Talulla Rising Page 42

‘There’s four of us. I did it for Trish. Then Lucy was an accident. Then Trish fucked it up with this guy Fergus and now there’s him, too. He says he’s kept it to himself, but I dunno if he’s lying. Lucy, too, for that matter. I mean I don’t really know her, not as a person.’

You take a moment to establish you’re not dreaming. I had an image of them together in an unloved little meeting room. Like a support group.

‘We’ve all been feeling it,’ she went on. ‘You, I mean. We’ve been like: Something’s happening. Someone’s here. Trish said the other day she nearly fainted in South Ken. It’s like a whatsit, compulsion. She didn’t even know what she was doing there. It’s like me, now, in here. I’m not shopping, really. I just... You know?’

‘I was in South Kensington,’ I said. ‘I felt it too. This is... Wait. What do you mean you did it for Trish?’

‘She asked me to.’

‘Asked you to what?’

‘What d’you think?’

‘Turn her?’



‘Well, it’s a long story. You’ve got to know the background. She’s had way more than her share of shit to put up with. Then she saw what I did to that arsehole... There was this tosser, Alistair. What he was getting away with, you know? It’s complicated.’

A calm detached incredulous part of me was filling in the narrative gaps anyway. Trish enslaved by tosser Alistair, the blonde girl paying him a visit one full moon, Trish seeing the short-cut to a life of never getting pushed around... I thought: Jake, you should have been here to see this. The New Feminism.

At which thought the most obvious question – the one that should have been first in the crowd – suddenly pushed its way to the front.

‘Who did it to you?’ I asked her.

She rolled her eyes, as if recalling a minor absurdity. ‘This guy I was seeing. He’s disappeared. So really that’s four others apart from me.’

‘What was his name?’

Zoë had stopped suckling but I couldn’t move for a moment. The air in the cubicle ached with our mutual intuitions. Her odour intensified, suddenly.

‘Jake,’ she said. ‘I never knew his second name.’

The world-sized CGI effect was almost complete. Beyond the feeling of inevitability, I was hurt: Why didn’t he tell me? And how did he do it? Didn’t he have the virus? Wasn’t he incapable of passing on the Curse? Wait. No. Ellis had told him WOCOP had been slipping him the anti-virus when they could. Drinks at the Zetter. The hotel in Caernarfon. Had it worked?

This guy I was seeing.

The Zetter. Caernarfon.

The last detail of the giant CGI metamorphosis resolved. We had our new shape.

‘You’re Madeline,’ I said.

‘Yeah,’ she replied. ‘How d’you know?’


It was foolish to go with her openly back to the Dorchester but I was in no state for nice judgements. I’d told her we couldn’t speak in the cab, so by the time we were behind closed doors in my suite the questions were at a rolling boil. I explained what I knew as quickly (and simply) as I could: Jake; the near-extinction of the species; WOCOP; the vampires; the virus. She knew nothing about the Hunt, had never, to her knowledge, been pursued, and had never met a vampire, though she took the discovery of their existence without question. I left out any mention of the journals. She’d want to read them and Jake hadn’t been flattering. That we had him in common thickened the intimacy, of course, forced me to picture things, her neat little face’s concealments when he pushed his cock into her anus, the two of them drinking champagne, standing up, naked, her rolling over on his cellphone in the Caernarfon bed. It should have meant enmity, or at least jealousy, but it didn’t. Wulf trumped everything: we were mutually fascinated, like newly introduced sisters. There were the surface differences, nationality, education, taste (her human had me pegged as smart, maybe a bit stuck-up, crucially and gratifyingly not as pretty as her), but they burned away in the heat of the monster we shared, who sat with us now like a delighted paedophile uncle with his two corrupt nieces. In any case, for all Jake’s scorn of her faculties she’d registered the businesswoman in both of us, the smudge of commerce, the no-nonsense relationship with money. That and the commitment to self-preservation, to life at all moral costs. You love life because life’s all there is. There’s no God and that’s His only Commandment. Jake wouldn’t have needed to tell her that.

She’d Turned the night after their last encounter at the Castle Hotel in Caernarfon. She went back afterwards looking for him, but of course by then he was already in France.

‘He used to tell me about it,’ she said. ‘How he was two hundred years old, how he killed people every full moon.’ She was sitting in one of the suite’s cream leather chairs drinking a gin and tonic, one slim booted leg crossed over the other. Zoë, milk-stunned and with a perceptibly increased feeling of safety, was asleep in her bassinet. Cloquet was in his room. I’d rung him to say I was back but didn’t want to be disturbed. I needed Madeline to myself first; he would have complicated it. ‘Clients are always telling you things,’ Madeline continued. ‘Half the time that’s what they’re coughing-up for. Normally you take it with a major pinch of, right? But he was different. I mean when he told you stuff it was like he was reading from a book or something.’ ‘He’, Jake, kept flaring and subsiding between us like pleasurably shaming sunlight. It was as if she and I were seeing each other naked. ‘And then that poor bloke’s head in the bag,’ she continued. ‘Christ. And the other guy goes, “He’s a werewolf, honey, didn’t you know?” and I’m like: Fucking hell. I mean he tried to pass it off afterwards, make a joke of it, but I knew by then there was something seriously weird going on.’

‘I still don’t understand how he did it to you,’ I said.

She shook her head, shrugged. ‘At the time I just assumed...’ She made a face to indicate sex. ‘You know?’

‘But it’s not spread like that,’ I said. ‘As far as I know it’s got nothing to do with sexual contact.’

‘Look, you might be right, but what can I tell you? He didn’t bite me, that’s for sure. He didn’t change. All I know is it definitely happened after that last night we were in Caernarfon.’

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