Talulla Rising Page 73

‘I also saved his life. Anyway, this conversation’s over. I’ll call you again—’



‘If you hurt him in any way, I’ll kill your child myself. Do you understand?’


‘Now let me—’

Konstantinov took the phone from me and hit End. ‘Don’t let her talk,’ he said. ‘She’s three hundred years old. She’s smarter than you. You give her the instructions and hang up. That’s all. No good for us will come of speaking with her. Next time I’ll make the call.’

He handed me the phone. There was a moment between us in which I didn’t say, Listen, it’s thanks to me we’ve got a chance of finding your wife, and he didn’t say, Listen, it’s thanks to me you’re not lying in a WOCOP freezer with a silver bullet in your head. We looked at each other, exchanged it all anyway, then mutually let each other off, without saying a word.

I went to the cellar door and unlocked it. The stairs descending into the gloom depressed me. I took a deep breath, felt ten thousand microscopic threads of wulf snap as I rolled my neck, then, still not knowing whether I was going to tell the truth or lie through my tingling teeth, I went down to speak to my prisoner.


I told the truth, and it was as bad as it could have been. It was a wretched thing to see so much misery and betrayal with so little physical strength to express itself. He tried to get up, couldn’t, crashed from the fold-out onto the floor. I had to pick him up to put him back. He tried to hit and kick, but his limbs were like paper lanterns. He would have bitten me, so I held his head still by its nest of white-blond hair. He spat in my face.

‘Do you remember when I told you it was my son they were planning to sacrifice?’ I said, when what little energy he’d had was spent.

‘Fuck you.’

‘You said you didn’t know where they were keeping him, but that even if you knew you couldn’t tell me. I’ll just repeat that for you: Even if you knew you couldn’t tell me.’

‘I never said that.’

‘Yes, you did, and you remember saying it, so don’t bother denying it.’

‘It’s not the same.’

‘It is the same.’

His face crumpled again for a moment: fury, impotence, losing the argument, remembering his humiliations in the cage – but always, first and foremost, being trapped in an eleven-year-old’s body. Always, first and foremost, looking like a child. It drove him to say the one thing that could hurt me.

‘I trusted you.’

‘I know you did.’

‘I thought you were my friend.’

‘I was. I am. I’m sorry. I wouldn’t harm you.’

‘What if my mother hadn’t agreed?’

Yes, well, that was where the logic took us. You fuck with me and I’ll make it very bad for him. Would I? Go to work on him like the WOCOP scientists and film it and send it to Mia Tourisheva? Cooperate and I’ll make it stop.

‘I don’t know,’ I said.

He hadn’t expected honesty. It burned his heart all over again. But he forced himself to go cold. ‘Well, you wouldn’t have to get your hands dirty, would you? Not with all your werewolf cronies around. This place fucking STINKS.’ The last word shouted, for the household’s benefit.

‘Is there anything I can get you?’ I asked. I didn’t like looking at him. It was so obvious how much this had hurt him, was still hurting him. It was so obvious how much he’d liked me.

‘Yeah,’ he said. ‘Your daughter.’

I absorbed it. Exhaled. Turned to go.

‘Cigarettes,’ he said. ‘Camels.’ Then when he saw me smile: ‘What?’

‘I used to smoke those.’

‘Congratulations. So fucking what?’

‘Nothing. I’ll get you some.’ It was a good job I’d had so much practice hardening my heart. Even so I paused at the foot of the stairs, wondered for the umpteenth time if there wasn’t another way. There wasn’t.

‘My mother’s going to kill you,’ he said, quietly, when I was three stairs up. The thought was ugly to him, amongst other things.

‘I’m sure she’ll try.’

‘You don’t understand. You can’t do this sort of thing to her.’

‘And yet here I am, doing it.’

He closed his eyes. Surrendered, broken, to the new predicament. The new version of the old predicament. He’d been exhausted for such a long time. Not many make it past a thousand years, Cloquet had said. I couldn’t see Caleb getting through another ten.


Walker was sitting in the dark in a chair by his bedroom window, drinking a glass of scotch. The bottle – Glenmorangie – stood on the window sill, half empty. I sat down opposite him on the edge of the unmade bed. Our eyes met for a moment. The effect of all the times we’d looked at each other in shocked fascination was still there. But now a detached version of him stood over it, like a mortician over a corpse. I wanted to put my arms around him. He looked away.

‘I know what you want from me,’ I said, gently. ‘I can’t do it.’

He didn’t answer. There was no comfort. Comfort by definition referred to what had happened to him. Comfort was logically self-defeating. In spite of which I wanted so much to put my arms around him. At these moments it was as if God said: ‘See? There’s a reason I put the soul in the body. The body is there for when the soul’s money is no good.’ But right now the body’s money was no good, either. We’d had no physical contact – I literally hadn’t touched him – since Murdoch’s ambush in Italy. The loss was an ache, in my skin, in my heart. It had been so warm and collusive between us in the dark hotel hours. With a little practice we’d got the knack of coming, together, with him inside me. I remembered the first time it happened, the dark intuition, the sudden upgraded focus, the precarious rushing delight and at the end the second or two of astonishing unity that shears you both off into the void – then back, gratuitously enriched, stunned, deliciously finite.

‘You don’t have to say anything,’ he said, quietly.

I imagined coming to his room in the small hours and starting to undress. I knew as clearly as if he’d said it aloud how cold and dead his Don’t would sound, before I’d got past the second button of my shirt.

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