Kitty and the Silver Bullet Page 18

"Not even any guesses?"

I interrupted. "I do have to wonder if coming out as a vampire will be the next cool thing. I'll let you know if I hear anything. Next caller, hello."

"Ms. Cook, I've been a fan of yours for ages. You must have such a unique perspective. How has musical theater changed over the course of your career? You've seen the whole history of it. You could probably write a book."

"What an interesting idea, maybe I will."

I had a lot more musical theater fans among my audience than I would have expected, and I was thrilled to no end that they asked intelligent questions. Mercedes never seemed bored. A few numbskulls called in demanding to know how to become vampires. Mercedes politely used my line—that this wasn't a lifestyle she advocated. We were here to talk about problems and issues, not to advertise. The whole thing managed to stay pretty light—right up until the end.

"All right, I think we've got time for one or two more. Next caller, hello."

The caller had a low male voice, like he was speaking close to the phone and didn't want to be overheard. "Mercedes. I can't help but wonder what you get out of this revelation. I know vampires, and I know you—at least by reputation. And everything you do has a purpose."

It hadn't occurred to me until that moment that her reputation among vampires might be as something other than a great Broadway actress.

I said, "You seem to be talking about a different Mercedes Cook from the one sitting with me in the studio."

"Perhaps I am. Remember, she didn't start out as the person with you now. She's probably reinvented herself a dozen times over the decades."

"And you know this how?"

The line clicked off.

Mercedes and I exchanged a glance—she artfully arched her brow, shrugged a little, as if to say she didn't have any idea what that was all about.

"We're back to the age question," I said. "You're still not going to tell me, are you?"

"No, I'm afraid not."

"To that mystery caller, I'd like to say, I can see exactly what Mercedes gets out of revealing her nature. It's the same thing I got. A lot of crazy publicity."

Putting a purr in her voice she added, "And maybe I thought it was time vampirism had as pretty a public face as the one Kitty's given lycanthropy."

I blushed. That kind of compliment could keep me going for weeks. "It looks like that's all the time we have tonight, folks. Thank you to everyone who called in with your great questions, and a very big thanks to you, Mercedes."

"You're very welcome, Kitty."

"Good luck with the new direction in your career. Until next week, I'm Kitty Norville, voice of the night."

After the interview, Mercedes signed a CD for the intern and shook hands with Matt. I walked her down to the lobby myself. I hated for the evening to end. I wasn't an actress or musician like Mercedes, but I knew about the rush of being "on" for a couple of hours and trying to come down from that high of giving a good show. I felt like running around the block a few times.

Instead, I gushed at her. "Thanks so much. I think that was one of my best interviews ever."

"Mine, too," she said. "It's hard to believe it's over. Cat's out of the bag, as they say. I hardly know what to do with myself."

"I know exactly what you mean."

She graced me with that brilliant smile. "I'm staying on in Denver a few more days. Come have a drink with me tomorrow evening at the Brown Palace. Bring that nice gentleman of yours."

"Are you talking a drink at the bar, or something else?" Always double-check what a drink meant when vampires were involved.

She laughed. "Figure of speech. The drinking will be conventional."

The Brown Palace—fanciest digs in Denver. When else was I going to have an excuse to hang out there for an evening? Not to mention, I wanted to learn as much as I could from Mercedes while I had the chance. The interview had been good, but there was always more. Like that age thing, for starters.

"Great. We'll be there," I said.

"Wonderful. Ask at the desk, they'll send you up to my suite. I'll tell them you're coming."

"Cool. Thanks."

We went outside into the quiet dark of a late, late night. Mercedes paused and took in a breath of the chill air. This was her element, and she smiled, seeming to revel in it. A career as a Broadway star was perfect for her; I imagined her leaving through the stage door and taking a breath like that after every show. Not for the oxygen, but for the atmosphere—the smells, the sharpness of it.

Her limo was waiting. I didn't think a limo had ever been on this street before. Seeing it here was surreal. The chauffeur opened the door, and she waved at me as she climbed inside.

Basking in the glow of sweet success, I watched her drive away.

The next day, Ben went to Canon City to check on Cormac. The trip would take most of the day, but he assured me he'd be back in time for drinks at the Brown Palace. He might get down with this whole dating thing yet.

I called Hardin. Now that the news had broken, I could explain that yes, vampires did show up on film: Mercedes had appeared in thousands of publicity photos over the course of her career, as well as a dozen video recordings of her performances in various musicals. And she'd certainly appeared in her dressing-room mirror. Hardin didn't sound particularly pleased when I told her. Apparently, she'd been looking forward to pinning this on one of the undead. "I have a dream," she told me, "of someday watching someone be given a hundred-plus-year prison sentence and actually being able to serve out the whole damn thing." Her passion on the subject was almost admirable. Frightening, but admirable.

After that, I fielded calls and answered messages. Mercedes wasn't giving any interviews today, so I was the next best thing, and lots of reporters from most of the major papers and news magazines wanted to talk to me about last night's show: How had I learned about the actress's vampirism, what impact did I think the revelation was going to have on her career, and so on. I was happy my show could still generate some buzz. I even managed to work in some plugs for my own forthcoming book. Publicity was a wonderful thing.

Then I went to Cheryl's for lunch with her and Mom. Girls day in, Cheryl called it.

I was late. She'd moved right before I left Denver and I hadn't been to the new place yet. I made a couple of wrong turns. The place was in Highlands Ranch, pretty swank to my eyes. Then again, I'd spent most of my adult life in one-room apartments and wasn't really one to judge. Cute tract housing, a bit too pastel a shade of blue. The trees were all new, thin, and tied down with wires.

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