Alone in her office, Gabrielle Ashe stood at the window, wondering what to do next. Less than an hour ago, she had left NASA feeling full of excitement to share Chris Harpers PODS fraud with the senator.
Now, she wasnt so sure.
According to Yolanda, two independent ABC reporters suspected Sexton of taking SFF bribes. Furthermore, Gabrielle had just learned that Sexton actually knew she had snuck into his apartment during the SFF meeting, and yet he had said nothing to her about it?
Gabrielle sighed. Her taxi had long since departed, and although she would call another in a few minutes, she knew there was something she had to do first.
Am I really going to try this?
Gabrielle frowned, knowing she didnt have a choice. She no longer knew whom to trust.
Stepping out of her office, she made her way back into the secretarial lobby and into a wide hallway on the opposite side. At the far end she could see the massive oak doors of Sextons office flanked by two flags‑Old Glory on the right and the Delaware flag on the left. His doors, like those of most senate offices in the building, were steel reinforced and secured by conventional keys, an electronic key pad entry, and an alarm system.
She knew if she could get inside, even if for only a few minutes, all the answers would be revealed. Moving now toward the heavily secured doors, Gabrielle had no illusions of getting through them. She had other plans.
Ten feet from Sextons office, Gabrielle turned sharply to the right and entered the ladies room. The fluorescents came on automatically, reflecting harshly off the white tile. As her eyes adjusted, Gabrielle paused, seeing herself in the mirror. As usual, her features looked softer than shed hoped. Delicate almost. She always felt stronger than she looked.
Are you sure you are ready to do this?
Gabrielle knew Sexton was eagerly awaiting her arrival for a complete rundown on the PODS situation. Unfortunately, she also now realized that Sexton had deftly manipulated her tonight. Gabrielle Ashe did not like being managed. The senator had kept things from her tonight. The question was how much. The answers, she knew, lay inside his office‑just on the other side of this restroom wall.
Five minutes, Gabrielle said aloud, mustering her resolve.
Moving toward the bathrooms supply closet, she reached up and ran a hand over the door frame. A key clattered to the floor. The cleaning crews at Philip A. Hart were federal employees and seemed to evaporate every time there was a strike of any sort, leaving this bathroom without toilet paper and tampons for weeks at a time. The women of Sextons office, tired of being caught with their pants down, had taken matters into their own hands and secured a supply room key for emergencies.
Tonight qualifies, she thought.
She opened the closet.
The interior was cramped, packed with cleansers, mops, and shelves of paper supplies. A month ago, Gabrielle had been searching for paper towels when shed made an unusual discovery. Unable to reach the paper off the top shelf, shed used the end of a broom to coax a roll to fall. In the process, shed knocked out a ceiling tile. When she climbed up to replace the tile, she was surprised to hear Senator Sextons voice.
From the echo, she realized the senator was talking to himself while in his offices private bathroom, which apparently was separated from this supply closet by nothing more than removable, fiberboard ceiling tiles.
Now, back in the closet tonight for far more than toilet paper, Gabrielle kicked off her shoes, climbed up the shelves, popped out the fiberboard ceiling tile, and pulled herself up. So much for national security, she thought, wondering how many state and federal laws she was about to break.
Lowering herself through the ceiling of Sextons private restroom, Gabrielle placed her stockinged feet on his cold, porcelain sink and then dropped to the floor. Holding her breath, she exited into Sextons private office.
His oriental carpets felt soft and warm.