Jograj was starting to type an e-mail to one of her colleagues when she heard two blasts, followed by what sounded like a shrill scream. She turned around from her desk, confused, half expecting to see a mouse.
“Oh dear God,” she said.
* * *
The gun, she would recall later, was less than 12 feet from her face.
It was double-barreled and at least two feet long — black and smoking and utterly unmistakable. But still, for a fraction of a second, Jograj could make no sense of what the thing was, or what was unfolding in front of her. Even in this building, where the Navy had once manufactured 16-inch guns for warships during World War II, her co-workers were preoccupied mostly with cybersecurity. No one had noticed a man with wide eyes, a short-sleeved blue shirt and an ID badge getting off the nearby elevator at 8:09 a.m. Nobody had paid attention to him as he entered the bathroom near the Cube Farm with a black bag and emerged with a gun six minutes later. Nobody had been given enough time to comprehend the two shots already fired at Frank Kohler in his office, immediately across the hall.
Even now, as Jograj stared at the shooter, she wondered: Had the two deafening sounds she had just heard been the popping of bubble wrap? Or chairs that crashed down onto the atrium floor? Who was this skinny man standing three cubicles away from her, looking so calm, holding this long weapon, now directing it over the lowest wall of a cubicle, now aiming it at Johnson, now tightening his jaw?
Wham. The explosion shook her desk.
“He has a gun!” Jograj screamed, everything suddenly clear.
Smoke and blood and plastic particles from the cubicle wall filled the space around her. She started to dive under her desk, expecting the gunman to aim at her next, but instead she saw him turn to look down the hall. Knight was walking toward them, seemingly unaware of what was unfolding. She had been so joyous lately, sometimes singing to herself: a recent, hard-earned promotion, a new job moonlighting as a community college professor, and a daughter just married — a new chapter of life beginning after 50.
Again the gunman aimed his weapon. Again Jograj heard a blast.
Four shots now in less than a minute. Three people were already dead.
Jograj hunched under her desk and told herself to keep quiet. She closed her eyes to pray and thought instead about Johnson. He had barely had time to look up at the gunman, never raising his eyes above the silly baseball bobble-head figure that sat on his desk. She remembered how he had lightly teased her months earlier for being squeamish. They both liked to fish, but she always made someone else bait her line and clean the catch. She hated the idea of the fish suffering. “Oh God,” she whispered now. “Oh God. Oh God. Oh God.”