The Organised Author

The Doom & Despair Entertainment Agency

I'm please to announce that soon my middle grade fantasy, The Doom & Despair Entertainment Agency, will be released soon.

Welcome to the Doom & Despair Entertainment Agency where fear is always guaranteed. Do you want a bunch of zombies for your next birthday party? Vampires and ghosts at your wedding, frightening your guests? No problem. The Doom & Despair Entertainment Agency organises the scariest events in all New Zilla.
Except that, since the ghost of MacBatt Castle disappeared, business is slowing down at the agency. A new, young ghost, Gwen, haunts the castle, and she’s too nice to scare the customers. So, it’s up to Orlando, a thirteen-year-old orphan who works for the agency, to help Gwen becoming scarier before his employer decides to send him back to the orphanage. 

Chapter One

THE PROBLEM WITH capturing a butter-snake wasn’t the beast’s speed, or its long, sharp fangs, or its bat-like wings that allowed it to fly for a short distance.
After years of practise, Orlando had learned how to outrun butter-snakes, catch them while they flew, and avoid being bitten. Most of the times.
The real nuisance was the slimy yellow hide. Thanks to the slippery, melting-butter-like skin, the sneaky creature slid out from his hands like soap. The more he squeezed the more the two-foot long butter-snake slipped away in a flourish of yellow scales and a waft of butter.
“No!” He slammed a fist on the floorboards of the storeroom, lifting a cloud of dust, and searched around the cramped space. Catching a glimpse of a yellow tail, he lunged.
Too late. Victor the butter-snake was already sprinting away from him, all buttery spirals and wagging tail.
Crawling on the dusty floor, Orlando headed towards the corner where Victor had disappeared.
Wooden chests, frayed rugs, and old suitcases crammed the room, forcing him to zig-zag through them. Cobwebs hung from the ceiling, and sunlight struggled to come in through a dirty, narrow window. Not exactly the perfect conditions to hunt a fast, reckless butter-snake.
The reek of mothballs tickled his nose, and he held his breath, trying to not sneeze. Butter-snakes didn’t have exceptional sight, hearing, or sense of smell, but a sneeze would give away his position.
He squinted, searching the shadows. A yellow glimmer flickered from behind the embalmed troll that took up a corner next to a broken steam car’s engine. The stuffed monster stood at nine feet seven, his large, square head touching the ceiling.
A shiver crept along Orlando’s neck when he tilted up his head and stared at the curled upper lip of the troll as if he were laughing at Orlando’s failed attempts to capture Victor. The club in the troll’s hand was made out of cork, just for decoration. Still, if it crashed on Orlando’s skull, it’d hurt. So he tiptoed around the troll, just in case.
Another flash swished next to the troll’s sturdy ankle, and a tall stack of newspapers fell over. Orlando stilled. Nothing moved, only dust motes danced confusedly in the air. He inched closer to the troll. If he let Victor—the mascot of the Doom & Despair Entertainment Agency—escape again, Miss Doom would punish him. Or worse, send him back to the orphanage, and he had no intention of staying in that dull, cold, and damp place again. Besides, he was thirteen. Grown up enough to live on his own even if the law said otherwise.
He swallowed and tugged at his waistcoat, glancing at the upper floor where Miss Doom’s office was. The click-clack of her heels hitting the tiles resounded in the storeroom. Judging by the quick rhythm, she was pacing back and forth, probably annoyed about something.
Not a good sign.
To be a boy who worked for an entertainment agency, Orlando wasn’t having fun at all. He stretched out a hand towards a shelf and grabbed an oil lamp and a box of matches. Without more light, he’d catch only dust. Gingerly, he lit the lamp and put it on a dust-covered trunk.
Victor’s yellow tail coiled between the troll’s feet. The tips of his thin wings fluttered slowly. Orlando tensed, gaining another inch forwards. The trick was to take the butter-snake by surprise. Why hadn’t he taken his pair of dragon-skin gloves? Dragon skin offered a strong grip on butter-snakes. He would’ve caught Victor in a moment.
“Victor?” he called. “Why don’t you come here? I’ll take you to the garden, in that sunny spot you love. What do you think?”
Victor hissed.
All right. Orlando wiped his sweaty palms on his brown woollen trousers and leapt. His fingers seized Victor’s tail and pulled. The beast twitched, snarled, and snapped, exposing spiky teeth. Before the fangs could sink into his flesh, Orlando snatched back his arm, letting go of the tail.
Victor jolted forwards, but Orlando stalked him. He placed a hand on Victor’s head and squashed him to the wooden floor. Victor whimpered.
There. “I’m sorry, chap, but I can’t let you go.”
He grinned. Now, he had only to squeeze a pair of glands at the sides of the jaw and Victor would fall asleep in a moment.
Yellow goo covered Orlando’s palm, and he resisted the urge to wipe it on his new jacket. Miss Doom had bought it a few days ago, and he didn’t want to ruin it. She’d said the dark green colour matched his eyes. None of the ladies of the orphanage had ever told him anything like that.
Orlando’s finger probed Victor’s jaw and throat, searching for the little bumps above the glands. Victor jerked and flapped his wings, hissing like a kettle. Luckily, he was a young specimen. Adults could reach twelve feet.
“I’m sorry, little one,” Orlando whispered. “But unless I catch you, Miss Doom will make me weed the garden from dragonwort again, at the best.” He stared at his blistered hands due to the venomous spikes of the dragonwort. “And my skin can’t take it anymore. At the worst, she’d throw me out.”
Orlando felt the two round buds and pressed gently, but yellow oil oozed from Victor’s skin, and Orlando’s grip faulted. Free from Orlando’s hand, the butter-snake slid away, flew across the room, and disappeared behind a group of rolled up rugs.
“Enough!” Orlando shot to his feet, skidded on a pool of Victor’s oil, and fell backwards.
He hit the troll’s knee with his rear, and a cloud of dust rained over his face, burning his eyes. White light filled his vision as a searing pain crossed his skull. All his thirteen years of life scrolled in front of him. Great snake, was he dying?
The sneeze lifted more dust that blinded him. His father’s golden watch slipped out of his pocket and dropped next to the troll’s foot.
Orlando gasped, snatched up the watch, and checked it for cracks. The only thing left of his parents and he treated it so poorly. He let out a sigh of relief as the glossy golden case shone without a scratch. Inside it lay a picture of Orlando with his mother and father. All three of them were smiling, Mother hugging him, Father had a hand on his shoulder. He missed them so much.
A jar rolled off a shelf and broke on the floor with a smashing sound. He jolted. Victor was flying towards the half-open window, his blue eyes narrowed in determination.
“Oh, no, you won’t do that!” Orlando put the watch back into his pocket and jumped to catch the butter-snake.
The door of the storeroom opened, letting in the light of the gas lamps, and a tall figure appeared on the threshold.
“Orlando, are you here, laddie?” Mr Edward asked.
Victor twirled on himself and dashed towards the door.
“Close the door!” Orlando waved his arms.
“What?” Mr Edward glanced around.
Victor sprinted out from between his legs, leaving a trail of buttery drops behind, and ran towards freedom.
“Victor!” Orlando reached out. Useless. The snake dashed out of sight.
Mr Edward ran a hand through his bronzed hair and raised his foot. “Oops, sorry.”
Orlando peered at the long corridor beyond the door. If the door of the back garden wasn’t closed, as it often happened, Victor was as good as vanished. Why was the butter-snake so restless these days?
“Ghosts and witches.” He kicked a chest that smashed against the troll.
The club detached from the troll’s hand and fell down, hitting his foot. Pain burst through his leg.
“Ouch!” He rolled onto his back and gritted his teeth, closing his eyes.
What a wretched day.
“Are you all right?” Mr Edward helped Orlando to his feet. “Was that our mascot?”
He nodded, trying to not scrunch his face at Mr Edward’s very cold skin. “Victor.”
Mascot and one of the twenty specimens of butter-snakes ever found in the entire New Zilla. The most rare and peculiar reptilian species on the planet, and he had lost one.
Mr Edward winced. “Don’t worry. I’ll tell, Malicia, I mean Miss Doom, it’s my fault if Victor escaped, which is also the truth.”
Orlando shuffled his shoes on the floor. Mr Edward’s offer was generous, but Miss Doom wouldn’t be pleased anyway. “That wouldn’t be fair. Victor is my responsibility. Mrs Evilina has been very clear about this.”
Mr Edward put a hand on his shoulder. “Mrs Evilina only wants an excuse to get rid of you,” he whispered.
Yes, Orlando knew that. Hopefully, Miss Doom wouldn’t listen to her mother.
“By the way, Miss Doom is waiting for you.” Mr Edward pointed a finger at the ceiling.
The click-clack of Miss Doom’s pacing continued. Mr Edward’s pale face seemed ghostly under the dim light. “Monthly report, you know, about the MacBatt Castle,” he added.
A knot of dread tightened in Orlando’s throat. Just his luck. He brushed the dust from his jacket, but he could do nothing for the yellow slime spotting it. No need to comb his hair, it was trimmed so short it looked like whiskers. So he adjusted his flat hat and straightened his cravat. “Thank you. I’ll go to see her now.”