Excerpt from Capitol Offense, continued:
He took his CD player from the shoe box that held his music. The CD player was old and heavy and his sons, with their iPod Nanos, made fun of him for using it. But the CD player still worked and he saw no reason to get rid of a perfectly good piece of equipment just because there was a newer one.
Baby put the player into a pouch he’d made from canvas and clipped it to his belt. Then he put on his earphones, inserted the new One Vo1ce CD into the player and hit “play.” If Corazon, his wife, found out he was listening to these young girls he’d never hear the end of it. But he liked the bright, R&B stylings. And the girls. Aiee. Even a man as old as Baby could dream.
He took the 33-gallon plastic garbage can off the cart and started emptying wastebaskets. When he was finished, he took down his vacuum cleaner and ran it over the carpet. He knew some of the other janitors didn’t vacuum every night, but this was his floor and he wanted it just so. Besides, they had spent so much time and money remodeling these offices, it would be a shame to let the carpet get dirty.
When Baby finished that room, he worked his way from office to office, around the corner, along the hallway and past the elevator to the women’s restroom. He knocked on the door. When no one answered, he snapped on a pair of disposable rubber gloves, picked up the cleaner and some rags and, leaving his cart in the hall, scrubbed the pedestal toilets and the big, square sinks of thick porcelain. When he was finished, he returned all the cleaning materials, hefted his mop and bucket and scrubbed the floor. Then he moved on to the wing that belonged to the Senate, going in and out of offices with his garbage can and vacuum. One Vo1ce gave way to Rachel Alejandro, then Rachelle An Go. These young women could sing and, aiee, did they look good.
Baby liked his job, liked being able to listen to music and move along the floor in an orderly fashion. The older he got, the more he liked everything just so. He even liked being able to work during the day on the weekends, because it gave him time to be with his family on some evenings. His boys were teenagers now and needed watching. Once he had been their hero. Now they clashed all the time. Fathers and sons. It was the way of the world.
Baby reached the men’s restroom and looked for his cleaner. It was not in its usual place, with the rags and brushes, but on the bottom of the cart on the opposite side. Odd. Had he put it there? Baby shrugged. As he got older, he forgot many things.
When he was finished with the rest room, he put a Sugar Pie DeSanto CD into his player. She might not have the shape of the young women, but she had twice the voice. Baby had every CD she’d ever made.
Baby pushed his cart around the corner. The doors of the Senate Finance Committee room were propped open, too. In one of the offices at the far end, Baby saw a light. He switched off his CD player, removed his earphones, left his cart where it was, and walked softly through the committee room. The room was Baby’s favorite, a big room that had been a federal courtroom when the building was young, carefully restored and, since Baby had been doing the cleaning, carefully kept up, too.
Baby’s sneakers made no noise on the thick carpet. He was glad; he wanted to see why the light was on before revealing himself. Once, years before, he’d blundered into that office and found a man, a senator, on top of a woman half his age, on the office’s big, leather couch. How embarrassed everyone was. Holy Mother! Baby didn’t want that to happen again.
He went through the reception area and peeked into the chairman’s office next door. There was a young woman there, but she wasn’t underneath anybody. She lay on the floor beside the desk.
She is wearing no clothes, or not many, Baby thought. Where are her clothes? And what is that pool around her head? Water?
Standing over her, holding something in his hand, was a slim, dark-skinned, dark-haired young man. The young man looked up from the woman’s body, his face contorted in a horrible grimace.
Baby Santos turned and ran out of the office, around the corner and down the hall, screaming with all his might.