Talulla Rising Page 20

I wasn’t, actually, going to do this, as I slipped one hand under her and lifted her out. I wasn’t, actually, going to do this, when I turned her to the window, where the delighted full moon made a silhouette of her downy head. I wasn’t, actually, going to do this, because there must be some things I couldn’t do. There must be some things I couldn’t do.

For a moment it was fascinating, this thought, as small and vivid as a lone swimmer in a tidal wave’s thousand-foot wall of water. Everything depended on it. There must be some things I couldn’t do.

You want to not know what you’re doing. You want the swoon, the fall into darkness, the obliteration of all that isn’t the beast. I was drugged and an obscene act was performed on me. No such luck. Nor are you helplessly looking on while the monster runs amok. The Curse insists on full fusion. You and the wolf won’t do. Only the werewolf, single and indivisible. And who is the werewolf if not you?

She’d be dead in five seconds. I’d feel her sternum go and my biggest canine puncture her heart while its opposite neighbour went through one of her lungs with a poignantly audible gasp. Something would break in me, too, a tiny bone in the soul that when it snapped let the whole godless universe in. Her blood would be warm and sweet-sour and empty and would go into me with innocence, too young to understand it was being shed. In the old human life meaninglessness was an idea, a hunch, a philosophy. Here, now, looking through the vision of Delilah’s five-second death, it was a fact. No one was watching. No one was keeping score. There was nothing. Just a vast mathematical silence. There was nothing and so there was nothing I couldn’t do. Even the worst thing. Especially the worst thing.

And we knew, Delilah, my unborn child and me, that soon there would only be one thing the worst thing could possibly be.

I held her up at the level of my snout, my big hands a dark cradle. She didn’t object. Just gurgled slightly, kicked her right leg, the fat little foot like a lump of Turkish delight. Jennifer screamed in me, the faintest neural tickle.

At which moment a car pulled into the drive and tipped the balance (the only perfect balance I’d ever achieved) and saved Delilah Snow’s life.



‘In this city a woman needs two cunts, one for business and one for pleasure.’

Jerzy Kosinski – The Devil Tree


The night before our bogus meeting with plummy Althea Gordon was scheduled to take place I sat with Cloquet in a hired Corolla parked around the corner from Vincent Merryn’s large detached house in Royal Oak, West London. It was raining. The city’s first leaves had fallen.

Vast mathematical silence and impenetrable darkness. Yes. For a while. But some perverse gravity had forced me back, to the hotel room’s details, to the rolling boil of full awareness. Returning to myself that night in the Anchorage Grand had felt like being born into a death sentence. I’d opened my eyes with a feeling of surrender. Cloquet was still asleep. Zoë was still awake. For a long time I sat looking at her in the bassinet. I was scared to touch her.

(The car that had saved Delilah Snow and condemned me belonged, subsequent news reports revealed, to Amber Brouwer, George’s former lover. She’d come by because her dog had died and she’d got a little drunk and weepy and suddenly realised she missed George. A dead dog. Sentimentality. A drive. Headlights swimming over a bedroom ceiling. A life not taken.)

Only when my daughter closed her eyes did I rest my hand lightly on her body, felt the tiny ribs, the solidity and heat, the heartbeat and the sleeping wolf inside her. That, and how unentitled to any of it I was.

I had an imaginary conversation with my mother.

Ma, what do you do if you’re capable of anything?

Just because you’re capable of anything doesn’t mean you have to do everything. It’s not a death sentence, Lulu. It’s a life sentence. Sorry, angel. You’re going to have to either walk away or give it a try.

‘This is insane,’ Cloquet said. The rain accelerated for a few seconds, then slowed again.

Without Zoë I might have been able to walk away. Without her I might have been able to swallow the loss, cauterise it, grow a new deformed version of myself to accommodate it: The Unfit Mother. But there she was. Her brother’s insurance policy.

They have your son. Thinking of him as a person made me feel sick. There was a vertigo of the heart. I had to think of him as an object. Like a lost suitcase I had to get back. It was a relief, suddenly, to be reduced to a single purpose. Nothing else matters, we say, when we fall in love. I knew it was hopeless. I knew all I was doing was choosing a route to my own death. It didn’t matter. It was as much of a liberation as walking away would have been.

Zoë’s brother wasn’t ‘he’ or ‘him’ any more. As Cloquet pointed out, we might have to travel far and fast if and when we found him; it wouldn’t do to have to wait on papers again. He was right, but it didn’t lessen the peculiar agony of naming him. It felt like taking something that didn’t belong to me. My mother had a miscarriage two years after I was born. It was a boy. She told me later they were going to call him Lorcan. So I named my son that, with clinical perversity, since it already had death attached to it. I’d phoned Kovatch before we left Anchorage, and the birth certificate (plus aliases to match his sister’s) had arrived this morning. The name in print unhinged me for a moment, as if I hadn’t known until then that the God who wasn’t there took these dares seriously. I put the documents away and told myself I wouldn’t use the name, even in my own head. But of course that was already impossible. It was entailed in the idea of him, and now every time I thought of him I thought of the name, Lorcan, and it was like an invitation to Death to come and claim his property.

I’d made a will, leaving my dad more than he’d know what to do with, enough for Cloquet to keep him for the rest of his days, one of the restaurants to Ambidextrous Alison, a million dollars to Lauren, who’d made a mess of her life, one dollar to Richard – and all the rest to the twins, in a trust to be administered by my dad or his nominees until they were of age. It helped to have done this, to know that materially at least I wasn’t leaving any loose ends. In a small way it made me less afraid of dying.

A black Land Rover sat across the road from us. In it, wearing police uniforms, were Draper and Khan, the two guys supplied by Charlie Proctor at Aegis Private Security. Charlie’s name was on Jake’s list of People I Could Trust. Draper was a fair-haired soft-voiced Scot with a way of moving that never looked hurried and a core of gentleness it seemed his life’s violence hadn’t touched. Khan was a third-generation British Pakistani with liquid black eyes and a thin, clever mouth, shallower than his colleague, and happier giving orders than taking them. They’d spent yesterday scoping the place out. (Two CCTV cameras at the front of the house, three at the back. Two goons. A housekeeper. A Siamese cat.) It was their job to get Cloquet in and secure Merryn for questioning. They didn’t know what I was. As far as they were concerned I was just another client who could afford their company’s services. The first moment of eye contact with them had said sex, yes – then their professional override had shut it down. It was a source of pride for both of them that this system worked, that they could be soldiers first. I envied them: my libido still slept, but I’d known since the second child left my body that it wouldn’t sleep much longer. The thought galled me, the accommodations I’d have to make. Her kid’s being tortured and here she is – screwing! Christ!

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