Kitty Goes to Washington Page 24

“Duke is predictable. We know exactly where he stands. But Flemming? I don't know anything about him. Look, Alette. I have to be able to get out and travel around without your people hanging around me. You're worried about me and I appreciate that, but I want to look around, find out more about Flemming and his research, see if I can't follow up on a few contacts. But I can't do that with Bradley or Leo looking over my shoulder. No one would talk to me. I'm not trying to be disrespectful of your hospitality. But I can take care of myself, at least a little, and I need some freedom.” I'd had precisely two days to earn her trust. I didn't know if it was enough, especially since I'd already run off once. Er, twice. But if she wanted me as an ally, she had to know she couldn't keep me on a leash and expect me to be effective.

“You aren't saying this just so you can run off with that were-jaguar from the Brazilian embassy, are you?”

I shrank back in my seat and tried to look innocent. “Maybe just a little.”

She studied me, lips pursed in a wry smile. After a moment she said, “I don't suppose I could blame you for that. All right, then. But I want to hear what you learn on your investigations.”

“It's a deal.” The kitchen staff came to clear away the dishes, then brought dessert: chocolate mousse in a crystal goblet. My God, what had I done to deserve dessert? The maid was human. I'd only seen a small fraction of the house. I was getting nervous. “Alette, can I ask—where are the others?”

“Others?”

“I've met you and Leo. But you must have other…” Minions? Lackeys? “… companions. Vampire companions.”

She suppressed a wry smile. “You're accustomed to Master vampires who surround themselves with followers, as reflections of their own importance.”

Vast halls filled with pouty Eurotrash vampires—yeah, that was the image.

She said, “I'm extremely selective about who I bring into this life, this existence. It's not necessarily an easy way to be. I require pure motives. You've met no other vampires because there are none. Just the two of us. I would not tie someone to me for eternity lightly, Kitty.”

Then she saw something in Leo that I didn't. She might have looked forward to spending eternity with him. I couldn't stand being in the same room with him for a minute.

Chapter 5

The next day, I scoured newspapers and major news Web sites for mention of the hearings. I wanted to find out what the press was reporting. The only place that had any sort of major headline on the hearings was the Web site for Wide World of News: “Are Vampires Controlling the Senate?” That was so not useful. I stopped mentioning that rag entirely since they ran a “story” claiming that my show broadcast secret mind-control signals that caused teenagers to join satanic cults and run up huge debts on their parents' credit cards.

Unless they involved epic disasters or scandals surrounding major political figures, Senate committee hearings didn't normally make front page news. “Fact-Finding Hearing Gets Its Start,” on page four of the Washington Post, was about the extent. They ran a black and white photo of Flemming at his microphone, gazing up at the committee with his sleepy eyes. They also ran a fun little sidebar titled “What Are the Facts?” defining the scientific terminology the doctor had bandied about. It all served to make the topics seem like exactly what Flemming insisted they were: diseases. Nothing more, nothing less. Nothing to be afraid of, as long as we understood it. Maybe this would turn out all right.

The next session of the hearings found me in the same place, sitting in the back of the room with Ben. Roger Stockton sat on the other side of the room from me, at the edge, where he could get a good shot of the participants with his camera. I caught him filming me a couple of times. I couldn't do anything about it without making a scene.

Flemming testified for another two hours, suffering through more questions.

Senator Deke Henderson, a Republican from Idaho, was one of those western politicians who played cowboy, to make themselves seem folksy and in touch with their roots. He wore a button-up rodeo shirt under a corduroy jacket and a big silver belt buckle. Outside the building, he'd put on the cowboy hat. He really had gotten his start in ranching, though, which gave him a hint of legitimacy. One couldn't be sure the outfit was a costume.

Henderson said, “Now that you've studied these diseases, Doctor, how close are you to finding a cure? What program would you recommend for preventing the spread of these diseases?”

Perfectly natural questions when confronted with any strange new disease. I listened closely to Flemming's answers.

He cleared his throat nervously. “As diseases go, these are quite unusual, Senator. For one, while they're life-altering, they aren't particularly destructive. In fact, they're just the opposite. They confer on the patient extraordinary resilience, immunity, rapid healing. I've studied such aspects of these conditions in detail.”

“You haven't found a cure?”

“No, Senator.”

“Have you even been looking?”

After a long silence, Flemming said, calmly, “I have been studying the unique characteristics of these conditions in the hopes of understanding them. For instance, if we understood the mechanics behind a vampire's longevity, or behind a werewolf's resistance to disease and injury, think of the application to medicine. I have a case history here of a patient who tested positive for the HIV virus, became infected with lycanthropy, and then all subsequent HIV tests had negative results.”

Duke piped in. “You'd turn everyone into werewolves to keep them from getting AIDS? Is that what you're saying?”

“No, of course not. But I think you'll agree, the more knowledge we have about these conditions, the more power we have over them.”

Duke leaned back and smiled. I couldn't see Flemming's face, which frustrated me. The two of them looked like they'd exchanged one of those all-knowing glances, like they'd just made a deal under the table in full view of everyone.

I had only assumed that the scientist and religious reactionary could never work together. I hadn't considered that they both wanted the same thing: to prove that this was real, for good or ill.

Ben and I exited into the corridor after the hearing adjourned for the day.

I leaned close, so I'd have less chance of being overheard. Especially by Stockton, who was busy cornering Flemming.

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