Talulla Rising Page 85

I was scanning the ranks for Mia. I’d never seen her, but I told myself I’d know her when I did. The logic had to hold: as far as she knew if I didn’t get out of here alive she’d never find her son. Ergo, she’d have to make sure I got out of here alive.

‘They’re all dead,’ Cloquet said.

‘I’m afraid that’s true,’ Jacqueline said. ‘But you knew that already. Otherwise you wouldn’t be here.’

They’re all dead. She’d agreed. She didn’t know about the others.

‘C’est vrais, n’est pas?’ Jacqueline asked Cloquet. ‘She wants to trade?’


Cloquet looked at me. There was no sign I could give him that I wasn’t alone. He’d be wondering if he was ever going to see another sunrise.

‘You want to offer yourself in exchange for your son,’ Jacqueline said to me.

Lorcan struggled against the cuffs. I felt it in my own wrists and ankles. The effort to keep still was making me dizzy. All my failures formed a close-fitting heat around me. Breathe. Breathe. Breathe.

‘I don’t have children myself,’ Jacqueline continued. ‘And without intending this personally I must tell you I loathe the idiocy that infects adults the minute they become parents. But of course I understand. It’s an instinct.’

‘We are not sadists, Ms Demetriou,’ Remshi said, smiling. His voice was warm, resonant, gentle, with an accent unlike anything I’d ever heard. It was hard, after the first look exposed you, to meet the silver eyes. I had an image of him standing in a desert alone at night. Icy sand. Stars that came all the way down to the ground. The remote past was here, in the room, centuries made negligible, an effect of appalling compression. It was dreadful to be connected to it, as when I was a kid and my dad had given me the kite string to hold and seeing it up there in the sky so far away but attached to me had made me terrified and sick and I’d started crying. ‘The blood of gammou-jhi is the blood of gammou-jhi,’ Remshi continued. ‘Yours, your child’s, it makes no difference. If you would like to take your son’s place, that is acceptable to me.’

‘Don’t listen to them,’ Cloquet said. ‘They’re going to give you to Helios to get the Families off their backs.’

Remshi laughed, with what seemed genuine amusement. ‘Of course,’ he said. ‘And we shall frequent graveyards and wear black cloaks and twirl our moustaches and say “Ha-harr” with great relish of our wickedness.’

Konstantinov, on a rogue current of consciousness, groaned, then fell silent again. Jacqueline looked at him. ‘Irony is inexhaustible,’ she said. ‘We released Natasha last night. She’s out there, free as a bird. She’s probably on a plane home as we speak.’

I looked at Cloquet. ‘Who knows?’ he said. ‘She’s probably dead.’

‘I promise you she’s very much alive,’ Jacqueline said. ‘Alive and at liberty, although not quite the woman she was when she came to us.’

The neat, grey-haired vampire from the Alaskan raid handed Jacqueline a syringe. She came around the altar, descended the four steps and walked down the aisle to stand six feet in front of me. She bent, tidily knees together, placed the syringe on the floor, stood. ‘A sedative,’ she said. ‘You understand?’

Yes, I did.


Nothing happened.

I pointed to Lorcan. Him first.

‘Talulla,’ Jacqueline said. ‘Let’s be grown-ups. You can either trust us and do exactly as we tell you, in which case there’s a chance your child will live, or you can die right here and now, in which case your child will certainly follow you. Look around you, please.’

At least a dozen members of the congregation had weapons trained on me. Silver, my spine said. The ones not holding guns were all carrying copies of a small, red leather-bound book. Naturally. The Book of Remshi.


Nothing happened.

‘It’s now or never, Ms Demetriou,’ Remshi said. ‘We don’t have much time. Forgive me if I seem punctilious, but for better or worse there are protocols, and I’ve been waiting four hundr—’

‘Move and this goes through you,’ Mia’s voice said. ‘Don’t talk, just do exactly as I say.’

She had been one of the crowd around the altar. Now she had her arm around Remshi’s throat.

‘Good grief, is that a stake?’ Remshi said. ‘Seriously? You seriously think a stake is going to—’

‘Shut up,’ Mia said. ‘Jacqueline, release the kid.’

‘Are you out of your mind?’ Jacqueline said.

‘Don’t speak. Just do it.’

‘My lord, for God’s sake,’ Jacqueline said.

‘I’ll tell you something,’ Remshi said. ‘The last time someone tried this was in Florence in twelve eighty—’

I don’t know how he did it. The moves were so fast that when they stopped it was as if a chunk of time had just been cut out. One moment Mia was behind him with her arm around his throat, the next she was on the floor, disarmed, with her head bleeding from where it had cracked the side of the altar. He had one knee across her throat and the stake poised at her breast.

‘Who are you?’ he said.

Mia spat in his face. ‘Pizda,’ she said

‘Charming! Nice talk from a lady.’

A murmur had spread through the congregation. A fair-haired vampire detached himself from the throng and stepped into the aisle. ‘Mia,’ he said – then followed it with Russian that self-evidently translated to something like: What the fuck are you doing? Her brother, I realised. Dimitri. Same glacial eyes and sensual mouth.

Mia answered him in Russian, not with self-evident meaning. I wondered how strong his faith was. No doubt Jacqueline had preached the new messiah would divide loved ones, set husband against wife, brother against sister...

‘Let her go,’ Dimitri said. His English came with a slight American accent.

‘Stand down, Dimi,’ Jacqueline said.

‘Let her go now.’

‘Dimi, please.’

He took three paces towards the dais, nostrils tense, hands readying themselves.

‘Restrain him!’ Jacqueline ordered. Immediately three male vampires from the front row grabbed Dimitri and wrestled him to the floor.

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