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Книга Whiplash. Содержание - 26

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"When he brought their plates, Mr. Graves said he accidentally placed the shrimp plate in front of the senator, only to be reminded that Ms. Frobisher had ordered it. He said he remembered thinking that it was a forgivable mistake on his part, since he was used to serving it to the senator, and usually it was the ladies who ordered small salads."

Savich said, "Okay. Ruth, I'd really like to speak to Mr. Graves myself."

Ollie gave him a big grin. "Ruth and I figured you would. He's in the conference room with Lucy."

When Savich walked down the hall into the conference room, he saw Agent Lucy Carlisle sitting beside an older man who was squeezing the life out of a Coke can. He was long in the torso, thin as a plasma TV, and was trying to grow a beard that had, so far, produced only patches of hair on his chin and cheeks. Lucy looked up, smiled at Savich. "Ollie said you'd be here in twelve minutes. Ruth said ten. She was right." She turned. "Mr. Graves, this is Special Agent Dillon Savich, my boss. He'd like to speak to you."

Mr. Graves raised tired eyes to Savich. Savich saw his right eye twitch. He'd finally crushed the Coke can, and now he was tapping it up and down on the tabletop. The man was a mess.

Savich sat across from him. "Mr. Graves, I appreciate your waiting for me." He shook the man's hand, wishing he could calm him. "I'm Agent Dillon Savich. Now, I know this must be very difficult for you, a huge shock. I know you've probably told what happened at least a half-dozen times by now, but I hope you would tell me. Please go slowly, all right?"

". . . When I first saw it, the shrimp plate was under the warming lights, the table number and order tucked beneath it. The Cobb salad sat beside it, not under the warming lights. You never put salads under the warming lights." Mr. Graves blinked, cleared his throat. "I took both plates to Senator Hoffman's table and automatically put the fried shrimp plate in front of Senator Hoffman. He laughed, told me not today, he had to lose an inch, but the lady was fit as a fiddle and so it was for her enjoyment today. I was embarrassed, I'll admit it. To make a mistake like that with Senator Hoffman, but as I said, he only laughed, wasn't put out or anything, not that he ever is. He's been coming to the Foggy Bottom Grill for maybe ten years now, once a week, like clockwork, and he always orders that shrimp plate-" He looked at Savich and his eye twitched again. "That poor woman, it was horrible, Agent Savich. One of the busboys pulled my arm, and I looked up to see her holding her throat. I remember thinking she looked more confused than anything, like she didn't know what was happening to her. It was so fast, it's hard to remember, but then she toppled off her chair and onto the floor and she was vomiting and writhing and then she just seemed to freeze. White foam was pouring out of her mouth, I can see it so clearly, that white foam just gushing out of her mouth, so much of it, then she lay there perfectly still, and I just knew she was dead.

"Senator Hoffman was with her, talking to her, trying to find out what was wrong, shaking her, but it didn't do any good. She was gone. It was horrible."

Mr. Graves put his head on his folded arms on the table. His shoulders were shaking. Lucy reached over and patted him.

Suddenly Mr. Graves raised his face, now white and drawn, his eye twitching again. "What if Senator Hoffman had ordered the shrimp? What if I'd given him the plate? He would have died." He stopped cold, as if appalled at what he'd said. "It didn't matter, did it? No matter where I put the plate, one of them would have died."

"I know, sir. Mr. Graves, do you have any idea how the poison got into the shrimp batter? Are there any new employees?"

"Yes, I already told Agent Hamish. There are a couple of young kids working in the kitchen, busing, washing dishes, that sort of thing. It's a low-paying job, but enough to give high school kids walking-around money. All the waitstaff, we've been there for years. It's a good job, and we have our own clientele, really, who come in and ask for us specifically."

"I want you to think back, Mr. Graves. Picture the kitchen in your mind after you placed Senator Hoffman's lunch order. That's right, think about it. Just relax. Now, tell me what you see."

Mr. Graves said slowly, "I see Gomez, he's one of the sous chefs, a real mean little pisser, chewing out one of the new kids because he dropped a pan of sautéed mushrooms on the floor. There's lots of commotion because the mushrooms were going on the filet mignon Senator Reinwald had ordered. The chef's screaming for quiet, the dishes are getting scrambled around, everyone's on edge." He paused a moment, then shook his head, opened his eyes. "I'm sorry, Agent Savich, but I really can't recall anything else. Just the chaos. Do you think those mushrooms were spilled on purpose? The kid said someone bumped him, he didn't see who, so it wasn't his fault. You think that person could have slipped into the kitchen and put the arsenic in the shrimp batter?" He closed his eyes again.

"Who normally prepares the shrimp batter?"

"One of the sous chefs, always. The chef himself sometimes. Today? I honestly don't remember."

"Thank you, Mr. Graves," Savich said, and put his hand on his shoulder. "I know this is very hard for you. You've been a great help."



Wednesday afternoon

At two o'clock, Sherlock and Erin pulled into the Royals' impressive tree-lined circular driveway on Maple Lawn Drive. Sherlock knew Caskie Royal was at the office, probably being worked over by the Schiffer Hartwin lawyers trying to ensure he stayed with the program and kept his mouth shut.

The house was a huge white Colonial, at least eight thousand square feet with a four-car garage, its newly painted white doors glistening in the September sun. The grounds were beautifully groomed with thick full bushes and well-spaced maples and oaks.

There was a new black Audi coupe in the driveway, a motorcycle beside it, and a bicycle propped against the garage.

Sherlock knew Erin was psyched, nearly jumping out of her skin, but trying hard not to show it. She'd called Erin a short time after Dillon had left for Washington and asked if she'd like to come with her to interview Mrs. Royal, saying it might help to have another woman with her, even if it was official FBI business. The truth was that in her gut Sherlock knew there was something going on with Erin, something she didn't understand yet, something Erin knew and she didn't. Her interest in this whole case seemed excessive. Sherlock wanted to find out more about Erin Pulaski, P.I. And what better way than to invite her along to interview Mrs. Royal? She hadn't told Bowie.

Erin said, "You're sure Mr. Royal isn't here?"

Sherlock pulled the key out of the Pontiac's ignition. "Nope, Caskie's at the office, either being pounded by the Schiffer Hartwin lawyers or huddled with Ms. Carla Alvarez, or all of the above. Nice spread, isn't it?"

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