Talulla Rising Page 15

‘Yes,’ Cloquet said, opening his eyes. ‘Of course.’

‘If you don’t want to help me against her, I understand.’

He stared at the floor for a few moments, as if receiving something from the underworld. Eventually blinked, took the bottle’s last mouthful, smiled – then abruptly stopped smiling. Looked at me. ‘She’s dead to me,’ he said. ‘C’est tout.’

With a struggle I managed to get the jacket on and myself into a sitting position, the baby cradled in the crook of my left arm. The placentas slid to the floor. They looked like a pair of revolting purses. (I had wondered if I’d want to eat them. Animals did. Some humans too, I’d read. I didn’t.) My wounds ached, but had stopped bleeding. In an hour or two there would be barely a sign of them. Twenty thousand years, you think you’ve seen it all. Blood in the eardrums. Aural hallucination. Wulf fucking with me. One of my victims talking in his sleep. Whatever it was it shrank next to what lay ahead. I dismissed it.

‘I know you’re hurt,’ I said to Cloquet, ‘but do you think you could boil the kettle and sterilise a knife? I need to cut this. If you open the door the wolves will go out. It’s okay, they won’t do anything to you.’ The animals stood en masse as I spoke. Cloquet wobbled to his feet and let them outside. The majority would stay close to the house. A few would patrol. The black stayed inside with me. My will was still loose in him a little, like last wriggles of electricity after a giant shock. Cloquet worked gingerly but efficiently, and took a moment while the kettle was boiling to hand me a throw from the couch. He also dug out the lodge’s First Aid kit I didn’t even know existed. Latex gloves, hydrogen peroxide, iodine, dressings, band-aids, sutures.

‘I’ll hold her,’ I told him, ‘you cut.’

A moment of silence. His bleeding hands shook. His breath was raw with whisky. I had a vivid image of him plunging the scissors into her tiny chest.

‘Aie,’ he said, very quietly. But the job was done.

‘Thank you,’ I said. ‘You’re good to help me.’

He did a shy, ducking movement with his head and looked away, embarrassed, and suddenly I knew if I let myself I could cry.

I never saw a wild thing sorry for itself.

So I swallowed, swallowed, swallowed.


At least half a dozen of Cloquet’s injuries – most obviously the bullet’s exit and entry points and the long deep gash on his forehead – needed stitches. All I knew was you had to get the wound as clean as possible, sew the two halves together, then keep it covered and sterile until it healed. I gave him five milligrams of morphine. The effect was rapid.

‘Does that hurt?’

‘No. Go ahead.’

Two hours later I’d done what I could. After washing the baby, wrapping her in a blanket and improvising a cot from a laundry basket packed with clean towels, I took a shower (locked her in the en suite with me), cursorily inspected my own whispering injuries and changed into fresh clothes. The post-partum weight-drop was disorientating. Fourteen, maybe sixteen pounds. My womb pulsed astonishment. Curse dregs snagged the blood in my shoulders, haunches and wrists, tingled where my teeth met my gums. The wolves’ collective awareness ran through and around the lodge like a live circuit. I could go into and out of it. Going into it offered the solace of scattered consciousness: the misery was distributed, my self’s edges blurred. Pointless postponement. Sooner or later I’d have to come back to my own lousy dimensions.

I began packing, mechanically, listing the facts, trying and failing to come up with a first move, to turn this into a problem that I could take steps to solve: The vampires wanted him for the Helios Project, yes. Jacqueline Delon was one of them, yes. I had power over wolves, yes. Cloquet could be trusted, yes. There was my daughter to consider, yes, yes, yes – So what? I didn’t know where to start looking for him. That was the big ignorance.

There was also the big obscenity.

I’d felt nothing.

A younger version of myself, the girl in her early twenties (I saw her: me with more make-up and less understanding and something that made me think of the old-fashioned word ‘ardour’), was somewhere near me, breaking her heart because she’d failed, because her future self – me – had turned out to be a dead-hearted bitch who didn’t love her babies. The mother and child from the diapers ad broke their trance of love to turn and look out of the screen at me. Serene condemnation. Between them and the moms from the projects was a quivering righteousness that wiped out their social differences. You got no right. You got no right having kids if you wouldn’t kill for them.

Cloquet knocked on the open bedroom door.

‘I know where we can start looking,’ he said.


‘There’s a guy in London, Vincent Merryn. Antiquities. He handles the European merchandise for Housani Mubarak. Jacqueline used him. He knows vampires. He’s like un honoraire. He might know where they’ve taken him.’

Housani Mubarak? I’d seen the name... Jake’s diary. Egyptian dealer in stolen antiquities. Not to be confused with Hosni Mubarak, though he’s probably got as much clout.... Someone broke into his warehouse and stole a crate full of junk. Not junk. Quinn’s Book. The Men Who Became Wolves. The origin of the species. Allegedly. Vincent Merryn I’d never heard of. Jacqueline used him. Harley had told Jake it was an inside job.

‘You know this guy?’

‘I met him a few times. I know where he lives. His London house, anyway.’ He could feel it petering out. Lowered his head. ‘Fuck,’ he said. ‘It’s not much.’

Too many things jostled: images of London from my last time there, the kill just before I met Jake; the vampire helicopter unravelling the miles; the hot sack closing over the small head; got her off, orally; immediate practicalities – passports, identities, airlines, tickets; and in spite of myself a faint rush at the thought of Quinn’s Book, The Men Who Became Wolves, the possibility of answers. Don’t bother looking for the meaning of it all, Jake told me. There isn’t one.

‘Do you have a number for Merryn?’ I asked.


‘Why would he tell us anything?’

‘Because we make him. You’ll have to call him. He might recognise my voice.’

‘Call him and say what?’

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