Talulla Rising Page 90

Mia looked at me. Like me she’d trained herself to harden her heart. But now here we were, and I could feel the little force field of desperation around her. It was desperation that wanted to be allowed its true form: love.

I gestured to Cloquet to get on with it. He dialled. It couldn’t have rung more than once. I pictured Budarin hearing him out: the round, unperturbable face, the body as neat as a well-fed sparrow’s). ‘Put Caleb on,’ Cloquet said, then handed the phone to Mia.

She spoke one word in English: ‘Caleb?’ then switched to Russian.

It was either a coincidence or testimony to the power of his native tongue that Konstantinov, who’d been unconscious the whole time (I’d thought he was in a coma), coughed, said something in Russian, spat out a gobbet of blood and sat up.

Problems were stacking like air traffic. Since Murdoch had staked out the Falasarna house there was every chance he’d know about the stashed IDs and getaway vans. In the panic of flight we’d come a long way off-course. Mesavlia was now some eight miles north and there wouldn’t be cover all the way. Our only practical support was the sketchy weapons contact in Athens and his unreliable buddies in Heraklion. Konstantinov needed water and antibiotics. We had neither.

But I had my son back. Unearned, unjustified, a second chance.

He was curled up in my lap, asleep, I’d thought, but when I looked down I saw he was looking up at me. The giant primary realisation – mother – had blazed through him in the stretched seconds and minutes of the rescue and made everything else irrelevant. But now his reflex emotional spend was over, and other information – more inconvenient truth – was reasserting itself. He knew, at a level beneath or beyond articulation, two things. One, I was guilty. Two, he’d suffered. There was a gap between these two known things. Watching me, letting my body’s heat meld with his, he was deciding what to do with it, this gap. He was deciding whether to close it with a connection. I had an image of him years from now as a wiry teenager sitting on the edge of the pool in the Los Angeles villa, moving his legs slowly in the sun-marbled water, then glancing up at me with the human version of the look he gave me now, one that knew he had power of judgement over me. It would be like a talisman he could produce at any time, to stop me in the middle of whatever it was I was doing, to stop me in the middle of loving him, probably, if he’d inherited any of his mother’s perverseness and cruelty.

We stared at each other now and understood all this, but understood too that there would be love to ruin, which was better than no love at all.

He blinked. Gradually let the pieces come apart in his mind – for now. I put my hand on his hot chest and felt his steadying heartbeat. His sister would be what we both loved. We’d meet at her, like rival gang lords on neutral turf.

‘Ya teebya lyubyu, Angel moy,’ Mia said, ending the call. She put the number into her phone, tossed Cloquet’s back to him, looked at me. ‘We’ll meet again,’ she said.

‘When you do,’ Cloquet said, ‘remember she saved your life.’

It didn’t register. Cloquet didn’t count. Humans didn’t count. She turned and limped away into the darkness. A few moments after she was out of sight we heard her go up suddenly and noisily through the trees... and a few moments later come down noisily again. She was in no shape for the effort vampire flight required. But she was desperate to see her son.


In the end there was nothing for it but to stick with the original out. Even if Murdoch had known about the vans and the hidden IDs, he wouldn’t have passed it to WOCOP. It was after all supposed to be his one-man show: single-handed capture of live werewolf for which Helios would pay WOCOP – or now that I thought about it more likely Sir, privately lining his own pockets – handsomely, and in return for which Murdoch would’ve been reinstated to the Hunt.

All we had to do now was make it across eight miles of patchy cover with an injured man.

Which, incredibly, is exactly what we did. Cloquet called the Athens contact, who promised (drunkenly, it sounded to me) he’d send ‘a medical person’ to meet us in the airport parking lot. Walker carried Konstantinov, the rest of us took it in turns to let Cloquet hitch a ride. In a forgivable reversion to type, my familiar had brought along a little cocaine in case of celebration. He took a couple of toots when switching from Lucy to Fergus, looked at me and said: ‘I feel that we should go to the Caribbean. The water there is like liquid topaz.’

We reached the derelict farm, collected the clothes and IDs, and did what little we could for Konstantinov with the minimal first-aid kit. Cloquet even found a stream nearby, from which, when we carried him there, Konstantinov drank and drank and drank. After that there was nothing to do but wait for moonset. When it came, tacit agreement saw us all seeking our own spots of privacy among the trees, though the air went heavy and active around us when we changed, as if each of us was a separate, confined thunderstorm. We dressed, and Fergus and Lucy went, with the mystery of their human form refreshed (the poignancy of the knees and elbows, the niftiness of the fingers, the unique nudity of the face), to fetch the vans.

Six hours later, Konstantinov having been stitched and medicated by a twenty-two-year-old student, who despite white coat and stethoscope looked like he should have been practising with his band in a garage, we boarded Aegean Airlines flight 341 from Chania to Heathrow, London, England, where Madeline – and my daughter – would be waiting for us.


Konstantinov spent forty-eight hours in bed, attended by Budarin, then went missing. Not a word to anyone. No note, no message, no answering his phone when we called.

‘It’s Natasha,’ Walker said. ‘He must have heard from her.’

It was around ten in the evening on the third day since Crete; Christmas Eve. We were in the house Madeline had taken for us in the Dart Valley in Devon, a big, detached dampish place half a mile from Dartmouth, on a hill of gorse and feathery pine overlooking (in glimpses through the trees) the river. It smelled of old beds and mould and the ghosts of a thousand meals. We were lucky to get it: a Christmas booking had fallen through at the last minute. Madeline, with Zoë in a new electric-pink carrier, had met us at the airport with rental cars ready and we’d driven south as the first snow was starting to fall. By midnight there was ten inches on the ground, and by morning a little imagination could make you feel snowed-in. Happily snowed-in. With your children. With your lover. With your pack.

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