Talulla Rising Page 21

‘This is insane,’ Cloquet repeated. ‘I hope you realise that?’

‘I’m sorry. I have to be here.’

I wasn’t supposed to be there. I was supposed to be at the hotel in Kensington with the baby. The baby was asleep in her carrier strapped to my chest. Since the kidnapping I’d found it disturbing to be alone with her. Alone with her, love threatened. Alone with her love came to me like the Devil, rich with temptation. I daren’t look, had to somehow keep myself turned away. I kept thinking of the line from the Old Testament But God hardened Pharaoh’s heart. It was something you could do, I believed, harden your heart.

‘It’s completely fucking unnecessary.’

‘Look, shut up. I know. I’m sorry.’

‘When I go in you stay here.’

‘I know.’

‘I mean it. In the car.’

‘Yes. I know.’

Cloquet’s eyes were raw. We were both jet-lagged. He was weaning himself off morphine and it was making him irritable. Draper, a unit medic, had checked the shoulder wound, pronounced it well sutured and free of infection and given him a week’s course of antibiotics.

Khan’s voice came over the headset. ‘You reading me?’


‘Okay, we’re going in. You sit tight. Don’t use the com. We contact you, okay?’

We watched them until they disappeared around the corner. Five minutes passed. Ten. Fifteen. The Corolla’s little atmosphere filled up with our waiting. I was mentally busy with the question that had first occurred to me the morning we left Anchorage and that had since become monolithic: why had the vampires taken my son? The reflex answer – that they wanted him for the Helios Project – didn’t stand scrutiny. Assuming Jake had it right, for at least the last hundred and seventy years werewolves had been carrying a virus that had stopped them passing on the Curse. Instead of Turning, bitten victims died within twelve hours. Vampires bitten by infected werewolves, however, not only survived, but showed an increased tolerance for sunlight. Hence werewolves’ sudden relevance to Helios.

But I wasn’t infected. WOCOP’s serum killed the virus in newly bitten victims (they’d never established whether it cured existing werewolves, although I vaguely remembered Ellis telling Jake they’d been slipping it to him in drinks from time to time) and I was living proof of its efficacy. But there was no reason to suppose the vampires knew that. To them I was just a werewolf. Werewolves had the virus. The virus conferred sunlight resistance. Ergo, I was a valuable research commodity.

Except they hadn’t taken me. They’d taken my child. Again: why?

Obviously they’d known there was going to be a child, otherwise why the bag, the cattle prod, the ketch-pole? No doubt they had a WOCOP agent or two in their pockets, which would explain how they knew I was pregnant (if not how they knew just when I was going into labour), but if that was true then surely they’d know that I – famously – wasn’t carrying the virus? And if I wasn’t carrying the virus, chances were my offspring wouldn’t be, either.

So what did they want with him?

I’d put it all to Cloquet on the flight out of Alaska, but he couldn’t come up with anything. Or so he said. He’d seemed a little distracted. At the time I put it down to him being in a lot of pain (no prescription for the morphine so he was downgraded to Advil on board) but wondered since if there was more to it.

There was something else bothering me. Since arriving in London I’d several times had a feeling of... not quite being watched, but of invisible things passing near. Someone walked over my grave. In the street outside the hotel I’d stopped and turned, expecting to see someone I knew behind me – but there was no one. I’d said nothing about it to Cloquet. But it had kept happening – and now I couldn’t stop thinking about it.

A click-scratch in my headset.

‘You reading?’ Khan asked.

‘Yes,’ we said in unison.

A pause.

‘They’re all dead.’


‘We’ve got five bodies. The two guards, the housekeeper and your man Merryn...’

For a moment I thought somehow Draper and Khan had completely misunderstood the mission and were telling us they’d accomplished it by killing everyone in the house.

‘... Plus... I don’t know. I guess it’s a body. It’s basically black slime with bits. Looks like it’s gone through an acid bath.’

Cloquet and I looked at each other. Vampire corpse.

‘How are the others killed?’ Cloquet asked.

‘The two gorillas took one each in the head at close range. The housekeeper and Merryn... I don’t know. Big neck and thigh wounds. Massive haemorrhaging. And the geezer in the acid bath, I haven’t a fucking clue. Looks like something from outer space. We need to, ah, get the fuck out of here. CCTV discs are all gone and the system’s off, so if we’re very lucky we might not be suspects in a multiple murder investigation.’

‘Wait,’ I said – then to Cloquet: ‘You have to go and take a look.’

‘Forget it.’

‘That’s a vampire’s body.’

‘So what?’

‘Don’t be idiotic. We have to take a look. We have to.’

Cloquet closed his eyes and let his head fall back against the seat. He looked like he needed to sleep for a week.

‘Khan?’ he said into the headset mic.


‘I need to get in there. I need to take a look.’

I discerned Khan covering his own mic. To confer with Draper.

‘Five minutes. Then we’re out. You got gloves?’

‘No,’ Cloquet and I said together.

‘No worries, we’ve got spare. Just don’t touch anything on your way in. Are you...’ Something off-mic to Draper...‘Are you both coming in?’

‘Yes,’ I said.

‘No,’ Cloquet said.

‘Roger that,’ Khan said. ‘Front door’s open. Don’t step in the blood.’


Cloquet raced through a cigarette as we walked. Skirls of wind whisked the rain around us, blew it into our jet-lagged faces. A tracksuited jogger with a Collie on a lead ran past, looking like he was in a foul mood. Zoë, shocked by sudden emergence from the Corolla’s warmth, woke up silently. Black onyxy baby eyes in the dark. This was her first rain. One of the countless first things the world had to offer. Her brother would be experiencing first things too, if he wasn’t already dead. The image of Jacqueline inserting a wire into his eye was right there. Don’t think of it. But you can’t not think of it. Thinking of it’s entailed in saying don’t think of it. I saw him tied spread-eagled to a brushed-steel table, head strapped and muzzled, eyelids clamped open, fur hot and damp. Jacqueline made an unanaesthetised incision. He screamed, unable to move. Vampires in lab coats made notes. I had these visions all the time now. I told myself it didn’t make any difference: the project was still to get him back. I told myself it was lucky I hadn’t felt anything for him, otherwise imagine how these visions would make me feel. Imagine.

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