Talulla Rising Page 68

Even now, sitting in clean clothes and warmth and freedom with my daughter in my arms (and my obscene heart stuck in the loop of being forced near the love that forced it to fall away), I found it incredible that what had happened had in fact happened. After his escape Konstantinov had made it back to London and called Cloquet. Not because he had any regard for Cloquet’s abilities, but because he needed money. Lots of it. To buy information and raise a team. I’d underestimated his friendship with Walker. He wasn’t prepared to abandon him. ‘The team’ didn’t materialise. Word of Hoyle’s fate had spread. The WOCOP moles went silent and of the individuals on Murdoch’s hit-list only three were still in the UK – and they emphatically weren’t interested, at any price. Cloquet, meanwhile, having heard nothing from me for days, had contacted Madeline for help with Zoë. The dots were there to be joined: Madeline, Fergus, Lucy and Trish would come out of it loaded, Konstantinov would get four werewolves ready for human slaughter (or rather three werewolves, since one of them still had to babysit Zoë) and the monsters would get a free all-you-can-eat WOCOP buffet more or less without risk of legal reprisal. Konstantinov had guessed what sort of show Murdoch had in mind so he was confident Walker would be kept alive till full moon. They’d have to get in quick, as soon as the werewolf troops were transformed.

There remained – for Cloquet, for Lucy, for Zoë – the problem of feeding.

Cue Madeline – and the punter she didn’t like.

‘Wife beater,’ she’d told me, earlier. ‘He wanted to hire me to join in.’

‘In beating-up his wife?’


‘But not because she’s a masochist?’

‘You’re not getting it. She’s not a masochist – she’s terrified of him. He wanted me to burn her with cigarettes then shit in her mouth. This is his wife, right?’

The expected moral reflex – checked. It’s only the best thing for us if it’s the worst thing for someone else. Moral judgement rights went that night in Big Sur. Before that, even. I kept my mouth shut.

‘So I thought, Well, it’s got to be someone, you know?’

She contacted him and told him she was considering his proposal (double her usual rate, to make the lie credible) but wanted see him on his own one more time before taking the plunge. This weekend she had the use of a friend’s cottage in Wiltshire. Why didn’t he come down so they could discuss it?

‘And that was him fucked. I slipped him one in his drink and off he went to sleep. Luce said he didn’t wake up till things started to happen.’

When he did wake up – when things started to happen – he was naked, gagged and hog-tied in Lucy’s bathtub. With Lucy standing over him. Not looking like the Lucy any of her friends would have recognised.

‘Serves him right,’ Madeline had said. ‘And I hope he was life insured up the arse too. Poor cow deserves a pay-out.’

I hadn’t been able to discuss any of it with Lucy, how it had gone, how Zoë had been, whether she’d had any trouble feeding. Initially because we were all still in wulf mode and physically incapable of discussing anything, later because once the moon had set there were too many grim practicalities to deal with. Before it could be disposed of the wife-beater’s body had to be prepped: decapitated, fingerprints burnt off, teeth knocked out, lungs punctured. I did most of it. It seemed appropriate. A lot of his face was gone. Not eaten, just rubbished. To erase the person, I knew. His St Christopher had survived, as if to prove its own uselessness. It went in the bleach along with his wedding ring and wristwatch, to be disposed of separately far from here. Separately from the rest of him. Lucy’s ex had a tiny boat at a quiet mooring a few miles south of Weston-Super-Mare. As soon as she was back in human form she’d left with Cloquet (and a single portion of human remains) in the van. They were to take it out into the Bristol Channel and drop the weighted carnage overboard.

Konstantinov had gone with Walker in a separate car after dropping us here. Courtesy of my funding via Cloquet he had a crooked doctor on call and a place to hole-up. I hadn’t been able (physically, again) to say anything to him about what had happened to Walker in custody. I wondered if he’d know. Masculine rape-radar. Thinking of Walker hurt my heart. I supposed it was over between us. Not just because of what had happened to him, but because of what he’d seen: me in all my filthy glory. Richard used to claim Linda Blair never got laid after The Exorcist; guys couldn’t shake the footage. Nonsense, obviously – but maybe not when the footage was from real life. The goodbye between us had been a stare through the windshield. What else could it have been? An embrace? I was a nine-foot monster covered in blood. The woman in me was ashamed and the wolf around her was full of contempt. In any case, even if he wanted me (and hadn’t been left terminally impotent) what future was there? What future had there ever been? See you later, babe. Um-hm. Have a good kill. And that was before we got to the other bitterly laughable truth: that the more I felt for him the more likely it was he’d end up being the good kill.

Unless of course I Turned him.

Why not? If I didn’t get Lorcan back there’d be no end to the warped gestures I could make in the void. Well, I could imagine my mother saying, with arch reasonableness, why not? What’s he got left to lose?

That wasn’t the problem. The problem was that if I Turned him he’d end up hating me. Sooner or later he’d forget he’d wanted it. Sooner or later he’d start to wonder how I could have done it to him. Sooner or later every shitty thing that happened to him would be my fault. It was a structural certainty. I knew it, the monster knew it, even Walker knew it.

It was getting light out. Zoë was asleep in my arms. Bubbles of wulf were trapped in my veins and the ingested lives were standing around confused and weeping like children on their first day at school. Monster strands clung in my neck muscles, buttocks, calves. The virtues of victim blood and victim meat throbbed and glowed, a sensation like indoor warmth after freezing outside.

Devaz, who’d taken longer in the shower than any of us, was stretched out asleep on the couch in the lounge. He hadn’t been expected, either, so there were no men’s clothes for him. Instead he’d had to squeeze into a pair of Lucy’s baggiest sweatpants. It was such an unappetising sight everyone was relieved when he conked out and we could throw a blanket over him.

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