Holly Bell offers the following excerpt from her novel, “Amanda Cadabra and
The Strange Case of Lucy Penlowr.”
The Road to Kernow
“The pretty mist,” the old woman’s voice echoed in Amanda’s mind. It was hard to see through the fog that was now brown, now purple, now mustard yellow … sickly sweet. She stretched out her little three-year-old hand. Suddenly it was dark. She was outside on the Moor. Amanda knew it by the scents. But not entirely dark. Smoke was boiling up into the night. A building was aflame and then … a blinding flash.
With a gasp, Amanda woke up. Calm but concerned tones came from her right, asking,
“Are you all right, Miss Cadabra?”
“Er ….” The sound of the familiar Ford Mondeo’s engine purred comfortingly. She looked with relief at the motorway, its green embankments flying by, and then turned her head. There was the pleasant face of Detective Inspector Thomas Trelawney of the Devon and Cornwall Police, at the wheel beside her. Amanda pushed her long mouse brown hair off her face and exhaled. “Yes, yes, thank you. I’m fine.”
“Yes … except ….”
“Do you want to tell me? It might help.”
“Thank you. I wonder … I’m afraid I do have a tendency to fall asleep on long car journeys,” Amanda admitted apologetically.
“So I gather,” said Trelawney with a smile, and a quick glance at her from hazel eyes, which then looked straight back at the road ahead. “That’s why I always make sure we’re equipped with a cushion.”
“And most kind of you it is.”
“My pleasure. Well? What was the “except …?” he prompted.
“I was back in that dungeon-crypt place at Cardiubarn Hall with my homicidal forebears. That day of the spell.”
“When you were three? The spell designed to cause your asthma?”
“That’s the one,” confirmed Amanda. “And then suddenly I was on the Moor at night.”
“Yes, and it was pitch dark, but then it wasn’t because there was smoke. And then I saw a building on fire and a bright, bright light.”
Trelawney raised his eyebrows.
“That sounds startling. No wonder you woke up.”
“Yes, and I’m wondering if it’s been set off by where we’re going. Maybe I’m picking up something?”
“Could be. Although, we don’t yet know anything about this story about Lucy that Mike’s going to tell us.”
“True.” Amanda looked over her shoulder at Tempest.
The furry heap of storm greys was enthroned on a tiger-print velvet blanket, citrine stare aglitter. Nearing the Tamar River, the ancient border between Kernow, the land of Cornwall, and the rest of Britain, Amanda’s feline familiar was on proximity alert.
The yellow of his eyes was echoed by the golden flecks in Amanda’s own blue gaze: flecks that expanded into islands, then continents, of brown around her pupils, when in the presence of magic. It was a tell she went to some lengths to conceal with glasses when necessary. It was easy enough in her furniture restoration workshop, where she wore close work lenses anyway. But that cosy retreat was getting further and further away, as they crossed the miles from her beloved village of Sunken Madley, sitting snugly amidst the trees near the Hertfordshire border.
“How close are we to the crossing?” Amanda asked.
“Only a few miles.”
Long ago, Granny and Grandpa had made her promise never to cross the River without them. Although they were in vulgar parlance “dead,” they made sure to visit from the plane of existence they now inhabited, whenever Amanda had need of their counsel or company.
Consequently, Senara Cadabra, née Cardiubarn, could now be observed seated bolt upright on the back seat, tucking a hairpin more tightly into her white victory roll. She and Perran Cadabra, a tall, grey-haired, mild-mannered man, were flanking Tempest. Granny and Tempest were pointedly ignoring one another, as they did whenever possible. He had still never forgiven Senara, in particular, for dragging him into reincarnation on that long malodorous night when Amanda was fifteen. Perran had had just as much to do with it, but Tempest considered Senara to be the instigator, and that was that.
Amanda smiled at them, then opened the window a little. Her heightened senses detected the aroma of Dartmoor to the right, the north, the sight and sound of gulls in the distance, and the tang of the sea from The Channel to the south. Trelawney slowed down with the change in speed limit, well in advance of the crossing, opening his own window and letting the fresh air ruffle his suitably short, light brown hair.
Before them, it reared up, the towering verticals of the Tamar Bridge suspended across the expanse between Plymouth to the east and Saltash to the west. There was the sign:
Kernow a’gas dynergh – Welcome to Cornwall.
They were across. There was a ripple in the ether. Amanda Cadabra had returned to the home shores of her birth. Whoever was left of the Cardiubarn and Flamgoyne witch-clans felt it, knew it, and stirred uneasily.
Only a few miles south of the A38, which they now travelled, was a smaller road, a road with a treacherous bend. Amanda had been adopted by her loving grandparents after the assassination of the rest of her extremely unpleasant family, the Cardiubarns. They had met their end in a minbus that had crashed on the Cornish rocks beneath the sharp curve in the road. It was that unsolved multiple murder that had brought the inspector into the lives of the Cadabras. The case was only very recently resolved.
Now he and Amanda were on their way to see Former Chief Inspector Hogarth, Trelawney’s mentor and friend and her honorary uncle. Because it was time. Time to hear it: