Prelude 79

Aaron woke with a start and listened, his body immediately taught with war-trained anticipation. A soft clatter sounded from the kitchen.

Fiona stirred next to him, but he put his hand gently on her shoulder.

"Shhh," he hissed, throwing off the covers and getting out of bed. "It's that neighbour's cat in the kitchen again - I'm going to get it this time and wring it's blasted neck"

Fiona giggled sleepily. "Looking like that?"

Aaron looked puzzled at first but then saw his naked, pale, moonlit frame standing in the cupboard mirror. He stroked his long beard thoughtfully, examining the lean, muscular lines of his body with not a little satisfaction.

Then he grinned defiantly back at his wife. "Definitely!"

He crept out of the bedroom, along the dark passageway towards the kitchen, careful to avoid the familiar creaking floor boards past the girls' bedrooms. Finally he reached the door and paused, listening to the further clanking that could be heard. Slowly he crouched, preparing his body like a coiled spring, then with a mighty roar he leapt through the door, waving his arms like a great white bearded banshee.

The "cat" turned out to be a solitary man wearing a dark balaclava who turned to face him, his face full of panicked incredulity, before dropping his bag of stolen silverware and fleeing, screaming, through the open window.