The West Wing was usually quiet at this hour, but the Presidents unexpected emergence in his bathrobe and slippers had rustled the aides and on‑site staff out of their day‑timer beds and on‑site sleeping quarters.
I cant find her, Mr. President, a young aide said, hurrying after him into the Oval Office. He had looked everywhere. Ms. Tench is not answering her pager or cellphone.
The President looked exasperated. Have you looked in the‑
She left the building, sir, another aide announced, hurrying in. She signed out about an hour ago. We think she may have gone to the NRO. One of the operators says she and Pickering were talking tonight.
William Pickering? The President sounded baffled. Tench and Pickering were anything but social. Have you called him?
Hes not answering either, sir. NRO switchboard cant reach him. They say Pickerings cellphone isnt even ringing. Its like hes dropped off the face of the earth.
Herney stared at his aides for a moment and then walked to the bar and poured himself a bourbon. As he raised the glass to his lips, a Secret Serviceman hurried in.
Mr. President? I wasnt going to wake you, but you should be aware that there was a car bombing at the FDR Memorial tonight.
What! Herney almost dropped his drink. When?
An hour ago. His face was grim. And the FBI just identified the victim . . .