Kitty Goes to Washington Page 58

I had to stay on my side of the line. I imagined the line growing thicker. I had to keep it in place.

“T.J., I wish you could help me.”

I remembered him holding me, when I started to lose it. Keep it together, he'd whisper. That's a girl.

Keep it together.

The line remained drawn. I was still human. I took a deep breath, fitting into my skin a little more firmly.

Stockton returned in less than half an hour, more quickly than I expected despite his promise. He must really have been worried about missing something. He carried two big shopping bags. I pictured him running through the store, throwing things into a cart, and flinging his credit card at the poor checkout clerk.

“I talked to your producer. Ozzie, that's his name? He didn't believe me, so he said to call him back and get you on the phone.”

Of course Ozzie didn't believe him, and I didn't blame him. I'd avoided TV like the plague. I was so glad I had smart friends.

“Do it,” I said.

Duke, still off to the side, showed me an ugly snarl. “You can't think this will help you. The world will still see you as you really are.”

“That's what I'm hoping,” I muttered.

Flemming turned to Stockton. “I'm having second thoughts. I'm not sure we should go through with it.”

“Oh, no,” the reporter said. “You were the one who called me, you were the one who arranged this whole thing, I want my story—it's out of your hands.”

“Stand aside, Doctor,” Duke said. “Let the man work. She can't possibly say anything that will save her from what's coming. Let her incriminate herself.”

Stockton called Ozzie on the land line—no mobile reception in the basement. He managed to get the phone cord to stretch halfway across the room, and the handset barely fit through the tray slot.

Ozzie launched right in. “Kitty, what's going on, what's wrong?”

“You'll see it soon enough,” I said with a sigh. “Did Stockton bring you up to date?”

“Yeah—he says you're televising the show. But it's not Friday, we haven't announced anything—”

“Just set it up, Ozzie. Make it legal. Secure the rights, grant the license to the network, whatever you have to do.”

“Are you okay?”

“No. But don't worry about me. I'll get through it.” I hoped. I really, really hoped. “Call Ben O'Farrell for me, will you? Use his cell number.”

“Sure. Put that reporter back on.”

I handed the phone back and immediately missed Ozzie. I wished he were here.

They talked for a couple minutes, then Stockton hung up.

“Roger. Can I have that phone back for just a minute? I just want to make a call.” Two—I wanted to call Alette, and I should call Ben myself while I was at it. Ben and Cormac both. Three calls. No, make that four—Mom. I should call Mom.

Stockton glanced at Flemming, who shook his head.

That was it, then.

Stockton brought the bags to the cell. “If I open the door, will I regret it?”

How far did he think I'd get if I made a run for it? “That depends. Is Mr. Black Ops over there packing silver bullets?”

We looked at the remaining soldier, who didn't twitch a muscle.

“Silver bullets?” Stockton asked.

He nodded, once, curtly. I had no doubt he was a very good shot.

“I'll stand back,” I said wryly. Of course, I could let him shoot me and spare myself the next few hours.

Stockton got Flemming to unlock the door and open it a crack—just wide enough to shove in the shopping bags, before shutting and locking it again.

Well, I'd missed my chance to go out in a blaze of glory.

I went through the bags. It was a little like Christmas. He'd brought me a portable CD player with speakers and batteries, a stack of disks, a couple of books—London, Thoreau. And the meat, which I shoved in the corner for later. Couldn't think about that now, even though I could smell it through the plastic.

“You ready?” Stockton said, shoving a personal mike through the door slot.

I wasn't, but I'd have to be. I took the mike—still attached to a cord, which ran through the slot to the news team's broadcast equipment—and clipped it to my shirt. “How's that?” The sound tech gave me a thumbs-up.

I finished searching the CDs. One of them had a youthful and comparatively unaltered Michael Jackson on the cover.

I glared at Stockton. “Thriller? You brought me Thriller?”

“You know. Thriller!” He clawed a hand at me and snarled like he was an extra in a certain music video.

The man had no tact. I tore the plastic off and put the disk on anyway. But I cued it up to “Billie Jean” and turned up the volume.

I watched out of the corner of my eye, and sure enough, by the second bar of music, the two news guys were tapping their feet. Stockton was bobbing his head a little; he probably didn't realize he was doing it. Hey, when the music said to dance, you had to dance.

Duke looked like he was fuming himself into a fit; his face was actually going red. But he couldn't do anything but stand there. His aide—who seemed old enough to remember freaking out over this album in grade school—shifted nervously. Like he wanted to tap his feet, but didn't dare.

Flemming's expression didn't change at all.

“Just tell me when we're on the air,” I said to Stockton. He conferred with the crew's tech guy, then nodded quickly.

“We'll be in time for the ten o'clock news,” he said.

I could imagine it, the regular anchor interrupting the newscast with a very special report from Roger Stockton: Kitty Norville, Exposed.

It wouldn't quite work like that. I hoped. I had maybe an hour before the Wolf took over completely. Had to make it count.

I cut off Michael and put on John Fogerty. CCR's “Bad Moon Rising” was the show's theme song on regular nights. It wouldn't have felt right without it.

Wait for it… wait for it…

“Okay, Kitty, you're on in three… two… one…” He pointed at me. I punched the play button. I let the guitar strum a few chords before looking out the glass wall and facing the camera.

Think happy thoughts. No different than being behind the mike. Don't think about the fact that I can't hide, that I can't be anonymous anymore. This was about revenge, about turning the tables, and to do that I had to be on top.

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