Friday, June 23, 2017

Fiction: Unwanted President. Chapter 26

Not Everybody Is a VIP

By Ed Rogers

The cab pulled up to the Hilton and Rubin got out. The sidewalk was still wet from the shower that had passed over New York during the morning rush hour. The doorman called the bellman to get Rubin’s bags, and then opened the door for him and signaled the concierge. “You may go right up to the suite, Mr. Johnson, there will be no need to check in at the desk.”
    The concierge met them halfway to the elevator. “Welcome, Mr. Johnson, right this way, sir.”
    Rubin and his wife had been there last year, for their anniversary. Sue loved the VIP treatment, but it always made Rubin feel uneasy. It still was hard for him to let people open the door for him. He felt more at home with his coat off and sleeves rolled up – sitting in a small office with piles of papers was more to his liking. However, when Jac offered you something, it was a good idea to take it, and say thank you.
    Jac Truborn liked doing things for his friends, and Rubin was one of a small group of people who fit into that category. When you had the money Jac Truborn had, you were careful who you called a friend.
    The elevator opened right into the suite and Rubin, along with the concierge and the bellman, stepped into the heart of capitalistic, bourgeois heaven. The first thing that got your attention was the wall of glass that looked out over the swimming pool and patio. Then your eyes came back into the spacious living room, with its large wet bar. The bellman took Rubin’s bags into the master bedroom while Rubin headed to the wet bar.
    “May I get you anything else, sir?” asked the concierge.
    “No, thank you, I’m fine.”
    “Then we will take our leave, Mr. Johnson. If you need anything at all, please call.”
    The elevator door closed as Rubin walked out onto the patio. Sitting in one of the many lounge chairs, sipping his drink, Rubin was wondering what he was going to do next. His mind almost imploded after reading the papers and listening to the tape Thad had given him. How could a government have operated like the Benson administration, and without anyone finding out and putting a stop to it? Did people just not care? Then again there was John Cahill – he guessed he cared.
    Rubin was now weighing how much of what he knew he should share with Jac. He was not even sure Jac could help him, but Jac went to school with some of these guys, and God knows, if there was any dirt out there Jac, would know about it.
    Thad wanted Rubin to talk with that reporter, Tom Warring, but Rubin had never trusted anyone in the press. And there was the lawsuit – but even without the suit, he still distrusted the press. Rubin felt that a man should stand by what he said or wrote, and after what they tried to do to Thad, talking to a reporter was not high on Rubin’s list of things he wanted to do. But he might have a talk with Warring if Jac couldn’t help him, even though he sure didn’t want to get into bed with the guy. The last thing Rubin needed was his picture on the front page of the Worldwide Globe.
    Rubin knocked back his drink and headed to the shower. He was going to meet Jac in two hours. This would give Rubin time to clean up and take a little nap. He wanted to be fresh and sharp for the meeting.
    Rubin came out of the shower and lay on the bed. He could have lain there for perhaps ten minutes before he gave up and made himself another drink. His mind was racing with unanswered questions. He knew Thad was depending on him, and the last thing Rubin wanted to do was let his brother down.
    Rubin finished his drink and went to the bedroom to get dressed. If there was one thing Rubin liked about Jac, it was that he never was late for a meeting and he expected everyone else to be on time as well.

Fifteen minutes later, as Rubin stepped into the elevator and the door closed behind him, he got that terrible feeling a person gets when he knows he has gone too far to turn back.
    When the elevator door from the VIP suite opened there was always someone there waiting to fulfill your every wish. Rubin told the concierge he was meeting Jac for dinner and asked if he would see if the limousine had arrived.
    “Yes, sir,” answered the concierge, “it is right outside. If you will follow me, I’ll take you out the VIP exit.”
    Without waiting for Rubin to answer, the concierge headed toward the unmarked door off to the left of the elevators. They made their way down a long hallway, and the concierge opened the door at the end. The limousine was parked by the curb, not more than two steps from the doorway. Its shiny black body was filling the alley. The system the hotel operated was set up for a quick getaway. They seemed to think of everything – for the man with money.
    The drive was not long, and you would never know that the old brownstone homes on the residential street they turned down were part of the most exclusive club in New York. The security in and around this building was better than that at the White House – all of it installed by Jac’s company. Some of the richest and smartest men in the world belonged to that club. Within two seconds of an alarm, the building could be shut down. Within five minutes, everyone inside could be safely escorted to a bunker. To say the bunker was state of the art would not do it justice. They had things in that bunker that had never seen the light of day. It was the heart of Jac’s worldwide communications system. From the bunker, Jac could access his security systems anywhere in the world. Rubin had received the grand tour by Jac last year, and he wondered what new toys they had added over the year.
    The driver opened the door of the car in front door of the club’s brownstone, and Rubin walked up the ten steps to its front door. As he stepped up to the door, it opened and a smiling doorman said, “Come right in, Mr. Johnson.”
    The small entranceway afforded them the opportunely to have you scanned and sniffed, without making a big show of it. If you didn’t know better, you would just think they were taking your coat.
    The doorman opened the door leading into the club. “Enjoy your evening, Mr. Johnson.”
    When first stepping into the club, Rubin always had a sense of disbelief. The exquisite grandeur was beyond words. The high ceilings and walnut paneling gave the rooms of the club an authoritative prestige unlike any Rubin had ever encountered, and there was nothing to sit on that wasn’t leather.
    Across from the entrance was a fireplace that took up the whole wall – the hearth could hold a six-foot log. In the winter, they kept a roaring fire going twenty-four hours a day.
    While the outside looked like a row of homes, the whole block was, in fact, one building. Some members never left the club – the upstairs had twenty-four suites. As Jac said, “If you had to ask how much they rented for, you couldn’t afford one.”
    The setting was arranged so no one could hear the conversions of other groups. Yet, looking at the seating, you would think it was all one happy family. It was so quiet you could hear yourself breathe. The walnut paneling and the Oriental rugs soaked up every bit of sound.
    The manager of the club broke up Rubin’s wonderment. “Mr. Johnson, if you will follow me, Mr. Truborn has just been seated.”
    As they entered the dining room, Rubin saw Jac at his table looking as if he had been there for hours. Jac got up and came around the table as Rubin approached.
    “Rubin, my old friend. It’s been too long.” Jac took Rubin’s hand in both of his, in a show of genuine affection.
    “It has been awhile, Jac. That fundraiser in Dallas last year, I believe.”
    “I think you’re right. We need to keep in touch with our friends more often. We aren’t getting any younger. Please sit down. I’ve ordered for us – I hope you don’t mind. I thought it would save time.”
    “That’ll be fine, Jac. I came to talk more than to eat, anyway.”
    “Well, what is it that you and Thad are up to?” Jac laughed. “Moreover, how much is it going to cost me?”
    “Not this time, Jac. I didn’t come for money, I came for information.”
    “My God, Rubin, your brother is President of the United States. If there’s something he can’t find out, how do you think I would know?”
    “You forget who you’re talking to, Jac. I know if there is anything going on in this whole world that has to do with power or money, you know about it.”
    “Don’t tell me you’re looking to invest the government’s money?”
    “No, but Thad thinks there’s something going on within the government that may turn catastrophic if not stopped.” Rubin paused to let that sink in. “Jac, how powerful does a man have to be in order to move American troops around without leaving his fingerprints?”
    “I’m not sure I can think that high. It would depend on how large a force is being moved around. You need to keep track of all the units, or at least of all the units you want to control.” Jac shook his head. “Rubin, I don’t think it can be done. There are orders to be cut, and it takes a large number of people just to handle the paperwork on something like that. Then the different U.S. Armed Forces have to be maneuvered into place – the Army working with the Air Force, and so on. The paper trail would betray the individual. Hell, there are just too many people involved for the President not to be able to find out with one phone call who ordered the movement.”
    “Let’s say you’re wrong and I want to move a small unit, like a SEAL team. Who can do something like that?”
    “There are maybe a handful of people outside of the government who could possibly pull off something like that.”
    “Who are they?”
    “Me for one. You don’t need me to name the others. They will all be in my income bracket, and more than likely members of this club. It would take a hell of a lot of money to run a deal like that. I can’t see why anyone would want to spend that kind of money – where is there any profit to be gained? You can buy whole armies these days – why take the chance of getting caught fooling with the American Armed Forces.”
    “Okay, I know it’s not you, Jac. So who do you look at next?”
    “I’m not sure. Can you give me a day or two? This has caught me by surprise. I was prepared to try to keep from writing a check to cover the national debt, not to go spy-hunting.”
    “Sure,” said Rubin, “while I go to see some other people who might have information. But the President does need this as soon as possible.”
    The usage of the word “President” was not lost on Jac. “You may tell the President,” he said, “that I will do my utmost to fulfill his request.
    “Now, I see our dinner coming. Do you think we can enjoy our meal as two old friends who are eating and talking about their families?”
    Rubin smiled. “Nothing I can think of would please me more.” Rubin raised his glass. “To old friends and good memories.”
[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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