36

Stone was wakened by an electronic beeping. Momentarily disoriented, he first thought he was at home in bed, then that he was back at the Hay-Adams. Then Fair rolled over on him and brought him fully awake.

She came quickly, then made it her business to see that he did, then she was out of bed and heading for the bathroom. “Go back to sleep,” she said. “I’ve got an early national security briefing, but there’s no need to roust you out of bed.”

Stone looked at the bedside clock: just after five A.M. He felt oddly rested, then it occurred to him that they had been in bed by eight-thirty the evening before. He had had a full eight hours of sleep. He heard the shower turn on.

He got out of bed, found his clothes, and got dressed. He was combing his hair, using her dressing table mirror, when he saw the lipstick. He picked it up: Pagan Spring. He opened the cap, and it seemed almost unused. So what? he thought. It seemed to be a very popular lipstick.

He went to the bathroom door, and she was getting out of the shower. “Dry my back?” she said.

Stone grabbed a towel and rubbed her down all over, enjoying the process.

“I want to do it again,” she said, “but I’m on the clock. Start the coffee, and put some muffins in the toaster oven, will you? I’ll drop you at your hotel on the way to work.”

Stone did as he was told, and by the time the coffee was ready, she was in the kitchen, standing while eating a muffin and drinking coffee. “You’re an extremely good lover,” she said.

Stone looked at her, surprised. “Thanks. So are you.”

“I haven’t had enough sex since my last relationship,” she said. “It’s the job. There’s no time to meet anyone.”

“I’m glad to have been of service,” Stone replied.

She tossed off her coffee. “Let’s go,” she said. She led him out of the apartment, and they took the elevator down to the garage, where her Prius was parked.

“I would have thought they’d send a car for you,” Stone said.

“When I’m chief of staff,” she replied, driving out of the garage. “The president doesn’t like it when staff start ordering up White House transportation without some real need. It’s easy for me to drive myself.”

She stopped just short of the portico at the Hay-Adams. “You’d better get out here. We don’t want to be seen together at this hour of the morning.” She gave him a kiss, waited until the door was closed, then drove away.

The Muffin hadn’t been enough for Stone, so he ordered a full breakfast from room service. He was already eating his eggs when Shelley came out of Dino’s room, followed shortly by Dino. They sat down. “When did you get in?” Dino asked.

“Late, but I woke up early and couldn’t get back to sleep, so I ordesred breakfast.”

“And what did the evening reveal that will aid our investigation?” Dino asked.

Stone thought about that. “As far as I’m concerned, it eliminates Fair as a suspect,” he said.

“Why is that?” Shelley asked.

“She’s too normal to have murdered three people.”

“Too normal?” Dino said. “I see murders committed all the time by people who seem normal.”

“You’ll have to trust me on this, Dino,” Stone said. “I can’t prove she didn’t do it. She worked in Senator Hart’s office and knew Milly, said she liked her. She knew Muffy Brandon, too, but didn’t like her. There’s not the slightest evidence that she could have killed either of them. She does use Pagan Spring, though. It was on her dressing table in her bedroom.”

“I checked with the drugstore chain that sells it in D.C.,” Shelley said. “They’ve sold about nineteen hundred tubes of Pagan Spring since it came out a little over two years ago.”

“Swell,” Dino said.

“Since the two women were killed, my office is taking a new interest in the Kendrick deaths.”

“Great,” Stone said. “As far as I’m concerned, you folks can take over the investigation today, and I’ll go home and practice a little law.”

“Yeah?” Dino said. “I’m starting to get interested again.”

“Who, specifically, is getting interested over at the Hoover Building?” Stone asked.

“My boss, Kerry Smith.”

“Does he think you screwed up the original investigation?”

“Let’s just say that if something comes up that contradicts our conclusions, he wants to be ready with some answers to the inevitable questions.”

Dino spoke up. “I think we need to take a deeper look at Charlotte Kirby.”

“Why?” Shelley asked.

“Because when we talked to her, she was very uptight, very defensive.”

“That’s true,” Stone said. “She seemed to recoil.”

“And we don’t have anybody else who’s recoiling,” Dino said. “So she’s my suspect, until she isn’t.”

“Agreed,” Stone said.

“I’ll pull her FBI file,” Shelley said. “Everybody who works in the White House has one. There might be something there that will help.”

“Good idea,” Stone said. “Especially since we don’t have another one.”

A copy of Charlotte Kirby’s FBI file was delivered just before lunchtime, and Dino read it first.

“Anything interesting?” Stone asked.

“She’s divorced, one grown daughter.”

“Gee, that’s damning, isn’t it?”

“She was valedictorian of her class at Vassar.”

“We’re lucky she hasn’t murdered more people.”

“And she was a suspect in a murder case four years ago, when her sister was killed. She was cleared when the sister’the sists boyfriend confessed. He’s in a hospital for the criminally insane.”

Stone thought. “So she wasn’t cleared by evidence, but by the confession of a lunatic?”

“That’s about the size of it.”

“How did her sister die?”

“Head trauma from a blunt instrument.”

“I see.”

“And Charlotte inherited her sister’s share of her father’s estate, which amounted to a couple of million bucks.”

“She gets more and more interesting, doesn’t she?”

“I was interested before, remember?”

“This time, let’s not make an appointment. Let’s just show up.”

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