Talulla Rising Page 60

I tried not to think of my children. Failed. Would Cloquet have contacted Madeline? Had I been stupid to suggest it? There was no betrayal in her, but wasn’t she reckless? Would she take the necessary precautions? Cloquet procuring a victim for my little girl was risky enough, but at least he was careful. Of course Zoë wouldn’t be able to make the kill herself, not unless the victim was an infant. Cloquet would have to get his hands dirtier than ever. Was he up to it? Picking up Kaitlyn in a bar and bringing her to his mistress to be murdered was one thing. Beginning the murder himself was quite another. Maybe that on its own would drive him to the London pack. And Lorcan? In a way he’d be better off. If the prophecy’s specification of sacrifice at midwinter was correct he had more than a month left to live. Since the vampires knew he’d have to feed I didn’t doubt they’d provide for him. (A perverse vision – God being dead, irony etc. – of them feeding him Konstantinov’s wife with a collective chuckle, but I ignored it.) If the prophecy was correct. Every now and then the size of that if made itself real. Unreliably translated and massively bowdlerised, Walker had said. Suppose the version of The Book of Remshi used by the faithful differed from the one WOCOP had acquired? Suppose it read not ‘midwinter’s day’ but ‘six weeks before midwinter’s day’? Suppose it said nothing at all about midwinter? Suppose Remshi could take his victim’s blood whenever he felt like it? My son could be dead already.

Then, abruptly, the mutilations stopped. I had a long stretch of morphine-edged stasis. It was as if they’d removed a hot suit of armour and put me in a bath of chilled aloe. Delicious protracted shock. Everything they’d cut off or broken or burned renewed itself, via molecular bacchanal, seamlessly. Actually not seamlessly. For a while there was a debilitating sensation where new cellular matter met old, an effect like the blood’s shudder and buzz when you bang your funny bone. Clint & co. looked annoyed – not by the results, but by having to stop. I got the impression they’d been interrupted with plenty of science still to do. Once or twice through the drug’s soundproofing I caught reference to ‘they’ or ‘them’ in a tone that said a decision they didn’t support had come down from on-high.

One morning (or rather the time when the lights came on) I woke to find Hugh preparing a hypodermic. I was still strapped down, but they’d removed the restraint that normally held my head still. Fear, it turned out, hadn’t really gone away. It was right there, immense and immediately available. He must have felt it coming off me, because I remember him saying: ‘Don’t worry, it’s just a relaxant’ – before all the lights went out again.

43

The hunger dragged me awake. Even before I opened my eyes I knew full moonrise was less than twenty-four hours away. Wulf, impatient to fill her lungs, was all but crushing mine. Transformation’s preamble crunched and popped in my muscles and bones. My spine wanted out, craved its full lupine length. Nerves shivered in the sockets of my fingers and toes and there, like a heavy helmet, was the ghost of the monster’s skull around my own. I had one hand in the pocket of my smock, where, perhaps as a joke, perhaps as a no-hard-feelings gesture, Clint & co. had shoved Jake’s journal.

No mistaking where I was: Caleb’s freshly repulsive odour and the bucket’s mean spirit of piss, vomit and bleach, yes, home sweet home – but with a new olfactory twist: the suggestively pressing smell of human flesh and blood. I opened my eyes.

I was, of course, back in my old cell – but I wasn’t alone. Walker, thin, bruised, unshaven and stinking not just of living meat but stale excrement, urine and sweat, lay curled up in wrists-to-ankles restraints looped by a steel cable around the bars. He was so clearly incapable of doing anything the cuffs were an act of satire. Of the clothes he’d had on when they caught us only his pants remained, now filthy. His face was drained. The blue-green eyes were big and bright and fractured. One of them – the left – had a badly infected sty. It was the sort of irritant I knew he’d stopped noticing, the sort not big enough to register above the constant noise of the other injuries.

‘Oh God,’ I said.

‘Don’t touch me.’

Small words that said a big piece had shifted. Or died. It would’ve been less awful if his voice had changed, but it hadn’t. It was still him, deeply altered.

‘They brought him in today,’ Caleb whispered, not out of delicacy but because he could barely speak. I looked over at him. He was still in nothing but the white Adidas sweatpants. The pinkish sweat had dried. His skin was tight and translucent, veins livid. How many times in the cage since I’d been gone? A detached part of me was surprised to find him still alive. A not-so-detached part relieved. Don’t get soft, idiot. You need him alive, that’s all.

I turned back to Walker. ‘Hey,’ I said.

He didn’t respond. He didn’t want me. I was sending signals to everything in him he thought he’d let die. If he’d had a silver loaded gun at that moment he might have shot me just to stop the appeal to his dead self. He was terrified it might not be entirely dead, might start placing horrifying demands on him, or rather just the one horrifying demand: that he find room for what had happened to him without becoming someone completely different.

I wondered what he thought had been happening to me. Here I was, good as new, no scars to prove anything had happened to me. There he was, utterly changed. It was a betrayal, to have your own body erase the evidence of the abuse it had suffered. It made the evidence on the inside harder to bear. The evidence on the inside was like getting raped in broad daylight in a crowded street without a single witness.

Getting raped. Telepathy like the shadow of a bird passing over us. Our eyes met. He looked away. I thought of a news story from years back, a Haitian prisoner sodomised with nightsticks and a fire hose in NYPD custody. Then a tumble of other images. The pictures of stripped and hooded detainees at Abu Ghraib. The peculiar glazed mirth of the MPs looking on. I wondered if Walker had it in him to recover from that kind of violation. If you were a woman a portion of your fear was given over, in installments that began when you were still a little girl, to rape. How not? Women got raped all over the world, every day. It was a structural latency. But not if you were a man. If you were a man you didn’t start worrying about rape until you were on your way to jail. Did that make it harder to absorb it when it happened? Men would think so.

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