Kitty and the Silver Bullet Page 17

I greeted her and introduced her to Matt, then showed her to her seat. The intern scampered into the booth to watch. Even Matt seemed a little awestruck.

"Here's your headphones, your mike—" She adjusted the mike herself and threw me an amused glance—she'd done this before after all. She could take care of herself.

"Thirty seconds, Kitty," Matt called from the booth.

"You ready for this?" I said to the singer. I for one was thrilled. This was the same studio where I'd announced on the air, for the whole country to hear, that I was a werewolf. This was perfect. Kismet.

"More than ready," Mercedes said, seeming just as excited as I felt. She perched at the edge of her seat, leaning on the armrest. I couldn't tell if her poise came from her being a supernaturally self-possessed vampire, or a world-class performer. She blurred the lines.

"Then here we go." Matt counted down, and routine took over. The opening chords of CCR's "Bad Moon Rising" played, but faded quickly to be replaced by a recording of Mercedes Cook singing Cole Porter.

"Good evening, faithful listeners, this is Kitty Norville here with The Midnight Hour, the show that isn't afraid of the dark or the creatures who live there. Tonight I have a very special guest with me, someone who in her own way is well acquainted with the night, Broadway legend Mercedes Cook. She's been a leading lady on the Great White Way for forty years now and shows no signs of slowing down. Mercedes, welcome."

"Thank you, Kitty. I'm happy to be here." We'd agreed beforehand not to mess around, just get straight to the purpose of her being here, then deal with the fallout. Away we went.

"Mercedes, I've had a lot of people asking me why I invited you onto the show. Of course I have a huge respect for Broadway theater, but musicals aren't my usual topic of discussion. Would you like to tell our listeners why you're here?"

"Well, it's because I'm a vampire. I thought it was time people knew that."

Straight to the point, calm and collected—of course she was, she was a professional actress. I had goose bumps. Through the booth window, Matt was shaking his head, with an expression like he was whistling low. The intern's jaw had dropped.

"All right," I said. "Remember, folks, you heard it here first. I might as well ask the two questions everyone wants to know about vampires: First, how old are you?"

"Oh, don't you know it isn't polite to ask a girl her age?"

"That never stops me. Not even a little hint?"

"What if I said I got my start in vaudeville?" Ha! I'd guessed right!

"Oh, that would be cool. Now that you're out of the vampire closet, any chance you'll release some photos? Let us know what acts you were part of? Any secret recordings folks can dig out of their attics?"

"I don't know, I never really thought about it. I ought to see what I can come up with. Now, you said there were two questions. What's the other?"

"How did you become a vampire?"

She got this sly look, and the expression carried into the tone of her voice. She knew how to be cagey and charming at the same time. "That's almost as bad as the first."

"Did you choose to become a vampire?"

"Yes, I did."

"Did you do it for your career? Did you want to stay young for the sake of your career?"

"Not precisely. It was more complicated than that—these things always are, aren't they? I wouldn't want any young actress listening to think that vampirism is a viable way to boost her career. In the end, there are a lot of drawbacks. I remember when I was asked to sing in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, and I couldn't explain why I had to say no. I've made vampirism work for me because I wanted it to."

"Along those lines, you have what I'm sure lots of actresses wish they could have—eternal youth. But do you ever regret that you won't get to play some of the great roles for older women, like in Hello, Dolly! or Arsenic and Old Lace?"

"That's exactly one of the drawbacks. I do regret it sometimes. It would be ironic if I ever decided to try for a part like that and had to wear a ton of makeup to look old."

A vampire with a sense of humor. I loved it.

"What do you think will happen to your career now? Now that you've said you're a vampire, how will things change?"

Mercedes said, "I'm taking a risk. I'm gambling that my reputation as an actress and singer will outweigh my identity as a vampire. It's a test, really."

"Are you also maybe betting that audiences will want to come see you because you're a vampire?"

"Maybe," she said.

"Has being a vampire helped you in other ways? You'll stay young-looking, but what about stage presence? Your ability to connect with an audience? I saw your show, and I have to say it was almost supernatural."

"Thank you, I think. But you're talking about the powers vampires are reported to have. The mind control, that sort of thing." She said it wryly, like it was a joke, an urban legend that had no basis in reality.

"That's right."

"I was an actress and singer before I became a vampire. I really hope my talent is my own."

That didn't really answer the question, which shouldn't have surprised me. "Well, Mercedes, are you ready to talk to a few listeners?"

"Sure, that sounds like fun."

The board was all lit up—like the lights of Broadway. Ha.

"Hello, Frankie, you're on the air. What would you like to ask Ms. Cook?"

"Oh, my God, I knew it! I just knew it! You had to be a vampire, you haven't changed a bit in forty years."

"You've been a fan for a long time, then?" Mercedes said, a laugh behind her voice.

"No—I mean, I haven't even been alive that long!"

I butted in. "Wow, Frankie, you really know how to make a girl feel special."

"You know what I mean. What I really want to say—it was only a matter of time, with so many actors and actresses these days who seem ageless. It can't all be plastic surgery. I want to ask Mercedes if she knows any other celebrities who might be vampires."

"It's not my place to reveal such information. I'd certainly have hated it if anyone else revealed my nature before I was ready."

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