By Blood We Live Page 69

But nothing happened.

They cut back to the studio, and after a couple of minutes of worried-looking conversation, moved on to a story about Justin Timberlake.

Justin. Justine. The feeling of beguilement. The world snickering and dropping a hint.

Stupid, stupid, stupid.

I made it to the airport hotel with less than thirty minutes to spare. If I’d had luggage I’d have been fucked. As it was, checking-in was agony. The sun trying to slow everything down. Two morons from Atlanta ahead of me at the desk complaining about having twin beds instead of a double. The lights in the lobby were Christmassy, reflecting off everything, digging in behind my eyes. I was drenched with sweat, shaking. My hands all over the place when I had to sign. The clerk asked me if I was all right.

But the bathrooms in big hotels don’t have windows. The sun hates the bathrooms in big hotels.

I was so fucked-up I almost didn’t go on.

But I did go on. What else was there to do?

I searched online for everything I could find on the Karl Leath murder story. As far as I could tell there was no CCTV footage, no identikit or police-artist sketch of Justine Idiot Cavell, no suspect. I’d left the gun and my prints all over everything, but since I didn’t have a record there wouldn’t be a database match. (All the low-life years before Fluff took me under his wing flashed, the miracle of never getting busted for anything. A blessing I never even appreciated at the time. Well, I fucking appreciated it now.)

The Internet was pounding out werewolf and vampire content with a new intensity. What I’d done to Leath was just one of countless cases of what more and more people were seeing as the work of monsters. Not tabloid monsters. Actual monsters. The Churches were loud. Twitter was full of people asking how much longer was the government going to sit on its fat stupid ass and Do Nothing. Not so many “exposed hoaxes” as there used to be. A group of scientists publishing as far as they were concerned irrefutable DNA evidence. Monster-deniers were on the same shrinking bit of polar ice as climate-change sceptics.

I must have spent a couple of hours in the bathroom trawling through all this on my phone. I told myself it was necessary. Information gathering. An end to me rushing blindly into things. But I knew what it really was. Delaying tactics. Putting off what I knew couldn’t be put off.

Feeding.

When I’d thought about it I’d imagined finding the poorest area. Homeless. Less chance of investigation. Some piss-stinking old guy with a bag and a bottle. But the Internet told me Istanbul’s slum districts were fast disappearing. Sulukule, formerly home to the Roma, had been pulled down to make way for fancy new buildings. There was hardly anyone left in Tarlabasi. One barber shop pointlessly still open surrounded by rubble and condemned tenements. I took a cab there soon after sunset, but I couldn’t. When it came right down to it I just didn’t believe I’d find someone. I stayed in the cab and went back to Taksim Square. I was so insane and freaked out I nearly just took the fucking cab driver when we stopped at a red signal in a quieter street. He was only about twenty, a thin guy with oily skin and a small head and a too-big moustache and an Adam’s apple that seemed to move around way too much when he talked to me, glancing up in the rearview. I actually felt myself leaning forward towards his seat, smelling deodorant and some kind of hair product and a samosa or something spicy he’d eaten and breath that was a mix of cigarettes and Turkish coffee. It’s possible I would’ve bitten him if the light hadn’t changed when it did. Instead I sat back in my seat horrified that I’d been so close. Was this what it was going to be like? A constant battle with your own loose will? I had a list of Escort Services. Not many supplying male escorts. Male gay escorts, yes—but very little for straight women. A sort of religious hypocrisy, I guessed. But the thought of phoning (they all advertised “English Spoken”) to find an in-call, going there, being let in, doing what I had to do, getting out … I was afraid the calls would be recorded. I’d have to use a card for the agency booking fee. The apartment building might have CCTV. I don’t know, maybe it was just the fucking surreality of it, of calling up a company to make an appointment to kill someone.

In the end I just asked the cab driver to drop me at the nearest night club.

“Fuck me, I’m starvin’,” the guy said, when we got back to his hotel. “But it can definitely wait. Come here.”

His name was Mick. He was English, from Manchester, not bad-looking, in a monkeyish, Robbie Williams sort of way, and enough success with his cheeky-chappie routine and gym-worked body (he was in black Levis and a tight white t-shirt that showed it off) had given him a twinkly confidence I knew would fly with a lot of girls. He and his “mates” were in Istanbul for a “lads’ week,” but he’d got separated from them on the club crawl. I hadn’t had to do much. He was drunk when he hit on me at the bar—“Orright, love? What you drinkin’?”

At first, having to pretend like I was reluctantly interested was awkward and made my face feel swollen. I couldn’t concentrate on playing my part. God only knows what I said to him. But after a few minutes a little thirst-pleasure crept in. The thirst gets fascinated by the mystery of everything that’s on the inside. The pleasure’s like the pleasure of the moments before you unwrap a Christmas present. It feels good to make the suspense last, but the longer you wait the more fascinating it becomes. Talking to him (I said I was only drinking mineral water, but he bought me a Budvar anyway, which obviously I didn’t touch) was like holding the gift up to your ear, smelling it, shaking it to see if it rattled. But I knew there was only so long I could stand it. There was a darker edge, too: the pleasure of knowing the most important thing about someone’s life when they didn’t. The most important thing was that it was going to end. The most important thing was that you were going to take it. It made me feel sick and thrilled. Nothing like the blind need, nothing like the sort of body-reflex that had made me take Leath (his spirit had gone quiet in me, sort of introverted, like a child who’d accepted it was never going to be let out of its room). This was something else: a mix of delight and power and disgust and loneliness. I knew I’d get better at it, at enjoying it. But I knew too that there was a thin line somewhere down the road between enjoyment and emptiness. It frightened me—and suddenly I missed Fluff. You couldn’t do this without knowing there were others doing it too. You’d be the loneliest thing on earth. How did solitary psychopaths survive? In a crazy moment (he’d touched me for the first time, put his hand on my hip when he leaned close so I could hear him over the music and his breath tickled my ear) I found myself thinking it was kind of amazing that psychopaths hadn’t formed a secret society. Like the Freemasons.

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