Kitty Goes to Washington Page 51

My cell phone rang. Luis shifted and mumbled, “Is that mine?”

“No.” I retrieved my jeans and pulled the phone out of the pocket.

Caller ID said Mom. Her weekly Sunday call, but hours early. I sat up and pulled the blanket around me. Couldn't be naked, talking to Mom.

I answered the phone. “Hi.”

“Hi, Kitty. We're having lunch at Cheryl's, so I wanted to make sure we talked before then. Is this a good time?”

As good as any. As in, not really. “It's okay, Mom.”

“How is Washington? Dad's been taping the hearings—C-SPAN's been showing the whole thing, I think. I still haven't seen you in the audience, but he said he did, and he said that's not why he's taping them anyway. He thought you might want to have copies.”

I had to smile. “That's cool. Thanks. I'm supposed to testify tomorrow, so tell him to have the VCR ready.”

“Oh—good luck! I'm sure you'll do great.”

“I just have to answer questions. It'll be fine.”

Luis had propped himself on his elbow and was smirking at me.

“Have you had time to do much sightseeing? I visited there when I was in college, we got to see a session of Congress, but it was the House, I think, not the Senate, and—”

Her conversation was so ordinary. It was kind of nice. I made encouraging noises, and avoided saying anything that might make me sound frustrated or depressed. I didn't want her to worry.

Then again, she always knew when I was frustrated and depressed because I didn't say anything.

She actually brought the call to a close herself, almost before I was ready to hear her go. “We should get going. I think Cheryl's nervous about having us over, they've got the new house and I don't think she's got drapes up yet, and Jeffy's teething.”

“Tell everyone I said hello.”

“I will. Take care, Kitty.”

“You, too, Mom. Bye.”

“That sounded very suburban. Very American,” Luis said, grinning unapologetically.

And there but for the… something… of lycanthropy went I. “Heard the whole thing, did you?”

“I assume Cheryl is your sister? Which means you have a nephew named Jeffy?”

“And a three-year-old niece named Nicky.” He was still smirking. As if I could help it that my sister had picked names straight out of a 1950s sitcom. “Are you making fun of my normal family?”

“Not at all. Not at all.” He considered thoughtfully, then added, “Jeffy?”

I threw a pillow at him.

After spending all weekend with Luis, I found getting myself to the Senate office building Monday morning almost impossible. I called Ben.

“Hi, Ben? What would happen if I just didn't show up today?”

“When you're scheduled to testify?”

“Yeah.”

“They might send federal marshals after you.”

Oh. Well then.

I had to stop by Alette's for a change of clothes before heading to the hearings. I thought I might get there before dawn, in time to see Alette, but no such luck. The sun was up when I pulled into the driveway. Tom, the other driver/ MIB, was in the kitchen. He told me that she'd just retired for the day. Briefly, I wondered what exactly that meant. Coffins in the basement?

For once, I didn't ask.

Tom offered me a cup of coffee and said, “We spent the night checking on the vampires you saved from Smith.”

“Saved? That's giving me too much credit,” I said, muttering into my cup.

He shrugged the comment off. “Some of them want to stay with Alette. They've never had a real place of their own—either they were by themselves or they had abusive Masters. That's why they went with Smith. It must have seemed better.”

It probably had seemed better. Some frying pans made the fire look good.

“Is she going to let them? Will she take care of them?”

“Oh, probably. She likes taking care of people.” His smile turned wry.

Turns out today was Tom's day off, but he offered to give me a ride to the Senate building anyway. I accepted, finished the coffee, and went to get dressed.

At the Senate building, Ben had something for me—he'd performed some legal wizardry and gotten a copy of Fritz's autopsy report. Flemming was right: heart attack. They were still waiting on some lab tests, but they were calling it a natural death. No conspiracy involved. He was just an old man who'd sensed his own end approaching and wanted to tell his story.

Maybe he'd just given up.

On Ben's advice, I dressed well for the day's session—a suit even, dark blue, with a cream blouse, conservative. He said, don't give them a chance to label me, or classify me as something different or alien. I was an expert witness, nothing more or less.

Not a spokesperson for the entire subject the hearing had been skirting around for the last week.

I'd never advertised what I looked like. I'd never done any publicity stills. When my appearance at the hearings was made public—the panel of witnesses was always made public—at least part of the reason some people were here was to check me out, maybe snap a few pictures for their audiences. I had no idea if I matched their expectations. I was probably younger than they thought I was: mid-twenties, on the thin side, blond hair done up in a prim bun. Wide-eyed and a little scared. Absolutely not what one would expect a werewolf to look like: some sultry, monstrous seductress, no doubt. Someone who exuded sex and danger. I'd never exuded either. More like, “Go ahead, bully me, I'm weak and vulnerable.” I wasn't up to explaining to anyone, much less a Senate committee, the subtleties of werewolf pack dynamics, how for every scary dangerous werewolf that fit the stereotype, there were a dozen who would just as soon grovel on their bellies. People who imagined “monster” when they thought “werewolf” might be surprised to see me.

My problem was, I may have been a monster, but all the other monsters were so much bigger and scarier than I was.

I had a short prepared statement that Ben and I had worked on. I carried the folder with the typewritten page with me to the front of the room. The week's anxiety hadn't prepared me for this. I felt like I was walking to my execution.

Ben sat in the first row, right behind me, ready to bail me out if I needed it. I'd realized, over the last couple of months of being alone, that even though I didn't have a pack anymore, I didn't have to be alone. I couldn't be entirely alone. I'd built my own little pack: Ozzie and Matt at my old radio station, Ben, even my mom. I couldn't be afraid to rely on them.

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