Talulla Rising Page 77

‘How is that possible?’ Lucy asked.

‘Christ knows,’ I said. ‘Mia said three times now a group of four vampires have been selected from the congregation to “receive the gift”. Remshi takes them to his room. The following night there’s filmed footage of these four walking around the place in sunlight. After the first round of scepticism they had themselves filmed next to TVs showing live news to verify the date and time. Tough to fake. These are CNN and BBC news anchors. Any way you slice it we have to figure on a dozen wide-awake vamps in the place tomorrow when we go in.’

‘Should be interesting,’ Trish said.

Lucy sat down at the table where the guns were piled up. ‘Don’t we need... You know, wooden stakes or something? Garlic?’

I went out onto the verandah and phoned Madeline.

‘She’s absolutely fine,’ was the greeting. ‘Stop worrying.’

The moon was up, low over the sea. Full tomorrow. Wulf was big and angular and impatient under my skin. I thought of those cartoons where someone swallows something and becomes the shape of the thing they’ve swallowed. There was a lovely smell of clean concrete and the pool’s chlorine and something like sage or rosemary in the shrubs nearby. All distinct beguiling counterpoints to the hunger’s bass throb.

‘I want you to know something: I trust you.’

‘Yeah yeah yeah. Here, listen to this.’ She moved the phone. Rustling, then my daughter’s breathing. Steady. Strong. A thousand miles away. ‘She’s fallen asleep watching a DVD with me.’

‘What are you watching?’

‘Don’t laugh. The Little Mermaid.’

‘You’re a good person.’

‘What, apart from killing and eating people?’

‘Apart from that, yes.’

‘What’s going on there, anyway?’

I filled her in. I couldn’t ask her what I wanted to ask: Have you sorted out prey? Is it safe? Will my daughter be safe? Explicitness died in my throat. The little fey truthful indifferent bit of myself inside said let it go, there’s nothing you can do now and you’ll most likely be dead tomorrow anyway. Dead and gone to join the vast mathematical silence.

‘About the money,’ I said. ‘If I don’t come back—’

‘La la la la—’

‘Listen, seriously. I’ve spoken to my lawyer. He’s got the codicil. You’ll be okay.’

‘You’ve told me all this.’

‘I know, I know. Let me listen to her again.’

‘Hang on, I’m losing you...’

‘Oh wait, I’ll move. There’s a dead signal spot... Is that better? Can you hear me?’

‘Yeah, that’s better. Here you go. Don’t wake her up!’

I listened, without making a sound. Without making a sound on the outside. Inside I couldn’t shut up. I’m sorry, angel. I made a mess of everything. I’m so sorry. This girl I’ve left you with, she’s a little crazy, but her heart’s in the right place. If I don’t see you again, I think she’ll take good care of you. It’s what my instinct tells me. We don’t have much going for us, but we’ve got good instincts. I love you. I love you. I love you.

‘Okay?’ Madeline asked, in a voice that said she’d heard as clearly as if I’d spoken aloud.

‘Yes. Thank you. Thank you for doing this incredible thing.’

‘Look, don’t get maudlin. You’ll be home with your boy tomorrow then we can crack open a bottle of Bolly. Okay?’


‘How’s Fergus the Lergus?’

‘The what?’

‘The Lergus. Like the Lergie. How’s he behaving himself?’

Fergus had in fact just appeared on the verandah, one hand holding his phone to his ear, the other gripping a scotch and cigarette. ‘To make money work for you you’ve got to have contempt for it,’ he’d told me, apropos of nothing, about a minute after we’d been introduced. ‘You’ve got to have contempt for the stupid obedience of money. The problem is, to develop the contempt, you need to acquire quite a lot of money. When you’re ready to discuss your fortune, how to treat it with the necessary contempt, you let me know.’

‘Colourful,’ I said to Madeline. ‘Weirdly, there’s something about him that inspires confidence.’

‘Yeah, it’s greed. You know that as long as what you’re asking him to do will max his profit you can count on him to do it. What about Walker?’

‘Still sick. He won’t see me.’

‘You do know he’s in love with you, don’t you?’

Pause. Well? Didn’t I?

‘Are you in love with him?’ Madeline asked.

‘What, we’re going to have this conversation now?’

Our connection flickered shadowily over the line. It came to me that she knew what had happened to him while we’d been held prisoner. Something in her tone. Which brought again, whether I wanted it or not, the image, Walker bound and bent double, Tunner jamming the bloody nightstick deep, Murdoch observing glassily while conducting a conversation on his phone.

‘You could do a lot worse,’ Madeline said.

There’s something better than killing the one you love.

‘I’m just saying,’ Madeline said, ‘there aren’t that many blokes worth having. But he’s one of them. I’m losing you again, babes.’

‘I should get back anyway,’ I said, as the Hunger sent a shuddering wave through my legs and I staggered. ‘I feel like shit.’ Madeline, courtesy of the same arbitrariness that ruled the other monthly curse, suffered nothing until a couple of hours before moonrise on transformation day. It was the other reason she’d been the obvious choice to babysit. The primary reason being that Lucy didn’t want the responsibility again. ‘I’ll call you tomorrow,’ I said, moving into the darkness of the little olive grove beyond the pool’s paving, where for some reason the signal was strong. ‘Assuming I’m still alive, obviously.’ I saw Konstantinov come out of Walker’s room and leave the door open behind him. He was frowning.

‘Walker?’ he called.

‘Don’t be daft,’ Madeline said.

‘Walker?’ Konstantinov called a second time. I couldn’t see him now but I could hear doors opening and closing. Fergus, live to the shift in the air’s character, hung up his call and turned back to the house.

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