WASHINGTON -- Caity Mahoney ran to the phone to call her friends. Chelsea Clinton, of all people, had just walked into Starbucks but could not find enough money for coffee. Before anyone could intervene, Caity reached into her pocket for change and bought the president's daughter a drink. Could they believe it -- she had treated the president's daughter to a cup of coffee?
It was such a Caity story, mainly because it was the kind of thing that just doesn't happen to ordinary people. Brimming with enthusiasm -- and 10 times the political junkie of any of her friends -- she thrilled at such encounters as a newcomer to Washington from her native Baltimore.
Ms. Mahoney's mother had just returned from a funeral home near Baltimore when she told this story yesterday.
It came to mind as she tried to describe her 25-year-old daughter, one of three young employees of a Starbucks who were shot to death Sunday night in the upscale Georgetown neighborhood.
"None of us are as active or as selfless as Caity was," said Mary Belle Annenberg, who had identified her daughter in a back room of the coffee shop on Monday.
"She had enormous promise, and that's the sadness."
Mary Caitrin Mahoney was found murdered execution-style, two bullet holes in her head.
Police are still seeking clues and a suspect in the incident, in which two other Starbucks employees -- Emory Allen Evans, 25, and Aaron David Goodrich, 18 -- were also fatally shot.
Security tapes from the nearby Four Seasons Hotel have been requested by detectives because a man speaking on a hotel telephone was overheard trying to reach his lawyers after the killings, a police source told the Associated Press.
Yesterday, Starbucks Corp. offered a $50,000 reward to find the killer.
In Washington, where Ms. Mahoney had worked for more than a year, and in Baltimore, where her family still lives, loved ones tried yesterday to put her ebullient life into words.
Ms. Mahoney was the one who never cried as a baby and who stopped eating meat as an adult because she felt sorry for the animals.
She was the one who gave leftover food to homeless people on her way home from her waitress job, who trekked across Alaska with her 74-year-old grandmother, who danced literally until dawn with friends most weekends.
She was the one who watched CNN every day, who included her cat's name in the greeting on her answering machine, who still became homesick every now and then and didn't mind admitting it.
"Why does God take the angels and leave the rest?" asked Molly Mahoney, her sister.
The question went unanswered yesterday in the Towson home of Ms. Mahoney's father and stepmother, Patrick and Virginia Mahoney, where her relatives made preparations for a memorial service.
Funeral services are scheduled for 10 a.m. Friday at McDonogh School in Owings Mills. In a memorial tribute, the family has established the Mary Caitrin Mahoney Fund at the school.
Ms. Mahoney grew up in the Baltimore area, standing out in her classes with her red hair, freckles and inquisitive nature.
She attended McDonogh and majored in women's studies at Towson University, graduating with honors in 1995.
She was the youngest in a family of six children blended by divorce and remarriage. Instead of tearing the family apart, those separations seemed to expand her family circle.
Ms. Mahoney was close to her older brother and sister, as well as to her three step-siblings. On Christmas and Thanksgiving, she typically shuttled between their homes.
"How do you respond?" asked her stepmother, Virginia Mahoney, who served as a victim witness coordinator for the U.S. attorney's office in Baltimore several years ago.
"The horror of it is we lose a person who could have contributed to society and we still have whoever took her."
Ms. Mahoney delighted at the chance to break into Washington after having campaigned on the East Coast for Bill Clinton during the 1992 presidential campaign.
She was one of the first interns to work at the Clinton White House. So excited about her job in the public liaison office, Ms. Mahoney was known to arrange and rearrange the tables, chairs and telephones to make sure everything looked perfect.
"She had this wonderful way of loving life, and she was very eager to be helpful," said Doris Matsui, the office's deputy director.
After her internship, Ms. Mahoney lived in Baltimore and worked at a series of coffee bars and restaurants while serving on the board of directors for a feminist bookstore, the 31st Street
More than a year ago, she moved to her own efficiency apartment in the eclectic neighborhood of Adams Morgan, where she lived with her cat, Marlu. She had originally moved to Washington to live with a friend.
At the same time, Ms. Mahoney warmed to the job she had landed at Starbucks. Promoted to assistant manager two months ago, she would draft business plans on her computer at home, stop by the shop on her days off, and think nothing of working extra-long shifts.
Some of her best friends worked at the shop.