Kitty Goes to Washington Page 54

If I'd been a spectator it would have all been very exciting, I was sure.

Amid the chaos, that deeply buried part of myself was rising to the surface, clawing at the bars of the cage I kept her in, wanting to escape, wanting to run, on all her four legs. She knew that in a few hours she'd get to do just that, and she didn't want to wait.

I stayed seated and breathed very calmly, because that was the only way I'd keep her, the Wolf, locked away.

Dreschler reached over and unplugged Duke's microphone, right from the back. That didn't stop Duke from continuing to rant, but now his voice was faded and lost in the back of the room. At last, he realized he'd been had. It took him a surprisingly long time. He glared at Dreschler, eyes bugging and face turning scarlet.

“The committee withdraws the question,” Dreschler said coolly into her own mike. “And with all due respect, Chairman, another outburst like that and the committee will vote to censure you.”

Ben, moving in slow motion, returned to his seat. Someone in the back clapped a few beats that echoed in the chamber. I dared to look over my shoulder to see who it was. Roger Stockton, camera tucked under his arm.

Dreschler sighed, sounding as tired as I felt. “One last question, Ms. Norville. This committee was convened to determine if the work of the Center for the Study of Para-natural Biology warrants greater attention from the United States Congress, and if the information made public by Dr. Flemming and the Center requires action by the federal government, or poses a threat to the American public. You've been here all week, you've heard the testimony that we have, and you have an insight that none of us understand. If you were sitting up here, what would be your conclusions?”

Was she asking me to do their job for them? Was this my chance to steer policy for the whole government? I spent a moment wishing I would sink through the floor. I hosted a cult radio show, that was all. I wasn't an expert. And a U.S. senator was expecting me to give her advice? Was treating me like some kind of authority? Once again, Alette had called it.

If I blew them off, refused to give them some advice they could use, no one would ever take me seriously again. I'd come too far to deny what I'd become.

“I suppose if I were going to turn activist, this would be my chance. Rally members of the supernatural underworld into some kind of new minority that can lobby the government for recognition and protection. But typically, such people are more interested in anonymity than activism. They just want to be left alone. And oppression hasn't been much of an issue when most people don't believe that the supernatural exists. What Dr. Flemming has done is brought these conditions out of the realm of mysticism and into the area of scientific examination. This is good, presuming that it is done for the right purposes. I worry about the Center's research precisely because its motives are unclear. And I worry that with these conditions now brought into the public eye, such oppression will start.

“I think it's too early to make sweeping decisions. But I would ask the members of the committee to keep their minds open. I would hope that whatever publicity comes out of this, people remember that these are diseases, and the Americans who have them are still Americans.”

“Thank you, Ms. Norville. That closes hearings for today. The committee has a long deliberation ahead of it. We'll hope to reconvene in the near future with our concluding statements.”

Henderson and Dreschler stood and booked it out of there like they couldn't wait to be somewhere else. Duke took a moment to glare at me vindictively, like it was my fault he'd lost control of his own committee.

Whatever.

Ben put his hand on my shoulder. “You did okay. Let's get out of here.”

“Norville! Kitty Norville! Can I ask you a few questions? How long have you had this condition? Tell us how it happened—did you survive an attack? Do you recommend people arm themselves with silver bullets?”

“We have no comment at this time. Thank you,” Ben said.

Ben tried to hustle me out of there. We looked like a hundred scenes aired on news programs, of people leaving courtrooms or hearings. I kept my head up, trying to salvage some dignity, but my gaze was down, avoiding eye contact. Ben stayed close, partially shielding me from the cameras and reporters. He wasn't a werewolf, but right now he was my pack, and I was grateful for the protection.

“Kitty!”

I looked up at the familiar voice. Jeffrey Miles was trying to push toward me through the crowd. He must have been sitting in the back of the room. I paused to let him catch up to us.

He wasn't smiling. His normally easygoing demeanor was gone. He looked tense.

“What's wrong?” I asked.

“It's Roger. He left in a hurry right before the session ended. He seemed really anxious.”

Sure enough, Roger Stockton wasn't among the throng that followed me. I'd have expected him to jump out in front of me with that damned camera.

I couldn't help it; his absence made me nervous. I shrugged to cover it up. “Maybe he had someplace to be.”

“I think he's up to something,” Jeffrey said. “Be careful, Kitty.”

I nodded, uncertain. Why would Roger be up to something? We were buddies now, right? Someone shoved between us, and the crowd carried me away. Ben kept his hand on my elbow until we made it outside.

Bradley waited at the curb with Alette's car.

“You should let him give you a ride back to your hotel,” I said.

Ben looked over his shoulder at the reporters and agreed.

The car doors finally shut out the chaos.

“You're off to go all furry now, I assume,” Ben said.

I couldn't think of a snide reply. “Yup.”

“Be careful. I'm sure that Miles guy is right. Stockton knows what night it is. He'll probably try to follow you.”

“We won't let that happen, sir,” Bradley said, glancing at us in the rearview mirror.

Ben scowled. “Pardon me if I don't entirely trust a minion of the dark.”

I shushed him. Fortunately, the hotel wasn't far away. We arrived before the discussion could degenerate further.

Ben got out, then leaned in before closing the door. “Just be careful. Call me when you get back.”

I nodded, bewildered at his vehemence. He didn't look at all happy. I couldn't do anything about that.

“Thanks, Ben.”

He closed the door, and we returned to Alette's. I needed to change into something scruffy.

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