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Sample Chapters Pictures on the Wall

(Note: This full length novel is also available for the Kindle through Amazon.com, for the Nook through Barnes and Noble.com and your favorite store for iPad books along with free previews at each of those sites. On this website it is available only in Adobe Acrobat PDF format.)

Chapter 1

Spring beckoned throngs of wide-eyed sightseers to the nation’s capitol in what had become an annual event---an invasion of tourists taking pictures of the cherry trees as they blossomed in glorious color. The cherry trees were a gift donated by the Japanese government in 1912 and quickly became the most photographed site in the District of Columbia. They bloomed annually between mid-March and mid-April depending upon the severity of the winter, and this year it was on the latter end of that range as a lingering winter was accompanied by an above average snowfall.

As William walked leisurely toward the Jefferson Memorial, he noted a mama robin perched gracefully atop a branch. She was taking a well-deserved break after awakening early to feed her ravenous youngsters. As she chortled out her euphonic aria, another song was yet unwritten announcing the dawn of a new era in American politics. While a long-standing culture of special interest money flowed into Washington like a river at flood stage, integrity and courage flowed out of the Capitol just as swiftly.

From the depth of his soul William held the conviction that public service, representing one’s fellow citizens in the hallowed chambers of government, was indeed a very honorable and magnanimous profession.

But veracity was out of vogue with America’s elected representatives exemplified by those who subscribed to the theory of political speak---that courageous clarity leads to defeat, while cowardly ambiguity brings victory.

William paused to inhale the fresh spring air as the scent of rain greeted his nostrils and he heard nature’s rumblings in the distance. He gazed upward and saw a line of foreboding clouds approaching at a brisk pace which he surmised would be upon him in a matter of minutes.

Without delay William resumed his deliberate but steady gait along the pathway circling the Tidal Basin---the body of water aesthetically punctuating the regal memorial to Jefferson. Some thought the basin was an endowment from nature fashioned by thousands of years of ecological change, but William knew better. It was man-made in 1897 to catch the overflow of the Potomac River and avert flooding.

Every day without fail William walked through Washington to one of the historical monuments, or strolled to one of the many classical statues sprinkled throughout the District that adorned the streets and buildings alike. Whatever the conditions---whether the humid, sweltering heat of a Washington summer or the frigid bone chilling cold of its winters---William was never deterred from his walking exercise.

Before entering the Memorial William again glanced skyward. He observed a flock of sea gulls as they feathered eastward gliding effortlessly towards the Atlantic while the approaching storm was nearly overhead. He knew he didn’t have much time because once the sky opened the throng of picture takers would run for cover beneath the protection offered by the Memorial.

William eyed the colonnades standing as ever-ready sentinels surrounding the bronze specter of Jefferson.

The ghost-like apparition of Jefferson appeared to be pondering a serious matter of State, as William pointed toward the silhouette, and bellowed, “Jefferson lives!”

William stepped between the colonnades and was immediately drawn to the words of the third president etched upon the inner walls, but before he began to read William heard the steady patter of raindrops pelt the pavement on the perimeter of the commemorative site.

Just as he had expected, the crowd of picture takers rushed toward the domed Memorial, when William heard the distinctive ring of his phone.

He reached for his phone and before he could even say hello, he heard a voice with which he was quite familiar.

“I hope you have enjoyed your respite,” the voice remarked.

“I have the distinct feeling it’s about to end,” William frowned.

“You are correct, and you’re to begin immediately.”

“Who’s the subject this time?”

The voice furnished William with the full name of his next assignment, and inquired, “You are familiar with this person?”

“Yes.”

“You’ll need to come up with a plan,” the voice stipulated.

“Yes, as usual, I will work out the details. I assume the manner and the place are entirely of my own choosing, as has been the case in the past,” said William to confirm nothing had changed in that regard.

“That is correct.”

“Do you have any specific instructions for me?”

“Yes, be successful in your assignment.”

Of course William nodded into the phone.

“Good luck and keep me posted.”

“I always do,” said William, as he disconnected.

Chapter 2

That evening William surveyed the expansive ballroom in a Chicago hotel and noted the extensive decorations for the highly anticipated victory party. Hundreds of red, white, and blue balloons were suspended in netting overhead that would inevitably cascade down in colorful celebration when the candidate arrived. With anxious campaign workers clustered around television monitors awaiting the primary results, William began to make his way toward the stage where the candidate would speak.

In the suite upstairs Governor Moreland and his advisors heard NBC project him the winner of the Illinois primary. In a gesture reminiscent of a football referee signaling a touchdown, his campaign manager, James Bradberry raised his arms above his head and whooped in victorious enthusiasm. Governor Moreland’s eyes glowed in victory and conveyed the success of a long journey that began long before he set foot upon the Iowa countryside and the snow-covered hills of New Hampshire.

Downstairs, in a simultaneous display of wild euphoria, the ballroom erupted in shouts of victory. In their high state of elation, no one noticed William as he continued to make his way unseen toward the front of the ballroom.

In a scene that would be repeated at the upcoming convention in July, campaign supporters donned party hats and blew heartily into party horns---the shrill sound reverberating throughout the ballroom. Secret service men and women stood beside doorways and along the walls---many of them grateful they had a listening device in one ear to at least partially block out the tumultuous clamor of the energized crowd of supporters.

“According to NBC, Governor Moreland has now garnered enough delegates to assure him of a first ballot victory at his party’s nominating convention in July.”

The noise level escalated into a thundering crescendo of fanfare, as a secret service woman put a hand over her uncovered ear as she tried to hear instructions through her earpiece.

Word came down from Governor Moreland’s suite the candidate would be downstairs any moment, and some started to chant the Governor’s name. Others joined in, and the chant grew in intensity until the ballroom echoed his name…

Moreland! Moreland! Moreland!

A flood of activity ensued at a side entrance where the Mayor of Chicago entered the ballroom. Uncomfortable in large crowds, he smiled and waved but didn’t attempt to speak over the loud din.

Moreland! Moreland! Moreland!

The lovely, vivacious Illinois Senator Catherine Wells then entered the ballroom and the crowd responded in uproarious enthusiasm. The tall, slender brunette was absolutely stunning with her sparkling green eyes and brunette hair that touched her shoulders, as she waved to the crowd and joined the mayor on the platform.

When Governor Moreland arrived the crowd surged toward the door for a closer glimpse. Secret service personnel surrounded the Governor as he made his way through the ballroom, his wife Eleanor at his elbow. As the Governor waded through the crowd, he reached between secret service agents to shake as many hands as possible. The now sure-to-be nominee was all smiles---the proud, elated look of victory etched upon his face---while William stood at his desired position in the front of the ballroom where he’d have an unobstructed view of the governor delivering his victory speech.

“We’re going all the way, Governor!” yelled a woman.

“You bet we are!” the Governor shouted back to her, as his wife Eleanor beamed at being the wife of a presidential candidate. Already her mind was swimming with the now real possibility of residing in the White House, as she entertained thoughts of becoming the nation’s First Lady.

William eyed the victorious candidate as the Governor stepped onto the stage, shook hands with the mayor, and said something that no one could discern above the loud, enthusiastic fervor in the ballroom.

Moreland! Moreland! Moreland!

The Governor shook hands with several others that had joined him on stage, as he made his way to Senator Wells who he surprised by giving her a hug and the crowd responded in a wild, passionate cheer.

William watched Senator Wells closely as she shouted her congratulations to the Governor, and William saw the attractive senator flash a wide ebullient smile, and he wondered if her motive in supporting the Governor’s presidential candidacy was masked by her politician’s euphoric grin.

The Governor turned and faced the animated crowd and approached the microphone while holding his wife’s hand. With his free hand he waved to the enthusiastic devotees, glanced from side to side, and occasionally pointed to a specific individual in acknowledgment of their support.

The netting above the crowd was released and hundreds of balloons cascaded downward upon the sea of supporters in a flood of red, white, and blue colors. The Governor’s smile widened while the crowd swiped haphazardly at the multi-colored balloons as they cheered, while the sound of popping balloons caused several secret service agents to twitch nervously as they stared with laser-like sharpness into the excited crowd. Governor Moreland raised his right arm and pumped a triumphant fist high in the air.

Suddenly, Eleanor Moreland felt her husband’s hand slip from her grasp. As she turned toward him, he clutched his chest, staggered backwards, and slumped to the floor.

In that instant, the joyous elation of a victorious evening dissolved into the depths of devastating despair.

Chapter 3

Senator Catherine Wells exited a taxi in the 1100 block of New York Avenue as the descending sun cast an orange glow over Washington, D.C. Elongated shadows crept steadily across the Capitol to announce the approaching darkness, as Catherine headed to Orno’s restaurant.

Catherine Wells, the only child of Mr. and Mrs. Adam Cantara, was christened Catherine Leigh-Anne Cantara. Born and raised in Chicago she attended DePaul University where she graduated at the age of twenty with a double major in American History and Political Science. She proceeded to the University of Chicago where she obtained both a Master’s degree and a Ph.D. in history. Her Doctoral Thesis, The Rise of Christian Fundamentalism in the American Electorate was well written and a meticulous examination of her topic.

Catherine returned to her alma mater of DePaul to teach and instilled in her students an appreciation for the historical figures at the center of momentous social movements. Long after students completed her classes they carried with them a deep admiration of the men and women who left an indelible mark upon this country and around the world.

Though not born of a political family, Catherine took a sabbatical from DePaul at the age of twenty-six and ran for state representative to the Illinois General Assembly. Enthusiastic DePaul undergraduates volunteered in droves to work for her campaign and when Catherine won the primary and followed with a victory in the fall election, her political career was successfully underway.

When Catherine reached the constitutionally eligible age of thirty, she ran for the United States Senate. The so-called political pundits thought she should wait, and try her hand at a congressional seat before taking on a statewide campaign, but she streaked across Illinois politics like a meteor---and won!

Now, as the sunlight continued to ebb and the shadows in the Capitol lengthened, Catherine in her eighth year as a U.S. Senator from Illinois entered Orno’s Italian restaurant for an authentic Italian meal.

“Senator Wells, how good to see you again,” the hostess greeted her warmly. “I saw you on television with that unfortunate Mr. Moreland. That was such a shame,” Maria lamented.

“Yes, it was terrible.”

“Well, you just come right in, relax, have some wine, and enjoy one of Carmello’s delicious meals," said Maria, as she eyed the senator’s briefcase.

“Oh, don’t worry, Maria. It’s not a lot of work…just a few papers to look through.”

Despite Orno’s setting in the high-rent district of New York Avenue, the prices were more moderate than several other Italian restaurants in D.C. The owner and chef, Carmello Marletto, was a warm gregarious person who delighted in serving fine meals to a myriad of repeat customers. Undoubtedly, he would come out of the kitchen later to personally greet the senator.

Catherine discovered Orno's shortly after she and her husband Bob returned from vacation in Rome the previous summer. During their stay in the eternal city they often opted to dine at one of the sidewalk cafes---a ristorante---of which there were dozens within walking distance of their hotel. By doing so, Catherine and Bob absorbed the full ambiance of Rome and Catherine developed a deep fondness for the Italian people. On their last night in Rome they visited the Trevi fountain and found it bathed in a soft golden light and they each tossed a coin over their shoulder as they made a wish---a custom that legend says insures your return to Rome. Catherine's wish was to return to Rome one day with Bob.

As Maria escorted the senator through the modern high-ceilinged trattoria, she led her to a small table in the back where she could have some privacy.

“Here you are, Senator Wells. I’ll tell Carmello you’re here. I'm sure he’ll cook up something very special for you.”

“Thanks, Maria, but do tell Carmello not to go to any trouble.”

Maria nodded and departed as a waiter approached. “Good evening, Senator. Would you like a drink perhaps?”

“Yes, I'd like a glass of Chianti, please. When the waiter returned within a couple of minutes with her wine, Catherine informed him, “I’m not going to order dinner for a while, so I’ll just wave when I’m ready.”

“Certainly,” he said, and departed.

Catherine reached for her briefcase, but before she could peruse its contents, she was interrupted.

“Excuse me. Senator Wells?”

Catherine looked up with annoyance clearly evident on her face.

“My name is William. Please forgive my intrusion, as I realize you are sitting down to dinner.”

“Obviously,” the senator replied curtly not used to being interrupted, as she glanced toward the front door where a security guard stood alert and looking in her direction. She knew if she needed his assistance he would pounce on the intruder very quickly. Catherine smiled at him casually and looked back toward her visitor.

William at over six feet tall was a large man weighing two hundred and fifty pounds. He had a well-rounded mouth complimented by thin lips, and he possessed a large slightly curved nose, while a receding hairline exposed a wide forehead over dark piercing eyes. Those intelligent, dark eyes could narrow into a laser-like stare at an adversary, or his thin lips could curl into a disarming, wry smile toward both friends and foes alike.

“I wish to speak to you on behalf of the Virginia delegation.”

“Well, I suggest that you call my office in the morning to arrange an appointment.”

“I realize I am imposing upon you in a rather unorthodox manner…”

“Well, I’d say so,” the senator interjected.

“But if I might have just five minutes of your time, Senator.”

Senator Wells hesitated. As a politician, she knew whenever someone wanted to discuss something---no matter how inane---it was always important to them.

She eyed the man and summed him up quickly---a gift she possessed that served her well in her vocation. He had soft features, and his eyes conveyed a sense of sincerity and despite his size, he had a non-intimidating, gentle manner about him. There was also an unmistakable sense of urgency in his voice that drew her curiosity, and the fact that he had introduced himself as a member of the Virginia delegation further piqued her curiosity, as first and foremost Catherine was a politician. If there was something this delegate to the national convention thought Senator Wells should know Catherine found her ever-constant thirst for political information trumped her desire for privacy.

She nodded for him to have a seat. “Five minutes,” she stated, “but I warn you it will be much shorter if I don’t like what you have to say.”

“Fair enough,” he agreed, as he sat down.

“So what is so important, Mr.…uh…?”

“Grayson…William Grayson, but please, call me William.”

“Let’s skip the social amenities, shall we? I’m tired, and I’ve got work to do, so I would appreciate it if you would simply come straight to the point.”

“Yes, of course," he nodded, as he took no offense at the senator’s curt manner. “First, I want to say what a terrible tragedy to have befallen Governor Moreland. I understand there were doctors in the ballroom that worked on him immediately but to no avail, and I heard it was such a massive coronary even if he had been in a hospital when it occurred nothing could have been done for him.”

Catherine nodded in confirmation.

“It must have been a horrible moment for his wife and family, as well as for all of his supporters. To be at such a heightened level of elation and see their candidate---the one they believed in---win the primary that insured him of the presidential nomination of his party,” he said, as he shook his head in genuine regret. “For that victory celebration to descend from the pinnacle of elation into the depths of anguish must have been absolutely devastating. I know that you were by his side in Chicago and that you supported him from the very beginning, which brings me to why I wanted to speak with you. Whether you realize it or not, you have attained a position of great influence within the party.”

“Well, I don’t know…”

“Please, Senator Wells, we both know I am not overstating it, nor am I mentioning it merely to flatter you. The fact you endorsed Governor Moreland so early in the primary process, indeed, even before the primaries began, has given you great credibility. In fact, your endorsement and your campaigning on his behalf helped him win, and as I’m sure you’re aware, winning means everything in this town.”

Catherine eyed the man seated across from her without comment.

“Of course, the delegates committed to Governor Moreland are released.”

“Naturally,” Catherine agreed, as she ventured, “Could it be the Virginia delegation wants to know which candidate I’ll be supporting?”

“Actually, that’s not why I wanted to speak with you.”

“Oh?” Senator Wells raised an eyebrow in surprise.

“The Virginia delegation hasn’t made up their mind as yet, and is taking a wait and see attitude.”

“As are all of the delegations thus far…after all…how long has it been since the Governor’s death,” she glanced at her watch facetiously.

Catherine had dismissed running for the top spot herself, because she had deftly calculated the political winds were not blowing quite right for a woman to run for the presidency. Catherine understood the first to succeed in an endeavor is rarely the first who attempts it. America needed a full-fledged female candidate to run---and lose---a sacrificial lamb ala what Al Smith did for Catholics and JFK. Hillary Clinton had filled that role nicely, but Catherine's political savvy told her it was too soon since Senator Clinton's defeat in the primaries of 2008. More time needed to pass.

The number two spot on the ticket, however, was another matter. Throughout the campaign Catherine kept a tight lid on her ambition to become the first female vice-president in history. A woman on the ticket certainly didn’t help Mondale in 1984 or McCain in 2008 but each of those women were nothing more than gimmicks.

Catherine believed each candidate would be scrambling for her endorsement. Whether an offer of the vice-presidency would accompany their request for support she didn’t know, but Catherine was betting yes.

“I must say you have me a bit intrigued, but if you don’t want to know which candidate I’m going to support, what is it you want exactly?”

William reached into his pocket. “I could tell you, but you wouldn’t believe it,” he said, as he handed the senator a sheet of paper.

Catherine unfolded the piece of paper and saw scrawled upon it a solitary name…

Phillip Conrad

“You’re familiar with Mr. Conrad?”

Catherine nodded and almost laughed. "There isn’t anyone in Washington who doesn’t know of Phillip Conrad. He’s only been a political advisor for the past forty years.”

“More like fifty years, but yes, he’s advised everyone from local politicians to presidential candidates. He was most recently Senator Handley’s advisor.”

“Yes, I’m aware of that.”

“But Mr. Conrad abruptly retired and he did so before seeing the campaign through.”

“Oh?”

“It was kept rather quiet.”

“Evidently,” Catherine nodded, hiding her irritation. She didn’t like learning political news from strangers, and she made a mental note to speak with her staff about not being briefed about it. “It’s a bit unusual,” Catherine continued, “but it’s been known to happen.”

“If they’ve been fired and Phillip Conrad is not a quitter.”

“So, he was fired,” Catherine shrugged.

“You ever meet him?”

“Once, at a party in Georgetown and from what I recall, he was a little over the top.”

William laughed robustly. “A little, hell, he’s downright certifiable.”

“Why don’t you simply say why Phillip Conrad left Senator Handley’s campaign?”

“It’s not that simple,” William offered.

Catherine glared at the man across the table from her, and said sarcastically, “Evidently not,” and asked, “So, what are you getting at?”

“Talk to Phillip Conrad and you’ll discover what you need to know.”

With a roll of her eyes and an irritated frown, Catherine displayed her impatience. “Is that the way you want this conversation to conclude, wrapped in a riddle of secrecy?”

William’s strong sense of self-assurance and quiet confidence would not allow Senator Wells to bait him, but he did give her something he hoped would pique her curiosity sufficiently to investigate the matter further.

“Phillip Conrad can tell you what you need to know about the one candidate we don’t want to win the nomination---under any circumstances,” said William, as he arose, his large frame looming over Senator Wells, and he added ominously, “As I said, you wouldn’t believe me. For the very soul of our nation, find Mr. Conrad. Talk to him. He can tell you everything. I just hope you have the courage to follow through on what you’ll need to do. Thank you for your time, Senator Wells,” he said, as he turned abruptly and departed.

His sudden departure left Catherine somewhat stunned and she followed him with her eyes as he walked through the restaurant and exited. She thought he had been rather melodramatic, but the fact he hadn’t been more specific served to do the very thing that he had hoped to do---he elevated the senator’s curiosity.

“How good it is to see you again, Senator.”

Catherine looked up to see the owner flashing a toothy smile. “Oh, it’s nice to see you too, Carmello.”

“I wish to prepare something for you tonight I think you’ll really enjoy.”

“Oh, Carmello, I…”

“Please, I insist that you to try the ravioli stuffed with the flaked red snapper beneath my very own special sauce.”

Catherine relented with a warm smile. “Oh, that sounds very good. Thank you, Carmello.”

“Excellent! I shall inform your waiter we have spoken. Would you like me to prepare that for you now, Senator?”

“Yes, that would be very nice Carmello. Thank you,” she smiled politely.

As Carmello departed for the kitchen, Catherine again glanced toward the front door. The sun had fully set now and a tranquil veil of darkness had settled over the capitol, as she considered her curious visitor. Catherine couldn’t imagine why the Virginia delegation would be so worried about Senator Handley, but if Phillip Conrad held the key to something so important it would sway Catherine against a Handley nomination, she was determined to find out what that was.

Chapter 4

Thursday morning Senator Catherine Wells arrived early at the Richard Russell Senate Building which was home to her senatorial office since she arrived in Washington. Long known as the Old Senate Office Building it was built at the turn of the 20th century and up until 1958 accommodated 96 senators---the full allotment at that time of forty-eight states before the admission of Hawaii and Alaska. It wasn’t the addition of those two states, however, that necessitated the construction of a new Senate Building but the burgeoning growth of senatorial staffs. By 1982 both a second and a third building were added, and today the Richard Russell Office Building houses offices for a scant 36 of the 100 senators---the remainder of the space is reserved for senatorial staffers.

As the senator entered her outer office, her long time appointments secretary was already at her desk. “Good morning, Senator,” Maggie Atwater greeted her warmly. The fifty-five year old, had been with the Senator since Catherine was a member of the General Assembly in Illinois, and they’d been friends for nearly fifteen years. The crusty, appointments secretary possessed a sardonic sense of humor, which she relied on extensively to get her through the tedium of Washington politics.

“You’re in awfully early today, Maggie.”

“Yeah, I’ve got a lot of phone messages from yesterday I need to return.”

“Well, you’re not going to reach many at this early hour.”

“That’s what I’m counting on. It’ll be enough they know I called back.”

Catherine smiled. “You should run for office one day; you’re charmingly devious.”

“Oh, please! All of the posturing, the meetings, the endless talks with the dullards of D.C., no thanks.”

“Oh, the press would jump all over a phrase like the dullards of D.C. I hope they never learn it originated in my office because I’d never again be invited to any of those Georgetown parties you love so much.”

“Oh, no, I couldn’t bear the thought of missing those parties, and all that chatter in political speak so no one knows what's being said. Ah, but what I'd miss most are the betting pools---wagering which legislator would be the first intoxicated.”

The senator glanced at Maggie with an upturned eyebrow.

“Well, I don't originate the pools, but maybe you could take my name off the guest lists. Those parties really are quite dull.”

“I hate to deflate your ego, Maggie, but on those occasions when you’ve accompanied me you’ve never actually been on the guest list,” Senator Wells chuckled, “but speaking of favors…”

“Oh, here it comes, as if I didn’t have enough to do. Certainly, Senator, to serve your every senatorial whim is the very reason I was placed upon this earth.”

Maggie’s sarcasm didn’t offend Catherine as the senator was fond of their bantering, which Maggie engaged in only when no one was within earshot.

“I want you to check out a William Grayson.”

Maggie quickly shifted gears and scribbled a note on her pad of paper.

“He’s a member of the Virginia delegation to the convention, so it shouldn’t be too difficult to track him down. Don’t contact him, but find out everything you can on him, and do it without him knowing you’re asking.”

“Hmm, there’s nothing like a bit of intrigue to liven up a stuffy senatorial office.”

“Also…”

“Oh, there’s always an---also. I really hate that word.”

“Where would I be without you, Maggie?”

“I’ll tell you where you’d be---back where you started at the University of Chicago teaching a bunch of immature freshmen the reason for the Civil War…that's where!”

“No doubt,” said Catherine, “but it was De Paul where I taught,” she corrected her, as Catherine reached into her purse and handed Maggie the sheet of paper she received the night before.

“Phillip Conrad? I can’t tell you how many times that grizzly old coot and I exchanged phone calls over the years. He’s such a crusty old man. I heard he retired from Senator Handley’s office in the midst of the campaign.”

Senator Wells looked at Maggie with incredulity.

Maggie grinned. “Didn’t you know senators are often the last ones to learn anything of importance?”

“I’m beginning to believe that,” Catherine mused. “Anyway, I want you to find out where he is, get an address, but do that on the hush as well.”

“My, with these secret investigations one would think you’re in the intelligence community of the government instead of a U.S. Senator.”

Catherine laughed. “Sometimes they’re one and the same. After all, I do have a seat on the Intelligence Committee.”

“Well, I’ll get on the trail of these two fellows, and let you know what I find.”

“Thanks, Maggie,” said Catherine, as she turned and entered her office.

As Catherine entered and sat down behind her dark mahogany desk, a framed wedding picture of her and Bob looked back at her from the left corner of the desk. In the middle rested a pen and pencil set, a gift from her dad when she won her first political campaign…a seat in the Illinois General Assembly. On her right were separate framed pictures of her mom and dad. Her parents divorced when Catherine was young and her mother since passed away, but her father was living in a small apartment in Oregon where he was enjoying his retirement.

Directly behind Catherine against the wall stood two flags---the American flag on one side flanked by the Illinois State flag on the other. Lining the walls were the most dominant feature of Catherine’s office---cherry wood bookshelves from the floor to ceiling and their contents attested to Catherine’s previous vocation as a history professor. One bookshelf was reserved specifically for multi-volume works. Included among them were…

Will Durant’s eleven volumes of the Story of Civilization,

Page Smith’s four volume history of the United States, A New Age Begins,

as well as his two volume set on John Adams,

Dumas Malone’s five volumes on Thomas Jefferson,

Edward Gibbons’ Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire,

Winston Churchill’s six volumes of The Second World War, and

Churchill’s four volumes History of the English Speaking Peoples,

Carl Sandburg’s four volumes of Abraham Lincoln the War Years,

Another bookshelf contained single works...

There was David McCullough’s John Adams,

Alexis DeTocqueville’s classic Democracy in America,

from the Harvard series a volume of American Historical Documents,

Theodore Rex by Edmund Morris,

Churchill by Roy Jenkins,

Robert Dallek’s An Unfinished Life, and countless others.

Not only had Catherine read every book in the shelves, she also referenced her collection regularly whenever she was tweaking and supplementing the speeches prepared by her staff, while she was ever conscious of walking that thin line---quote enough to sound authoritative, but not so much as to appear pompous.

Additionally, one wall of her office was adorned with pictures of historical personages. There was one of President Kennedy and a separate picture of his brother Robert, Mahatma Ghandi of India, Dr. Martin Luther King, Anwar Sadat of Egypt, Itzhak Rabin of Israel, and a picture of three young men seldom recognized by anyone who visited her.

Behind the Senator’s desk, hung one lone picture of the Illinois icon of freedom---Abraham Lincoln. As Catherine’s love of history developed, she came to admire each of those pictured as some of the most courageous figures of their eras.

“Don’t forget,” Maggie called out to the senator from the doorway, “you’ve got a Committee meeting at ten o’clock,” she said, referring to the Senator’s seat on the Intelligence Committee.

“Got it,” the senator acknowledged.

“And a representative from I.M.A.T. called again. She’s been calling every week for the past two months now.”

“I don’t have time for their organization right now, Maggie. Do the usual. Put her off, but do it politely.”

“Oh, politeness is my strong suit as you know, Senator,” Maggie grinned, as she continued with the senator’s schedule. “Also---oh there’s my favorite word---also,” she smiled in retribution, “before the committee meeting you’ve got an appointment with four gentlemen representing the major oil companies at 9:15 followed immediately thereafter at 9:30 by a meeting with a group representing alternative fuel sources.

Senator Wells stared at her Appointment’s secretary in disbelief that Maggie would set back-to-back appointments with two groups of such divergent viewpoints.

“You don’t show any visible horns, but you could certainly pass for one of Satan’s minions.”

“I thought it would be a good balance for you, Senator, to hear differing views in close proximity to one another,” said Maggie, as she quickly closed the door to the Senator’s office before Catherine could respond.

In the world of cutthroat politics, Maggie Atwater maintained a degree of irreverence in the nation’s capitol. Instinctively, Maggie knew when it was appropriate to flash her sardonic sense of humor and when to keep it under wraps.

As Maggie leaned back against the closed door of the senator’s inner office, a wide devilish grin crossed her face, as she whispered, “God, I love this job!”

Chapter 5

Bob Wells arrived home at the couple’s condo in the John Hancock Building situated in the midst of Chicago’s glitzy Magnificent Mile…a stretch of Michigan Avenue that's both a shopper’s paradise and a tourist’s delight…filled with world famous boutiques, shopping centers, fine restaurants, and five star hotels.

Separate careers necessitated Catherine and Bob live apart during the week, but it was tolerable because Catherine was home on weekends. Though usually one of the two weekend days was devoted to something pertaining to Catherine’s work in the Senate, they generally had one full day either Saturday or Sunday when they occasionally took in a play and dined out. Catherine and Bob recently discussed the possibility of raising a family, and at thirty-eight Catherine knew if she was going to have children it would have to be soon.

When they were married, Catherine was twenty-eight and surprised Bob by taking his name. Bob assumed she would retain her name for her political career as she planned to seek a Senate seat when she turned thirty.

“No one is going to know my name anyway,” she laughed. “Being a member of the Illinois General Assembly doesn’t exactly give me celebrity status.”

Bob was amazed at being married to a United States Senator and to such a stunning, sensuous woman as well. Now and again Bob would travel to D.C. to attend a function with his Senator-wife. Invariably, he limited his travel to those times when he and Catherine attended a function that included dinner, so at least they could dine together.

Bob enjoyed meeting the varied congressional personalities and he found politicians not nearly as boring as he once imagined. Catherine would brief him beforehand as to which senators or representatives would be seated at their table and their specific issues of interest, so Bob could brush up on the inevitable discussions. Sometimes Catherine would sit back, sip an after dinner liqueur and proudly watch as Bob held his own with a member of Congress.

Generally speaking, Bob found members of the House more affable, the senators more serious. As members of The Club as the senate was referred---one hundred members as compared to 435 members in the House---the exclusivity of the Senate was reflected in the personalities of its members. Bob found senators possessed larger egos and were more standoffish, several of them having long ago crossed the line into aloofness. There was something else Bob noticed. It was something every sitting President also saw in every senator with whom he had to contend through the years---a belief held by almost every senator they could do a better job than the sitting President. Such was the minefield through which every President walked when dealing with members of The Club.

As Bob entered the condo, he flung his suit coat onto the hall tree, and headed to the dry bar. He poured two fingers of bourbon and immediately took a sip. The intoxicating liquid burned as it moved down his esophagus, an invigorating sensation after a long day. Bob checked his watch and saw he had thirty minutes to shower before Catherine was due home, so he slugged down the last of his Jack Daniels and headed down the hall.

When he opened the bedroom door, Bob stopped in his tracks, as his mouth fell open in pleasant surprise. Catherine, dressed in a sheer black negligee, was lying on their bed. She was on her side facing the door, her head resting in the palm of her hand on a propped elbow. She looked like a stunning lingerie model posing for a photo shoot.

“I’ve missed you,” she whispered seductively.

The look of surprise on Bob’s face soon moved into a lustful grin as he moved toward the bed and his eyes widened in amorous anticipation. As Bob leaned down, Catherine put her arms around him, and they kissed passionately.

When their lips parted, Catherine said, “Hmm, a little stubble,” as she playfully brushed her hand across his face.

“I’ll take care of that when I shower.”

“And, when you’re taking your shower think what’s awaiting you,” said Catherine, as she leaned in and whispered what she was going to do when he returned, as Bob moaned pleasurably. “I thought, under the circumstances, you wouldn’t mind if we had a late dinner tonight,” she cooed.

Bob felt a sensation of warmth surge between his legs. “I think I’ll get right to that shower and shave.”

Chapter 6

Maggie Atwater arrived at the Hancock Building at seven thirty in the evening with several packages from a shopping excursion. Catherine requested Maggie accompany her on this trip to Illinois to assist in some constituent business on Saturday. Tonight, however, Catherine invited Maggie to join her and Bob for dinner.

“The shopping was good I see,” Catherine smiled, as she answered the door. “Come in and put your things down. It’s such a wonderful spring evening Bob and I were hoping you wouldn’t mind walking to the restaurant if you’re not too weary.”

“Hey, I’ve still got plenty of kick in these old legs.”

“Oh, good, would you like a drink before we leave?”

“Oh, let’s have a drink at the restaurant. I think it’s nicer sometimes to have a drink out.”

“I agree completely,” said Bob with a wide smile, as he approached the front door.

Maggie beamed when she saw Bob. At forty-two years of age, Bob’s dark brown hair was graying at the temples, which served to give him a very distinguished look. He had a straight nose above thin lips, and possessed a warm, gregarious smile. His masculine good looks and his sparkling brown eyes always made Maggie light up whenever she saw him.

“Maggie, I must say, you're looking well, and if I weren’t married....”

“Oh,” Maggie cooed, as a pinkish hue blushed across her face.

“You know you’ve always had my heart, Maggie,” he hugged her.

“I always told him,” Catherine interjected, “with his winning smile he should go into politics.”

“Oh, one politician per family is quite enough,” Bob laughed.

“Despite his protestations, he’d be good at it, and I haven’t given up trying to convince him.”

“Be careful what you wish for,” said Bob, “because as a conservative businessman, I might run against you.”

“Oh, that would be lovely,” Catherine smiled playfully. “We could debate the issues, tear each other apart making snide remarks and then go backstage and make mad, passionate love.”

“Perhaps we should head for the restaurant,” Maggie deadpanned, “before you two hunker down right here.”

“Okay,” Catherine laughed, “if we’re all ready…”

After a long grueling winter, a glorious spring evening greeted Chicagoans as throngs of city residents were out in force along Michigan Avenue. As the trio exited the Hancock Building, a light breeze gently caressed them amid temperatures in the mid-sixties and Maggie absorbed the full ambiance the city offered. The setting sun had dipped below the skyline, and thousands of gleaming windows punctuated the darkness in the resplendent light of the city’s skyscrapers. The result was a glorious illumination that marched ever upward against the contrast of a rapidly darkening sky.

“What a gorgeous city, and such a glorious Friday evening,” commented Maggie.

“Yeah, and it’s unusual for us,” said Bob. “Most of the time we jump from winter into summer, and we Chicagoans don’t take an evening like this for granted. When Chicagoans are blessed with a beautiful day, we treasure it.”

At the intersection of Michigan and Ontario Street the wind whipped up from the south and caressed those awaiting a bus, which announced its arrival by a high-pitched screech of its worn breaks.

As a bus pulled to the curb, the door opened and a heavy-set dark haired man was among those who boarded. Perspiration glided down both sides of his clean-shaven round face, as he climbed the steps and moved up the aisle. Despite his bulk, his shirt hung so loosely it appeared several sizes too large, and, as he proceeded to the middle of the bus, he made a cursory count of twenty-five passengers. He sat down, leaned back in his seat and could feel his heartbeat pounding as the blood rushed through his veins. As his anxiety increased, his lungs heaved in labored breathing and he took several deep breaths in an effort to ease his strained, uneven respiration.

As the trio waited at the intersection for the light to change, Catherine craned her neck in an effort to look across the street.

“What is it?” Maggie asked.

“I thought I saw the man I asked you to check out, that William Grayson. I swear it looked just like him.

“Where?” asked Maggie.

“Across Michigan Avenue,” Catherine pointed.

Maggie didn't know what he looked like, but said, “Oh! I forgot to tell you. I made a few calls about him, and there’s no one by that name in the Virginia delegation to the convention.”

A perplexed expression crossed Catherine’s face as she craned her neck in an effort to catch a second glimpse of the mysterious Mr. Grayson.

Was he following her? Did he contact her at dinner simply to learn whom she might support for president? No. That didn’t make sense because he prompted her to contact Phillip Conrad. He wouldn’t have done that if it were all just a rouse.

William stood in a shop doorway across Michigan Avenue, the crowd on the sidewalk buzzing back and forth in front of him, as he stared across the street at Catherine Wells. She’s been in the U.S. Senate for eight years. It just didn't seem fair.

“Well, I’m not going to worry about him right now,” said Catherine. “It’s a beautiful evening and we’re going to put politics out of our heads,” as she continued to gaze across Michigan Avenue but a bus crossed the intersection blocking her view.

The man on the bus had received his cue when he was jolted against the back of his seat as the bus pulled away from the curb. He stood up and reached beneath his shirt as his eyes widened and his face contorted in an expression of dreadful alarm, while a couple across the aisle noticed him suddenly stand up. He screamed something unintelligible but they had no time to contemplate what he uttered.

A ghastly, thunderous explosion engulfed the bus in a massive ball of flame.

Catherine was among those on the street hurled backwards with enormous force as large chunks of fiery metal shot high into the air as a massive yellowish-orange fireball climbed skyward followed closely by a thick cloud of oily black smoke.

Catherine didn’t actually hear the thunderous blast as her limp body slumped to the ground, blood streaming down her face.

On the sidewalk near the blast, a man fell to the pavement…one of his arms torn off at the shoulder.

A woman who was standing beside Catherine at the corner was killed instantly when struck by a large piece of the searing metal…her limp, lifeless body partially aflame as she slumped to the ground.

Several automobiles closest to the blast exploded and were swallowed in flames. One of the drivers miraculously escaped unharmed but another driver was thrown from his vehicle, his body mangled from the explosive force.

A third driver slumped lifelessly against the wheel. In death, the weight of his body against the car horn blared a warning to oncoming vehicles, which screeched to a halt in a desperate attempt to stop short of the fiery inferno.

Pedestrians a hundred feet from the explosion were knocked off their feet---eardrums burst and bleeding from the concussion of the blast.

In the surrounding buildings windowpanes shattered into lethal chunks of ragged glass as well as bits of jagged particles minute enough to be inhaled.

As the massive fireball soared into the atmosphere, a deathly, eerie silence ensued.

Those near the blast area were dazed…slow to realize what had happened.

Stunned by the explosion all motion ceased, as the scene became as still as a photograph.

For several moments nothing seemed to move except the oily black smoke rising ever skyward, and the wavy fingers of flames, those yellowish-orange strands of death stretching upward contrasting against the once serene skyline.

Then the screaming started---a delayed reaction---loud, shrill screams of agony and fear. The inevitable sound of sirens followed and mingled with the screams of the anguished. To the injured and maimed the sirens were welcomed like angels’ trumpets as they signaled help was on the way.

As movement slowly began to return to the area of the blast, the unmistakable smell of charred human flesh permeated the nostrils of the living.

End of Sample

(Note: This full length novel is also available for the Kindle through Amazon.com, for the Nook through Barnes and Noble.com and your favorite store for iPad books along with free previews at each of those sites. On this website it is available only in Adobe Acrobat PDF format.)



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This product was added to our catalog on Monday 22 July, 2013.
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