Sunday, June 25, 2017

Fiction: Unwanted President. Chapters 27 & 28

Jac Truborn
& The Surf Is Up

By Ed Rogers

Chapter 27. Jac Truborn

Jac Truborn had been the first person Rubin thought about calling for help. If anyone could help Rubin it would be Jac. Jac was one of the wealthiest men in the world, and he thought Thad Johnson was the greatest thing to happen in America since white bread. He was a good friend of Rubin and his family, and Rubin was one of the true friends Jac had in the world.
    Jac Truborn had taken note of Thad Johnson early in his career. He saw the clean, wholesome, Midwest farm boy in Thad and knew he could be a winner. He was the boy next door that every mother and father wanted their daughter to bring home. Although they were about the same age, Jac was already making his mark in the world by the time Thad came on the scene. Jac always planned for the future and he knew early on that Thad Johnson would play a role in that future.
    He opened doors for Thad and helped shape his career right into the White House. Benton had wanted one of his people to fill the vacancy of the Vice-President, but in the end Jac’s will prevailed.
    When Rubin Johnson called Jac to say he would be in New York for a few days and needed to have a talk with him, he insisted that Rubin stay in the Hilton’s VIP Suite, where Jac put up all his business guests. He had been looking forward to seeing Rubin. Even if this wasn’t a social visit, Jac liked the White House to ask for his help. Because Rubin had been Thad’s moneyman, it had been reasonable to think that Rubin was out raising funds for some project Thad was putting together. Jac didn’t mind giving money to good causes – or bad ones as far as that went – for he liked to have people think they owed him for his generosity. You never knew when you might need an accommodation from someone.
    Jac was a self-made man. His father had been a postman, and his mother a housewife. They were not poor, but about as middle class as you could get. His father was a union man and had never seen a Republican he would vote for. His mother voted the way her husband voted, or said she did. Jac wondered sometimes if his leanings toward the Republican Party just may have come from his mother.
    Jac worked hard and found learning easy. With a scholarship to Yale, Jac set his sights high. He knew money turned the world, but he didn’t just want to be on the ride. He wanted to be driving the damn thing.
    Yale had two classes of people: the smart student, and the rich student. He found out very fast that the old money at Yale wanted nothing to do with anyone who, like Jac, was a quarter Russian Jew and came from some middle-class family. For the moneyed students, you were middle class if you did any kind of work. It was all about your name – you had a good one, or you didn’t matter to their world.
    However, that didn’t mean they weren’t willing to pay him to do their papers. For four years he kissed their ass and did their work. Now circumstances were reversed – today it was his butt they kissed. These days, when those rich bastards came asking for handouts, he made them pay in blood. Jac had most of the old New England families indebted to him in one way or the other. The lifestyle they had come to expect cost a great deal of money. Jac bought their debt and held stock in most of their companies. They knew that if they upset Jac, he would call their debts due in a heartbeat .
    After Yale, Jac went straight to Kuwait. He borrowed five hundred dollars from his father and promised to pay it back with interest within the year. He wanted to get into the oil business, but with no money he knew he would have to start at the bottom.
    Jac worked for two years as a roughneck in the oil fields of Kuwait and Iraq. It was hard, hot work, with long hours and short breaks. Jac paid his father back at the end of the first year and from then on he saved every penny he could get his hands on and started buying stock in the Kuwaiti Company that had employed him.
    Jac’s hard work paid off and he started to move up in the company. By chance, at a company party one night, Jac met a Kuwaiti prince who wanted desperately to get out from under his family’s thumb. Making friends with the prince was Jac’s big break. They soon formed a partnership and started their own oil company. Luck was with them, and the first well they drilled punched into black gold.
    That was Jac’s first oil company, but nowhere near his last. The Kuwaiti oil fields still brought in a large amount of money, but he formed many more partnerships, and the sum of these adventures pushed his net worth through the roof. He was a very big player in the Middle Eastern oil business and not a man to mess with. His security company rivaled his oil companies in profits. There was no place in the world that did not employ his systems – from the White House to the police station in bum-fuck Egypt. You couldn’t move anywhere in the world that Jac’s systems didn’t see you.
    Jac knew Benson and decided early on to dislike him. His instincts were right. For every good apple that came out of that pool of blue bloods in New England, there were five bad ones, and the President was the runt of the litter. Jac tried to talk to President Benton before he died. He told him, “OPEC is not stopping the price of oil from getting too high. They are pretending they want to slow the climb of the price of oil, but in the back rooms, they couldn’t have been happier.” The President had smiled and agreed that OPEC was out of control, but what was to be done about it?
    Jac almost screamed, “What good is oil if no one can afford to buy it? Those shortsighted bastards are robbing everybody. The price of gas is getting so high, other fuels are becoming cheaper. The oil companies are making money hand over fist, but they are putting themselves out of business.”
    “Now, Jac,” the President cooed with his whiny voice, “the market will take care of the problem. I have been assured the price is at its peak and will be on the way down any day now.”
    Jac had left the meeting and never gone back.
    No, he wasn’t sad to see that President gone – he was surprised, however, that the American people didn’t demand to know more about who was behind the killing. With Kennedy, they still asked questions. There were many ways to get a President out of office without killing him. You would think that lots of people besides that reporter, Tom Warring, would be asking how and why something like that could happen.
    He wondered if anybody would ever know what the real story behind the killing was. The story in the Worldwide Globe had a ring of truth to it, but Jac knew there was more to the story than even Tom Warring knew. There were some things the American people were better off not knowing.
    Jac would have to keep an eye on Rubin. He didn’t believe Rubin would find anything, but if he did, it could be dangerous for both Rubin and Thad. Maybe he should have asked if Thad had told Rubin anything about the killing. Not that the government was a good source of information, but even a blind squirrel could find an acorn now and then.

Chapter 28. The Surf Is Up

Tom had settled into the routine of being part of the out-of-the-mainstream-newspaper reporting. He had always looked down on those who wrote for what were considered gossip rags. But he had come to admire some of the writers at the Globe.
    The people at the Globe worked hard to find stories no one else would print. They didn’t just sit around making up crazy stories, as had been reported by the mainstream newspapers. Someone would come in with a story and the reporters would dig up as many facts about it as they could find. Then, if it was a good story, it made it to print, and let the chips fall wherever they will.
    As a mainstream reporter, Tom had never had freedom like that before. Every time the Brotherhood put their heads up to look around, Tom was there to tell the world about it. After the lawsuits over Tom’s story, “Unwanted President,” backfired on them, the Brotherhood started a campaign to flood the news outlets with so many fake stories people would tire of the bullshit. The one that really bothered Tom was the one that came out in the New Daily, which said there were reports from German Police that Tom was a person of interest in the death of Mary Cahill. Another had a photo-shopped picture of him at a gay bar. The stories worked far better than the lawsuits, but Tom no longer cared – the story was out there and history would now judge the truth.
    The new President wasn’t a Bonesman, nor was his VP. The first thing they did was clean house of all the hangers-on from the previous administration. The leadership of the Democratic Party followed suit. The Brotherhood seemed to be on the outs for the first time in over a hundred years. This was good for the country, what with the two parties working together once more, but it sure made it hard for Tom to find any good material to write about. He was a one-act pony, and the Brotherhood was his act. He knew they had not gone away, but had just gone underground to plan their next move. Tom would never stop looking for the man or men who ordered Mary Cahill’s death. That was a wound that would not be closed by time – not until Tom had his hands around the throat of the person responsible.
    Over the past year, Jake Cumingham had crossed Tom’s mind many times. After the Globe published his story, a note came in from Spain saying, “Good job.” He knew it was Jake and wasn’t that surprised to find out he was alive. He thought about trying to find him, but he knew Jake would be deep undercover. If the Brotherhood thought for a second that they had missed killing Jake in Vietnam, they would have paid Tom a visit long ago.

Tom was somewhat surprised at the telephone call asking him to come to the Surf and Turf, a restaurant at Fourth and Broadway. Tom and the other reporters at the Globe were asked to meet people in out-of-the-way places all the time. Most of the stories amounted to nothing, but the people they met with in these places saw a conspiracy behind every tree. Some believed their lives were in danger because of what they knew. There was a fine line between a good story and another nut job, but this time the voice on the other end of the line was one Tom knew well.
    It was a beautiful spring day and Tom decided to walk the six blocks to the restaurant. A light breeze was blowing the leaves that had fallen last fall and were now free of the wet and snow. You could smell the rebirth in the air everywhere. New York in the spring took on a magical atmosphere of hope and promise of wonderful things to come. This, however, would be beaten down by the hot days of summer. Tom decided to enjoy the day, and deal with summer when it got there. He walked into the restaurant thinking he would spot his old friend. The bar was to his right, and straight ahead was the entrance to the eating area. He peered around the little man with thinning hair who was blocking the entrance to the eating area and demanding to know if Tom had a reservation, but he couldn’t spot his friend.
    Tom turned toward the bar – not knowing what name to ask for, it would be a waste of time to do battle with the little man guarding his kingdom. Looking up and down the bar, Tom saw no one who came close to how Tom remembered Jake. So, finding an empty stool, Tom sat down and ordered a club and lime. The bartender didn’t say a word, the drinks cost the same with or without booze, but the tips were sure not what they used to be.
    At the far end of the bar was a dark-complexioned man brooding over his drink, staring through the golden liquid in his glass, and seeing a time far removed from where he was today. The man’s inward journey was unimpeded by the laughter of the salesman and the prostitute two seats down from him. They were in the here and now, negotiating the price of a few moments of gratification.
    Across from them and to Tom’s right sat a married couple who had stopped in for one drink – and four drinks later the wife was trying to get her husband to go home. It was going to be a long night for the wife – even if she did get him out of this bar, he was not finished drinking.
    Then there was the bartender, washing glasses, bringing in ice, checking the liquor bottles, marking the level of the liquor with his initials, placing the filled bowls of salted peanuts and pork skins out along the bar in such a way that each customer would have access to the salt that would require one more drink to wash it down.
    Tom felt guilty interrupting the bartender’s rhythm only to ask for another drink, but the bartender’s dance merely took on a different beat, joined by the tinkling of ice and liquid mixing in a glass. Within seconds, Tom had his drink and the bartender had moved on to the dark brooding man at the end of the bar.
    Tom was halfway through his third drink when a tall blond man interrupted his daydreaming. A well-built and fully tanned gentleman was sitting down on the stool next to him. Tom wanted to laugh – the guy looked as though he had stepped off a beach in California and was waiting for someone to take his picture. This was enough, Jake was not coming. Tom pushed his glass toward the bartender and started to get up.
    “Not in that big of a hurry, are you?” The voice had come from the surfer dude, but there was no mistake, it was the voice of Jake Cumingham.
    Tom was at a loss for words. All he could do was gape at Jake in disbelief.
    “Will you please close your damn mouth and take a drink,” Jake whispered. “People are looking our way.”
[Editor’s Note: The novel from which these excerpts are taken can be ordered from Amazon, as either a paperback or a Kindle book.]

Copyright © 2017 by Ed Rogers

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