Capitol Betrayalby William Bernhardt
Kincaid is in a meeting with the president in the Oval Office when Washington
William Bernhardt’s bestselling novels explore politics, power, ambition, crime, and the law. Now he scales new heights of suspense as, in one harrowing day, lawyer and former senator Ben Kincaid enters the eye of an international storm, a crisis with consequences beyond calculation.
Kincaid is in a meeting with the president in the Oval Office when Washington suddenly explodes into chaos. Facing an imminent threat to the White House, Kincaid is whisked, along with the president and his advisors, to the underground PEOC—Presidential Emergency Operations Center—built to withstand a nuclear blast, but vulnerable to another kind of attack.
Inside the bunker, defense specialists realize that a malevolent foreign dictator has hacked into the U.S. nuclear defense system and now has a finger on the trigger of America’s most dangerous weapons. The dictator’s message is clear: Heed his demands or suffer unfathomable destruction.
Forced to make critical, split-second decisions, the president seems to be falling apart under the pressure. The vice president wants to strip him of his powers—a move that could have a disastrous impact on national defense. But even during this time of upheaval, in order for the president to be removed, there must be a trial. With the clock winding down, Kincaid has precious little time to defend the president.
While Kincaid faces the trial of his life, legendary CIA agent Seamus McKay races through the clogged streets of Washington, searching for a hidden command center—guarded by murderous fanatics—that now controls U.S. ballistic missiles.
Two sides of one unforgettable story, McKay and Kincaid home in on their targets. One uses a gun—and any weapon he can get his hands on; the other employs his intuition and the law. And in William Bernhardt’s spectacular thriller, as both move closer and closer to uncovering a world-shattering plot, the ultimate act of betrayal is launched from the heart of America’s capitol itself.
“Masterful split-second timing . . . [Bernhardt] builds the pace as though he’s smoothly double clutching in a Porsche.”—Sacramento Book Review
“Exciting and fast-moving.”—The Oklahoman
- Random House Publishing Group
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Read an Excerpt
Capitol BetrayalA Novel
By William Bernhardt
Ballantine BooksCopyright © 2010 William Bernhardt
All right reserved.
(Two hours before)
Ben Kincaid stood rigid and still as his wife, Christina McCall, adjusted his tie, smoothed the lie of his shirt, and ran a lint brush over the shoulders of his navy blue suit coat.
“There,” she said, taking a step back to survey the view. “Now you look like someone who’s ready to advise the leader of the free world.”
“That’s a relief.”
“Remember to smile and say something nice about his wife. And don’t remind him about—” She stopped in midsentence. “Wait just a minute.” She hiked up the leg of his blue slacks. “Are you seriously wearing red socks?”
Ben’s eyes moved downward. “They’re my lucky socks.”
“But I need all the luck—”
“No.” She pointed toward the clothes closet. “Change.”
Ben obeyed without further protest. Of course, he always made a great show of being put out when Christina made these sartorial demands, but in truth, he didn’t mind a bit. Given that he had no sense of fashion and was partially color-blind, he needed all the help he could get and was capable of acceptingit without feeling his manhood was threatened. For years his mother had picked out and paired up all his clothes. Now she had passed the torch to his wife. All this meant, he reminded himself as he changed into a pair of blue socks, was that he was a very fortunate man.
The irony was that, once upon a time, Christina had been known for her dubious fashion sense, for dressing more like a member of the Sex Pistols than a practicing attorney. All that had changed last year when Ben made his run for a Senate seat. In addition to the five thousand other consultants they’d consulted, they’d hired a fashion consultant to tell them how to dress for formal functions, casual events, and television appearances. For Christina, it was a road-to-Damascus experience. Now she had the reputation of being one of the sharpest dressers in Washington. Ben had been asked more than once if she had acquired a fashion degree at some point in her past. With her gorgeous red hair styled in a fetching shoulder-length coif, Ben found her absolutely stunning. Not that he was prejudiced or anything.
“That’s more like it,” she said when he reemerged. “And just for the record, you’re not wearing those Superman boxer shorts, are you?”
“I’m not planning to strip at the White House.”
“Yes, and nothing unplanned ever happens to you, does it?”
“Good point. No, I’m clean.”
“Thank you.” She smiled, and the smile made his spirits soar. Such a beautiful woman. Her face seemed to absolutely glow. Was it all his imagination? She even seemed taller these days. Although he supposed that could have something to do with the heels. “Anything else you need, mon cher amour?”
“No. I’d better go. Traffic is terrible this time of day. And it still takes half an hour to get cleared to enter the White House.”
“Yup.” Ben had been working for almost two months now as a member of the president’s legal team. Robert Griswold was the official special counsel to the president, but he had a staff of four lawyers. After his Senate defeat Ben had been appointed to fill a temporary vacancy on that staff. Despite the loss—not exactly unusual for a Democrat in Oklahoma—Ben’s rankings in popularity polls remained high nationwide as a result of his work during his brief time in the Senate, particularly his work on the controversial Emergency Council bill, which garnered nationwide daily coverage. His oration on the floor of the Senate was widely credited with being the cause of the bill’s ultimate defeat, which endeared him to many, especially in the Democratic party. Still, he’d been flabbergasted when the newly elected president, Roland Kyler, invited him into the White House. “I want the president to have a chance to read my brief. So I’m out of here.”
“Did you have Jones proofread it?”
“I’m an adult, Christina.”
“And you’re the worst speller on earth. Spell-check is not enough for you. Email it to Jones now. He’ll have it proofed by the time you get to the White House.”
He raised his chin a bit. “If you insist. Parting is such sweet sorrow, but—”
“Wait.” She took both of Ben’s hands and snuggled close to him. “Can you believe that sometime today you’re going to see the POTUS?” Christina had always loved hip slang and catchphrases. She’d picked up on the Beltway acronyms in no time at all. “You work hard and try to help him. He’s a good man.”
“You just say that because he did you a favor.”
“No, I say it because it’s true.”
“You’re talking about his inspirational politics?”
“I’m talking about him, the human being. He’s good to his wife. That’s the surest sign of a good man.”
Ben arched an eyebrow. “Is it indeed?”
“Yes. I read that he’s given up smoking after twenty years because his wife didn’t want smoke to ruin the White House—or him. That can’t be easy, but he’s doing it for her. So you help him out, Ben. He doesn’t need any extra trouble.”
“I’ll probably get ten minutes with him. If I’m lucky.”
“Look at you!” She grinned and pulled him closer. “You’re talking about meeting with President Kyler all calm, cool, and collected. I remember when you couldn’t think about talking to a judge without your knees shaking so badly you could barely walk.”
Ben shrugged. “Times change. People grow up.”
“They do indeed.” She wrapped her arms around him. “And may I just say, Mr. Kincaid, that I like the way you’ve grown up, very much.” She pressed herself against him and squeezed.
“Oh, I almost forgot.” Ben grinned. “I have a surprise for you.”
“What a coincidence. I have a surprise for you also.”
“Well, you’ll never top mine.”
“Never say never.”
“No, that’s what you always do. You always top my story. But not this time.”
“Okay,” she said, “you go first.”
Ben beamed. “Robert says there’s a good chance that after this temporary appointment expires, I might be appointed to the president’s energy commission.”
“That’s terrific! Who better than a good Oklahoma boy to advise the president on energy concerns?”
“Well, he knows we have to shift over to natural gas, the sooner the better. Our dependency on foreign oil is killing this country on numerous fronts. And we simultaneously need to develop alternative energy sources—”
Christina held up her hands. “Hold on, tiger. I’ve already heard the speech. Save it for the president.”
“Right. Sorry. But isn’t that great news?”
“So what’s your news, huh? Go ahead and try to top a presidential commission appointment.”
She batted her long eyelashes. “I’ve signed LexiCo as a firm client.”
Ben’s lips parted. “No.”
“Yup. We’re their counsel for all litigation matters, civil and criminal.”
“No!” Ben knew LexiCo was a huge East Coast technology firm that Christina had been courting for months. Having them on the firm roster would not only generate much revenue but start a precedent. Where LexiCo went others would surely follow. Ben had been concerned about the firm and its nascent D.C. satellite office, especially after he went “Of Counsel” so he could take the White House appointment. Now it appeared that Christina had landed a client who could keep the firm busy well into the future. “That’s fantastic!”
“Yup. I’m hiring a new associate. Just in case I want to take some time off.”
He sighed. “And your news is bigger than mine.”
“Like I said, never say never.” She pulled him close once more.
“Can we make a date to watch Jeopardy together tonight?”
She made a small moue. “Because you’ve read, like, every history book ever written? I don’t think I can stand to hear you ace all the history questions again.”
“Hey, at least you don’t have to listen to someone talking about how sexy Alex Trebek is.”
“I only did that once!” She squeezed him all the tighter. “It’s just ’cause he reminds me of you, you smarty. So tell me the truth—do you like me a lot, or do you really truly love me, Mr. Kincaid?”
He hugged her with all his heart and soul. “Yes.”
As it turned out, Ben’s estimates were all wrong. Traffic was so jammed as he left their K Street apartment that it took him forty-five minutes to get to the White House, but only twenty-five minutes to pass through all the security protocols and get to his office. It worked out the same. Only a few minutes after he reached his office, the president’s chief of staff knocked on his door.
“The president is ready to see you.”
Ben rose to his feet. He knew Sarie Morrell didn’t like it, but his mother had taught him to always rise when a woman entered the room, and old habits died hard. Sarie was the president’s chief of staff, one of the few females to ever hold that position. Her crisp efficiency, not to mention her good looks and snappy dress, often reminded Ben of his wife. Sarie was a blonde, with long, straight hair that stretched past her shoulder blades, but she shared with Christina that most valuable of all assets: the ability to get things done. Other White House staffers dithered, changed their minds, vacillated, but not Sarie. Once she made a plan, she stuck to it and pushed to make it a reality. In the short time he’d been in the White House, Ben had seen what an asset she could be to President Kyler, whom he believed to be a good man with his heart in the right place.
“Do I need to bring anything?”
Sarie was an Alabama girl and spoke with a pronounced southern accent. “Just a notepad and your razor-sharp brains.”
“I think I left them at home.”
“Then fake it. That’s what the rest of us do.”
Ben grabbed his legal pad and followed her into the corridor. She moved fast, and he had to make an effort to walk with her, rather than in her wake. The legal office was at the far edge of the West Wing, near the elevator the First Family used to get to their personal rooms. The corridors were crowded today, but then, they almost always were. He was amazed by how much business, in so many different arenas, was conducted in the White House on a daily basis.
Ben still considered this sprawling mansion, which insiders called “the Residence,” a large Greek labyrinth. He had learned to negotiate his way by noting landmarks. In a few moments they passed the Red Room, a favorite of his because he knew it was a favorite of Eleanor Roosevelt’s and had been refurbished under the direction of Jacqueline Kennedy. Barely a half minute later, given Sarie’s brisk pace, they were whizzing by the Green Room and the Blue Room, both of which he knew had been substantially improved by Pat Nixon. Her husband had covered up FDR’s swimming pool and added a bowling alley. Pat had brought in more than six hundred fabulous artifacts and artworks. How did those two ever live together?
They turned right into the main corridor and almost collided with Dr. Henry Albertson, the president’s chief physician, who entered at the same time from the opposite side. Ben was surprised to see him. He knew the White House medical office was located at the far opposite end of the corridor.
Ben nodded at the doctor. “You’re walking briskly this morning.”
Albertson was an avuncular man in his mid-sixties, his hair still brown and his cheeks the color of radishes. “You do anything else in this joint, you’ll get trampled.”
“Not on your way to an emergency, I hope.”
“No. Just headed for the Oval Office.”
Ben’s eyes narrowed slightly. “Now? Are you involved in the offshore drilling case somehow?”
“No, no. I just like to drop in from time to time. To observe what’s going on.”
“You mean with the president?”
“Just every now and again. Whenever Sarie thinks it’s a good idea.”
Out the corner of his eye, Ben saw a look pass from Sarie to the doctor. The expression on Albertson’s face gave him the distinct impression that she thought he should close his mouth. He did.
As Ben continued walking down the corridor he attempted to break what had become an uncomfortable silence. “Any progress with the Speaker of the House, Sarie?” President Kyler was a Democrat, but the Republicans controlled the House, and as a result, Kyler had been unable to pass any of his major objectives so far. The Speaker, Congressman Wilkins, was extremely charismatic and high-profile, probably nursing presidential aspirations of his own. “Surely there must be someplace they can compromise.”
“If so, I haven’t found it. And believe me, I’ve tried.” She flashed him a quick smile. “I’ve turned on all my southern-girl charm and then some. Even offered to come by the House cafeteria and whip up a batch of my grandmama’s hominy grits. He didn’t go for it.”
Ben shook his head. “The man must be made of steel.”
“Well, he’s from New Jersey. They don’t know what good food is.”
“Wait a minute,” Dr. Albertson said. “I’m from New Jersey.”
“And have you ever eaten my grandmama’s hominy grits?”
“Well, if the opportunity arose...”
“I brought some to the potluck at Vice President Swinburne’s house last month. And I made careful note of who partook and who did not. You were not among the partakers.”
Albertson cleared his throat. “Well, I would’ve been.” He patted his stomach. “But that darned spastic colon of mine was acting up.”
Sarie gave him a long look. “Do tell.”
“I don’t think I’ve ever had grits,” Ben said.
“Well, you’re a man of culture and refinement,” Sarie replied. “I feel certain you would adore them.”
“Doesn’t that pretty little wife of yours fix you breakfast?” Albertson asked.
“She does,” Ben replied. “She makes a fantastic spinach omelet. When she has time.” And when she didn’t, he did not add, or when she wasn’t looking, he dug into his secret stash of Cap’n Crunch. Living with a health food nut could be so challenging at times.
A deep, gravelly voice cut into the conversation. “This must be the Three Stooges. On their way to tell the emperor he’s got no clothes.”
Ben veered left and saw his least favorite person in the entire White House, Admiral Wilson Cartwright, the head of the White House Military Office. He was a stocky older man, about a foot shorter than Ben, but if you judged by his bearing and manner, you would think he must be at least three feet taller.
Ben had never been very good with the military. But Cartwright seemed to have an absolute antipathy for lawyers. Whenever possible, Ben just tried to stay out of the man’s way.
“We’re off to see the wizard,” Ben answered.
Cartwright made a guttural growling sound. “Then you can follow me.”
Excerpted from Capitol Betrayal by William Bernhardt Copyright © 2010 by William Bernhardt. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Meet the Author
William Bernhardt is the author of more than twenty novels, including Primary Justice, Murder One, Criminal Intent, Death Row, Capitol Murder, Capitol Threat, Capitol Conspiracy, Capitol Offense, and Nemesis. He has received both the Royden B. Davis Distinguished Author Award and the H. Louise Cobb Distinguished Author Award given “in recognition of an outstanding body of work in which we understand ourselves and American society at large.” He is also one of the country’s most popular writing instructors, teaching at various conferences throughout the year. A former trial attorney, Bernhardt has received several awards for his public service. He lives in Oklahoma with his three children.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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I had a hard time believing the underlying premise. Made the read difficult
The stakes have gone to an entirely different level for Ben in this amazing installment of the Kincaid books. Once I started reading I could not put this down. The stakes couldn't be higher as Ben faces the trial of his life in which he must represent the president of the United States! In the meantime a new, terrible, and totally plausible kind of terrorist attack is threatening the U.S. and the treachery goes deep into the heart of the nation's leaders. If you're a fan of Bernhardt's you're going to eat this up. If you aren't a fan of his yet, you will be!
William Bernhardt has taken on a major challenge and succeeded brilliantly. Capital Betrayal takes place over the course of one day, with a moment by moment unfolding of an unfortunately plausible story. He juxtaposes the intellectual Ben Kincaid with the action-hero Seamus McKay and gives them a triple challenge: recover a nuclear "suitcase," prevent an attack on Washington from our own missiles, and figure out why the president has "lapses" that may affect his ability to govern. While you can anticipate the ending, the journey is packed with twists and surprises that will keep you engrossed for hours.
You can always tell the good writers from the bad ones by the amount of passion they include in their works. Capitol Betrayal was obviously written by someone who is not just passionate about the story he's telling but about his characters who have the unique ability to leap off the page and engross you into their adventures quicker than you realize. This is an excellent read for any age. The whole gang is back in this last Ben Kincaid adventure...well almost, Loving's off living life and only a brief mention of Paula and Jones might as well be as invisible as he's constantly protesting. What's important is this is Ben's biggest case yet, and the action is delivered by a writer who is at the top of his game. I'd recommend you pick this up, but all it will do is cause you to go back and explore Ben and Christina's adventures over the course of twenty novels. I'm disappointed to see Ben go, but with a fitting end to his romance with Christina and career, it's hard not to wish him well. Capitol Betrayal is a fun book, with plenty of the courtroom drama we've come to love and expect from Bernhardt. Enjoy this latest installment! I know I did.
I look forward to new Ben Kincaid books. This one continues the new story of Ben Kincaid Washington attorney. What I love about these books is how William Bernhardt can take these huge almost 24 like story lines and make them human. The biggest part of this is the central characters that give the story the heart. The character I miss is Detective Morelli he kind of balances out Ben's impulsive behaviour. This is a great installment in the series and keeps you guessing. Thanks Cive
I've read all the Ben Kincaid books, but I have to say that this is most likely my last - I could only get about 1/3 of the way through before I put it down for good. I simply despise doomsday scenarios, which is what this character's stories have turned into. I like courtroom dramas which is what Ben Kincaid's story was until recently. This author's choice to turn his main character's story upside down may well be the death of this series.
It's the president of the United States singing looney tunes during a national crisis, and the question of his sanity is central to this comic look at what would happen if, indeed, the president cracked up during an emergency. Cartoon characters abound, both in the cabinet and in the the bad guys, and, typical of hero stories, one good guy manages to single-handedly make himself crucial to the resolution of the story. This novel is far better than Bernhardt's last, Capitol Offense, which was one of the most ludicrous books I have ever read. So kudos to him for this improved tale.
William Bernhardt deftly has managed to put an original twist on the terrorist plot genre and to duplicate the same amazing feat achieved in "The Day of the Jackal" film, i.e., even though you can predict the outcome, the author still has you on the edge of your seat until the last second. He also manages to compact a trial into a highly charged one day event, which is a treat for lovers of courtroom drama. This is a page turner -- the kind you just can't put down.
My first Bernhardt book and won't be my last. This book grabs your attention from the very beginning to the last page. If you love reading don't miss this book.
After filling the vacant US Senate seat from Oklahoma, Ben Kincaid fails to win the election. His wife attorney Christina McCall establishes a practice in DC while Ben works on complicated legal issues such as energy for the new Democratic President Roland Kyler at a time when Republicans control the House and the Supreme Court. Ben is at a White House meeting that includes Kyler, Vice President Swiburne, military advisor Admiral Cartwright and much of the cabinet when the Secret Service informs them of a nuclear incident involving stolen material from a secret Arlington armory. They are directed to take shelter in an underground bunker "PEOC" when word reaches that missiles are in coming. Kyler acts odd so the VEEP and Cartwright declare he should be replaced as the President as stated in the Constitution. Inside the shelter, Ben defends the president against the charges of mental instability in front of the cabinet who must decide who is in charge; at the same CIA Agent Seamus McKay tries to thwart a Capitol Offense assault. The latest Kincaid thriller is an entertaining tale that fans of the series will enjoy especially the inner workings of the White House during a crisis when agents and physicians take charge. Fast-paced from the onset, readers will enjoy Betrayal even if it miles over the top of the Washington Monument as the plot fun to read anyway. Harriet Klausner