Talulla Rising Page 89

Next to Mia.

She was conscious, but trapped under a slab of fallen masonry. Her brother had disappeared.

We looked at each other. I knew what she was thinking: You’ve got what you want. You leave me here, I die. No one to come looking for you and your kids. She was resigned and disgusted. Resigned because she didn’t live in a world where one appealed to another’s better nature. Disgusted because after all the things she’d seen and done (her history floated around her, as if her ghost were rehearsing its departure) here she was about to meet her end ignominiously, helpless, pinned, ready for a WOCOP hot-shot to stake or behead at his leisure, some mortal idiot whose memories stood in relation to hers as a flea to a city.

Vampires are strong – but not like us. Feeling my prompt Lorcan swung around onto my back and clung on, leaving my arms free. Mia’s expression didn’t change. We understood each other.

If you think this means I won’t kill you, you’re wrong.

I know. Can you walk?

Her left femur and tibia were broken, the tibia sticking through the milky skin just below the knee. (Legs that would’ve been at home in an ad for quality nylons. Oh God, Jacob, I wish you were here!) However fast she healed it wouldn’t be fast enough to get her out before the grunts arrived. A hickory dart hit her in the face, went through her left cheek into her mouth. She plucked it out, spat dark blood. Another two hit the wrecked leg.

I offered her my hand.

Visibly nauseated – nostrils flickering, gorge rising, mouth turned down at the corners – she took it. I wondered if she’d ever touched a werewolf before.

Walker, unable to stand the smell of her so close, put some distance between us.

Between them Trish and Lucy had eaten at least a third of their victim. On my back Lorcan went taut at the scent of it – but not hungry. They’d fed him tonight somehow. Presumably a drugged or idiotic or compelled familiar. Or, as an homage to the movies, a peasant girl with restive breasts and torn skirt, eyes wide, skin wet with sweat. However they’d done it I could feel it in him, the flecks of foreign life, the dirty enrichment. Relieved as I was, I was still starving. Walker too. He’d taken Murdoch’s life but he hadn’t eaten him. I’d thought at the time: he doesn’t want him inside him. Not him. Not inside him.


But they couldn’t. The smell. The smell. Trish took Lorcan instead. He went to her readily enough, once I’d sent him the prompt. My soul tore a little as his weight shifted from me. It always would, now, for as long as we both lived. I hoisted Mia over my shoulder, though I knew it mortified her. I felt her retch, emptily, realised she wasn’t wearing the nose-paste; of course: she’d wanted to know when we were coming.

We ran into the courtyard. WOCOP troops weren’t on the ground yet, and there were only four choppers. Some of the vampires had taken up positions – armed with machine guns – and were returning fire. The moon, in the first phase of its now religiously redundant eclipse, was a blood-edged peach. Walker, shouldering Konstantinov, was ahead on my left, Fergus on my right. Cloquet (having ditched the machete for an abandoned machine gun) was close by me, running flat-out and looking as if doing so was going to kill him. Lucy and Trish were covering our rear. A sort of giddiness flowed between us. Cloquet wouldn’t be able to go at our pace. Would have to suffer the indignity of being carried. Fergus, at my thought, swerved left and scooped him up in a fireman’s lift.

The first of the outlying trees was near. Crawling towards it, hilariously exposed, was an injured vampire familiar.


We ran until we hit deeper forest, went a quarter of a mile in and stopped to catch our breath. Pines, holly oaks, evergreen maples. Wood-flavoured air and a feeling of sanctuary. WOCOP hadn’t followed. I thought I understood: But they’re paying us, Murdoch had said. The Fifty Families, he’d meant. Unable to locate the Disciples they’d contracted-out to the Hunt. Job done and no vampire blood on vampire hands. And a bonus if you leave the werewolves alive. The Helios Project hadn’t given up on lycanthrope genetics holding the key to daylight tolerance.

The moon was almost wholly eclipsed. I’d wondered if it would make any difference. It didn’t. If anything wulf’s dial was higher. Certainly it hadn’t dinted my appetite. We’d torn the vamps’ human into portable chunks and Walker and I had gone through our share in two minutes, barely lifting our heads. Trish and Fergus had slunk away to fuck. After a few moments of palpable vacillating, Lucy had followed them. Anyway, something went, I remembered her saying. There is no old life for me now.

Walker, obviously, was in a state. He wanted me (and knew I wanted him) but he knew I wouldn’t leave Lorcan again. Not now.


Blurred and dreamy and unlocked with relief, I did want him to. The thought of him enjoying himself with Trish or Lucy (or Fergus, if the Curse had begun ravaging his other certainties) or all three of them together didn’t bother me in the least, because I knew how much good it would do him. Not only did it not bother me, it filled me with quiet benign pleasure. Just at that moment the notion of monogamy seemed grotesque and anti-life and absurd.


Relief on this scale evidently brought idiocy. Of course there was no time. Konstantinov needed treatment. As soon as we’d got our bearings we’d have to move again. The others would either lose themselves or catch us up, but either way wulf was done arguing with them.


Mia, he meant. Her leg (she’d shoved the tibia back in by hand) was healing who knew how fast, and though there wasn’t much she could do to me there were Cloquet and Konstantinov to consider. She was already able to walk, albeit with an obviously excruciating limp.


I tossed a small stick at Cloquet, who was leaning against a tree looking as if he might vomit, to get his attention. I pointed at Mia, then mimed phoning.

‘I understand you?’ Cloquet asked. ‘This is the situation we discussed?’

Mia’s eyes watched everything. I nodded: Yes. Do it.

He turned to Mia. ‘Caleb is in the basement of a house in the town of Lymington on the south coast of England,’ he told her. ‘I’m texting you the address now. He’s being looked after by a doctor who supplies him with blood when he needs it. Your son is fine, but not at full strength. After you’ve spoken to him, the doctor will leave him enough blood to recover completely. He’ll also leave him money and the phone you’re about to speak to him on. You can make whatever arrangements for a rendezvous you like. Is that acceptable?’

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