Talulla Rising Page 66

The lover wanted to comfort him. The monster was blood-buoyed and turned on and ready for more flesh. The mother was desperate, feeling time boiling away to nothing.

I turned and ran.

Two more flights of stairs brought us, I could smell, to ground level. Double doors stood open to a large, messy office, more desks and computers, papers scattered, no personnel. Identical double doors across the floor. Locked doors. Electronic. Card-swipe and access code required.

But these weren’t vault thickness, and this time there were three of us. I put Caleb down. No need to even crudely instruct Wilson and Devaz. At the third yank the left door screeched and snapped free of its lock. Beyond, not the atrium or reception I was expecting, but a loading bay. Stacked metal crates, forklifts, a snub-nosed British truck with no trailer. The place was oil-stained and freezing and stank of rust. The roll-down door to the outside world was three feet off the ground. Devaz leaped the truck, grabbed the handle and flung it upwards.

Night air full of damp fields and moonlit cold. A large asphalt compound containing a few small trucks and vans, more ribbed cargo trailers, weeds coming up through the concrete. The whole space enclosed by aluminium fencing topped with razor wire. Thirty metres away the moist silence of close-packed trees. The smells and the moon-carved openness rushed my heart up to joy. It was like running into the arms of a lost love.

Devaz and Wilson, splashed with their first Curse moonlight, lifted their ravished heads to howl – which was when I saw the gunman.

He was protruding from the sun-roof of a 4x4 parked so that it was almost completely concealed between two trailers.

I flung MOVE! at Wilson with a violence that must have struck his head like a discus – then he was down, hit in the chest – and this time, I knew, the bullets would count.

There was no time to move and all the time in the world to feel myself not moving, the stalled synapses, the neurons’ long-winded math that couldn’t possibly be done before the bullet arrived. The moment expanded, big and slow and clear enough for me to think: this is my last moment, standing with a vampire child in my arms in a—

Then the blood-rush and cellular scintillation like a billion tiny stars coming on in the flesh as out of the darkness beyond the fence a werewolf dropped, the lethal end of her giant parabola, a jump that had begun twenty metres away, triggered by the silver exploding through Wilson’s chest.

Madeline, transformed, hit the sniper like a meteor.


The 4x4’s driver – Murdoch, I knew – reacted fast. Within a second of Madeline’s impact on the roof he’d slammed the car into gear and motion. Madeline, having bitten through the shooter’s throat, wrenched his head clean off and flung it towards us. Murdoch floored the gas. Tyres screamed. Side-arm shots cracked dry and small over the outraged engine. Madeline hung on. It took Murdoch sideswiping a cargo crate to dislodge her. A moment more and she would have had another head to pitch us.

Murdoch rammed the fence and burst through under the wire. He swung the car right and hit what must have been an access road. Automatic-weapons fire followed him, but he kept going.

Devaz was on all-fours over Wilson’s corpse, head hanging, sniffing. I put Caleb down and ran to where Madeline had fallen.


She wasn’t hurt, and was on her feet sending me this by the time I reached her. But she was starving. Her roiling scent and shimmering heat said hunger at the end of its leash. Her roused dead were there in misery on her breath; her livened cunt had its own prowling gravity. I could have put my arms around her. She felt that, had no room for it, was already moving past me, electric with appetite. Caleb’s odour on me made her gag.


She did, but it pulled her blood the wrong way. I could feel what she could feel: that the building was still manned, that live prey was scurrying around less than fifty metres away.


Behind me. I turned. Konstantinov and Cloquet were approaching, armed. Mike got out. A metal gate swung on its hinges behind them.

‘Zoë’s safe,’ Cloquet said. ‘Thank God you’re all right. Transport close by. Hurry.’

Konstantinov was packing an AK-47 but there was silver on him too. The holstered handguns, one on each hip. The blade in his boot. He wasn’t taking any chances.

‘Hurry,’ Cloquet repeated.

Walker had collapsed a few feet away. Konstantinov ran to him and broke an ampoule of something under his nose. Caleb, pale as a root, had crawled to one of the trucks and now sat propped, semi-conscious, against one of its enormous wheels. I hesitated. Truth was I hadn’t eaten nearly enough. The half-dozen mouthfuls from the youngster in the corridor had teased the hunger rather than satisfying it. If I didn’t get more the humans would soon be at risk. A few hours from now even Cloquet wouldn’t be safe. A cloud shifted from where it had been half-covering the moon and the light in the yard surged. It was too much for Madeline. She sprang towards the building’s open maw.

At that moment several bursts of gunfire sounded from within. Screams. More shots – then three WOCOP agents came staggering and backpedalling from the loading bay.

Followed by two more werewolves.

TRISH, FERGUS, I got from Madeline. Both of them bleeding from a handful of not-silver bullet holes, manifestly not suffering for it. Konstantinov was the brains here. Attack from both ends.

Murdoch had slipped through somehow, another exit. Murdoch would always know another way out.

Devaz grabbed the first agent by the throat, lifted him off the ground, broke his wrist when he tore the machine gun from his hand. The other two agents were out of ammunition. There was nowhere for them to go.


Trish and Fergus were soon blissfully off-mission. In the time it took Konstantinov and Cloquet to get Walker in the van, they’d entered the state beyond reason, the state beyond – period. Trish was on all-fours, muzzle shoved under her victim’s ribs, Fergus, throat up, snout blowing bouquet after bouquet of moonlit breath, was fucking her from behind. A nerve in their victim’s leg made it jounce to their rhythm, as if he were enjoying the tune of his own death. I was wet from watching them, from the live flesh, from my share of the chaotic little pack consciousness, plus, obviously, haywire resurgence of the night with Jake at Big Sur. Not the same without love – no tenderness to sweeten the cruelty, no refined counterpoint to the beast – but still, a bacchanalian alternative, an exquisitely filthy feast for the Cursed.

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