Talulla Rising Page 70


‘How’d you manage that?’

‘How d’you think?’

A pause while she re-evaluated me. Now I was the sort of woman who could fuck strategically. I felt her realising she’d underestimated me – and felt her feeling that I felt it. These shivers and shadows of infinite-regress mind-reading. The forced mutual recognition was still fresh enough to tickle us – but we knew that wouldn’t last: down the line we’d have to find a way of keeping private what was private. As it was, just then I read her wondering if there’d been any pleasure in it for me.

Not much.

She nodded. Men who were no good at sex. She knew all about it. Which rushed the ambiguity back so that my skin tingled and my face went hot and for a moment it was obvious we weren’t looking at each other – but we were rescued by the sound of a car pulling up. A moment later Lucy and Cloquet came in, big-eyed and pale, smelling of residual wulf and mudflats and diesel and cold air.

‘Everything okay?’ I asked.

‘Who knows,’ Lucy said. ‘We’ve done what we can.’

She was a tall skinny reddish brunette with warm, sad brown eyes, broad cheekbones and a wide but indistinct mouth. All her features slightly dissolved into her freckles. Her hairdo was a triangular shoulder-length bob with bangs. She’d look good in any shade of green, though right now she was wearing rust-coloured corduroys and a black roll-neck sweater. The majority of men would rank us in descending order: Madeline, me, Lucy, but for an alert minority Lucy would have more sex-appeal than Maddy and me put together. Updike would have rhapsodised about her oily skin and long fingers and freckled boobs.

‘I never got the chance before to thank you,’ I said. ‘For looking after Zoë. For everything.’

‘She was no trouble,’ Lucy said. ‘But before we go any further could you tell me what the hell that boy is doing upstairs in my spare room?’

In the febrile communication available to us when we’d arrived all I’d got through to her was PLEASE. EMERGENCY. PLEASE. Enough to secure Caleb a roof for the night, but very plainly with objections deferred. Now the deferral was over.

‘He’s a vampire,’ I said. ‘A very sick one.’

‘That much I know,’ Lucy said. From Cloquet, who’d heard what Walker had to tell up front in the van. ‘Clearly you’ve got some investment in him, but would you mind sharing it?’

‘It’s obvious, isn’t it?’ Madeline said. ‘They’ve got her son. They’re going to kill him. Now she’s got one of theirs. Bargaining power.’ She looked at me. ‘Right?’

‘Right,’ I said. ‘Unfortunately, that’s exactly right.’

It was a either a coincidence or a baroque touch by the dramatist on speed that immediately the words left my mouth Caleb started screaming.


‘Fuck, it’s the sun,’ I said, jumping up. ‘Quick – a dark place.’

‘Cellar,’ Lucy said. ‘But it’s full of crap down—’

‘He won’t care. Where is it? Madeline, can you take her for a second?’

We’d closed the curtains in Caleb’s room, but they weren’t thick enough to keep out full daylight. When Cloquet and I got up there he was on the floor with the quilt around him trying to crawl under the bed.

‘We’re taking you underground,’ I said, grabbing him. ‘You’ll be safe there, I promise.’

He couldn’t answer. The quilt was leaking wisps of smoke.

Five minutes later he was in Lucy’s cellar (which wasn’t full of crap but was a small, clean orderly place stacked with airtight plastic boxes) wrapped in the comforter, curled up in the foetal position. His eyes were closed, his mouth was wide open and his breathing was terrible.

‘He can’t stay here,’ Lucy said, when we were back in the kitchen.

‘I know. I’ll take him with me tonight. Don’t worry.’

‘Take him where?’ Madeline asked.

I looked at Cloquet.

‘South coast,’ he said. The place Konstantinov and Walker were holed-up in. London was too risky for us now.

‘Okay,’ Lucy said. ‘He stays till the sun goes down. Fine. But we need to talk.’

A surreal morning and afternoon. Lucy wanted answers. Superficially to questions of science – disease immunity, lifespan, genetics, drugs – underlyingly to the quivering metaphysical cry in the void: What the fuck does it all mean?

I had nothing to give her beyond what Jake had given me. We existed. No more nor less mysteriously than leopards or seahorses or whales. Lucy sat and frowned and took it all in. She was ragged, aggrieved, disgusted, afraid – but hadn’t, I could tell, ever considered killing herself. She had an essence of stubborn entitlement. She’d thought the collapsed marriage (and apparent death-knell to child-bearing) would be her life’s defining event. Now there was this. Along with the other feelings was a profane thrill that all the information wasn’t, in fact, in, that for better or worse a new violent world was open to her. Grass still grew, birds still twittered, rain still fell. As long as you were prepared to stay in it life found room for you. Life was like that, helplessly promiscuous, a doorman who let everyone in.

‘Why silver?’ she wanted to know.

I shrugged.

‘And if we abstain?’

‘Death. I managed two moons on animals. I wouldn’t recommend it. Jake told me he did four months and ended up ripping his own skin off.’

Madeline opened a bottle of Absolut and poured shots. Since transformation my breasts had milk again, but Zoë had shown no sign of needing to suckle. Adult werewolves didn’t eat regular food for at least a week after the kill; intuition said it was the same for infants. Either way, one shot of vodka wasn’t going to do any harm. We drank. No toast, but a silent acknowledgement of the absurdity and horror and ordinariness of our condition. There was a profound temptation to laugh. Maddy’s diamante earrings glittered when she tossed back her shot.

‘It’s not supposed to be like this,’ I told them. ‘We’re not supposed to hang out together.’

‘Why not?’ Madeline asked.

‘I don’t mean it’s not allowed, I mean according to Jake we’re solitary, we avoid each other. He’d only ever met about half a dozen others, and he didn’t seem interested. He said it was competition for food and sex. They were all males, mind you. Maybe if there had been females it would’ve been different.’

Prev Next
Romance | Vampires | Fantasy | Billionaire | Werewolves | Zombies