The Last Werewolf Page 77

Then the second abduction happened.

Seeing Jake had been hard. He looked terrible. Those scratches on his face like an insult. He seemed so alone standing there in the hotel window. His shirt was wrongly buttoned, just one button out of line, the slightest effect of crookedness. The makeup on my face felt obscene. I’d wanted, among the million other things, to look pretty for him—and perversely the universe had cooperated. Earlier, back at the place they’d held me—“the white jail,” as I thought of it—one of the female guards had slipped me a paper bag with cosmetics in it. Eyeliner, mascara, lip gloss, eyeshadow, blusher. “I know you’re seeing your guy tonight,” she said. “Don’t say where you got it.” She was embarrassed. What was weird was that until then she’d been utterly stony. Hardass, I’d nicknamed her. I was so stunned I didn’t say a word. Afterwards, sitting on my bunk, I cried. I read somewhere that when you’re a kid it’s people’s cruelty that makes you cry, then when you’re an adult it’s their kindness. I hadn’t realised until that moment how completely I’d given up any entitlement to kindness. And then when I saw Jake, so visibly strung out, looking so totally alone, the makeup felt cheap on my face, a stupid girl ’s gesture. (The girl’s still in there, waist-deep in the blood and guts of the monster’s victims. There might be something out there that’ll kill the girl but if so I can’t imagine what it could be.) Are you okay? I’m fine. Are you all right? I’m fine . Weeks of waiting and then when the moment comes you trade the plainest words. The nearness of him hurt, my heart, my head, my breasts, my womb , it felt like, started the wolf trying to tear itself free. Memory of the kill we’d shared in California opened in me like the warmth of hard liquor, starting in the chest and hurrying outwards, a secret ecstasy in my hands and teeth and scalp. Poulsom said, Careful, you’ll hurt yourself. On the cuffs, he meant. I hadn’t known I was straining against them.

I wish I could come to you right now .

Oh, Jesus, Lu, I—

Thirty seconds, we’d been promised. It felt like three. A glimpse. A blur. A joke at love’s expense. Then the car was pulling away, my neck twisted to see out the back, Jake in the lit window getting smaller. Going. Gone. That feeling like the first day at school, a ball of emptiness in my stomach because my mother had seen me crying but still turned and walked away to the car, the silver Volvo I couldn’t stand after that. You learn early the basic thing is loss. Then spend the rest of your life trying to forget it.

Jake says he stopped abstracting. Seems I’ve started. Writing this isn’t easy. I haven’t kept a journal since UCLA. Back then we all kept them, miles of young women’s handwriting like barbed wire, the full-time job of self-dramatisation. I don’t care what he says now. I’ve been fucked over by that asshole for the LAST TIME!!!

I supposed they were taking me from Caernarfon back to the white jail (“they” being Poulsom and two guards, Merritt and Dyson), wherever the hell the white jail was. I knew we were in Wales, but that was pretty much it. My European geography’s the standard American shambles and the place-names I’d seen on the way—Llandovery, Rhayader, Dolgellau—could’ve been in Wonderland for all they meant to me. The headache I’d had since first being captured was knowing I had to do something and knowing there was nothing I could do. I hadn’t bought the line that I’d be released once Grainer was dead any more than Jake had, but there was no choice except to play it out. The rationed phone minutes had carried Jake’s message in the spaces between words: Sit tight. I’ll get you out. In the good moments it was like having a powerful talisman in my pocket. In the bad it was like a voice (Aunt Sylvia’s, in fact, that bitch who fell on childhood optimism like acid rain) repeating, He won’t come, you stupid little girl, you’re dead. And these were bad moments, now, after seeing him. He’d looked so tired. Those scratches and the wrongly buttoned shirt.

We’d been driving maybe twenty minutes—a narrow winding road bordered by woods on both sides—when we found the way blocked by a traffic accident. A silent ambulance with lights sadly splashing the trees, two medics tending a helmeted motorcyclist down on the ground, the bike on its side nearby.

“Er …” Poulsom said. He was in the back with me and Dyson. Merritt was behind the wheel.

“Inconvenient,” Dyson said.

“Reverse,” Poulsom said. “Immediately.”

What happened happened very fast. There was the tiny precise sound of a bullet going neatly through plate glass—and almost simultaneously Merritt’s head lolled on the back of his seat.

Intense dreamy fumbling followed: Poulsom wrangling his gun out of his shoulder holster, Dyson trying to clamber over both of us to the door on the opposite side from the shot, me trying—dreamily knowing it was pointless—to get out of the restraints. It would have looked like the Three Stooges if anyone had been there to see it. I took Dyson’s full body-weight—one booted foot on my thigh—as he launched himself through the rear door, then he was out, stumbling for the cover of the trees.

He didn’t make it. A short burst of automatic gunfire dropped him six feet away. In the silence that followed I felt Poulsom’s body next to mine softening into acceptance.

“Get out, slowly, Poulsom,” a man’s voice said. “Hands where we can see them.” I looked past Merritt’s body through the windscreen. The medics and the motorcyclist were now on their feet by the open back of the ambulance, armed with rifles. It had started raining.

“Well, Talulla,” Poulsom said, quietly, “this is going to be bad for me, I think.” He got out. I sat very still. Not that I had much choice: In my white jail cell I’d been free to move around, but for transportation they’d put me in Guantánamo-style restraints, the I-shaped wrists-and-ankles arrangement that allows short steps only. From the ankles another set of cuffs attached me to the bolted base of the seat.

“Drop the weapon,” the voice told Poulsom. “Get on the ground facedown, hands behind your back. Do it now.”

Looking to my left through the open door I watched Poulsom follow the instructions. A moment after he’d assumed the position an athletic guy in full black combat fatigues melted into view from the darkness behind the trees. A WOCOP Hunter, from the gear, with a dark crewcut and heavy-lidded eyes. He genuflected onto Poulsom’s neck while he cuffed him, then helped him, gently, to his feet.

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