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The gray-colored, four-door luxury sedan glides along the winding private driveway past a carved stone sign reading Toad Holler. The house at the end of the road was until recently owned by Owen and Carrie Dingler. Now it belongs to the Ironstone Group for use as a safehouse. The two-story structure with its three car garage, four bedrooms, and Silverdale stone rock-work sits on a 320 acre tract of land in northeastern Texas near the town of Grand Bluff. The property is hilly and lushly green with the rear-most northern boundary being the center of a thoroughly overgrown creek bottom.
The house faces south and sits toward the back of the property in the center of a large clearing. All trees and brush surrounding the dwelling have been cut back for a distance of 100 yards, thus creating a narrow security zone. Immediately adjacent to the house, and on its east side, are five large pine trees. Their lower limbs have been removed to a height of 10 feet above the earth. The cleared area and the yard are given to Bermuda grass. Since the property ringing the house has only recently been cleared, underbrush continues to sprout from the roots of pre-existing vegetation. For this reason, the security zone is mowed weekly by the resident agent using a brush-hog attached to a farm tractor.
Inside the house, Maggie Marston hears the sound of the car crunching to a stop on the newly surfaced chat driveway. She glances at her husband sitting at the kitchen table. His head is on a forearm atop an open newspaper; he appears to be napping. Awakening him will accomplish little, so she lets him sleep. Above her on the second floor, needle spray makes its muted roar whilethe resident agent takes a shower.
Maggie makes a decision and moves away from the biscuit dough she has been kneading. She rinses her hands in the kitchen sink and grabs a tea towel from the end of the counter to dry with on the way to the front door. As she mounts the stairs, the doorbell rings.
The house is a tri-level wedged into the northern brow of the substantial hill. The lower level has a walkout sliding glass door facing Coletto creek. For security the drapes are drawn and a broom handle rests lengthwise in the sliding glass door track. The mid-level front door opens into an area that is little more than an entry landing. From the entry level, the arrivee must either go upstairs to the second floor where the bedrooms and baths are; or downstairs to the kitchen, dining, and living room areas. There are three people in residence: Maggie, who is dressed in a house coat; Mike who is asleep at the kitchen table wearing a bathrobe, and Jim Caper, the resident agent showering in an upstairs bathroom.
The doorbell rings impatiently, as Maggie arrives at the front door landing. She squints through the peephole and sees a dark haired woman wearing white gloves, a large brimmed peach-colored hat, tan slacks, and a peach-colored blouse. Her face is partially covered by large, dark, sunglasses. She carries an oversized beige purse on a shoulder strap across her left shoulder. The woman is unfamiliar to her. Maggie waivers while listening to the upstairs shower. After a moment, Maggie shakes her pretty head and opens the door.
The woman on the landing, says, "Hi neighbor. You're new in the area. I'm Susan Duncan from down the road. Thought I'd stop by and say hello."
The woman extends her right hand. Maggie takes the proffered hand as the woman produces a silenced pistol from behind the purse and shoots Maggie twice in the heart. The silenced .9mm Walthers PPK pistol emits a mild 'chunk'. Maggie gives a sigh and falls to the floor.
In the kitchen Mike hears a slight noise, and asks, "Who is it honey?"
He rises and moves toward the stairway. The killer steps across Maggie's crumpled body and onto the stairs. As her foot finds the third tread, Mike arrives at the bottom, looking upward. The assassin shoots Mike in the center of the chest. The high velocity, hollow-point bullet drives him against the wall, where he collapses and slides to the floor.
The assassin listens for a moment to the water running upstairs. She bends over the victims again, shooting each once in the throat and once in the forehead. The killer then rams a new clip into the pistol, assures herself there is a round in the chamber and ascends the stairs. On the second floor she locates the sound of the shower and then stealths along the hallway hugging the western wall. Her path takes her past four open doors before arriving outside the bathroom. She drops her hat and purse before trying the doorknob; the door is unlocked. She pushes inward, and cautiously peers inside the bathroom.
The room is filled with condensation. On the far side of the chamber against the wall a shadowy figure stands enclosed in a glassed-in shower/tub combination. The butt of an automatic pistol peeks from the inside fold of a towel atop the commode tank. The weapon is within easy reach of the man in the shower.
The killer walks briskly to the shower door and slides it quickly open. A man stands there fully lathered with soap on his face. She shoots him in the right side of his chest and then when he collapses, again in the throat and the forehead.
The killer moves the double-sided shower door on its track so she can reach the water control without getting wet. The water is turned off before checking the pulse of the man in the tub. Satisfied, she moves through all the rooms in the house and garage checking for other occupants. Finding none, she returns upstairs. There, she locates the master bedroom and calmly ransacks everything by dumping drawers onto the bed.
From a bureau drawer she removes a thin stack of 100 dollar bills held together by a paperclip. From a dumped jewelry box she takes a man's Rolex wristwatch. The ransacked room will give the appearance of a bungled burglary. She accomplishes the same actions in the other two bedrooms before returning downstairs. The killer leaves the house, locking the door behind her.
She drives sedately through Grand Bluff and onto a Dallas bound highway. Her driving is flawless so as not to attract attention. She departs the area in a nondescript car stolen from the Dallas airport extended-trip parking lot. The licenses plates were exchanged with an adjacent vehicle in the lot using an electric screwdriver. From there the car is driven to a carwash where it is thoroughly cleaned inside and out.
From the carwash the assassin drives to Grand Bluff, performs the contract, and then does everything in reverse. On the return trip the car is again washed, vacuumed, and hand wiped to removing any telltale evidence. From the car wash the executioner drives to the small-aircraft side of the Dallas airport. There she shows a forged parking ramp pass to a guard at the entrance station. The guard passes her through onto the parking ramp. She drives to a red, low wing Navion aircraft sitting near the middle of a row of other light airplanes.
A groundcrew member wearing white coveralls, sunglasses, and a white ball cap lounges near the aircraft in the shade of a wing. When the crewman sees the vehicle approach the person picks up a portable fire extinguisher and moves to the front of the aircraft fuselage. The approaching sedan parks near a wing tip.
The trunk latch is tripped by the in-glove-box-switch before she exits the car. The transmission is left in park with the emergency brake on and the engine running. From the open trunk she dons a leather jacket and a white scarf. Her hat and the purse containing the gun are tossed into the trunk. From the car she strolls to the plane, climbs into the cockpit, straps in, and starts the engine. When the engine has smoothed to idle, the mechanic puts the extinguisher, the pilot's purse in a fuselage compartment, pulls the wheel chocks, and stows them in the same cubicle.
With the compartment secure the attendant enters the car and waits. As the Navion begins to taxi, the groundcrew attendant drives to a parking lot outside the secure area. There, the coveralls and matching cap are removed while inside the vehicle. The coveralls, cap, and the woman's hat from the trunk are rolled into a bundle and dropped into a dumpster. The flight line attendant retains her flesh colored surgical gloves.
Once outside the chainlink fence the blond accomplice walks half a block to a 2-year old white pick up truck and drives away. As the truck nears the end of the runway headed out of town, the Navion passes overhead in a climbing turn to the south. The pickup will be ditched in a farming community 30 miles distant.
Posted March 7, 2011
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