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Chapter Five

Don Brawn pulled the door closed behind him, shutting off the chimes of the warning system. For the first time ever he activated the small, sleek device with a flick of its touch screen and waited while – he was old enough to use the phrase habitually – it booted up.

He tapped “place” in on the virtual keypad and waited to see what came back. Several hits, but viewed as tags on the map one landmark stood out.

The ignition came on at a button push. Now he had a destination in mind he ignored the GPS – Brawn knew Washington’s street plan as well as a taxi-driver, maybe better. Hearing her electric purr move all the way up his spine, Brawn gently accelerated his customised thunder grey Tesla Roadster Signature onto the streets of Washington D.C.

Forty minutes later Brawn was cruising down Potomac Avenue towards 1st Street, the river flowing slowly on his right and Nationals Park – the first LEED-certified green stadium in the United States – rising high on his left. Traffic was light, and as he turned onto 1st he slowed, the view on his right changing to red-brick warehouses and workshops serving the small docks and construction yards cluttering the waterline before the Navy Yards. He took the second right – onto North Place.

He went down to the end, doubled back and parked halfway up, between a mostly empty parking lot and the yard of some construction company, looking onto the baseball stadium dominating the view at the top of the street.

It didn’t feel right.

The stadium, well, there should be somewhere there to store a package; and two streets north there was the Navy Yard metro station, which certainly would. Both were rear North Place itself, but there was a very public aspect to them and… well, it just didn’t feel right. As for North Place itself, what was there didn’t feel of anything.

He took the GPS from its bay on the dashboard and surveyed the map again, with nothing standing out. He flicked it back over to the results and browsed down the list, feeling vaguely foolish. The nearest option was Congress Place, over the river in Douglass. Douglass

Something tickled in Brawn’s mind. He punched it in, let the GPS plan the obvious route, then flicked over to the map to see it.

Congress Place ran straight past the Washington Hebrew Congregation Cemetery.

Brawn retraced his tracks, turning south to cross the Potomac on the Frederick Douglass Memorial Bridge, eventually heading east towards the neighbourhood that also bore the name of one of America’s foremost abolitionists, a former slave turned writer and orator who became known as The Lion of Anacostia.

Congress Place was flanked on one side by boxy two-storey homes and on the other by a thin line of trees affording a view of the graveyard. There were two in fact, the smaller named for the Adas Israel Synagogue, founded in protest of the embrace of Reform Judaism by the Washington Hebrew Congregation – but it was the larger of them which Brawn looked onto through the trees.

This felt right.

Then, something clicked that changed “right” in “like a certainty”.

Brawn parked and walked back down Congress to Alabama Avenue and turned west. The actual entrance was overlooked by a tidy house, but approaching the lights at the next junction the graveyard came right up to the road, a plain green railing all that separated it from the path – and at the junction itself two sections were missing, leaving a gap you could drive a car through, if you didn’t mind knocking over gravestones. Brawn just stepped across the absent barrier and entered.

He saw no-one. It was still early and cold for the time of year, his breath misting and swirling as he walked through each new cloud. He joined the path heading towards the newer area, passing a single large tomb on his left, eventually crossing a line of trees dividing the older grounds from the new.

He passed between plots until he found an arterial road leading from a vehicle entrance up to circle a monument at the centre of the second yard. He headed the same way, more sure with every step that he had it right. He passed the monument and, two rows back from it, he focused in on a trio of stones.

The first read Hershel, the youngest of the three at 45. The central his mother, Tabitha, herself only 48 when she passed. The rightmost stone was the most recent. Beneath it lay a former Washington city councillor, the longest serving public official of the last fifty years and a man with not just one traditional Hebrew name, but two.

A place, a name.

Congress Place.

Abraham Naim.

Brawn stood before the grave, his eye instantly drawn by the small square array of fresh flowers at the base of the stone. He squatted by the side of the grave, moved the flowers forward to reveal a small patch of recently turned soil beneath them. He pulled a face, then brushed at the surface carefully – uncovering a firm circular object. Brawn dug into the soil and withdrew a tubular container about the size of a relay baton wrapped in wax paper. He wore a thin smile of satisfaction.

“I’ll take that, mister,” said a dry voice behind him.


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