Talulla Rising Page 29

‘I’ll tell you what I think,’ Walker said.


‘I think you want us to help you get your son back.’

‘I’ll pay you.’

‘I know. Money’ll come in handy for Mike and Natasha.’

‘Not for you?’

‘Sure, for me. I’m not noble.’

‘So you’ll help me?’

‘Well, it’s either that or kill you.’

I said nothing. The room smelled of damp carpet and radiators. I wondered who had lived here before it became the place these guys used. I pictured a tired woman, three children, welfare, the television never off.

‘You’re going to try’n get your kid back anyway,’ Walker said. ‘Same vamps have Mike’s wife. We don’t help you, there’s a good chance we’ll get in each other’s way.’

So why not kill us now? I didn’t need to say it. We looked at each other. The attraction was a stubborn softness between us. It was also the first sexual honesty I’d felt in months. It didn’t mean he wouldn’t kill me or I wouldn’t kill him. I thought: all men and women should start from that understanding.

‘What about Konstantinov?’ I asked. ‘He doesn’t want me dead?’ Cynic’s advocate, just in case. Maybe they wanted to trade me for Konstantinov’s wife? But Jacqueline had the wife, and if Jacqueline wanted me she could have taken me in Alaska. Okay, but there were other vampires. Jacqueline might not care about the Helios Project but the eggheads among the Fifty Families did. If they didn’t know I was virus-free they’d want me. Maybe enough to force the Disciples to give up a prisoner. I’d have to tread carefully.

‘Mike doesn’t want to kill anyone he doesn’t have to,’ Walker said. ‘That might sound crazy to you, but it’s all I’ve got.’ Then after a pause: ‘Look at me.’

The command startled me, the sudden masculine shift of tone that registers in a girl’s heart. And cunt, if she’s the wrong type of girl. I looked at him. I had disturbed him, brought him unexpectedly awake. It had been a long time since anything had. But he was disturbing me too. I could imagine all his sweet golden boyhood still there in his shoulders. Nothing compares to killing the thing you love. But that was okay because this wouldn’t be love.

‘I’m not lying to you,’ he said. ‘You know I’m not.’

Implicit was how I knew. Because I was like him. A killer. Killing’s a club. No secret handshakes. Just a look. You’ve done it too. Yes.

I conceded, silently, then looked away, ran my index finger down the side of Zoë’s cheek. She kicked her legs, made wordless shapes with her mouth. As Delilah had. The thought of the Disciples was a mental loop that made me frantic and exhausted, though I kept telling myself Lorcan was better off with them: They wouldn’t need him until midwinter. They’d have to keep him alive till then. Whereas the Helios scientists would have started work straight away. I kept telling myself this but I couldn’t shake the nausea, knowing religion was involved, priests, prophecies, rituals. Mumbo fucking jumbo. It meant all bets were off. It meant anything that didn’t make sense was possible. Probable, in fact.

‘How many of you are there?’ I asked.

‘Nowhere near enough for what we need. You forget we weren’t with the rebels, and most of them have gone underground anyway. I doubt we’ll see them again. The ones Murdoch misses will get new faces, new IDs.’

‘So I get what, a force of two?’

‘Hey, it’s two very good guys. But no, you get more than two. There are twenty or so in the same boat as me and Mike, wrongly accused and on the run, plus a few people on the inside who are helping us keep a step ahead. And don’t forget you’ve got Clouseau.’

‘He’s not ridiculous,’ I said. ‘I know you think he is, but I’d be dead by now if not for him.’

‘I’ll take your word for that. But he better understand: no catwalk tantrums.’

‘Don’t worry about it. He’ll be fine.’ I was thinking: Twenty or so. Jacqueline’s got three hundred vampires. Hollywood odds. Like it or not I was going to have to call Charlie at Aegis again. This wasn’t the time to mention it to Walker, however.

‘What’s in it for you?’ I asked. ‘Or rather what was in it for you, before the chance to make some money presented itself?’

The smile reflex fired, started to allude to our sexual potential – but he couldn’t carry it through. He lowered his eyes. ‘I owe Mike,’ he said. ‘You know how it is.’

Not now, whatever the story. Masculine honour, presumably. Fine. It made no difference to me. I was tired. My back ached from the baby carrier. I knew how wonderful it would be to lie down on the bed and curl up with Zoë next to me and let sleep close over me like black water.

‘Tell me something,’ I said, unfastening the diaper. ‘Doesn’t it bother you that I’ve killed your kind?’

The ugly question asked uglily not just out of annoyance with libido’s timing but out of the knowledge that if I slept with him it would be good – and however good it was it wouldn’t be good enough. For what I was there was only one thing that would ever be good enough. Only one thing and no one to share it with.

‘Why?’ he answered. ‘Does it bother you that I’ve killed yours?’


Back at our hotel in Kensington I settled Zoë in her bassinet and sat Cloquet down opposite me. ‘Okay,’ I said. ‘Tell me the vampire fairy tale.’

The rooms – one bedroom with en suite and a separate lounge/dining area – were luxury corporate, done in shades of beige with occasional planes of dark brown. London’s tense damp evening was like a listening intelligence pressed up against the window.

‘You think I should have told you,’ he said. ‘Maybe I should.’ He looked tired, and a little crazy.

‘Just tell me everything you know,’ I said. ‘And no bullshit, please, whether you think it’s in my interest or not.’

He sank back into the leather armchair, which received him with a sigh. His face was unshaven, bloodshot, pouchy. If I thought of getting rid of him I found I couldn’t imagine him living any other kind of life. It was his default to dissolve himself into the will of a monstrous woman. My human occasionally hefted the idea of getting him help, but she couldn’t hold it up for long, not with wulf sneering and telling her she was wasting her time. He’ll be worse without you, now. That’s the nature of the familiar’s disease: he can’t live with the cure.

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