Kitty Rocks the House Page 5

“Seems a bit like putting your finger in the hole in the dike and hoping.”

“Yeah,” I said.

* * *

BEN WAS working when I got home. His briefcase was open on the floor beside him, papers spread out on his desk in the corner of the living room. He was a law firm of one, a criminal defense attorney, and a few of his clients were prone to calling him from jail late at night.

“Well?” Ben said, turning away from his desk when I shut the door behind me.

“That was interesting,” I said. He raised a brow. I supposed I could have been a little more specific. “I like Nasser. He’s creepy, but he seems sensible. For a vampire.”

“I suppose that’s encouraging,” Ben said, his tone neutral.

“You could have gone to meet him.”

He nodded at the briefcase. “I think I’d rather spend all night springing clients from the drunk tank. So, is there a plan? Does this guy have a way of getting at Roman?”

“I wouldn’t call it a plan. But he has his network, we have ours, and the more allies we have the stronger we are. At least that’s the theory.”

“It certainly can’t hurt. By any chance did he call you Regina Luporum?”

“I’m never going to live that down,” I said.

“I think you should embrace it. It has a nice ring to it.” He was grinning.

“In fact, Nasser implied that I was too young and inexperienced to get much of anything done. He offered to send bodyguards. Of course, he implied the same about Rick so I’m thinking he treats everyone like that.”

“And that’s another reason it’s a good thing I didn’t go.” He reached out a hand, and I moved forward to take it, letting him pull me close, wrapping his arms around me. His warmth, the pressure of his embrace, chased away some of the night’s tension. Better to leave Nasser, Roman, the Long Game, Regina Luporum, and all of it, outside.

“Please tell me you’re done working for the night,” I said, leaning in to kiss his scalp.

“I am now,” he said.

“Good.”

Chapter 3

FRIDAY NIGHT saw me where most Friday nights saw me: at the KNOB main studio, in front of the monitor and microphone, watching for the next entertaining morsel.

“Welcome back to The Midnight Hour. I’m going to take the next call, now. Diane from Eugene, you’re on the air.”

She came on breathless, exhausted. “Hi, Kitty, thanks so much for taking my call, you have no idea how much it means.”

“You’re welcome, Diane. What’s your problem?”

“It’s my husband. I think—I think he’s a zombie.”

I smiled. “Believe it or not, I get this one a lot. Can you describe his behavior? Why do you think he’s a zombie?”

She huffed. “He doesn’t do anything! He sits on the sofa all day watching TV and that’s it.”

Leaning into the mike, I said, “I’m not sure that makes him a zombie. Lazy, but not zombie, you know?”

“But he doesn’t even get up for meals. If I put a sandwich in his hand he’ll eat it. He shuffles to the bathroom a couple of times a day. But ask him to come to the table? Take out the trash? Wash the car? It’s like I’m not even here.”

Oh, to have a secret video feed into her world. Radio was a challenge, because the only information I had to go on was what she told me and the tone and quality of her voice. She sounded desperate, and the details could have meant anything. I had to dig.

“How long has this been going on? Did you notice anything strange about him around the time it started? Did he have contact with anyone you don’t know?”

“He works in construction. Or he used to. He could have been in contact with anyone. He just came home one day, sat down on the sofa, and that was it. That was a month ago. He’s lost his job, and I can’t go on like this.”

“What exactly are his symptoms? Can he move? Do his eyes focus? Does he say anything or just make noises, or nothing at all?”

“His skin’s kind of clammy. He smells kind of rank. And he doesn’t do anything. That’s why I figured he must be a zombie.”

“Or he hasn’t taken a shower in a month. The reason I’m asking all this is because I encountered a zombie once, and it’s … well, it’s a form of poisoning, may be the best way to describe it. It damages neurological function. If he really is a zombie, I think it would be more obvious.”

“What do you mean if?”

“Because zombies don’t just sit there. They’re enslaved to someone, and they’re compelled to follow that person, or search for the supernatural element that binds them to their captor. So I’m thinking something else is going on—not that it’s not a problem, mind you. But this may be more … how do I put this? Psychological rather than supernatural.” I tried to find a way to soften how this sounded. “Has your husband ever been diagnosed with depression? Have you considered that he may need help? I mean, more help than a late-night radio talk show can offer.”

“Wait a minute—you think he may just be depressed?”

I winced. “I don’t think there’s any just about it. I tell you what—either way, this is a medical issue. You should really call a doctor.” I didn’t wait for her response, because I wasn’t qualified to diagnose a case of depression over the radio or anywhere else, and I didn’t want her trying to argue with me about whether or not he needed real help. I hoped she listened to me. Really, though, all I could do was switch to a different line. “Next caller, you’re on the air.”

Ozzie, station manager and producer of the show, sat in a corner of the studio beaming at me. He was an aging hippy, complete with thin gray ponytail and a lot of attitude. I tried to ignore him, forcing the frown off my face. He’d decided to sit in on the show tonight, to “observe” as he’d put it. He’d done that a lot over the last few months, in an effort to keep me in line. Making sure I didn’t climb on any conspiracy soapbox regarding vampires taking over the world. I’d tried that, and had lost some credibility—and market share. Ozzie wanted that market share back. Stick to what I knew, he insisted: human interest, fluffy features, sensationalist advice. “That’s always been the meat of your show. Your bread and butter,” he’d say. I’d tell him to stop mixing metaphors because it was giving me a headache.

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