The Last Werewolf Page 40

“Hardly any. Don’t be a baby. Here, have a toot.” I handed him his coke tin. A pause. Two snorts. A businesslike groan of pleasure.

“ C’est bon. Aie. C’est beau . Will they kill her?”

“Who knows? They probably won’t be able to summon the requisite vim.”

“Vim?”

“Energy.”

“But what are we going to do?”

“Nothing. Watch and wait. And who the fuck are ‘we’? Starsky and Hutch?”

He chuckled, wheezily. The cocaine had cheered him. “In a way,” he said, “I wish you had fucked her. Then you’d know. Then you’d know the sublime … Her asshole, for example. It’s like a stern coquettish spoiled secretary working for Himmler—”

“Shut up, will you? I need to think. Give me a cigarette.”

The sensible thing would have been to break Cloquet’s neck and slip away. Vampires wanted me alive—so what? It added to the vocabulary of my predicament but the grammar remained unchanged.

Except for Quinn’s book. The disgusting story. Wild dogs and dead bodies and the iron taste of ancient memory. Proximal enlightenment was a throbbing headache that wouldn’t subside.

I cupped the Zippo, lit up, took a ferocious drag. The facts remained, no matter how long I stood there shuffling them: Either the story’s true or it’s false. Either Jacqueline has the book or she doesn’t. If she has it, either I get it or I walk away. If I get it, either it will make a difference to me or it won’t.

Simultaneously (in the inner voice of a female American cultural studies professor): Only meaning can make a difference and we all know there’s no meaning. All stories express a desire for meaning, not meaning itself. Therefore any difference knowing the story makes is a delusion.

Cloquet was now lying on his side with his knees pulled up. In the darkness I could just discern the large wet black blinking eyes and the glimmer of the hip flask. “I’m starving,” he said. “I don’t suppose you’ve got anything to eat, have you?”

I remembered the binoculars and began going through his pockets for them.

“There’s a little place in Le Marais,” he said, not seeming to mind the manhandling, “that makes the best choux pastry in the world. I could kill for one of their vanilla éclairs right now. This is the beauty of not modelling anymore. I can eat whatever I want.”

“You really were a model? That’s hilarious. Here, have these.”

“My cashews. Thank God. But what I really want is something sweet. When she comes, you know, she looks at you with such pure and remote clear hatred. The contempt … It’s the con tempt . I spent so many years looking for a woman who truly despised me.”

The binoculars didn’t help much. Mme Delon had science-fiction technology in her windows, which were now, without the aid of curtains or shutters or blinds, completely opaque. Three of her security men in puffer jackets and combat trousers were visible: two on the ground, one on the roof. They paced, chewed gum, smoked, exchanged occasional quiet words. The firs were a dark fraternal presence around us. Cloquet munched his cashews, breathing through his nose. It got uncomfortably cold. An hour passed.

“She’ll negotiate,” Cloquet said, availing himself of another two hits of coke. “You don’t know how she operates. Do you know about the African kids? Angola, Nigeria, Congo. Kids accused of witchcraft. She takes them off their parents’ hands, pays handsomely too. Then what? What do you think she does with—”

“Quiet! Fuck, I nearly missed them.” I’d been watching the front of the house but the vampires must have come from an unseen exit on the garage level below. Only the sound of the people-carrier door opening alerted me. I put the silencer to the back of Cloquet’s head. “One squeak and you’re dead.”

The ridiculous, of course, waits only for the moment of intense seriousness. In a tiny whisper Cloquet said: “I have to sneeze.” Hardly surprising after the barrel of coke he’d inhaled. I dropped the gun and the binoculars and grabbed him, one hand pinching his nostrils shut, the other clamped over his mouth. One of the vehicle’s side doors slid closed with a rasp and a thud. The female vampire, Mia, lingered, again with her nose lifted in our direction. In the light from the van’s interior I saw a young high-cheekboned face and shoulder-length yellow-blond hair.

Cloquet’s moment was near. I tightened my grip—too much. He wriggled, desperately. I rolled on top of him as if for buggery and held on. Mia got into the front passenger seat. Legs and high heels that would have been at home in an ad for luxury stockings lifted in gracefully. She reached for the door handle.

Chsszn! With an almighty effort Cloquet wrested enough of his nose free to release his bizarre sneeze—by the mercy of the gods precisely synchronised with the clunk shut of the passenger door. I nearly broke his neck there and then. But the engine started and the people-carrier, carrying its immortal people, swung round and pulled away.

A gobbet of Cloquet snot clung to the back of my hand. “Thanks for that,” I said, wiping it on his lapel. “Now. On your feet, soldier.”

“What?”

“Get up. Back against here, please.”

Improvisation. His belt secured his hands around the tree trunk behind him. He didn’t protest much. Evidently he had a penchant for surrender. A little moment formed between us when I’d fastened him. He looked at me.

“What?” I said.

“You lied. I smelled her cunt on your fingers.”

“Oh. Yes. Sorry about that.”

“You’re going back for more. Everyone goes back for more.”

“I’m going back for the book.”

“You think you’re safe. You’re wrong. She already knows what you’re thinking.”

“I’ll take my chances. I’ll also take your Luger and our friend the custom-made javelin here.” I balled up his five hundred euros, shoved them in his mouth and appropriated half the wrist bandage for a gag. God only knows why I didn’t kill him. He was too absurd to murder. The cashews and the mascara and the abandoned modelling career. That sneeze.

“I may be gone some time,” I said.

29

WHEN YOU NEED a plan and don’t have one a retarded giddy indifferent faith takes over. Improv comics know this, criminals, soldiers too. Self dissolves into the flow and will reassemble on the other side of the job—or not. Either way you’re doing it. Either way you’re in .

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