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Authors: Jean Flitcroft

The Cryptid Files

BOOK: The Cryptid Files
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Acknowledgments

Sincere thanks goes to my friends and writing buddies, Paula, Gemma, Una and Geoff for all their encouragement and helpful comments over the last few years. To Siobhán Parkinson who has been such an inspiration and whose comments and insights have kept me on the right track. Thanks also to Kate Thompson and Conor Kostick for their professional guidance and advice in general.

My thanks to John Short and his talented art students at DIT for their participation in The Cryptid Files Design Competition and Elaina O'Neill in Little Island for making the whole publishing process seem exciting and yet effortless.

And finally to friends and above all family – my wonderful parents, Mary and Alan; brothers Brian and Graham for years of love and support. My heartfelt thanks to my husband Ian for his absolute belief in me, his great insights and his willingness to discuss characters and plots any time and any place, preferably somewhere foreign. And finally to Callum, Myles and Oliver, our fantastic children who inspire me always.

CRYPTOZOOLOGY

The word
cryptozoology
comes from the Greek word
kryptos
, meaning hidden, and
zoology
, meaning the study of animals. Cryptozoologists study animals which may exist in nature, but whose existence has not yet been accepted by modern science.

The animals cryptozoologists search for are called cryptids. The Loch Ness Monster, ‘Nessie', is the most famous cryptid of them all, with thousands of recorded sightings.

PROLOGUE

It was the last day of October. The light was fading fast and dark shadows rippled across the surface. A cold wind had picked up and, in the blink of an eye, Loch Ness had changed from a place of yellow sunshine and charm to metal-grey clouds and bleakness.

No one saw Vanessa Day fall. No one saw the tar-coloured water close over her head. For a moment, she was stunned by the icy cold, then terror gripped her and she thrashed about, kicking and slapping the water. She threw her head back, face to the sky, gulping at the air.

But for how long? Her clothes were already waterlogged and the pull of the water relentless. She grabbed at the upturned boat, but the wood was too slimy to grip. Within a few heartbeats, the cold had worked its way into her muscles and her kicks began to grow feeble. In just a few more, her body sagged and then, limp as a ragdoll, she went under.

As she sank she twisted and turned, a slow and deadly dance. Long strands of her black hair were matted across her pretty face. Well before Vanessa reached the bottom, her mouth was wide open and her eyes shut tight.

CHAPTER 1

It is hard to imagine just how deep Loch Ness is. There is more water in it than all the other lakes in England, Wales and Scotland put together. Enough room to fit every person on this earth three times over. Certainly enough room for a few mysteries.

Vanessa crept across the landing. The chill in the early morning had already made its way through her thin cotton nightdress and she wished she had put a sweatshirt on over it. She hesitated for a moment, listening to the stillness of the sleeping house. When she moved on, the silence was broken only by the sticky patter of her bare feet on the wooden floor. She twisted the ring on her middle finger as she walked, anxious in case her footsteps might wake someone. Maybe not her brothers, they would need an earthquake to rouse them, but her dad was a different matter. He had always been a light sleeper and the big fight last night would not have helped matters.

Once she was inside the guest bedroom and onto the thick carpet, she closed the door in slow motion and leaned against it to look around. She hardly ever came into this room and was surprised now at how pretty it was. It was so uncluttered and ordered compared to her own. Looking up, she saw the trapdoor to the attic. Now, where was that long wooden pole with the hook on the end that she needed to open it? It took a couple of minutes to find it under the bed and then much longer to actually hook it through the metal clasp on the trap. Her hands were cold and she found she was shaking with the effort. She twisted and turned it back and forth until it finally flopped open. Next, she had to hook the bottom step of the ladder and pull down hard. The grinding noise was terrible as the ladder unfolded out of the attic, and Vanessa froze, cursing furiously under her breath. That was it, she'd be caught now. She waited to hear a door open, footsteps on the landing, but there was only silence. She placed her feet carefully on the cold metal and wobbled up, one step at a time. At the top she stared into the gloom. Please God, let there be a light, she thought, as she searched frantically around the opening. She smiled to herself as her fingers found the switch and a harsh white light filled the dusty space.

Vanessa pulled herself up the last step and sat on the floor of the attic, her legs still dangling down through the opening. Row upon row of neatly stacked boxes filled the room. Her heart sank; they all looked identical. Where on earth would she start?

She stood up, crouching over because of the low beams, and looked closely at the lids of the first few boxes. She was relieved to see that each one had a small white label and she recognised the neat italic writing as her father's hand, Marie's history books. The words were like punches to her stomach. One, two and a left hook. Her heart took off, pounding so fast that she felt as if she might faint. Marie's travel books. Marie's research. Her mother's life packed up in boxes. Hot tears filled her eyes and spilled over. Neat boxes labelled and catalogued and stacked in an attic. Her mum would have hated her stuff like this; she had loved jumble and chaos and life … life. Vanessa felt the sudden urge to overturn every single one of the boxes. Why hadn't she guessed she would feel like this? Why had she come up? Sitting down heavily on one of the boxes, she put her head in her hands and shut her eyes tightly.

She didn't know how long she sat there, but gradually her tears slowed and she began to feel calmer. It started first as a flutter in the pit of her stomach that spread slowly out as a tingle, travelling through every nerve fibre and right to her very fingertips. It had happened once or twice before in the last couple of years. She could feel her mum's presence. She was there with her in that small, bleak attic. It was then that she knew with certainty that she would find what she was looking for.

BOOK: The Cryptid Files
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