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Authors: Scott G. Mariani

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BOOK: Uprising
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‘If this is about Declan Maddon, shouldn’t you be talking to
them?’
She jerked her thumb dismissively at the house next door, keeping her eyes averted from the place as though it would turn her stomach to look at it directly. ‘The police have already been here once today. Is Kate in trouble?’

‘None whatsoever. I just want to ask her a couple of questions.’

‘Oh, very well.’ She ushered him inside the hall and made a big show of getting him to leave his helmet by the door. The house smelled of new carpets and air freshener. Gillian Hawthorne called up the stairs, ‘Ka-ate!’

No reply.

‘She’s been in bed.’

‘Is she not well?’

‘She’s just a little off-colour. Do you
really
need to talk to her now?’

‘It’s quite important,’ he replied.

‘I suppose you’d better come up, then.’

Gillian Hawthorne led the way up the stairs and stopped at a door.

‘Kate, dear?’ She turned the handle and Joel followed her inside. The room was dark. Gillian turned on a side light, and there was a groan from the bed. Joel could see the girl’s red hair sticking out from under the duvet. He looked around. The bedroom was just like any teenage girl’s room. Posters on the walls, TV, computer, a desk covered in magazines, hairbrush, iPod, makeup, mobile. The only odd detail he noticed was the way the floor-length curtains at the far end of the room had been tightly closed together with safety pins. He crossed the room and peered behind them. A French window led out onto a little balcony overlooking the back garden.

‘Kate, this gentleman is from the police and he’s come to talk to you about
Declan.’
She spat that last word out with disgust.

Joel pulled up a chair. He smiled at the girl as she sat up in bed with a resentful scowl. Her hair was tousled. Her face was pallid, almost white.

‘Detective Inspector Solomon. Actually, Kate, it’s you I wanted to talk about.’

‘What for?’

‘I’ve been speaking to Dec Maddon about reported incidents last night at a party that he says you and he both attended. I was wondering what you could tell me about it.’

‘He’s a bloody liar,’ Gillian Hawthorne cut in irritably. ‘We’ve already been over and over this with you people. I mean, is there nobody in Thames Valley Police who can understand plain English?’

‘Please, Mrs Hawthorne.’ Joel turned back to Kate and spoke softly. ‘I’d appreciate it if we could go through it again. Just one more time, okay?’

Kate grimaced. ‘I don’t know what Dec was on about. I came straight home. I didn’t go to any party.’ She said it very carefully, as if she was reciting prepared lines.

‘You’re sure?’

She nodded.

‘How did you get home?’

‘I took a taxi.’

‘What time?’

‘I don’t remember,’ she groaned. ‘It was late.’

‘Where did you take the taxi from?’

‘Somewhere. I was walking.’

‘So you called the cab company on your phone?’

‘Yes. No.’

‘Which is it?’

‘My head’s hurting.’

‘Why are you asking her all this?’ Gillian said.

‘I’m just trying to understand what happened,’ Joel replied, keeping his tone gentle.

Gillian gave a snort. ‘What happened is that nothing happened.’

‘I called them,’ Kate said. ‘I remember now.’

‘That’s good. I can make enquiries and find out the name of the taxi firm,’ he said, watching her face. ‘That way I can find out where they picked you up from.’

She flushed at his words. ‘Oh…hang on. No. I thumbed a lift.’

The bluff had worked. ‘So you didn’t take a taxi after all.’

‘No.’

‘Who gave you a lift?’

‘I don’t know. A man.’

‘What happened to your neck?’ he asked. ‘Did someone hurt you?’

Kate immediately covered her neck with the collar of her pyjama top. Something flashed in her eyes. Not a look of embarrassment, the way a self-conscious teenager might have reacted. It was a flash of hard white anger, animal rage.

‘I fell,’ she said in a strange voice.

‘It looks like a bite.’

‘I’m
telling
you that I fell. Against a barbed wire fence.’ The tone in her voice was suddenly harsh.

‘Maybe you should let a doctor see that. It looks nasty.’

‘I don’t need a doctor,’ she shot back.

‘If there’s anything you’d like to tell me about what happened at the party,’ Joel said, ‘remember you won’t be in any trouble.’

‘Nothing happened at the party.’

‘So you
were
at the party. Dec was telling the truth.’

‘No!’

‘But you just said you were. I need to know where the party was, Kate. Exactly what happened, and who else was there. It’s very important.’

‘You’re confusing me! I don’t understand what these questions are about!’

‘Why are you making up stories, Kate? Are you trying to protect someone?’

Kate glared at him. The rage in her eyes burned intensely. For a second it was like being face to face with a snarling dog, and Joel almost backed away.

‘Go fuck yourself,’ she spat. Then burst into tears. She fell down onto the pillow, shaking and sobbing. Her mother rallied to her side, glaring indignantly at Joel.

‘You’re upsetting my daughter, Inspector. I’d also like to know what these questions are in aid of. Is this an official police line of enquiry? Because if it’s not, I think you should be aware that my husband is a very senior solicitor and that we know our rights.’

Joel stood up. ‘I’m sorry if I upset you,’ he said to Kate. ‘I’ll leave you in peace now. Thanks for talking to me.’

Gillian Hawthorne couldn’t see him out the front door fast enough. Outside, it was getting colder and the night fog was settling in again, wisping like smoke around the streetlamps.

Joel stopped on the doorstep. ‘Out of interest, Mrs Hawthorne, did you put the safety pins on her curtains?’

‘If it’s any of your business, she did it herself. She says the light hurts her.’

‘We had the lights on in her room.’

‘Not those,’ she said impatiently. ‘Just the sunlight.’

‘Since when?’

‘Just this morning. She’ll be fine. She probably has a touch of that new type of flu that’s going round.’

‘I’m sure you’re right, Mrs Hawthorne. I hope she gets well soon.’ He turned to go, conscious of her glare following him. He already knew what his next move was going to be. What it could only be. He stopped and turned back. She was still glowering at him.

‘One last question, Mrs Hawthorne. Do you own a dog?’

‘A dog?’ She frowned. ‘Of course I don’t bloody own a dog. Why would you ask me that?’

‘Thanks for your help,’ he smiled, and started walking back to the bike.

Chapter Twenty-One

After his hurried trip back from Italy to the UK, Jeremy Lonsdale had called Seymour Finch with great trepidation. The appointment to see Mr Stone had been set for eight thirty that same evening.

It was only now, as he sat hunched in one of the leather armchairs in Stone’s library watching the logs crackle in the fire, that the real fear was beginning to take him. His hands wouldn’t stop shaking, and a twitch in his left leg was making his knee bounce up and down uncontrollably. He needed a drink, but Finch had ushered him in with barely a word and had offered him nothing. Did they somehow know what was in his mind? That was a terrifying thought.

‘You wanted to see me.’ Stone’s voice came from behind him, calm and soft.

Lonsdale started and whipped round. The vampire was standing there in a long silk robe over black trousers. The robe was open enough at the chest to show his toned pectoral muscles.

‘What a surprise, Jeremy, to see you back so soon from Italy. To what do I owe the pleasure of this unexpected visit?’

‘There’s something we have to discuss,’ Lonsdale blurted out.

Stone walked slowly across the room and leaned on the mantelpiece. A smile crept over his lips, and the twinkle in his eye was more than just the reflection of the firelight. ‘You sound nervous, Jeremy. Is something wrong?’

‘I’ve been reconsidering my options,’ Lonsdale said.

Stone raised an eyebrow. ‘What options would you be referring to, my friend?’

Lonsdale let out a deep sigh, and came straight out with it. ‘The deal’s off. I want my money back.’

Stone was quiet for a moment. ‘So you no longer wish to join our circle.’

‘No. Frankly, on reflection, the idea horrifies me.’ Lonsdale cleared his throat and tried desperately to hide the quaver in his voice. ‘Now, if you will be good enough to wire the funds back into my private account, minus a ten per cent administration fee which I’m more than happy to pay you, that will be that and we’ll say no more about it. I’ve been pleased to be able to help you by using my contacts and influence. I hope we can remain on cordial terms, and perhaps do business together in the future.’

He stood up and put out his hand.

Stone looked at the hand. He didn’t move.

‘Now, I should be on my way,’ Lonsdale said briskly. ‘There are people expecting me back in London. They know I’m here,’ he added.

Stone chuckled. ‘That’s your way of telling me no harm must come to you. Really. What do you take me for, a monster?’

‘I didn’t say that.’

Stone walked over to his desk and pressed a button. ‘Please sit down, Jeremy. I’d hate for you to leave without a farewell drink.’

Lonsdale hesitated, bit his lip, made a show of glancing at his watch. ‘Just a quick one. I think I have time.’

Finch entered the library carrying a tray with two glasses and a bottle of Krug. He laid the tray down, solemnly filled the glasses and left. Stone handed Lonsdale a glass.

‘To the future,’ he said, raising his own.

‘To the future,’ Lonsdale echoed uncertainly. He slugged down his champagne and went to stand up again. ‘That was lovely. Now—’

‘Why such a hurry?’ Stone said smoothly. ‘Have another. It’s a very good vintage, don’t you think?’ He paused as he refilled Lonsdale’s glass. ‘You see, Jeremy, I knew what it was you wanted to tell me tonight. That’s why I arranged an entertainment for us.’ He slipped a little remote from the pocket of his robe. He aimed it at the bookcases to the right of the fireplace and the carved wood shelves suddenly parted and slid open, revealing a giant screen. ‘You and I are going to watch a little film.’

‘I don’t have time for a film.’

‘I think you’ll like this one,’ Stone replied, with a flare in his eyes that forced Lonsdale helplessly back in his chair.

‘I trust the scene looks familiar to you,’ Stone said as the screen lit up. The warning look had melted from his face and now he looked almost jovial.

Lonsdale gaped. It was himself he was seeing on the screen, on Hallowe’en night, the occasion of his initiation ceremony. He watched in horror as the nightmarish images unravelled. The girl hanging from the chains. The blade slashing through her neck like something on a butcher’s slab. The blood cascading down, soaking his hair, sticking his shirt to his body. And all through the orgiastic frenzy, the camera was right on him.

‘Stop it,’ Lonsdale wheezed. His heart was hammering dangerously now. ‘Stop it.’

Stone raised the remote and the image onscreen froze into a close-up of Lonsdale’s blood-slicked face and his white, rolling eyes behind the mask.

‘You see, Jeremy, the fact is, as you now see, that you
have
no options. The deal must be honoured. Like it or not, you’re already part of our family.’

‘That could be anyone in a mask,’ Lonsdale exploded in outrage. ‘Nobody could prove it was me.’

‘Jeremy, Jeremy, do you take us for complete idiots? What I am showing you is merely an excerpt. The best bits, if you will. We filmed you coming into the house. Walking in from the car with the delectable Kate Hawthorne. Putting on your mask. Oh, I think people would have little trouble believing it was you. Then there’s the footage of your bedroom escapades with Lillith. No mask there, if my memory serves me well.’

Lonsdale gulped back rising bile. ‘You could never use this. You’d be incriminating yourself, and your whole bunch.’

Stone laughed. ‘That is of little consequence. None of us exist. Nobody can touch any of us, Jeremy. We are free to vanish. You, on the other hand…’ He shrugged. ‘If I may be permitted to use the vernacular: you’re fucked.’

Lonsdale opened his mouth to protest, but there was nothing to say. He’d been set up. The initiation ceremony, the whole thing, had been concocted just to entrap him. Stone had never intended to make good on his promise of eternal life and unlimited power. He was trapped, and there was no going back. He slumped in the armchair, defeated.

‘Humans are utterly repugnant to me,’ Stone said softly, watching him. ‘But the creature whose verminous ways offend me most deeply of all is a politician. I’m disappointed in you, Jeremy. I had hopes that you might have been different.’

‘Keep the money,’ Lonsdale breathed. ‘Keep every penny. I don’t care. Just let me go on with my life. Please. I beg you.’

‘Your life?’ Stone smiled. ‘That belongs to me now. When I want you, you’ll be ready for me. You are at my bidding, and will provide me with anything I require, at any time, without question or hesitation. Fail me in any way, and every television station and newspaper in Europe will receive a copy of the film. Let the serfs who voted for you know the truth about their future leader.’ He snapped his fingers. ‘Now get out of my sight.’

Jeremy Lonsdale staggered from the library and found his way to the marbled hallway. Outside, he drew in huge gulps of the cold night air. It wasn’t until he was sitting at the wheel of the Rolls, fumbling with the key, half blinded with sweat, that his guts heaved all the way over and the vomit burst down his front.

Chapter Twenty-Two

Canary Wharf, London

9.29 p.m.

‘Thanks, Rudi. See you later.’ Alex snapped her phone shut. The night breeze ruffled her hair as she leaned on the rail of her apartment balcony. A human would have been shivering in the November chill, but she loved the freshness of the air. She lingered for a moment, watching the city lights dance on the river. The sadness that had been hovering over her all day was descending now. She turned from the balcony and walked barefoot in through the sliding glass door of her living room. Philip Glass piano music was playing softly on her stereo system. She padded across the plush carpet of the modern, open-plan living room, then went up the spiral staircase to her bedroom.

BOOK: Uprising
8.44Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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