Kitty Goes to War Page 4

Ben was still getting used to being werewolf. He was good at overanalyzing the situation, which I found endearing. Even in the dark, I could make out his form and features: his lean frame, handsome face, shadowed eyes that would be hazel in the light, and scruffy hair sticking out, begging me to comb it with my fingers. So I did. That pulled him close to me, and we kissed, his warm mouth lighting my nerves. Lingering tension melted away, and I pressed my naked self to his naked self. He pulled me under the covers, and sufficiently distracted, I felt much better.

MONDAY, BACK at the office, I spread the map from the show across my desk. I’d marked a dozen spots, locations where people had told me intriguing stories about Speedy Mart. The marks were spread all over the country, in no discernable pattern. So much for that idea. I was about ready to pass it all off as some statistical anomaly—it wasn’t that crazy stuff only happened at a Speedy Mart, it was just that no one talked about it when it happened anywhere else.

I was still pondering when I got a call. “Hi, Kitty? This is Lisa down in reception, I’ve got a letter here that you need to sign for.”

“Really? Okay, I’ll be right down.” Now this was exciting. I wasn’t expecting anything fancy. Certainly nothing I needed to sign for.

I went down the hallway from my office, and down the stairs to the lobby of the KNOB building, where a reception desk against the back wall faced the glass front doors. Lisa, a prim, professional twenty-something, was standing with a delivery guy. He looked to be from a courier service rather than from the postal service or one of the big parcel companies. He wore a jacket with a company logo, but a plain shirt and slacks rather than a uniform. They both looked up at my approach.

“Are you Katherine Norville?” the guy said. He held an nine-by-twelve manila envelope and a clipboard.

“Yeah.”

“Could you sign here?” He pointed to the line of the form on the clipboard, showing that, yes, I did receive the envelope in question. Then he handed me the envelope.

“Have a nice day,” he said, with kind of a leering smile, then sauntered out of the building.

“What is it?” Lisa said. “You expecting anything cool?”

“Not a thing.” I’d started to have kind of a bad feeling about this. The envelope wasn’t all that thick; it probably had some kind of document in it. Something official and important, no doubt, to be delivered by private courier. I opened it right there at the reception desk.

It was indeed a document, only a few pages thick, fairly innocuous looking. But the cover letter was printed on linen stationery and had an intimidating logo and letterhead with a string of names and “Attorneys at Law” after it. I read the text of the letter a couple of times and still wasn’t sure what exactly it said. But I got the gist of it.

“Huh,” I said. “I’m being sued for libel.”

Chapter 2

REALLY, IT was bound to happen sooner or later.

I took the document—an honest-to-God summons—to Ozzie, the station manager. I thought he’d blow a gasket, but he seemed to have the same reaction I did—confusion, colored with a tiny bit of awe. The suit was being brought against me on behalf of Harold Franklin, the president of Speedy Mart, for derogatory and damaging comments made on my program about both him and his beloved and respectable business.

“What the hell did you do?” Ozzie asked, reading the letter for the fourth or fifth time, as I had.

“Um, I did the last show on Speedy Mart and whether or not it’s at the center of a supernatural conspiracy.”

He stared at me a moment. “So this doesn’t really come as a surprise.”

“I know,” I said. “But it was so fast!”

“You must have really offended him for him to move this quick,” Ozzie said.

“Or maybe he really does have something to hide,” I said, pointing. “Maybe there really is some kind of cover-up and he’s diverting attention.”

“Kitty—”

“Okay, I know. But we just hand this off to the lawyers and they should be able to wiggle us out of it. Right?”

“I think you should go pull the recording of that show for the lawyers. And what do you mean us?”

I escaped before having to come up with an answer for him.

The thing was, Franklin had a point. If my show somehow made people afraid of going to Speedy Mart, or damaged the company’s reputation to a point where the business was negatively affected, the guy had a right to sue me. I just didn’t think I was a big enough fish for him to notice. I had a decent-sized market share, but not that decent. This seemed like an overreaction. A cease-and-desist order and maybe a request for an on-air apology seemed more appropriate. Maybe Franklin and his lawyers were just trying to scare me, and they’d ask for the apology in exchange for withdrawing the lawsuit. I wouldn’t be able to argue with that kind of deal.

While I was pulling the digital file of Friday’s broadcast and burning it to a CD for the station’s lawyer people, I called my own live-in lawyer for advice.

After our hellos, I launched right in. “Well, Mr. O’Farrell, attorney-at-law. Guess what? I’m being sued for libel.”

“Well,” Ben said. “That’s a new one even for you. Who’s suing?”

“The president of Speedy Mart.”

“Already? That was fast, you only did that show a couple of days ago.”

“I know. I’m almost impressed.”

“I suppose it was only a matter of time.”

“That’s kind of what I was thinking,” I said. “But I thought libel was when you lied about someone in print.”

“Print or broadcast media,” he answered. “It’s libel because you have a built-in audience.”

“So how do I get out of it?”

“You either prove that what you said wasn’t damaging, or that it isn’t libel because it’s true. You were pretty good about saying that you were only speculating. I wonder what argument they’re going to make.”

“You think they have a case?” I asked.

“I don’t know. This isn’t my area of expertise. A civil suit’s a long way from criminal defense. Do you think they have a case?”

I shrugged. “My instinct is that something really is going on. But I don’t have any way to prove it. I think my mistake was bringing up the president by name. Because even if something is going on, he may not have anything to do with it.”

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