SENATOR FREDERICK WALLACE of South Carolina rose at dawn from the bed in the lakeside cabin that he had shared with his African-American lover for more than twenty years. He went into the bathroom and relieved himself noisily. His lover, Elizabeth Johnson, liked to sleep later than he.
Freddie and Elizabeth had produced two sons early in their relationship, both of whom were enrolled in Ivy League universities. Freddie’s wife, Betty Ann, disliked coming back to Chester, their putative home, preferring the social life and shopping of Washington, D.C., which made it easy for Freddie to make weekend trips back to South Carolina, ostensibly for constituent services. He did a bit of that, of course, but mostly he and Elizabeth did each other. It was the only completely satisfying sexual relationship of his entire life, and he cherished it above everything else in his existence, except his status as a conservative Republican U.S. senator. Since he was a politician, the hypocrisy of his position weighed lightly upon him. Once, a couple of years before, someone had found out and had tried to expose the relationship, but Freddie had, by a previous plan with Elizabeth, denied everything and fought the rumor to a standstill. He had been unable to see her for three months, and that had hurt him badly.
TED, who had been sitting in the trees for more than an hour before first light, caught sight of the senator through the leaves, as he apparently relieved, then weighed himself in the bathroom. He didn’t like the sight line-too many branches in the way-so he bided his time.
FREDDIE WALLACE tied his robe around him and walked into the kitchen. Since Elizabeth slept later, he always made his own breakfast. First, though, he attended to a little ritual that had been suggested to him by Harry Truman, a president whom he would not admit admiring. He went to a kitchen cupboard and removed a bottle containing an amber liquid, with a hand-printed label. It was a private-batch bourbon, 100 proof, that an old friend kept him supplied with, as many old friends kept Freddie supplied with many things, from suits to Cadillacs. He had once, in a reflective moment, calculated that if the value of all the gifts he received each year was made known to the Internal Revenue Service, the resulting income tax would exceed his income as a U.S. senator.
TED HAD HIM in the kitchen, now, and the line was good. He moved the tripod a couple of feet to his left, and sat down, cross-legged, behind it, tightening the mount adjustment and bringing The barrel to bear on the kitchen window. He had, on a previous visit, measured the distance from his present position to the center of the house, which came to three hundred and four yards, give or take, and he had already sighted in the weapon for that distance. The appearance of the rifle, which he had made himself, would have puzzled even an experienced shooter, since the weapon was bereft of any material that did not contribute to its accuracy-no walnut stock, just an aluminum rod; no trigger guard; no visible bolt. The long, fat flash suppressor and silencer would have seemed totally out of place; only the large, light-gathering telescopic sight would be familiar. Ted loaded a single,.22-caliber, long-rifle cartridge into the chamber and closed it, then took his first sight through the scope.
FREDDIE WALLACE poured himself a jigger of the superb bourbon, then recorked the bottle and put it away. He tossed down the ounce and a half of spirits, waiting for it to hit bottom before he moved.
THE TARGET STOOD absolutely still for just a moment, and Ted, almost casually, squeezed off the round. The only sounds were the
ELIZABETH JOHNSON was turning over in her sleep when she heard the noise. It was one she had heard only once before, but she had imagined it many times, the sound of a male body hitting the floor. Given the state of Frederick Wallace’s health, she had been expecting it.
She got out of bed, picked up her robe, and walked toward the kitchen with some trepidation. “Freddie?” she called, but there was no answer. She continued into the kitchen and saw him lying there. It was not until she came near the body that she saw the hole in the temple and the blood and gore that the exiting bullet had taken with it “Oh, shit, Freddie,”“ she said, then she ducked down below window level and checked his pulse. There was none.
TED PICKED UP the rifle, with its tripod still connected, and walked off into the woods. When the house had vanished behind him, he changed directions by sixty degrees, walked another five minutes, then switched back, avoiding any bare dirt or branches he might break along the way. After twenty minutes of walking, he could hear the traffic on the highway, and he approached the spot where he had left his other things. He knelt in the leaves, spread out a piece of army blanket, unscrewed the rifle from its tripod, removed the scope and the silencer, and packed everything into a camera bag and two fishing-rod tubes. He got out of his camouflage jacket, stuffed it into a backpack, and donned his tweed jacket and matching hat.
He peeked through the underbrush at the traffic, waited until there was a lull, then ambled to his RV, parked in a little roadside rest area. He unlocked the cabin door, hid the camera bag and tubes in the places he had designed for them, got behind the wheel, and drove away at a moderate pace, not anxious to attract attention.
A few miles down the road, he parked in the lot of a fast-food restaurant, went to his laptop computer, adjusted the dish on the roof for contact with the satellite, logged online, using a program that took him through six portals before finally connecting, and went to Microsoft Front Page. He made some changes in the website, then logged off and went into the restaurant for a big breakfast.
ELIZABETH JOHNSON had gone through the house carefully, packing anything that might be linked to her into two large suitcases.
She and Freddie had talked about this more than once, and his instructions had been explicit. She got the bags into the trunk of her car, then went back into the cabin and made another search for anything of hers. Finally, she went back into the kitchen, knelt next to the body, bent over, and kissed it lightly on the lips. “Goodbye, my sweetheart,” she said, then she left the house with tears streaming down her cheeks and drove away.
When she was back in Chester, she pulled over, took out the cell phone that Freddie had given her, and dialed the sheriff’s home number.
“Hello?” he said.
“Tom, you know who this is?”
“Yep, I do,” he replied.
“You better get out to the cabin. Somebody shot him in the head about half an hour ago.”
There was a stunned silence. “Was it you?” he asked finally.
“I was in bed asleep. I heard him fall.”
“Anybody know you was there?”
“No, and I cleared out everything of mine. I’m on my way home.”
“Don’t you talk to nobody about this, you hear? I’ll let you know what I find out after I find it out.”
“Goodbye.” She hung up, started the car, and drove to her little house. She went inside, lay down on the bed, and let herself cry some more.