Talulla Rising Page 67

Not that I’d spent all my time watching. I’d claimed my victim – mid-thirties red-haired Irishman failed swimmer with a long, sad, top-heavily muscled body – in a single leap and swipe and taken as much of him as I could in a furious and indiscriminate bolt: blood, meat, liver, kidneys, life; his life, his life – the drippy blonde babysitter he’d wanted to marry when he was six; shafts of orange gold sun like dividers in an evening forest; his mother’s small, weaselly face and that time he’d come home and found her crying at the bottom of the stairs and a cobblestoned street with a car on cinderblocks and his face fat and hot when Sean Neagle hit him that icy morning in the playground at St Michael’s in Ballyhist—

Madeline, meanwhile, was on all-fours next to me, soixante-neuf’d over her victim. She’d clawed through his pants and taken half the flesh from his left thigh. When her fangs had pierced the femoral artery warm blood had splashed me, mouth, breasts, belly. The air was musical with its odour. She was close enough, it occurred to me now, with a sly loosening of my sexual self. If I wanted to reach out and touch her, to inaugurate the new era of anything sexual goes...

But the time, the time, the time. Aside from the mother in me screaming at the rest that there were THE CHILDREN TO GET TO, my strategist knew the window we were in was tiny. We were only still in it because no one left inside liked the odds outside now. The facility’s survivors weren’t looking to get out, they were looking to stay in, find a set of blast doors to lock themselves behind and wait for the moon to set. But phones would be ringing at other WOCOP bases. If reinforcements turned up they’d be packing silver – and if they were airborne they could be here in minutes.

A giant hot hand touched my butt. Devaz, sporting a prodigious erection, had crept up and was now, with obvious pride, presenting himself to me. The meat in my guts and the blood on my tongue shot a blazing imperative down to my cunt. Oh, God. Wasn’t there time? Surely there was time? Surely if we were—

The mother of my children was screaming and hopping about and pulling her hair and wringing her hands and forcing the pertinent images: I saw myself back on the scientists’ table or lying dead and naked here on the asphalt when the sun came up and Lucy one day soon realising the novelty had worn off and feeding Zoë a silver earring or just leaving her in a hotel lobby and Lorcan on the altar not knowing what was happening to him and never having known anything but aloneness and fear and looming alien presences...

It was enough – just. Even then I had to crawl out from under the seductive weight of the rest of me. Even then it took Cloquet blasting the van’s horn to haul me at last into the right kind of action. I jumped to my feet and shoved Devaz out of the way. He snapped at me, missing by an inch, then immediately turned, dropped to his knees and prodded Madeline’s thigh with his cock. Madeline stopped eating and looked at him.

Caleb had passed out a second time. He lay where he’d fallen by the truck’s big wheel, which stood over him like a dumb guardian. I ran to him and picked him up.

WE HAVE TO GO.

Madeline turned to me. In her left hand she held her victim’s bloodily torn-off cock, in her right Devaz’s, still attached to Devaz. (I thought: That can’t be much of an aphrodisiac for him, even in his state.) Like me she’d barely crossed the line into Enough, and like me she knew Enough was never enough for wulf. For wulf only more than Enough was enough. But also like me she was a businesswoman. Understood risk, gain, gamble, loss. They’d got me out, killed some of those who would otherwise have killed them, and fed. Not a bad night’s takings. Quit while you’re ahead. She dropped the severed cock, let go of the attached one and instead wrenched off what was left of her victim’s leg – complete up to just past the knee, thereafter a lot of bare bone – to bring with her.

THE OTHERS.

But there was no shifting Fergus and Trish. There was barely any reaching Fergus and Trish. Even when – with that same creepy sense of mutual invasion we’d shared back at the Dorchester – Maddy and I opened to each other, plaited wills and mentally screamed at them in unison: WE GO NOW! we got nothing back. Or maybe something, like a drunk on the very edge of complete inarticulacy trying to say Fuck you, but it had too far to travel from where they were, out there in the wolf-constellated void. Trish’s head was back now, soft-haired throat at full stretch. Fergus’s hands roamed and squeezed as if madly searching for something concealed under her skin. The stink of their sex was concussively sweet, wrapped around the big olfactory mass of slaughter, which was even now, even now a profound temptation—

‘Get in here now!’ Konstantinov shouted. ‘Or we go without you!’

I slung Caleb over my shoulder and ran towards the gate.

49

Ten hours later, human again, I sat washed and dressed in my own (Cloquet-provided) clothes at the breakfast table in Lucy’s cottage, holding Zoë in my arms. Holding Zoë in my arms. Holding Zoë in my arms. Love still made me an obscenity. Love still forced the sickening fall away from her. That wouldn’t change. Not for a long time. Not unless I got her brother back. This logic, like the idiot-proof logic of the Curse, was a comfort. Something to rely on. Something to help me through the cruelty I was going to have to inflict if I was ever going to get him back.

A wood-burning stove radiated narcotic warmth. All the curtains were closed but each window showed a lozenge of blue-grey light. The place was spotless, smelled (beyond the swirling perfumes of vestigial wulf) of fresh linen, frangipani incense, terracotta tiles and oiled oak – only occasionally muddied by the odour of the Undead: Caleb was in bed in an upstairs room, shivering, in and out of delirium, skin oozing the gelatinous pink sweat. I didn’t know how long his system would take to burn the blood he’d had last night, but he didn’t look like dying just yet. I’d tried to get a number for Mia out of him, but he was too far under.

A vampire boy, obviously, hadn’t been expected. Lucy had almost thrown up when we carried him in. (Which, given what she would have thrown up, would have been a forensic disaster, despite the painter’s plastic lining walls and floor.) I hadn’t realised how used to Caleb’s smell I’d got in prison. In the close confines of the van (yes, a Transit van with comedy contents: three humans up front, three werewolves, a vampire and half a human leg in the back) his stink had caused serious trouble: it left Madeline and Devaz too queasy to fuck. They couldn’t eat, either. I ended up finishing most of the leg myself. (Who wants a leg? my dad used to ask, carving at Christmas or Thanksgiving.) They were disgusted and furious at the wasted opportunity. Devaz kept brattishly kicking the walls of the van, until Konstantinov turned in his seat with the silver-loaded Springfield and told him very calmly that if he didn’t stop making such a fucking racket he’d shoot him there and then. We’d driven for maybe an hour – all minor roads, all unlit – to Lucy’s divorce-settlement cottage, which appeared to be in the middle of nowhere, but which was in fact only a quarter of a mile from the nearest village – Yatesbury (which I’d never heard of, naturally) – but screened from the road at the front by a tree-lined garden and backed by sheep-dotted farmland. Unless anyone had been looking and listening for us they wouldn’t have noted our arrival. Nor, if all the precautions had served their purpose, would they have any idea that inside the chocolate box cottage, with its limewash and thatch and honeysuckle and rosebushes, a man had been killed and eaten by monsters. One of them less than a month old.

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