Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Fiction: Unwanted President. Chapter 42

The Truth Can Kill You

By Ed Rogers

Rubin called the club and asked if they had an opening for dinner. The more he thought about Jac threatening him, the madder he got. He told the club manager that Jac had said he was welcome to eat there anytime he wished, which was true. However, Rubin had never been in the club without Jac. They asked no questions of him, the brother of the President of the United States and friend of Jac Truborn, they just told him his table would be ready by seven-thirty.
    That was easier than he thought it would be. He had been prepared to invoke a telephone call to Jac if the manager gave him any grief. Rubin knew that Jac, if called, would say he had told him to eat there. Nonetheless, he was glad it had not spiraled into vague threats. That was the small gamble – the worse that could happen was Jac showing up for dinner. Now came the nutcracker, how to get into the basement.
    Somehow, Rubin would have to get someone to let him enter without asking too many questions. The door was equipped with a DNA pad; the member must place his hand on the pad to get the door to open. If the wrong DNA touched the pad, the door and the whole club would lock down. Not all members had access to the bunker, but Rubin was sure the manager would need to be cleared to enter the bunker in case of emergency. Somehow, Rubin would have to convince him that he had an emergency. One way or the other he had to get into that room – that was where the answers were locked up. If there was proof against Jac Truborn, it would be there.

At seven-fifteen, Rubin stepped into the limousine. At seven-thirty, he was walking through the front door of the club. As the club manager showed Rubin into the dining room, Rubin spotted Senator Weigher eating alone. What luck – if anyone had access to the basement, it would be the senator.
    Stopping the manager, Rubin asked, “I’m sorry, but I don’t care to eat alone. Would you mind asking Senator Weigher if I could join him for dinner?”
    The club manager went to the senator’s table and spoke with him. The senator waved his arm at Rubin to come on over. The manager removed the telephone the senator had received a telephone call on and signaled for a new table setting for Rubin.
    “I don’t mean to intrude, Senator.”
    “Nonsense, I’m happy for the company. It was starting to feel like the Last Supper and I was the only one there. Never have liked eating alone.”
    “Well, this may be double-lucky for me. I was supposed to have dinner with Jac, but he was called away at the last minute and canceled. My plan was to eat and then go to the basement and call the President on one of the secure telephone lines. I forgot not everybody could get in down there. It is very important I speak with the President tonight. I was going to ask the manager, but if you could see your way clear to take me down, I would feel much better about being in the bunker – knowing a member let me rather than me putting the responsibility on the hired help. Unless there is some reason I should not be in the bunker?”
    “None that I can think of, Rubin. We will go down right after dinner. Hell, the government will be buying everything down there by next year, anyway. Your security is high enough to see anything you want to.”
    There was little small talk during dinner. Both men seemed to be lost in their own thoughts. Senator Weigher was thinking about the telephone call from Ambassador White, and Rubin about the prospect of losing a long-time friend. Their dinner was interrupted by a very short telephone call to the senator, and then thankfully dinner was finished and they walked to the elevator and descended three stories below ground.
    The large steel doors quietly opened and the lights automatically came on and radiated an inconsequential glow within the room. The humming and the swirling murmur of small motors filled the hospital-like chamber. Along the far wall were servers from floor to ceiling, each giving off its own eerie illumination.
    In the middle of the room were four workstations. Coming down from the ceiling above the workstations was a large plasma screen that was visible to the members who would be seated in the ostentatious glassed-in spectator’s area. From there, they would be able to watch over their world, as they rode out whatever storm had driven them into the bowels of their sanctuary.
    There was a new piece of furniture, which hadn’t been there on Rubin’s last visit. Just to the right of the workstations sat a large oak desk and a high-backed padded leather chair. These two items of furniture were comparable to an unscrupulous beggar standing in the receiving line at the White House. There was no apparent reason to have such haughty pieces of furniture in this environment.
    Rubin was about to ask why the desk and chair were there when Senator Weigher sat down in the chair and put his feet on the desktop.
    “I had this made in a small wood shop in the back hills of Tennessee. It’s a reproduction of a desk given to Andrew Jackson. Benton used the original for his desk when he was President. By the time my desk was finished, Benton was dead and your brother was on a witch-hunt for anyone who had ties to the Benton administration. I didn’t think that putting my desk on public display would set me in very good standing with your brother, so I buried it down here. How do you like it?”
    “It’s a nice desk, Senator. I can never get over this place. It’s like a war room. The computers take up that whole wall behind you. Are these systems tied into the main-frame of the government?”
    “What’re you asking, Rubin? Do you want to know if we can run the government from down here?”
    “Yeah, something like that – maybe not the whole government. Maybe just a SEAL team or two.”
    The senator opened a desk drawer and when he looked up and faced Rubin, he had a gun in his hand. “How long have you known? Did Warring call you too?”
    Rubin felt both anger and fear at that moment. “Hell, Senator, I didn’t know. I thought it was Jac behind all this mess.”
    “You should have never got involved in this, Rubin. Do you have any idea what it takes to reach my level of play in politics? Only a few men have ever held the power I have today. There’s no one on the Hill who would dare oppose me, but overnight your brother has kicked the legs from under my lofty perch and I am faced with the ultimate truth. All the ass-kissing, the degrading rebukes I suffered over the years, the pieces of my soul I have sold, mean nothing. Some damn hick from the Midwest can just come along, and everything I have worked for my whole life is gone.”
    “Senator, we can work this out. I’m sure you had a good reason for moving that SEAL team. Bring them home and you and the President will be able to work these things out.”
    “They are all dead, Rubin, they’re not coming home.”
    “What the hell happened, Senator?”
    “President Benton had me working on a plan to control the oil in the Middle East. He was killed before he could put it into play. It was a good plan. Your brother pushed me into a corner, and I needed leverage. I thought, why not? If I had control of the oil flow out of the Middle East, no one would ever screw with me again. All I had to do was tap into the IBM cable and from then on that computer right there” – he waved the gun toward one of the workstations – “would control every drop of oil in the Middle East.”
    “Let me guess. All you needed was some Navy SEALs to go in and tap the cable for you. So what happened?”
    “The Russians found out about it somehow. They killed the team and took the box.”
    “So, Senator, all this was for nothing.”
    “Yes, Rubin, it looks that way. So many dead people, I had hoped it would count for something, but once you start killing, where do you stop? This was not a grandiose or pretentious gesture. I have worked hard at my craft. Maybe it’s not to your liking, some of the things I have done, but people like you and your brother should fall down on your knees each night and thank the Lord for people like me. We let you sleep at night with a clear conscious.”
    “Are you planning on killing me, Senator?”
    “Kill you, Rubin?” said the Senator. “Have you any idea how many people have died over that damn Middle Eastern oil? Hell, Rubin, I helped kill the President of the United States. Along with the truth about Benton, I filled Cahill’s head so full of lies, he thought he was saving America from a madman. And in some ways, he was and did. However, after you cross that line, there are no more lines.”
    “Senator, please calm down, you don’t know what you’re saying.”
    “I know what I’m saying, Rubin – you just don’t want to hear it.”
    “Please give me the gun, Senator.”
    “Step back, Rubin, I don’t want to hurt you, but I will kill you if you push me. One more death for me to account for, more or less, will be meaningless. The President had to be killed, Rubin. We tried to talk to him, to no avail. He was pulling us all toward the abyss, and in the end, there was no choice.”
    “Senator, you don’t want to end your career by killing the brother of the President.”
    “No, I’m not going to do that, Rubin.”
    The gun was in the senator’s mouth. Time stood still as Rubin reached toward the senator. He watched in slow motion as pieces of hair and skull floated upward from the bullet’s passage through the senator’s head. Blood specked Rubin’s face as the senator’s body sank back into the chair. Then the sound of the exploding round reached Rubin’s ears and time resumed its normal pace. The blood spattered everywhere. The desk, the ceiling, the workstations – everything in the immediate vicinity showed bits of blood and brain matter.
    The front of Rubin’s clothes had red spots from the senator’s blood. Rubin stood looking at the dead man. The chair was tilted backward by the weight of his body. His eyes were staring blankly at the ceiling. Rubin could see the small red hole in the senator’s gaping mouth. The highest-ranking senator in Washington had just confessed to killing President Benton. My God, how was Thad going to deal with this mess?
    Rubin picked up the telephone and called his brother’s private number.
    Thirty minutes later a team came in and got Rubin back to his hotel. Rubin packed his bag and caught the shuttle back to DC.
[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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