Kitty Goes to Washington Page 12

“Have a good time,” Emma said. The statement was perfunctory rather than sincere. She swung around the corner, disappearing through the door to the kitchen in the back of the house.

I felt like a heel. I went out anyway.

D.C.'s famous Metro subway didn't run this far out, but a shuttle bus made stops between Georgetown and the nearest Metro stations. In half an hour I was in the middle of the Mall.

Then I totally, unabashedly played tourist. I couldn't see it all in a day. I probably couldn't see it all in a week, if I factored in museums. Fortunately, there were plenty of companies willing to take my money to drive me around on their tour buses and give me the spiel. The buses even dropped me off in front of just about every museum I could hope to visit. I saw the White House!

All morning and part of the afternoon, I ran around like a maniac seeing the highlights. As I did, I kept my eyes open, looking at the faces around me, wondering. But they were all tourists, round-eyed and cranky. I wasn't going to find any lycanthropes among them. Not that I could scent one across the Mall anyway. They had to be somewhere, though, and I would have liked to have spotted a friendly-looking one to buy a cup of coffee for and ask what was really going on.

I was leaving the American History Museum when my cell phone rang. I just about jumped out of my skin. I'd shoved the thing in my jeans pocket and forgotten about it.

I answered it.

“Kitty?”

“Ben? Where are you?”

“I'm at the hotel. Where are you?” The lawyer had flown into town this morning on a red-eye. We'd reserved rooms at the same hotel—the place I hadn't checked into yesterday.

“It's a long story. We should get together.”

“I'm having a late lunch in my room. Can you get over here? I'll order you a steak.”

“Make it rare. Thanks. See you in a few minutes.”

After a few of hours of walking, I fancied I knew my way around well enough that I could find the hotel by myself, and I was pleased to no end by proving myself right.

It pays to have all the escape routes mapped out ahead of time.

The hotel was a few blocks from the Capitol, within easy reach of the office complex where the committee hearing was scheduled to take place. Ben had given me his room number, so I went right up and knocked on the door. He opened it and went back to the table, where he had a room-service tray spread out, and sat to finish his own steak.

“I suppose that's going on the expense account,” I said, closing the door behind me. He just smiled.

The thing about Ben was he didn't stand much on ceremony. He wore a dress shirt, untucked and unbuttoned to expose the white undershirt. He was in his thirties, rough around the edges, weathered maybe. His dirtyish blond hair was ruffled, the hairline receding. On the bed, a briefcase sat open, a storm of papers and legal publications strewn around it. He didn't look like much, but he worked hard.

“Nice flight?” I said.

“Yeah. Great. You look like you've been running all over town.”

I probably didn't look too fresh, blond hair plastered to my face with sweat. It wasn't summer, but the city was having a balmy fall. A sticky humidity dampened the autumn air.

I hadn't even thought about the distances involved. Most tourists would probably think it was crazy, trying to cram as much as I had into that little time. But I wasn't even tired. It was one of those times when being a werewolf had its advantages. I could run for miles.

“This place is incredible,” I said. “I ran to the Air and Space Museum to see the Wright Flyer, the Natural History Museum to see the Hope Diamond and the dinosaurs, and the American History Museum to see the Star Spangled Banner. They also have Mr. Roger's sweater, did you know that? One of them, at least, the guy must have had like a hundred. This has got to be the most culturally valuable square mile in the U.S.” I'd hit the highlights in the big museums, making a sprint out of it. I didn't know when I was going to get another chance to sightsee this week.

He stared at me, wearing a mocking smirk.

“What?” I said with a whine, a little put-out.

“You actually got teary-eyed when you saw the Star Spangled Banner, didn't you? You been to Arlington Cemetery yet? You see Kennedy's grave?”

I had teared up. I wasn't going to admit it. “Not yet. I was going to do that tomorrow after the hearings.”

“That'll push you over the edge, I bet. Bring Kleenex.”

I pouted. “You don't have to make fun of me.”

“Why not? You're a sentimentalist. I didn't know that before.”

“So I'm a sentimentalist. So what? What does that make you?”

“A lawyer.” He didn't even have to think about it. He continued straight to business. “You know who's chairing this committee you're testifying for?”

I didn't. I'd been busy with the show, the chance to interview Flemming, and traveling. I had Ben to worry about the rest, right? “No.”

“You aren't going to like it.”

How bad could it be? “Who is it?”

“Joseph Duke.”

I groaned. Senator Joseph Duke was a witch-hunting reactionary. Literally. As in, in a world when such things were still mostly considered myth and fairy tale, Duke ardently believed in witches, vampires, werewolves, all of it, and felt it was his God-given duty to warn the world of their dangers. An earnestly religious constituency kept him in office. I'd had him on the show a few weeks ago. He'd promised to pray for my soul. It shouldn't have surprised me. He probably saw these hearings as vindication, his chance to declare to the world that he was right. “It could be worse,” I said hopefully. “Yeah. You could be a communist werewolf.” He gestured to the opposite chair. In front of it, as requested, was a mostly red steak on a plate. I sat and didn't feel much like eating.

“What's your story?” he said.

I told him. I tried to make it sound not quite so dangerous. But he gave me that frowning, are you crazy? look anyway.

He huffed. “The Master vampire of the city decided to make you her personal houseguest? I don't have to tell you that's creepy, do I?”

“I know. But she isn't all that bad.”

“Kitty. She's a vampire.”

“Yeah, and I'm a slavering werewolf. I get it.”

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