Cass and Lily took the metro to the Pentagon. Cass was in uniform and had a military ID. Lily wore a business-like light blue blouse and loose navy pants that she sometimes wore when she had interviews with customers at the shop about new commissions. Over it, she wore a seaweed green felt coat, which she needed in the face of the chilling autumn wind. On her shoulder hung a small, brand new, alligator purse that Cass had bought her that morning when he realized that she didn’t really having anything more formal than her tool satchel to bring with her.
Walking through the hallways, everyone seems so stiff. Even the walking was like marching. Cass responded to the environment unconsciously, falling into the silent rhythm of people’s steps, and a punctuated tone of voice. He didn’t even attempt to explain where they were going as he lead her through the long wide halls arrayed at odd angles. For all the importance this building had, the décor had not advanced much from the stark original 1940s office building aesthetic.
“No wonder soldiers aren’t creative, if they have to work in places like this.”, Lily told Cass. Cass had secretly felt the same thing more than once, but had never dared to express it.
Half an hour of maneuvering through the building later, Cass deposited her in a white, windowless room, with a table at which a man in a sailor’s uniform, right down to the sailor’s cap, sat. Cass promised to come back when she was done.
Lily sat. The man touched a control that darkened the room. I’d like you to look at the wall to your left. A picture of a man was displayed there for a few seconds, then it went blank and he turned on the lights.
“Could you paint that man the way you did before.”, he asked. He pressed a button, and a tray with coffee and cream, swizzle sticks, napkins and a placemat were brought in.
Lily paused for a few minutes, closing her eyes, and then looked at the blank placemat. She didn’t say a word. She started by dipping the napkin in the coffee. Then, she sipped a little. Bit, by bit, she drew a face in black and white. About forty minutes later, she looked at her work one more time and then stopped.
Then, the man asked Lily a few questions.
“Had you ever seen this man before?”
“How dark was it?”
“How much warning did you have? . . . A minute? Half a minute? Ten seconds? Two seconds? None?”
“Do you have any background in law enforcement?”
“Where were you born?”
“Were your parents born in the United States?”
“Are you a member of any political party?”
“Have you gone to art school?”
“What is your profession?”
Soon, he ran out of questions.
“Could I see that picture again?”, Lily asked.
“Sure.”, said the man.
Lily looked at the picture again and was satisfied with her work.
A couple of minutes later, the door opened, and Cass took her on the winding path out of the Pentagon and back to the nation’s capital.