The Third Coincidenceby David Bishop
Headlines scream across the nation as a country in near panic pleads for the capture of the killers. With little progress, U.S. President Samuel Schroeder asks Jack McCall, a veteran of the CIA and Defense Intelligence, to head up a special multi-agency task force to find the killers. A frustrated and unhappy FBI designates, as its representative, Rachel Johnstone, an agent with whom Jack has had some personal history. The Third Coincidence unfolds amidst continued assassinations, accusations that the president is attempting to form his own secret police, and confirmation hearings for reluctant nominees to fill the vacant positions while the Supreme Court struggles to sustain a quorum. Will a terrorist group or a mad assassin succeed in destroying these revered intuitions? In the spirit of The Day of the Jackal and The Manchurian Candidate, this story is juxta-posed through the eyes of both the hunter and the hunted as the devious plot to change America hurdles forward.
The Third Coincidence
An inventive killer takes his grudge against the Supreme Court and the Federal Reserve Board to deadly extremes: he poisons Justice Adam Monroe; cuts Justice Herbert Clarkson Montgomery's throat; and ensures Federal Reserve governor J.T. Santee suffers a fatal accident while driving too fast in the Poconos. President Samuel Schroeder calls on Jack McCall, a special assistant to the CIA director, to head a special task force. More killings follow, along with demands from someone identifying himself as Commander LW of the American Militia to Restore Representative Government. McCall's team works feverishly to identify the killer, while LW continues his one-man, cross-country crusade to eliminate a growing list of targets. Pedestrian prose, stock characters, and a repetitive plot doom this cinematic effort. (Feb.) PUBLISHERS WEEKLY
- Oceanview Publishing
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- 6.30(w) x 9.20(h) x 1.20(d)
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The Third Coincidence
By David Bishop
Oceanview PublishingCopyright © 2012 David Bishop
All rights reserved.
The president is expected to announce his short list to replace deceased Supreme Court Justice Adam Monroe.
— Sarah Little, NewsCentral 7, June 3
"Hello, Jack. I'm just leaving the White House. The president would like you to join him tomorrow morning at eleven fifteen. It's about the death of Justice Monroe."
Jack McCall's monitor identified the caller as CIA Director Harriet Miller, his soft-spoken, efficient boss with the look of a librarian and the soul of a cobra.
"All I've heard is a heart attack," McCall said.
"Toxicology came in less than an hour ago," Miller said. "Poison. His ginseng had been laced with ground oleander. The president wants you on it."
"Oleander?" Jack asked. "Isn't that a flowering shrub?"
"That's it. I have one of the damn things in a pot in my sunroom. The lab people tell me the stuff's high on the poison scale, particularly for Justice Monroe; the guy was way over eighty and had a bad heart."
"But we're not a domestic agency."
"Debate that with the president if you wish," Director Miller replied. "It'll just be the two of you. Use the West Executive Avenue checkpoint." Then she hung up.
It would not be the kind of meeting Jack wanted right now in his life.
As a special assistant for strategy and planning to the Director of Central Intelligence, Jack had spent the afternoon at his desk reading the latest high-level releases on America's covert activities — updates put out internally at intervals based on the sensitivity of each operation and global time differences.
After Director Miller's call, Jack left the agency and walked to his car, a newspaper held above his head sopping up the light rain. Thirty minutes later he walked out of a three-chair barbershop after having a half inch taken off his brown hair that had started curling over his ears.
At rush hour, the road home was nose-to-butt cars, their drivers all in a hurry to get somewhere, with the result that no one was getting much of anywhere. As Jack approached the Virginia entrance to the Key Bridge, traffic slowed even more.
Gravel-sized raindrops began hitting the windshield like kamikaze beetles. He moved the wipers from intermittent to constant, turned on his headlights, and in a few minutes fell under the spell of the rhythm of tires squishing water.
Jack had never questioned that intelligence work would be his career, never until two years ago when his younger brother, Nick, lost his life in a covert Middle East operation on which Jack had been the on-the-ground leader. Dr. Christopher Andujar, a psychiatrist and friend, had explained that Jack experienced "survivors guilt," born from the momentary relief that it had been his brother and not himself.
Men died in battle. Nick had understood that, but Nick had died because of someone's greed and traitorous behavior. The mission plan had included a refueling stop where a Kuwaiti base worker had tipped off the terrorist training camp. The National Security Agency had intercepted that call, but not deciphered its meaning until after Jack's special forces team had been ambushed. Jack had taken revenge, but it hadn't rid him of his black mood.
Ten months ago, on his forty-sixth birthday, Jack had been promoted to his current agency desk job. After twenty years of Foreign Service, he was finally stationed in the U.S. and had bought his first home, an older house with a detached garage. More important, the desk job meant men directly under his command would stop dying.
When he got home, he left his car in the driveway, turned off the wipers, loosened his tie, and went in through the side door to the kitchen.
He poured three fingers of Maker's Mark over ice, walked into the living room, and stared out the window while sipping his drink. The rain hadn't stopped, but it had softened into the kind that didn't bounce when it landed and made no noise of its own, while quieting other sounds that had largely gone unnoticed until muted. At this moment, the world seemed at ease and he longed to feel the same. But all he could think of was how the meeting tomorrow morning with the president might pull him back toward his past.CHAPTER 2
The new nominee for the Supreme Court will face the traditional questions about abortion and the many faces of civil rights. And, perhaps, a controversial new one — a gay person's right to marry and adopt.
— Washington Post, June 4
At seven the next morning, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Herbert Clarkson Montgomery's driver stopped at the curb on Pennsylvania near Seventh Avenue. After more than thirty years on the nation's highest bench, the justice still loved Washington, D.C., loved to walk the last few blocks, feel his heart quicken as the courthouse came into view. The rain had stopped a half an hour earlier so he got out and walked down Seventh turning into the National Mall.
Monty looked back toward the city's towering buildings pocked with windows, then up at the charcoal clouds that had stubbornly hung around for days, intermittently dispersing sprinkles, downpours, and pauses. The crisp air along with an accompanying light breeze had just enough zing to make him feel alive.
From the Mall his routine path took him around the Capitol, across First Street NE, and up the white stairs to the courthouse. Despite having to pause frequently to catch his breath, he liked the exercise of climbing the steps. The exhilaration of looking up at the marble neoclassical building that housed America's premier Court. He also preferred entering through security at the main door so he could walk the Great Hall filled with creamy Alabama marble. From there, a short elevator ride delivered him to the upper floors that held the justices' private chambers.
The Mall's grounds crew ignored a very old niblick golf club Monty kept hidden behind a dense bush. He could no longer play golf but, in the early mornings, he often lingered to chip for a while, most shots flying less than ten yards, his niblick barely trimming a few blades of grass.
For Monty, an important fringe benefit of being a Supreme Court associate justice was that few people recognized him without his black robe. Anyway, at this hour, he rarely saw anyone.
The sun broke through the gray pallor that roofed the city, the brightness bleaching the deeper hues of the grass. Monty took a golf ball from his pocket, turned it in his hand, and let it roll off his fingers to drop onto the wet grass. Then he reached for his niblick. It wasn't there.
He shuffled closer to the bush and leaned in farther.
A strong hand grasped his arm.CHAPTER 3
Nominees for the Supreme Court are being vetted.
— Philadelphia Inquirer, June 4
Later that morning, Jack McCall walked into the National Mall with the trees slapping back at the summer wind. Deeper into the Mall, near a rest area called the Summer House, he found a uniformed officer and two detectives standing around the body of an elderly white male, a mere skeleton wrapped in skin as frail as wet tissue paper. The victim's sparse hair, the color of dust. His jaw loose. Black flies dotting the gaping wound across his neck that had leaked onto dirt to form a soupy scarlet puddle. Age had shrunken the man, but not each part equally. His head looked oddly large in proportion to the rest of his body.
Jack's gaze swept the area with the ease of someone familiar with making a quick assessment of his surroundings: a golf ball on the grass a few feet from the body, an old golf club under a bush with a broken branch, but no footprints in the planted area.
Thanks to an earlier call from his office, Jack knew this was Supreme Court Justice Herbert Clarkson Montgomery. He also knew that events were conspiring to push him into the middle of this — whatever this was — even before his meeting with the president. He need not take the assignment the president would soon ask of him. The wealth his grandfather had left him assured a comfortable living. The man, born in Canada, his paternal ancestors trappers, had made his modest fortune using his knowledge of the Great Lakes to slip Canadian whiskey into the States. Jack's father moved to the Chesapeake Bay area as a young man and legitimized the family through a long career in the U.S. Navy.
In any event, Jack didn't need to decide his answer to the president now, but the question hung.
Jack approached the two plainclothes detectives, flashed his credentials, and got their names: Lieutenant Frank Wade and Sergeant Nora Burke.
"While I'm here, I'll be in charge," he told Lieutenant Wade, a formidable black man with the indefinable aura of a film-noir cop. The kind that skipped his prayers and kissed the butt of his gun, a detective whose appearance said he had been there and back.
Wade twisted his mouth, then mumbled something. Jack waited a beat, the two of them looking uncomfortable enough to be wearing each other's shoes.
"The FBI's sending over an ERT," Jack said. After noticing a quizzical look on Sergeant Burke's face he added, "evidence response team." Then he instructed the two local detectives to tell him what they knew.
"We got zip." Wade said, raking his thick fingers down his stubbled cheek. "The cut severed the old guy's jugular, but not the carotid artery. That would have sprayed like a fountain. The medical examiner will tell us whether he bled to death or drowned after his blood back-flushed down his severed trachea. Either way, he hasn't been waiting long to be found."
"We've only been here a few minutes," Sergeant Burke added. "You got here fast from Langley."
"I was in town." Jack said. "Who was first on the scene?"
"Carlyle," Wade bellowed. "Come over here and tell this man what you told me."
"Some tourist flagged me and my partner when we stopped on Pennsylvania," the uniformed officer said. "The tourist hadn't recognized the old man. I did only because Montgomery always waved whenever we saw him walking. One day he introduced himself."
"Did he walk often?" Jack asked.
"Every morning, 'cept in shitty weather."
"Where's the tourist?"
Carlyle pointed. "My partner's with him."
"Any other witnesses?"
"Not a soul," Carlyle said. "The next six or eight people who had arrived at the scene, I had stick around. Sergeant Burke had them wait over there." Another point.
"Anything else?" Lieutenant Wade asked.
Carlyle shook his head and started to leave. "Oh, Lieutenant," he said, turning back. "I called Mall maintenance. They're bringing over some stuff to close off this part of the Mall."
"Good work, Officer Carlyle," Wade said. "Protect the scene until the techs arrive."
Jack turned to the lieutenant. "The small group of folks who came later, any of them know anything?"
"Little chance, Agent McCall — is that what we should call you?"
"That's fine. You were saying?"
"Okay. Take those people's names and find out how to contact them. Then, assuming they don't know anything, let them leave. While you're doing that, I'll take Sergeant Burke and we'll talk with the man who found the body. Then your sergeant can fill you in."
Wade nodded. His lips tightly clamped.
"Sergeant Burke, you go on over and take the lead," Jack said. "I'll come along in a minute or two. Don't introduce me. I'll fly low. And send Carlyle's partner back to help lock down the scene."
A rumble came from the dark clouds. Jack looked up and shook his head. He needed the weather to hold until the FBI's evidence response team had done their thing. He started up the incline behind Burke, who was wearing a black pair of those stretchy pants that held her butt close. The wind at his back brought a noise. He looked over his shoulder. The Bureau's ERT had arrived and was setting up for a grid search.
"I think there's eight, no nine," Jack heard one of the technicians say. "I'm pretty sure now that I think about it. The ninth is the chief justice. I don't know their names, let alone their faces."
"The chief justice is Thomas Evans," another said. "I've heard of this Montgomery guy, but I couldn't pick him out of a lineup. We all really need to pay more attention to these guys."
Burke pushed back a strand of strawberry-blond hair and started questioning the man who had found the body. After he repeatedly claimed not to have seen anything but the body where it lay, she jotted down how to contact him and let him go.
"I heard a rumor this morning," Burke said, turning toward Jack, "that Justice Monroe didn't die last week of a heart attack."
Jack nodded. "Poison."
"Montgomery makes two justices murdered. We'll have more."
"What makes you say that, Sergeant Burke?"
"Because people die. Hatred doesn't."CHAPTER 4
Capitol killings and terrorism: Are they connected?
— Detroit Free Press, Editorial, June 4
The watcher observed tonight's prey, Federal Reserve Governor J. T. Santee, back out of his driveway as the sun slid behind a high ridge in the Pocono Mountains. The red taillights on Santee's new Jaguar glistened off Winding Trail Road, wet from the drizzle falling along the fringe of the huge storm system pelting Washington, D.C.
He had considered capturing Santee to learn why he and the others like him would sell out their country, but he already knew the answer. They lusted for the intoxication that came with being able to largely ignore the Congress and the president of the United States.
The watcher had spent his life on the lower limbs being shit on by the big birds sitting on the higher branches, but he had dedicated himself to change that. He'd take no unnecessary chances. In and out. Quick hits. Disappear.
The taste of damp eucalyptus flavored his lips as he held rough-textured binoculars to his eyes to see Santee lower his driver's side window, then a red dot brightened as the man drew on the cigarette in his mouth.
Smoking will kill you, old man.
Three minutes to go.
The families of the five houses clustered near the peak were all home. The Santee estate held the kingly spot at the very top with a view to die for. The killer smirked at his unintentional pun.
A previous reconnaissance had disclosed this road to be a favorite of the local area's sex-charged youths, the wild card in the hand he would play tonight.
He rolled his pant legs up above his knees, tossed his red baseball cap onto the front seat, slipped an old housedress over his head, and pulled on a woman's gray wig. Last, he lifted a baby carriage from the back of his Explorer.
At that moment, a shooting star streaked the night sky, cutting a widening swath as the clasp on a lowering zipper spreads material. The time had come for his next step in restoring America to a government of the people, by the people, and for the people.
The baby carriage bumped oddly as he pushed it across the blacktopped road to the spot where he would stand just out of sight. Santee's speed alone would carry the Jag nearer the right side of the outer lane. Centrifugal force would protect the watcher standing on the white line just beyond the sharp turn. He eased the baby carriage into Santee's lane and waited. It would not be long.
Santee felt the pulse of his sleek machine through the leather-rapped steering wheel. The Jag's premium speakers, blaring a classical CD, blotted out the squeal from the tires as momentum carried the Jag to the outer edge of the narrow two-lane road. The cool night gave him goose bumps. His breathing deepened. His heart raced.
At the three-mile post he lifted his foot from the accelerator and kept it off the brake. More than once he had promised his wife he'd stop, but she didn't understand. Some older men in power cavorted with younger women, but he had seen such behavior revealed to ruin professional lives. Instead, when he got behind the wheel, he was seduced by the challenge of his road game.
Tonight he would bust his record. Then, by God, he'd keep his promise.
Santee slammed the accelerator to the floor. The eucalyptus-scented air poured through the moonroof to rustle his thinning hair. He felt young.
His Jag entered the turn.
Excerpted from The Third Coincidence by David Bishop. Copyright © 2012 David Bishop. Excerpted by permission of Oceanview Publishing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Meet the Author
Bishop is a business man who has owned and operated numerous diverse businesses. He has been a featured speaker before leading business and government executives in the US and throughout the world. Bishop has published technical articles in leading valuation, legal, accounting and financial journals. For the last several years he has focused on writing fiction.
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