Brophy was already on his feet screaming when the men grabbed him. They hauled him to the door. Numb with fear, Brophy swung his fists, trying to fend off the powerful hands pushing him outward.
It was no use. Moments later he was tumbling toward the chasms below.
Toulos Restaurant, adjacent to Capitol Hill, boasts a politically incorrect menu of baby veal and horse carpaccio, making it an ironic hotspot for the quintessential Washingtonian power breakfast. This morning Toulos was busy---a cacophony of clanking silverware, espresso machines, and cellphone conversations.
The maitre d' was sneaking a sip of his morning Bloody Mary when the woman entered. He turned with a practiced smile.
"Good morning," he said. "May I help you?"
The woman was attractive, in her mid-thirties, wearing gray pleated flannel pants, conservative flats, and an ivory Laura Ashley blouse. Her posture was straight---chin raised ever-so-slightly---not arrogant, just strong. The woman's hair was light brown and fashioned in Washington's most popular style---the "anchorwoman"---a lush feathering, curled under at the shoulders long enough to be sexy, but short enough to remind you she was probably smarter than you.
"I'm a little late," the woman said, her voice unassuming. "I have a breakfast meeting with Senator Sexton."
The maitre d' felt an unexpected tingle of nerves. Senator Sedgewick Sexton. The senator was a regular here and currently one of the country's most famous men. Last week, having swept all twelve Republican primaries on Super Tuesday, the Senator was virtually guaranteed his party's nomination for President of the United States. Many believed the senator had a superb chance of stealing the White House from the embattled President next fall. Lately Sexton's face seemed to be on every national magazine, his campaign slogan plastered all across America. Stop spending. Start mending.
"Senator Sexton is in his booth," the maitre d' said. "And you are?"
"Rachel Sexton. His daughter."
How foolish of me, he thought. The resemblance was quite apparent. The woman had the senator's penetrating eyes and refined carriage---that polished air of resilient nobility. Clearly the senator's classic good looks had not skipped generations, although Rachel Sexton seemed to carry her blessings with a grace and humility her father could learn from.
"A pleasure to have you, Ms. Sexton."
As the maitre d' led the senator's daughter across the dining area, he was embarrassed by the gauntlet of male eyes following her some discreet, others less so. Few women dined at Toulos and even fewer who looked like Rachel Sexton.
"Nice body," one diner whispered. "Sexton already find himself a new wife?"
"That's his daughter, you idiot," another replied.
The man chuckled. "Knowing Sexton, he'd probably screw her anyway."
When Rachel arrived at her father's table, the senator was on his cellphone talking loudly about one of his recent successes. He glanced up at Rachel only long enough to tap his Cartier and remind her she was late.
I missed you too, Rachel thought.
Her father's name was Thomas, although he'd adopted his middle name long ago. Rachel suspected it was because he liked the alliteration. Senator Sedgewick Sexton. The man was a silver-haired, silver-tongued political animal who had been anointed with the slick look of soap opera doctor, which seemed appropriate considering his talents of impersonation.
"Rachel!" Her father clicked off his phone and stood to kiss her cheek.
"Hi Dad." She did not kiss him back.
"You look exhausted."
Copyright Dan Brown 2001. All rights reserved.
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
- PW Starred Review
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