Talulla Rising Page 81

I looked over at Murdoch, who, having finished on the phone, had stepped back into the light. His expression remained undisturbed. The guy on the floor screamed.

‘Did you bite him?’ Murdoch asked, when the scream withered.

‘Tell me what’s going on in the big picture and I’ll tell you if I bit him.’

He took out a handgun from his side holster. ‘Silver this time,’ he said – then shot String Vest in the head.

‘Now we can stop talking as if you’ve anything to bargain with,’ he said.

‘Who’s “Sir”?’ I asked.

‘“Sir” will be here shortly.’ He looked at his watch. ‘Hopefully within the next... twenty-two minutes. It’s a long time since he’s seen a live transformation, apparently.’

‘Tell me one thing. Do you know what I’m doing here on Crete?’

‘You mean are you still on Crete?’

‘Well? Am I?’

I don’t know if he would’ve answered me. His phone rang again, and he took it, again. The truck’s weight-shift said he’d jumped down. The trailer door slammed shut with a boom. Twenty-two minutes to moonrise at (I knew) 21.03. I’d been unconscious for a night and a day. Plenty of time for Murdoch to get me off the island. Or was it? If he’d been fired he wouldn’t have choppers and planes at his disposal. Would he risk it by boat? But if WOCOP were in the region surely they’d know about the Disciples, in which case they’d be on Crete themselves and there’d be no reason for Murdoch to move me. I decided to assume that, for the time being, since there was nothing to be gained by assuming otherwise.

Which got me nowhere. It didn’t make any difference whether I was on Crete or Mars if I couldn’t get out of the cage. Twenty-two – make that twenty-one minutes to moonrise: how long would Lorcan have, once he’d changed? And would the others go ahead without me? Konstantinov would, obviously – but the rest of them? For all I knew they thought I was dead. Walker would have accompanied Konstantinov and most likely thrown his life away, but Walker had gone missing, too. Why? I remembered Konstantinov’s face, dragged back down from its remote epic agony to the irritatingly mundane here-and-now. He’d looked annoyed; but by now, if Walker really had gone, he’d look desperate.

Meanwhile the bitch was unpacking herself, in the fibres, in the bones. The nerves in my teeth yelped. I had a sudden wrong view from the monster’s head-height then snapped back down to my own. Hunger stretched my blood. String Vest would still be warm when I changed. There was food, if nothing else. You live. There’s no God and that’s His only Commandment. Fifteen minutes. Twelve. Murdoch was still on the phone. The cuffs would either break or lop off my hand and foot. They looked weaker (or at any rate slimmer) than the ones that had held me in the van with Poulsom, a lifetime ago in Beddgelert Forest, and those had snapped, eventually, after several seconds of excruciating pain.

I was close. I turned and grabbed the bars of the cage. Something to hold on to, for as long as holding on was possible. Here, they said in the movies, bite down on this.

The door opened. Voices. Murdoch got up into the trailer. Not alone.

‘I’m not promising anything, John. I’m one of six. You know this.’ Deep, rich, posh English accent.

‘I’m aware of that, sir. I know how much ground I’ve got to make up. This is a start.’

‘Well, now, here she is.’

Murdoch’s companion – ‘Sir’ – was a big-bellied, round-shouldered Asian (Indian? Pakistani? Sri Lankan?) in his early sixties with thick, oiled grey and black hair swept back off his brow in a rippled quiff. The sort of heavy-lidded eyes that made me think of the hookah-smoking caterpillar from Alice. The face said the body had absorbed excessive pleasure as its birthright. Tailored black three-piece suit, white shirt, blood-red tie. An oblong gold pinky ring set with an enormous flat ruby. Superficial odours of Chanel pour homme, cigar smoke and jasmine incense around the deeper stinks of sweat, urine, shit. His flesh was heavy with booze and cholesterol, his sluggish gut packed. He’d had his fingers and face between a woman’s legs recently. I hoped it had been with her consent – which thought evoked Madeline. And so Zoë, and so Lorcan, and so time running out.

He walked up to the cage, took stock of String Vest’s corpse. ‘I suppose I oughtn’t ask?’ he said.

‘Collateral damage, sir,’ Murdoch said. ‘In any case she’ll need to feed.’

‘“She” is here, by the way,’ I said, shivering. ‘If anyone’s interested.’

Sir turned to me. ‘How are you feeling, Ms Demetriou?’ he asked.

I couldn’t answer. The penultimate phase was passing. The moon had already connected with whatever it was in the earth. My soles prickled. The first of the half-dozen big cramps hit, bent me as far double as the cuffs would allow. Hot bile rushed up and out. Murdoch lifted a digital camera. My scapulae squeaked, stretched, cracked. I shook my free arm from the jacket while I still could. Sir watched. He looked like God blinking out balefully from a cloud of cosmic boredom. Think of Konstantinov with three werewolves at his back kicking a door in and a crowd of vampires screaming. Hold on, angel. Hold on. They’re coming. But what if they weren’t? No point thinking that. The seams on my jeans exploded. Sir lit a slim cigar, fish-mouthed a fat smoke-ring that shuddered between the bars and floated towards me like a little spirit of mockery.

‘Sir,’ Murdoch said, ‘I know my opinion’s not important—’

‘Relevant, John, not relevant. You’re opinion’s always important to me.’

‘As you like, but in that case... I have to say... ’

Whatever it was he wasn’t quite ready for its diplomatic articulation.

‘I know, John: the company we’re keeping. But you know yourself there’s a long tradition of cooperation.’

‘But they’re paying us.’

‘Handsomely. It’s called a global recession for a reason, John.’

‘I know, sir. But still.’

‘Flexibility, John. We’ve solved the Breakfast Club mystery, by the way,’


‘Formula’s flawed. Lethally. They die sooner or later depending on how many doses.’

‘But Remshi? He’s still going?’

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