The Last Werewolf Page 76

Of course without the calls there’s nothing to do but wait. Smoke. Pace. Write. Look out. Drink. I’ve allowed myself one bottle of Scotch between now and tomorrow afternoon. Eighteen-year-old Talisker’s the best the Castle’s got. Shame not to go out on something classier, if going out’s what I’m doing.

The room is as I remember it. Seems a decade ago. Poor Maddy’s white shoulders hunched and her face full of immediate belief though she’d said, Is that real? That’s not real, is it?

It wasn’t painless. It wasn’t quick.

I’m sorry, Harls, for the mess I made of your life. For costing you your life. Vengeance, now, late, shamefully overdue, but vengeance nonetheless. Grainer. Ellis too, eventually. I’m sorry it’s taken so long. I’m sorry the bare fact of what they did to you wasn’t enough. I’m sorry it took loving someone. Someone else.•

Dark. I watched the last of the light over the Irish Sea. Now the window shows only the street. No call.•

The whole of one’s being reduces to listening for the sound of a ringing phone.•

Something nags when I think of Madeline here. This room’s hauled it to the edge of memory but can’t quite heave it over the border.•

22:50. Still no call. It’s raining again. I’ll have to open the window to see her clearly.•

Thank God.

I was beginning to give up hope. Just after midnight the room phone rang. Not Ellis. An older-sounding male.

“Take the handset to the window. ETA two minutes. Now hang up.”

Time, as the twee verse has it, is too slow for those who wait. I opened the sash. The two minutes swelled and warped. Car after car that wasn’t them. Then a mirror-windowed people-carrier pulled up across the road. The handset rang again.

“Hello? Lu?”

“Listen carefully,” the male voice said. “You get thirty seconds, precisely. Not negotiable. Go.”

The vehicle’s rear window went down—and there was Talulla’s face, awake, expectant, full of her nimble consciousness. Not quite fully disguising fear, though I could see even in that first glance the work she’d put in not to let it show. She smiled at me.

“Are you okay?” I said.

“I’m fine. Are you all right?”

“I’m fine. I’m getting you out, okay?”

“Okay.”

“It won’t be long, I promise.”

“Be careful. You have to be careful.”

“I will. I’m coming for you.”

“Promise you’ll be careful.”

“I promise.”

“What happened to your face?”

“Nothing. A scrape. You look so beautiful.”

“I love you.”

“I love you too. You’re sure they haven’t hurt you?”

“They really haven’t. I miss you.”

“You’ll be seeing me very soon.”

“I could feel you close all day.”

“Me too.”

“I wish I could come to you right now.”

“Oh, Jesus, Lu, I—” A hand wearing a black leather driving glove took the phone from her. I saw her face’s effort collapse. You think: I should have spent days just holding her, kissing her, looking at her. The electric window closed. One last glimpse of her straining to see over it. The soft dark eyes.

“That’s it, chief,” the voice said—and hung up. Seconds later the people-carrier was gone.

55

SOMETHING’S HAPPENED TO ME. I’ve stopped abstracting. This is love: You stop bothering about the universal, the general, get sucked instead into the local and particular: When will I see her again? What shall we do today? Do you like these shoes? Theory and reflection are delicate old uncles bustled out of the way by the boisterous nephews action and desire. Themes evaporate, only plot remains. Madeline was right in her priorities all along.

I hadn’t realised my conversion until reading back over these pages, and now, when they ought to present themselves, conclusions desert me. For a werewolf facing what might be his last few hours your narrator finds himself woefully short of summative maxims. The great mysteries endure, unsolved, unseen-into (except love, which is really not a mystery but the force that eases mysteries into the hard shoulder); I don’t know where the universe came from or what happens to creatures when they die. I don’t know if the whole thing’s an unravelling accident or an inscrutable design. I don’t know how one should live—but I know that one should live, if one can possibly bear it. You love life because life’s all there is. And I only know that because I happen to have found—again—love. There’s no justice: that I know. Precious little to show for two hundred and one years.

My skull aches from where the moon spent the night under its cranium, like a lozenge of slowly melting ice. In a few minutes Llewellyn will arrive to take me to Beddgelert. I haven’t slept but in spite of the pre-Curse torments I’ve showered, shaved, trimmed my finger- and toenails. There are no clean clothes so I washed my socks and underpants in shampoo and dried them on the room’s radiator. Ellis tells me there’ll be fresh gear for me when the deed is done. I drank the last of the Talisker around noon. Since then coffee and Camels, the occasional glass of tap water. It’s raining, halfheartedly. This seat by the window’s become a dreary home. Its view is of the town’s grey edge: a road, passing cars, headscarved old ladies, dog walkers, now and then a flushed jogger. Beyond this a low grey wall, a narrow strand, the shifting colours of the Menai Strait, Anglesey.

Not for much longer.

My inner dead make their presence felt now like a silent congregation. Arabella, their priestess, has gone, so lately they’re still in shock. There’sa tenderness around her absence, like the soft blood-filled cavity of a pulled-out tooth. What can it mean that I killed and consumed my wife and unborn child and now have love in my life again—except that there’s no justice and that one must, if one can bear it, live?

Enough. My nerves are bad. Reflection no longer becomes me, has no place alongside love.

Besides, here’s Llewellyn with the car. For better or worse it’s time to go.

56

NO ONE RAPED ME. First because they were all scared of Poulsom and I guess he’d taken anything like that off the menu. Second because raping me would have meant killing me: A woman you’ve raped tracking you down is one thing, a werewolf you’ve raped is another. Within hours of my first abduction I stopped worrying about it.

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