Kitty Goes to Washington Page 37

A dirt road, little more than two tracks worn into the soil, led from the highway, through an open gate, to Smith's caravan. A couple of other cars were parked near the gate, their motors still running.

Stockton rolled down his window and leaned out, aiming his camera at the encampment.

“How did you find out it was here?” I asked.

“One of the guys at Uncharted World's been following it. Caught up with it in DeKalb, Illinois, a couple weeks ago and tracked it here.”

“Then why isn't he out here filming?”

“Because two nights ago a car with no plates forced him off the road and into a dry creek bed. He's in the hospital with four broken ribs and a smashed shoulder.”

“Shit.” I shook my head. “Do you see anything?” I said to the backseat. “I mean, you know. See anything?”

“At this distance, the floodlights muddy everything up,” Jeffrey said. Then he pointed to one of the other cars, that had just turned its headlights off and shut off its engine. “Although that guy's a lycanthrope.”

A man—young by his gangly figure and the way he slouched—got out, closed the door softly, and started walking along the dirt track to the caravan site.

Quickly I undid the seat belt and scrambled out of the car.

“Kitty!” Jeffrey called after me, which I ignored.

I trotted after the guy and was about to call out to get him to stop, but he heard me, or smelled me, because he turned and backed away, shoulders tense, like a wolf with hackles.

“Who are you?” he said sharply.

“My name's Kitty.” I stayed put, kept my gaze turned down, my shoulders relaxed. He could smell me; he knew what I was. “I'm just curious. Why are you here?”

He let his guard down the barest notch, shrugging. “I've heard there's a guy here who can help.”

“Help what?” I said, like I was ignorant or something.

He glared, his eyes narrowing, suspicious. “Help this. Help me be normal again.”

“Ah. I'd heard the same thing.”

“Then you know why I'm here.”

“I've also heard that he's a fraud. That his church is really a cult. That he brainwashes people so they'll stay with him. Nobody knows what goes on in there.”

“Yeah, I'd heard that, too.” He hugged himself like he'd suddenly become cold.

“And you're still willing to go there?”

“What choice do I have?”

“Is it really so bad? So bad that you'd give up your freedom, your identity? Assuming the rumors are true.”

“I haven't been able to hold a job for more than two weeks since it happened. I keep losing my temper. I can't—I'm not very good at controlling it.”

“I'm sorry. You don't have a pack, do you?” He shook his head. He hadn't had anyone teach him how to control it.

He looked over my shoulder suddenly. Jeffrey and Roger had come up behind me. The young man took a couple steps back, then turned and ran, through the gate and toward the caravan.

“Wait!” When he didn't stop, I wasn't surprised. “Damn.”

“That kid's scared to death,” Jeffrey said.

“But not of me.”

“Yeah, a little. Also of his own shadow, I think. It's funny to think of a werewolf being scared of anything.”

“Oh, you'd be surprised. A lot of us spend most of our time being afraid.”

“Let's go,” Stockton said, gesturing toward the trees at the edges of the field, around to the side of the caravan, closer to it but still in shadow. “Before his flunkies figure out we're not here for the show.”

I tipped my face up, turning my nose to the air, half closing my eyes to keep out distractions. Then I shook my head. “Let's go to the other side. It's downwind.”

We walked along the road to a place where we were mostly out of sight of the main entrance to the caravan, then climbed over the fence. Quickly we made our way to the trees, following them along the edge of the pasture down a gentle slope, toward the caravan. As we approached, the floodlights grew brighter, and the area around the encampment grew darker. For all it appeared like a carnival lot, the place was quiet. No talking, no voices, no sounds of life, like pots and pans clanking together while dinner was being prepared. By all accounts, dozens of people were living there, but I couldn't make out any obvious signs of life.

Except for the smell: I sensed a kind of ripe, college dorm-room smell, of too many people living in close proximity, and not enough housekeepers. I wrinkled my nose.

“There.” Stockton pointed to a gap in the trailers. Temporary wire fencing still enclosed the area, but here was a place where we might catch a glimpse of something interesting. A spot where a corner of the main tent was staked to the ground was visible.

When a pair of burly-looking men—Smith's bodyguards from earlier today—walked past, we kept very still. They were patrolling, and they didn't stop.

His back against a tree, Stockton settled down to wait, focusing his camera on the gap looking into the caravan. Jeffrey took the next tree over as his prop. I stayed by Stockton, watching what he watched.

The ground was damp, and I was getting damp sitting on it. The air was cold, getting colder. My breath fogged.

Jeffrey hugged his jacket tighter around him. I wondered how long we could possibly sit here. Something had to happen soon. The pilgrims, including that young guy, had gathered at Smith's gate. He wouldn't leave them waiting.

I moved next to Jeffrey and whispered, “Can you contact vampires who have, you know, moved on?” I was thinking of Estelle. I was thinking she might be here and could tell us something.

“I never have. That is—none of them have ever tried to contact me. I hate to ask it, but do they even have souls?”

This came up on the show all the time, and my gut reaction said yes. How could someone like Alette not have a soul? But what was a soul, really? I didn't know.

I didn't answer, and he shook his head. “I'm not sensing anything like that. This whole space feels numb. Asleep, almost.”

Stockton sat forward suddenly and raised his camera. “Here he comes. There.”

Jeffrey and I crept over to join him. Squinting, I looked through the gap.

Smith walked past it. I only saw him for a second. But Stockton muttered, with some satisfaction, “Ha, I got you. If only I could get that on film, damn you.”

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