Litres Baner
Название книги:

President Elect

Джек Марс
President Elect





5:48 p.m. Eastern Standard Time

34th Floor

The Willard Intercontinental Hotel, Washington DC

“Are we a nation of laws?” the man shouted into the telephone.

He sat with his feet up on his wide desk of polished oak, gazing out the floor-to-ceiling window at the lights of the Capitol. It was dark out – the sun set early this time of year.

“That’s what I want to know. Because if we are a nation of laws, then that woman, the current occupant of the White House, needs to start packing her bags. She lost, and Jefferson Monroe won. Jefferson Monroe is the President-elect of the United States. And come inauguration day, if the current occupant is not out, we are going to evict her, like the sheriff evicting a deadbeat tenant.”

For a few seconds, the man paused, listening to the reporter on the other end of the line.

“Oh yeah, you can quote me. Print every word of it.”

He hung up the phone and slid it onto the desk. He checked his watch and breathed deeply. He had been on the phones with reporters for nearly an hour, ever since Susan Hopkins had run off the stage and darted out of the room at the end of her silly press conference.

The man’s name was Gerry O’Brien. At age fifty, he was very tall and rail thin. He was balding, and his face was all angles and jutting cliffs. He weighed the same as he had the day he graduated from college. He was a marathoner, a triathlete, and in recent years, he had gotten into doing mud runs and survival runs. Anything hard, anything tough, anything extreme where people dropped over sideways, or puked up their guts, or fell down a hill and tore open their knees, it had his name on it.

The son of Irish immigrants, he had come up on the streets of Woodside, Queens. His father was a prison guard. His mother was a maid. Hard people, and they raised him to be hard. You wanted to grow up in Woodside, you had to fight. Okay? He didn’t mind. He’d go toe to toe with anybody. He was so fierce, so remorseless, that kids in the neighborhood called him the Shark.

He was the first person in his family to go to college, and then – uncharted territory – law school. He made his first million before he was thirty, chasing ambulances – personal injury law.

He’d gotten a photo taken of himself looking very angry (and few people had the ability to look as angry as he could) and paid for small poster advertisements placed throughout the subway system.

Injured? You need somebody tough to stand up for your rights. A real lawyer. A real New Yorker. You need Gerry O’Brien. You need the Shark.

Almost instantly, he became Gerry the Shark. Everyone who rode the trains in the five boroughs knew the name. He used to ride the subways himself just to look at his own ads – and he hated the subways.

The more he made, the more ads he could afford. And the more ads he ran, the more he made. Soon he was running ads on late-night TV, then mid-afternoon TV. It was a jackpot. He had three lawyers working for him, then five, then ten. Then twenty. By the time he sold the business ten years ago, he had thirty-three lawyers and more than a hundred support staff.

He retired for a few years. Wandered. Drifted. Traveled the world. Did too many drugs. Drank too much. Did too much… of everything. Getting into radical right-wing politics probably saved his life. He had swapped out all the bad stuff for personal discipline and a vision of America that he discovered he shared with a lot of people – a return to an earlier, simpler time.

A time when the supremacy of white people wasn’t questioned. A time when marriage was between a man and a woman. A time when a young guy could walk out of high school at eighteen, walk into a factory job, and spend the rest of his working life there, making all the money he needed to support his family.

There was more to it, of course, a lot more. Darker things, things you needed a strong stomach for, things that were not for wider consumption. He had big plans. They were going to clean this country up, once and for all. But that wasn’t something you put right out there in public, was it? Not yet.

Gerry the Shark got up from his desk and moved through the suite of rooms. A few secretaries were here, but mostly people worked out of other places. Gerry was here not only because he was the head strategist, but also because he was the body man to the chief – he didn’t like to let the old man out of his sight.

They had flown up here from Louisville this afternoon. His boss owned this… what would you call it? An apartment? Sure, an apartment with ten bedrooms, twelve bathrooms, and half a dozen offices with a conference room and a staff dining area. It took up an entire floor in one of the most storied and most expensive hotels in the world. This hotel was where American history happened. This was where John F. Kennedy took his many afternoon trysts. This was the place.

They would spend the night here. They had important business here in DC early tomorrow morning.

Gerry breezed down a hallway, slapped his key card against a sensor, and passed into the living quarters. The front sitting room was furnished in opulent old-world style, like the drawing room in a Victorian mansion.

A man with white hair stood at a tall window, the curtains pulled aside. He stared out at the night. The man wore a three-piece suit despite the fact that he was home and had no intention of going out. The open-throated dress shirts were a shuck, of course. The man liked to play dress-up as much as anyone.

He held a martini in his hand. The martini glass looked tiny. The hands were the thing – despite the man’s elegant dress, and his obvious wealth, he had the big gnarled hands of someone who had grown up doing manual labor, and lots of it. The hands said: What’s wrong with this picture?

It was a raw night in the nation’s capital, and the wind howled outside the window, just a little bit. The old man stared out at the backdrop of the great urban sprawl and the lights of the city. Gerry knew that even after all these decades the country boy inside the old man was dazzled by city lights.

“How goes the war?” Jefferson Monroe, President-elect of the United States, said in his soft Southern lilt.

“Beautiful,” Gerry said, and he meant it. “She’s on the ropes and she doesn’t know what to do. Her statement today makes that clear. She’s not going to vacate the Presidency? It plays right into our hands. She’s isolating herself – public opinion is going to go our way. If we play it right, we might be able to get her out of there sooner rather than later. I think we want to ramp up the pressure – get her to hand over the Presidency early, long before any voter fraud investigation concludes. Then we cancel the investigation ourselves.”

The old man turned from the tall window. “Is there any precedent for a President handing over power early?”

Gerry the Shark shook his head. “No.”

“Then how do we do it?”

Now Gerry smiled. “I have a few ideas.”


6:47 p.m. Eastern Standard Time

The Oval Office

The White House, Washington DC

She was alone when they showed Luke into the room.

For a moment, he thought she might be asleep. She sat in the sitting area, slumped in one of the armchairs. She looked like a broken rag doll, or a high school kid showing contempt for the teacher by slouching.

The new Resolute Desk loomed behind her. The heavy drapes were pulled, blocking the tall windows. On the floor, around the edge of the oval carpet, there was an inscription printed:

The only thing we have to fear, is fear itself – Franklin Delano Roosevelt

The words went all the way around the carpet, finishing right where they began.

She wore blue slacks and a white dress shirt. Her jacket was hung on the back of one of the chairs. Her shoes were off and lying askew on the carpet.

Despite her posture, her eyes were sharp and alive. They watched him.

“Hi, Susan,” he said.

“Did you watch my press conference?” she said.

He shook his head. “I stopped watching TV over a year ago. I feel a lot better since I did. You should try it.”

“I told the American people I’m not going to step down.”

Luke nearly laughed. “I bet that’s going over well. What happened? You like the job so much you don’t want to give it up? I’m pretty sure it doesn’t work that way.”

A small smile appeared on her face. The smile, barely there, reminded him of why she had once been a supermodel. She was beautiful. Her smile could light up a room. It could light up the sky.

“They stole the election.”

“Of course they did,” he said. “Now you’re going to steal it back. That sounds like a plan.” He paused. Then he told her what he honestly thought. “Listen, I think you’re better off without this job. Now they won’t have Susan Hopkins to kick around anymore. Let them find out how bad it is without you. They’ll beg you to come back.”

She shook her head, the smile growing brighter. “I don’t think it works like that.”

“I don’t think so either,” he said.

She shook her head. A long exhale escaped from her.

“Where have you been, Luke Stone? You should have stuck around. We had a lot of fun in here, once the chaos died down a little. We did a lot of good. And you were going to teach me to shoot guns once upon a time. Remember?”

He shrugged. “Yeah. You wanted to shoot the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs. I remember. But I haven’t fired a gun in nine months. I was going to the range once in a while, trying to keep my skills up. Then I decided why bother? I don’t want to shoot anyone. And even if one day I have to, I feel pretty sure it’ll come back to me.”


“Just like riding a bicycle?” she said.

He smiled. “Or falling off of one.”

She sat up and indicated the chair across from her. “You really don’t know what’s going on?”

Luke settled down in the chair. It was an upright chair, neither comfortable nor uncomfortable. “I heard a few rumblings in the distance. The new guy is hard right. He doesn’t like the Chinese. He’s going to bring the manufacturing jobs back. Not sure how he’s going to do that – fire all the robots? Either way, if that’s what people want…”

“Ignorance is bliss, I guess,” Susan said.

“Not exactly bliss, but – ”

“The man’s a fascist,” she said. “He’s a billionaire, a robber baron, who has funded white supremacist groups for decades, apparently even when he was in the Senate. He plans to go to war with China on his first day in office, possibly with tactical nuclear strikes, although I’m not sure how many people really believe that. He wants to build security fences and walls around Chinatowns in American cities. His remarks suggest hatred for minorities, gay people, disabled people, anyone who disagrees with him, as well as contempt for the independence of the judicial branch of government.”

Luke wasn’t sure what to think about all that. He had been out of the loop for a long time. He trusted Susan, and he could tell that she believed what she was saying. But he had trouble believing it himself. He had served in the military under conservative Presidents, and on the Special Response Team under liberal Presidents. Yes, they were different from one another, but radically different? White supremacy, security fences around minority enclaves different? No. Not really. No matter who was in charge, there was always something you might call the American Way.

“And you’re saying that people voted for this?”

She shook her head, emphatically now. “We believe that there was widespread voter fraud and voter suppression in at least five states, all of them swing states. That’s why I say they stole the election.”

Luke was beginning to see the puzzle, but there were pieces missing. “You want me to investigate this?” he said. “Is that why you called me back here? It seems like there would be a hundred other – ”

“No,” she said. “You’re right. There are a hundred other people. We’ve got data analysts looking at the voting machines. We’ve got investigators out interviewing people about voter suppression, especially in black districts across the rural South. And circumstantially, anecdotally, the evidence is already pretty strong. We really don’t need you for the investigation.”

He was confused by her reply, and maybe a little annoyed. He had been alone, high in the mountains, working on his own issues. Challenging himself. Challenging God to kill him. Maybe even finding some clarity.

Now he was back in Washington, DC, getting yelled at by his son and smirked at by his former mother-in-law. He was sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic and undergoing security checks. He had shaved his beard off and gotten his hair cut. He was back among regular humans and their interests and their worries. When he was a soldier in combat, they used to call it “back in the world” – a place he really didn’t want to be.

“So what am I doing here?” he said.

“I’m not sure yet,” she said. “But I know I need you. I did something unprecedented by refusing to hand over power. It’s never been done before in American history. Things could get hot around here very quickly, and I don’t have many people in my administration that I trust. I mean completely, one hundred percent, without a doubt. A few, yes, but no more than that.”

She pointed at him. “And you. Early in my tenure as President, you saved this country again and again. You saved my life. You saved my daughter. You might have saved the world from a nuclear war. Then you disappeared just when things got good. I’ve never met a man like you, Luke. You’re built for bad weather, to put it mildly. And it feels to me like a storm is brewing.”

Built for bad weather.

He had never heard it put quite that way before. But of course it was true – she had him pegged, better than Becca ever had. Better than he had ever pegged himself. Not only was he built for it, it was what he lived for. When the weather was nice, he grew bored. He wandered off. He went and looked for a hurricane to get lost in.

“So what do you want me to do?”

“Stay close. Live in the White House Residence for the time being. We can give you an official title – personal bodyguard. Intelligence strategist. It’s a little funny, but that doesn’t matter. Chuck Berg is still head of the Secret Service home security detail. He knows you and respects you. There are plenty of rooms to stay in. You can have the Lincoln Bedroom if you want. We’ve had a few celebrities stay in there. The singer from the rock band Zero Hour and his wife slept over just a few weeks ago. Nice people – the guy’s nothing like his stage persona. He’s been doing a lot of charity work in Africa, paying for water filtration systems and so forth.”

She stopped for a breath before going on. “Obviously, the White House was completely rebuilt two years ago, so Lincoln himself never really slept in the new Lincoln Bedroom, but…”

It seemed to Luke that she was babbling now. She was like a little girl trying to explain something important to an adult, without ever saying what it was.

“You want a security blanket,” he said. “That’s why I’m here.”

She nodded. “Yes. I had one when I was a child. It was soft and had a friendly dinosaur image woven into it, which over time faded away to a green blur. I called it Little Cover. God, I miss that thing.”

Now Luke did laugh. It came out like the sudden barking of a dog. It felt good to laugh. He couldn’t remember the last time it had happened.

“Little Cover, huh?”

“That’s right. Little Cover.”

Was there something more to what she was asking him? He couldn’t tell. Heck, the White House Residence? That had to be an upgrade from the room at the Marriott they’d given him last night.

“Okay,” he said. “I’ll do it.”


8:26 p.m. Eastern Standard Time

South of Canal Street

Chinatown, New York City

“Okay,” Kyle Meiner barked. “We’re about to hit them. So listen up!”

Kyle crouched in the back of a long black cargo van as it bounced over the potholes and ruts of the city streets. He looked at his men – eight big guys, cramped together. Everybody in here was muscled up, a gym rat. There wasn’t a man in here who couldn’t bench press 225, or squat 300. Everybody was pounding at least creatine, and some of the boys were juicing steroids, human growth hormone, in a few cases more exotic stuff – these were serious dudes. Every one of them had a crew cut or a shaved head.

Kyle’s body was like theirs, only bigger, if that was possible. His arms were like pythons, his legs like tree stumps. Veins popped out on his biceps, along his neck, his forehead, his chest, everywhere. Kyle was into veins.

Veins meant blood flow. Veins meant power.

There were five other vans just like this one in the convoy, and that told Kyle they were about to put forty or fifty hardcore, no-nonsense activists on the streets. Tight, long-sleeved T-shirts clung to muscular chests and torsos – each shirt black with the words GATHERING STORM in white. The letters looked vaguely like human bones, and had splatters of what looked like bright red blood along the bottom.

Hard eyes stared back at Kyle. These men were the sharpened point of the spear.

“I don’t want to see any weapons out there,” Kyle said. “No knives, no clubs, God help you if I see a gun. Brass knuckles. If you have anything on you, you are leaving it in the van. Got me?”

A few guys grumbled and muttered.

“What? I don’t hear you.”

The grumbles were louder this time.

“This is a rally and a march, boys. It’s not a street fight. If the slopes make it a fight, okay. Defend yourselves and each other. Throw the little commies through a brick wall for all I care. Just know that when the cops come and they find you armed, that’s a felony. We have lawyers on speed dial, ready to go, but if you get busted for possession of a weapon, you are not getting out tonight, and maybe not for a long time. I need to hear you on this. I don’t want to see anybody put away. It’s bad for you, and it’s a bad look for the organization. Got it? Come on!”

“Got it!” someone shouted.


“We got it, man.”

Kyle smiled. “Good. Now let’s go kick some ass.”

The signs were piled in the back. Most of them said America Is Ours! One of them said Chinks Go Home! That was Kyle’s sign. If his men were the sharpened point, he was the drop of poison at the very tip.

He was twenty-nine years old, and had been an organizer with Gathering Storm for just over two years. It was his dream job. Where did he find his recruits? Weight rooms, almost exclusively. Gold’s Gym. Planet Fitness. YMCA. Places where big strong guys hung out, guys who’d had just about enough. Enough censorship. Enough of the thought police. Enough of the good jobs going overseas. Enough of the race mixing.

Enough of the religion of multiculturalism being rammed down their throats.

If someone had told Kyle five years ago that he was going to pull together groups of men – the best, the toughest, the most aggressive young white men he could find – and that they were going to put the fear of the Lord into the people dragging this country down… that they were going to restore America to greatness… and that he was going to get paid to do this? Well, Kyle would have said that person was an idiot.

Yet here he was.

And here were his boys.

And their man had just been elected President of the United States.

There was nothing but daylight up ahead, and they were going to run a long, long way. And anybody who got in front of them, who tried to stop them or even slow them down – anybody like that was going to get mowed under. That’s just how it was.

The rear doors of the van opened, and the boys jumped out, grabbing their signs as they went. Kyle was the last one. He stepped onto the street, the night seeming to glow around him. It was cold out – even snowing a little – but Kyle was too ramped to feel it. The street was narrow, with four-story tenements crowding it on either side. All of the neon storefront signs were in Chinese, tangles of meaningless gibberish – impossible to read, impossible to understand.

Was this still America? You bet it was. And people spoke English here.

The vans were parked in a line. Big damn white boys in black shirts were everywhere, a bouncing, writhing mass of them. They were an invasion force, like Vikings on a coastal raid. They wielded their signs like battle-axes. Their blood was up.

A crowd of tiny, startled Asians looked on in… what?

Shock? Horror? Fear?

Oh yes, all of these.

The first chant began, a little tame for Kyle’s taste, but it would do for a start.

“America… is ours!”

The boys found their voices and the volume jumped a notch.


Kyle flexed his arms. He flexed his upper back, and his round shoulders, and his legs. This was a rally, all right, and that’s what he had told his men. But he hoped it became more than that. He’d been holding his anger back for what felt like a long time.

Rallies were good, but he really just wanted to crack some heads.

Within two minutes, he got his wish. As the line of marchers moved down the street, maybe fifty feet ahead of him, some shoving started.

A Stormer took a Chinese man by both shoulders and pushed him into a display of pocketbooks. The Chinese man fell across the display, which collapsed instantly. Two more Chinese men jumped on the Stormer. Suddenly Kyle was running. He dropped his sign and burst through the crowd.

He punched a Chinese to the ground, then waded into a group of them, swinging hard. His fists crunched bone.

And there was only more, he knew, to come.

Lukeman Literary Management Ltd