The Liberty Group, a Phoenix-based organization established under the pretense of forwarding a conservative agenda, convinces Mitch to become their lead writer and web site content coordinator. Although slightly apprehensive, Mitch is enthused by the prospect, pouring his energy into this new endeavor while continuing to work for The Arizona Republic, where he often imbeds friendly messages in his articles for three former college roommates to decipher.
The mastermind of the Liberty Group, Gus Reed, uses his unlimited wealth and significant influence across the nation to place operatives in key political offices and exploits Mitch's talents to bring national attention to the organization. Reed's desire for total control includes a close monitoring of Mitch's activities and communications. Mitch, however, senses something is amiss when plagued by a series of strange events and after seeking the advice of friends and family, he sets out to discover the true nature of The Liberty Group and its sinister plot. Mitch must prevent the catastrophic plan Gus Reed has set in motion in order to not only protect his family, but to preserve the country he loves.
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The Liberty Group
By Eric Myerholtz
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2010 Eric Myerholtz
All right reserved.
Chapter OneMitch wiped the sweat from his face as he tore through the unfamiliar streets. He knew who had sent his pursuers, and being caught was not an option. Running for your life was an experience no one should ever face, he thought, and the unfamiliar streets only compounded the complexity of the situation. Mitch had never been to Charleston before, but it seemed to him half the United States was in South Carolina today. This was actually a good thing, allowing him to use the crowds for cover. He turned a corner and found himself at the end of a large outdoor market. Mitch took the time to grab a T-shirt from a booth where a vendor was occupied by another customer and threw it on, followed by a baseball cap obtained from another little table. A pair of sunglasses completed the ensemble, and he tried to act as if he hadn't just been running and hiding for the last twenty minutes. He stood in the middle of a larger group of tourists waiting in line for one of the many horse-drawn carriage rides through the historic part of the town. He caught sight of his pursuers now; they were entering the market about two blocks down, scanning every which way for a glimpse of him.
Mitch wound his way to the front of the line and used a departing carriage as a shield to continue walking away from the area. He needed to find a place to think. He exited the other end of the booths and turned onto Market Street as the carriage continued straight ahead. Mitch walked a short distance down the block and saw a line of people gathered outside of Hyman's Restaurant. He noticed a second entrance to the left of the line, walked in, took the stairway up, pausing shortly on the landing to see if anyone was following him up the street before continuing to the dining room on the second floor. He grabbed the only empty table he saw, sat down, and picked up a menu, hiding his face.
"We usually don't let people pick whatever table they want," a soft, southern-accented voice told him. "In fact, the hostess is bringing a couple up right now to sit there. If you haven't noticed, we are a little busy."
"I will give you fifty dollars to let me stay here for an hour. I'll order whatever; I just need time!" His pleading eyes must have registered with her (or she needed fifty dollars). She plopped down a bowl of boiled peanuts and met the hostess as she entered the room, indicating there must have been a mistake.
"This gentleman was just seated a few minutes ago, and I've already taken his order and put it in." The confused hostess took the other patrons away, and the waitress turned back to him. "I'll bring you a beer; you look like you could use one."
"Diet Coke and a large glass of water, please."
Although she was absolutely right about the beer, it was more important to keep his reactions and thoughts as focused as possible right now. Mitch also needed to keep himself hydrated-running through the streets in this humidity was draining him quickly. He was a distance runner (his tall, lanky form being tailor-made for the activity) but most of his training had been in the dry Arizona heat, not this oppressive, muggy weather. He downed the water before she could ask him if he knew what he wanted to order. He requested more water and glanced beside her at a whiteboard full of combo platters offering three, five, or seven items from a list.
"I'll take the buffalo shrimp, the deviled crab, and the Charleston salmon and grits." The waitress walked away, and he took in his surroundings. This looked like a great place to have a fun time with the family, if only that were the case today. The table was adorned with little gold plates listing the names of famous people who had sat there. He read "Billy Joel" on his table. How about that. Mitch's mind went back to a conversation he had with his seventeen-year-old daughter, Lynne, about four months ago. She had wanted tickets to see Movin' Out, the musical based on Billy Joel's work. Had that really only been last May? That was the night before this whole mess started.
Mitch peered out the window and saw his two adversaries standing in the street, shaking their heads, and talking animatedly to the occupants of a parked vehicle. After about a minute of discussion, the two men got in the car, and Mitch watched it drive away. He let go a slow, long exhale. Safe, at least for now. He thought back to that day four months ago and wondered what he did to play himself into this predicament. He loved athletics and used sports analogies in his columns often. He could not help thinking, as he sat in this unknown town, that it was the bottom of the ninth and he was down a few runs.
Chapter TwoFour Months Earlier
Mitch's two dogs forced him from his peaceful slumber with their whining to get outside. He kissed is his wife, Marie, softly so as not to wake her and eased his 6'2" slender frame out of bed. As he walked by his kids' rooms, he realized they, too, were still sleeping soundly. He continued downstairs and over to the back door, opened it, and the two canines eagerly bounded outside. This was a very typical weekend morning for Mitch. Soon, the dogs were scratching at the door to come in to be fed. After they ate, he grabbed his sandals, the dog leashes, and his cell phone and headed out for the morning walk.
The larger dog (an Australian shepherd named Sydney, even though the breed had nothing to do with Australia) was acquired a few years ago as a puppy and pretty much obeyed every command Mitch gave it. The smaller dog was a mixed breed Marie had found searching a rescue society online page, and it didn't listen so well. Mitch and Marie had been married eighteen years, and recently, the cat they purchased upon returning from their honeymoon had passed away, leaving Marie feeling a huge void in her life. Her answer was to get a second dog-a friend for Sydney that was already named Sage. As Sydney and Sage sniffed every smell they could on their walk, Mitch felt his cell phone buzz. He deftly put both leashes in one hand and retrieved his phone. "John" was displayed on the screen. His boss. What could he want to talk to him about this early on a Saturday morning?
"Good morning," Mitch answered. "Assuming I wasn't sleeping in? Good thing this phone didn't buzz on my nightstand and wake Marie up." Mitch always kept his phone on vibrate-that way, he never had to worry about it going off in a meeting or during church.
"Yes, I was assuming you would be up and about by now," John replied. "What are you doing?"
"I'm walking my dogs. What are you up to? I figured you would be busy on a golf course somewhere this morning." John was an avid golfer, one of the reasons he came to Phoenix. Mitch and John were both quite accomplished on the course and often had some great matches against each other.
"I'm actually on the way to the club right now, but there is something I need to discuss with you, and I thought maybe we could get together for lunch today. Are you free, or do you have kids' activities keeping you busy?"
"I can probably make something work. Ed has a guitar lesson, but I can meet you sometime around one o'clock."
"Great-how about BW-3's on Fourth Street?"
"You know I can't say no to wings," Mitch replied. "See you there. Do I get any hint about what you want to talk about? My articles a bit too much for you lately?"
"It's something I think you'll be excited about."
"A raise?" Mitch asked hopefully.
"Of course not, but the possibility of more responsibility with none of the perks," his boss quipped back.
"Great. See you at one." Mitch hung up the phone and continued his walk, contemplating what this conversation would be about. Mitch had been a conservative political columnist for the Arizona Republic for ten years, after starting his career as a sports writer. In the past year or so, his weekly columns had been picked up by a few online publications as well. John Manos was a senior editor at the paper. He and Mitch had worked together for five years, with John moving to the Republic from the San Francisco Chronicle. Prior to the Chronicle, John had worked at the Los Angeles Times. Mitch and John initially seemed to struggle with their professional relationship. John understood Mitch was hired to write conservative articles, but he had difficulty trying not to inject his own opinion (which more often than not was almost the opposite of Mitch's) or at least to tone down the conservatism Mitch presented. Mitch considered this editorial license to be his boss overstepping his bounds, and there were a few tense moments between the two. After about six months, they developed an understanding and, for the most part, had become respectful colleagues and even fairly good friends. John was about twenty years older than Mitch and was at a different stage of life; his kids were married with children of their own. John and his wife, Janice, were fully acclimated now to being empty nesters. They had moved to Phoenix when their youngest had entered college, knowing they wanted to be somewhere warmer than the Bay Area when they retired.
Mitch assumed John was kidding about the responsibility comment. Mitch reported to John, but "reported to" basically meant he turned his articles in on time and John read them, made suggestions, or continued his efforts to tone Mitch down. No one reported to Mitch, nor did he want that. He enjoyed his writing and had no intention of ever becoming an editor. His articles had received several local accolades recently, and Mitch was being quoted at times by some conservative talk radio hosts, so he knew his writing was being read nationally, at least by some. Thinking about this call from his boss as he walked his dogs home, Mitch realized he was really happy with what he had right now and hoped whatever John wanted would not change his routine dramatically.
Mitch and Marie lived in a wonderful four-bedroom house in a quiet area of Phoenix, overlooking a golf course. They had the required swimming pool in the back (necessary as Phoenix registers over one hundred degrees about 33 percent of the time, but to a guy who grew up in northern Ohio, it seemed perpetually over one hundred). The house also had a decently sized yard for the Phoenix area. Their friends even joked about the park they had next to their house, referring to their green space. As Mitch walked in the house, he unleashed the dogs and could hear the television. The front room was more of a living room, with the family computer and a few sports collectibles Mitch had accumulated over the years. Passing through this room, Mitch entered the kitchen and turned right. The kitchen had an open feel, with the family room off to the side. Jane was up; he knew it was her before he even saw his middle child. Jane was the early riser of the kids. She went to bed earlier and awoke earlier-almost always. Jane was fourteen and finishing her eighth-grade year. She had Mitch's brown dark hair and his height (as she was 5'10") but everything else about her appearance was similar to her mom's. Her blue eyes were all Jane's though, as both Mitch and Marie had green.
"How are you this morning, sweetheart?" Mitch asked as he walked over and kissed her on the head.
"I'm fine," she replied, not looking away from one of the numerous Law and Order reruns played on a variety of cable networks. Mitch glanced up and saw what she was watching.
"Do you have to watch this on Saturday morning?" he said, longing for the days when he would watch Mulan or Beauty and the Beast with her.
"There's nothing else on," Jane replied.
"A hundred channels of cable and she can't find something else to watch," Mitch mumbled to himself as he headed back to the kitchen.
As he prepared a bowl of cereal for himself, he flipped on his computer to catch up on the overnight news. Putting the first spoonful of GoLean Crunch in his mouth, he read the headline on the Yahoo! network and set his spoon down. Jack Kemp had died early that morning. Jack Kemp was one of Mitch's conservative icons, and he had quoted Mr. Kemp on many occasions, especially regarding supply-side economics. He had never had the honor of meeting the man but felt as if a friend had died. Jane heard the spoon clink on the counter and asked him what was wrong.
"A man I respected very much passed away" was his reply. "I didn't know him personally, but he was a great mind." Jane, unsure of what to say, returned to her show. When her dad said someone was a great mind, this meant it had to do with politics. She knew her father needed to be politically minded for his work, but she also knew she did not need to be. Although she was just fourteen, she intended to be an archeologist and wanted to live in Greece. These were her goals at this point, and those goals did not require an opinion as to what side of the congressional aisle was best for her.
Mitch read the article about Jack Kemp and looked for more information scanning the other headlines. "How did they leave out some of his best quotes?" Mitch questioned aloud without the expectation of an answer from his daughter. He had always thought Kemp could win an argument with a turn of phrase. Two of his favorites were "There are no limits to our future if we don't put limits on our people" and, in reference to liberal Democrats, Kemp had said, "They don't understand that you can't create more employees without first creating more employers, that you can't have capitalism without capital, and we can't expect people to defend property rights when they're denied access to property." Mitch silently said a prayer for Mr. Kemp's family.
Hearing the water turn on upstairs jolted him from his Jack Kemp thoughts. He knew this meant Marie was up, and he started making her a pot of coffee. Mitch had never developed a taste for the stuff himself, but he felt one of his husbandly duties was to have a cup ready for Marie when she awoke (as he was almost always awake before her). Over the years, he had learned how strong (industrial strength-European style) she liked her coffee and could make it to her satisfaction. Mitch felt it was one of the small things he could do for her to offset his incessant snoring. A few minutes later, he gave her a kiss as she entered the kitchen and handed her the cinnamon hazelnut flavored java.
"Good morning," Mitch said.
"Good morning to you-thanks for the coffee," Marie replied. Marie was medium height, with dark brown hair and beautiful green eyes. To Mitch, she looked more beautiful every day. He knew he was quite biased, but he also knew that she had certain qualities that many women envied, such as her youthful appearance and her incredible metabolism. One true story Mitch told in an almost bragging fashion at times was how Marie, the day she returned from the hospital after having their first child, put her pre-pregnancy jeans on with no problem. Every day, he counted his blessings that he fell in love with his best friend, who just happened to be gorgeous as well.
Mitch and Marie had gone to the same high school, but Marie was two years younger than her husband. They had not started dating until Marie was a senior, with Mitch already a sophomore at Bowling Green State University. Mitch and one of his high school friends, Al Miller, were roommates at the college, which was only about thirty minutes from Marie's house. Mitch still remembered how Al's grandfather had been mayor of Bowling Green while they were in college, and he had the good fortune of meeting Ronald Reagan in 1988 when Reagan did a campaign tour through the town for George H. W. Bush. Mitch thought back to that day several times a year, knowing that seeing Reagan and the presence he commanded helped shape his future. That and, of course, much of the reading he had done on the great individuals who had founded the country.
Excerpted from The Liberty Group by Eric Myerholtz Copyright © 2010 by Eric Myerholtz. Excerpted by permission.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
The author combines historical American facts with a current compelling storyline to captivate the reader throughout. A gripping book about corruption, suspense and friendship. Best book I have read this year.
In his first novel, Eric Myerholtz, has crafted a suspenseful political thriller. His protagonist, Mitch Bartter, a conservative columnist sets out to help a movement he believes in, but realizes he's uncovered a threat to his family and his country. The character development ensures that these are people who you feel you know, and can understand their actions and motives. Myerholtz blends various locales and makes you feel you are in the areas he writes of with his attention to detail. He also uses historical facts and political topics of the day to hold the readers interest and to cover the issues facing the country today. An excellent first effort.