Kitty Goes to Washington Page 48

“Good, good. I almost did not wait, when the boy put me on hold.” His conversational tone made me wonder if he realized that he was on the radio. How refreshing, though, to talk to someone like we were just two people on the phone, rather than being subjected to an attention-seeking crackpot.

“I'm glad you did wait. What would you like to talk about?” I held my breath.

His sigh carried over the line. “I have been thinking of what you said. All day I think to myself, 'Finally, here is someone who wants to listen to you, and you run away from her like a frightened boy.' Now, I think that was a mistake. So I call you. I will die soon. Think, to die of old age. Is rare for ones like us, eh? But someone should know. This story—someone should know of it.”

“All right.” I didn't dare say more. Let him talk, let him say what he wanted without leading him on.

“You must understand, it was war. People did things they would not have thought possible before. Terrible things. But we were patriots, so we did them. On both sides, all of us patriots. I was very young then, and it was easy to take orders.

“The S.S. found us, people like us. I also heard rumors, that they created more, throwing recruits into the cage so the wolves would bite them. This I do not know. I was already wolf when they took me. They made us intelligence gatherers. Spies. Assassins, sometimes. As beasts, we could go anywhere, cross enemy lines with no one the wiser. Then we change back to human, do what we were sent to do, and return again. They trained us, drilled us, so we would remember what to do when we were wolves. Like trained dogs. I carried a sack in my mouth, with papers, maps, photographic film. I still remember.”

“Fritz, just so I'm clear, you're talking about World War II. The S.S., the Nazi Secret Service—”

“Bah. They call me the Nazi, though they think I do not know. I am no Nazi. We had no choice, don't you see? It was a madness that took all of Germany. Now days, you do not blame the madman who commits a crime. No, you say he was insane. That was Germany.”

If I stopped to think about it, my throat would go dry. I would fall speechless. I let the momentum of his story carry me forward. “Something I don't understand: you say you had no choice. But werewolves are stronger than normal humans. Even in human form, they can overpower just about anyone they come up against. Why didn't you? Why didn't you and the others rebel? It sounds like they recruited you against your will, but why did you let them take you instead of fighting them?”

“Besides the fact that it was war? You do not question your countrymen in uniform in time of war. It isn't done. But more than that, they had silver bullets. The cages were made of silver.”

My heart thudded. Flemming had a cage made of silver. “Fritz, is there any documentation of this? I've been doing some research. The Nazi resistance to Allied occupation after World War II were called the Werewolves. Were you involved in that? You're not telling me the members of that group were literally werewolves, are you?”

“I do not remember. It was a long time ago.” It didn't matter. With the story in hand, I had to be able to find the evidence somewhere. There had to be someone else with stories like this. Flemming, for instance.

“Have you told Dr. Flemming this story? Did he ask you to tell him what you did in the war?”

“Yes, he did.”

I closed my eyes and felt the air go out of me. “Did he tell you why?”

Fritz gave a snort. “He works for government, yes? It seems obvious.”

“You know, I'd give quite a bit to get Flemming back on the show right about now. Fritz—how do you feel?”

“I'm not sure what you mean. I feel old. Tired. Shape-shifting with arthritis in the hands, the shoulders, it's very bad.”

“I mean about what happened. What was it like? How old were you? You don't like talking about it, but do you feel better? Does it feel better to talk about it?”

“I think I should go now. I told the story you wanted. The only story anybody cares about.”

“Fritz, no! What did you do after the war? Where did you go? When did you come to America? Fritz!”

“Goodbye, Kitty.”

“Fritz!”

The line went dead.

Damn. Now what did I do with that? Tiredly, I spoke at the mike. “Dr. Flemming, if you're listening to this, I'd love it if you called in. I have a few questions for you.”

Again, I checked the monitor, dreading what I'd find. I wasn't sure I really wanted Flemming to call. This wasn't likely to inspire him to a sudden bout of openness and sharing.

But Flemming didn't call in. None of the calls listed looked remotely interesting. Anything I said next would be the height of anticlimax.

“Right. It looks like we need to move on to the next call. Lisa from Philly, hello.”

“Hi, Kitty. Do you know anything about rumors that there's a version of Gulf War Syndrome that causes vampirism? I'm asking because my brother, he's a veteran, and—”

Sometimes, I had absolutely no idea how I got myself into these discussions.

“You have a lot on your mind,” Luis said. He was driving me around Saturday morning in a cute, jet-black Miata convertible he'd rented for the occasion. He looked dashing, elbow propped on his door, driving one-handed, with his handsome Latin features and aviator sunglasses.

God, did he know how to romance a girl. How could I possibly be distracted with him sitting not a foot away from me? A hot Brazilian lycanthrope at my beck and call, looking like something out of a car commercial, and I was frowning. I shook my head, because I had no idea how to answer him.

He'd taken me to Arlington National Cemetery because I'd wanted to see it, but it had been depressing. It wasn't just the acres and acres of headstones, of graves, most of them belonging to people who had died too young, or the Kennedy graves, which were like temples, silent and beautiful. JFK's flickering eternal flame seemed a monument to crushed idealism. The graves were peaceful. But the ceremonies: the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier; a full military honors burial, with the horse-drawn caisson and twenty-one-gun salute. All these rituals of death. They seemed so desperate. Did honoring the dead comfort us, really? Did it really do anything to fill the hole our loved ones left behind.

T.J. didn't have a grave to visit. If he did, would I feel better? Less forlorn? If he had a grave, it would be in Denver, where I couldn't go, so it was all moot.

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