of Nolan's next thriller
The elderly woman checked her watch when she saw Senator Hennessey and his small army of congressional aids walking towards the Jefferson Memorial, then looked at the worn-looking autograph book she held in her left hand. She had done her research and knew this was one of his favorite places to visit for a quiet respite in the early afternoon.
She closely followed newspaper articles about Senator Hennessey and had learned that he liked to relax on a bench across from the memorial, the very bench she was close to right now, when weather and his schedule permitted. He told reporters it was his favorite spot to sit and reflect on the challenges facing the country. With his service to the country in the Korean War, followed by his many years of leadership in the United States Senate, Senator Samuel Hennessey had earned the respect, even if grudgingly awarded by some, of both sides of the aisle.
Mother Nature brought DC a cold, but beautiful sunny day, so she thought this would be a good day to accomplish her task. She had read that he preferred to be alone on the bench, or with one of the junior senators he enjoyed mentoring, so his aids understood they needed to give him some space. They would stand slightly out of earshot and discuss congressional business among themselves. They walked everywhere with the senator, not as sycophants catering to his ego—he would never tolerate that—but merely as the most efficient way to conduct the important business of the busy man they loved working for.
As Senator Hennessey approached his favorite bench he appeared to be mentee free.
Perfect! she thought, waiting patiently, hoping the Senator would be amenable to signing her book. Trying to time her approach for that optimal moment when the aides started to give the senator some space, but before he got comfortable on the bench, she tightened her grip on the small pen grasped in her right hand.
It was time.
She shuffled forward with both hands outstretched to the Senator, but before she could speak, an aide spotted her. Determined and unwilling to be thwarted at this point, she continued her quest forward with both autograph book and pen in hand. Senator Hennessey heard his aide and turned to see the elderly woman, dressed in her once-stylish but now threadbare pantsuit, struggling to approach him. He held up a hand to his aide indicating, I’ve got this.
Excited at his smile, she hurried her steps and reached out further, which wasn’t the best move for an elderly woman with slightly compromised balance to make. She tumbled towards the Senator, hands still outstretched.
Still in pretty good shape the Senator quickly reached out for the woman, managing to break her fall as they both wobbled, then awkwardly fell back onto the bench. The Senator’s butt hit hard against the seat of the bench, but he managed to keep the woman in front of him so she landed slightly askew, leaning across his chest. The aides moved forward in a scrum, quickly helping the woman to a seated position on the bench next to the Senator, and verified that both their boss and his groupie were okay.
Amazingly the woman managed to hold on to her autograph book and pen.
“I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess you want an autograph.”
The woman sheepishly looked at the Senator and immediately gave him a little nod and a grin when she saw him smiling at her.
“I’m so sorry, Senator. I’m usually not this clumsy.”
“No need to apologize. Why don’t you hand over that book and I’ll sign it for you?”
Blushing, she handed him her book. “Oh, thank you so much. You have no idea how much this means to me.”
She offered her pen, but the Senator pulled one from the inner pocket of his suit jacket.
“No need. I have a pen.”
She nodded and pulled her hand away.
Poised to write in her book, “What’s your name?”
“Candace, but my friends call me Caddy.”
“Then Caddy it is.”
The Senator quickly wrote a short note in her book, and handed it back to her.
She read what the Senator had written for her, moving her lips as she quietly formed each word: Caddy, it was a wonderful surprise to literally bump into you today. Best wishes, Senator Samuel Hennessey.
She raised her eyes up towards the Senator, the smile apparent through the wrinkles on her face, and thanked him. She struggled a little to get off the bench, but one of the aides quickly appeared at her side and helped her achieve a standing position.
“You have no idea, Senator, how much this meeting meant to me. Thank you.”
She began her walk back to her hotel, a favorite of tourists. The aides gave the Senator his space, and the Senator began his contemplation of the country’s most pressing issues.
* * *
When she got back to her hotel room she entered the bathroom and looked at herself in the mirror, pleased with how well her encounter with Senator Hennessey had gone, yet anxious to move on…her makeup was starting to feel a little itchy. She pulled off her gray wig, and reached into her case for the cream she used to remove her makeup. She applied it to her face, neck, and hands, then let the cream sit on her skin for a few minutes before she began rinsing it off.
As she scooped the water onto her face, her wrinkles, along with the cream, circled the drain, then disappeared. She just needed to get out of the pantsuit, and Caddy would be gone.
Dressed now in her own street clothes, and looking sixty years younger, she had one final task to perform before she checked out. She tore all the pages from the small autograph book, and placed them on the bathroom counter next to the toilet. Holding the edge of the book’s cover in one hand and a lighter in the other hand, she liberated the fire with the flick of her thumb and held the lighter to the edge of the flimsy cardboard cover until the flames greedily raced to destroy their newest victim. As the fire came close to her fingers, she used the almost-expired flame to ignite a few pages at a time, alternating hands, and dropping the charred carcasses of the paper in the toilet.
As she watched the flames eliminate any trace of the autograph book, her mind reviewed the scene with Senator Hennessey. Her stumble and near-fall had been perfectly timed, allowing her hand with the pen brief access to his neck, puncturing him right at the edge of his hairline—a good spot to avoid detection in an autopsy.
The prick of the needle, encased inside the pen, went unfelt due to her landing on top of the senator with just enough force to be the perfect physical distraction. Such a small quantity of poison was needed to get the job done she was able to carry out the stab in a fraction of a second.
Dropping the last of the book’s mostly-burned pages into the toilet, she flushed. Just like her wrinkles, evidence of her contact with the Senator disappeared. Soon the nearly undetectable poison would do its job.
She did a final check of her hair in the mirror, smiled at herself, and straightened the collar of her blouse. Satisfied, she walked out of her room and through the hotel lobby looking exactly like the woman who had checked in…and exactly like hundreds of other tourists.
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