Talulla Rising Page 50

The stink was coming from him.

‘Hey,’ I said.

‘Hey,’ he replied. He was wet with what looked like pale pink sweat, jellyish in places.

‘Is it just me and you down here?’

He nodded.

‘Where are we?’

He swallowed. Closed his eyes. Swallowing hurt. Existence hurt. ‘Don’t know,’ he said. An English accent I couldn’t place. Or an English accent interfered with by lots of places.

‘Where were you when they caught you?’

‘Scotland.’

‘How long have you been here?’

‘Twenty-one days.’

‘Are there other vampires here?’

With bizarre fluttery speed he got up onto his elbows and retched, shuddering. A single pinkish strand of what looked like mucus hung from his bottom lip. He spat it out. There was a small puddle of the stuff next to him on the floor.

‘Is that me?’ I asked.

He couldn’t answer. I realised he had his arms around himself to contain what looked like muscular spasms. Each time one came his capillary system darkened, then faded again when it passed. I thought: Twenty-one days. Jake said vampires needed to feed every three or four. They were starving him.

‘You... a werewolf?’

‘Fraid so.’

‘They told me you lot stank. I mean—’ Pain hit him again. He brought his knees tighter to his chest, clamped his jaws. Breathed through it. ‘That didn’t come out right.’

‘Yeah, well, if it’s any consolation, you stink too.’

He didn’t smile, but his eyes said he would have if he’d had the strength. ‘You don’t have to... talk to me... like I’m ten,’ he said, shivering.

‘I didn’t realise I was.’

‘It’s the tone. I’m seventeen.’

Now that he said it I realised I’d been pitching as if to a child. Old habits. For all I’d known he could’ve pre-dated Moses.

‘Sorry,’ I said. ‘Stupid of me.’ It was an effort not to react to how bad he looked. An effort not to be so obviously thinking: you’re dying, kiddo.

‘How old are you?’ he asked.

‘Thirty-four,’ I told him. ‘I’m new. Listen – oh, fuck.’ I had to vomit again. This time I made it to the bucket. The disinfectant’s ammonia was a brutal palliative against his stench. I kept my head over it. ‘I guess they think this is hilarious,’ I said, once I’d recovered and crawled back to the bars. I’d brought the bucket with me, held under my nose.

He nodded, but I could see the effort talking was costing him.

‘Do you know how long I’ve been here?’ I asked. ‘Was there anyone with me when they brought me in?’

‘Don’t know,’ he said. ‘I was asleep. Woke up... a couple of hours ago. You were here.’

Assume Walker’s dead.

More was required now. Just admitting the thought wasn’t enough. So here was the feeling, as if something vital had been surgically removed from me while I was unconscious. Assume he’s dead. The different quality of reality without him in it. Fresh loneliness, fresh failure, the world like a big brashly-lit room, a huge empty space for me to feel sorry for myself in. Serves you right. Assume he’s dead. Assume Konstantinov’s dead. Assume you’re alone in here and you’ll never get out and your daughter will never know you and your son will die. Make all the worst assumptions.

‘How’d they... catch you?’ he asked.

‘We got set-up,’ I said. ‘It’s a long story. Look, I’ll tell you the whole thing but can you just tell me what you know about this place first? What’s your name, by the way?’

‘Caleb.’

‘I’m Talulla.’

He made a slight movement with his head. Official hello. The pink sweat had darkened.

‘Are you up to talking?’ I asked.

He swallowed. As if forcing down powdered glass. ‘Tired,’ he said.

‘I understand. I’m sorry.’ I was sorry. Species revulsion was no joke – wulf wanted as much distance between us as possible – but the shared predicament did a lot of the sympathetic work. ‘It’s okay,’ I said. ‘Just rest a while. We’ll talk when you feel better.’

‘I won’t feel... better. I’ll feel worse. They’ll... be coming soon. I’m going... to die in this fucking place.’

Another spasm took him. The veins blackened. It was an ugly thing to watch but solidarity demanded it.

‘They’ll regret it,’ he said, when he’d got his breath. ‘When Remshi... comes... they’ll wish they’d never... been born.’

36

Before I could pounce on that the vault door at the right-hand end of the corridor emitted a string of electronic blips, followed by a hydraulic sigh and the sound of a heavy lock opening. I looked at Caleb. His eyes were closed. Whatever it was he was familiar with it. Whatever it was it was bad.

The door swung open and Murdoch entered, followed by a younger, smaller, musclebound Hunter with too much energy dressed in black combat pants and vest, carrying a set of restraints and what looked like a cattle prod. He had a skinhead and sticking-out ears, round blue eyes and mouth like a chimp’s. The overall effect was of a bouncy, steroidal little ape. A crowd’s murmur followed them in. Murdoch came directly to my cell while the chimp-thug fitted what looked like a radiator key (hung on a chain around his neck) into one of six sockets on a control panel next to the door. One turn anti-clockwise and a red indicator light turned green. Two seconds later the middle six bars of my cell slid upwards, precision engineered, friction-free, and disappeared into the roof.

‘How are you feeling?’ Murdoch asked.

‘Where am I?’

‘You’re at a detention facility in the Royal County of Berkshire, England. It’s Tuesday the sixth of November and the time is...’ He looked at his watch... ‘Seven-thirty-six in the evening. You were brought here by air under sedation, along with Walker and his team, who are alive, you’ll be glad to hear, housed variously and elsewhere in the building. Now it might seem unwarranted but I’m... ’ The chimp-thug entered my cell with the set of wrists-to-ankles restraints... ‘going to have to ask that you wear these for now, so we can give our full attention to the business in hand.’

Prev Next