Kitty Goes to Washington Page 5

I couldn't do it. I challenged and couldn't lead. I left town. I'd been essentially homeless since then. Wandering, a rogue wolf.

It wasn't so bad.

I drank coffee, which put me on edge but kept me awake and driving. Before I left Denver I'd never done this, driven for hours by myself, until the asphalt on the highway buzzed and the land whipped by in a blur. It made me feel powerful, in a way. I didn't have to listen to anyone, I could stop when I wanted, eat where I wanted, and no one second-guessed my directions.

I took the time to play tourist on the way. I stopped at random bronze historical markers, followed brown landmark highway signs down obscure two-lane highways, saw Civil War battlefields and giant plaster chickens. Maybe after the hearings I could set some kind of crazy goal and make it a publicity stunt: do the show from every state capital, a different city each week for a year. I could get the producers to pay for a trip to Hawaii. Oh, yeah.

Matt set me up at an Arlington, Virginia, radio station. I got there Friday around noon. I was cutting it close; the show aired live Friday night.

Lucky for me, Flemming had agreed to be a guest on the show.

The station's offices and broadcast center, a low brick fifties-era building with the call letters hung outside in modernist steel, were in a suburban office park overgrown with thick, leafy trees. Inside the swinging glass doors, the place was like a dozen other public and talk radio stations I'd been to: cluttered but respectable, run by sincere people who couldn't seem to find time to water the yellowing ficus plant in the corner.

A receptionist sat at a desk crowded with unsorted mail. She was on the phone. I approached, smiling in what I hoped was a friendly and unthreatening manner—at least I hoped that the dazed, vacuous smile I felt would pass for friendly. I could still feel the roar of the car tires in my tendons. She held her hand out in a “wait a minute” gesture.

“—I don't care what he told you, Grace. He's cheating on you. Yes… yes. See, you already know it. Who works past eleven every night? Insurance salesmen don't have night shifts, Grace… Fine, don't listen to me, but when you find someone else's black lace panties in his glove box don't come cryin' to me.”

My life could be worse. I could be hosting a talk show on normal relationship problems.

After hanging up the phone she turned a sugary smile on me as if nothing had happened. “What can I do for you?”

Wadded up in my hand I had a piece of paper with the name of the station manager. “I'm here to see Liz Morgan.”

“I think she may be out to lunch, let me check a minute.” She played tag with the intercom phone system, buzzing room after room with no luck. I was about to tell her not to worry about it, that I'd go take a nap in my car until she got back.

“I don't know. I'll ask.” She looked up from a rather involved conversation on one of the lines. “Can I pass along your name?”

“Kitty Norville. I should be scheduled to do a show tonight.”

Raised brows told me she'd heard the name before.

She didn't take her gaze off me when she passed along the answer.

“Says she's Kitty Norville… that's right… I think so. All right, I'll send her back.” She put away the handset. “Wes is the assistant manager. He said to go on back and he'll talk to you. Last door on the right.” She gestured down a hallway.

I felt her watching me the whole way. Some time ago I'd stated on the air, on live national radio, that I was a werewolf. Listeners generally took that to mean a couple different things: that I was a werewolf, or that I was crazy. Or possibly that I was involved in an outrageous publicity stunt pandering to the gullible and superstitious.

Any one of them was stare-worthy.

I arrived at the last door, which stood open. Two desks and two different work spaces occupied the room, which was large enough to establish an uneasy truce between them. The man at the messier of the two stood as soon as I appeared and made his way around the furniture. He left a half-played game of solitaire on his computer.

He came at me so quickly with his hand outstretched, ready to shake, that I almost backed out of the way. He was in his twenties, with floppy hair and a grin that probably never went away. Former college cheerleader, I'd bet.

“Kitty Norville? You're Kitty Norville? I'm a big fan! Hi, I'm Wes Brady, it's great to have you here!”

“Hi,” I said, letting him pump my hand. “So, um. Thanks for letting me set up shop here on such short notice.”

“No problem. Looking forward to it. Come in, have a seat.”

What I really wanted was to have a look at their studio, meet the engineer who'd be running the board for me, then find a hotel, shower, and supper. Wes wanted to chat. He pointed me to a chair in the corner and pulled the one from his desk over.

He said, “So. I've always wanted to ask, and now that you're here, well—”

I prepared for the interrogation.

“Where do you come up with this stuff?”

“Excuse me?”

“On your show. I mean, do you coach callers? Are they actors? Do you have plants? How scripted is it? How many writers do you have? At first I thought it was a gag, we all did. But you've kept it up for a year now, and it's great! I gotta know how you do it.”

I might as well hit my head against a brick wall.

Conspiratorially, I leaned forward over the plastic arm of the retro office chair. He bent toward me, his eyes wide. Because of course I'd give away trade secrets to anyone who asked.

“Why don't you stick around tonight and find out?”

“Come on, not even a little hint?”

“Now where's the fun in that?” I stood. “Hey, it's been great meeting you, but I really should get going.”

“Oh—but you just got here. I could show you around. I could—”

“Is he bothering you?”

A woman in a rumpled navy-blue suit a few years out-of-date, her black hair short and moussed, stood in the doorway, her arms crossed.

“You must be Liz Morgan,” I said, hoping I sounded enthusiastic rather than relieved. “I'm Kitty Norville. My colleague should have been in touch with you.”

“Yes. Nice to meet you.” Thankfully, her handshake was perfectly sedate and functional. “Wes, you have that marketing report for me yet?”

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