Two men were in Texas the day Kennedy was shot. One was Rupert Justice Tolliver, a poor preacher who boasted that he would one day be President. The other was Cobra, the Rhodesian assassin who, forty years later, would be hired to take Tolliver's life. In between is the story of the millennium: how a man came to power by urging the people of America to take up arms in a Holy War and the variable that Cobra wasn't counting one: Clarissa, the beautiful and ruthless First Lady. A woman who plays both sides of the conflict, and if she had her way, the next millennium will be one of demagoguery, mayhem, and bloodshed.
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About the Author
Franklin Allen Leib, a former naval officer, is also the author of House of Pain.
Franklin Allen Leib is the author of Fire Arrow, Sea Lion, The Fire Dream, and Valley of the Shadow. He is a Vietnam veteran and a former financial consultant. Franklin Allen Leib lives in Westport, Connecticut.
Read an Excerpt
Behold A Pale Horse
By Franklin Allen Leib
Tom Doherty AssociatesCopyright © 2000 Franklin Allen Leib
All rights reserved.
THE SHOOTER DREW himself up beneath the sixth-floor windowsill, peered over carefully. The window was open only a fraction, but hot wind blew against his cheeks and raised dry dust around him from the neglected floor of the shabby old warehouse. He looked down across an oblong of thin grass surrounded by swaying trees. Crowds lined the sides of the roads away from the square; policemen patrolled the plaza itself. Red, white, and blue flags fluttered, reminding him of the wind, the swirling hot wind that could move his bullet inches in the two hundred meters between his position and the head of the man he had been hired to kill.
Hired, not yet paid.
The shooter had taken the job on such thin promise of reward only because it had given him a chance to escape the poverty of his homeland. Even the expense money he had been given was more than he had ever earned, and he was here, overlooking a place in a bigger city than he had ever seen, with a chance to use his gift against a head of state, a young man of promise, of courage; a man dangerous enough to others that they would pay for his death.
But he felt a setup. He would be abandoned; it was a bad contract. The shooter had been called Paul by the mission priests, and when he went into the business of shooting rogue, cornfield-destroying elephants and wounded rhinos and lions driven mad by pain of gunshots from high-paying poachers from Europe and the Middle East. He named himself Cobra when he moved on to killing African dictators, captains, even sergeants from the slums of coastal cities who threw a leopard skin across their shoulders and called themselves general, president, king, invoking ancient gods of the tribes of the country that were barely remembered.
The shooter recalled brutal and corrupt despots he had taken without regret, but as he squinted into the sulfurous urban haze and rewrapped the rifle sling more tightly around his left forearm his conscience gnawed at him. He had nothing against the young leader who would soon pass under his sights, and he was more than suspicious that he would not be paid.
Nevertheless, they had got him here and given him a chance of a lifetime. It was a chance to become a legend, even a god, never to be forgotten, but never to be known either outside of the shadow world of mercenaries. Cobra fought down his doubts. He had thought of a way to have all the fame, the notoriety of the shooter who got to this young man despite the tightest security in the world. He could do it and be true to his conscience — he had one, he reminded himself, nodding over the clumsy Italian Mannlicher Carcano rifle his "employers" had given him, sighting the lead vehicle of the motorcade in the antiquated 8x telescopic sight — he would show them he was as good as he said, many times as good as they believed, greater yet because he would not accept the money they had no intention of paying.
But it could all go very wrong. He knew that real professional shooters had backup, alternate routes of escape, alibis. He had none of these.
He opened the bolt of the Mannlicher action. It was smooth and silent; he had spent many hours rebuilding it and reseating the barrel to tolerances the rifle had never known even when new. The rifle was a piece of shit, discarded even by the Italian Army after their quixotic Ethiopian campaign. The load, light at 6.5mm, was so slow it dropped three meters in three hundred.
Cobra had opened the brass cartridges and discarded the dry old powder and corroded jacketed bullets, then carefully reloaded the best brass with match grade, even-burning powder over new-milled primers. He cast new bullets himself, soft-nosed with a shallow depression at the tip, a bullet to kill, not wound. Cobra pressed five rounds into the box magazine, careful not to damage the soft noses on the aligns. He closed the bolt and climbed onto the gray metal desk he had shoved up against the windowsill and assumed his shooting position. The first vehicle, carrying the president's guards standing on running boards, leaped into focus in the old telescope.
The shot itself was absurdly easy. He had trained himself on the windy savannas of Matabeleland, tracking wily old elephants no man could approach within their sight, scent or hearing. He had killed animals at over seven hundred meters. He had killed the communist leader Lumumba in the Congo at nearly a thousand, albeit with a far superior weapon. At this short range, even despite the awkward long-throw of the rifle's bolt, he could place three rounds in a circle three inches across in just over three seconds.
Cobra rested the forearm-stock of the rifle on a bag of fine sand, in a groove he had fashioned with his thumbs. His weight rested on his elbows and spread knees. The steel top of the desk hurt his bare elbows, but cushioning of any type could introduce slippage, movement, imprecision. He held the rifle on the bag of rigid sand and the bone-bipod of his elbows. No flesh, no pumping blood would move the weapon. The lead vehicle slid out of sight and the president's car appeared, an open Lincoln. The range was six hundred meters and closing. Cobra's contract called for a head shot because the subject was known to wear a vest of light body armor made of a new composite. Cobra could have taken him easily as he rode toward his position. The subject's face, recognizable around the world, smiled as he waved to cheering spectators. His eyes almost seemed to meet the shooter's.
Cobra relaxed his muscles, drove away the pain in his elbows, knees, and groin from the hard table, and began to count his breathing down, reaching for a nearly trancelike state that would cancel all error-inducing movement in his body. The Lincoln glided around the corner and slowed; the president turned his head and once again seemed to meet the shooter's eyes. Cobra focused on his chosen target, a pinpoint in comparison to the head he was meant to shoot. His trigger finger began to tighten as he took a half-breath and let it out. He increased pressure as his heart paused, held it when it beat. The target waved and bobbed as the president gestured; it was an impossible shot but one Cobra knew he could make. The subject's face reappeared in the scope as the black target touched his mouth and the shot broke perfectly.
Fidel Castro's cigar exploded mere centimeters from his face.
Cobra rolled off the table as the crowd fell into shocked silence punctuated by anguished screams. He wiped the rifle clean of fingerprints and threw it under the table, picked up the sandbag, dumped it out, and folded it into his pocket. By the time sirens and barked commands reached his window, Cobra was running down the stairs of the Almacen Municipal de la Habana and into backstreets empty of people who had crowded into the plaza to cheer the Maximum Leader of the Cuban revolution. Cobra slowed his pace a block away; police and military vehicles raced toward the plaza behind him as he walked unhurriedly toward the harbor, where his patrons were supposed to have a boat waiting. Cobra grinned to himself. They certainly wouldn't pay him now, and he didn't expect to find the boat, but he had to play out the hand.
THE NEWS OF THE attempt on Fidel Castro's life caused powerful men to be called out of meetings all over Washington. Great men of both parties came together and nattered about dangerous adventurism and the rashness of President Kennedy's inept national security and intelligence staffs. The Attorney General angrily summoned the Directors of Central Intelligence and the FBI, and the heads of Army, Navy, and Air Force intelligence and demanded an explanation: who ordered an attempt on Castro? And who fucked it up? Answers were few and Robert Kennedy resolved to see his brother the president about bringing intelligence and counterintelligence activities under tighter White House control. Robert meant to handle the matter personally.
THE CUBAN LEADER was not seen for forty-eight hours after the shooting. Eyewitnesses had reported that his head snapped back at the shot and that he had slumped to the floor of his limousine and been covered by the body of his own brother Raul. Rumors that Fidel was dead or gravely wounded were denied by the Cuban Revolutionary Council and Radio Havana, but no explanation was offered for the Leader's disappearance. The radio played funeral marches and Fidel's old anti-American speeches.
Two days after the incident Fidel appeared on the balcony of the presidential palace. He looked drawn and shaken as he waved to a hastily gathered crowd of supporters, but his voice was firm as he announced that the assassin had been captured in the harbor area hours after the shooting and had admitted under interrogation that he had been brought to Cuba illegally by gusanos, hated exiles who had fled the justice of Socialist Cuba, and paid by the American CIA.
HOW CAN YOU be sure you were paid by the CIA?" Lieutenant Carvahal of the Servicio Nacional de Infomaciones, Cuba's secret intelligence service, asked the man who called himself Cobra.
Cobra blinked at the harsh light that made his questioner a dark silhouette. He was strapped to a heavy wooden chair, naked. Fine salt water dripped on him from a leak in the ceiling; the taste confirmed he was in one of the stone dungeons below sea level beneath the seventeenth-century Spanish fort called El Morro. He wasn't sure how long he had been there; the light was never extinguished. He had never been fed more than sweetened rice and for the rest there was a ragged hole in the cane seat and a smelly bucket under the chair. Police had knocked him around when they caught him in a dragnet on the quay where he was to meet his Cuban-exile escort, the same that had landed him from a fishing boat on the beach in Matanzas Bay a week before on a night with no moon. He had cursed them on the empty dock as he waited for the police; they came so quickly they had to have been tipped.
He shifted, holding the gaze of the Cuban policeman. His buttocks were rubbed raw from the remnants of cane seat and he felt dizzy with hunger and chilled by the constant drip, but he had not been beaten since being put in this room with its too-bright light. He had answered all their questions truthfully; he owed nothing to the men who had lied to him and left him and he wanted to live a little longer. "I can't prove it, I told you. The man who sought me out in Salisbury and arranged my passage through Luanda and Lisbon is known for handling CIA contracts."
Carvahal considered the man. He was fine looking, even aristocratic in bearing despite his discomfort. He spoke well, an educated voice beneath the flat Rhodesian drawl. "Who was this man?"
I told you that, Cobra thought. I've told you several times. "He's a Russian, Lives in Durban. Uses the name Rokovsky."
"Why would the CIA use a Russian?"
"Why would a Russian want your leader dead?"
"It's conjecture." Carvahal turned away. He wanted to believe it, so would Fidel. "There's no evidence at all."
Cobra shrugged. "This Russian hired me before, three years ago. I wasn't called Cobra then and I don't think he remembered me."
Carvahal looked at the man's dark face. He seemed eager to please but two days under the seawater drip loosened minds as well as tongues. "You didn't say this before."
"You didn't ask."
"Well, what then? What did the Russian hire you to do?"
"Shoot a rebel. A communist rebel, Patrice Lumumba."
Carvahal started. The world believed Lumumba had been hit by the CIA; the Americans barely denied it. "Did you?"
"Yes. A very long shot."
"You didn't miss, as you claim you missed our president?"
"What was the difference?"
"Lumumba was an evil man, a traitor to his people." Cobra caught a glimpse of the interrogator's narrow face as he leaned in to catch the answer. "Besides, I got paid."
Lieutenant Carvahal stood and pushed his own chair aside. "You'll be shot, of course. The council has already decided."
"I missed intentionally."
"You insist on that. No one believes you."
"Let me show you. Let me make the same shot again, for my life. Then you may think of better ways for me to make amends than merely by dying."
Carvahal nodded. It was exactly as he had argued to Colonel Rosas, the commander of the National Service of Information. This one was far too useful to be left in a shallow grave next to the ancient stone walls of the castle.
"You speak well. Where were you educated?"
The man called Cobra smiled. He gaze was frank, open.
"Southern Rhodesia. Matabeleland. The bush, north of Bulawayo."
"Let me guess," Carvahal said. "Mission school, Jesuits."
"Of course." He left the prisoner, wet and stinking, to think of more ways to be grateful.
ROBERT KENNEDY RECEIVED the Director of the FBI in the Attorney General's office in the Department of Justice Building on Pennsylvania Avenue. Hoover was half an hour late despite his own stern requirement for punctuality. He was a short, portly man, dressed in a well-made suit of an old-fashioned cut. He ignored Kennedy's outstretched hand and looked around the room curiously as if to imply that he had never been in it before. The director normally took his meetings in his own much larger office on the opposite corner of the building; he did not expect to be summoned by a mere attorney general even though the man was technically his boss. Hoover dismissed attorneys general for what they were: politicians soon to be gone while he and the FBI remained to protect the nation. He finished his tour around the office and sat in the middle of a soft couch.
RFK perched one hip on his desk. He considered himself a tough lawyer, never reluctant to use power to help his family, especially his brother, the President of the United States. He thought Hoover was a dinosaur and he hoped soon to be rid of him; in the meantime he feared the old man. "Thank you for coming up, Director."
"What is it?" Hoover demanded sharply.
Bobby scratched his scalp behind his ear, a nervous tick. He stopped himself when he saw Hoover watching; clasped his hands in his lap. "The Castro thing."
"Who authorized it? The president —"
"General," Hoover interrupted like a schoolmaster. "Operations of this type occur when opportunities arise. Castro is a communist and an enemy of the United States; when a chance comes up to assist an operation against him, we may assist in an untraceable way."
Hoover waved the question away like a gnat. "It's informal. Surely the president and the Attorney General do not wish to involve themselves directly." It was not a question.
"Director, the president and only the president can make foreign policy. He hasn't authorized this, and he wants all such activities halted at once."
Hoover leaned forward, his pale cheeks coloring slightly. "He does, does he? Flush with the success of his Bay of Pigs campaign? Giddy with his triumph over Khruschev's missiles that nearly led us to total war and remain in Cuba still?"
Bobby choked on his anger. "What if Castro takes it into his head to retaliate? Strike, even at the president himself?"
"The President of the United States should not shrink from the threat of a petty despot. General."
Jesus, you arrogant son of a bitch! Kennedy swallowed and controlled his voice. "Director, the president wants this business stopped. At once. Castro is trumpeting CIA involvement and we know that sells all over Latin America."
"The CIA may have got sloppy. As usual the Bureau will clean up after them."
"Who sent this assassin? Who paid him?"
"Looking for someone to blame? Hell, General, the Miami Cubans do this stuff, we just try to keep a rein on them. Surely the president is in no position to offend the brave Cubans who have been victims of his ... caution."
Kennedy stood and took a step toward the director. He knew the director meant cowardice. Bobby's face flushed all the way to his hairline. "God dammit, Hoover —"
"Director Hoover." He remained seated as Kennedy towered over him, his fists balled. "Yes?"
"Even you can't say absolutely anything in this office!"
"No disrespect was intended," Hoover said with an insincere smile that said just the opposite.
Kennedy turned away. "Who's CIA's man in Florida?"
"His name is Fernandez, but he's not on CIA's payroll, or any other government agency's."
"Get rid of him."
"What, to show your displeasure? No. Fernandez does useful work."
Kennedy turned back. He felt his color rising again, his hands trembling. Hoover was insufferable. "Director, I just gave you an order."
"You can't fire him, General," Hoover said blandly. "I've just told you he doesn't work for government."
"But you could fire him."
"Yes, if I thought it advisable. I don't.
"You're all but daring me to fire you."
Excerpted from Behold A Pale Horse by Franklin Allen Leib. Copyright © 2000 Franklin Allen Leib. Excerpted by permission of Tom Doherty Associates.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I read this wonderful book by mistake.(thinking it was behold a pale horse by M. Sutton) What I found amazing is the frist thing I read (a young man from Texas becoming President in a close contraversal election.) Which lead me to belive this book may have more truth than fiction. If you are a person who is looking to find some sense in the cofusion of this world today, or someone who wants to know a true motive for 9-11 read this book to open your eyes. Then read the original Behold a Pale Horse By a man who put his life on the line not just for this country ,but for its people , and for the TRUTH Mr. Willliam M. Sutton. Get reality from supposely fiction. God bless.
A facinating tale of the End of Days set on the stage of modern history. At the same time frightening and humorous. Recommended.
smooth. at first fanciful while in the world of real events, real characters (the Kennedys, Castro, J. Edgar Hoover), then frighteningly real in the fiery progress to the predicted end of days. read it before the real millennium, jan 1, 2001.
Simply fantastic. if you read the millennialist books in the bible, you'll love it. if you haven't, you'll still love it. incredibly good characters rushing towards collision at Armegedon.
St. John set this forward; Leib deliveres the profecy, set with us in our own day. Characters, Tolliver the preacher-president, his wife Clarissa, his ruthless enforcer the Mormon, his nemesis, Cobra. Brilliant, fast paced, cool, and brilliant. Michael
The profesy of Revelation displayed against our own time. Frightening but so well woven; the rogue preacher president with his heart in his hands, and the lonely assassin who is the hand of God--or maybe not. Excessent. Barney, Boston
I have followed Franklin Allen Leib's work for the past ten or more years. (Fire Arrow, Fire Storm, Sea Lion) Behold a Pale Horse is by far his best work to date. I am eagerly awaiting his next book as I have enjoyed watching this gifted author develop into one of the leading writers of the new millenium.
Too much. The hand of the legend reaches back to JFK and forward to the damned. Intriguing, compelling, fun.
By 1963, the Rhodesian Cobra is an established assassin with Lumumba among his victims. His current assignment in Havana is to kill Castro, but he purposely misses shooting a cigar instead. When the Cubans catch him, Cobra explains that he intentionally missed. He proves his boast by reconstructing the shot using a ¿volunteer¿ from Texas, Rupert Justice Tolliver as the target. Cobra successfully demonstrates his abilities. The Cubans send him to meet J. Edgar Hoover¿s South Florida contact Fernandez who provides Cobra with his next job. In late November in Dallas, Cobra carries out his assignment. To escape the country, he joins the marines. Over the next three plus decades, Rupert becomes a TV evangelist and governor of Texas. Cobra buys a large farm in his homeland that he finances with an occasional hit. By 2001 Rupert is the president while Cobra continues to work his farm. Rupert believes that he is the world¿s savior and begins a religious war as described in Revelations. The international financial community panics and hires Cobra to kill Rupert. However, Cobra is unaware that the real brain behind the presidency is the First Lady and she has no compunctions to walk both sides of the conflict to gain what she wants. BEHOLD A PALE HORSE is an exciting political thriller that keeps reader attention from start to finish. The story line never rests as the 1963 scenario ties back into the 2001 potential apocalypse. Though the characters are not going to gain any empathy, the audience will admire Cobra¿s chutzpah and gasp at Rupert¿s obsession with Revelations. Franklin Allen Leib had forged a triumphant tale that will send his fans searching for his previous novels. Harriet Klausner
A fascinating tale of two men coming toward each other in Dallas in 1963 and in Washington at the beginning of the new millennium. One is a television preacher elected President of the United States, the other is a professional assassin. A stunning trial of god and evil, but which man is which? Highley recommended.
The tale begins with violence in 1963 and in Vietnam. The prophecy is revealed by Justice Tolliver, a televangelist turned presidential candidate. The nation and the world burns toward the new millennium, that begins with Tolliver's inauguration in 2001. Add Cobra, the mysterious assassin who is associated with President Tolliver since the beginning. Add the foretellings of St. John the Divine. Excellent good read.