Kitty Goes to Washington Page 70

I showered first. I'd watch the video after. But the shower lasted a very long time. I had a lot of bad scents to wash off. Smells of antiseptic science, of calculated cruelty, of hate and violence. Of being beaten up, trapped in a jail cell, tied up with silver. My wrists had rashes from silver and puncture wounds from a vampire.

Eventually, I watched, mesmerized, my room-service breakfast abandoned.

Toward the end, Ben knocked at my door. I let him in.

“The committee's wrapping up this afternoon. You should go.”

The Senate committee seemed incredibly far away at the moment.

“What's the press response to this?” I pointed at the screen, where my Wolf had retreated to a corner to curl up in as tight a ball as possible. “What's the media saying?” I hadn't looked at a newspaper yet. In a sudden nervous fit, I turned on the TV and flipped channels until I found something resembling news.

“… experts verify that the video is not a fake, that what you're about to see is a real werewolf. We must warn you that the following images may be disturbing to some viewers…” The news show aired a choice clip: me, my back arching, shirt ripping, fur shimmering where skin ought to be.

I turned the channel. I found a morning show where the familiar, perfectly saccharine hosts interviewed a man in a suit.

The woman said, “By now everyone's seen the film. We have to ask, what does it mean? What's going to come out of this?”

“Well, we have to look at it in context of the hearings that have been going on for the last week. This brings all that information out of the realm of theory. For the first time we see the issue in stark reality, and what it means is the Senate committee is not going to be able to ignore it, or brush it off. I expect to see legislation—”

The next channel, a rather hyperbolic cable news show, had Roger Stockton as a guest. Just the sight of him made my hackles rise. He and the regular host were chatting.

“Is there a way to tell?” the host was saying. “If you didn't already know she was a werewolf, would you have been able to tell?”

Stockton had become an infinitely assured expert. “Well, Don, I have to say, I think with experience you might be able to spot a werewolf. They've got this aura about them, you know?”

“So that whole thing with the monobrow is bunk—”

Oh, give me a break.

And a fourth channel. “Who is Kitty Norville? She gained some fame as the host of a cult radio talk show, and that put her in the spotlight. A spotlight that got a little too bright last night. She has been unavailable for comment, and investigators are looking into the possibility that she may still be held captive—”

“I've been getting calls nonstop. I've been blowing them off, no comments at this time sort of thing. Maybe you should hold a press conference.”

At least that would be organized. I might be able to claim a bit of territory for myself.

“And your mom called again. You should probably call her back soon.”

I went back to the first news channel. They showed a new clip, the Dirksen Senate Office Building where the hearings were being held. A crowd had gathered: protesters, curiosity seekers. The reporter wasn't saying, just that the committee was convening for a final time. Some people were waving signs that I couldn't read because the camera refused to focus on them.

Did they hate me? What was happening?

“I can't do it,” I said softly, shaking my head in slow denial. “I can't face them. Face that.”

“Why not?” He sounded tired. He'd been awake for all of the time that I had, over the course of the night. He'd earned his retainer in spades.

Why not, indeed. I wanted that hole, that safe den shut away from the world, and I wanted it badly. I knew this feeling; I hadn't felt it so strongly in years. “It's all out. Everyone saw me. Saw everything. I have nothing left, that's what it is. I—I feel like I've been raped.”

He gave a frustrated huff. “Now how would you know about that?”

I almost swung at him. I had to take a deep breath, to pull that anger back inside. We were both tired and speaking too bluntly. “You do not want me to answer that, Ben.”

His expression fell. “Look, Kitty. We're going to sue. We're going to litigate the shit out of Duke, Flemming, Stockton, everyone we can over what happened. The whole goddamn Senate if we have to. And that's after the criminal charges are filed. But for all that to happen, you can't hide. Those crowds aren't going away anytime soon, and you're going to have to face them.”

I'd started crying, tears quietly making tracks down my cheeks. Everything that had happened over the last twenty-four hours seemed to hit me at once, and the stress was suffocating. Like being in the cell again, silver walls pressing down on me. But he was right. I knew he was right. I'd survived too much to cave now. So I wiped the tears away and drank down the glass of orange juice.

This couldn't possibly be worse than wrestling with a vampire.

Chapter 14

I didn't want to bother with traffic and parking, so Ben and I took a taxi to the Senate office building. The crowd had grown until it clogged the street. Police directed traffic. They'd closed the street and weren't going to let us through until Ben rolled down the window and spoke a few words to one of the cops. The guy nodded, then called to one of his colleagues. The two of them cleared a path through the mass of people.

I hunched down, huddled inside my jacket, hiding. People outside were shouting. Most of it was incoherent, but I heard someone preaching, quoting the Bible in a clear, loud voice: thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.

A sign flashed, a placard someone waved above the crowd: a vertical acronym with the words spelled out horizontally. V.L.A.D.: Vampire League Against Discrimination.

That was a new one.

I closed my eyes. This was crazy. I should have just gone home. Mom wanted me to come home. I'd called her. I was right—she hadn't turned off the TV like I asked. But she seemed to have disassociated the images entirely. Like she'd decided that wasn't really me. All she knew, I was in trouble and she wanted me to come home, where I'd be safe. Where she assumed I'd be safe.

“Look,” Ben said, pointing out the car window to the front door of the building. “The cops are watching the crowd. You'll be fine.”

Fine. Right. Just dandy.

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