Kitty Goes to Washington Page 44

These people had been living a dozen to a trailer, no food, no showers. Smith had turned them into zombies.

Alette joined us as we finished our tour of the camp.

“This is a rather impressive coup you've accomplished, for someone who claims to have no authority,” she said, frowning.

She asked me what happened, exactly what we had seen and what we had done to banish Smith. She nodded and seemed unsurprised, like she recognized what he was and had expected as much.

“I never thought it could be this bad,” I said. “I thought Smith was duping people. But he was sucking them dry. Keeping them alive so he could continue using them.”

“It's what his kind do,” Alette said. “What they've done for centuries, in one guise or another. The sidhe, the fairies, have always fed on the lives of mortal human beings. In the old days they stole infants and replaced them with changelings; they seduced young men and women; they kept mortal servants for decades. It's as if they aren't really alive themselves, so they need life nearby to sustain them. Vampires and lycanthropes have something more. They started as mortal, and became something powerful. Whatever the sidhe draw from living humans, they draw more of it from us. Smith created a situation where he could surround himself with their power. Because the sidhe have power over perception, especially over perceptions of space and time, he could make his followers believe anything. He could show them the world he wanted them to see. The stories say that food of the fairies would appear to be a feast, but turn to dust in your mouth.” She gazed over the abandoned caravan with a look of sadness.

We returned to Alette's townhome near dawn. Bradley gave some excuse about finishing arrangements during daylight hours—Alette needed to rent a whole separate townhome where the vampire refugees could stay—and left me facing her in the foyer alone.

She stood, arms crossed, wearing a rust-colored dress with a tailored, silk top and flowing skirt, not at all rumpled after the evening's outing. How did she do it?

“Well. You're rather a mess,” she said, regarding my singed clothing, dirt-smeared face, wounded arm, and bloodstained shirt. The observation sounded even more depressing in her neat British accent.

“Yeah,” I said weakly. What else could I say?

“I do wish you had told me what you had planned. We might have been more prepared.”

I really wanted to sit down, but I didn't dare use any of the antique furniture in the room in my grubby state. “There wasn't really a plan involved. We just sort of seized the moment. Look, I know I had no right to ask for your help and no reason to think that you'd give it—”

“Oh? You're saying I haven't given you any reason to believe that I would give aid in a crisis? That you believe I have no interest in what happens outside the boundaries of my personal domain? That my resources are for my own selfish use and haven't been developed precisely so that I might lend assistance in any situation where it might be needed?”

Alette was the vampire Mistress of Washington, D.C., and that probably wasn't an accident. From here, she could oversee goings-on around the world. She could make worldwide contacts. And she'd been humble enough to offer hospitality to a wandering werewolf. Hospitality, and the loan of a diamond pendant.

“I'm sorry.” I looked away, smiling tiredly and feeling like a heel. Any rebellion had been completely wrung out of me tonight, and my arm still hurt.

She continued, softer in tone, kinder. “I happen to believe that immortality ought to make one more sensitive to the plight of the downtrodden, and more apt to work toward the betterment of humanity. Not less. We have the luxury of taking the long view. I know the behavior of some of my kind leaves much to be desired, but please do not judge me by their example.”

Never again. “All right. I just… I keep wondering, asking myself…”

“Did you do the right thing?” I nodded. Destroying the church so abruptly might have caused more problems than it had solved. We might have found another way, if we could have lured people away instead of removing Smith all at once…

Alette said, “Elijah Smith drew people to him under false pretenses, removed their wills to decide whether or not to stay with him, and forced them to live in conditions that I consider to be criminal. Human law could not have remedied the problem. You did. Perhaps someone else might have done the job a bit more neatly. But as you say, you seized the moment. You shouldn't worry.”

Would there ever come a time when human law could handle situations like this? I couldn't imagine the local sheriff's office with a copy of procedures on how to arrest and hold in custody an Unseelie fairy. Or a rogue werewolf, or a rampaging vampire. We kept having to police ourselves. We had to be vigilantes, and I didn't like it. I kept claiming we could be a part of the “normal” world, of everyday society. Then shit like this happened to prove me wrong.

“Thanks. Again,” I said.

“Ma'am? Shouldn't we be off?”

Leo spoke and I jumped, startled. He'd appeared in the doorway behind me, and I hadn't heard him. He grinned wickedly; he'd known exactly what he was doing.

“All right, Leo. Thank you.” She passed me on her way to follow him, pausing a moment to look kindly on me. Like someone might look at a dog who'd had a run-in with a skunk. “Do try to get some sleep,” she said.

She'd turned down the hall, out of my sight, when Leo took the opportunity to lean in and say, “Might also try a shower there, luv.” He turned on his heel and followed his mistress.

The perfect end to the day, really.

So much for turning this trip into a working vacation. I wasn't getting any sleep. I'd need a week off to recover from all this. Preferably some place with a hot tub and room service. At least my arm had healed quickly.

I got to the Senate office building early, despite the lack of sleep. It meant I was able to catch Duke before the session started.

He was walking down the corridor, conferring with an aide, who was holding a folder open in front of him. I stood against the wall, waiting quietly and out of sight until they reached me. Then I hurried to keep pace with them. Both him and his aide looked over at me, startled.

“Senator Duke? Could I talk to you for just a minute?”

The aide turned to shield the senator, blocking my access to him. He said, “I'm sorry, the senator is much too busy right now. If you'd like to make an appointment—”

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