CHAPTER 1 (continued)
Wingate left the West Wing and headed back to his Cadillac. As he neared the car, he glanced quickly at his gold Patek Phillip watch. Leaving downtown Washington at this hour meant he’d probably hit the afternoon rush hour. The trip back to the estate would take longer than he had originally planned. Wingate’s driver was already out of the car, holding open the rear door. As the chauffeur got behind the wheel, he pressed a button lowering the glass window between the front and rear compartments.
“Where to, sir?”
“Back to the estate, please, Arthur.”
“Yes sir.” He backed the car out of the parking space and drove slowly up West Executive Avenue until he was at the north gate. The Uniformed Division officer in the small white security building nodded as he initiated the opening sequence for exit onto Pennsylvania Avenue.
The anti‑vehicle barriers lowered slowly into the road surface, and the gates opened, allowing the limousine to enter the stream of traffic on Pennsylvania Avenue. As they made the left turn and headed back to the Parkway, Charles Wingate raised the partition. He had a great deal of thinking to do.
In medieval times, a large moat with at least one well-placed drawbridge would have surrounded the estate. Today, however, ancient fortifications had given way to electrically controlled gates, elaborate intrusion sensors, and closed-circuit television cameras that continuously swept the roads leading onto the property.
The centerpiece of Wingate’s estate was the mansion house, which had a commanding view of the hills and valleys making up the five-hundred-acre estate. Wingate had built the mansion on top of the largest hill on the property, set back from, and out of sight of, the main road. The two-story U‑shaped edifice dominated the estate. Two large wings, one to the left and one to the right of the house’s main section, ran perpendicular to the front of the mansion; the left wing housed Wingate’s personal library.
Other smaller houses, used for the infrequent guest and for those staff members whose presence was required around the clock, as well as maintenance buildings, stood farther back, and out of sight of the main house. A small network of private drives connected the various buildings on the estate to the surrounding country roads, which in turn linked up with the access roads leading out to the rest of the world.
The black stretch limousine took a circuitous route through a small grove of evergreens before stopping at the main entrance. Charles Wingate III got out of the car and bounded up the marble steps running the length of the mansion.
The mansion’s entrance was over twelve feet wide and consisted of a pair of double doors with fixed sections, one to the left and one to the right. Thick leaded glass with a Tudor design of interconnected circles and diamonds chilled the normally warm appearance of the medium‑oak doors. As Charles Wingate walked through the door, Cedric, his majordomo, met him.
“The plans are complete for this evening, sir. The staff is prepared to serve dinner at nine o’clock, if that’s satisfactory.”
“That’ll be fine,” he said, dismissing him.
Of all the rooms in the stately dwelling, Wingate felt most at ease in the library. It was and always would be “his” room. He walked through the double doors leading into the expansive room.
Wingate’s credenza was directly in front of the picture window that looked out over the broad expanse of lawn. Like its matching desk, the credenza was handmade out of the best rosewood; its finish reflecting the care expended on it. Sitting on the credenza, in a position that reflected its importance, was a silver‑framed photograph of a young soldier in full battlefield dress. Wingate’s son had sent the photograph, and it had come a long way, from Vietnam. The likeness had originally consisted of three soldiers; Wingate, however, lacking any real interest in anyone other than the man in the middle, had had the photo cropped so that only his son’s image remained.
Directly in front of the credenza, Charles Wingate’s chair sat facing the double wood doors leading into the library. Some people thought the placement of the desk and chair had to do with being able to immediately greet whoever walked through the door. Others were equally certain that Wingate felt safer facing the door.
A well‑dressed man in his early forties rose from behind the large, oval cherry conference table as Wingate entered the room.
“Lawrence, how good to see you,” Wingate said clasping the younger man’s manicured hand.
“Good to see you again, sir,” Lawrence Ettleberg replied.
“Congratulations on your appointment as chairman. Having known your father for years, I can attest to his confidence in your ability.”
. . . . . .
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