Talulla Rising Page 23

Stop it. It won’t help. You have to think of him as an object. Like you did when he was born.

Zoë’s hand was tangled in my hair. I looked down at her. She had Jake’s long eyelashes. Lucky girl. At the Los Angeles villa she’d wear a coral ankle bracelet one summer and be surprised when I didn’t care if she got a tattoo, though I’d have to warn her she’d be stuck with it for four hundred years. She’d start off reading trash but one day I’d notice a volume of Emily Dickinson or a copy of The Catcher in the Rye on her nightstand. When she got out of the pool the sun would gleam on her wet shoulder blades. There’d be no grieving for the time before the Curse because for her there would be no time before the Curse. I’d bring her up unashamed, elite, triumphal, loved for what she was, a natural born werewolf. Then boys. And no Jake to play the scary dad. She’d be embarrassed by Cloquet. Hey, Zoë, that French dude’s a fag, right? Or some kinda eunuch, or what? She’d ask me to tell her about her father and I wouldn’t be able to stop myself. I’d lose some of her to him, to the glamour of the dead. She’d start looking for him in guys, and then all the trouble would start.

But God hardened Pharaoh’s—

‘We should go,’ Cloquet said. He’d been upstairs, searching the bedrooms. ‘I’m sorry. It may be right what you say, that there’s something here, but we need a week to look. Maybe we should go and see the assistant tomorrow after all? She could know something.’

It was remote. But with Merryn dead what else did we have? My search-the-house plan was desperation, and in any case to do it properly would take hours. Still, the thought of walking away no closer to finding my son was intolerable. We had to have information.

‘I’m going to look,’ I said. Zoë had stopped feeding. I put her over my shoulder and stood up, feeling suddenly dizzy. The residual stink of the Undead had been sickening me since we’d entered. ‘We’re not going to get the chance again. There has to be something, an invoice to one of their companies, an email... Fuck, I don’t know.’ Moving out from behind the desk I banged my knee on its edge and shut my eyes for a moment to absorb the pain.

I still had them closed when an American male voice said: ‘Don’t move, please.’


I opened my eyes. A good-looking boyish guy with tangled brown and blond hair stood in the study doorway holding a gun pointed directly at Cloquet. Two-handed grip. No shake. Professional. Glamorous blue-green eyes and a mouth that wanted to smile. Levis, red plaid shirt, pale green combat jacket. An odour of damp clothes and tired skin. He looked twenty-five but something told you he was ten years older. Charmer, the female consensus would be.

‘Hey, there,’ he said, and the mouth did smile, with what looked like delight at being alive. ‘Any weapons, very slowly, out and down on the floor.’ The accent was East Coast, maybe even New York. I wondered if I’d ever passed him in the street or sat next to him on the subway. I could see him in Veselka with a rapt East Village hipster girl who wouldn’t know he was unmaliciously and comprehensively screwing her roommate as well. ‘Cloquet, you first. Miss D, please, no acrobatics with the kid.’

‘Who are you?’ Cloquet said.

‘Weapons first, then introductions. Do it now, please. Slowly.’

Cloquet reached in and removed a Beretta from his left shoulder holster. He had a Luger in the right but didn’t touch it. I had a Smith and Wesson M&P (all supplied by Aegis) in a rear holster under my jacket. Going for it was out of the question.

‘Okay, slide it over to me. That’s it. Couldn’t have done it better myself. Now, Monsieur Cloquet, face-down on the floor, hands on your head. Think toupée, think gale.’

A second guy appeared at the gunman’s side, also armed. Taller, older, dark hair flecked with grey. Black eyes polished by exhaustion. Midnight-blue jeans and a donkey jacket. He gave the younger one a single nod: upstairs clear.

‘Okay. Fabulous. Miss D, are you armed?’


‘You know the drill. Can you manage?’

I tightened my hold on Zoë (who’d been negligibly sick on my shoulder) and reached around slowly for the gun in the rear holster. I bent and put it on the floor. The older guy frisked Cloquet – whereupon the Luger was discovered and removed, without comment, for all of us to see. New York came over to me. ‘In the light of which,’ he said, ‘my apologies, but...’ He frisked me, efficiently, without indecency, despite my blouse being still half unbuttoned from feeding Zoë. He had an outrageous gentle glittering confidence about him. Closer up, I could see he hadn’t slept in a while. I could also see a small white scar just below his left eye.

‘Okay, that’s the guns,’ I said. ‘Now can I get dressed and put my daughter in her carrier?’

‘Sure, sure, go ahead. Again, my apologies.’

‘What is this?’ Cloquet said. ‘Who are you?’

New York indicated the captured weapons with another big smile. ‘We ask the questions,’ he said. ‘You didn’t kill these people, I’m guessing, but did you see what happened?’

‘No,’ Cloquet said. ‘Let me get up off the fucking floor.’

‘Easy, tiger, easy. Foot off the gas. You can get up, very slowly, very calmly. Calm as Carradine. There you go. Beautiful. Couldn’t’ve done it better myself.’

I’d buttoned my blouse and resettled Zoë in the carrier, snug against me. I kept imagining the sensation of a bullet hitting her while I held her. The older guy was down on his haunches, examining the vampire remains. He poked at the foot with a pencil.

‘How do you know who we are?’ I asked New York.

‘In our organisation everyone knows who you are. Colleague of mine’s got you as his desktop wallpaper. And with the greatest respect, the picture does not do you justice.’

‘What organisation?’

‘Ex-organisation. We don’t think of ourselves as WOCOP any more. Not since they started trying to kill us.’


‘Let’s go,’ the older guy said. The L of ‘Let’s’ indicated Eastern Europe, Russia maybe. He’d snapped out of whatever fugue he’d been in.

‘Go where?’ I said.

‘If you harm her,’ Cloquet said. ‘If you do anything—’

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