Call to Dutyby Richard Herman
Call to Duty is a novel of epic scope and breathtaking adventure that races at mach speed between two deadly wars -- one waged five decades ago against a madman with dreams of world domination, the other to be fought tomorrow against well-armed dealers in poison and death. For there are times that call for swift, decisive action -- as unforeseen global/em>… See more details below
Call to Duty is a novel of epic scope and breathtaking adventure that races at mach speed between two deadly wars -- one waged five decades ago against a madman with dreams of world domination, the other to be fought tomorrow against well-armed dealers in poison and death. For there are times that call for swift, decisive action -- as unforeseen global events threaten to shatter an uncertain peace. There are times that test the mettle of even the most courageous of men and women -- as four young Americans taken captive by a power-hungry Asian drug lord. And now, a beleaguered Commander-in-Chief -- beset upon by internal political turmoil and terrifying international intrigues -- must find guidance and strength in his own heroic past. Then he must act.
For these are certain times.
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The White House, Washington, D.C.
It was the woman's first solo shift as the night duty officer in the Office of the President and the communications section had hummed with its normal nighttime routine, lulling her into a sense of complacency. The phone call from her counterpart in the State Department had jolted her fully awake. "Sally," the veteran bureaucrat said, his voice coming through scratchy on the secure line, "a hot one just came in. The Bangkok embassy reports that Senator Courtland's daughter has been kidnapped."
The woman's fingers flew over the computer keyboard at her desk as she recorded the details of the phone call for future correlation and reference. When the caller had hung up, she replayed the tape, making sure she had all the details correct. Then she told a technician to transcribe the tape immediately into hard copy. Her lips compressed into a narrow line as she stared at the clock: 3:32 A.M. Then she made her decision they should wake the President of the United States with the news. But she first had to check with her boss, the President's chief of staff. Leo Cox answered the phone on the second ring, listened without comment and gave her the okay. Her hand was steady when she jabbed at the buttons on her communications panel to call the President's valet.
Matthew Zachary Pontowski opened the door that led to the small office off the President's bedroom and walked in. A simple dark blue robe covered his lanky six feet and he was carrying his glasses. His blue eyes were clear and his full head of silver-gray hair was onlyslightly ruffled. As usual, he walked with a slight hunch to his shoulders and a definite limp, a legacy from World War II. His prominent, aquiline nose reminded the woman of a hawk but his face was not harsh. The laugh lines at the corners of his eyes promised warmth and understanding. He looked and acted ten years younger than seventy-six years of age.
"Well, Sally," he began. "Charles says you have something important."
She could hear friendliness in his voice and relaxed. "Yes, sir, I think so." She handed him a transcript of the phone call from the State Department. He sat down at his desk and adjusted his glasses. Zack Pontowski could read at over twelve hundred words a minute, faster than a person could talk. He preferred to read and to ask questions later. It was a well-established routine in the White House.
"Charles," he said through the still-open door, "would you please get some coffee." He reread the transcript and thought about the young woman still standing in front of him. "Please sit down," he told her, motioning to a comfortable armchair next to him. "What do you think Leo will say when he learns you woke me up so early?" He glanced at a small carriage clock on the desk. Leo Cox, a former general in the United States Air Force, ran a relaxed but well-controlled office for the President.
"He's already said it, Mr. President. I called him before I called Charles to wake you. General Cox should be here in fifteen minutes." On cue, Charles walked in with a fresh pot of coffee.
"Was he the only other person you woke?"
"Yes, sir," she answered, now certain she had done the right thing. The gentle warmth in his voice was very reassuring.
Pontowski smiled, pleased with her. Cox does pick the right people, he thought. She keyed on the political sensitivity of this immediately and wasn't afraid to get the ball rolling. How much further can she carry it? "What do you recommend I shoulddo first?" he asked, his voice serious.
"Make a personal phone call to Senator Courtland with the news, " she answered immediately, "and arrange a meeting with him at the first opportunity."
Pontowski picked up the phone and spoke to the operator. "Please put me in contact with Senator Courtland immediately." He hung up. "How do you think the good senator will respond?" he asked.
"He'll try to crucify you with it, sir."
William Douglas Courtland stretched an arm over the sleeping girl to pick up the telephone. The first insistent ring had woken him and he was fully alert. "Yes," he said, not letting the touch of hostility he felt at being disturbed show in his voice. "Of course, I'll take the call."
The girl stirred as he sat upright and pulled the covers away. "Oh ... what ... ?" she mumbled. The dewiness of sleep gave her the look of a twelve-year-old nymph.
Courtland placed a hand over the mouthpiece of the receiver. "It's Pontowski," he told her. "I need to take this in private." She nodded and slipped out of bed. He smiled at her as she disappeared naked into the bathroom. She's younger looking than most of them, he thought, but a hell of a lot smarter. "Yes, Mr. President," he said, his voice now smooth and rich. He listened silently, making the appropriate responses. Then: "Yes, thank you for calling and I'll be there." He hung up and sank into the pillows.
"Can you make some coffee?" he called.
"Coming right up," the girl answered and appeared in the bathroom's doorway, still not dressed. "Trouble?"
Courtland grunted an answer and watched her walk across the room, dragging a towel. She is beautiful, he thought, and the same age as Heather. He worked through the contradictory emotions he felt for his daughter. Heather in trouble again, this time serious. Goddamn! Why couldn't she stay low-profile? Out of trouble. And who in the hell has kidnapped her? I never did think much of her going on that trip anyway, not that telling her would have made a difference. Probably just made her more determined to do it.Call to Duty. Copyright © by Richard Herman. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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