It was a wild and lightning-struck night. The kind of night that changes everything.
Jagged forks of light ripped across the sky and thunder rolled in tidal waves over rooftops and spires of London. With the rain lashing down and the clouds crashing above, it felt like the whole city was under the sea.
But Cordelia Hatmaker was not afraid. In her candle-lit room at the very top of Hamaker House, she was pretending to be aboard the Jolly Bonnet. The ship was being tossed by massive waves as she staggered across the deck (really her hearthrug), fighting a howling wind.
‘Batten down those hatches, Fortescue!’ she yelled. ‘I’ve got to lash myself to the wheel!’
A tin soldier stared blankly from the mantel.
‘Aye, aye, Cap’n!’ Cordelia squeaked, out of the corner of her mouth.
A violent gust of wind blew the window open. The candle sputtered out and Cordelia was plunged into darkness.
BOOM, BOOM, BOOM.
Echoing up the five storeys of Hatmaker House came the sound of somebody pounding on the door.