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Authors: Jason Nahrung

Blood & Dust (28 page)

BOOK: Blood & Dust
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'Those your wheels?' Kevin asked, indicating the ute.

'In a communal kinda way.'

'You got the keys?'

'Hey, man, I don't want any trouble.'

'Then give me the keys.'

'Kevvie?' Kala asked.

'You heard Tai. We're prisoners here. If we don't go now, we might not be able to.'

'I don't-'

'You'd rather stay here - with him?'

A long silence, and then, 'No.'

'Gimme the keys, Hippie. I can belt you if it makes it easier.'

'Nah, it's cool.' He handed them over. 'Um, good luck, I guess.'

'Keep it. You'll need all you can get if Taipan has his way and you all go on the warpath.'

Hippie looked back at the house, his face a mask of anguish. He puffed furiously on his
cigarette.

He was still standing there, a picture of indecision, when Kevin floored the ute. Mohawk and
Lions raised their hands, but Kevin accelerated, aware of them unslinging their rifles, and behind
him, Byely and Cherny barking where they raced in the ute's dust. He gritted his teeth and locked
his hands on the wheel and kept the pedal pressed to the floor. Kala cried out and ducked down, arms
over her head. The engine howled, threatening to blow its guts out.

They hit the gate.

There was a shriek and the crunch of impact. Metal sliced over the ute like massive bird claws.
One panel of mesh slid from the bonnet with a clatter and they were on their way, skidding and
rattling out to the highway, headlights blazing their way south.

'Made it,' Kevin said.

'Yeah,' Kala said, but she wasn't looking at him. She had her feet up on the dash, her arms
around her knees, her face turned toward the door. 'Yeah,' she said again. 'We made it.'

THIRTY-EIGHT

Kevin checked the mirrors, expecting to see cops or VS or Night Riders appear at
any moment. But the road remained empty.

'I think we'll have enough fuel to make Barlow's Siding,' he said as the gauge hit the
one-quarter mark. His voice sounded loud inside their headlight-and-bitumen cocoon.

'And what then?' Kala asked.

'I reckon we head back to my place. Check on my mum. Meg. Everyone.'

'And then?'

'Open to suggestions.'

She shrugged. After a few more kilometres of silence, she said, 'I probably would've stayed, you
know, if they'd let me.'

'Loyal to a fault, you are.' He looked at her, but she was staring out the windscreen, and he
wondered if she saw the past or the future there. 'Want me to turn back? Drop you off?'

'No, us leaving was the best thing we could've done. If Mira is tracking us both, we might buy
Mother some time. Taipan was right, Kevvie: I was a risk. And I can't blame him for what he did. The
nest is home for all of them, probably the only one they've ever known. Even if Taipan and I could
dredge up the knowledge of our families - who our mobs were, where they were from - we still
couldn't go back. Well, he couldn't, anyway. They think vampires are a white man's disease.'

'Didn't the Aborigines have vampires before us lot came? I mean, it's not just Dracula and that
fella from New Orleans? Y'know, Tom Cruise, is it?'

Kala laughed. 'Lestat? Wow, that's an old one. But no, it's not just them. Pretty much every
culture's got some kind of blood drinker in it - no sparkly ones, though, I don't know where they
came from. But Taipan's variety is all Euro. Any blackfella with even one foot still in their
country can smell it a mile away. They know he doesn't belong, no matter how much he wants to.'

'Will people know I'm not the same?'

'You'll be all okay as long as you keep your head down,' Kala said. 'White folks are pretty good
at not noticing things that make them uncomfortable.'

'I guess. Cross that bridge when we come to it.'

What if Taipan was right and he couldn't go back - couldn't fit in? And maybe Danica was right,
too - maybe he did want revenge. But against who? He knew next to nothing and he was driving farther
away from the only people who could teach him. At least he had Kala. Kala knew stuff. She might not
be able to get inside his head like Taipan and Danica, but she could fill him in on the theory.
That, and keep him fed. His gut twisted at the thought. Is that all Kala would come to mean to him -
a meal ticket? Is that all anyone would come to mean to him?

'So what are the Aboriginal vampires like?' he asked.

'Dunno, never seen one.'

Kevin checked the moon-washed, flat nothingness unrolling beyond the windscreen. Not exactly the
big city; he could see why the VS mob wouldn't be relaxed out here. No shops, no shade; no veins.
'Yeah, well, I don't think anyone has the right to blame you for what happened. It's not as though
you went with Mira willingly.'

'They caught me, they - she took my blood, and made me drink hers. I knew - well, hoped - she
wouldn't be able to track me out west. Not outside of my dreams, anyway. Damn it; it's all gone to
hell, Kevvie.'

'It's just as well we're getting out, then, eh?'

'Are we?'

'There must be some place where VS doesn't have all the power. Somewhere we can just be
ourselves.'

'Maybe Perth? I honestly don't know. I think you'll find any place with a lot of people will have
someone - some
thing
- preying on them.'

'We can worry about that once I've got Mum and Meg out of danger.'

She paused, then asked, 'Are you thinking of bringing them?'

'I can't leave them trapped between your lot and Mira.'

'You don't think that's a good enough reason to try to bring VS down?'

'I don't want to kill anyone,' he said. 'Not ever again.'

'Again?'

He swore under his breath as he felt Nicola knocking at the door in his mind.

'I was totally out of it,' he confessed. 'After the Farm, y'know. It was horrible. I kept seeing
her, feeling her; I can't do that again. I can't be like
him
.'

'So what will you do? Go veggo, like Bhagwan?'

'Maybe. With the insurance from the servo, maybe we can start over. I could even work daytime,
out of the sun. No-one would notice. Plenty of animals out west, too.'

'You know why they call people who live off animal blood "veggos"? It's because if all
you drink is animal blood, you end up a vegetable. You need human blood; you need their lives, their
dreams. Their souls, maybe.'

'That's why Bhagwan had those myx- those red-eyes.'

'Bingo.'

He licked his lips, so dry, and he eased off on the accelerator, seized by vertigo, as if he was
on the roof of a house, right near the gutter, and the slope was steep and it felt as if the iron
was lifting under his feet, sliding him closer and closer to the edge.

'Would you - do you think - stay with me?' he asked.

'I'm here, aren't I?'

A corner, a road sign; he slowed down for the rattle and bump of a cattle grid, and then
accelerated again.

'So what would
you
do?' he asked.

'Try to leave - again. Go to Melbourne or Cairns or Darwin, just be a normal, ageing person
again. Get a job, pay my taxes, grow old. Die.'

'Is that why you didn't get Taipan to make you one of us?'

Her red-brown eyes bored into him. 'I don't regret anything, except for getting caught. I was
just lucky Mira thought I was more use to her alive than dead.'

'So what
did
happen?'

'We pulled up in the truck, Penny and me, right? Outside that hut where you lot were waiting.
Then the chopper came in and there was dust everywhere, it was very loud, made my teeth rattle. It
kind of circled up and around, so it was facing us, and then there was this sound, like an oxy rig
lighting up, and there was this puff of smoke from the chopper, and for a minute, I actually thought
something had hit it, that Tai had shot it down, y'know. Then the truck just exploded.

'I don't remember much at all, just lying on the ground wondering what the fuck had happened.
That was when they grabbed me. I was a bit banged up, but I was okay. They took me into Rocky, to a
hotel. Mira was there; I really don't want to go into it.'

'It sure got Taipan and Danica excited.'

'Fine. The bitch took my blood, she made me drink hers. Okay? We were bloodlinked so she could
spy on me. She told me to dob you all in but she knew I wouldn't. She was just using the link to
find us, but Mother is too smart for that. That's it. Okay?'

'I'm not sure what they thought they'd gain from doing that, if they knew they couldn't force you
to give us up and that the link wouldn't work.'

'Desperate, maybe. Maybe because I'm only a
myxo
, they didn't care. Or maybe they just
didn't find anything in my blood worth keeping me for.'

'It sounds pretty desperate, all right. Once we knew you'd been captured, no-one would trust you.
I mean, once you were here, how could Mira possibly force you to go through with it? Did she
threaten you?'

'No, it was just the bloodlink.'

'It doesn't make sense. There must be more to it. Danica mentioned something. What was it - a
bloodlock? What's that?'

'Hocus pocus. I'm not a bloodhag; how would I know?'

'And you're sure-'

'Jesus Christ. Fine. Pull over.'

'What?'

'Just do it!'

'What are you going to do? We're in the middle of nowhere; you can't hitch from here.'

'Just pull over!'

He stopped the ute.

She unzipped her tracksuit jacket. She wasn't wearing anything underneath. 'Help yourself.'

'What?'

'You heard me. You want to see what's in my blood - here, help yourself.'

'That's not what I was saying at all.'

'How else will you know what Mira did to me? What she wanted me to do? How else will you know you
can trust me?'

'Sorry. Sure. Okay. But not from there. Give me your arm.'

'Shy?'

Kevin shrugged.

Kala zipped her top closed and rolled up her sleeve. He tested her veins, decided on the elbow.
She sighed, then gasped as his fangs opened her flesh. Kevin dived into her lifestream and became
Kala.

The explosion sweeps the world out from under his feet. There's blue sky and
black smoke and distant, muffled noises that don't make any sense. His body is pain and he crawls
away from the heat and flames. Men pick him up - he has no control over his limbs, is slung like a
sack of chaff into the back of a car, with cold, tight restraints on his wrists. Slapped for
bleeding on the seat. Threatened with a good hard fucking, but the second man in the car warns his
friend that 'she' will know, and her orders not to damage the merchandise were explicit.

He has an impression of flat plains and a wide road and distant hills and forcing
himself to defy the pain wracking his body to sit up and focus. A life-sized statue of a grey,
hunch-backed bull on the median strip. One of the guards tells him to lie down, but he ignores the
thug's command and watches the city slide by. It's hot, the kind of summer day that sucks the
moisture out of you and leaves you feeling like a husk, like a cicada shell, empty and split and
ready to crumble and drift away on the wind. He's about ready to drift away. Wishes he could. He
wants to ask them to turn up the air con but he has no spit, can make no words. He is a shell filled
with pain and fear and he knows the worst is yet to come.

A wide brown river with muddy banks is spanned by two bridges. A handful of boats
- half-cabins and tinnies, another with sails - bob on the water. It all looks so peaceful and
mundane. Hard to believe he's about to die. His bladder is painfully full.

The car turns upstream and parks in an alley. His captors haul him out, none too
gently, and he finds the air to give a cry. They're wearing suits, with identical haircuts that
suggest they're cops or soldiers. Wide shoulders, cold eyes. Gespenstenstaffel for sure.

They drag him through a rear entrance choked with plastic crates and crumpled
boxes and an overflowing steel bin. He glimpses stainless steel benches, hanging pots and a
seriously large refrigerator.

They enter an elevator, the guards filling it with their mass. One presses
against him and he hopes it's the guard's pistol digging into this hip. Still got a sense of humour.
You go, girl. One holds him against the wall as the elevator slows and the door opens. A rough hand
gropes his breast. His gut heaves and he tells himself to be still: these two are myxos and he can't
take them. They march him to the end of the corridor. One knocks on a door and is told immediately
to enter.

The penthouse is spacious, cool and dark, the curtains closed, the air
conditioning cranked up. Goosebumps rise on his arms. He wants to sink into the plush carpet and
disappear.

Mira turns, a glass in hand. She wears a silk robe over black sports underwear.
She has amazing calves, the bitch. Another cop looks up from a table of radios, hand at his shoulder
holster-

Hunter!

 

Kevin's knowledge jerks him inside Kala's experience; he almost misses Mira ask:
'What have we here?'

'One of the sluts hanging out with the Night Riders,' a guard tells her. 'She had
these on her.' He dumps a bunch of stuff on the table and pulls a dagger from the collection: 'Had
this pig sticker in her boot.'

'A girl can't be too careful these days.' Mira shakes her head in mock
disappointment. 'Put her on the couch and keep searching. Taipan can't have gone far.'

The guards seat him none too gently, then leave.

Hunter walks over to sift the items on the table. He pushes the dagger to one
side, then dangles a set of keys. 'The Monaro? It's your ride, isn't it?'

He says nothing, but his heart contracts at the sight of the Mexican key ring in
the hands of Mira's red-eye. Thinks about snatching the dagger and driving it into the man's eye,
but the distance is too great, his legs too weak.

And now Mira leans in close enough for him to smell the wine on her breath. 'I do
hope we didn't kill Taipan. Did we?'

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