Kitty Goes to Washington Page 47

“Fritz,” I said. “His name's Fritz.”

Ahmed had said that this was a safe place, a place with no alphas, no rivalries, and no need to fight among ourselves. But that didn't mean he wasn't in charge, watching. Or that he didn't have clear ideas of how things should be run. And according to him, you stayed safe by keeping to yourself and not getting involved.

I'd stuck my neck out too many times to take that attitude. I tried to keep from tensing up defensively. He wasn't challenging me. There was nothing wrong with what I was doing.

“He is little more than a crazy old man. He has his rituals, his drinking, because they fend off his memories. But everyone else remembers for him, and do not speak to him because of it. I tolerate him here because he is harmless. He is to be pitied for the ghosts he carries with him.”

I was about ready to scream with all the double-talk and hints of what people weren't telling me. “What did he do? He won't tell me. You call him the Nazi, which implies so much. But I want to know, exactly what did he do?”

He shrugged. “The time and place he comes from say much, do they not?”

“You say you remember. That everyone remembers. Do you really, or have you just made something up and figured it's close enough?”

He was a German soldier from World War II. Everyone else just filled in the blanks. But did that really make him a war criminal? I'd probably never find out for sure.

Ahmed's brow furrowed in a way that was admonishing. Here it came, the I'm older and wiser than you so sit down and shut up speech. It was like having a pack alpha all over again.

“Kitty.” He spread his hands in a gesture of offering. “I don't want to see you get in trouble.”

“Neither do I! But I'm getting tired of everyone hiding things from me.”

“Perhaps they do not hide things from you—they hide things out of habit. Many of us would prefer to keep this world hidden. We owe nothing to anyone. That is the secret to a contented life. Don't become indebted to anyone.”

“So you build an oasis and lock out the world, is that it? It means you don't have to go out of your way to help anyone.” I had to get out of here before I said something I would regret later. “I'm sorry, I'd really like to talk more, but I have to get going. I've got the show tonight.”

“I'm sure I do not have to tell you to be careful.” I'd been hearing that a lot lately. If it weren't for all the people telling me how much trouble I was potentially getting into, this trip would be a breeze.

“I'm being careful. There's some hell of a tale behind Fritz, and I'm just trying to find out what it is.”

As I reached the door, he called out, “Hey, tonight, I'll listen to your show. I'll turn on the radio in the bar so everyone can listen.”

No pressure or anything. “Thanks. That'd be cool.”

Jack gave me a thumbs-up on my way out.

Chapter 10

“Welcome back. If you just tuned in you're listening to The Midnight Hour. I'm Kitty Norville. For the last hour I have a new topic of discussion, something I'd love to get a little perspective on. I want to learn something new, and I want to be surprised. I'm going to open the line for calls, and I hope someone will shock me. The subject: the military and the supernatural. Does the military have a use for vampires, lycanthropes, any of the usual haunted folk? Are you a werewolf in the army? I want to hear from you. Know the secret behind remote sensing? Give me a call.”

Considering how little time I'd spent on it, the show came together nicely. I'd taken advantage of the collection of interesting folk who'd gathered for the Senate hearings and spent the first hour of the show doing interview after interview. The trio from the Crescent played music, and Robert Carr came in and chatted about werewolves.

But for the last hour I opened the floodgates. I was sure someone out in radioland had some good stories to tell.

“Ray from Baltimore, thanks for calling.”

“I can think of plenty of military jobs that are just perfect for vampires. Like submarine duty. I mean, you stick somebody on a sub for three months, cooped up in a tiny space with no sun. That's, like, perfect for vampires, you know? Or those guys who are locked up in the missile silos, the ones who get to push the button and start World War III.”

That “get to” was mildly worrying to say the least. “There's still that food supply to contend with,” I said. “It's always been a big limitation on anything vampires accomplish in the real world. I can't picture any navy seaman being really anxious to volunteer for the duty of 'blood supply.' Though it may be a step up from latrine duty.”

“Awe, freeze a few pints, they'll be fine.”

“All right, next call, please. Peter, you're on the air.”

“Hi. Uh, yeah. When I joined the army, I knew this guy who washed out of basic training. We were all surprised, 'cause he was doing really well. Aced all the physicals, obstacle courses, hand-to-hand, nothing held this guy down. The drill sergeant said 'drop and give me a hundred,' and he seemed happy to do it. Never broke a sweat. But he turned up missing on a surprise inspection of the barracks one night. Then it happened again. They kicked him out for going AWOL.”

“Let me guess: these were nights of the full moon.”

“I don't really remember. I didn't notice at the time. But they were about a month apart. So I'm thinking, yeah.”

“Do you think he would have made a good soldier, if he'd been allowed to take a leave of absence for those nights? If the army had made concessions?”

“Yeah—yeah, I think so.”

“What about in the field? If his unit happens to be deployed in the middle of nowhere, during a full moon, what's he going to do?”

“Well, I don't know.”

“I think it would take some advanced planning. A 'don't ask don't tell' policy probably isn't going to work. Thanks for calling, Peter. Moving on.”

I checked the monitor. Then I double-checked it. Line four: Fritz from D.C. It couldn't be. It just couldn't be.

I punched it. “Hello, Fritz?”

“Yes. Kitty? Am I speaking with Kitty?” He spoke with a German accent, tired and grizzled. It was him. My Fritz.

“Yes you are, Fritz. It's me.”

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