Author: Lawrence Kelter
The scars of war run deep.
As commander of coalition forces, General Nathaniel Powers fought for justice and the ideals of America, never faltering in the face of enemies he knew might pursue him forever.
But every man has his breaking point.
When his son, a successful US senator now vying for the presidential candidacy, is violently abducted by the same Middle Eastern ruler whose regime he destroyed, Powers is swept into the deadliest game of all: international terrorism.
Torn between his loyalty to America and devotion to his son, Powers becomes embroiled in a conspiracy that may cost not only the life of his son, but his as well.
Available in .mobi for Kindle, .epub for NOOK and most other e-readers, and .pdf.
August 17th, 2000
General Nathaniel Powers had never felt more proud. He stood beaming, from the center of the floor, as sixty thousand delegates rocked the convention center repeatedly chanting his son’s name. He glanced down at his hand momentarily—he was trembling.
He could scarcely believe that his son was about to make history—no words could describe it. Before him, one scene blurred into the next: his eyes clicked like a camera shutter assembling a montage of random snapshots. Delegates from every state in the union brandished banners that read, America The Free—Powers For Me!
They were all there for his son—the outpouring of emotion, the voice of the people—perhaps very soon, the choice of the nation. Nathaniel Powers had been trained as an officer and was reserved and controlled. Despite it all, feelings were welling up within him that he thought no longer existed.
It seemed like only yesterday that his son Jefferson had graduated from college. Powers could still remember telling him that he could be anything he wanted to be and though he truly believed what he had told his son, the reality of the moment was incomprehensible.
“Hey, stop daydreaming.” General Powers pulled his head out of the clouds when he heard Bauer’s voice drawing near.
“You’re always smiling, aren’t you, Bauer? The Secret Service must be a barrel of laughs.”
“Can’t a man enjoy his work?” Bauer replied.
Powers shook his head. “You’re damn lucky that I’m in such a good mood.” Powers glanced around. “I hope that you got my grandson and daughter-in-law here in one piece.”
Bauer pointed to the stage. Powers turned. Danielle and Alexander waved to him excitedly. “I think I set a land speed record getting them here from downtown—almost ran over a couple of homeless folks crossing the Embarcadero.”
“Just the kind of headline we’re looking for,” Powers commented facetiously.
Bauer smirked. “San Francisco needs a little excitement—it’s too quiet here.”
“The Democratic National Convention doesn’t excite you?”
“I’ve been thwarting assassination attempts for years—as far as I’m concerned, this place is one big yawn.” Bauer pointed to Alexander. “Your grandson’s a nice kid,” he commented. “Big boy too.”
“You’re looking at a future All-American. Alexander’s one hell of a halfback.”
Bauer waved to him. “Looks like he’s grinning from ear to ear.”
“He’s damn proud of his old man.”
“What’s he—about sixteen?”
“Just turned. He’s six-foot-two, a hundred and seventy pounds of piss and vinegar—takes after his dad.”
“While we’re passing out compliments, your son’s got a very pretty wife too.”
“I’ve noticed,” Powers said, admonishing Bauer with a glance. “I’m glad to see you keep yourself focused.”
“No disrespect intended, General. It’s just that it’ll be nice having a first lady that doesn’t need to wear a bag over her head.”
Powers rolled his eyes. “Oh . . . thanks.”
Bauer checked his watch. “Just about time to pick up the senator. He’ll have worn a hole in the carpet by the time we get back to the hotel.”
“We’d better get moving,” Powers concurred happily.
Powers saw Senator Anton Judist approaching. His smile faded. He tried to turn away but was unsuccessful in his attempt to avoid him.
Bauer noticed Powers’ body language. “Pretend that you don’t see him.”
“No. It’s too late for that,” Powers replied solemnly. The smug southerner was already upon them; his bald, glistening head, inches below Powers’ chin.
“Senator.” Powers greeted Judist in a sober tone.
Judist’s voice was pure, undiluted creole drawl. “Proud day for you, Powers.”
Bauer wrinkled his nose. “That’s General Powers, Senator.”
Judist’s head swung in Bauer’s direction. He narrowed his eyes. “Yes, yes, US Military—retired. We’re all aware of Powers’ background.”
“Distinguished background,” Bauer added. “Commander of the Coalition Forces in the Persian Gulf War, Congressional Medal of Honor—”
“Glad to see that you check out your assignments so carefully,” Judist grumbled.
“That’s my job,” Bauer reported.
“Bauer!” Powers barked. “Stop jousting with the man.”
Bauer checked his watch—he tapped the crystal. “Sorry, Sir. It’s time we left.”
Judist turned back to Powers. “All the same; congratulations. It looks like the Democratic Party is going to have its first colored presidential candidate.”
Powers sighed. “The generally accepted term these days is African American.”
Judist posted an insincere smile. “Whatever.”
Powers closed his eyes for a moment. He heard the roar of the delegates and felt the waves of thunder pounding against his chest. The accolades for his son washed away Judist’s petty insensitivity.
Bauer tapped his watch again. “We really have to run, General—can’t let your son be late for his own nomination.”
“You’ll have to excuse us, Senator Judist,” Powers said. “We’re off to the hotel to pick up Jefferson. See you at the nomination party.”
Judist bowed from the waist. His cheeks flushed red. “Adieu.”
Bauer grabbed Powers by the arm and pulled him away from Judist. They crossed the convention floor and were through the exit door in an instant. A limo waited for them outside the convention center. The driver spotted Bauer, caught his expression, and spun on his heels. The engine was cranking before the doors slammed shut.
Powers settled into his seat. “That was a timely escape.”
Bauer shook his head. “That guy makes me feel like I just came from an appointment with my proctologist.”
Powers chuckled. “When did the Secret Service get so funny?”
Bauer tilted his head. “I wasn’t trying to be funny.”
Secret Service Agent Phillip Dante leaned against the doorjamb of Senator Jefferson Powers’ hotel room with his fingers pressed against his earpiece. He cued his wrist microphone and spoke. “Roger that, Simmons. No problem.” He took his thumb off the call button and turned to his partner. “The chambermaid just finished the floor below us. She’s on her way up here to turn down the beds in the senator’s suite.”
Sandra Wilde rubbed her temple. “Which one this time, the polite Latina or the sultry Mediterranean chick?”
Dante smiled unassumingly and then sang, “Walk like an Egyptian.”
“I’m glad that you’re such a devotee of eighties rock.
“I love the Bangles,” Dante said.
“Ah hell. I hate frisking her,” Wilde complained. “She acts as if she gets off on it.”
“No problem, Wilde. I’ll do it.”
“Yeah, right. You’d love that, wouldn’t you?”
Dante shrugged. “What do you want from me? I’m a guy.”
“Oink, oink—you mean that you’re a pig.” Wilde looked down at the floor. “Believe me, I see how you look at her. You can’t take your eyes off of her.”
“She is kind of nice.”
Wilde shook her head. “Yeah, okay, right. Look, you check the service cart and I’ll handle the belly dancer, same as always.”
“Just what is it about her that you don’t like? Is it her taut limbs or her proud jutting breasts?”
Wilde glanced the length of the corridor to make sure it was empty and then flipped Dante the bird.
The service elevator doors opened and the chambermaid rolled her cart into the corridor. Dante snickered. Wilde fixed him with a stare. “Asshole!”
The chambermaid paused for a moment to read the agents’ expressions and then approached. “I’m here to turn down the beds in Senator Powers’ suite.”
Wilde greeted her impassively. She pointed to the corridor wall. “You know the drill.”
The chambermaid grimaced unhappily. “You’ve seen me every day this week—I do have a name you know.”
Wilde handled the nametag on her uniform. “Samia Farouk—well, Ms. Farouk, would you mind turning around and assuming the position. My day wouldn’t be complete without it.”
“Of course,” she replied. “Call me Sam—all my friends do.”
Wilde’s eyes widened. She turned to Dante in disbelief. “Okay . . . Sam, face the wall, legs spread wide, just the way I like ‘em.”
Farouk moaned in a sarcastic manner when Wilde’s fingers grazed the inside of her leg. Wilde withdrew her hands at once. Dante bit his lip. Wilde turned to him and mouthed, “Screw you.”
Dante took that as his cue. He squatted alongside the service cart, opened the steel doors and inspected the interior which contained linens and towels—nothing that didn’t belong. He moved them from side to side in order to examine the inner recesses of the cart.
Wilde finished the pat down.
“Are you through?” Farouk asked.
Wilde stepped aside. “Go right in, Sweetheart.”
Farouk stepped past Wilde. She blushed as she passed Dante and then knocked on the senators’ door. “Turndown service,” she announced. She smoothed her dress while she waited for the senator to answer. The door swung open a moment later.
Senator Jefferson Powers smiled warmly. “Come in. Can I have extra mints on my pillow tonight? It’s kind of a special day for me.”
“So I’ve heard.” She smiled prettily. “Anything you wish, Senator,” Farouk gushed.
Farouk pushed her cart into the room. Powers closed the door slightly and stepped into the hall.
“You’re sounding very smooth tonight, Senator,” Dante offered.
“I’m feeling smooth tonight, Agent Dante. How’s my tie? I’ve been playing with it for twenty minutes—can’t get it to look presidential.” Jefferson straightened up and posed for the two agents.
“It’s almost there,” Dante replied, “It just needs a little—”
Wilde gave Dante a polite shove. “This requires a woman’s touch. With your permission, Senator—”
“Feel free, Agent Wilde. I should’ve asked Danielle for help before she left, but I was too busy running through my acceptance speech. God, I still can’t believe it. This is a dream come true.”
Wilde fussed with his necktie for a moment and then gave it one last tug. “There, you look perfect,” she decreed. She backed away without taking her eyes off him.
Powers began to blush. He caught himself and smiled. “Thank you, Agent Wilde. And with that finishing touch, I’m all ready for my nomination.” He pointed at Dante’s tie. “I’d have your partner take a look at that one too, Dante—looks like something the hangman screwed up.”
Wilde and Dante smiled as Powers withdrew into his room.
“I see you didn’t hesitate to put your hands on him,” Dante quipped.
“Not for a minute,” Wilde replied exuberantly. “He is fine—my, my, did you see the shoulders on that man?”
“Face it, Dante, Jefferson Powers is as close to a god as a man can come; square jaw, dreamy eyes . . . soon to be the most powerful man in the free world.”
“Okay. I get it. I get it. So what is it—you get to put the moves on the men and the women? Who appointed you the special agent in charge of groping? Does that entitle you to a higher pay grade? Because I’m perfectly willing to go the extra mile if it will get me a raise.”
“Get a life, Dante.” She turned and walked down the hall. “I have to hit the can. Try to keep things under control until I get back.”
Powers lowered the limo’s window and sucked in a chestful of fresh air. “What a fabulous night.”
Bauer turned to face him. “Are we talking high pressure and low humidity, or the eminent nomination of your son by the Democratic Party?”
Powers smiled. “You are the glibbest son of a bitch I ever met, Bauer.”
“I always try to put my best foot forward. Your son will soon be in the market for a press secretary and I’m getting too old to go running around shielding people with my body.”
Powers smiled. “It is truly unbelievable . . . All the years of hard work are finally about to pay off. It finally got to the point where people started looking at what a man has accomplished and not the color of his skin.” Powers’ throat tightened. “It’s too bad his mother didn’t live to see it.”
Bauer smiled sadly. “Were they close?”
“Close? Couldn’t separate those two with a crowbar—wouldn’t let me get near the boy. Good thing too,” Powers chuckled, “I would have pushed him into ROTC—would have made him a stiff-ass soldier like his old man.”
Powers hit the button, which lowered the partition between them and the driver. “How long before we reach the hotel?” he asked the driver.
“About ten minutes, Sir,” the driver replied.
“Thanks.” Powers raised the partition. “Can’t wait to get there. I’m as nervous as a hen.”
“I’m sure you had plenty to do with the way the senator turned out.”
“He’s his own man, Bauer. Sure, I let him know what I believed in. My loyalty to this country has never been a secret to anyone, least of all, my son. You see, I think it’s a privilege to be an American. Jefferson feels the same way, but he made that decision by himself. That’s what the country will get if they elect him president; a man who doesn’t allow anyone to cloud his vision.”
“It must infuriate you to have to listen to that condescending little shit, Judist.”
“I take it for what it’s worth. He must be dying on the inside. This was his last shot at the White House.” Powers turned to Bauer. “Can you imagine a worse fate for a wealthy southern bigot like Judist? The dream is over and you’ve lost your last opportunity to a black man? I can’t imagine him resenting anything more.”
“He’s still an irritating little twerp.”
Powers tried to suppress his laughter. “True.”
“I call them exactly the way I see them.”
“You don’t pull many punches, do you, Bauer?”
“Why should I?”
“Don’t quit the Secret Service just yet. The Press Secretary’s job may not be in your future.”
Samia Farouk turned down the corner of the sheet, smoothed it flat with her hands, and then stepped away from the bed. She left neatly arranged piles of chocolate mint patties on the night tables on either side of the king size bed.
Jefferson Powers stood over the desk as she entered the sitting room. A cigar smoldered in the ashtray. She began to fan the air with her hand and wrinkled her nose. “May I open the terrace doors?”
Powers dabbed out the cigar. “By all means.” He looked out through the terrace doors. The San Francisco skyline was striking. It was velvety navy blue and the lights from the downtown buildings flowed into one another like a stream of white-hot molten gold. The Transamerica Pyramid sat squarely in front of him. Behind it was the bay. “God, it’s gorgeous out there.”
Farouk took a dust rag off the service cart and looped it through her uniform belt. “How are you feeling?” She unlocked the terrace doors and pulled them apart to allow the night air to enter the room.
Powers held his hands straight out. “Steady as a rock.”
“I left you lots of chocolate mints.”
Jefferson winked at her. “Thanks.”
Farouk walked out onto the terrace. She stood at the railing and looked out into the night. It was clear and sharp. The sound of helicopter blades drew her attention skyward. She looked up and saw the helicopter’s searchlight beam. She shielded her eyes from the light and then removed a dust rag from her belt. She shook the dust from the rag. Particles of debris floated into the night air and were illuminated by the brilliant Krypton beacon from above.
Farouk left the terrace doors parted slightly. She reentered the room and lifted an aerosol can from the service cart. “This will get rid of that awful cigar smell,” she said as she sprayed the air.
Jefferson was shoveling documents into his briefcase. He stopped momentarily and blinked. He blinked again and then again for a third time. His shoulders began to droop. “What the hell? I feel so damn tired all of a sudden.”
“It must be your nerves,” Farouk replied in an understanding voice.
He turned slowly in her direction. His eyelids began to drop. He could just see her through narrow slits. Farouk’s mouth and nose were covered with a dust rag. She directed the aerosol spray toward him. He saw her drop the aerosol can and rag. His knees began to buckle. “Hey, what the—” He was almost out as the clink of the aerosol can on the floor reached his ears. He felt the strong grasp of her arms around his waist as he submitted to unconsciousness.
Farouk eased him onto the floor. Two fingers pressed on the carotid artery confirmed that he was alive.
She heard the frequent puffs of his shallow breathing while she felt underneath the service cart with her hand and found the rope that had been secured beneath it. She threw it on the floor next to him and then scrambled to his side.
The warble of helicopter blades grew louder as she pulled his limbs together. She tested the rope before she bound him, and recalled the directions for tying the knot as she had been taught. Her cargo was precious and she had to make sure that the knots would not fail.