Talulla Rising Page 34

‘Hold on,’ Walker said.

I lost all sense of direction. There was a pattern – accelerate, brake, sharp turn, accelerate – and I knew we were climbing the ramps to street level, but I was no better oriented than I would’ve been in a tumble drier.

Suddenly a longer, straighter run, Walker’s abdominals tense, what felt like a moment of pure silence – then the windshield shattering as we crashed through the exit barrier, and the smell and sounds of London’s wet evening rushed in.

‘Are they still following?’ I asked.

‘Can’t be sure. Stay down. We’re in the goddamned high street here.’

‘Who is it?’

‘Can’t see. Murdoch’s guys, probably. Her ladyship okay?’

The change in air and sound had shocked Zoë quiet again. ‘She’s fine,’ I said. ‘What are we going to do?’

‘Got to ditch this van. It’s made, obviously. I think the best thing is... Wait. Hang on. Bump coming—’ How high Zoë and I came up off the seat told me we were still travelling fast. Car horns detonated around us. A pedestrian right outside my absent window said, ‘Fuck me.’ The air flowing in was cold, tasted of wet pavements and exhaust fumes and fried food.

‘Can you run?’ Walker said.




‘Okay, in a minute I’m going to stop. We’re going to be right outside the Tube mall. We get out, we run through. There are cabs on the other side.’

‘Are you fucking crazy?’

‘Tougher to follow a car that’s got twenty-thousand doubles. Trust me. This shit-heap’s no good to us now. You got the clean phones?’


‘Okay, when I tell you. Only when I tell you. Got it?’

‘Got it.’

It happened fast but was filled with detail: the smell of Walker’s leather jacket; a pink and white ice cream van going by; Zoë’s moist hand like a little sea creature momentarily pressed to my lips.

‘Big bump then we go,’ Walker said. ‘Ready—’ We mounted a kerb violently. Pedestrians scattered with a weird collective sound, part fear, part outrage, part delight that something unexpected was happening.


People’s faces went by not, as the convention has it, in a blur, but in vivid snapshots. I had a brief awareness of London’s cold darkness and the softness and heat of the crowd, then we were through the entrance and racing down the central concourse, Walker with the gun tokenly concealed under his jacket, me clutching Zoë like a football, thinking any second now... any second now... you feel the bullet just that awful fraction before you hear the shot... Shop fronts were distinct and urgent and inane – WH Smith; Superdrug; Tesco Express; lousy soulless things to be the last things you see – then we were past the escalators and back out in the street.

I looked behind us. If there was pursuit it was concealed by the trawling shoppers.

‘In here!’

Walker was already opening the door of the first cab in a line of three. The lit interior was a thing of beauty. Holding Zoë close, I got in.


It took half an hour and a lot of side streets before Walker was satisfied we weren’t being followed, and even then he advised against going back to the Kensington hotel.

‘Were they shooting at you or me?’

‘Who knows?’ he said. ‘It wasn’t Murdoch, though.’

‘How come?’

‘He wouldn’t have missed. I’m just surprised he’s opened it up to the rank and file. I thought he’d want the pleasure himself.’

‘Maybe they were shooting at both of us,’ I said. ‘I mean it’s still WOCOP, right? It’s not like there’s been a werewolf amnesty.’

‘Either way we’ve got to assume your hotel’s made. My place too. Mike and I are running out of safe houses.’

I was worried about Cloquet. I’d been gone hours. He’d be chewing the wallpaper by now. But if his cell and the room phone were bugged, how could I reach him and tell him to get out?

In the end I called the concierge. By the grace of the God who wasn’t there he remembered me (I’d run out of diapers for Zoë the night we checked in and had to find the nearest twenty-four-hour store) and though it took a little persuasion he agreed to what I asked. He would call ‘Mr Malraux’ in Suite 472 and tell him to come to reception for an urgent message from ‘Ms Atwood’. I would wait ten minutes, then call the concierge on his own cellphone, which he would hand over to Cloquet. Even Walker’s suspicion didn’t extend to the concierge’s personal phone being tapped.

Cloquet was predictably hopped-up. He didn’t say it but it was obvious he thought I was planning to ditch him. He’d wrecked my trust and I’d absconded with my American beach boy. There would have to be reassurance, I knew – but not now. Now was practicalities. I gave him the clean cell number and told him what had happened. He had to get out of the hotel. We travelled light, so it shouldn’t be hard for him to leave discreetly. The concierge would arrange for a car to pick him up at the kitchen exit. From there he could join me at the Dorchester, the first hotel that sprang to mind, probably from a James Bond movie. Walker advised me to get out of London altogether, but I couldn’t face it. I wanted to be here when they got a lock on Jacqueline and the Disciples. Besides, my British geography was lousy. At least in London I could find my way around.

I checked in: Jane Dickinson. (Cloquet would be Pierre Rennard again for a while.) Walker came up with me to what turned out to be a warmly lit art deco suite. Pink, cream, pale green, walnut trims and deep carpet the colour of Caribbean sand. The snug solid feel of a luxury liner’s cabin, a welcome shock after the raw evening and spent adrenaline. I closed the drapes. A fifty got the bellhop out to the nearest seven-eleven with a list of infant essentials, and twenty minutes later Zoë was back in Pampers and Sudocrem credit. I fed her (with my back to Walker; unembarrassed mutual understanding; and a nod to keeping the flesh’s erotic powder dry) while he called Konstantinov and filled him in. No news on Jacqueline from their WOCOP insider. I put Zoë over my shoulder, did the rubbing, the patting, the humming, the pacing, while Walker fixed himself a Laphroaig from the bar. Five minutes and one unladylike burp later my girl was asleep. In the absence of her bassinet the only place for her was the vast bed. I put her down in it, stabilised by four of the hotel’s monumental pillows. Then I rang reception with a message to be given to ‘Monsieur Rennard’ on his arrival: Check in. Go to your room. Wait for my call.

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