Kitty Goes to Washington Page 69

“I think you both came off looking like assholes,” I said. “I think Jack London won. So the NIH cuts your funding, and the military welcomes you with open arms? You looked for military funding—Fritz gave you ideas. You don't care where the money comes from.”

His voice turned harsh. “I got very good at telling the people with money exactly what they wanted to hear. Most researchers do. I told the DOD what I thought I could do, and by the time I decided that wasn't what I wanted… But I'm done, now. After this, I'll tell them all that I'm finished.”

I wanted to wring his neck. “You can really just walk away? I don't believe you.”

The expression he shot back at me was conflicted, full of hurt but also tinted with anger. His jaw clenched. The grip on his spear gun tightened, and with a pang I realized he was standing between me and the stairway.

“Kitty, that's enough.” Alette rose from the bed and brushed off her skirt as if she'd just come in from a stroll. “Dr. Flemming, I suppose I ought to thank you for your timely arrival. Then again, I suppose it was the least you could do for helping to bring about this situation in the first place.”

“I didn't do it for you,” he said. “I'm tired of being a pawn.”

“You very nearly decided that too late.” She set her gaze on him, and for all that she was a slighter, slimmer figure than Leo, she radiated a menace that he hadn't been able to manage. Leo had been all about bravado.

Flemming reached to a long pouch strapped over his shoulder, which held more spears.

I thought I was going to have to break up a fight between them, but we were all startled by noises pounding on the floor above us, echoing over our heads. A door slammed open, several sets of footsteps ran, probably across the foyer.

Upstairs, in the kitchen, a male voice said, “Clear!” Another said, “The basement?”

I could fight. To the last breath, I could do it. Alette joined me in the center of the room; we stood side by side. Flemming remained at the base of the stairs, looking up.

The stairs creaked as someone made his way down, slowly and carefully. Another one followed. Two people. I took a deep breath, my nose flaring to catch a scent. Male sweat, leather jacket, an air of taut nerves and tired bodies, gun oil—

Connac emerged from the shadow, gun raised and ready. Ben followed a step behind him, a stake in one hand and mallet in the other. Flemming pointed his spear gun at Cormac, and for a moment the two looked like they were going to face off.

My knees turned to pudding. I thought I was going to faint. “Hi, guys,” I said weakly.

Cormac wasn't going to lower his weapon until Flemming did. The hit man stared at him, expressionless, steady as a rock. Flemming's hands shook.

“Doctor, it's okay. They're okay,” I said. Finally, he lowered his arms. Cormac waited an extra beat before doing the same, holstering the gun.

More pounding footsteps sounded on the stairs, and a pair of police officers emerged into the room, which was becoming crowded.

Ben looked around the room, took note of me, Alette, and the pile of ash on the floor. “You mean we went through the trouble of finding this place, calling the cops, racing here in the nick of time, and after all that we missed the fun?”

“There's still one left,” Cormac said, eyeing Alette.

I moved to stand in front of her. “This is Alette. She's a good guy.”

One of the cops drew his gun on Cormac. Too many people in this room had guns, and it was starting to piss me off.

“Nathan, it's all right, we don't want to start anything,” Alette said. The cop lowered his gun.

Cormac rolled his eyes, a you've got to be kidding look.

“It's all right, Kitty,” Alette said, moving to the side, like she was amused that I'd tried to protect her.

“Alette? This is Ben, my lawyer, and Cormac, my—”

My what? “And this is Cormac.” She nodded politely. Ben and Cormac still looked ready for action: guns, stakes, crosses hanging from their belts.

“Uh, you guys do this a lot, don't you? Because you look like you do this a lot.”

Ben and Cormac exchanged a look, and a curt, comradely nod. Ben sighed and finally lowered the mallet.

I had a vampire-hunting lawyer. Great.

Flemming said, “I'll leave. I don't want to cause any more trouble.”

Alette crossed her arms. “No more recruiting, no more kidnapping. Yes?”

He nodded quickly, in a way that gave me no reassurance he'd even registered what she'd said. He turned to climb the stairs. Cormac blocked his way. The hit man glared at him in only the way that a man who carries guns that casually can. Just when I thought one of them might do something rash—they both still had loaded weapons—Cormac stepped aside. Flemming rushed up the stairs, pushing past the cops.

I wouldn't have minded asking him a few more questions.

“It's full day by now, isn't it? I can feel it my bones.” Alette rubbed her forehead as if trying to erase the lines of weariness. She glanced at the bed in the back of the room. For a moment, she actually looked old. “Kitty, I don't know how to thank you. If you hadn't returned… well.”

I gave a tired smile. “If there's anything else I can do to help—”

Ben interrupted. “Kitty, with all due respect, you pay me to give you advice, and right now I'm advising you to get the hell out of this house. I'll help you pack.”

He'd wanted me to do that all along. I couldn't really argue anymore. But leaving felt like I was throwing all Alette's gestures of friendship back in her face. I wanted to stay—but I also wanted to feel safe. Alette's sanctum had been violated.

After the last twelve hours, I wanted to curl up into a hole and never come out again.

“It's all right,” Alette said in response to my anguished frown. “You'll be safer away from here, now.”

I nodded and forced a smile. When had safe stopped being the easy way out?

The pair of cops locked down the town house. Leo's two soldiers had been guided to a sofa in the parlor, where they now sprawled, sleeping it off. I sure didn't want to be around when they woke up. Flemming had disappeared utterly, and I couldn't blame him. He had no friends at that place.

Ben and I took my car to the hotel, while Cormac drove theirs. Ben carried my bags. I was still wearing my torn T-shirt and jeans. I needed a shower, badly. I needed to not remember the TV broadcast. I'd been able to forget, for the last few hours. When we got to the hotel, Ben handed me a homemade DVD and portable DVD player. Shit.

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