Kitty Goes to Washington Page 3

A couple of hours from midnight, I parked the car at the far end of the trailhead, where it couldn't be seen from the road. I didn't want to give any hint that I was out here. I didn't want anyone, especially not the police, to come snooping. I didn't want anyone I might hurt to come within miles of me.

I'd done this before. This was my second full moon night alone, as a rogue. The first time had been uneventful, except that I woke up hours before dawn, hours before I was ready, shivering in the cold and crying because I couldn't remember how I'd gotten to be naked in the middle of the woods. That never happened when I had other werewolves there to remind me.

My stomach felt like ice. This was never going to get easier. I used to have a pack of my own. I'd been surrounded by friends, people I could trust to protect me. A wolf wasn't meant to run on her own.

You'll be okay. You can take care of yourself.

I sat in the car, gripping the steering wheel, and squeezed shut my eyes to keep from crying. I had acquired a voice. It was an inner monologue, like a part of my conscience. It reassured me, told me I wasn't crazy, admonished me when I was being silly, convinced me I was going to be okay when I started to doubt myself. The voice sounded like my best friend, T.J. He died protecting me, six weeks ago today. The alpha male of our pack killed him, and I had to leave Denver to keep from getting killed, too. Whenever I started to doubt, I heard T.J.'s voice telling me I was going to be okay.

His death sat strangely with me. For the first week or two, I thought I was handling it pretty well. I was thinking straight and moving on. People call that stage denial. Then on the highway, I saw a couple on a motorcycle: neither of them wore helmets, her blond hair tangled in the wind, and she clung to his leather jacket. Just like I used to ride with T.J. The hole that he'd left behind gaped open, and I had to pull off at the next exit because I was crying so hard. After that, I felt like a zombie. I went through the motions of a life that wasn't mine. This new life I had acquired felt like it had been this way forever, and like it or not, I had to adapt. I used to have an apartment, a wolf pack, and a best friend. But that life had vanished.

I locked the car, put the keys in my jeans pocket, and walked away from the parking lot, away from the trail, and into the wild. The night was clear and sharp. Every touch of air, every scent, blazed clear. The moon, swollen, bursting with light, edged above the trees on the horizon. It touched me, I could feel the light brushing my skin. Gooseflesh rose on my arms. Inside, the creature thrashed. It made me feel both drunk and nauseous. I'd think I was throwing up, but the Wolf would burst out of me instead.

I kept my breathing slow and regular. I'd let her out when I wanted her out, and not a second earlier.

The forest was silver, the trees shadows. Fallen leaves rustled as nighttime animals foraged. I ignored the noises, the awareness of the life surrounding me. I pulled off my T-shirt, felt the moonlight touch my skin.

I put my clothes in the hollow formed by a fallen tree and a boulder. The space was big enough to sleep in when I was finished. I backed away, naked, every pore tingling.

I could do this alone. I'd be safe.

I counted down from five—

One came out as a wolf's howl.

Chapter 2

The animal, rabbit, squeals once, falls still. Blood fills mouth, burns like fire. This is life, joy, ecstasy, feeding by the silver light—

If turning Wolf felt like being drunk, the next day definitely felt like being hungover.

I lay in the dirt and decayed leaves, naked, missing the other wolves terribly. We always woke up together in a dog pile, so to speak. I'd always woken up with T.J. at my back. At least I remembered how I got here this time. I whined, groaned, stretched, found my clothes, brushed myself off, and got dressed. The sky was gray; the sun would rise soon. I wanted to be out of here by then.

I got to my car just as the first hikers of the morning pulled into the trailhead parking area. I must have looked a mess: hair tangled, shirt untucked, carrying sneakers in my hand. They stared. I glared at them as I climbed into my own car and drove back to the hotel for a shower.

At noon, I was driving on I-40 heading west. It seemed like a good place to be, for a while. I'd end up in Los Angeles, and that sounded like an adventure.

The middle of the desert between Flagstaff and L.A. certainly wasn't anything resembling an adventure. I played just about every CD I'd brought with me while I traveled through the land of no radio reception.

Which made it all the more surreal when my cell phone rang.

Phone reception? Out here?

I put the hands-free earpiece in and pushed the talk button.

“Hello?”

“Kitty. It's Ben.”

I groaned. Ben O'Farrell was my lawyer. Sharp as a tack and vaguely disreputable. He'd agreed to represent me, after all.

“Happy to hear you, too.”

“Ben, it's not that I don't like you, but every time you call it's bad news.”

“You've been subpoenaed by the Senate.”

Not one to mince words was Ben.

“Excuse me?”

“A special oversight committee of the United States Senate requests the honor of your presence at upcoming hearings regarding the Center for the Study of Paranatural Biology. I guess they think you're some kind of expert on the subject.”

“What?”

“You heard me.”

Yeah, I'd heard him, and as a result my brain froze.

Senate? Subpoena? Hearings? As in Joe McCarthy and the Hollywood blacklist? As in Iran-Contra?

“Kitty?”

“Is this bad? I mean, how bad is it?”

“Calm down. It isn't bad. Senate committees have hearings all the time. It's how they get information. Since they don't know anything about paranatural biology, they've called hearings.”

It made sense. He even made it sound routine. I still couldn't keep the panic out of my voice. “What am I going to do?”

“You're going to go to Washington, D.C., and answer the nice senators' questions.”

That was on the other side of the country. How much time did I have? Could I drive it? Fly? Did I have anything I could wear to Congress? Would they tell me the questions they wanted to ask ahead of time, as if I could study for it like it was some kind of test?

They didn't expect me to do this by myself, did they?

“Ben? You have to come with me.”

Now he sounded panicked. “Oh, no. They're just going to ask you questions. You don't need a lawyer there.”

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