Книга Whiplash. Содержание - 5

He was a tall man, slender and fit, and had celebrated his sixty-eighth birthday two months earlier. His eyes, a bit slanted at the corners, were a foggy gray, intense eyes that bespoke power, the doling out of favors as well as punishments. He imagined Hoffman looked quite natural and in complete control of his world in that big executive chair before this happened. But today, this morning, he looked bone weary, a man on the edge. He couldn't keep his hands still.

Savich rose. "I'd like to see your bedroom."


As the three of them walked up the wide oak staircase, Savich said, "Have you told anyone about our coming to see you this morning, Senator?"

Hoffman shook his head. "I told Corlie I had a meeting with some friends at the house. I said nothing to anyone else. I suppose Director Mueller knows, since I spoke to him about you, but that's it."

Savich nodded. "I'm relieved you haven't been intimidated, Senator, that you refuse to be frightened out of your own bedroom, because I very much want you to sleep in your own bed tonight."

"I was thinking you and Agent Sherlock would want to sleep in my bedroom."

"No, we'll be in the backyard. We're going to try to come in unseen. Do you have any staff living in?"

"No. The housekeeper, Mrs. Romano, and the cook, Mrs. Hatfield, both leave at five unless I'm entertaining, then they stay."

"Be sure they don't know anyone will be coming tonight, all right?"

Senator Hoffman nodded.

The master bedroom looked like a monk's cell, big, white, stark, and sparsely furnished. Too much empty space, Sherlock thought as she ran her fingers over the black leather easy chair in the sitting area, which was dominated by a television large enough to service a small theater. The king-size bed had a simple dark blue coverlet over it, no pillows or accessories of any kind. There was a large plain dresser, and one additional chair, perhaps used by the senator when he put on his shoes in the morning. There wasn't a single painting on the stark white walls, not a single knickknack in view except for a beautiful, very feminine jewelry box on top of the dresser. She watched Dillon walk over to the windows, and brought the senator's attention back to her. "The jewelry box, sir, was it your wife's?"

He started to say yes, then swallowed and simply nodded. Dreadful pain there still, it hadn't faded, even after three years. When she'd first met Dillon and someone would mention his deceased father, Buck Savich, she remembered the same flash of pain in his eyes. She wanted to tell him it would fade into soft memories, as hers had with her sister Belinda. She asked, "How long were you married, Senator?"

"Thirty-nine years. Her name was Nikki. She was only sixty-one when she died. She promised me she'd make her birthday, and she did, barely. But you know this already, Agent Sherlock. The director told me the two of you never went into anything blind if you had a choice. And, yes, I've heard of MAX, Savich's laptop that he's programmed to do pretty much everything but call the Redskins' games. I'll bet if I wore toenail polish, you'd know the color and the brand."

"I'm very glad that you don't," she said, and smiled up at him. Again he looked at her hair and his breathing hitched. She lightly laid her fingertips on his forearm, offering, she hoped, some hope and comfort.

He wasn't big and muscular like Dillon, but she'd bet he was stronger than he looked, this aristocratic man who was older than her father, a federal judge who still terrorized defense attorneys. He seemed both very human and infinitely sane. She liked him.

When Dillon came away from the window, he smiled at her and nodded toward the door. "We're done here, Senator."

"Did you see anything, Agent Savich?"

"A very nice backyard, Senator. The woods, how far back do they go?"

"They're not that deep. The brick wall continues all the way around the property. There are two gates, one in the front and a smaller one in the back for the garbage people and repair people who come in on a narrow access road running alongside it."

A perfect place, Sherlock thought, drive right in, and pull out your gate key-oh, yes, whoever was behind this had a gate key-and set up this elaborate gaslight charade. She gave the senator's bedroom one last look. She realized now what he'd done. All the bareness, all the absence of any mementoes of their life, except for his wife's jewelry box, he'd simply moved everything out, and not replaced it with anything of himself. After three years, it was still too soon.

Sherlock and Savich stopped a moment on the wide front veranda of the colonial mansion and enjoyed the morning sun shining down on the colorful flowerbeds lining the front of the house. It was early September and the trees were still full and lush.

Sherlock asked him, "Sir, are you seeing anyone socially?"

He looked startled, and then she saw a tightening around his mouth. "Not really," he said, again looking at her hair. "Well, yes, occasionally, I see Janine Koffer, she's Lane Koffer's widow, you know, the former secretary of state? He died two years ago. Prostate cancer."

He slept with her, Savich thought, and it made sense. Washington, he'd learned over the years, was a very lonely place, despite the scores of young people bursting its seams with their undisciplined boundless energy, their still unfocused ambitions. If you were smart, you took your comfort where it wouldn't come back to bite you in the butt.

Savich and Sherlock shook Hoffman's hand. "Please do what you normally do, Senator," Savich said, "and remember, don't breathe a word of our coming tonight to anyone, Corliss Rydle, your cook, Mrs. Koffer, anyone."

"All right. When will you come tonight?"

Savich shook his hand. "I'd just as soon you didn't know any more than you do now, sir. But we'll be here."

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