Kitty Goes to War Page 20

What a jerk.

“Who the heck was that?” Lisa asked.

I had a feeling there were a couple of answers to that. Harold Franklin, corporate bigwig. Confident businessman. Supernatural conspirator? “That,” I said, “was a giant headache.”

I CALLED the lawyer who was handling the lawsuit, to let her know what had happened. She seemed to think the visit might be a basis for throwing out the case, which made Franklin’s visit even stranger. It made me think, again, that the lawsuit was a smoke screen for something else entirely. Which begged the obvious question—smoke screen for what? Then I called Ben and told him what had happened, and he responded with a detached-sounding, “Huh.” And then he said, again, how his specialty was criminal defense rather than civil law and he couldn’t give a professional opinion, but it was a fascinating case all the same. So nice that someone was enjoying this.

I MADE another call. Digging through the log for the last show, I found the phone number for Charles from Shreveport, the guy who claimed that Franklin caused Hurricane Katrina, and who seemed to have a personal grudge against the guy.

The phone rang, until someone answered—a man, but not Charles’s voice. “Hello?”

“Hi, I’m looking for Charles?” I said, scribbling on the margins of my notebook paper. I was hoping to have some notes to take.

“Charles Beauregard?” the voice said.

“I think so.”

“You’re not a friend or relative?”

I stopped doodling and straightened. That didn’t sound good. “No—has something happened?”

“May I ask who you are and why you’re calling?” The formal, official tone to the voice made sense now—this wasn’t a roommate or friend. This was someone with authority who just happened to pick up the phone.

Since I couldn’t come up with a slick and plausible story fast enough, I had only one alternative. “My name is Kitty Norville, and I host a talk radio show. Charles called in to the show last week with a pretty wild story and I wanted to follow up.”

“Ms. Norville, I’m a medical examiner here. Charles Beauregard was killed at his home over the weekend.”

Coincidence, right? Because if you ruled out coincidence, the world became a tangled web of conspiracy. I spoke carefully. “I’m really sorry to hear that. May I ask how he died?”

“He was struck by lightning.”

That seemed pretty clear cut. Weird, but clear cut. Except for the panic tapping in the back of my brain.

“Is there anything else I can help you with?” the medical examiner asked.

“No. I guess not. Thanks for your help.”

So much for Charles from Shreveport. I wondered if I should add a mark to my map—this would have fit right in with the story he’d told me.

Next I called Cormac. It might have been to simply revel in the fact that I could call him, to get his advice when something weird happened. For the last couple of years, if I wanted to get his advice I had to drive a hundred-plus miles to CañonCity, sit in a sparse, stinking concrete visiting room, and talk to him through glass.

His phone rang and rang, which was normal. Or at least, had been normal. At last, he answered.

“Hey,” he said, sounding rushed, like he’d just come in from outside or had been boiling water on the stove.

“Hey,” I said. “Is this a bad time?”

“No. What’s going on?”

“I’ve got some new info on the Speedy Mart case—Harold Franklin’s in town.”

“What’s he doing here?”

“Coming to see me and offer a deal to drop the lawsuit.”

He made a noise of surprise. “Can he do that? What kind of deal?”

“He wants me to apologize on the air,” I said. “I didn’t go for it; lawsuit’s still on. He may have been trying to bait me.”

“Look you in the eye, laugh in your face, that kind of thing?” he said.

“Almost his exact words.”

“Classy,” he said with a grunt. “We gotta be able to find something on this guy. There’s more to this than a libel suit.”

“That’s what I keep thinking. There’s something else—I tried to call the guy who called in to the show. The one who blamed Katrina on Franklin? To find out where he got his info.”

“What did he say?”

“Nothing—he was struck by lightning and killed over the weekend.”

“That’s a hell of a coincidence.”

“Either that or Franklin can summon lightning strikes to kill people.”

“Don’t get ahead of yourself,” he said. “I’ve got a lot more stones to turn before we start admitting that this guy can control the weather.”

“So Charles from Shreveport was right?” I said, a little too shrilly.

“I didn’t say that,” Cormac said.

“And what does he want with me? I’d probably never have mentioned him on the show again if he hadn’t sued me.”

“That’s the real question, isn’t it?” Cormac said. He sounded so calm, like this was the plot of a movie we were discussing, rather than my very-real legal troubles. If he’d been standing in front of me, I’d want to shake him. And he’d stand there and take it, calmly.

He continued, “Any idea where Franklin is staying?”

“No. He came to the KNOB offices.”

“Okay. I’ll track him down.”

“Thanks. And don’t get in any trouble, okay?”

He’d already hung up. But Cormac didn’t need me to tell him not to get in trouble, right?

Chapter 8

AT LEAST this time I was in the same room with the rogue wolves. It felt like progress, except that only Tyler and Walters faced me. Vanderman was still in custody at FortCarson and was pretty much skunked. Now we just had to move past that.

The room had been transformed into what I was coming to think of as the NIH special: a cell with silver-flecked paint and probably lots of special features I didn’t know about—like that siren. A cell for werewolves, cut off from the rest of the hospital. They didn’t even have a window. Instead of watching them through Plexiglas, Shumacher monitored them on a closed-circuit TV system. These guys probably wondered if they were ever going to get to live in a house again. At least they had furniture now: a pair of cots, one plain plastic table and a set of plain plastic chairs, and even a TV mounted on the wall.

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