Kitty Goes to Washington Page 43

The vampires in Smith's caravan hadn't eaten in months, some of them. As they approached, Leo spoke softly to them. He touched their chins, their hair, and they bowed their heads and followed docilely. He led them to the van and guided them inside. Tom waited by the back door.

Bradley approached me, clearly on an intercept course to keep me from interrupting Alette and Leo.

“What's happening?” I asked, before he could chastise me or start issuing orders. “It looks like some kind of vampire hypnotism.”

He said, “The ones who joined Smith aren't very old, only a few decades. Easy to control. Older vampires aren't going to go looking for a cure. If they've made it to a hundred without getting killed, it usually means they like it. But these—they're looking for guidance.”

“What'll happen to them?”

“They'll stay with Alette until she can find out where they're from and send them home.” He glanced back at Stockton's car. Of course the reporter had his camera pressed against the windshield, glaring out. He even leaned half on top of Jeffrey to get a better angle. “Your friends should leave.”

His tone didn't allow argument. Besides, I pretty much agreed with him. This was like an accident scene, and Stockton didn't need to be broadcasting it on his show.

“I'll ask them, but Stockton's got the keys. Good luck getting him out of here.” Then I had a brilliant idea. Stockton reported on the paranormal. He'd absolutely love this. I told Bradley, “Let me get the kid out and back in his own car. Then could you maybe pull the Man In Black routine on Stockton? It might just scare the crap out of him.” I couldn't help it—I grinned.

“Man In Black?” Bradley's brow furrowed with distaste.

“Just be yourself when you tell him to get the hell out of here. It'll be fun.” I trotted off to check on Ty.

Jeffrey unlocked the car for me. I opened the back door. Ty was sitting up, looking around, aware of his surroundings.

“Hey, Ty, you ready to go home? Can you drive?” I said.

He ran a hand through his floppy hair and nodded. “But can't I stay with you?”

I absolutely did not need that kind of responsibility. I'd run away from that kind of responsibility. I tried to let him down gently. “Walk with me, 'kay?”

I held out my hand. He took it and let me pull him from the car. Staying close to him, I walked him to his car. “There's a club in D.C. for people like us. A guy named Ahmed runs it. He can help you, there's lots of people there who'd be happy to help you cope with this. You should go there.”

He scrounged a pen and piece of paper from his glove box, and I wrote down directions to the Crescent for him. I also gave him my number.

“No more quack cures after this, right?”

“Right.”

“You going to be okay?”

He nodded, a little more decisively than he had before. “Yeah. I'll check this place out. Thanks, Kitty. Thanks a lot.”

I sent him on his way.

I turned around just in time to see Stockton's car back up a few feet in order to zoom a U-turn onto the road, engine revving. Arms crossed, a looming monolith of a man, Bradley stood at the edge of the pavement and watched him go.

When Stockton's car was out of sight, Bradley turned around. He wore a big grin. He said, “You're right. That was fun.”

I was so sorry I'd missed it.

Leo, supervised by Alette, was still herding vampires. The scene was surreal and vaguely appalling.

“Does it bother you?” I said to Bradley. “Working for a vampire? Emma said her family has worked for her for centuries. What about yours? Or are you related to Emma?”

“Distant cousins.” His smile was amused, wry. He nodded to the cops. “One of the officers there is another cousin. I never really thought about it, to tell you the truth. It's just how it's always been. If you don't grow up thinking any of this is weird, then it isn't weird. When I was a kid, my parents would take me to her place to visit. It was like having another aunt.”

The lycanthropes wouldn't fry when the sun rose, but I was worried about what they might do in the meantime. Alette wasn't. She and Leo set out raw meat as bait and armed the police with silver bullets.

Wasn't exactly what I had in mind. But it turns out the silver bullets were weapons of last resort. The vampire mojo worked on the weres as well. The two vampires lulled them to sleep, let them slip back to human, then let the police take over. Many of the people had missing person files on them. Eventually, they'd make it back home.

The two vampires cleaned up the whole mess. That was why lycanthropes needed large numbers to defeat vampires in a head-to-head confrontation.

We explored the caravan while Alette's police friends put up yellow tape and marked the whole thing off as an investigation site. Under the tent, a temporary stage made of plywood and milk crates stood toward the rear, and a string of bare lightbulbs hung from tent poles, across the top. It looked harmless enough. The rest of the camp, though, was a disaster. None of the trailers had sewer hook-ups. The few available camp and chemical toilets were overused. Immortality and rapid healing didn't preclude the necessity of other bodily functions. Nothing had been cleaned, piles of trash lay discarded in the corners of RVs, in the beds of pickups. Some signs of food remained: empty cans of soup and beans, along with dirty dishes, were stacked in sinks and on counters. Mold and slime spotted them, and dozens of flies rose and scattered when we opened doors.

I could hardly breathe, the smell was so strong. I kept my hand in front of my face.

We found a few people, both lycanthropes and vampires, hiding in the closets of campers, on the floorboards in trucks and cars. They hugged themselves, shaking, crying—symptoms of withdrawal. They looked pale and thin, their hair was dull and limp. I didn't think anyone with lycanthropy could die of malnutrition, their bodies were so hardy and resistant to damage. But they didn't look good. The vampires—their bodies might not break down. But they might lose their minds. Smith was sustaining them, that was how they had survived.

I tried to draw them out, talking to them, reassuring them, but they didn't like me. My scent was unfamiliar, and they cowered, more animal than human. Some of them followed me into the open. Some of them, Leo had to come and whisper to them, work some of his vampire charm on them, until their eyelids drooped and they followed on command.

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