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Authors: Marcus Sedgwick

A Love Like Blood

BOOK: A Love Like Blood
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A Love Like Blood

 

 

Marcus Sedgwick

 

 

 

 

www.mulhollandbooks.co.uk

First published in Great Britain in 2014 by Mulholland Books

An imprint of Hodder & Stoughton

An Hachette UK company

 

Copyright © Marcus Sedgwick 2014

 

The right of Marcus Sedgwick to be identified as the Author of the Work has

been asserted by him in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and

Patents Act 1988.

 

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in

a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means without the

prior written permission of the publisher, nor be otherwise circulated in any

form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a

similar condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.

 

All characters in this publication are fictitious and any resemblance to real

persons, living or dead is purely coincidental.

 

A CIP catalogue record for this title is available from the British Library

 

Hardback ISBN 978 1 444 75193 2

Trade Paperback ISBN 978 1 444 75194 9

eBook ISBN 978 1 444 75195 6

 

Hodder & Stoughton Ltd

338 Euston Road

London NW1 3BH

 

www.hodder.co.uk

For MH

Contents

 

Sextantio, Italy

 

ONE

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

 

TWO

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

 

THREE

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

 

FOUR

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

 

FIVE

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

 

SIX

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

 

Acknowledgements

Sextantio, Italy

1968

 

Dogs are barking in the night.

He’s somewhere in the broken village on the hilltop opposite me. I can just make out the line of the rooftops against the dark sky.

The air is hot and I am tired, but that’s not why I’m waiting. Nor am I waiting to mark any moment of reflection either. Not even to honour Marian.

I’ve chased him for over twenty years, and across countless miles, and though often I was running, there have been many times when I could do nothing but sit and wait. Now I am only desperate for it to be finished.

I am acutely aware of every minute detail of the moment. The grime on my face and neck, the smell of the still-warm grass around me, the throb I still get sometimes from my ruined hand, the weight of the knife in my right pocket.

Many times, over the years, I was lost, alone, unsure how to proceed, not knowing where to turn next, but now I know, and I’m waiting for one thing only: for the right moment, so I can do what I’m going to do, unseen.

Despite my concentration on the few lights in the village, on the sounds around me, on what I will do, I cannot help but remember some of the journey.

This story begins a long time ago; twenty years ago at least; maybe more somehow, I see that now. Yet in another, fuller, sense, my story begins centuries, millennia ago, for this is a story that must go back to the moment when blood flowed from some ancestor of ours; hot, bright and red.

For me, however, it began in August of
1944
, in Paris.

 

Still the dogs are barking.

One is near me, somewhere on the hillside, shut in a farmyard, but across the valley in the dark town a dozen or more answer it, barking till they’re sore, till they choke and splutter, and then start again. It ought to be disturbing, but it isn’t. Nothing can break my concentration now, nothing can spoil my waiting, destroy my patience.

I wonder what they’re barking at. At each other? Each being driven by the other into ever more frenetic howls and rages. I hear no voices, no shouts, no one seems to try to shut them up, and so they go on.

They bark frantically, not even in anger, but in wild desperation it seems, on and on, through the night.

ONE

 

Paris

August,
1944

Demons that have no shame,

Seven are they!

Knowing no care,

They grind the land like corn;

Knowing no mercy,

They rage against mankind;

They spill blood like rain,

Devouring their flesh and sucking their veins.

 

They are Demons full of violence

Ceaselessly devouring blood.

 

Assyrian incantation against the Seven Spirits

Chapter 1

 

Paris was free, and I was one of the very few Englishmen to see it. I was twenty-five, a captain in the Royal Army Medical Corps, attached to
26
Field Hygiene Section, and were it not for the fact that our CO had a strange whim one afternoon, I would not have seen what I saw.

For anyone who lived through the war, or who fought in it, or, as I did, found themselves in the fighting but did not fight, a thousand new paths through life opened up every day. Of course, many of those paths led to death, whether on the front lines, behind a hedgerow in Normandy or at home under the fleeting shadow of a rocket bomb, and that instilled a certain feeling in many people, something new that few of us had felt before. I saw, time and again, what living with the quotidian possibility of death did to people; making them reckless, or adventurous, heedless that they had a future self, an older self, who was relying on them not to destroy their lives before they could become that person.

Because, I supposed, it was an old age that might never arrive, in which case what use was there in protecting it?

But there were other possibilities besides death, many of them. Other possibilities that led people to strange events or chance meetings that would determine their living destiny, or, as I was to discover, that led to an increase in fortune, or wealth.

 

It seemed to me, even young as I was then, that I had merely shut my eyes one day. At the time, I was a newly qualified house officer at Barts, six months under my belt, Cambridge life still in my heart; I still thought of my room at Caius as my home, not the digs I’d taken in Pimlico. Without time to take in what was happening, I was called up and sent to Oxford to join an RAMC military hospital that was forming in the Examination Building. A moment later and I was on the Isle of Wight, for two weeks’ training on the Ducks. Then another brief moment, one of waiting, in the countryside above Southampton.

When I opened my eyes again, I was on Sword beach, watching the troops run behind the tanks pawing their way up the sand, making for the tracks the sappers had laid, all the while trying to get my trucks off the landing ship, for we, of course, came last.

I remember calculating that I was eighty-four days into my active service when I saw Paris. Less than three months, but already a lifetime, in that I felt I had changed, started to grow up at last.

BOOK: A Love Like Blood
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