Kitty Goes to Washington Page 71

The taxi stopped, and my stomach coiled.

Ben paid the driver and said to me, “Stay there, I'll go around and get the door.”

I waited. The driver stayed turned, looking at me over the back of the seat. Staring at me.

A lot of people were going to be staring at me in a minute. Better get used to it.

Then he said, “Hey—can I have your autograph?”

I gaped like a fish. “Really?”

“Yeah, sure. How else are the guys going to believe this?”

I bit my lip. Autopilot took over. “You got paper and pen?”

He pulled them off one of those notepads that stuck to the inside of the windshield. I wrote against the back of the seat. I had to think for a minute how to spell my own name.

“That show last night? That was something else. Hey, thanks a ton,” he said as I handed back the paper. “And good luck out there.”

“Thanks,” I murmured.

Ben opened my door.

I looked up, and the crowd made a sound. Like an avalanche, it poured over me, cheering and cursing. I caught sight of two signs, quickly scribbled posterboard jobs their bearers shook wildly. One said, BURN THE HEATHENS!

The other said, WE LOVE KITTY!

God, this was going to be weird.

A barricaded path led from the curb to the front door. That didn't stop people from trying to lean over, hands stretched out, reaching for me. I forced myself not to cringe. Walk tall, chin up, eyes ahead. Ben had his arm across my back, keeping me moving, using his body as a shield. This was like something out of a movie, or a cop show, or Court TV.

“I love your show, Kitty!” someone screamed off to my right. I couldn't see who, but I flashed a smile in that direction. Cameras clicked—by the door, the press corps waited. TV cameras, photo cameras, a dozen microphones and handheld recorders reached out for me.

“Kitty! Kitty Norville! What action are you going to take against Senator Duke and Dr. Flemming? Have you spoken to the senator since last night? What are your plans? What do you think the Senate committee's response to this will be? Kitty!”

“My client has no comments at this time,” Ben said. A couple of police officers stepped forward and cleared a path to the door.

If I thought it'd be calmer inside, I was wrong. People in suits packed the hallway. They looked official, carrying papers and briefcases, rushing around with purposeful expressions. Everyone who passed me stopped and did a double take.

“Where'd all the people come from?” I said.

“I think half of Congress is turning up for this. It's funny, the committee doesn't have any real power. They can just make recommendations, but it's like everyone's waiting for the word of God.”

I thought people were just waiting for a clue, for an idea of which way to jump: if the authority figures decided I was dangerous, a threat to society, then people could react to that. They'd know to be afraid. But if they decided I wasn't dangerous—maybe people could let it go.

“Thanks for being here, Ben.”

He smiled. “You're welcome.”

The audience inside the hearing chamber was invitation only. They'd never have been able to fit everyone in, otherwise. Mostly, reporters and TV cameras crammed the place. We were late. The senators were already in place behind their authoritative tables. Senator Duke was absent, but I recognized his aide, the one from last night, standing in a corner. He refused to look in my direction.

I couldn't find Dr. Flemming among the audience, either. So, Duke, Flemming, and Stockton had all ditched. Did that make me the last one standing? Did that mean I won?

What, exactly, did I win?

Jeffrey Miles had made it into the audience. He smiled and gave me a thumbs-up. I wanted to hug him, but he was on the other side of the room.

Henderson leaned close to his microphone and cleared his throat. The general shuffling and murmuring in the room quieted as he drew attention to himself.

“I'd like to thank my esteemed colleagues in the Senate for taking an interest in this final day of oversight hearings regarding the Center for the Study of Paranatural Biology. I hope we can hold your interest. In the absence of Senator Duke, and with the consent of my fellow committee members, I'll be serving as the committee's acting Chair. This is mostly a formality, since the only activity on the day's schedule is our closing statement and recommendations. Without further ado, I'll now read those into the record.

“Due to recent events, and recent actions by a colleague, this committee decided to issue a statement regarding this hearing's subject matter as soon as possible, to reduce any confusion and to head off any speculation about what stance we will take. First off, I would like to thank all the panelists who testified for their time and their opinions. Without the testimony, formulating any response to the existence of the Center for the Study of Para-natural Biology and its research activities would have been impossible.

“This committee has already taken action in making recommendations to the full Senate about how that body should proceed. We have recommended that the Senate Committee on Ethics begin an investigation into the activities of our colleague Senator Joseph Duke, for suspicion of abusing his authority and conspiring to commit the crime of kidnapping. The full Senate may consider a censure against Senator Duke. We have recommended to the director of the National Institutes of Health that the Center for the Study of Paranatural Biology be dissolved, due to its questionable methodologies and possible unethical practices. Its research projects should continue, but under different supervision as part of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, according to all the regulations and guidelines set forth by the NIH. This committee sees no reason why, if the conditions under discussion really are the result of diseases, they should not be studied under the aegis of an existing disease research organization. It remains to be seen what, if any, criminal charges will result from the way in which the Center for the Study of Paranatural Biology conducted itself, especially in consequence of events leading to last night's television broadcast with which we are all no doubt familiar. I have received word that civil charges, at least, will soon be filed on behalf of Katherine Norville against the parties directly involved. At this point decisions and recommendations fall outside this committee's jurisdiction. We gladly leave such considerations to the judicial system.

“In closing, it is the committee's opinion that the victims of the diseases studied by Dr. Paul Flemming and his laboratory have lived in American society for years, unnoticed and without posing a threat. We see no reason why they should not continue to do so, and we urge all good people of reason not to fall into a state of hysteria. Thank you.”

Prev Next