Capital Crimes (Will Lee Series #6)

( 16 )

Overview

Will Lee, the courageous and uncompromising senator from Georgia, is back-now as President of the United States-in this fifth book of the New York Times bestselling series that began with Chiefs.

When a prominent conservative politician is killed inside his lakeside cabin, authorities have no suspect in sight. And two more seemingly different deaths might be linked to the same murderer. From a quiet D.C. suburb to the corridors of power to a deserted island hideaway in Maine, ...

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Capital Crimes (Will Lee Series #6)

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Overview

Will Lee, the courageous and uncompromising senator from Georgia, is back-now as President of the United States-in this fifth book of the New York Times bestselling series that began with Chiefs.

When a prominent conservative politician is killed inside his lakeside cabin, authorities have no suspect in sight. And two more seemingly different deaths might be linked to the same murderer. From a quiet D.C. suburb to the corridors of power to a deserted island hideaway in Maine, Will, his CIA director wife, Kate, and the FBI will track their man, set a trap-and await the most dangerous kind of quarry, a killer with a cause to die for...

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Editorial Reviews

Washington Post
Keeps you turning page after page.
People
An action-packed puzzler.
Publishers Weekly
In this humdrum political thriller, the latest in the Will Lee series (The Run, etc.), William Henry Lee IV, former senator from Georgia, has graduated to the presidency of the United States. He's living comfortably in the White House with his wife, Katharine Rule Lee, director of the CIA, when a series of murders threatens the nation's political equanimity. Ex-CIA man Ted Fay has begun a lone wolf vendetta against selected right-wing big shots. Ted opens the hostilities by sniping hypocritical Republican Sen. Frederick Wallace of South Carolina, a known bigot who spends his free time committing adultery in a remote mountain cabin with his lover of 20 years, African-American Elizabeth Johnson. President Lee turns to longtime Deputy Director Robert Kinney of the FBI to investigate the murder. When Kinney is asked who shot the senator, his answer gives some measure of Wallace's popularity: "We've narrowed the list of people with a motive to about ten thousand." Assassin Ted has a Web site with a rogue's gallery of politicians, judges, media personalities and others whose policies he deems objectionable. As he ingeniously does away with each in turn, a large X is placed over the corresponding picture. Because Will and Kathy are staunch Democrats and Ted is such a partisan killer, the reader knows that neither is in any danger; this defuses suspense other than that generated by a standard cat-and-mouse hunt. And as Ted is the most interesting character in the book, one begins to secretly root for him and his mission, thus confusing the issue even further. This is not Woods's best, but he's such a pro even a lackluster outing still delivers a mildly diverting read. Agents, Morton Janklow and Anne Sibbald. (Oct.) Forecast: Woods's core readership and fans of the series will assure large numbers, even though he's sleepwriting on this one. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Georgia senator Will Lee has become President, but he and his wife, Kate, director of the CIA, still have crimes to solve. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Liberal? Feeling alienated from the political process? A disenchanted Lefty is taking matters into his own hands by murdering right-wing politicos. The execution of Sen. Frederick Wallace (R., S.C.) is so expertly handled and the crime scene so clean that the Feds are convinced from the starting gun that it's the first of a series, and sure enough, a sequence of victims is soon dispatched in increasingly improbable ways. Right Radio talk-show star Van Vandervelt's car is blown up; conservative New Jersey TV commentator Tim Brennan is poisoned by the old umbrella ferrule; another dose is planned for televangelist Dr. Don Beverly Calhoun. As Republican lawmakers denounce the killings as part of a vast left-wing conspiracy with links to President William Henry Lee IV (The Run, 2000, etc.), the First Lady, CIA director Katharine Rule Lee marshals her troops to generate leads. Their first suspect, a retired CIA agent with a liberal bent, would be perfect if he hadn't been crippled by a stroke, and their second, another ex-CIA type, has vanished without leaving behind a single photo or fingerprint. But the Woods regulars are not without their resources. Felicity Devonshire, of Her Majesty's Military Intelligence, is helping tie the unknown to a radical British group, and Kate's old mentor Ed Rawls, now doing hard time for treason, swears he knows the perp's identity and location, and he'll swap his information for a full pardon and a million dollars. Will Robert Kinney, the colorless deputy director of the FBI, and his guys zero in on the assassin before he has ultra-right Supreme Court justice Thomas Graydon in his sights? And if they don't, so what? Mercurial Woods's most recent thrillers(The Short Forever, 2002; Blood Orchid, 2002) have been so ludicrous that it's a pleasure to report that this fleet, workmanlike entry is merely uninvolving and unbelievable.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780451211569
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 4/6/2004
  • Series: Will Lee Series , #6
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 368
  • Sales rank: 244,998
  • Product dimensions: 4.36 (w) x 7.58 (h) x 0.99 (d)

Meet the Author

Stuart Woods

Stuart Woods is the author of fifty novels, including the New York Times-bestselling Stone Barrington and Holly Barker series. He is a native of Georgia and began his writing career in the advertising industry. Chiefs, his debut in 1981, won the Edgar Award. An avid sailor and pilot, Woods lives in New York City, Florida, and Maine.

Biography

Stuart Woods was born in 1938 in Manchester, Georgia. After graduating from college and enlisting in the Air National Guard, he moved to New York, where he worked in advertising for the better part of the 1960s. He spent three years in London working for various ad agencies, then moved to Ireland in 1973 to begin his writing career in earnest.

However, despite his best intentions, Woods got sidetracked in Ireland. He was nearly 100 pages into a novel when he discovered the seductive pleasures of sailing. "Everything went to hell," he quips on his web site "All I did was sail." He bought a boat, learned everything he could about celestial navigation, and competed in the Observer Singlehanded Transatlantic Race (OSTAR) in 1976, finishing respectably in the middle of the fleet. (Later, he took part in the infamous Fastnet Race of 1979, a yachting competition that ended tragically when a huge storm claimed the lives of 15 sailors and 4 observers. Woods and his crew emerged unharmed.)

Returning to the U.S., Woods wrote two nonfiction books: an account of his transatlantic sailing adventures (Blue Water, Green Skipper) and a travel guide he claims to have written on a whim. But the book that jump-started his career was the opus interruptus begun in Ireland. An absorbing multigenerational mystery set in a small southern town, Chiefs was published in 1981, went on to win an Edgar Award, and was subsequently turned into a television miniseries starring Charlton Heston.

An amazingly prolific author, Woods has gone on to pen dozens of compelling thrillers, juggling stand-alone novels with installments in four successful series. (His most popular protagonists are New York cop-turned-attorney Stone Barrington, introduced in 1991's New York Dead, and plucky Florida police chief Holly Barker, who debuted in 1998's Orchid Beach.) His pleasing mix of high-octane action, likable characters, and sly, subversive humor has made him a hit with readers -- who have returned the favor by propelling his books to the top of the bestseller lists.

Good To Know

Some fascinating facts about Stuart Woods:

His first job was in advertising at BBDO in New York, and his first assignment was to write ads for CBS-TV shows. He recalls: "They consisted of a drawing of the star and one line of exactly 127 characters, including spaces, and I had to write to that length. It taught me to be concise."

He flies his own airplane, a single-engine turboprop called a Jetprop, and tours the country every year in it, including book tours.

He's a partner in a 1929 motor yacht called Belle and spends two or three weeks a year aboard her.

In 1961-62, Woods spent 10 months in Germany with the National Guard at the height of the Berlin Wall Crisis.

In October and November of 1979, he skippered a friend's yacht back across the Atlantic, with a crew of six, calling at the Azores, Madeira, and the Canary Islands and finishing at Antigua in the Caribbean.

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    1. Hometown:
      Key West, Florida; Mt. Desert, Maine; New York, New York
    1. Date of Birth:
      January 9, 1938
    2. Place of Birth:
      Manchester, Georgia
    1. Education:
      B.A., University of Georgia, 1959
    2. Website:

Read an Excerpt

1

SENATOR FREDERICK WALLACE OF SOUTH CAROLINA ROSE at dawn from the bed in the lakeside cabin that he had shared with his African-American lover for more than twenty years. He went into the bathroom and relieved himself noisily. His lover, Elizabeth Johnson, liked to sleep later than he.

Freddie and Elizabeth had produced two sons early in their relationship, both of whom were enrolled in Ivy League universities. Freddie’s wife, Betty Ann, disliked coming back to Chester, their putative home, preferring the social life and shopping of Washington, D.C., which made it easy for Freddie to make weekend trips back to South Carolina, ostensibly for constituent services. He did a bit of that, of course, but mostly he and Elizabeth did each other. It was the only completely satisfying sexual relationship of his entire life, and he cherished it above everything else in his existence, except his status as a conservative Republican U.S. senator. Since he was a politician, the hypocrisy of his position weighed lightly upon him. Once, a couple of years before, someone had found out and had tried to expose the relationship, but Freddie had, by a previous plan with Elizabeth, denied everything and fought the rumor to a standstill. He had been unable to see her for three months, and that had hurt him badly.

TED, who had been sitting in the trees for more than an hour before first light, caught sight of the senator through the leaves, as he apparently relieved, then weighed himself in the bathroom. He didn’t like the sight line—too many branches in the way—so he bided his time.

FREDDIE WALLACE tied his robe around him and walked into the kitchen. Since Elizabeth slept later, he always made his own breakfast. First, though, he attended to a little ritual that had been suggested to him by Harry Truman, a president whom he would not admit admiring. He went to a kitchen cupboard and removed a bottle containing an amber liquid, with a hand-printed label. It was a private-batch bourbon, 100 proof, that an old friend kept him supplied with, as many old friends kept Freddie supplied with many things, from suits to Cadillacs. He had once, in a reflective moment, calculated that if the value of all the gifts he received each year was made known to the Internal Revenue Service, the resulting income tax would exceed his income as a U.S. senator.

• * *

TED HAD HIM in the kitchen now, and the line was good. He moved the tripod a couple of feet to his left, and sat down, cross-legged, behind it, tightening the mount adjustment and bringing the barrel to bear on the kitchen window. He had, on a previous visit, measured the distance from his present position to the center of the house, which came to three hundred and four yards, give or take, and he had already sighted in the weapon for that distance.

The appearance of the rifle, which he had made himself, would have puzzled even an experienced shooter, since the weapon was bereft of any material that did not contribute to its accuracy—no walnut stock, just an aluminum rod; no trigger guard; no visible bolt. The long, fat flash suppressor and silencer would have seemed totally out of place; only the large, light-gathering telescopic sight would be familiar. Ted loaded a single, .22-caliber, long-rifle cartridge into the chamber and closed it, then took his first sight through the scope.

FREDDIE WALLACE POURED himself a jigger of the superb bourbon, then recorked the bottle and put it away. He tossed down the ounce and a half of spirits, waiting for it to hit bottom before he moved.

THE TARGET STOOD absolutely still for just a moment, and Ted, almost casually, squeezed off the round. The only sounds were the pffffft of the firing and the tinkle of window glass as the copper-jacketed round passed through it. Had he been inside the room, he would have heard a noise like a slap across the face as the bullet struck the senator’s left temple, then the sound of his body collapsing like a sack of oranges onto the kitchen floor.

ELIZABETH JOHNSON was turning over in her sleep when she heard the noise. It was one she had heard only once before, but she had imagined it many times, the sound of a male body hitting the floor. Given the state of Frederick Wallace’s health, she had been expecting it.

She got out of bed, picked up her robe, and walked toward the kitchen with some trepidation. “Freddie?” she called, but there was no answer. She continued into the kitchen and saw him lying there. It was not until she came near the body that she saw the hole in the temple and the blood and gore that the exiting bullet had taken with it. “Oh, shit, Freddie,” she said; then she ducked down below window level and checked his pulse. There was none.

TED PICKED UP the rifle, with its tripod still connected, and walked off into the woods. When the house had vanished behind him, he changed directions by sixty degrees, walked another five minutes, then switched back, avoiding any bare dirt or branches he might break along the way. After twenty minutes of walking, he could hear the traffic on the highway, and he approached the spot where he had left his other things. He knelt in the leaves, spread out a piece of army blanket, unscrewed the rifle from its tripod, removed the scope and the silencer, and packed everything into a camera bag and two fishing-rod tubes. He got out of his camouflage jacket, stuffed it into a backpack, and donned his tweed jacket and matching hat.

He peeked through the underbrush at the traffic, waited until there was a lull, then ambled to his RV, parked in a little roadside rest area. He unlocked the cabin door, hid the camera bag and tubes in the places he had designed for them, got behind the wheel, and drove away at a moderate pace, not anxious to attract attention.

A few miles down the road, he parked in the lot of a fast-food restaurant, went to his laptop computer, adjusted the dish on the roof for contact with the satellite, logged online, using a program that took him through six portals before finally connecting, and went to Microsoft Front Page. He made some changes in the Web site, then logged off and went into the restaurant for a big breakfast.

ELIZABETH JOHNSON had gone through the house carefully, packing anything that might be linked to her into two large suitcases. She and Freddie had talked about this more than once, and his instructions had been explicit. She got the bags into the trunk of her car, then went back into the cabin and made another search for anything of hers. Finally, she went back into the kitchen, knelt next to the body, bent over, and kissed it lightly on the lips. “Goodbye, my sweetheart,” she said; then she left the house with tears streaming down her cheeks and drove away.

When she was back in Chester, she pulled over, took out the cell phone that Freddie had given her, and dialed the sheriff’s home number.

“Hello?” he said.

“Tom, you know who this is?”

“Yep, I do,” he replied.

“You better get out to the cabin. Somebody shot him in the head about half an hour ago.”

There was a stunned silence. “Was it you?” he asked finally.

“I was in bed asleep. I heard him fall.”

“Anybody know you was there?”

“No, and I cleared out everything of mine. I’m on my way home.”

“Don’t you talk to nobody about this, you hear? I’ll let you know what I find out after I find it out.”

“Goodbye.” She hung up, started the car, and drove to her little house. She went inside, lay down on the bed, and let herself cry some more.

2

THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES, WILLIAM Henry Lee IV, sat on the edge of his bed and contemplated his toenails. His wife, Katharine Rule Lee, came out of the bathroom and stopped.

“What are you doing?” she asked.

“I hate clipping my toenails,” he said. “Tell me again why I can’t have pedicures.”

“Because the Republicans would find out about it and cast you as an effete, liberal snob. And I’m not going to clip them for you. I have a very important meeting in less than an hour, and I have to get dressed.” Katharine Rule Lee was director of Central Intelligence, appointed to that post by her husband after an act of Congress had allowed him to do so.

“I know you have an important meeting,” Will said. “I expect to be there, too, since you and the director of the FBI and the military are briefing me.”

“Oh, yes, I forgot you’d be there.”

The telephone rang, and Will picked it up. “Will Lee,” he said.

“Sir, this is the White House operator.”

“Good morning, Inez,” Will said. “What’s up?”

“We just had a phone call from a Sheriff Tom Stribling, of Chester, South Carolina.”

“That’s where Senator Wallace lives, isn’t it?”

“Yes, sir. Sheriff Stribling asked that we inform you that Senator Wallace was shot to death less than an hour ago.”

Will took a quick breath and tried not to think about the ramifications of such news. “Any details?”

“The sheriff said he is at your disposal, if you want to call him.”

“Thank you, Inez,” Will said, then hung up.

“What is it?” Kate asked.

“Freddie Wallace is dead. Somebody shot him early this morning.”

“Anybody we know? I’d like to send him a box of chocolates.”

“I hope to God, it was a Republican.”

“Well,” Kate said, “it would be interesting to sit around and speculate about who did it and why. Heaven knows there are enough people with enough cause, not to speak ill of the dead. But, as I said, I have an important meeting to go to.”

“I remember,” Will said, picking up the phone.

“Put down the phone for a minute,” she said.

Will put down the phone. “What?”

“I’ll tell you something you don’t know about Freddie Wallace, if you won’t ask me how I know.”

“Why can’t I ask you how you know?”

“Because I’m the director of Central Intelligence, and how I know is classified.”

“Am I not cleared at that level?”

“Maybe. Let’s call it need to know.”

“Tell me.”

“For more than twenty years, Freddie has had an African-American mistress, with whom he is—was—deeply in love. They have two sons, one at Brown, one at Harvard.”

“Holy shit. I thought that was just a canard.”

“It wasn’t.”

“How do you know this?”

“You promised not to ask me.”

“No, I didn’t.”

“Your promise was implied as part of an oral contract.”

“Now you’re talking like a lawyer.”

“I am a lawyer.”

“I forgot. I always think of you as a spy.”

“I think I rather like that,” she said, walking over to him, raising his chin with a finger, and kissing him.

“Maybe tonight we can find time to discuss at some length why you like that,” he said, reaching for her ass and missing as she stepped away.

“I very much doubt it,” she said. “We have a very important White House dinner this evening, and we’ll both be worn out by bedtime.”

“I could cancel it because of Freddie’s death,” he said hopefully.

“I don’t think that the prime minister of Japan would think that appropriate, and since he’s the guest of honor—”

“All right,” Will said. He picked up the phone again. “Please get me Sheriff Tom Stribling, in Chester, South Carolina,” he said. He loved never having to find a pencil to write down a phone number; all he had to do was speak a name, and he was connected to anyone, anywhere. It was one of the better perks of being president.

A few seconds later, the operator said, “You’re connected, Mr. President.”

“Sheriff?”

“Yes, Mr. President, I’m right here.”

“Tell me what happened.”

“I’m at the scene now, sir,” the sheriff said. “The senator took a small-caliber bullet through the left temple and died instantly, far as we can tell. Nobody heard a gunshot.”

“Who was with the senator?”

“No one, sir, he was alone.”

“Then who didn’t hear a gunshot?”

“Ah, well—”

“I know about the black lady, Sheriff.” It was worth a shot.

Stribling let out a breath, as if he had been holding it.

“She was here, sir. She heard him fall to the floor, but she didn’t hear a shot.”

“Is she still there?”

“No, sir, she’s at her home, and so are all her things.”

“I take it she’s not going to be a part of any public announcement or inquiry.”

“No, sir. The senator left very clear instructions about that a long time ago.”

“Have you given this to the press yet?”

“No, sir. I expect it will be close to noon before we’re finished with the crime scene. I’ll fax an announcement to the Columbia papers and the AP after that.”

“I see. Have you spoken to Betty Ann Wallace?”

“Yes, sir, a few minutes ago.”

“How did she take it?”

“Hysterically.”

“She’s in Washington?”

“Yes, sir.”

“I’ll call her,” Will said. “Thanks for letting me know, Tom.”

“I’m glad to be of service, sir.”

They both hung up.

Will got the operator back. “Get me Senator Wallace’s wife, at their Washington home.” He waited while he was connected, dreading the conversation ahead.

3

WILL WAS IN HIS LITTLE STUDY OFF THE OVAL OFFICE AT eight-thirty, and his secretary, a tall, thin African-American woman named Cora Parker, was waiting with his schedule and a number of other items.

“Good morning, Mr. President,” she said, taking a seat next to his desk and setting the folder on his desk.

“Good morning, Cora,” Will replied. “There’s some news: I just learned that Senator Freddie Wallace was shot around dawn this morning. He died instantly.”

“Oh, my God,” Cora said, putting a hand to her mouth.

Since nothing ever fazed Cora, Will looked at her closely. “I know you’re from South Carolina, but I wouldn’t have thought that Freddie’s death would upset you all that much.”

“No, sir, it doesn’t, exactly,” Cora replied. “I was just thinking about—”

“Cora, do you know about the senator’s friend?”

“What friend would that be, sir?”

“The lady friend.”

She sighed. “Yes, sir, I know. I’m from Columbia, but I’ve got a first cousin who lives in Chester, and she and the lady are friends. That’s how I know her.”

“What’s the lady’s name?” he asked.

“Elizabeth Johnson. She’s a widow.”

“And they had two sons together, is that correct?”

“Yes, sir, George and Johnny, named after her two brothers. Their last name is House, Elizabeth’s maiden name.”

“Do the boys know who their father is?”

“I believe they do,” Cora replied.

“Is there anything else I should know about all this, just to keep from putting my foot in it?”

“Not that I can think of, Mr. President. Do they know who shot him?”

“No, not yet. This isn’t going to be announced until around noon today, so keep it to yourself until you hear it on the news.”

“Can I call Elizabeth?”

“Not on a White House phone,” Will said. “We don’t want that call logged, and don’t use your staff cell phone, either. Wait until you can get to a phone outside somewhere.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Now, I spoke to Mrs. Wallace a few minutes ago. She wants two funerals, one here and one in Chester. She wants me to give the eulogy at the one here, in the National Cathedral.”

Cora produced a leather-bound diary. “When, sir?”

“She wants it on Wednesday. Do we have anything that can’t be canceled that morning?”

Cora consulted the diary. “Nothing I can’t move around, sir.”

“Coordinate that with the appointments secretary, then call Mrs. Wallace and confirm a time with her and let the Secret Service know about it.”

“Yes, sir. Is there anything else?”

“We’ll talk after my national security briefing,” Will said. He went through his day’s schedule, made a few phone calls, then got up and went into the Oval Office. Everyone present stood.

“Please be seated,” he said, looking around. He saw his wife, representing the CIA; the director of the FBI, James Heller; the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Marvin Moore; his National Security Advisor, Alice Ramirez; and the vice president, Howard Kiel. Other presidents had been briefed by one agency at a time, but Will preferred having them all in the same room at the same time, since it promoted interagency information sharing. “Good morning to you all,” he said.

There was a murmur of greetings in response.

“Let’s get started. General Moore?”

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff leaned forward in his seat. “Mr. President, it was a fairly quiet night. We have a helicopter down in Afghanistan, but it looks like mechanical problems. One injured, none dead. The chopper is being repaired. Nothing else of note.”

“Thank you, General.” Will went from person to person until everyone had reported. “Thank you, all. Jim, would you and Kate stay?”

The FBI director kept his seat, and so did Kate.

When the others had cleared the room, Will spoke again. “Jim, Senator Wallace of South Carolina was murdered this morning in Chester, South Carolina.”

“What?” the director asked, looking alarmed.

Heller always said “What?” to anything put to him. Will let it sink in. “Get in touch with the local sheriff down there, Tom Stribling, and get some of your people up there from Columbia or Atlanta, or wherever’s closest, and start an investigation.”

“Mr. President, murder is not a federal crime,” Heller said.

Will sighed. He had inherited Heller from the previous administration, and he found him barely competent and, sometimes, a little dense. He had not replaced him on taking office, because he felt that the position of FBI director should not be a political appointment, subject to change with every administration. But now, having worked with the man for a year and a half, he had decided to replace him at the first reasonable opportunity. “Murder of a federal official is a federal crime,” he said, trying not to sound impatient.

“Oh, of course,” Heller said, turning a little pink. “Any details?”

“The sheriff will have them. All I know is that he was shot and killed instantly.”

“Any suspects?”

“Jim, I don’t know. Ask the sheriff. Kate, do you have any information that might be useful to the director?”

“I’ll check with my staff when I get to Langley, Mr. President,” she said. She always addressed him formally when doing government business in the company of others.

“I think we’re done, then,” Will said.

“Mr. President, may I have a moment?” Kate asked.

“Of course. Goodbye, Jim. Brief me personally when you have a grip on the Wallace murder.”

“Yes, Mr. President,” the director said. He got up and left.

Will went and sat by Kate. “Are you going to tell Heller about Freddie’s little indiscretion?”

“I don’t think so, unless it turns out later to have some relevance to his murder,” she said.

“I think that’s just as well.”

“However, the indiscretion reminds me of something that you and I should discuss.”

“Shoot.”

“I expect you remember Ed Rawls.”

“I believe I do,” Will said dryly. Ed Rawls was a disgraced former CIA operations officer, who had sold information to the Russians a few years back. He had been one of the Agency’s top operatives and Kate’s mentor there, until, largely through her efforts, he had been exposed, tried, and convicted. He was now doing twenty-five years to life at the Atlanta Federal Penitentiary.

“I have a lot to tell you about Ed Rawls—things I had hoped you wouldn’t have to know. Freddie’s death has dredged it up.”

“You sound as though I’m not going to like this,” Will said.

“You’re not,” Kate replied. “Neither do I. But it’s time you knew.”

4

KATE TOOK A DEEP BREATH AND BEGAN, USING THE VOICE she used when briefing the president, not the one she used when giving her husband bad news. “Christmas three years ago, when you were deciding whether to run, we were in Delano with your folks. Do you remember that I had to go somewhere on business?”

“Yes, you took the car, and I thought it was very odd, but I’ve been trained not to ask questions when you say ‘business.’”

“The business was Ed Rawls. I had a letter from him that morning, addressed to your parents’ house, asking me to come to see him at the Atlanta Federal Penitentiary.”

“And you went to see him?”

“Yes.”

“Why on earth did you do that? It would certainly be against Agency policy, wouldn’t it?”

“Not if I reported the visit, and I did. Something in the letter made it necessary.”

“What was in the letter?”

“He knew about Joe Adams.”

Adams had been vice president at the time, and only the day before, he had invited Will and Kate to Camp David for brunch and told them that he was in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease.

Will was stunned. “Jesus, you and I had only known about it for twenty-four hours, and I thought we were the only ones. How could a man in prison get that information?”

“He wouldn’t tell me. He did say that all sorts of things went on there that no one on the outside could imagine. He said there were prisoners there with cell phones. For all I know, he might have been one of them.”

“I’m glad you didn’t tell me at the time,” Will said.

“There’s more. Freddie Wallace also found out about Joe’s condition and leaked it to a columnist, probably Hogan Parks.”

“Why didn’t Parks use it?”

“Because Ed somehow got to Freddie and threatened to expose his relationship with the black woman, if he let Parks run the story.”

Will shook his head. “This is insane, all of it. A man in prison knows the most intimate secrets of the vice president and a United States senator?”

“You have to remember who Ed is, or rather, was. Of all the people I knew in the Agency, Ed had the widest range of contacts in government and the press. In those days, he could find out anything, track down any rumor, scare anybody to death, if he had to. He was not the sort of man you’d want for an enemy.”

“I suppose not. But why are you telling me all this now?”

“Because of the real reason Ed wanted to see me in Atlanta.”

“Which was?”

“He wanted a presidential pardon, and he thought if he helped you win the election you might come through for him.”

“This is the craziest thing I ever heard of,” Will said.

“Except that he did help you get elected. In fact, you could say that without his help, you would not have been elected.”

Will blinked. “By dealing with Freddie about Joe Adams?”

“Exactly. He got a letter to Freddie, threatening to expose his relationship with the woman if he used the information about Joe’s health. Freddie somehow figured out where the letter came from and had Ed thrown in some dungeon part of the Atlanta pen for a week, but when Ed got out, he managed to convince Freddie that he had the wrong man, and he continued to write to him, having letters sent from other places. He kept his foot on Freddie’s neck for months.”

“And he expects me to pardon him for that?”

“He does.”

“And how do you feel about this?”

“At the time, I thought he was crazy, and I told him so, but he actually did the things he said he would do. Think back: During the summer before the election, after the president’s stroke and Joe’s becoming acting president, what would have happened if Freddie had managed to expose Joe’s illness and the fact that Joe had told you about it? I’ll tell you: Joe would have been forced to resign, you would have been disgraced, and the Speaker of the House—your opponent in the race—Eft Efton, would have become president.”

Will thought about that. “I suppose you’re right.”

“So, looking at it from your point of view, and incidentally, mine, Ed Rawls performed a valuable service for his country by keeping that shit Efton out of the White House.”

“You have a point,” Will said. “Was Rawls the one who leaked the story about Freddie and his lover later on?”

“Yes, but he did it with a light touch, so that it could never be substantiated. Freddie denied everything, and it all went away.”

“And what would the CIA’s position be on a pardon for Ed Rawls?”

“Until recently, dead set against it, but that position is softening.”

“Why?”

“Because Ed still has friends at the Agency, and because I’m now director of Central Intelligence.”

“So you’re sympathetic?”

“Ed is not well. He’s had some health problems, and he’s seventy now. He still has that house on the island of Islesboro, in Maine—you remember, I went to visit him and his wife there once?”

“Yes, vaguely.”

“He says he wants to die there. If it were up to me, I couldn’t deny him that.”

“Kate, I might as well pardon Aldrich Ames or that FBI agent who was selling stuff to the Russians for years and years. It would be worse than that stupid pardon that Bill Clinton granted that fugitive in Switzerland on his last day in office.”

“Will, I can’t tell you that this is politically feasible; all I can say is that, if you felt grateful enough to Ed to pardon him, I could make it all right at the Agency. Certainly, you couldn’t do it during your first term. You could pardon him on grounds of ill health. All I ask is that you think about it. Neither of us has to mention this to anyone else.”

“All right, I’ll think about it,” Will said.

There was a sharp rap on the door, and Cora Parker stuck her head in. “Mr. President, CNN has something on Senator Wallace’s death,” she said. “Shall I turn it on?”

“Please, Cora.”

There were four television sets in the Oval Office, tuned to the three major networks and CNN. Cora switched on the CNN set.

A reporter was standing a few yards from a rustic cabin beside a lake. “…and the senator was standing in the kitchen, only a few feet from the window.” He pointed, and the camera zoomed in on a smashed windowpane. “What has a lot of people in Washington worried is that Senator Wallace was rumored to have kept extensive files on various people in government and that the information in those files might find its way into the media. According to the rumor, only J. Edgar Hoover had more dirt on more important people. Now back to the studio.”

“You think that’s true?” Kate asked.

“I wouldn’t put it past Freddie,” Will said. “And next week, I’m going to give a funeral oration for a man who did everything he could to destroy my political career and my reputation.”

“If Freddie kept files like that, who would have them?”

“I haven’t the faintest idea,” Will said.

IN CHESTER, South Carolina, Elizabeth Johnson opened a desk drawer in the den of her home and took out a key. She went down the stairs to her basement and to a pile of boxes in a corner. She moved one, exposing a small filing cabinet, the kind that holds index cards. Tentatively, she inserted the key into the little cabinet and pulled open one of the four drawers. She switched on a light, illuminating a row of precisely filed cards, all of them labeled with the neatly printed names of some of the best-known, most powerful people in the country. Freddie had always been a splendid record keeper.

Elizabeth had meant to look through them, but instead, she stared at the cards as if they were a poisonous reptile. She closed the drawer, locked the cabinet, and went back upstairs. Instead of returning the key to the desk drawer, she went into her bedroom closet and pushed aside the clothes hanging there. She opened the wall safe that she had bought to keep the jewelry that Freddie had given her over the years; then she put the file cabinet key inside, closed the safe, and returned the clothes to their original position.

She would wait awhile, until the furor over Freddie’s death had died down, then she would burn all those index cards in her fireplace.

5

JAMES HELLER, BACK IN HIS OFFICE AT THE HOOVER Building, called a meeting of the half-dozen highest-ranking people at the FBI, all of them men.

“Gentlemen, I have some news for you,” Heller said, self-importantly. “Senator Frederick Wallace of South Carolina was murdered this morning.” He waited for a response.

“Yes, sir,” the deputy director for criminal investigations said. “It was on CNN a few minutes ago.”

Heller blinked. “But the president himself told me about it only a few minutes ago. He got it from the sheriff down there.” He somehow viewed this as a personal betrayal by CNN.

“Yes, sir,” the DDCI said.

“Bob,” Heller said, fixing the DDCI with his gaze. “I want you to call the agent in charge of the Columbia office on the phone right away and have him get some men over to Chester and talk to that sheriff.”

“I have already done so, sir,” the DDCI replied.

Heller blinked. “Oh.” He took a deep breath and tried to think. “As I’m sure you know, the murder of a federal official is a federal crime—”

“Yes, sir, I know that.”

“So we’re taking over this investigation. This small-town sheriff isn’t going to have the resources to properly investigate this killing.”

“I have already given those instructions to the AIC in Columbia,” the DDCI said. “The investigation is ours now.”

“Good. So, what do we know so far?”

“I spoke to Sheriff Stribling, and he tells me that Senator Wallace was shot through a kitchen window by a sniper, who was probably three hundred yards or more away, since the land around the cabin was cleared to that distance, affording no hiding place for a shooter. A single twenty-two-caliber bullet struck him in the left temple, killing him instantly.”

“Good, good. And what have our people turned up there?”

“Sir, Chester is more than an hour’s drive from Columbia. They would have left Columbia no more than fifteen minutes ago.”

“Do we have any suspects?”

“Sir, as you know Senator Wallace was a very popular man on the right wing of the Republican Party.”

“I didn’t know there was any other wing of the Republican Party.”

“Be that as it may, sir, the senator was very unpopular with almost everybody to the left of him. He was a very skillful obstructionist in the Senate, managing to block many pieces of legislation and judicial appointments, some of them sent up by Republican presidents. He had many enemies, and the first assessment of people with motive to kill him would run into the hundreds, perhaps thousands. By the time we eliminate everyone who could not have been in Chester, South Carolina, this morning, we may have pared the list to dozens.

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Sort by: Showing 1 – 17 of 16 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 29, 2004

    Liberal Venom harms good writing

    I've always enjoyed the characters of Will Lee & Kate Rule - until, that is, they began using hate speech toward any member of the opposite political party. In this book, only the Democrats are people of upright moral character. (Perhaps it's just a delayed stress reaction to the Clinton debauchery). I was a Stuart Woods fan before but will be no longer as it is obvious he has nothing but contempt for those of us across the political aisle. And they accuse Republicans of hate speech? My Marine son will defend your rights Mr. Woods, but I don't have to buy your venom.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    exhilarating political suspense thriller

    The first person executed is South Carolina Republican Senator Frederick Wallace, an extreme right wing politician. The crime scene is clean and the kill is professional. The next victim is right wing radio talk show host Van Vandervelt whose car explodes. The killer attains official serial status when conservative TV commentator Tim Brennan is poisoned. The republicans, borrowing a page from Senator Clinton, blame the murders on a vast left-wing conspiracy to destroy the United States. Of course politics must be included so they tie the killers to President William Henry Lee IV. <P>First Lady Katharine Rule Lee as the CIA director leads a thorough search for clues and any ties besides extreme right wing beliefs of the victims. The usual left wing suspects fail to pass the test as clever killers. Leads are almost non-existent though Her Majesty's Military Intelligence believes there is a link to a radical British group. Ed Rawls, in jail for treason, offers the identity of the murderer in exchange for a full pardon and a million dollars. Pondering deals with the devil and who will be next, Katharine and FBI agent Robert Kinney must find a way to stop these left wing terrorist assassinations. <P>Though quite exciting, readers will have to accept several premises such as the First Lady remaining as CIA director, etc. The story line is fast-paced, but requires loads of acceptance that events play out the way they do in the plot. Still Stuart Woods provides an exhilarating political suspense thriller that if one belies reality will still find pleasurable. <P>Harriet Klausner

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 25, 2003

    ANOTHER STUART WOODS THRILLER

    WE WAIT FOR THE STUART WOODS BOOKS ALL THE TIME. HE NEVER SEEMS TO DISAPPOINT US. LOVE THE WAY HE BRINGS PEOPLE BACK FROM HIS OTHER NOVELS. A LOT OF ENJOYMENT READING CAPITAL CRIMES.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 13, 2003

    ANOTHER WINNER

    EXCELLENT READ--FAST PACED & ENTIRELY PLAUSIBLE -WOODS CONTINUES TO TURN OUT GREAT BOOKS REGARDLESS OF THE CHARACTERS

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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