Kitty and the Midnight Hour Page 47

"I've heard stories. It hasn't happened to anyone I know."

"I don't want you to go wolf. You're not a wolf."

"It can be a strength, Kitty. If it can help, I'd be stupid not to use it. That's something you've never learned—how to use the wolf as a strength."

"I'll miss you. Who'll look out for me if you go?"

He smiled. "I thought you said you could take care of yourself."

I wanted to say something rude, but I started crying.

"You can always come visit," he said.

I went home. The police cars, coroner's van, swarms of people, and Zan's body were gone. A few scraps of yellow crime-scene tape fluttered, caught in the shrubs outside the building. A guy sat in a sedan parked across the street, sipping coffee. Watching. I ignored him.

I threw away the bloody towel and shirt that were still lying in the kitchen sink. I opened a window and let in some air, because the place felt like Cormac, Hardin, and the cops were still trooping through, making the room stuffy. I pulled O'Farrell's card out of my pocket and left it on the kitchen counter. I washed my face and brushed my teeth, looked at myself in the mirror. Red, puffy eyes. Greasy, tired hair. I looked pale.

I started to tell myself that I just had to wait for everything to get back to normal. Take it one step at a time, things would settle down, and I'd feel better. But I stopped, because I tried to think of what was normal, and I couldn't remember.

Shape-shifting once a month, waking up tangled with a half-dozen other naked bodies, sniffing armpits as foreplay. Was that normal? Letting Carl beat up on me, fuck me, tell me what to do, just because it felt right to the wolf half? Was that normal? Did I want to go back to that?

Normal without the Wolf was so long ago I couldn't remember what it was like anymore.

I had two choices regarding Carl. I could leave him, or challenge him. Leaving him meant leaving the pack. That made it hard. Too hard to think about.

Could I make it on my own?

Could I fight him and win?

Six months ago, I would have said no to both those questions. Now, I wasn't sure. I had to be able to answer yes to one of those, if I couldn't go back to being what I was six months ago.

Now all I had to do was decide which one I could answer yes to.

"… be kinda cool to look through a bunch of autopsy reports and find out how many of those people were shot with silver bullets."

"I'm going to add that to my list," I said into the microphone. "Do the police check bullets for silver content?"

"They ought to," the caller said with a humph, "Seems kind of obvious, doesn't it?"

"Indeed. Thanks for calling. This is Kitty, and in case you've just tuned in, I'm putting together a list of questions that law enforcement officials might want to start asking about certain crimes. Our topic tonight is law enforcement and the supernatural. I've got some national crime statistics here, a breakdown of murders that happened all over the U.S. last year—murder weapons, causes of death, that sort of thing. It says here that police reported that fourteen people died with stakes through their hearts last year. Of those fourteen, eight were also decapitated, and three were found draped with crosses. All were reported as, quote, ritualistic slayings, unquote. I should think so. My question is, did they check to see if those murder victims really were vampires? Could they check? Probably not. Some varieties of vampire disintegrate upon death. Though there exists a CDC report describing tests for identifying lycanthropes and vampires. Let's take a call. Hello, Ray, you're on the air."

"Hi, Kitty. I just want to bring up a point you seem to be missing: If those fourteen 'murder victims,' as you call them, really were vampires, is it really murder?"

Ooh, controversy. "What do you think?"

"Well, I'd call it self-defense. Vampires are predators, and their only prey is humanity. Humanity has a vested interest in getting rid of them whenever they can." Sounded like a rancher talking about wolves.

"Gee, Ray. Some of my best friends are vampires. What if the vampire in question has never killed anyone? Let's say she only takes blood from voluntary donors, keeps to herself, never causes trouble. Then one day some crusading vampire hunter comes along and stakes her just because she's a vampire."

"That's been going on for hundreds of years. I think you're the first person to call it murder ."

"Actually, I'm not. And at the risk of offending lots of people out there in lots of different ways, the Nazis didn't call it murder either." I clicked him off the line before he could say anything indignant. "Let me present another thought experiment. We've got a werewolf, vampire, whatever. He's killed someone for no good reason. What should happen? If it were a normal person, he'd get arrested, go on trial, and probably go to jail for a really long time. Maybe be sentenced to death if the situation warranted. Now, let's take the werewolf. Can we put a werewolf in jail for a really long time? What are they going to do with him when the full moon comes along? Or the vampire—do you realize how impractical it would be to sentence a vampire to life in prison? I've got Timothy on the line. Hello."

The caller said in a low, smooth voice, "Of course it's impractical sentencing a vampire to life in prison. I think there'd be no other choice but to have a vampire hunter take care of the problem. That's what they're for."

"So you're saying law enforcement should stay completely out of it. Just let the vampire hunters loose willy-nilly."

"Of course not. Unless the vampires are allowed to hunt the hunters, willy-nilly, as you say."

I was guessing he was a vampire. He had that arrogant tone, and that clipped diction that usually meant someone had learned to speak in a culture that valued refined grammar, which meant not recent culture.

"Which is still outside mundane law enforcement. The supernatural underground should take care of its own, is that what you're saying?"

"I believe it is. If a werewolf kills another werewolf in the course of a pack dominance challenge, do you really want the police to become involved?"

Ouch. Double ouch. But I'd asked for it. That'd teach me to do a show on a personal topic I was worried about. Unfortunately, I wasn't the type to backpedal. I read a quote by Churchill once: If you're going through hell, keep going .

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