The Last Werewolf Page 33

I lit the first deeply needed cigarette since transformation (a softpack of Camels on the counter; she’d done her homework) while my hostess fixed drinks. Tanqueray and tonic for me (too much sunlight in the room for whisky), a Tom Collins for herself. Nicotine and alcohol embraced in my system like long-parted siblings, grateful to me for reuniting them.

“It’s ages since I’ve made drinks,” she said. “There’s always someone else. But I thought it best for it to be just the two of us.” She’d taken a seat—the bar had six high swivel chairs of white leather—next to mine, and was poking at her cocktail’s ice cubes with her index fingernail. The wall to my left was glass, and looked out onto a patio of terra-cotta tiles and a cactus garden. Soil red as chilli powder. It was only mid-March but the sky was clear and the air still. You could feel the blinding brilliance summers would have here. Small birds whirred to and from a feeder bracketed to one white wall.

“So,” she said, “I must explain myself. What it comes to, Jacob, is …” She looked down, smiled, had a brief inner dialogue with herself, let her shoulders sag, then slid from her stool and stood in front of me. “Come with me,” she said, offering me her hand. She might have been a nine-year-old with a tree house to show off. “Come.”

I took her hand (retained the Camel, the G&T), got to my feet and followed her.

Through two large rooms (one with a central circular designer fire pit and a large standing stone but little else) down a corridor to a steel door with keypad entry. Beyond, varnished oak stairs led down to the formidable library. Air-con and the feel of soundproof walls. Other heavy doors, also keypadded, led off. Jacqueline paused at one of them, looked me in the eye for a moment, then punched the access code and opened the door.

The room it revealed was small and windowless. A filing cabinet, a desk, a computer—and the wall above it covered in press clippings. All of them related one way or another to me. BODY OF MISSING GIRL FOUND. CORAL INDUSTRIES ESTABLISHES SUB-SAHARAN AIDS CHARITY. VECTOR IN AGGRESSIVE BUY-OUT. MUTILATED BODY DISCOVERED. FAMILY MASSACRED IN MANSON-STYLE ATTACK. MYSTERY DONOR FUNDS PIONEERING CANCER RESEARCH. WHO RUNS LAERSTERNER INTERNATIONAL? “WEREWOLF” EYEWITNESS IS CLASS-A DRUG-USER. UNNAMED DONOR INJECTS NEW LIFE INTO VACCINE DISTRIBUTION. “SILVER BULLETS” FOUND AFTER NIGHT OF MYSTERY GUNSHOTS. VECTOR NOW TO TRADE AS HERNE. FULL-MOON MURDERS ARE COINCIDENCE, POLICE MAINTAIN.

“Press Enter,” Jacqueline said.

The animal remnants don’t like small spaces. I forced myself past it and sat down at the desk. Hit the key as instructed. Instantly footage began to run. Me coming out of International Arrivals in Tokyo. Caption: JM Tokyo, 07/02/06. Me leaving the Algonquin. Me on the beach at Galveston. Me going into Harley’s Earl’s Court house. Me strolling down the Rue de Rivoli. Me in a Cairo café. All shot in the last three years. The last sequence: me dressed as a woman, getting out of a taxi and entering the Leyland Hotel.

“I take it I’m supposed to be surprised?” I said.

“Not at all,” she said. “Just convinced of my dedication.”

There was nothing to put my cigarette out in, so I downed the Tanqueray and dropped the butt in the glass. “Well, you’ve got the transformation footage now. Essential for a name-and-shame operation. The kill too, no doubt. Congratulations. Prepare yourself for the weight of public indifference.”

“Please don’t insult me. You know that’s not what this is.”

“Then what is this?”

“A chance for sanctuary.”

“What?”

“I want you to stay alive. I’m offering you protection, indefinitely. Serious protection,” she added, seeing the dismissal forming in my face. “Not that—not what you’re used to. I don’t think you have any understanding of what a subtraction from the world your death would represent. You’re something magnificent, Jake. There’s such little magnificence left.”

“Thank you very much. I think I’ll be going now.”

“Listen to me, please.”

“There’s nothing to discuss.”

“You must give me a chance to—”

“Don’t be fucking absurd.”

She fell silent. Little-girlishly dropped her head, picked at a hangnail. A performance of compressed sullenness. I remembered the small turgid breasts and inviting abdomen. Blood in my cock twitched. Of course it did. The post-Curse horn. Again: The flesh can’t help it. Laughter, desire, boredom and exhaustion did what they do as a team, cornered me into a unique paralysis. My hands in my lap like two dead crabs. Just stay , Harley had said.

Whatever else was wrong with Jacqueline Delon her sexual instincts were fine. She took the two steps necessary to bring herself within my reach. For such moments to work, knowing when not to speak is crucial. In silence she very carefully placed her legs either side of my knee but remained standing. Thus just above my left dead crab hand was the hot skirt-space. Into which the now livening hand slowly ascended (will always ascend, must ascend, though the gods have gone and the planet’s dying and the human race has ironied itself into terminal indifference and it wasn’t painless and it wasn’t quick) through the zones of deepening heat to the lace-enflowered tender sly swelling of her cunt.

25

SHE HAD THE complete repertoire, the full gallery of sexual personæ, and though boosted by cocaine we flirted with several of them, it was only when I lay on top of her and she stared dead-eyed at me while I went into her that we managed something like alignment. Tender and Curse-hungover I remained in danger of segueing into hysterical laughter or a crying jag. Even when I came (she gave me the raised eyebrows and half smile of sinisterly maternal triumph) it was with sad fracture, a frail sense of the poor old world’s injuries and might-have-beens and my own wretched list of losses. Closely followed by a feeling of deep fraud: Beyond the mawkish moment I remained as sick of the stinking planet as I was of my threadbare little self.

Old habits of decency dying hard, however, I got her off, orally, without the remotest illusion she cared very much, though she held my head and bruised my lips with her pubis and made a masculine noise of apparent satisfaction when she came.

“I’m going to have some food sent up,” she said. “You don’t want anything, I know.” We were in the master bedroom suite on the villa’s sunlit top floor, a large rectangular deep-carpeted Chanel-scented space, again with one wall entirely glass. Décor was ivory, with here and there a big statement: a cowhide chaise longue; a chandelier of red glass; an original Miro. It was still only early afternoon, though already the Hecate seemed weeks ago. Less than forty-eight hours had passed since I’d held Harley’s severed head in my hands. My whole life’s been like this, too much experience crammed into too little time. Two hundred? You feel two thousand.

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