The Last Werewolf Page 72

I’d got up from the couch and was about to advise being given a weapon just in case, when what happened next happened.

Very fast.

A (literally) staggering stink of boochie. Clamped salivary glands and the surge of nausea. One foot came off the floor for a moment while the room tilted. I found myself back on the couch. My vision clouded. Someone upstairs screamed.

When my sight returned I saw Russell in profile through the library’s open doorway. He was looking at something out of shot and his face was the face of a child in deep distress. In an admirable testament to Hunt training his hands were doing what they’d been drilled to do and searching his belt for optimal weaponry. I saw his fingers close on a UV stick and begin to draw it out—before the sound of flesh and bone rupturing followed a split-second later by a spray of blood that covered his face and chest stopped him. He groped, blinded, managed to get the UV stick out—then jerked and dropped it, undetonated, both hands ascending with a strange slow grace to his throat, where what was unmistakably one of the Hunt’s own wooden stakes had buried itself.

Flung or fired by whatever was coming along the landing towards him. He went with what looked like deliberate slowness down onto his knees, eyes wide, mouth open, trying and failing to swallow, khah … khah … khah .

The black vampire from Heathrow appeared on the landing. Seductively calm long face suggestive of immense patience and capability. In his left hand he held a Hunt Staker, lately discharged. With his right he dragged the body of Chris, the second-floor man, by its spinal column, which had been yanked through the abdomen and ribs. In with the stench of vampire I caught a poignant whiff of shit from the gashed human bowels.

Two rapid computations. First, that only Wazz downstairs remained alive. Second, that only a dozen paces stood between me and capture.

The library had a second door connecting to a bedroom, from which another exit took you back to the landing. The question (posed in the distended dreamscape of perhaps two seconds, while the vampire dropped Chris’s corpse, moseyed over to kneeling Russell and took the young man’s skull gently between his hands) was which door to go for.

A person steps into the road, turns, sees a truck about to hit him, seems to freeze. The freezing is the amazingly quick brain making its honourable start on the avoidance mathematics, the geometry of getting out of the way . And even the amazingly quick brain is too slow. The first trajectory calculations are barely—BAM! Good night.

Ditto here. I was still in the early trigonometry when the vampire with a deft twist snapped Russell’s neck, turned and launched himself at me.

One finds oneself flying through the air. That’s quite something. Time stretches to accommodate peripheral details: my foully smouldering Camel abandoned in the onyx ashtray; the empty Macallan bottle on the floor; a signed first edition of American Psycho one of the agents had brought up from the contemporary collection downstairs; the bellows I gave Harley for Christmas twenty years ago.

Nearer details were regrettably vivid too: the vamp’s dark eyes with whites tinctured brown, his bad meat odour and long calm face, the feel of his cold left hand around my throat (a nail had already drawn blood) and his cold right in a grab that pinched the flesh of my chest through my clothes. Overwhelmingly the power discrepancy. Overwhelmingly his being able, now that he had hold of me and we were flying through the air, to do pretty much whatever he wanted.

Not that revulsion wasn’t mutual. His face’s calm was forced. The werewolf , a vampire has written, smells like the Platonic form of a filthy animal . I wondered—as I had such liberty for wondering, while we sailed across the library—if vampires ever threw up. Throw up what, though? All they had was blood. Harley would have known. (Poor Harls. He hadn’t much liked American Psycho . Savage satirist or twisted fuck? he’d asked me, when he’d finished it. Both, I’d said. It’s a false dichotomy. The romantic days of either/or are over. Who’d know that if not me?)

As one we crashed into the chimney breast and fell, just to the right of the hearth. Something brittle snapped under me. My spine , I thought, since the vertebrae had taken the brunt of impact—but in the moment it took him to slash four fingers across my face (white heat, blood welling in my left eye as if half the world were having a red cocktail poured into it) I knew both that it wasn’t a bone and that it was my only chance of escape.

We’d ended up with me propped at an angle against the wall, him sitting astride my thighs. His face had a sprinkle of dark skin-tags or moles (that in a genuine horror evocation brought Lula’s fair torso with its beloved beauty-spot constellations) and a likeable outcurve from nose to top lip. Black typecasting would have him as nirvanic drug lord or philosophising janitor. He put his hand over my face and I writhed as if trying to get out from under him—in fact trying to get hold of the thing that had snapped under my back.

I wasn’t, quite, quick enough. Before I could make my move—my one move, my first and last and only resort—his other hand had torn through my shirt, executed a deep screw manoeuvre into the flesh of my chest and come away with a bloody gobbet of pectoral muscle, hardly Shylock’s pound but more than enough to take my scream (for a moment I thought my poor nipple had gone) to the comedy edge of falsetto.

It probably worked in my favour, that scream, pleasurably diverted enough of his concentration so that my wriggling under him played as just more futile struggling. I’ll never know. Because having at last got proper purchase on the top half of Harley’s bone-handled walking stick, which had been left propped against the wall when I’d poured the first of the day’s drinks, and had snapped under me when we fell, I whipped it out from behind my back and with a blurred prayer to the God who wasn’t there drove it with all my strength into the vampire’s heart.

As at all such moments the prosaic din of things subsided out of respect for the magnitude of our event. Time paused and space solidified around us. For a moment we were figures in a paperweight. He managed a look of nude surprise—a sudden, a cartoon change of expression, as if he were exaggerating for the benefit of a child—when he lifted his hands to see their veins blackening as if hurriedly filling with ink. What he couldn’t see was the same phenomenon at work in his neck and face, the blood vessels showing as a darkening web, the magical roadmap of his death. He stiffened, paralysed first by incredulity, second more literally by … well, paralysis. I jerked my hips up, swiped, knocked him off me. He went over with a lightweight or taxidermed rigidity onto his side, knees bent at ninety degrees, hands fixed as if readying an invisible basketball for a shot. His eyes closed.

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