Kitty Goes to Washington Page 32

He was teasing me. That was all. Provoking me, like he said. I took a deep breath, determined to calm down.

“I have a question for you,” I said, trying to sound bright and unperturbed. “What do you know about Dr. Flemming?”

He shrugged. “Government researcher. What would you like me to know?”

“I've spoken with him. Your name came up.” Both were true, in themselves.

“Really? What did he say about me?”

“Nothing. He's closemouthed. That's why I'm asking you.”

“And I'm openmouthed, am I?” He smiled to show teeth and fang. Then his expression softened. “I might have spoken with him a time or two.”

“About what?”

“This and that. About being a vampire. I was—how would you call it?—a native informant.” He started pacing, hands in his trouser pockets, gaze downturned. “I'll give him this much, he knows his subject. At least, he knows enough to know where to find us, if he wants to. Then, would you believe he simply asks nicely? He proves how much he knows, and you don't feel bad about answering his questions. You become just another data point. There's nothing more to it.”

I had a hard time picturing Flemming traveling the streets, finding his way to a place like the Crescent, notepad and tape recorder in hand, and asking nicely.

“What did you tell him? What's it like being a vampire?”

He looked away for a moment, his gaze distant and thoughtful. It seemed he did have another personality buried in there somewhere.

“Time almost stands still,” he said. “The world seems to freeze for a moment. You're able to study every little piece of it. All the microscopic points become clear. And you move through this world like a lion on the veldt. You realize everything is yours for the taking. All you have to do is reach out and grab hold of anything you like. Anyone you like.”

In the next beat of time he stood beside me. Brushing my hair aside, he breathed against my neck, a faint, warm sigh. No teeth, no threat, only a caress. I shivered, but didn't move away from him. For some reason, I didn't move away.

“Is that what you expected to hear?” he said.

I turned and glared. But he hadn't done anything. They were only words.

I knew better than anyone what a person could do with mere words.

“Is that what being a vampire is all about?” I said. “Is that why you're such an arrogant prick?”

He laughed. “An arrogant prick? Really? I suppose that's how it must appear to the rest of you. But to us, you're little more than a bit of hair floating on the breeze. We don't care what you think.”

“Not all vampires are like that. I've met some who are reasonable human beings.” One or two. Maybe. “That's all Flemming's doing? Collecting stories? Gathering true-life accounts?”

“I'm sure that's not all he's doing. He's a medical doctor, isn't he? He's probably doing some blood tests on the side. I know I would.” He licked his lips.

“What if I told you Flemming has a lab with holding cells? One of them has garlic in the paint, like it was meant to subdue a vampire. What if it looked like he was holding test subjects against their wills?”

His gaze had been wandering, studying the room as if he were a fan of interior design, unconcerned. Now, he focused on me, suddenly interested. I almost took a step back. Though if I'd taken one step, I might have gone ahead and run all the way out of the room. Leo's interest was not something I wanted.

“That would be extremely dangerous and foolish of him if he had done so,” he said. “Even if he could trap a vampire, he could never again release it—and survive.” His lips parted and he showed his teeth, the sharp points of his fangs.

“Unless he's really good with a stake,” I said.

“In-deed?” That British accent could make one word take on a world of meaning.

“Ah, Kitty, you've returned.” Alette, queen of her domain, strode into the foyer, smartly dressed and elegant as always, looking like she was on her way from one task to another. She acknowledged Leo with a nod and stopped before me to regard me with that prim nod that made me feel like I'd somehow fallen short of her standards, and that I would always fall short. “I expected you back some time ago. I hope your tardiness means you've had a productive afternoon?”

This was where I ponied up that information I promised her. The only question was, how much did I tell her? “I've learned that Flemming has holding cells for vampires and werewolves in his lab. I think he's been keeping test subjects against their wills.”

“By test subjects you mean vampires and lycanthropes? Do you know how he could possibly hold such beings against their wills?” Her disbelief was plain in her tone.

“I don't know, but he's done it,” I said, frustrated. “Here, look at this. He's been talking to people.” I showed her the list, being sure to point out Leo's name on the first page.

Alette looked at him. “You've been speaking with Flemming?”

I wanted Leo to squirm like a kid who'd been caught lying. I wanted him to blush, look abashed, duck his gaze, something. He stood quietly and completely unruffled.

“Yes,” he said. “I have. The good doctor's been going around collecting folktales. I talked to him on the assumption that such conversations work both ways. I've been a bit of a double agent, if you like.” He flashed his devil-may-care smile.

“You didn't see fit to tell me of this?” Alette said.

“Because I didn't learn anything. Which leads me to think he isn't hiding anything.” He said this pointedly to me. “He really is just an earnest scientist in danger of losing his funding.”

Why didn't I buy that?

Alette did. She gave a satisfied nod and handed the pages back to me. “Have those cells been recently occupied?”

“I couldn't tell,” I said. I hadn't smelled anything. “I don't think so.”

“We'll continue to watch Flemming. Your vigilance should be commended, Kitty. But don't let it become paranoia.”

Leo said to Alette, “My dear, you seem to be in the middle of some chore. Might I be of service to you?”

“Always, Leo.” He offered her his arm, and she took the crook of his elbow. She gave me one last glance over her shoulder as they left the foyer.

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