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What begins with a Hezbollah plot quickly becomes a heart-stopping race against time as the President's inner circle fights to protect her from enemies both known and unknown. From Beirut to New York, and from Mexico City to south Texas, this taut, tense political drama unfolds across a broad landscape of politics and ideology as it moves breathlessly toward its final, startling revelation.
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|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.81(d)|
About the Author
The late Jon Guttman was an award-winning media specialist and the co-founder of Winslow Advertising Group/HVHM in New York City, where he served as creative director. A graduate of NYU, his extensive experience in the entertainment industry included writing, directing, and producing ads and radio spots for a wide variety of clients.
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By Marguerite Williams Jon Guttman
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2012 Marguerite Williams & Jon Guttman
All right reserved.
Chapter OneTuesday, February 22 NYC 8:30 PM EST
Roger walked into the Waldorf Towers as the State of the Union address began.
The President's Chief of Staff should have been at the Capital. "Dammit," he muttered, but Kate had concurred this meeting couldn't wait.
When Emilio arrived thirty minutes later, Roger was in no mood for social niceties. Not even with one of his closest friends.
Roger studied the man before him, a man he'd known since West Point. Shorter than Roger by five or six inches, Emilio still appeared to be taller than average. And while his complexion was dark, the Castilian blood shone through with eyes so blue that most people assumed he wore contacts. With Roger's red hair, they made a colorful pair.
After graduation, with a Presidential waiver for Emilio, they both qualified for Ranger training and served together across the globe, including Iraq and Afghanistan. Funny thing about that kind of service, Roger thought. What better way to get to know a person? He knew that he could trust Emilio with his life. He had many times before. Best friend seemed such a trivial way of saying what Emilio meant to him.
When Emilio called him earlier in the day, the note of panic in his voice was unmistakable.
"Roger, I need to see you as soon as possible."
"What's so urgent?"
Not on the phone. When can you come to New York?"
"Uh, maybe next week sometime."
Roger heard silence on the other end of the line. "Are you still there, Emilio?"
"Can you come tonight?"
"But it's the State of Union."
Roger stopped. Emilio would have known that. "What is it, Emilio?"
"Roger, please. I wouldn't ask if this weren't important."
Roger glanced at his watch. "Okay, I hear you. Kate and Deacon keep a suite at the Waldorf Towers that no one knows about. I'll make arrangements to slip away for a few hours. Can you be there at 8:30?"
"Go to the front desk and ask for Mr. Rancher's suite. I'll alert them that you're coming. See you at ..." Roger didn't get a chance to finish. The line was already dead.
Emilio hadn't stopped for a handshake when Roger opened the door. He strode across the large living room, found the well-stocked bar, poured himself two fingers of Glenlivet and plopped onto the sofa.
"Yes, and hello to you too. Please make yourself at home."
Emilio's dark face flushed. He shrugged and kept drinking.
"Geez, man, can you at least tell me what was so important that I had to miss my mother's State of the Union?"
Emilio poured another glass and suggested that Roger take a seat.
"As Mexico's Permanent Deputy Ambassador to the UN, I overhear many things. Most of it is drivel. Your CIA probably knows it all anyway. But a piece of information has come my way that you need to act on immediately."
"What information? What the hell, Emilio?"
"Roger, there's going to be an attempt on the President's life."
"No. Jesus, Roger. Your President."
Roger leapt up. "Kate? President MacIntyre? What the fuck are you talking about? When? How? This is crazy."
"I do not know the details."
"Emilio, that's bullshit! You can't drop a bombshell like that and not give me anything to go on. What's your source on this?"
Roger gasped like he'd been sucker punched. Now it was his turn to walk over to the bar. His mind whirled. Kate? He wanted to kick something or someone, but he had to think straight.
He knew who Emilio's father was and this couldn't be ignored. His first instinct was to call in his security detail and alert the White House, but he needed to press Emilio a little harder. When it came to Emilio's father that might not be easy. The de Franco relationship was complicated, to say the least. Roger searched his mind for details about the family.
Federico de Franco was a much feared but also revered person in Mexico, depending on one's dealings with the man. The son of Juan Carlos and Lucia de Franco, he was the head of Mexico's largest bank, Banco del Republico, and was also the largest stockholder in the Mexican pharmaceutical giant, Pharma de Mexico.
According to Emilio, Federico had been abused psychologically and physically as a child by his father. The cycle would have continued but for the tragic death of Emilio's mother, a young maid in his grandparents household. Officially she died during childbirth, but according to Emilio's grandmother the circumstances of his mother's death were never fully explained. No death certificate, no hospital report, just forged birth certificates for Emilio and his twin sister Martina, a marriage license inserted in the official record and Federico banished to Europe.
Juan Carlos and Lucia raised their grandchildren as their own. Lucia was ever thankful that her husband became such a model grandparent after the cruel, often brutal, way he had treated Federico.
After Federico studied at the Sorbonne and then at the London School of Economics, he realized, early in his banking career, the lucrative nature of the drug business and money laundering. A natural intellect and temperament for business, and a tightly controlled sadistic streak, made him well suited for the illegal side of banking. Soon he found himself living two lives - respected banker and scion of one of Mexico's most prominent and wealthy families, and drug lord, head of one of the largest cartels in Mexico.
If men like Federico were ever placed on the Fortune 500 list, he would be one of the three or four wealthiest men in the world. But it was never about the money for him. It was his insatiable need for power and his total hatred of his father. He was incapable of feeling much of anything, though he was certain he loved his children, in his own way. The fact that he had sired two children was a quirk of nature to him, and he had made certain with two little snips that it wouldn't happen again.
Roger had to separate what information arose from drunken confessions at college or from intelligence briefings. "You must know something, goddammit. Or you wouldn't have insisted on meeting me here. What did your father tell you? And how is he involved?"
Emilio steadied his gaze and began to talk. After fifteen minutes of listening without interrupting, Roger was convinced that he knew all that Emilio knew and that the information was credible.
Roger sorted through his wildly careening thoughts. He needed to alert the Secret Service before he did anything else and he needed to get back to Washington ASAP.
Fred Montgomery, the head of his security detail, as if a mind reader, flung open the door.
The ashen-faced Montgomery entered the room. "Mr. Dunham?"
"Ezra Jefferson needs to speak with you immediately."
A shot of adrenalin made Roger's fingers sweat. He took his agent's phone.
Montgomery looked at Emilio. "I will escort your guest out."
Roger held up his hand and spoke into the phone. "Yes, Ezra. Do you want my code?"
Jefferson continued. "Sir. There was an attack on the President's car."
"Oh my God, is she ..."
"She's fine. The IED didn't detonate."
Roger fell back onto the couch. Emilio looked from Montgomery to Roger.
"Thank God. Where is my mother now?"
"In the White House situation room. But there's more. The Vice President's car was also attacked and ... it's bad, sir. He died 13 minutes ago. His driver was also killed in the explosion. That's pretty much all we know as of this moment."
"Where is Deacon, I mean the First Gentleman?"
"With the President."
"Can you patch me through?"
Ignoring Roger's request for the moment, Ezra continued. "You need to leave New York now. A plane is waiting for you at McGuire Air Force Base. We should have you back at the White House in less than two hours and the President will call you once you're wheels-up. One more thing, while the news of the Vice President's assassination has started to leak out, no one outside of those in the situation room and the Secret Service knows that the President's car was targeted."
Roger handed the phone back to Agent Montgomery. "Fred, did they tell you what happened to my mother and the Vice President?"
"Yes, Mr. Dunham. We need to get moving."
Roger stood and looked down at his right hand. It was balled into a fist and his nails dug into the flesh of his palm. He remembered that Emilio was still in the room. The look on Roger's face made Emilio shudder.
"You son-of-a-bitch. It's already happened ..."
"Oh God. Is your mother ..."
"She's alive, no thanks to you."
"What the hell does that mean? I'm here tonight to try to ..."
Montgomery cleared his throat. "Sir, we have to leave now. Mr. de Franco, there is an agent in the hallway. Please follow him out."
Roger reached out and held Emilio by the elbow. "Emilio, I'm sorry. You should know that the Vice President is dead.
"Fred, give the ambassador and me one moment." The agent started to protest but Roger shook his head.
"Emilio I realize that this may become dicey for you. Between the Mexican Government and your family you may be forced to make choices that will compromise our friendship." "I'm aware, as you Gringos say, that I may find myself between the proverbial hard rock and tight spot, but to hell with protocol. How can I help?"
"By meeting me at the White House first thing tomorrow morning."
With that Roger turned to leave.
Emilio called out to Roger's retreating back. "You know that I love your mother, don't you?"
Roger turned and stared at Emilio. Did Emilio love Kate? He sure as hell hoped so. But why didn't Emilio get to me sooner? "I know, Emilio. See you in Washington."
Chapter TwoWednesday, February 23 Washington, DC 3:00 AM
The closer Roger got to the oval office the faster his pace became. He pushed the door open so hard that it banged against the wall. The President looked up, startled. She stood and embraced Roger.
"Kate. Madame President." Roger struggled to catch his breath. Names between Roger and the President were a bit like Marty Feldman's hump in "Young Frankenstein" – always shifting.
Roger was one of the youngest Chiefs of Staff in White House history and Kate had taken plenty of hits for putting him in the position. It was worth it. He had never failed her or the country. She looked at him fondly, remembering the frightened boy who came into her life over twenty-five years ago.
She had known him for longer than that. He grew up on the neighboring ranch, and his parents were best friends to Deacon and her. The families did everything together, from Easter egg hunts to Christmas Eve dinners and summer vacations. Roger was the only child of his loving parents, Rob and Marie, and he was a steadying influence on Kate's wilder crew, especially her unruly youngest son, Noah, more affectionately called Butch.
In an instant on a dark, rain-slicked winding road, everything changed. Rob and Marie were gone in a flash. And the nightmare began for Roger. He was strapped in the back seat and the pickup that came out of nowhere, with its drunken driver, pulverized the front of the car and left the 12-year old Roger with two broken legs, cracked ribs, and deep facial wounds. His brain was intact, though, and he remembered everything - the deathly silence from the front seat, the blood he smelled in the air and tasted in his mouth, and his inability to move an inch, crushed by the metal doorplates.
By the time help finally arrived, the truck driver had hightailed it away from the scene, then tumbled into a ditch and passed out. Roger already knew what the emergency rescuers confirmed. His parents were dead. He fell into a nightmare of lights and screams and tumbled down, down into a dark tunnel. When he awoke three days later, the first face he saw was Kate's. She was sitting on his bed, his hand held tightly by hers.
When his eyes flickered open, she looked him square in the face and said, "Honey, you know that your parents are gone. Their hurtin' is over and ours is begun because we miss them so damn much."
Roger nodded and tears plopped onto his chest.
"But you are not alone. You will not be alone. Not ever. Not as long as Deacon and I and our kids are alive and on this planet. Your folks didn't have many kin around here, and that's what we are to you now ... kin. You understand what I'm sayin' to you?"
Roger lay still as the eye of a hurricane, while the room swirled around him. He tried to answer. His mouth went dry. Nothing came out.
"That's okay. I'll talk now for the both of us. You're gonna' be okay. Bruised as a squashed up watermelon and sore, but okay. When you get out of this place, you're comin' to live with us.
Hard, coughing, wracking sobs came forth from the deepest place in Roger. He grabbed Kate and held on. His body trembled and his teeth chattered. The sobs came like body blows until he fell back onto the bed, spent. He managed to get out four words to Kate before he returned to the arms of sleep. "Don't leave me, Kate."
She bent over and kissed the one place on his forehead that wasn't stitched up or swollen. "Don't worry, Roger. You're mine now. No power in heaven or on earth will change that."
Sure enough, Roger was hers. He called her Kate, but in his mind, she was momma. When she ran for Town Board of her small Hill Country village, Roger was right there beside her, stamping letters, making buttons on an old contraption that he found at the public library, helping her write her speeches. Her other children took a passing interest in her newfound political life, but Roger studied the issues and helped her dissect and shed light on them. Even Deacon deferred to Roger when Kate was faced with thorny local dilemmas, the kind that let them know that all politics are personal and sometimes they cut deep. But she kept on trying to do the right thing by the most people possible.
Roger's mind fascinated Kate. She loved to watch him seize upon an idea and shake it apart like a cat that catches a field mouse. He got into all the right schools but had his heart set on West Point, and Kate knew he needed to break the cord.
Kate moved up the political ladder while Roger finished his education, graduating at the top of his class. By the time he left the Army Rangers, six years later, Kate was already serving in the State House as Lieutenant Governor. Roger spent the next three years at Harvard Law School, though he never wiped the Hill Country dust entirely off his jeans, and Kate bided her time in Austin. He even found time to complete an advanced degree in economics.
Finally their career paths crossed. Roger insisted and Kate protested. "Honey, wait a minute now. You have an offer from a top firm in New York. Don't pass up that opportunity. I'll do fine if you let me call you every now and then for advice."
"Kate, I want to come home and help you with the race."
"Help me with this piddling race for Governor? What was I thinkin' anyway? I'm not cut out for this crowd. And the experts aren't giving me a snow ball's chance."
"You are cut out for it. Texas needs you. Let me help you. I can get back to the law firm any time."
Kate relented and the game was afoot.
"Madame President. Madame President." Kate heard Roger's voice as though over an intercom. Her gaze cleared and she saw him looking at her in a concerned and quizzical way. She almost laughed.
"My God, Roger, my mind was a thousand miles away."
Kate motioned for him to join her on the couch. She patted his knee and waited.
Roger laughed. "Let me try again. Thank God you're okay, Kate. Thank God."
"Yes. But we lost Harris, Roger. They took him from us. This cannot go unanswered."
Roger betrayed his emotions around one person, the woman beside him. He narrowed his eyes. "It will not go unanswered, Madame President. Let me tell you about New York. Emilio may have provided us with one heck of a lead."
"What on earth did he have to say?"
"Briefly, he informed me that there might be an attempt on your life. The Vice President wasn't even mentioned."
"And how did he come by this information?"
"His father. The problem is that Emilio doesn't trust his father or his motives."
"According to Emilio, in addition to his father's legitimate business holdings, de Franco is also the head of the most powerful drug cartel in Mexico."
"But Roger, we already know this."
"Yes, but Emilio didn't know that we had that information."
"Still what would Federico gain by trying to warn us if he were involved?"
"Kate, I'm not sure, but here's the kicker. Emilio's father claims he is being set up by Hezbollah."
"Hezbollah. That's crazy. Besides they've never been particularly squeamish about taking credit for acts of terrorism before."
Excerpted from Madame President by Marguerite Williams Jon Guttman Copyright © 2012 by Marguerite Williams & Jon Guttman. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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