Even after a terse introduction, the Senator’s aide proved hard to rattle. Solomon Lennerd had little patience left but he pulled on his reserves.
“Senator Commons has never stayed at a lakeside motel in Wisconsin.”
“Truly?” Solomon tossed one of the gloves on the conference table. The soft leather landed with a puff of air.
The aide’s blue eyes followed the movement but his practiced smile never twitched.
“Savile Row hand coverings are made of the finest doeskin.” The aide smoothed a palm down one jacket sleeve and met Solomon’s gaze with a steady stare. “I have a set of my own, a gift from the Senator to each of his top staff after he was reconfirmed into office last year.”
Solomon appreciated the unexpected display of loyalty for Albert Commons.
“Your commitment to the Senator’s reputation is commendable but unnecessary.” Solomon leaned back in his chair and crossed his legs, tugging the wool pant fabric taut above one knee. “The man’s presence in a tawdry motel in the company of a nubile young woman of questionable maturity is no longer of practical concern, instead you can direct me into the Senator’s private office.”
The aide leveled his steady gaze across the desk. “I cannot, Sir.”
Solomon studied the young man, curious about the flat refusal to his request and the lack of negative protestation or demand for explanation. A refreshing reaction.
Silence built. The ticking of the pendulum in the elegant clock echoed.
Time for a more direct approach. “The Senator held in his possession an item which was not his own. I am the retrieval contingency.” He raised his right hand in a gesture to forestall speech.
The aide tightened his lips into a flat line.
Solomon shifted his eyes to the Seth Thomas grandfather clock and continued. “Albert Commons is dead. In approximately seven minutes his housekeeper will return from a well-deserved evening out and discover his corpse on the library floor. Not long after, the Senator’s Office Staff should receive official notification.”
He caught the brief display of panic on the young man’s face.
The aide rallied. He schooled his features into another impenetrable mask of good breeding although his gaze now locked on the whitened knuckles of his clenched hands.
The tension stretched out.
Solomon scanned the space again, considered the likelihood his surmise was incorrect and decided his conclusion was the most logical. One hour ago he’d been three steps down the Senator’s front stairs before the visual registered. The senator had presented his stolen firearms as though Lennard was an appreciated visitor. The Presidential Collection contained four guns, each one responsible for killing a Commander-in-Chief of the United States. The display board, lined with plush garnet velvet and fitted with titanium brackets to hold the firearms, had been hidden behind a carved cherry wood panel. The fifth set of prongs in the bottom center of the case had appeared to him as the space for an accessory or perhaps an inscribed plaque.
He reasoned out the possibilities as he approached the waiting sedan. The only other President shot during his tenure of office was Ronald Reagan. Plenty of assassination attempts had been carried out over the history of the country, but the .22 caliber pistol used by the gunman in that particular shooting had disappeared decades previously.
The Commons family had held political office for generations.
Solomon was confident he’d find the missing gun near the Senator’s desk, a coveted object which had ignited a desire to amass the complete collection.
The Senatorial waiting room was resplendent with framed art and fine furnishings. The hand-rubbed cherry wood of the secretary table separating the two men glowed with polish, a faint odor of lemon and malt indicated the housekeeping staff employed British cleaning products. The intricate design of the Aubusson carpet beneath the soles of Solomon’s black wingtips felt plush. He recognized the Senator’s prized family crest emblazoned in the pile. The room reeked with the subtle iconography of extreme wealth. Aristocratic posturing at its American best.
The aide cleared phlegm from his throat and rose to his feet, withdrawing a key fob from his pocket. “After reflecting on your news, I think I can show you where the Senator kept the item you’re looking for.”
The interior featured the same sartorial elegance as the vestibule. Less than a minute later Solomon had the mahogany panels separated and the suspected handgun lay nestled in a bed of green velvet.
“Everyone knew about the Senator’s interest in young women –” The aide’s voice trailed off as Solomon slipped the gun inside a padded cloth sack. “I never suspected an obsession with historic firearms.”
Solomon Lennerd tucked the bundle under his suit coat. The aide was young, perhaps twenty-five, but his idealism was tarnished. He probably came from an affluent family who’d spent a fortune to educate him at the finest law school and then bought an equally expensive appointment on Capitol Hill.
“What’s your name?”
His Adam’s apple bobbed before he answered. “David Greene, Sir.”
Solomon canted his head and studied the man’s nervous features. He reached into the pocket of his coat and his fingers wrapped around an object. “Where do you come from, Mr. Greene?”
A tiny frown creased the skin between the aide’s eyebrows. “I’m from Lincoln, Nebraska.”
Solomon paused, then withdrew a card and extended his arm, handing the rectangle of cardstock to the other man. “Call me if you’re interested in talking about employment. I understand the job market is difficult right now and I could use a protégé.”
His last sight of the room framed David Greene standing next to the grandfather clock, the white card clutched in his hand. The phone began to buzz as Solomon pulled the door shut.
Flash Fiction Challenge: Another Random Word Challenge @ www.terribleminds.com
* Read the first part of The Presidential Collection.
#1 by Angela Wallace on August 28, 2012 - 1:00 pm
You’re very good with your short stories, Leslie. Will you be publishing a collection soon?
#2 by Leslie Berry/ @LesannBerry on August 28, 2012 - 2:12 pm
Funny you should ask that…I’ve been organizing them this morning and making myself a schedule. If I don’t give myself a deadline nothing happens. I’ll be hitting up the critique-ers soon! It’s hard trying to figure out which pieces work well together. =)
#3 by Jon on August 30, 2012 - 6:20 am
“young woman of questionable maturity” indeed. Hah!
Loved the way the sensory details reflected what Lennard himself knew. This is a very professional, very well-done piece.
One quibble: The murder of the Senator – for me, it seems that the aide took it a bit too in stride, if you know what i mean?
I’d like to read other shorts featuring the redoubtable Mr. Lennard, I have no doubt they’d prove equally good reads. So if you haven’t already, write them! 🙂
#4 by Leslie Berry/ @LesannBerry on August 31, 2012 - 3:23 am
Questionable maturity seems to have sidelined many a potential political candidate… =)
Thanks for the input and taking the time to comment – feedback is greatly appreciated! I’ll have to see if Mr. Lennard has another story kicking around somewhere.