By Blood We Live Page 96

“Mr. Konstantinov was keeping vigil for you,” Grishma said, head on one side, looking down at Konstantinov as might a proud mother at her wholesomely exhausted toddler. “But it became impossible. He’s had so little sleep over the last days.”

I felt as if I’d had none myself.

“There is also,” Grishma said, as we headed back upstairs, “something I’m sure you’ll want to see.”

What I wanted was to take a hot shower and get out of there, but I followed him into the lounge anyway.

The plasma screen was on, muted. CNN. Night footage. A derelict warehouse on fire. Armed figures in combat fatigues.

“They’ve been running this on all the channels,” Grishma said, pouring me a Macallan and handing me the glass. “A development. Absolutely a development.” He unmuted, just as I’d started to follow the rolling banner: BREAKING: CHICAGO—MILITI CHRISTI ATTACK ON WEREWOLF DEN … “TIME FOR DENIAL OVER,” REPUBLICAN SENATOR SAYS … TWEET YOUR VIEW …

The footage was hand-held, but professional. This wasn’t a jittery eyewitness with an iPhone. This was a crew, multiple cameras. This—the filming—had been part of the intention.

“… said the attack signalled the start of an open, global action,” a voiceover said. “I spoke to Squad Leader Martin Scholes, who had this to say.”

Cut to a dark-haired guy in his mid-thirties in black fatigues, face a mess of camouflage paint and sweat. He was breathing heavily. He looked elated. “This is what we’re here for,” he said. “This is what—” Another soldier, passing, slapped him on the back and shouted: “Gloria Patri! et Filio! et Spiritui Sancto!” followed by a whoop and what turned out to be a failed attempt at a high-five. “Sorry about that,” Scholes said, grinning, when the soldier had bounded out of shot. “That’s … You know, the guys have trained hard for this. This is … You can expect some high spirits. The point is there’s a job needs doing. No one can pretend this problem is getting better. It’s getting worse. Someone has to draw the line, you know? Someone has to … This is a threat not just to Christians, not just to Americans, but to the human species, to all human life, everywhere. If that’s not a clear enemy, I don’t know what is.”

“Numbers so far indicate five lycanthropes dead and sixteen human fatalities,” the voiceover cut in, as footage switched to the beheaded corpses of two werewolves, lying among still-smouldering rubble, guarded by four young, fully armed Militi Christi.

“We’re not a political organisation,” Scholes was saying, when they cut back to him. “Our goal here is the eradication of this clear enemy by the grace of and for the glory of God. We’re not—”

“What do you say to those people accusing the Church of using this campaign as a credibility lifesaver in the wake of the multiple cases of abuse of young children by—”

“That’s ridiculous,” Scholes cut in as something exploded, off camera, making the interviewer jump into shot. Scholes steadied him. “You all right? That’s okay. That’s just … The point is that’s just an example of hatred of the Church. People have always hated the Church. They’ll say anything to try ’n’ discredit us. Here, look at this. Can you get this in?”

Someone handed him a bayonetted rifle. With a werewolf’s head jammed onto the blade. Again, it was obvious the bayonets had been thought through, for just this moment. For maximum visual impact.

“This,” Scholes said, “this is what we do.”

The report cut to Republican Senator McGowan at a press conference. Camera flashes. A thicket of microphones.

“That’s a misquote,” McGowan said. “What I actually said was that we’re going to need more than guns, not ‘more guns.’ We’re going to need more than guns and silver to defeat an enemy only the most willfully blind members of the administration still refuse to see for what it is. We’re going to need faith, we’re going to need a return to solid values. And everyone knows in their hearts what I mean by that …”

I hit the mute again.

Grishma hadn’t said a word.

“Tell Olek I’ll be in touch,” I said.

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“But, madam—”

“Not for what he’s selling. But we may be able to work something out. Tell him to give me a couple of weeks.” If there was any way of synthesising what I had in my blood, he could be my best shot. Whatever else, he knew his science. Until we had a lab egghead of our own he might have to do. He wasn’t going to stop wanting what he wanted, after all. I’d just have to persuade him not to shop around.

In my room, I called Walker.

“Jesus Christ,” he said. “What the fuck? Why didn’t you call? Didn’t you check your messages?”

No. I was too busy reading Browning and getting vampire-laid.

“Are the kids—”

“The kids are fine,” he snapped. I’d never heard him this angry.

“I’m sorry,” I said. “I’m getting on a flight today. Where are you?”

Pause. Long pause. I thought: Maddy’s in the room with him. It didn’t matter. It was good. It was right.

“Still in Croatia,” he said. “God dammit, Lu. You’ve seen the footage, right?”

“Just now. I’m sorry.”

“Stop fucking saying that.”

“Are the kids …?”

“They’re asleep.”

“That’s okay. That’s good. I’m sorry.” Sorry again. It was out before I could stop myself.

“What the fuck is going on out there?” Then: “Are you all right?”

“I’m fine. I’m … I’m fine. I’m coming home.”

“What happened with Olek? What about the Cure?”

I thought about it for a moment. The dozen answers.

“Not worth the price of the ticket,” I said. “Not for me, anyway. Not for the kids, either.”

There was a silence. All the things I felt him not asking.

“You know this is just the beginning?” he said. “You know we’re going to have to fight them?”

“I know,” I said. “But we’ll do it as what we are. You were right. There’s no going back. There was never any going back. And if there was for us, there wouldn’t be for them. I’ll call you from the airport. Please don’t worry. Please don’t worry about anything. I want you to be happy. I want you to …”

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