52

Todd Bacon sat at his desk, working. he continued until eight P.M., when most of the staff in his department had left the building. Todd tidied his desk, locked his case files in his safe, then took a walk around Technical Services. The only people working were on computers, seemingly tracking a cell phone location.

Todd walked to the weapons room, responsibility for the securing of which was his, as the senior officer present. He went into the vault and picked up an ordinary-looking briefcase. He set it on the steel table in the middle of the room and opened it, checked the contents carefully, then he took two loaded magazines from a shelf, put them into the briefcase, closed the door behind him, and turned the combination lock.

He switched off the overhead lights, put on his jacket, and left the department, then the building. He drove out of the Agency grounds and headed for the southeastern side of the Distri lict of Columbia, setting Clinton Field into the navigator, since he had never driven there. It would take him the better part of an hour to arrive and get set.

Teddy Fay and Lauren Cade began working in their kitchen in the hangar apartment at Clinton Field. Teddy put some oil and butter into a large pan with a little salt, then added twelve ounces of Arborio rice. He stirred the rice until it was golden, then began adding chicken stock, while Lauren browned a pound of Italian sweet sausages.

Teddy stirred continuously for twenty-five minutes while adding stock to the rice, as Lauren sliced the sausages into bite-sized chunks. After the rice had absorbed the carton of stock and was thick, Teddy added half a carton of creme fraiche and half a cup of grated Parmigiano Italiano, while continuing to stir, then he added some green peas that he had cooked earlier and folded them into the dish.

Lauren had set the table and opened a bottle of Amarone, a full-bodied Italian wine. She brought the plates to Teddy, and he heaped the risotto onto them.

Todd Bacon parked across the street from Clinton Field, took the briefcase, and climbed over a fence around a water tank nearby. He judged the distance to the hangar’s lighted upstairs windows as about forty yards. He climbed the ladder to the top of the tank, about sixty feet high, then he set down the briefcase and opened it, exposing an unassembled Czech-made sniper rifle from the Cold War era.

He assembled the weapon in the dim light as he had practiced in his office the day before, then he screwed the silencer and telescopic sight into place and shoved a magazine into the lightweight rifle.

He sighted the weapon on the upstairs window of the hangar, and he could plainly see a man and a woman working at a stove. He swung the rifle to his right, took aim at a spot at the corner of another hangar, then he racked the action of the rifle and squeezed off a round. He could see it strike exactly where he had aimed.

He swung the rifle back to the kitchen window and watched the woman carry two plates to a table and open a bottle of wine. She sat, facing the window, and Teddy pulled out a chair next to her. Teddy bent over and kissed her on the ear, then he lifted her chin and kissed her on the lips.

Todd aimed at the back of Teddy’s head and squeezed off the round.

“I love you,” Teddy whispered into Lauren’s ear, then he put a finger under her chin and tilted her head. He kissed her lovingly, then started to sit down. As he did so, there were the simultaneous sounds of glass breaking and a thud near him, as a chunk of Lauren’s forehead blew away and blood and brain matter spattered the wall behind her. Teddy knew, instantly, that she was dead, and he dove for the floor, as another bullet struck a plate of risotto and scattered it.

More shots came through the metal side of the hangar, as the shooter tried to find him on the floor, but Teddy had quickly crawled away from the window. He heard someone shout from across the street.

“Shit!” Todd yelled at the top of his lungs. Todd quickly disassembled the rifle, closed the briefcase, clenched the handle in his teeth, and jumped for the ladder, clamping it between his feet and sliding down it to the ground in seconds. He tossed the briefcase over the fence, then backed off and got a running start at it. He hit the middle of the fence with his left foot, and his momentum carried him up and over itnds. . He grabbed the briefcase and ran for his car.

From the kitchen floor, huddled under the sink, Teddy heard the vehicle drive away. Teddy had no doubt who the shooter had been. He got an army blanket from the bedroom and spread it over Lauren’s body, then, brushing away tears and regaining complete control of himself, he went to the computer and logged on to the CIA mainframe. In less than a minute he was into the personnel files, and seconds after that, he had Todd Bacon’s home address. Teddy knew exactly where it was, since it was only a quarter-mile or so from his former home.

Teddy went to the bedroom, grabbed his ready bag, then took a roll of duct tape and wrapped it around Lauren’s body in the blanket. He lifted her onto his shoulder and took her downstairs to the hangar, where he set her gently down, then removed the passenger door from the airplane and stowed it in the rear seat.

Feeling no time pressure, Teddy went back upstairs, cleaned up the gore in the kitchen, then tidied up. He sat down and ate some of the risotto, since he didn’t want to run out of steam later, then he put the rest down the garbage disposal and the dishes into the dishwasher and started it.

He found a bottle of window cleaner and a dishcloth, and he went around the entire apartment, wiping down every surface that either he or Lauren might have touched. He went to his safe and removed his weapons and tools and took them down to the airplane, then he turned off the lights and went down to the hangar.

He found a pair of aircraft jacks that, he reckoned, weighed forty pounds together, and a length of chain. He lifted Lauren’s body into the passenger seat and wrapped the chain around her waist, then, using shackles from his tool kit, fastened the jacks to the chain, setting them on the floor of the passenger side. Finally, he fastened the passenger seat belt around Lauren. He stowed his tools in the luggage compartment, then he did a walk-around of the airplane, checked the fuel, got into the pilot’s seat, and started the engine.

A moment later, he used the remote control to open the rear bifold door, and he taxied the airplane out of the hangar, down the taxiway to the airfield’s single runway. He looked for traffic on final approach, saw none, heard none on the radio, and, without slowing or announcing his intentions on the air, taxied onto the runway and shoved the throttle forward.

He took off and climbed to seven hundred feet and headed for the Potomac River, then he flew down the river to the bay, then turned and headed for open water. He descended to a hundred feet, turned on the autopilot, and set the altitude hold, then he flew a good ten miles offshore. When he had reached that distance, he undid the passenger seat belt, dropped the two jacks overboard, and let them pull Lauren’s body out of the airplane and down into the sea. Then he reversed his course and, finally, turned toward Manassas Airport.

TODD BACON DROVE ERRATICALLY away from Clinton Field, panting for breath and sweating profusely, his car weaving along the roadway. He prayed that there was no cop in the neighborhood, for he would surely be stopped for drunk driving.

As he put distance between himself and the airport, his breathing and pulse returned to something like normal, but he reckoned his blood pressure was still high. The feeling of panic was somewhere in his chest, just deep enough to allow him to drive the car normally.

He reached his home in Virginia, a new town house development, and got the car into the garage, where he sat for snormallyeveral minutes, taking deep breaths and trying to calm down. Finally, he dragged himself into the house, got out of his clothes, and fell, naked and exhausted, onto the bed.

Images of Lauren Cade’s exploding head still fired in his brain, but gradually they went away, and he fell into a deep sleep.

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