Kitty Goes to Washington Page 46

The place burst into activity, people talking among themselves, getting up to leave, aides rushing to attend to the committee members. The other senators looked as confused as I felt; they hadn't been expecting this, either. The tension that had been there from the start didn't dissipate.

“This is weird,” Stockton said. “Weren't you supposed to be up there today?”

“Yeah.” I crossed my arms and pouted.

“I don't believe it.” Ben flopped back against his chair with a sigh. “You see somebody's name on the docket, you expect them to get called. This isn't just annoying, it's unprofessional. They expect us to be on time, the least they could do is run an extra hour to hear everybody.”

Maybe there was a reason. Was there anyone else due to be called after me? Or did Duke just want to postpone my testimony?

I counted forward, checking off days on the calendar I kept in my mind, confirming the day with the inner tide that felt the pull of it even if I didn't know exactly what day the full moon fell on. I stared across the room to the table where the senators were cleaning up, heading out, conversing with each other or aides. Duke glanced up and caught my eye. He set his jaw and turned away.

Alette was right. She'd called it.

“The bastard,” I said. “He planned it. He planned it this way all along. He needs to drag the hearings out until Monday.”

“What's Monday?”

“Full moon. He wants to make me testify the day of the full moon.”

Stockton gave a low whistle. “Sneaky,” he said with something like admiration. I glared at him. He may have thought we were great friends after our adventure last night, but he was doing a lousy job staying in my good graces. He was less like a war buddy and more like an annoying younger brother.

Ben said, “You make it sound like that's not good.”

I shook my head, trying to call up some reserve of righteous outrage. Mostly I felt tired. “I'll be at my worst, that's all. Edgy, nervous. Itchy. He knows enough to know this. Maybe he thinks I'll lose my temper and Change right in front of them all.” This put me in a foul mood.

“Can you handle it?” Ben said. “Should we put in a request to delay testimony for a day?”

The day after would be even worse than the day before. It felt like having a hangover, and I seemed to spend too much energy mentally holding the door to the Wolf's cage shut. I'd be distracted and no good.

“No, no,” I said. “I mean, yeah. I can handle it. I think.” I hoped. No caffeine for me that day.

I had to talk to Fritz, but it was getting late; I didn't know if I'd get to the Crescent in time to see him.

I ran from the Metro station to the club, jumped down the stairs, and grabbed the doorway to stop myself as I looked around in a panic.

I wasn't too late. He sat at his usual table, hunched over his tumbler, staring at nothing and wrapped up in his own world.

Pulling up a chair, I sat near him, close enough to whisper but far enough away to dodge if he decided to take a swing at me. I had no idea how this would play out.

He blinked at me, startled.

“What can you tell me about Dr. Paul Flemming?” I asked.

He stared, his gaze narrowing. “I do not know this name.”

He could say that, but his expression told me otherwise. His lip twitched, his eyes were accusing. He looked like someone who had decided to lie.

“I saw your name on a list in his laboratory.”

“I know nothing,” he said, shaking his head. Quickly he drained his glass, slammed it on the table, and pushed his chair away.

“Please don't go. I just want to talk.” This strange, lurking figure raised so many questions. At this point I didn't even care what he told me, just as long as he said something. A flash from the past, a story, an anecdote. The sweeping words of advice and judgment the old often seemed to have ready for the young. I didn't care. I wanted to find a crack in that wall.

He turned to me, looming over my chair, his lips curling. “I don't talk to anyone.”

I met his gaze, my own anger rising. “If you don't want to talk to anyone, why do you even come here? Why not drink yourself to death in private?”

He straightened, even taking a step back, as if I had snarled at him, or took a swipe at him. Then he closed his eyes and sighed.

“Here, it smells safe. For a little while each day, I feel safe.”

I resisted an urge to grab his arm, to keep him here. To try to comfort him through touch, the way I would have if we'd been part of the same pack. But we weren't a pack. He was a stranger, behind this wall he'd built to keep the world out, and I didn't know why I thought he'd talk to me. Just because I was cute or something.

“Why would you be afraid of anything?”

Slowly, a smile grew on his ragged features, pursed and sardonic. “You are young and do not understand. But if you keep on like this, you might.” He brushed his fingers across the top of my head, a fleeting touch that was gone as soon as I'd felt it, as if a bird had landed on me and instantly taken flight again.

“You are young,” he said, and walked away, settling his coat more firmly over his shoulders.

His touch tingled across my scalp long after he'd disappeared out the door.

I had a show to put on tonight, like I did every Friday. I asked Jack for a cup of coffee. Something to keep me awake for the next ten hours. I took out my notepad on the pretense of planning tonight's show—though really, the day of the show was far too late to be planning it. Good thing I'd been cornering hearing participants like Jeffrey Miles and Robert Carr and convincing them to appear on the show. The rest of it I'd have to wing. Not too different than usual, come to think of it.

“He's right, you know.” Ahmed appeared. He slipped into the chair across from me. I hadn't heard him, and the whole place smelled like werewolf so my nose hadn't sensed him. He'd stalked quietly, like he was hunting. Today, he wore a woven vest over his shirt and trousers. The vest gave him that same man-of-two-worlds air that the robe had.

I didn't want to talk to him. He might not have had any obligation to help me with the mess at Smith's caravan, but he hadn't even made an effort, and I wasn't in the mood to be lectured by him now.

I just stared at him.

“There is much to fear in the world. Trouble finds you when you get too involved. That is why the Nazi keeps to himself.”

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