The queen of the damned, p.45

The Queen Of The Damned, page 45

 part  #3 of  The Vampire Chronicles Series

 

The Queen Of The Damned
 



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Chapter 42

 

  I laughed. "Now, that wouldn't be very much fun, would it? Sounds more like dreary work. Besides, it's not really the diary I want. They can keep the diary. It was Claudia's. I want to talk to one of them, to David Talbot, the leader. They're the only mortals in the world, you know, who really believe in us. "

  Twinge of pain inside. Ignore it. The fun's beginning.

  For the moment he was too shocked to answer. This was even more delicious than I had dreamed.

  "But you can't be serious," he said. He was getting wildly indignant. "Lestat, let these people alone. They think Jesse is dead. They received a letter from someone in her family. "

  "Yes, naturally. So I won't disabuse them of that morbid notion. Why would I? But the one who came to the concert-David Talbot, the older one-he fascinates me. I suppose I want to know. . . . But why say it? Time to go in and find out. "

  "Lestat!"

  "Louis!" I said, mocking his tone. I got up and helped him up, not because he needed it, but because he was sitting there glowering at me, and resisting me, and trying to figure out how to control me, all of which was an utter waste of his time.

  "Lestat, Marius will be furious if you do this!" he said earnestly, his face sharpening, the whole picture of high cheekbones and dark probing green eyes firing beautifully. "The cardinal rule is-"

  "Louis, you're making it irresistible!" I said.

  He took hold of my arm. "What about Maharet? These were Jesse's friends!"

  "And what is she going to do? Send Mekare to crush my head like an egg!"

  "You are really past all patience!" he said. "Have you learned anything at all!"

  "Are you coming with me or not?"

  "You're not going into that house. "

  "You see that window up there?" I hooked my arm around his waist. Now, he couldn't get away from me. "David Talbot is in that room. He's been writing in his journal for about an hour. He's deeply troubled. He doesn't know what happened with us. He knows something happened; but he'll never really figure it out. Now, we're going to enter the bedroom next to him by means of that little window to the left. "

  He gave one last feeble protest, but I was concentrating on the window, trying to visualize a lock. How many feet away was it? I felt the spasm, and then I saw, high above, the little rectangle of leaded glass swing out. He saw it too, and while he was standing there, speechless, I tightened my grip on him and went up.

  Within a second we were standing inside the room. A small Elizabethan chamber with dark paneling, and handsome period furnishings, and a busy little fire.

  Louis was in a rage. He glared at me as he straightened his clothes now with quick, furious gestures. I liked the room. David Talbot's books; his bed.

  And David Talbot staring at us through the half-opened door to his study, from where he sat in the light of one green shaded lamp on his desk. He wore a handsome gray silk smoking jacket, tied at the waist. He had his pen in hand. He was as still as a creature of the wood, sensing a predator, before the inevitable attempt at flight.

  Ah, now this was lovely!

  I studied him for a moment; dark gray hair, clear black eyes, beautifully lined face; very expressive, immediately warm. And the intelligence of the man was obvious. All very much as Jesse and Khayman had described.

  I went into the study.

  "You'll forgive me," I said. "I should have knocked at the front door. But I wanted our meeting to be private. You know who I am, of course. "

  Speechless.

  I looked at the desk. Our files, neat manila folders with various familiar names: "Theatre des Vampires" and "Armand" and "Benjamin, the Devil. " And "Jesse. "

  Jesse. There was the letter from Jesse's aunt Maharet lying there beside the folder. The letter which said that Jesse was dead.

  I waited, wondering if I should force him to speak first. But then that's never been my favorite game. He was studying me very intensely, infinitely more intensely than I had studied him. He was memorizing me, using little devices he'd learned to record details so that he would remember them later no matter how great the shock of an experience while it was going on.

  Tall, not heavy, not slender either. A good build. Large, very well-formed hands. Very well groomed, too. A true British gentleman; a lover of tweed and leather and dark woods, and tea, and dampness and the dark park outside, and the lovely wholesome feeling of this house.

  And his age, sixty-five or so. A very good age. He knew things younger men just could not possibly know. This was the modern equivalent of Marius's age in ancient times. Not really old for the twentieth century at all.

  Louis was still in the other room, but he knew Louis was there. He looked towards the doorway now. And then back to me.

  Then he rose, and surprised me utterly. He extended his hand.

  "How do you do?" he said.

  I laughed. I took his hand and shook it firmly and politely, observing his reactions, his astonishment when he felt how cold my flesh was; how lifeless in any conventional sense.

  He was frightened all right. But he was also powerfully curious; powerfully interested.

  Then very agreeably and very courteously he said, "Jesse isn't dead, is she?"

  Amazing what the British do with language; the nuances of politeness. The world's great diplomats, surely. I found myself wondering what their gangsters were like. Yet there was such grief there for Jesse, and who was I to dismiss another being's grief?

  I looked at him solemnly. "Oh, yes," I said. "Make no mistake about it. Jesse is dead. " I held his gaze firmly; there was no misunderstanding. "Forget about Jesse," I said. He gave a little nod, eyes glancing off for a moment, and then he looked at me again, with as much curiosity as before. I made a little circle in the center of the room. Saw Louis back there in the shadows, standing against the side of the bedroom fireplace watching me with such scorn and disapproval. But this was no time to laugh. I didn't feel at all like laughing. I was thinking of something Khayman had told me. "I have a question for you now," I said. "Yes. "

  "I'm here. Under your roof. Suppose when the sun rises, I go down into your cellar. I slip into unconsciousness there. You know. " I made a little offhand gesture. "What would you do? Would you kill me while I slept?" He thought about it for less than two seconds.

  "No. "

  "But you know what I am. There isn't the slightest doubt in your mind, is there? Why wouldn't you?"

  "Many reasons," he said. "I'd want to know about you. I'd want to talk to you. No, I wouldn't kill you. Nothing could make me do that. " I studied him; he was telling the truth completely. He didn't elaborate on it, but he would have thought it frightfully callous and disrespectful to kill me, to kill a thing as mysterious and old as I was.

  "Yes, precisely," he said, with a little smile.

  Mind reader. Not very powerful however. Just the surface thoughts.

  "Don't be so sure. " Again it was said with remarkable politeness.

  "Second question for you," I said.

  "By all means. " He was really intrigued now. The fear had absolutely melted away.

  "Do you want the Dark Gift? You know. To become one of us. " Out of the corner of my eye I saw Louis shake his head. Then he turned his back. "I'm not saying that I'd ever give it you. Very likely, I would not. But do you want it? If I was willing, would you accept it from me?"

  "No. "

  "Oh, come now. "

  "Not in a million years would I ever accept it. As God is my witness, no. "

  "You don't believe in God, you know you don't. "

  "Merely an expression. But the sentiment is true. "

  I smiled. Such an affable, alert face. And I was so exhilarated; the blood was moving through my veins with a new vigor; I wondered if he could sense it; did I look any less like a monster? Were there all those little signs of humanity that I saw in others of our kind when they were exuberant or absorbed?

  "I don't think it will take a million yea
rs for you to change your mind," I said. "You don't have very much time at all, really. When you think about it. "

  "I will never change my mind," he said. He smiled, very sincerely. He was holding his pen in both hands. And he toyed with it, unconsciously and anxiously for a second, but then he was still.

  "I don't believe you," I said. I looked around the room; at the small Dutch painting in its lacquered frame: a house in Amsterdam above a canal. I looked at the frost on the leaded window. Nothing visible of the night outside at all. I felt sad suddenly; only it wasn't anything as bad as before. It was just an acknowledgment of the bitter loneliness that had brought me here, the need with which I'd come, to stand in his little chamber and feet his eyes on me; to hear him say that he knew who I was.

  The moment darkened. I couldn't speak.

  "Yes," he said in a timid tone behind me. "I know who you are. "

  I turned and looked at him. It seemed I'd weep suddenly. Weep on account of the warmth here, and the scent of human things; the sight of a living man standing before a desk, I swallowed. I wasn't going to lose my composure, that was foolish.

  "It's quite fascinating really," I said. "You wouldn't kilt me. But you wouldn't become what I am. "

  "That's correct. "

  "No. I don't believe you," I said again.

  A little shadow came into his face, but it was an interesting shadow. He was afraid I'd seen some weakness in him that he wasn't aware of himself.

  I reached for his pen. "May I? And a piece of paper please?"

  He gave them to me immediately. I sat down at the desk in his chair. All very immaculate-the blotter, the small leather cylinder in which he kept his pens, and even the manila folders. Immaculate as he was, standing there watching as I wrote.

  "It's a phone number," I said. I put the piece of paper in his hand. "It's a Paris number, an attorney, who knows me under my proper name, Lestat de Lioncourt, which I believe is in your files? Of course he doesn't know the things about me you know. But he can reach me. Or, perhaps it would be accurate to say that I am always in touch with him. "

  He didn't say anything, but he looked at the paper, and he memorized the number.

  "Keep it," I said. "And when you change your mind, when you want to be immortal, and you're willing to say so, call the number. And I'll come back. "

  He was about to protest. I gestured for silence.

  "You never know what may happen," I told him. I sat back in his chair, and crossed my hands on my chest. "You may discover you have a fatal illness; you may find yourself crippled by a bad fall. Maybe you'll just start to have nightmares about being dead; about being nobody and nothing. Doesn't matter. When you decide you want what I have to give, call. And remember please, I'm not saying I'll give it to you. I may never do that. I'm only saying that when you decide you want it, then the dialogue will begin. "

  "But it's already begun. "

  "No, it hasn't. "

  "You don't think you'll be back?" he asked. "I think you will, whether I call or not. "

  Another little surprise. A little stab of humiliation. I smiled at him in spite of myself. He was a very interesting man. "You silver-tongued British bastard," I said. "How dare you say that to me with such condescension? Maybe I should kill you right now. "

  That did it. He was stunned. Covering it up rather well but I could still see it. And I knew how frightening I could look, especially when I smiled.

  He recovered himself with amazing swiftness. He folded the paper with the phone number on it and slipped it into his pocket.

  "Please accept my apology," he said. "What I meant to say was that I hope you'll come back. "

  "Call the number," I said. We looked at each other for a long moment; then I gave him another little smite. I stood up to take my leave. Then I looked down at his desk.

  "Why don't I have my own file?" I asked.

  His face went blank for a second; then he recovered again, miraculously- "Ah, but you have the book!" He gestured to The Vampire Lestat on the shelf.

  "Ah, yes, right. Well, thank you for reminding me. " I hesitated. "But you know, I think I should have my own file. "

  "I agree with you," he said. "I'll make one up immediately. It was always . . . just a matter of time. "

  I laughed softly in spite of myself. He was so courteous. I made a little farewell bow, and he acknowledged it gracefully.

  And then I moved past him, as fast as I could manage it, which was quite fast, and I caught hold of Louis, and left immediately through the window, moving out and up over the grounds until I came down on a lonely stretch of the London road.

  It was darker and colder here, with the oaks closing out the moon, and I loved it. I loved the pure darkness! I stood there with my hands shoved into my pockets looking at the faint faraway aureole of light hovering over London; and laughing to myself with irrepressible glee.

  "Oh, that was wonderful; that was perfect!" I said, rubbing my hands together; and then clasping Louis's hands, which were even colder than mine.

  The expression on Louis's face sent me into raptures. This was a real laughing fit coming on.

  "You're a bastard, do you know that!" he said. "How could you do such a thing to that poor man! You're a fiend, Lestat. You should be walled up in a dungeon!"

  "Oh, come on, Louis," I said. I couldn't stop laughing. "What do you expect of me? Besides, the man's a student of the supernatural. He isn't going to go stark raving mad. What does everybody expect of me?" I threw my arm around his shoulder. "Come on, let's go to London. It's a long walk, but it's early. I've never been to London. Do you know that? I want to see the West End, and Mayfair, and the Tower, yes, let's do go to the Tower. And I want to feed in London! Come on. "

  "Lestat, this is no joking matter. Marius will be furious. Everyone will be furious!"

  My laughing fit was getting worse. We started down the road at a good clip. It was so much fun to walk. Nothing was ever going to take the place of that, the simple act of walking, feeling the earth under your feet, and the sweet smell of the nearby chimneys scattered out there in the blackness; and the damp cold smell of deep winter in these woods. Oh, it was all very lovely. And we'd get Louis a decent overcoat when we reached London, a nice long black overcoat with fur on the collar so that he'd be warm as I was now.

  "Do you hear what I'm saying to you?" Louis said. "You haven't learned anything, have you? You're more incorrigible than you were before!"

  I started to laugh again, helplessly.

  Then more soberly, I thought of David Talbot's face, and that moment when he'd challenged me. Well, maybe he was right. I'd be back. Who said I couldn't come back and talk to him if I wanted to? Who said? But then I ought to give him just a little time to think about that phone number; and slowly lose his nerve.

  The bitterness came again, and a great drowsy sadness suddenly that threatened to sweep my little triumph away. But I wouldn't let it. The night was too beautiful. And Louis's diatribe was becoming all the more heated and hilarious:

  "You're a perfect devil, Lestat!" he was saying. "That's what you are! You are the devil himself!"

  "Yes, I know," I said, loving to look at him, to see the anger pumping him so full of life. "And I love to hear you say it, Louis. I need to hear you say it. I don't think anyone will ever say it quite like you do. Come on, say it again. I'm a perfect devil. Tell me how bad I am. It makes me feel so good!"
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