross, they have to go through the proper channels like everyone else, or we’d be overrun. No,’ he made for the door. ‘Not getting into it with you now. I’m just doing my job. Goodnight, Ms Nolio. Thanks again for your co-operation.’
Co-operation? It felt like collaboration.
She shut the door after him and went back up to bed. It was a long, long time before she fell asleep. And when she finally did—that dream again. The one where she’d put the baby in the cellar and forgotten about it. And now it was too late, she knew it must have starved to death.
She lurched awake once more, cold with sweat. Dawn. Pale light through the porthole. In the distance a shrine bell. Gulls keened. A mule cart rumbled past. The city was waking up. Slowly her pulse returned to normal. She stared up at the window. That tiny face. Those black eyes. There was nothing she could have done for it. Nothing. But it still felt like a betrayal.