Monday, June 19, 2017

Fiction: Unwanted President. Chapter 24

At the White House

By Ed Rogers

The President of Russia, Victor Putin, was waiting to be shown into the Oval Office to meet with the President of the United States. It was a long flight from Russia and Putin was a little tired, but the message he had for the new President was too important to wait. Time was short and events had a way of running over a person who moved too slowly.
    President Benton had just about ruled the world as board chairman of the World Brotherhood of Bones. For years, the Bonesmen were “One for All, and All for One.” President Benton had changed the rules and no one liked it. The board had lost a lot of money during his short term as President. Now, with five members on the board again, a change was coming.
    After the assassination of President Benton, the board had met secretly and reinstated Germany, who had been kicked off the board after World War Two. Reinstated, Germany now voted with France and Russia.
    However, the representative from the United States wasn’t to Victor’s liking. For a short time after Benton’s death, the American representative, Ambassador White, had taken over the chairmanship, but he wasn’t strong enough to hold onto it, though he was still a representative, and still loyal to the old order under President Benton.
    Putin wanted him replaced. One way that could happen was for a member of the Brotherhood who held a higher position in the American government to replace him but there was no one higher. Alternatively, the President could fire him, and this was where Thad Johnson would enter the game.
    Putin had his man picked to replace White. He just needed the President to appoint him ambassador to the United Nations. Putin didn’t know how much Thad Johnson knew about the Brotherhood, but he was there to make sure he stayed out of their business. The best way to do that was to get the late President’s people out of power.
    The President’s secretary stood and said, “The President of the United States will see you now, Mr. President,” and she opened the door to the Oval Office.
    Thad Johnson had been a Republican all his life. His father joined the Republican Party to support Goldwater and raised his two boys to think along the same lines.
    Thad’s mother had been a Democrat, but she never gave or asked for an inch in the heated debates around the dinner table. This example of his mother and father Thad carried with him all his life. He knew people could disagree and still love each other.
    He had put this lesson to work in his political dealing with members of the other party. Somewhere along the way he got the nickname, “The Bridge.” If you needed something passed, and it took both parties to get it on the floor, Thad Johnson was the go-to guy. The day Thad became President, a quiet cheer was heard from both sides of the aisle.
    Thad wasn’t sure what all had happened before he assumed office, but there were stories and he didn’t like what they implied. He had to choose between sterilizing the Office of the President or covering over the stink that had been raised by Tom Warring and all his stories in the World Globe. He chose to fire everybody and start over. His action was fought tooth and nail by the leadership of his party. His name moved to the top of the enemies lists of people who found themselves suddenly on the outside looking in.
    The move was very smart – unknowingly he had removed the knife that was poised to stab him in the back. The American people liked the new President, and his party lacked the power to challenge him. The Democrats had been on the outside for two years, so they welcomed any friendly face.
    Thad would be able to call the shots the way he wanted for a while longer, but he knew that that window would close fast. Thad sent the word out, “Stop playing politics on the people’s time and get your ass to work, or go home and send someone back here who is ready to put this country back together.”
    Now people were lined up from all over the world wanting to see him. The last time he had seen President Putin was two days before the state funeral. Parts of President Benton were lying in the rotunda, and Thad Johnson was wondering how he got himself into such a mess. That last meeting was intimidating for Thad – Putin was the first world leader he met as President. Putin sensed how uncomfortable Thad was and went out of his way to ease the formal meeting into a friendly greeting. It was something a person like Thad Johnson didn’t forget.
    This was the same smiling man, in the blue suit, white shirt, and red tie, walking with his hand extended toward Thad.
    Thad had that tall, corn-fed, towhead, Midwest country-boy look about him, while Putin was the sleek, dark, European. Their looks seemed to reflect the countries they represented.
    “Welcome, welcome to the White House, Mr. President.”
    “Thank you for taking the time from your busy day to see me, Mr. President,” said Putin. “I know these are still sad times for your country and the world.”
    “I think we have too many presidents,” said Thad. “Why don’t you call me Thad, and, if you don’t mind, I’ll call you Victor?”
    “That would be fine with me, Mr.—” Putin threw up his hands in comic fashion. “Thad. Sorry, old habits are hard to break.”
    “Come, sit, and let’s talk,” Thad said, as he started to sit down in one of the big chairs.
    Putin smiled. “I was hoping you might see your way clear to show me around the personal living quarters of the President. I’ve been here many times, but have always wondered how the President of the United States lived. This may be my last chance – I’m thinking about stepping down at the end of my term.”
    “Sure, why not.” Thad headed for the door, with Putin right behind him. At the door, Thad turned and told the aide who had come with Putin, “You wait in the Oval Office. We’ll be back soon.”
    The two men walked into the small but beautifully laid-out living room. Closing the door, Thad said, “Okay, please be seated, and tell me what’s on your mind that you don’t want anyone else to hear.”
    “I hoped not to be found out so easily.”
    “We keep records of the people who visit our home, and this is the third time you have been a guest in the personal quarters of the President.”
    “Too many records can sometimes be a bad thing,” said Putin.
    “I have found,” Thad said with a smile, “that the things you do in the dark will come back to bite you in the ass in the light of day.”
    “Maybe so, Mr. President.” The conversation had now become one between two heads of state and they both felt the switch back to formality.
    “However,” Putin continued, “if you want to kill cockroaches, you need to go into the dark, because they will not come into the light.”
    “Okay, Mr. Putin, who are these cockroaches that need killing?”
    “Mr. President, as I’m sure you know, John Cahill came to Russia.”
    “I read a CIA report that said as much; are you saying you had a hand in what Cahill did upon his return?”
    “No, no, Mr. President. I had no hand in this at all. However, it has come to my attention that a man Cahill met with while in my country sent him back to see Thomas White, your ambassador to the UN.”
    “Mr. Putin, this meeting is over.” Thad stood up to walk back to the Oval Office.
    “Mr. President, please wait and let me share my knowledge with you. If you choose to do nothing, at least you will have all the facts. You said the light was better than the dark; I’m here to offer you the light of truth.”
    Thad turned and looked at Putin, trying to gauge the man who ruled Russia, and decided that the person he was looking at had no idea what the word truth meant. He couldn’t figure out what game Putin was playing. Sure, Thomas White was his ambassador to the UN, but Thad had done a deep background check on White and found no link between him and the former administration. White had been appointed by the previous administration, not by Benton.
    “You have three minutes to convince me,” he said.
    Putin began his story: “Thomas White is a member of the old order of the Worldwide Brotherhood of Bones. I’m not sure if you know that your predecessor, President Benton, was chairman of its board, and White is part of that same group. His goals and his loyalty are not with you, Mr. President. The group has been watched by my Secret Service for years, and on the whole they do more good than bad. That is, until President Benton became the head of the organization.”
    “White is doing a good job,” Thad said. He wasn’t going to let a Russian drag a fine man’s name through the mud just because he wouldn’t kiss the Russian ring. “Why should I believe you?”
    “Mr. President, there will be nothing I tell you that I cannot prove. The fact that you fired everyone from the past administration tells me you entertained the idea there may be some truth in the stories that Warring was writing in the Globe, and you chose not to take a chance.”
    “Mr. Putin, I have heard of the Brotherhood, but I have a busy day ahead, as do you. For us to speak of conspiracies and the power of a group of frat-house college students who somehow rose to become some the most powerful people in the world – this seems to be a waste of our time – or at least of my time.”
    “Mr. President, first, you need to know that most of the stories you have heard about the former President and a worldwide confederation are true. My people have the tapes and papers to prove it.”
    “Mr. Putin, what do you want from me? President Benton is dead, and as for White, well, I’m not going to fire him on your say so.”

Two hours later the two presidents came back into the Oval Office. Neither man was smiling. There was no time for a photo op. Putin took the briefcase from his aide-de-camp and set it at the President’s feet.
    Extending his right hand, Thad said, “Thank you for coming, Mr. President. That matter with the UN will be taken care of.”
    “Thank you. And I hope the pursuit of peace will be the glue that bonds our friendship.” Putin turned and walked out the door.
    As the door closed behind the Russian President, Thad pushed the intercom and said, “I would like a few minutes alone.”
    Thad sat in the chair of the President of the United States and slowly began turning around and gazing at the ceiling, the walls, the floor. He felt very small and very alone.
    His eyes stopped on the briefcase. There was no need to open it. He knew Putin was telling the truth, or at least telling Putin’s truth. The question was, how had the CIA missed White’s connection with the Brotherhood? And what was he to do with that kind of truth? He needed more than Putin’s word, and there was only one person he trusted to get him the information he needed.
    Thad pressed the intercom once more and said, “Ruth, get my brother on the line, please.”
[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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