Friday, May 12, 2017

Fiction: Unwanted President. Chapter 4

The Brotherhood

By Ed Rogers

The Professor lived outside of a small town in Virginia called Milford. It was still early, and there was freeway most of the way, only two hundred miles. He should be able to make the drive in a little more than three hours; he would be there long before dark. He hoped he could put the story to bed before nightfall, and take a few days off before heading to Finland.
    He wasn’t looking forward to that trip to Finland, but he didn’t see how he could get out of it – not if he wanted the story Mary Cahill was claiming to have. Mary’s background had him worried, though. After the death of her husband, she had had a breakdown, which was understandable. However, Tom was wondering how stable she was after her father-in-law’s death. She had taken off to Europe and now wanted him to meet her in Finland. The whole thing seemed reckless.
    He had to admit that if he was not attracted to her he would be having second thoughts….
    But then there was the journal. Damn, how he wished he had that journal in his hands!
    He had caught Highway 95 South. A window was cracked, the heater was on low, and oldies blasted from the speakers. The coffee he picked up helped, but Tom was running out of steam. Those days of drinking all night and working 40 and 70 hours without sleep were but a distant memory. There had been a time when the thrill of the story was so electrifying to his soul that sleep wasn’t possible.
    He half-daydreamed as he drove along. Maybe tonight, after he met with Professor Hofer, he would find a nice motel, have a good meal, and sleep until about ten in the morning.
    Somebody once said that if a good night’s sleep sounded better than chasing a woman, you knew you were over the hill. Tom felt like he was falling off the other side of the hill.
    Tom stopped at a gas station in Milford. He filled the tank and got directions to Professor Hofer’s house. He drove the twenty miles outside of town, and then turned onto a country road and headed east. He drove for ten more miles without passing another house, or car. At the end of the road was a large gate with a long drive going up to an old antebellum home. The leaves had fallen off the trees and the grass was turning brown now, but in the summer, Tom thought, it must be beautiful to drive up that old road.
    Tom pulled up to the gate and pushed the button on the outside speaker. Within a few minutes, a voice came back over the speaker, “If you’re selling something, you made a long trip for nothing. Now go away!”
    “Professor Hofer, my name is Tom Warring. I’m a reporter with the New Daily out of Washington, DC. I am looking into the death of the President. I promise I won’t take up too much of your time. Will you see me for a few minutes, please?”
    Tom heard a buzz and the big gate swung open. He drove up the oak-lined drive to the front door of the main house. He stopped long enough to take in the beautiful view across the meadow. Then he took a deep breath and walked up to the oversized door; he was thinking how everything about the house was so much bigger than life. It was as though he had stepped back into the 1860s.Tom banged the big brass knocker, and waited. And waited.
    At long last, a frail old man, who stood all of five feet and couldn’t weigh more than a hundred pounds, opened the door and invited Tom inside. “May I take your coat?”
    Tom handed the man his coat, and then was shown into a large living room. In the oversized fireplace, a warm fire was dancing around some big oak logs. “The Professor will be with you shortly,” said the little man. Then he was gone.
    The room was conspicuously large but the furniture from the past century filled the space nicely–everything was large. The ceiling had a smutty look from years of smoke escaping from the fireplace. There were two prominent overstuffed chairs facing the fire, with a huge oak table between them. On the table was a silver tray with a fine bottle of brandy and small glasses – the kind with the two-inch stems. Everything was presented to convey coziness, but the size of everything dispelled it.
    He was standing close to the fire warming his hands when he heard Professor Hofer clear his throat. Tom turned around and said, “I’m sorry, Professor, I got a little cold waiting outside for your man.”
    “Sit down, Mr. Warring, and tell me what you want. But first I want you to know, I almost didn’t see you. I read the story you wrote about John killing Benton, and I guess you are looking for a follow-up. I suppose you also know I spoke to Mr. Cahill, or you wouldn’t be here. Cahill came to me looking for information, just like you are doing now. That did not turn out very well.”
    He took his seat and looked sternly at Tom. “Mr. Warring, I have been very outspoken throughout my life, and it has cost me dearly. But at my age I have little to lose, so you may ask me what you want to know – if I can, I will tell you. Then you can print anything you wish about me. I don’t give a damn what that bunch in Washington, DC think I’ve done, or not done. I speak to whom I wish and I don’t talk to those I don’t wish to speak to. What the hell are they going to do, kill me?”
    Tom immediately liked the old Professor. He felt a kinship to outspoken people. “Professor Hofer, I assure you, sir, I don’t want to put you in the middle of anything. Are there people in the government that want to do you harm?”
    “Young man, if you live as long as I have, the list of people you have pissed off over the years gets very long. I wrote a book some years back that made me quite a few enemies.”
    “I don’t want to add to that list, but Cahill’s daughter-in-law found your name in his journal. We’re just wondering what the two of you – Mr. Cahill and you – spoke about?”
    “Cahill kept a journal? That’ll be dangerous for somebody. Let us hope there are but a few people who know about it. That was my mistake, only instead of a journal, I put it all in a book.
    “Mr. Cahill had read my book and believed there was a conspiracy within the White House and the group I wrote about at Yale called “the Brotherhood.” He wanted to know everything I knew about the Brotherhood. You have heard of them?”
    “That is not only old news, but there is no place to go with it,” said Tom. “President Benton belonged as a young man in college. The President before him was a member. Everybody joined some dumb thing at college. It was just part of growing up.”
    “You heard all that, and you took it for nothing because it would have been too much work to find out the truth.”
    The Professor poured brandy into two small glasses. “Come, we’ll have a drink. The cold goes right to my bones these days.”
    Tom joined the old man and they both enjoyed the warming effect of the brandy.
    “Mr. Warring, I don’t know if you have heard of ‘the New World Order,’ but I’ll tell you this, there’s a group within the Brotherhood who believe that the idea is overdue.
    “I know that the idea of a group of people running the world is the food that feeds conspiracy nuts, however, that doesn’t make it untrue. To the Brotherhood, power is the goal, be it military or political. In their way of thinking – military and political are the same. They use one to get the other. They believe the time is right to make their move. Don’t get me wrong, there were also those who didn’t believe in world domination, but they, like me, no longer count.”
    “Professor, are you saying you were or are a member of the Brotherhood?”
    Professor Hofer sipped his brandy and appeared to consider his next words. “I’m not going to go into the long list of names of members of the Brotherhood. You can find that out on your own. But to answer your question, yes, I was a member for many years. I joined at the University of Heidelberg and transferred my membership to Yale.
    “After my book exposed the inner workings of the group, I was kicked out and my membership was revoked.
    “Most of what I am going to tell you is in my book, but you can’t buy it; it’s out of print and I have only one copy left. Most people think the Brotherhood is only in America, and just a group of spoiled rich kids, playing at ruling the world. The truth is that America is the second chapter.
    “A man by the name of Henry Seller heard about the Brotherhood in around 1800 and got together with fourteen friends and started their own chapter of ‘The Brotherhood of Bones,’ which name they later shortened to just ‘The Brotherhood.’ These first fifteen represented the cream of the New England blue bloods. It was that way then and it’s that way today.
    “There are never more than 600 American Bonesmen active at any one time; they keep the numbers low to maintain control. Each year only fifteen college juniors are offered the chance to join. The fifteen represent the original fifteen Bonesmen.”
    Tom cleared his throat, “That’s a small number of people to be as powerful as you seem to think they are.”
    “Yes,” said the Professor, “but by putting the goals of the Brotherhood before their personal goals, they’re able to accomplish great things. Once pledged, each brother swears to help the new pledge rise in power and money. It is each Bonesman’s duty to fight his way up the ladder of success and bring his brothers along with him.”
    “Military power is only used to reach a much higher goal. I told Cahill if he wanted to find out what the President was up too – he must find out what they were really after; it will never be obvious. They are masters at misdirection.”
    “What is that goal?”
    “I don’t know. Cahill may have found out and that could be why he did what he did. The Brotherhood is not as united as it once was. A battle has been going on within the Brotherhood for some time now. Benton was in control longer than anyone had ever been and that made for enemies.
    “At times, the Brotherhood seems to do well for the country and then, at other times, not so good. The last time Bonesmen fought Bonesmen was World War II. Hitler rose to power with the help and blessings of the Bonesmen worldwide. They made a lot of money because of Der Fuhrer; until he went after the Middle Eastern oil and the Russian oil fields.”
    “What did any of this have to do with Cahill?”
    “Cahill’s son, John Jr., died in that never-ending war, and Cahill wanted to know why so many good men were dying in a war that made no sense.
    “His son, who had joined the National Guard after the Gulf War, tried to go active duty after 9/11, but they turned him down. They told him the only way they would take him was if Congress declared war. Two months later, John’s son called his father to tell him that his Guard unit had been activated and they were being sent to Iraq.”
    “How can that be? You said they turned him down when he asked to go active.”
    “That was what Cahill asked his son. He said his son laughed and said, ‘Hell, Pop, they’re so fucked-up right now, they’re taking anybody who will go.’ Cahill said he tried to talk to his son. He wanted him to get out of going. I guess John’s son loved the Army, and if his friends were going, so was he. That was the last time John spoke to his son. A week after arriving at the base outside of Baghdad, John Jr. was killed by a roadside bomb. His vehicle didn’t have armor plating. They never had a chance. They sent Cahill’s son home in a metal box, with a flag draped over it. I guess they were finished with him. John buried John, Jr. next to his mother and sister.
    “John had gone through a lot by the time I met him. He lost his wife to cancer and his daughter died in a car crash just six months before his son was killed in Iraq. He was not insane, but he was hurting deep in his soul. After burying John Jr., he went looking for answers. He wanted to know what the war in Iraq was being fought for, why were American troops still dying there? He basically wanted to know why his son had to die.”
    “And you told him it was all about…oil?”
    “The oil is very important to the Brotherhood. Back in the 40s, the Bonesmen had a long-range plan for that oil, and those plans didn’t include Hitler. After Hitler set his sights on the oil fields of Russia, they decided something needed to be done to bring Hitler under control. That was when they tried to kill him. As we know from history, that didn’t work so well, and the German Bonesmen paid the price for not succeeding. I don’t think that oil has gotten less valuable to them over the years.”
    The Professor stood up and said, “Come, let’s take a break and go for a little walk in the fresh air. They made a turn through the garden. The Professor pointed out the different places he would be planting things come spring. Tom in the meantime was trying to piece together all the twists and turns. There was Hofer’s book, about the Brotherhood, Cahill, his son, and General Wainwright. He had a lot of information, but no way to tie it together.
    They finished the tour and walked back inside. The warmth from the fireplace felt wonderful. They took their chairs and Tom picked up his half-empty glass.
    The Professor began again. “There are five chapters of the Brotherhood around the world, one here in America, one in Britain, one in France, one in Russian, and one in Germany. If you control those five countries, you control the world. You wouldn’t think there would be a need for wars with that much power. However, wars make the Brotherhood money and redraw lines in the sand. Benton was not the kind of a person to share, and I believe John may have found something that Benton and the Brotherhood wanted kept secret.”
    Tom set his empty glass on the table and rubbed his forehead. “I can’t make any sense of any of this. Why in the world was Cahill looking into this Brotherhood thing? And how did it lead him to kill the President?”
    “All I know is that he said a friend of his had moved a large amount of money out of Iraq for the President, and now his friend was about to be hung out to dry. It all had to do with their being in Vietnam together. My guess was it was his old commander. Cahill owed him somehow, or at least he thought he did.”
    “I still don’t see how that has anything to do with the Brotherhood.”
    “Cahill was trying to help his friend and noticed that every one of the people his friend had named went to the same college and were all Bonesmen.”
    Years ago, I spoke at Old Miss about college ties and used the Brotherhood as an example of how far those ties could carry a person. Cahill was there with his daughter and bought my book. After finding all those links to the Brotherhood he remembered my name and looked me up.”
    The Professor said, “That is just about all I have for you, young man. I gave Cahill a name of a dear friend of mine in Russia. You’re welcome to it if you think it will help. His job was to know about these kinds of things before the fall of the USSR. I don’t know what Cahill found out. I don’t even know if he made contact with him.
    “I know there could be some unhappy people if they find out Cahill kept a journal, and they might try to stop you from printing your story. They were able to discredit me and my book and put me under Benton’s thumb for a year and a half. At last, I gave up and retired to my home here in Virginia. Hearsay is nothing to the Brotherhood. There have been thousands of stories written and told about them. But with the journal, it is no longer hearsay. If the killer of the President of the United States writes that he was in league with the Brotherhood…Well, information like that is worth killing for. I would be careful if I were you.”
    The Professor handed Tom a piece of paper with a name and a number on it.
    Tom said, “I will give your friend in Russia your regards. I believe he will be the next person on my list. Thank you for the name. I’m still not sure if there is anything to be found that will tie anybody to some kind of worldwide conspiracy, but I will see how this plays out.”
    “Mr. Warring,” the Professor said as he showed Tom to the door, “I’ve enjoyed our visit, but it would be better if you never came back here again. I have no idea what Mr. Cahill stepped into, but I want no part of it.” He shook Tom’s hand and said, “Well, goodbye and good luck.”
    Then the door was closed and Tom stood outside and wondered what to do next. He got into the car and turned the ignition switch. As he let the engine warm up, he tried to decide where to spend the night. He was wishing he was home in his own bed. What a waste of time the trip had been. What could Cahill have written in his journal that made Mary think this was important?
    With the car warmed, Tom started driving down the long road from the house. The shadows from the big oaks were casting eerie pictures across the roadway, and on the horizon, the V formations of ducks and geese heading south were being overtaken by the darkening sky. Tom became lost in his own thoughts. First, he tried to make sense of the afternoon with the Professor, but soon gave up. He then tried to decide if he wanted to eat and then sleep, or sleep and then find something to eat. To a tired mind, these were very important matters.
    As he pulled through the gate, he didn’t see the black SUV pull out of the trees and go through the gate before it closed. The car had parked behind the trees at the end of the drive. They made sure they were just out of Tom’s line of sight.
    Tom turned onto the main road and headed toward town. It was getting dark and Tom’s mind was half-asleep again. He was glad he took notes because his brain had turned to Jell-O. He put the piece of paper from the Professor with the Russian’s name and number in his notebook and opened the glove box. Tom didn’t notice the black SUV, without its lights off, as it pulled in behind him.
    Tom had driven about five miles down the main highway and was crossing a creek as the SUV pulled into the passing lane and its lights came on. Tom was so lost in his thoughts, seeing the SUV for the first time startled him. The SUV was right beside him, but he couldn’t see inside because of the tinted windows. Suddenly the SUV slammed into his car, which sent him out of control and over the embankment. He saw the tree and turned. He missed that tree but ran head-on into the next one. There the car came to a stop, steam hissing and spraying into the air.
    Two men got out of the SUV. They stood on the road, just above the remains of Tom’s car. One of them took out a lighter and set fire to the two rags that were pushed down into gas-filled bottles. The fire bottles arched through the air and struck the car, completely engulfing it in flames. Satisfied that no one could have survived the fiery crash, the men got back in their SUV and drove off.

When Professor Hofer heard the knocker, he thought it was Tom, and wondered what he had forgotten. “What did you forget?”
    The man in front of him was pointing a gun at Albert Hofer’s head. “We need to talk, Professor.”
[Editor’s Note: The novel from which this excerpt is taken can be ordered from Amazon, as either a paperback or a Kindle book.]

Copyright © 2017 by Ed Rogers

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