Kitty Goes to Washington Page 27

He'd run out of pages to feed into the machine. The room became still, a contrast to the grinding noise of the shredder. After a pause he said, “Potential medical application. That's all. Government-funded programs like research that leads to practical applications. That's what the committee wants to hear. I had to tell them something.”

“Have you done it? Found the secret of vampire immortality?”

He shook his head, and for a moment the constantly watchful tension in his face slipped. The scientist, inquisitive and talkative, overcame the paranoid government researcher. “It doesn't seem to be physiological. It's almost as if their bodies are held in stasis at a cellular level. Cellular decay simply stops. Like it's an atomic, a quantum effect, not a biological one. It seems to be outside my immediate expertise.” He gave a wry smile.

“Like magic,” I said.

“What?”

“Quantum physics has always seemed like magic to me. That's all.”

“Ms. Norville, I'm really quite busy, and as pleasant as your company is, I don't have time to talk with you right now.”

“Then when?”

He stared. “I don't know.”

“Which means never.”

He nodded slightly.

I stalked out of there. The door closed behind me, and I heard the sliding of a lock.

Chapter 6

The committee staffers finally put me on the docket for that afternoon. I was beginning to suffer anticipation-induced, nail-biting anxiety. I just wanted to get it over with.

Ben and I walked down the hallway to the hearing room. Fifty feet or so away, I put my hand on his arm and stopped him.

I recognized the silhouette of the man leaning against the wall outside the door. I would have noticed him in any case. He was out of place here, wearing laid-back, Midwest casual—a black T-shirt, faded jeans, biker boots—at odds with the East Coast business fashions that predominated the capital. His leather jacket hung from one hand. The building security guards let him keep his belt holster—still holding his revolver.

I knew exactly what I'd see when the man turned to face us. He was in his early thirties, with brown hair, a trimmed mustache, and a lazy frown. When he was amused, the frown turned into a smirk, which it did now. Cormac.

Somebody let Cormac in here with a gun. What happened to security? How had he snuck by them? A moment of blind panic struck. I glanced around for the nearest exit, which was behind me—I could run there in no time.

A split second of reflection reminded me that the last time I saw Cormac, I'd almost invited him into my apartment for the night. Maybe the panic wasn't entirely fear-driven. I didn't want the confusion of having Cormac around.

“What the hell?” Ben murmured, catching sight of who I stared at.

Cormac shrugged himself away from the wall, crossed his arms, and blocked the hallway in front of us. Ben matched his pose, arms crossed and face a wry mask. Ben was a couple inches shorter and a bit slimmer than the hit man, but he matched him attitude for attitude, smirk for smirk.

“What the hell are you doing here?” Cormac said to him.

With a nonchalant shrug, Ben said, “Representing my client.”

The weird part of it was, Cormac was the one who referred Ben to me. By all accounts, Ben was the reason Cormac wasn't in jail. Neither of them would tell me if Cormac ought to be in jail.

I butted in. “What are you doing here?”

His eyes lit up, like this genuinely amused him. “The committee wanted someone with experience to be on hand in case things get out of control. Duke called me, hired me on as extra security. Great, isn't it?”

Security had been around the entire week. Knowing Duke and his paranoia, I had assumed they were all armed with silver bullets. That was the thing about all the “special” methods used to kill supernatural beings: a stake through the heart or a silver bullet will kill anyone.

I might have been mistaken. Normal security might not have changed their routine at all. Rather than arming the regular guards with silver bullets, in case the werewolf called to testify went berserk, why not call in the expert? Cormac was a professional, as he was pleased to call himself. He was a bounty hunter/hit man who specialized in lycanthropes, and brought in a few vampires on the side for fun. We'd had some run-ins. We'd even helped each other out a couple of times, once I talked him out of trying to kill me. The man scared the daylights out of me. And now he was standing here with a gun, looking at me like hunting season had just been declared open.

It seemed that Duke's paranoia knew no bounds.

“You wouldn't really shoot me, would you?” I felt my eyes go large and liquid, puppy-dog eyes. After all we'd been through, I'd like to think he wouldn't be so happy about traveling across the country for a chance to kill me.

He rolled his eyes. “Norville, if I really thought you were going to get out of control, I wouldn't have taken the job. I've seen you in action, you're okay.”

I looked at Ben for a cue. His wry expression hadn't changed.

“No, I'm not going to shoot you,” Cormac said with a huff. “Unless you get out of control.”

“If you shoot my client, I'll sue you,” Ben said, but he was smiling, like it was a joke.

“Yeah? Really?” Cormac sounded only mildly offended.

Could Ben simultaneously sue Cormac for killing me while defending Cormac against criminal charges for killing me?

I was so screwed.

Also on the docket for the day were some folklorists from Princeton who gave prepared statements about how phenomena attributed to the supernatural by primitive societies had their roots in easily explained natural occurrences. When the floor opened to questions, I was almost relieved that Duke harried them as hard as he'd harried Flemming. The senator was after everyone, it seemed. He'd cornered Flemming on vampires. He cornered the folklorists on the Bible.

“Professor, are you telling me that the Holy Scripture that tens of millions of good people in this country swear by is nothing more than a collection of folklore and old wives' tales? Is that what you're telling me? Because my constituency would respectfully disagree with you on that score.”

The academics just couldn't counter that kind of argument.

Duke called one of the committee staffers over and spoke for a few moments. Then he left. The remaining senators conferred, while the audience started grumbling.

Prev Next