The Last Werewolf Page 79

“The world’s full of them,” the Hunter said. “I’ll let the boss know anyway. Let’s go.”

57

WE DROVE FOR what felt like fifteen or twenty minutes. There was only a small opaque glass window in the back door, and the Hunger soon had motion sickness to keep it company. I was close to throwing up (or dry heaving, since I’d eaten nothing for a week) by the time we stopped. The van’s rear door opened and the Hunter palmed the cage’s lock. The Securicor guy climbed in to unfasten me and put the leg cuffs back on. Over his shoulder I could see the motorcyclist dismounting. Poulsom, still out cold, was left shackled where he was.

Hard to make out detail in the dark. We were outside a small stone farmhouse with no lights showing. The land around felt empty. I had a sense of deserted fields, remnants of dry stone walls. No cattle, no sheep, nothing.

“Get her inside,” the Hunter said, not looking at me.

The farmhouse was L-shaped, low-ceilinged, damp, furnished with junk-shop crap from what looked like the 1930s. A dark wood bookcase with no books. A green couch you didn’t want to sit on. An armchair with stuffing coming out like ectoplasm. A faded floral carpet. All the curtains were closed. They lit a log fire in the stone hearth. My shins ached. Wolf in my finger- and toenails like the dull biting shock you get from an electric cattle fence.

“I suppose it’s pointless me asking what’s happening?” I said to the motorcyclist, when the Hunter was out of earshot.

“ ’Fraid so, miss,” he said, with the diamond smile and alert friendly green eyes. His curly hair was surfer two-tone, blond and brown.

“Or how long I’m going to be held here?”

“I wish I could tell you, I really do. Try not to worry about it.” He was tearing the cellophane off a pack of Marlboro. Poulsom had forbidden me cigarettes and booze, but since his reign was over …

“Any chance of bumming one of those?”

We lit up. “Thanks,” I said. “Now all I need is a bottle of Jack Daniel’s. Maybe you could have a quick rootle arou—”

“Carter,” the Hunter said. The motorcyclist turned. “Outside. Check Poulsom in an hour. If he’s not quiet when he wakes up, give him another shot.”

When the motorcyclist—Carter, evidently—had gone, the Hunter approached me on the couch. I thought, excruciatingly, of myself jerking off in my cell. In the dark, yes, but there must have been infrared. A terrible feeling of disgust came over me. He put his hand in his pocket and pulled out a roll of duct tape. “You can agree to keep quiet—silent in fact—or I can stick this over your mouth. It’s up to you. You won’t be given the choice again.” The space between us held information. He was up against a higher authority. He was restricted. Whatever he was capable of, he wasn’t capable of it yet . And there was, no mistake—the curryish stink of it came off him—fear. It was causing him trouble, that he could be afraid of a woman. It didn’t compute. He had to keep reminding himself this wasn’t a woman, this was a monster .

“I’ll be quiet,” I said, looking straight at the fire.

It was a bad night. They rotated the watches, two men outside, one in. Obviously I couldn’t sleep, with the pre-Curse fevers and the Hunger like talons trying out their grip on different bits of my insides. In the white jail Poulsom had “allowed” me muscle relaxants, which I’d taken with deep resentment. I would’ve taken a handful with gratitude now. I lay curled up under a blanket on the couch, shivering in spite of the log fire. And if not the shivers the sweats. Jake says shoulders and wrists feel it first but for me it’s the line from the back of my skull to the end of my spine. In the deliriums (deliria? deliriæ? Jake would know) the yellow-toothed wolf from the Little Red Riding Hood book I had when I was a child comes to me—purple jacket and all—shimmering out of the wall or the fire or the carpet or just thin air, comes to me and wraps his bigger weightless body around mine and tries to get in.

The motorcyclist made cups of instant black coffee which I drank because it was better than nothing. My clothes hurt my skin. There was a pendulum wall clock in the kitchen that went toonk … toonk … toonk and the soft sound was almost unbearable. Jake came in and out of the fever. Sometimes he was the Red Riding Hood wolf, or the wolf spoke with his voice. You’ll be seeing me very soon. I could feel you close all day. Me too . Sometimes he was just himself, invisibly next to me on the couch, the source—as in heat source or light source —of unloneliness. The way sometimes he’d put his hand in the small of my back. It was as if my consciousness was there, in my sacrum, not in my head. Or at least the bit of my consciousness that was terrified of having to go back to being alone.

Sometime in the small hours Poulsom was brought indoors so he could go to the bathroom. He was given water, then taken back to the van. He must have been freezing in there.

At dawn the Hunter and the Securicor guy came in looking raw. The motorcyclist cheerily fixed breakfast from what was in the fridge, eggs, bacon, bread, cheese, tinned fish. The smell of the fried food was nauseating. I sat in the bathroom with the extractor fan going, wafting an open bottle of bleach under my nose. There was no window to even think of climbing out of, and in any case they’d left the Guantánamo restraints on.

My escort was visibly relieved to have got through the night without incident. The Hunter opened the curtains in the lounge. A morning of low cloud and weak light. Last night’s impression of the landscape had been accurate: It was empty, crossed here and there by low pale stone walls. East, the fields undulated very slightly into a distant stack of hills. West, maybe three hundred yards away, they were bordered by a forest.

I’d assumed daybreak would bring some development, but apart from the men’s air of having survived the worst of an ordeal, nothing changed. I saw the Hunter standing fifty yards off talking into a cell phone. The Securicor guy took the cold breakfast leftovers to Poulsom in the van.

At four in the afternoon the motorcyclist and I smoked the last two of his Marlboros. I began to wonder whether the impossible was true, and they didn’t, in fact, know that in a little over two hours I was going to turn into a monster. In which case all I had to do was request a bathroom visit as close to transformation as possible, Change—and kill them. I wondered if I was up to that. The Hunter, surely, would be armed with silver.

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