For many years, Leonard Woolsey had been a faithful and committed member of the Montana Patriot Front. When the Reverend Barry needed someone to teach a weapons or tactics class at a rally, he knew he could turn to Leonard Woolsey. And when the Reverend Barry needed someone to break some windows, tag some buildings, or rough up some brown-skinned people who perhaps did not realize they were frequenting the wrong clubs, he thought first of Leonard Woolsey. He knew that Leonard Woolsey would never disappoint him, never disrespect him, and never place his own ambitions before the goals of the Montana Patriot Front.
But the Reverend Barry was now almost eighty. He was tired. He no longer authorized even the most modest missions. For the last three years, there had been no public rallies or parades, no flyers under windshield wipers, not even a candidate for a school board. Instead, the old man sat in his drafty little cabin in the meadow at Lake Hollow, writing his little articles on notebook paper and mailing them off to be typed up for the Montana Patriot Front newsletter and website. Age had defanged the Reverend Barry and was draining the lifeblood of his organization.
Leonard Woolsey was a patient man, but now he was out of patience. He had requested authorization to carry out a mission against Dolores Weston. He had laid out the case against the Montana state senator. She had accepted money from a pharmaceutical company from New Jersey, a company that was researching stem cells to be used for human cloning. In exchange for the money, Senator Weston had sponsored legislation that gave enormous tax breaks to the pharmaceutical company to open a major facility right here in Rawlings, Montana. The papers had been signed and the blueprints drawn, and construction was about to begin.
But the Reverend Barry and the timid sycophants who surrounded him refused to authorize a mission to take out Senator Weston. It would be risky, the Reverend Barry said. There would be a federal response. There would be consequences. I’m sorry.
And the Reverend Barry sat in his drafty little cabin, writing his little articles.
And Leonard Woolsey decided to proceed on his own. Yes, he thought, there will be consequences.
Being a careful man, Leonard Woolsey devoted considerable thought to the mission. His first impulse was simply to eliminate her. Doing so would send the appropriate message to the Reverend Barry and his inner circle. And Leonard Woolsey was confident that eliminating Dolores Weston would entail little personal risk. He would set up outside the perimeter of her ranch, which sat majestically on thirty acres at the end of a private road adjoining a city park. There were no other houses within hundreds of yards. With his Weatherby deer rifle and his laser scope and bi-pod, she would be an easy target from two-hundred yards. Even two-fifty.
However, eliminating Senator Dolores Weston would be insufficient. The Reverend Barry would know who had done it and why, yet nobody else would. People would see it as another senseless murder. The public needed to understand that her death was anything but senseless. The broader mission of the Montana Patriot Front would not be advanced unless the public understood exactly why it was necessary.
In short, she could not simply be murdered. She needed to be assassinated. Only an assassination would force other legislators and the public to confront her sins. Once those sins were made public, America could begin the conversation that would lead to the revolution, which would sweep away the traitors and save God’s chosen people. Leonard Woolsey was certain of it, and he was a resolute man.
He had no doubt he could grab her, get her in his truck. His only worry was that he might be identified afterward. There was CCTV everywhere, in the shops, on the sides of buildings, hanging on traffic-lights. The statehouse would be crawling with them: near the metal detector at the main entrance, in the hallways, the individual offices. And cameras. Put two college girls at a table at a Starbucks, out came the cell phones. There was no way to be sure he didn’t appear in someone’s photo.
He had no illusions that he was invulnerable, that he was too smart to be caught, that everything would go according to plan. When you’re forty-two years old, you know better. And therefore you need to plan carefully.
He understood the importance of disguise. He had a cowboy hat, aviator sunglasses. He would wear a long-sleeve western shirt. He would shave off his mustache and trim his sideburns. He had an old set of Wyoming plates he had grabbed off an abandoned car in Casper six years ago.
He would lure her out of her house. He did his research, which wasn’t difficult since every magazine in the West printed on shiny paper had a story about Dolores Weston, about how well she was holding up after her husband’s death, how living in her five-thousand-square-foot ranch couldn’t make up for the tragic loss. He was disgusted but not surprised by the articles, one more hypocritical than the last. A few hundred solemn words about how money can’t buy happiness, then four or five pages of color photographs displaying the beautiful things money indeed can buy: the infinity pool, the home theater seating twenty, the gourmet kitchen with zinc counters and wenge-wood accents, the climate-controlled barn, with its twelve horse stalls (four Arabians, six Thoroughbreds, two Morgans), and its adjoining paddock and ring.
No mention of the pharmaceutical company. Nothing about stem cells, about cloning. Nothing about which people would be cloned. Nothing about what she had done to get her money. About what selling herself made her.
She lived alone, after her husband died out at their estate on Maui. But there was little chance she would be alone in the house. There would be one or two people in charge of the horses. A housekeeper and a cook. And she had three adult children, all of them successful and prosperous. They were spread out across the country, but they were capable of just dropping by, especially since their father died only a few months ago. They would be concerned about how their mother was coping.
Leonard Woolsey decided to reconnoiter the ranch. He put the Wyoming plates on his truck and drove to Discovery Park, a hundred acres of rolling foothills, walking paths, and cheat grass a mile south of her gate. He carried a backpack and a walking stick. Standing atop the tallest foothill, he listened to the silence and made certain he was not being observed. He wandered off the path and walked toward the Weston ranch.
Close enough to study the ranch through his binoculars, Leonard Woolsey surveyed the large steel electric gate at the entrance. He did not see a camera, but professional-quality security cameras are smaller than a coin and virtually invisible. His eyes followed the herringbone pattern of the pavers, two lanes wide, tracing a gentle curve a hundred yards, leading up to the garage and the main entrance of the house.
It was flat roofed, modern, constructed of dusky Montana stone and ten-foot high floor-to-ceiling windows. The glass mirrored the sky and the sun, making the house recede into the hillside. He couldn’t see in, but she could see out, which Leonard Woolsey assumed was intentional.
But he wouldn’t need to get inside. He saw a sign from Montana Security just off to the side of the flagstone steps leading to the wide double doors at the entrance. He looked for cameras but didn’t see any there, either. The inside would have a professional security system. But if she wanted to see what was going on outside the place, she would choose large, visible cameras, the purpose of which is less to record who is outside than to encourage them to stay outside.
Leonard Woolsey went home to think. There was no way to eliminate all risk. Still, it was a chance he needed to take. He asked himself if he was willing to risk his freedom—perhaps his life—on this mission.
He spent three days thinking about his responsibility. It needed to be done, and there didn’t seem to be anyone else who would do it. Yes, he concluded, he would do it. He would do it.
And when he had made that decision, a considerable burden lifted off Leonard Woolsey’s shoulders. His mind was clear and sharp, his spirit focused. He was ready.
He used a throwaway phone to call her at her home. He was the president of a wind-turbine company in Wyoming, he said, interested in talking with her about setting up a facility in Montana. He mentioned that he was impressed by the legislation she had sponsored last session about tax breaks for companies that create jobs. He asked whether she would be interested in sitting down to talk with him. He would be more than happy to offer generous considerations if she could help him understand the process.
That was all it took. “Generous considerations” was the magic phrase. He wasn’t sure whether he had heard that phrase before or it had just popped into his head. But its meaning was very clear to her. Yes, she would be delighted if he stopped by. Of course, she’d be excited to meet him. And wind energy was such an important initiative. She would be thrilled.
And now she sat in Leonard Woolsey’s pickup, her hands pinioned behind her back by the plastic strips that the police use when they run out of cuffs. She was crying, her whole body shaking, asking him over and over what she did, as if she did not understand. And what he was going to do to her.
When she asked him if he would take money to let her go, his right hand came up so fast she didn’t see it, his knuckles tearing into her left eye.
She screamed in pain, doubled over, appeared to lose consciousness for several moments.
It was a still, clear May night, the temperature near sixty. It would drop another ten or fifteen degrees by midnight. The sun had already sunk beneath the wide western horizon, leaving only a warm orange glow. Faint, tiny stars were beginning to appear. Soon the sky would darken to a brilliant purple, revealing millions of pinpricks of light. Sunsets always made Leonard Woolsey a little melancholy. The end of the day always meant that a part of him was dying. But not tonight. He was fully alive tonight.
They were parked at the Prairie Industrial Park, a new development out near the hospital. Seven buildings were up and running, with a dozen more under construction.
He gazed around him at the piles of rebar and lumber, a couple of bulldozers, a pile driver, a leveler, generator trailers, three blocky construction trailers. The equipment sat still, the crews having left hours ago.
Leonard Woolsey got out of his pickup and walked over to her side. He opened her door, pulled her out. She was making noise, crying and screaming. “Shut up,” he barked, holding her up, and she complied. His eyes scanned the area, full of construction debris, scraggly weeds, crushed foam coffee cups. He saw what he needed. He let go of her, and she collapsed onto the ground. He walked a few steps, bent down, and picked up a brick lying on the hard-packed dirt.
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