Kitty Goes to Washington Page 72

That was it. The whole thing was filed away, folded into the bureaucracy to be forgotten as quickly as possible. Which was what I'd wanted, wasn't it? It felt anti-climactic.

The exodus began, senators and their aides shuffling papers and closing briefcases, reporters sorting out their recorders, people massing toward the doors.

This was the first day Flemming had missed. I couldn't really blame him; he had a lot to answer for. And really, if I'd been able to corner him and talk to him, what would I have said? “Sucks to be you?” Maybe I just wanted to growl at him a little.

Maybe I should thank him for saving my life.

I hid away in a corner of the room and called his number. I expected it to ring a half-dozen times, then roll over to voice mail. But after the first ring, an electronic voice cut in. “The number you have dialed is no longer in service…”

I scanned the crowd and found the committee staffer who'd been herding witnesses all week. I maneuvered toward her as quickly as I could against the flow of the crowd, and managed to stop her before she left the room. She was in her thirties, businesslike, and her eyes bugged when she spotted me stalking toward her. I thought she was going to turn and run, like a rabbit. We all had the flight instinct, in the end.

“Hi, do you have a minute? I just have a question.” I tried to sound reassuring and harmless.

She nodded and seemed to relax a little, though she still held her attache case in front of her like a shield.

“Dr. Flemming wasn't here today,” I said. “Do you know if he was supposed to be? Or where he might be if not here?” In jail, maybe? Was that too much to hope for?

Her gaze dropped to the floor, and the tension returned to her stance. She actually glanced over her shoulder, as if searching for eavesdroppers.

“He was supposed to be here,” she said. “But right before the session started, I was informed that he'd be absent. That he had another commitment.”

“Informed? By whom? What other commitment?”

“I know better than to ask questions about certain things, Ms. Norville. Flemming's out of your reach now.” She hunched her shoulders and hurried away.

Conspiracy theory, anyone?

“Wait! Am I supposed to think that he's been sucked into some dark, clandestine project and no one's ever going to see him again? Is there a phone number for him? I've got court papers to serve, you know!”

She didn't even look back at me.

The senators arranged a press conference inside the hearing chamber. Henderson and Dreschler answered questions, many of them regarding Duke and what his future in the Senate, if any, might be. Listening between the lines, I felt like they were saying nothing much would happen to Duke. He'd be censured, and that was about it. A slap on the wrist. They expected the other people involved to take the fall for him. Stockton and Flemming. I didn't have enough energy left for righteous indignation.

Then came my turn. After the senators left, I agreed to spend a few minutes at the podium, mainly because Ben convinced me that facing all the reporters at once was easier than running the gauntlet. If I gave some comments now, it would be easier to ignore them later on.

Ben was right. I had to face up to the reputation I'd built for myself. I had to face the consequences of that reputation.

I tried to think of it as being on the radio. The microphone reached out in front of me, and that looked familiar. If I could ignore the lights, the cameras, the rows of faces in front of me, I could pretend I was talking to my audience. As a voice on the radio, I could say anything I wanted.

I let Ben pick who would ask the questions. He was on hand to jump in and save me if I stuck my foot in my mouth.

The first question came from a middle-aged man in a turtleneck. “Ed Freeman, New York Times. It's been suggested that you were complicit in arranging last night's broadcast. That it was a publicity stunt to gamer sympathy and publicize your show. Any comment?”

My jaw dropped. “Who suggested that? The National Enquirer!” Ben made an erp-sounding noise. Right, had to be serious. “Mr. Freeman, it's well known that despite the success of my radio show, I've never publicized my appearance. I never wanted to be recognized on the street and that hasn't changed. I was forced into that broadcast.”

“Judy Lerma, the Herald. How much are you seeking in damages in your lawsuit against Duke and the others?”

I hadn't even thought of that. “I don't think it's been decided. I'll leave that to my attorney.”

“Ms. Norville, how and when did you become a werewolf?”

I was going to have to tell that story over and over again, wasn't I? “It was about four years ago. I was a junior in college, and ended up in the wrong place at the wrong time. I was attacked and survived.”

“Does that sort of thing happen often?”

“I think you're more likely to get mugged in a small town in Kansas than get attacked by a werewolf.”

Then someone asked, “I hear that one of the networks has offered you your own TV show. Will you take the offer?”

I blinked. I looked at Ben. He wasn't so gauche as to shrug in front of the cameras, but his expression was noncommittal enough. He hadn't heard either. “This is the first I've heard of it,” I said.

“Would you do a TV show? As the next step from radio?”

Good question. The little giddy show business side of me was jumping up and down. But another part of me still wanted that hole to hide in. Wolf was still scared, and so far she was doing a great job of keeping that fear locked down. But I had to get out of here soon, or we'd both blow up.

I offered a brave smile. “I don't know. I thought I might take a little time off to consider my options.”

Ben stepped up and took hold of my arm. “That's all the time we have for questions today. Thank you.”

Finally, we left, sneaking out a back door held open by a police officer. At last, I could breathe again.

Epilogue

I stayed in D.C. long enough to talk to Emma.

The third night, two days after the broadcast, I visited Alette's town house just after dusk. Tom answered the door. He looked grim and harried—he hadn't shaved, and his hair was tousled. The iron reserve of the Man In Black had slipped.

“How is everything?” I asked as he let me inside.

“A mess. We're all torn up over Bradley, Emma hasn't said a word. But Alette's holding everyone together. She's an anchor. I don't know how she does it.”

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