Kitty Goes to Washington Page 8

“How close are you to understanding them? I've heard every kind of theory about what causes them, from viral DNA to unbalanced humors.”

“That's just it, the most interesting feature of these diseases is that they don't act like diseases. Yes, they're infectious, they alter the body from its natural form. But far from causing damage or sickness, they actually make their victims stronger. In the case of vampirism, the disease grants near immortality, with relatively innocuous side effects.”

He called the need to drink human blood an innocuous side effect?

He continued. “To learn the secret of how that happens would be a fantastic discovery.”

“You're talking about medical applications.” He hesitated again, folding his hands on the table in front of him and visibly reining back his enthusiasm. “As I said, I don't want to raise any hopes. We've barely begun to scratch the surface of this field of study.”

I had a feeling that was all I was going to get out of him.

“Okay, I'm going to open the lines for calls now. Do you have any questions for the good doctor—”

His eyes bugged out, like I'd pulled out a gun and pointed it at him. Surely he knew I'd be taking questions from listeners.

Shaking his head, he said, “I'd rather not answer questions from the public.”

Um, problem? “I'm the public,” I said. “You answered my questions.”

“No, not like this,” he said. He put down the headset and pushed his chair away from the table. “I'm sorry.”

Liz, Wes, and the sound guy stared through the booth window, helpless to stop him as he set his shoulders and rushed out of the room.

“Wait, Doctor—” I stood to go after him. Who did that bastard think he was, walking out on me? The wire trailing from my headset tugged at me. The show, I couldn't leave the show. Damn.

I settled back into my seat. I had to talk quick to cover up the silence. “I'm sorry, it looks like Dr. Flemming has urgent business elsewhere and won't be able to answer your questions. But I'm still here, and ready for the first call of the evening. Hello, Brancy from Portland…”

The Senate hearings were scheduled to start Monday, but I drove into D.C. proper Saturday evening. I had reservations at a hotel close to the Capitol, and within walking distance of many of the tourist attractions. I'd never been to the city. I saw no reason not to make a vacation out of this. I wanted to see the Smithsonian, dammit.

It was hard to drive and keep my eyes on the road, not craning my neck to catch a glimpse of the Lincoln Memorial. I'd checked a map; it had to be close. I didn't even know if I was looking in the right place. The sun was setting, casting a smog-tinted orange glow over the city. Sightseeing would have to wait until tomorrow it seemed. Traffic ahead slowed. One of Ivy's notorious jams, on a Saturday no less. I was impressed. Then I spotted the flashing red and blue lights. Accident, maybe. The cars ahead crept to a stop. The trick was not to be impatient. I wasn't in a hurry. I hit the scan button on the radio, hoping to find something catchy. I could play drums on the steering wheel while I waited.

Orange reflective cones squeezed three lanes of cars into one. Up ahead, barricades blocked the road. A pair of police cars were parked on the shoulder. Four cops, flashlights in hand, were checking cars and license plates, asking the drivers questions, looking over passengers. A security checkpoint. Not surprising in these parts, I supposed. I hadn't heard anything about a terror alert or heightened security. Trust the powers-that-be not to tell anyone about a real threat.

My turn came to get waved through the checkpoint. A couple of uniformed cops approached the car from each side, shining their lights on the license plates, the interior, and finally at me. I rolled down the window. “Can I see some ID?”

I had to dig in my backpack for a minute, then I showed him my driver's license. I smiled politely.

“Ma'am, could you pull over to the side of the road here?” He pointed to a spot on the shoulder beyond the barricade. He didn't give me back my license.

My stomach lurched. I suppose everyone's does when they get pulled over by the cops, no matter how innocent they are. I was pretty sure I was innocent.

“Um. What seems to be the problem, Officer?” That may have been the most cliche thing to ever come out of my mouth. In the movies, only guilty people said that.

“Just pull over and we'll get to you in a minute.”

While I watched, the cops removed the barricades, cleared the cones, and worked to get traffic flowing normally again. The roadblock had served its purpose. Apparently, they'd gotten what they were looking for: me.

I refused to believe this was all for me. I really didn't consider myself a terrorist threat. There was something else going on.

I found my cell phone and brought up Ben's number. My finger poised on the call button, I watched.

A dark sedan, coming from the other direction, did a U-turn over the median, zipped across the three lanes to this side of the road, and pulled over in front of me. The driver was so smooth the move only took a minute, and the tires never squealed.

Two men climbed out, one on each side. They wore dark suits, conservative ties, and looked clean-cut and unremarkable. They seemed big, though, broad through the shoulders, and confident.

Holy cow. Genuine, honest-to-God Men In Black. This had to be a joke.

The cop handed the driver of the sedan my license and pointed at me. Unconsciously, I shrank down in my seat, like I could melt through the floorboards.

I should have called Ben, but I waited, wanting to see where this was going to go. Surely this was all a misunderstanding.

The two Men In Black stalked toward me. Actually, they probably walked perfectly calmly and normally. To me, though, they stalked. The Wolf wanted to growl. And she wanted to get the hell out of here. I was still in the car, I could still drive—and so could the cops. I waited. Had to listen to the human half, this time.

Thinking before acting. Good girl. That was what T.J. would have said if he'd been here. Maybe he'd even have given me a scratch behind the ears. I felt a little better.

They stopped by my window, peered in, and looked me over. My nostrils widened; I took a breath. Human, they were normal humans beings. Warm blood coursing through live veins, so they weren't vampires. No hint of lycanthropy about them, either. Lycanthropes had a sort of musky, wild scent that couldn't be covered up. They had fur just under the surface and it always showed, if you knew what to look for.

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