By Blood We Live Page 73

When he spoke, Natasha looked at him with calm certainty. The delight in each other Jake and I had had. As opposed to the almost delight between Walker and me. That would be an awkward conversation to have with these two, I realised, with a small detonation of dread, the one that would begin with one of them saying: How’s Walker?

“So what’s the story with this guy?” I said, preemptively.

Between them, they told me what they knew. Olek was old. Very old. He was also the nearest the species had to a Chief Medical Officer. “There are illnesses, apparently,” Natasha said. “But don’t ask me.”

“I think you’ve got to have been alive for a long time to get them,” Konstantinov said. “But anyway, he’s a scientist. He’s the scientist. Physically, there’s nothing he doesn’t know about the species. When WOCOP dissolved, the Fifty Families bought a lot of the research. All of it went through him. He was with the Helios Project from its inception. He says he’s retired from that now, but who knows?”

The Helios Project was the vampires’ ongoing attempt to find a cure for nocturnality. To which, inadvertently, werewolves had for a while become integral. The virus we had until recently carried had stopped the Curse passing to human victims who survived the bite. But to vampires who got bitten, it gave an increased tolerance to sunlight.

“And the cure for what ails me?” I asked.

“God knows,” Natasha said. “He’s refused to discuss it. It’s for your ears only. The only thing he says is that it’s completely unscientific. What does he want from you?”

“I don’t know. I really don’t. Nothing that I’m going to want to give, I’m guessing.”

“Do you remember Christopher Devaz?” Olek said. He was back in the doorway, hands in pockets. All three of us looked up.

Devaz was one of the WOCOP guards I’d Turned when I’d been detained at their pleasure three years ago, a fruity little Goan fattened on maternal love who’d been easy to seduce with a paradoxical (and not wholly invented) posture of moral reluctance and libidinal need. Turned, he’d had no choice but to help me get out come full moon. He hadn’t been happy about it, not surprisingly.

“Yes, I remember him,” I said. “What about him?”

“Christopher Devaz is no longer a werewolf,” Olek said.

I looked at him for signs of bullshit or strategy. There weren’t any. He just looked straight back at me.

“Because you cured him.”

“Because I cured him.”

The terrible thing was I knew he wasn’t lying. It didn’t help. It made me feel exhausted. Sitting there, it was as if all the miles and hours had gathered on me, suddenly, had hung themselves on me like … yes, giant vampire bats. And the tireder I was the more wulf tried it on. Watch it, fucker, I thought. There’s a cure for you here. Apparently.

“Would you like to see him?” Olek said. “He’s downstairs.”

65

THERE WAS A laboratory, of course. And two basement levels. Lab on minus one. I only saw part of it. Guessed it occupied the building’s entire footprint. Not that what I saw told me much. A wall of bottled and jarred chemicals. Three big refrigerators. A lot of things that looked like slimline VCRs or DVD players, with, I intuited, technical clout inversely proportional to their number of blinking lights. (In the twenty-first century the gizmos to be scared of are the ones that look like they don’t do much.) In addition several desk monitors, a pair of open laptops, shelf after shelf of zip-drives. Cable management and a cloying medicinal smell that whether I liked it or not evoked my high school chemistry lab, my best friend Lauren, and her one-semester obsession with homemade explosives. Two doors led off. Through one I glimpsed more stacked gadgetry and the corner of a brushed steel table.

“Down another flight,” Olek said. “I hope you don’t mind accompanying me in private for this. But this part is for you alone.”

Konstantinov and Natasha had protested, but in the end my own impatience had settled it. The house, they conceded, was empty but for the three of us and Grishma, and whatever it was Olek wanted from me it plainly wasn’t my life.

The next flight down took us to a door that opened onto a more complicatedly divided space. Corridors, floors, walls and ceilings tiled white high-gloss. A hospital cleanliness that would have made the sight of two or three drops of blood on the floor particularly ominous. There were none, however. All the doors were steel—one very heavy. The air down here had a failed feel, like the air in an airplane toilet. There was a new etherish smell that made my nostrils fizz and that wulf didn’t like at all. I thought of the sneezing tracker dogs in Cool Hand Luke.

Olek, a couple of paces ahead of me, moved with loose-limbed ease, but I could feel his aura hotting-up. A slight odour of his species crept out of him now, forced by tension, exacerbated by the smaller space.

“In here,” he said, opening a door to our left.

“In here” was, in effect, one of the rooms you see in movies (but which I’ve always suspected don’t exist anymore, if they ever did) where a victim gets to look through one-way glass at a line-up of suspects.

“He can’t hear us,” Olek said. “Or see us, obviously. This is just so you know it’s him.”

Devaz, on the other side of the glass, was lying in the foetal position on a fold-out bed, staring at nothing. He was barefoot (the pale soles of his brown feet affected me with a curious dreary sympathy) in sky blue pyjama bottoms and a white cotton singlet. He didn’t look injured. Just unbearably sad. Aside from the bed his small room was empty.

“He’s not in any discomfort,” Olek said. “And he won’t be obliged to remain here much longer. But I do need to know that you recognise him. Do you need to hear his voice?”

There was an emptiness to the man on the bed that made me strangely angry, although angry at whom or what it wasn’t clear.

Olek hit the intercom. “Christopher?” he said. “How are you feeling?”

Devaz had started at the voice, slightly, but he didn’t get up. Just curled a little tighter on the bed. I tried to go out to him, mentally. As the one who’d Turned him it ought to have been effortless and immediate.

DEVAZ?

Nothing.

DEVAZ. IT’S ME.

Still nothing. I might as well have been reaching out to a bucket and mop.

Prev Next