Talulla Rising Page 26


‘It’s purely personal.’

‘He slept with Murdoch’s wife,’ Konstantinov said, neutrally.

‘Yes, I did,’ Walker said, with a serious face he couldn’t take seriously. ‘And I testify to you here and now that it was a good and honest and beautiful event between two people in a chaotic world. Angela’s a good person. Getting away from that psychopath was the best thing she ever did, and if I helped her do it I’m glad as butter. She’s a beautiful smart complicated spirit and he... isn’t.’ The smile flashed on and off as he was speaking. Here was more information, whether I liked it or not: he’d always had women. Women gravitated to him in spite of themselves. Even when he was a kid at school the little girls would have found themselves exempting him from their exasperation with boys. At fourteen or fifteen there would have been a divorced aunt or local widow, horrified at herself, but nonetheless... Since then he’d accepted it as a gift, like a photographic memory or perfect pitch, compensation for the broken contract with life. There was no cruelty in him. He was a child of Eros. I pictured Murdoch’s wife as an unstable brunette with strappy high heels and confused energies and a quota of crazy things she had to do to get away at last from the toxic marriage. I couldn’t help thinking it probably had been a good thing in the world. For the first time since Merryn’s, I relaxed a little.

Meanwhile Cloquet was all but levitating with suspicion.

‘Anyway,’ Walker continued, ‘Murdoch didn’t appreciate it. He worked a simple frame-up: faked email traffic between us and the rebels. His guys were all set to arrest us but we got a tip-off and got out. Since then Murdoch’s got crazier, and it’s not like he wasn’t gaga to start with. With any luck the suits’ll shut him down, but until they do he’ll keep coming after us and the Purge will continue.’

‘What about you?’ I asked Konstantinov. ‘Whose wife did you sleep with?’

Konstantinov looked at me and I realised I’d said the wrong thing. The room was instantly crammed with my misjudgement. His black eyes spoke of inhuman endurance.

‘Go have a smoke, Mike,’ Walker said. ‘I’ll do this.’

Konstantinov sat still and unblinking for a long moment in which I could feel the room’s wretched furniture and stained walls holding their breath. Then he got up, moved past me – his aura brushed mine – and out through the door onto the balcony, closing it behind him.

‘Bad choice of words,’ Walker said. ‘Mike’s got a wife of his own. Married six months ago. Now the vampires have her. Revenge for one of their crew he took out. They’re feeding on her just enough so she stays alive. They’ve been sending him video footage.’

‘Oh,’ I said. ‘That’s awful. I’m sorry.’ I pictured Konstantinov’s wife as a pale, dark-haired woman, ballerina skinny with eyes as black as his, someone most men would think plain. You could see in his drained face that for him the sun rose and set with her. And now she was a vending machine for vampires. Video footage. I could picture that, too, along with all the other footage I could picture, of my son on the brushed-steel table, the wire going into his eye, the coven of doctors, Jacqueline’s smile of happy concentration.

‘I’m sorry,’ I said again.

‘You weren’t to know,’ Walker said. ‘He won’t hold it against you.’

Feeding on her just enough so she stays alive. Naturally the language of feeding had brought my nature into the room. Walker had to keep reminding himself what I was. The bright sexual man in him came towards me, smiling the dazzling smile, then got yanked back by the human: She’s a werewolf, for Christ’s sake. Are you insane? To which the bright sexual man, turning towards me again with the smile that wouldn’t be suppressed, said, Yeah, maybe. It was hard to look him in the eye. A little Manhattan holy spirit of inevitability hovered above us. All the sex I’d had since Jake had been bad-tempered and bleak. This was an invitation to something else. Wulf stirred, yes, but so did the long-neglected human female, the stupid girl who hadn’t been honestly loved-up in what felt like an age. There was no end to my inappropriateness, apparently.

‘Which vampires have her?’ Cloquet said.

‘What’s that?’

‘Which vampires have his wife?’

‘Jacqueline Delon’s crew. The Disciples of Remshi.’

‘The what?’

Cloquet moved to refill his glass – then remembered we were still technically under guard.

‘Go ahead,’ Walker said. ‘Just don’t do anything athletic, will you? I’m exhausted. Here, take a look at this.’ He pulled out his iPhone, tapped, scrolled, swiped, handed it to Cloquet. ‘Ever seen that before?’

Cloquet stared at the image on the screen, then passed it to me. A red cuneiform-style symbol on a black background. The emblem Jacqueline and her friends had on their jackets.

‘They were wearing it,’ I said.

‘Who were?’

‘The vampires who took my son. Jacqueline Delon’s vampires.’

‘Your son?’

I told him what had happened. All of it, without hesitation. Partly out of jet-lag, partly out of attraction, partly out of shared geography. Mostly because I’d had all I could take of not being able to trust anyone. ‘It’s what we were doing at Merryn’s,’ I said. ‘We thought he’d know where they’d taken him. But by the time we got there Merryn was dead. The vampires got there first.’

‘I can tell you what Merryn would have told you,’ Walker said. ‘He would have told you Jacqueline’s vampires were at a former winery in Provence. But that doesn’t help you. They cleared out. They found out Merryn was leaking intelligence.’

‘Merryn was a double agent?’

‘He worked for WOCOP for years, until this latest thing with the rebels. He favoured the breakaway group, naturally. The twilight zone was his life.’

Cloquet lit a cigarette. Something was wrong with him. The muscles of his face had lost some coherence. For a moment I thought it was jealousy – the attraction between Walker and me was a supple little cat in the room with us – but it wasn’t that. Or rather it wasn’t just that.

‘But how do you know the vampires moved?’ he asked. ‘How do you know they left the winery?’

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