Talulla Rising Page 88

My hands were bleeding. The cables had left lines of fire in my palms. But there was only one left to break. Suddenly I felt my son’s hot hands gripping the fur on my back.


Entitlement. Forgiveness. Demand.

Almost there, angel.

A vampire’s decapitated body sailed over my head and crashed into Cloquet’s steel pillar. Cloquet, hands bound, kicked it away.

My son first. Don’t worry. I’ll get you out.

Someone was nearby. I looked up.

Marco stood six feet away, lighting another cigarette, watching me. Behind him, Walker had made it to Konstantinov and was in the process of cutting him loose. I had an illusion of sound – the room’s slaughterhouse or torture chamber audio track – muting, as if I’d dunked my head under water. Not all the mischief had left Marco’s face, but enough to make way for a look of twinkling recognition – part invitation, part provocation – under which I felt peculiarly small and finite and known. Peculiarly young. Jacqueline’s Oh my God recurred, her face’s momentary loss of its guiding intelligence.

He indicated with his eyes that I should look to my left just as sound rushed back in – and I turned too late to dodge a huge crew-cut vampire – six-four, maybe two hundred and eighty pounds – who came down on me like an anvil, ripping the cable from my grip (I felt a swatch of skin go from my left palm like someone tearing off the mother of all band-aids) and propelling me with him from the altar down onto the steps. His face was tattooed with a spider’s web. Rotten-meat breath and the pigshit-stink of his skin filled my mouth, nose, head, all of me. His nickname was probably Geronimo or Banzai or Mad Dog. He was a grinning moron whose only route to credibility was doing insane stunts. He’d landed on top of me. His left arm was across my windpipe and his right had its fingers buried deep in the flesh of my left breast. He was going to rip it off completely. Hey, check it out: genuine werewolf tit! My left side was in singing shock from the fall (the steps had broken three or four ribs) but my right arm was free and in full command of its faculties. I went into the soft part of his flank, hard, with my glass-edged fingers, forced a screw action until I’d got through the muscle into the wet privacy of his mutant organs. I grabbed a handful of whatever he had in there – if it was gut it had the consistency of Vaselined beef jerky – screwed again and yanked as hard as I could. Two seconds of resistance – then it tore, came free in my hand and unplugged a sudden gush of dark blood that smelled of raw sewage. He screamed, lost his will for a moment. Long enough for me to shove my hand back into the hole it had made, push against the spinal column and thrust with my pelvis, to flip him onto his back. I only had a second, but it didn’t need more. I closed my jaws around his neck don’t swallow the blood jammed them together, shoved two fingers into his screaming mouth, then bit, shook and yanked until his big bald head came off.

Sensation was returning to my left side. I got to my feet and raced back to my son.

Because the universe is perverse the fourth cable proved tougher than the other three. My cut palms were burning and slippery with blood, and for what felt like an hour I stood there, braced and straining, hands haemorrhaging, thighs quivering, while around me the sound dropped away again and I imagined being stuck like this for ever, like a scene in a macabre snow-shaker. Walker had freed Konstantinov and slung him, unconscious, over his shoulder. Dozens of vampires had got out (once the silver ammo dropped out of the game, they really didn’t want to play) but there were still twenty at least in various states of combat or mutilation. Trish had cut her way to Cloquet and hacked through his bonds with one of the machetes.

Lorcan was now the only one of us still prisoner.

I howled. Vampire hair stood on end.

The cable was grating against bare bone in both hands.

I saw Marco look up and say: ‘Visitors. Another time, Mistress.’

Then the steel fibres snapped and the room’s cacophony rushed back in – and my son jumped into my arms.

Joy closes your eyes.

But if you’re a werewolf, silver opens them.

In this case to see Remshi on the floor, convulsing around one of our homemade stakes, and Jacqueline Delon standing over him, holding one of the discarded guns in a two-handed grip, aiming directly at me.


All I wanted time to do was turn and get my body between the bullet and my son. I didn’t get even that. I was still midway through the move and the understanding that Jacqueline wasn’t going to bother with the Hollywood villain’s victory speech but was in fact going to shoot immediately, when an explosion (as if a time bomb had been ticking in Remshi himself) detonated at her feet.

Heat the size of a planet hit us, spun the walls and ceiling and floor. We were airborne, revolving, for hours. Plenty of time at least to see that Marco had disappeared and that there was no sign of Jacqueline. The bottom half of Remshi’s corpse was gone. Fergus was feeding on a familiar unchallenged in a corner. Lucy had her jaws around the throat of a female vampire, human age of about seventy, with liver-spotted hands, dangling diamond earrings and what had started the evening as an elaborate silver chignon. Trish had given Cloquet the machete, but the vampires still left in the chamber were more interested in escape than battle.

Lorcan and I hit the ground as a second blast blew a hole in the western wall and let in with the smell of explosives the cool air of Cretan night with its scents of thyme and pine and moist grass. Let in too gunfire and the soulless chatter of helicopters.

My son moved against me.

Alive. He’s alive and you’ve got him.

I knew he was alive because the blast burns were making him whine and the whines were twisting me inside. Somewhere far away Zoë was feeling it too, a scaled-down version of his trauma in her skin. I had to squash a surge of joy at the thought of them lying curled next to each other. Not yet. Not yet. Two more explosions, the second of which tore a big piece of the roof out and sent Fergus flying across the aisle to land, dazed and bloody, a few feet from me.


Walker, with passed-out Konstantinov slung over his shoulders, was hoiking me up with a hand under my arm.


Fergus was struggling to his feet. Trish and Lucy were half barring the exit, half taking it in turns to feed on an unfortunate familiar who’d fallen there. The remaining vampires were going for the hole in the roof. Blue-white WOCOP chopper searchlights flashed in, wobbled, flashed out again. A vampire hit by at least twenty wooden shafts (the hickory darts of the Hail Mary) screamed and fell from one of the steel uprights.

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