Talulla Rising Page 86

‘My lord,’ the pulpit priest said, ‘we really need to get on. The time is crucial.’

‘Is this it?’ Mia shouted, eyes closed. ‘Is this the best you can do? You fucking useless piece of shit.’

She was talking, I realised, to me. Yes, this was the best I could do. Fail. My son would die and so would she, believing I’d killed her boy. If I’d been able to speak I would have told her: It’s all right. They’ll let him go in a week. But I couldn’t speak. She’d die hating me.

‘If you wouldn’t mind, Talulla,’ Jacqueline said. ‘The sedative?’

There was nothing left. I bent, ostensibly to pick up the syringe, in fact to get maximum speed and force from a standing jump. I wondered how many I could kill before one of the bullets hit. Jacqueline first. Rip that precisely-lipsticked smile off her precisely self-delighted face. Lorcan looked at me, snapped an appeal with a small sound between a bark and a yap.

I’m sorry, kiddo. Really, I’m so sorry.

‘This is taking too long,’ Jacqueline said. ‘Inject yourself now or they shoot.’

‘My brothers and sisters,’ Remshi said, arms raised. ‘It’s been a long wait, but at last a new day is dawning!’

‘Horseshit!’ a male voice called out from the congregation.

Vampires and familiars, stunned, turned to where the voice had come from.

‘Fraud!’ the voice called out, apparently from somewhere altogether different.

‘Silence!’ the pulpit priest shouted. ‘Who is that? Who is that speaking?’

‘Ask them why they killed Raphael Cavalcanti,’ the voice said, from yet another place. ‘Go on, ask them why they did away with poor old Vincent Merryn.’

I looked at Mia. Her look back said whatever this was it was nothing to do with her. The part of her look that wasn’t filled with hatred for me.

‘Jacqueline?’ Remshi said, very quietly.

Madame was visibly confused. Her petite fists clenched under her breasts. I knew it was a childhood habit. I had an image of her as a little girl standing just like that in front of her father, being scolded.

‘Show yourself,’ she called out. ‘Show yourself!’

‘Show myself? What are you, blind?’ the voice said – and there, suddenly, when everyone looked up, was a figure descending feet-first through the air.


The silence was dense, seemed synaesthetically to pick out visual details: the candle flames; Jacqueline’s pearl earrings; the white-gold edging on the priest’s book. With the possible exception of my son, everyone in the room was staring at the vampire who now stood – smoking a cigarette – at the bottom of the steps leading up to the altar.

Human age would’ve put him in his early forties, a slim, dark-eyed man of no more than five-eight, with skin the colour of latte and longish dusty black hair. A full-lipped face of chimpish mobility and mischief. Beautiful dark hands, though the fingernails were filthy. He wore a fractured leather flying jacket over a white t-shirt, with pale green combat pants tucked into battered shitkickers. If you found out he’d just completed a thousand-mile motorcycle ride it wouldn’t surprise you. It would explain his look of exhaustion, exhilaration and grime.

‘You people are ludicrous,’ he said. ‘Absolutely ludicrous.’

I was thinking: He doesn’t smell. Impossible. But he doesn’t. His accent, like Remshi’s, was homeless, but quite different. I could have sworn I’d heard it before.

‘Give me that,’ he said, approaching a stocky, goatee’d vampire in the front row of the congregation and snatching the little red book out of his hand.

‘Who the fuck is this guy?’ Remshi said.

‘Who the fuck is this guy?’ the newcomer mimicked, falsetto. ‘Well, you should know, Bubbles.’

‘It’s... He’s one of us,’ Jacqueline said. ‘Marco, what are you doing?’

The vampire in the flying jacket, ‘Marco’, flicked though the red book, cigarette slotted into the corner of his mouth, eyes narrowed against the sidestream smoke. I looked at Mia. Remshi still had her pinned, but his attention had shifted. She knew. She was getting herself ready.

‘I repeat,’ Marco said: ‘Ask them why they killed Raphael Cavalcanti and Vincent Merryn.’

‘Merryn was working for WOCOP,’ Jacqueline said. ‘Everyone knows that. What can you possibly think—’

‘Merryn was working for WOCOP, yes, but that’s not all he was doing, and that’s not why you killed him, is it, ma bichette? Ah, here we are: Vor klez mych va gargim din gammou-jhi: “When he drinks the blood of the werewolf.” Any scholars in the audience?’

The room remained utterly still, solid with the congregation’s focused consciousness. Jacqueline was at the edge of herself. Her face’s poise quivered.

‘Linguists? Historians? No?’

‘The translation is correct,’ the priest said, exasperated. ‘“Vor klez mych” is “when he drinks” and “va gargim” is “the blood”. Everyone here knows what “gammou-jhi” is. Really, Madame, this is ridiculous. He must be ejected immediately.’

In a move almost as fast as the one that had subdued her Mia jabbed upwards with the heel of her hand and struck Remshi with incredible force under the chin. We all heard the little tuk! of his bottom teeth hitting his top ones. She twisted out from under the stake and before he could react had launched herself through the air away from him – though after only a second she was back on the floor, sucked down, it appeared, by sudden magnetism.

‘Stay put, Miss Tourisheva, for God’s sake,’ Marco said. ‘I like your style, but seventy-four to one... or two– ’ a wink at me – ‘are fool’s odds. Now, where was I? Yes, the translation.’ He took a last drag of the cigarette and tossed it. “Vor klez mych”, as the padré has pointed out, is indeed “when he drinks”. The problem is “mych” is an erroneous verb. It’s been there for more than four thousand years, but it’s wrong. The original had a different verb altogether. Isn’t that right, Madame?’

Jacqueline’s nostrils flared. She backed towards the altar, where Remshi stood holding his jaw.

‘The original word was lost because the original word in the text was obliterated,’ Marco said. ‘Physically obliterated by an arrowhead, as it happens, but that’s another story. Apart from the author of the Book only two people knew what the line read, before its lacuna.’

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