By Blood We Live Page 60

Madeline and I listened to all this with increasing incredulity. Didn’t it occur to her that the smart thing would’ve been to drive somewhere remote and wait till she was human again? Lucy looked at us as if we were idiots.

“I hadn’t eaten,” she said. “I was starving.”

So she’d hustled the Angel into the house, re-gagged and tied him, put a cloth shopping bag over his head, then calmly headed upstairs and slaughtered the retirees.

“They were both asleep,” she said.

She couldn’t interrogate her hostage until the moon had set and she’d regained the power of speech. “Not without some sort of ridiculous version of charades, anyway,” she said. At which point, more or less, she’d got the call from me. “I’m glad,” she said. “I wasn’t looking forward to it. This is where you come in, I’m afraid.”

Because you’re used to this kind of thing. Former WOCOP. Former professional.

Jilted lover.

“Take Lorcan upstairs,” I said.

It didn’t take long. I didn’t have to hurt him. I didn’t want to hurt him. I knew if I hurt him it would be something for my broken heart to do, somewhere for its violence to go. I knew if I hurt him I’d be disgusted with myself.

But I didn’t have to. I just had to tell him what I’d do to him if he didn’t tell me what I needed to know. I told him I’d Turn him.

“You know what that means?”

“Yes,” he said.

We were looking directly at each other. I didn’t like him. It was the religion. It was the blazing faith in magic, in a fairy story. What are we? she’d said. We’re a fairy story. The violence was right there in my limbs, offered itself. I pushed it down. It wasn’t that I didn’t like him. It was that I didn’t want to kill him. It was that I was disgusted with myself for my own useless sadness—and because I knew I’d have to kill him. It should’ve been clean and easy. You’re a monster. You kill and eat a human being every month. What’s one religious nut? And a clear enemy at that. But that’s not how it works. Full moon and hunger, killing’s natural. It’s what we are, what we do. It’s still chosen, but it’s a natural choice. It doesn’t carry over. Lose the hunger, lose the moon, lose the fucking wulf, it’s a different kind of choice.

And I didn’t want to do it. A light, carefree bit of myself said: You don’t have to do anything. Just walk away. Walker. That’s what you really do. That’s who you really are. What’s in a name? Everything.

For a few moments I felt free. I could turn, climb the stairs, say my goodbyes, go. It was what I’d always done. Seeing this, I almost laughed out loud.

But it passed, and the room filled up again with sadness and disgust, and I felt solid and exhausted. The overalls smelled of the farmer’s sweat. All my past was in the room with me, with us. Sometimes your life comes to you like that and asks why it doesn’t make any sense. Why you’ve made nothing of it but a mess.

Meanwhile the boring fucking logic of the situation wouldn’t take its weight off me. There would be no way of knowing if the information he gave up—the location where they were holding Lula and Zoë—was accurate until we got there. We’d have to keep him alive at least till then.

“Well?” I said.

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“When I tell you, you’ll kill me anyway.”

“I can’t do that,” I said. “Not until I know you’ve told me the truth. And there’s no way of knowing that until we get there.”

“Then you’ll kill me.”

It was intimate between us. The problem with these situations is that the frankness creates intimacy. Whether you want it or not. He actually smiled at me, feeling it. I wondered what had happened to make a believer of him. He seemed intelligent. I wondered what it must be like to be an intelligent believer, to see the whole world and everything that happened in it as a series of clues to something grand and invisible, some big story God cooked up in the Beginning. The way she had when she was a kid. The way she’d started seeing it again. Since the vampire came to call. When he joins the blood of the werewolf. Funny how making a joke of that hadn’t worked.

“What’s your name?” I asked him.

He thought about it, decided giving it wasn’t going to make things any worse. “Mario Donatello.”

“I’ll make you a deal, Mario,” I said. “If you tell us where they are, and you’re not lying, I’ll let you go.”

He laughed. “Are you serious?” he said. “Do you think I’m an idiot?”

My arms and shoulders were tired. All the goddamned ifs and thens of these encounters. Again I asked myself why I was bothering. She’s leaving you anyway.

But there was Zoë.

It’s always the innocents that fuck everything up.

I untied his wrists.

“Give me your hand,” I said.

He looked at me from under his brows. Wet black eyes. The acne scarring made me imagine him as a teenager, looking in the mirror, miserable. I suppose it sounds nuts to say I felt sorry for that version of him.

“Just give me your hand,” I said. “I’m not going to hurt you.”

He was sweating. The fear had drawn back a touch to give his excitement and curiosity room. He knew I wasn’t trying to trick him. He knew this was possible because of the intimacy, because I had his life for the taking if I wanted it. There’s a transparency between you at these moments. Like heavyweights in the ring. Like lovers.

He put his right hand out. I took it in mine, in a handshake grip, held it. Our eyes were locked.

“I’m doing this because I know you know how it is,” I said. “I know you’ll know if I’m lying.”

He wanted to live. He’d thought for a long time he’d take a martyr’s death, willingly. But it was there in his face, the realisation that he wanted, above all, to live. I could see all the sunsets and conversations and cups of coffee and crisp winter mornings he was imagining, that he still wanted, that were precious and that he’d never even thought of before, the absolutely huge wasted gift of being alive.

“I give you my word,” I said. “When we get there, I’ll let you go. You know I’m not lying because you can feel that I don’t want to kill you.”

We stared at each other. His hand was slightly bigger than mine. (Reminded me of Susie Carter, who I dated for a while when I was young. She was beautiful, but back then her hands were bigger than mine. It was crazy how much it had bothered me. I couldn’t stop thinking about it, even when she was doing something amazing to me in the sack.) “You know I’m not lying,” I repeated—and I knew he could feel it. It was a joy to him, to suddenly see that he might have all that life he’d been picturing. It was a joy and a shame, because he hadn’t known until now his faith wasn’t stronger than life.

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