Authors: Bill Pronzini,Barry N. Malzberg
By Bill Pronzini and Barry N. Malzberg
The Running of Beasts
SPEAKING VOLUMES, LLC
ACTS OF MERCY
Copyright © 1977 by Bill Pronzini and Barry N. Malzberg
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means without written permission of the author.
For Bruni and Joyce
For Clyde Taylor
No one can examine the character of the American presidency without being impressed by its many-sidedness. The range of the Presi
dent’s functions is enormous. He is
ceremonial head of state. He is a vital source of legislative suggestion. He is the final source of all ex
ecutive decision. He is the authoritative exponent of the nation’s fo
reign policy. To combine all these with the continuous need to be at once the representative man of the nation and the leader of his political party is clearly a call upon the energies of a single man unsurpassed by the exigencies of any other political office in the world.
—Harold J. Laski
The American Presidency
Being a President is like riding a tiger. A man has to keep on riding or be swallowed.
—Harry S. Truman
Do you want to check over these appointments, Mrs. Augustine? Not particularly. Oh all right, Elizabeth, let me see them. Yes, yes. What about this United Jewish Appeal luncheon tomorrow? Do you think I really have to attend?
How can I tell you that, Mrs. Augustine?
I suppose you can’t, can you. It’s just that there are so many decisions to make and it would be nice to have someone help me make a few of them. The small ones, at least.
Do you? Then give me your opinion on the UJA luncheon. Should I attend?
Well, yes, I believe you should It was scheduled three months ago, remember. And after the President’s press conference this morning, it might create the wrong impression if the First Lady were to cancel out.
You’re right, of course. Elizabeth?
Yes, Mrs Augustine?
About the press conference. What did you think of the President’s remarks on Israel?
Oh, well, I’m sure he didn’t mean them as they were interpreted by the press.
Certainly he didn’t. It’s just that he’s been under a terrible strain recently. We’ve all been under a terrible strain these past few months.
Yes, I know.
Why do you say it like that?. So gravely, with that troubled look in your eyes.
I’m not troubled, Mrs. Augustine.
But you are. You’ve been my confidential secretary for a long time; I know you fairly well. Something is bothering you.
It’s ... nothing I can explain, exactly.
I’d like you to try.
Well, it’s just a feeling that something is ... wrong here in the White House.
Yes. It’s like an undercurrent, a feeling of ... oh, this sounds melodramatic, but a feeling of strangeness, of impending tragedy.
Tragedy? What sort of tragedy?
I don’t know, Mrs. Augustine.
Does it involve the President?
I’m not sure. I suppose it must, in some way.
Nothing is going to happen to the President, Elizabeth.
Oh, I didn’t mean to say that. Of course nothing is going to happen to him.
Is there anything specific that makes you feel the way you do? No, nothing specific. I guess I just wish ...
What? What do you wish?
That everything was the way it was up until six months ago. That the media hadn’t turned against the President, that so many things hadn’t been going wrong and the administration wasn’t under so much pressure. That Peter Kineen and his people weren’t trying to split the party again, the way it was four years ago. Maybe it’s all of those things that make me feel so ... uneasy.
Yes. Maybe it is.
Are you all right, Mrs. Augustine? You look a little pale.
I’m just tired, Elizabeth. All this talk about strangeness and tragedy—it’s enough to unnerve anyone.
I’m sorry, Mrs. Augustine. But you insisted that I tell you what was on my mind
Yes. I did, didn’t I?
If you don’t feel well, we could cancel the UJA luncheon today. And I could call Doctor Whiting—
No. I don’t want to see Doctor Whiting. I’m fine; I’ll go to the luncheon as scheduled
Do you want to dictate any letters this morning?
No. You can leave now, Elizabeth. I’ll call you if I need you.
Just as you say, Mrs Augustine. And I’m sorry again if I upset you; I won’t say anything more about my foolish intuitions. Everything will be all right, I know that.
Of course it will. Everything will be fine.
Tragedy. My God. But she’s wrong, there won’t be any tragedy. Nothing is going to happen to Nicholas. Nothing is going to happen. Nothing is going to happen.
The Honorable Nicholas Franklin Augustine
President of the United States
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue
Dear Mr. President:
I urge you to take what I am about to say in the absolute seriousness with which it is written.
Despite the necessary anonymity of this letter, I am not a crank. On the contrary I am someone quite close to you, personally and politically—a member of the inmost White House circle. But for reasons which will become clear, I cannot at this time tell you who I am. I must call no more attention to myself than I already gain as a result of my position.
The tragic realities of the situation are these, Mr. President. Not everyone you trust is as faithful to you as I am. There are those among your staff who are deceitful, who care only for the furtherance of their own positions and not at all for you or for the common good of the country, that same good to which you yourself have been selflessly dedicated since your inauguration. These individuals believe you to be weak and ineffectual, and they have formed a treacherous alliance against you. They are doing everything within their power to undermine your credibility so that you will be defeated for renomination in Saint Louis in July. Secretly, slyly, they have placed their support with the coalition headed by Peter Kineen.
In all good conscience I cannot at this time reveal the names of these turncoats, for I have no specific evidence against any one person. But I do have very strong suspicions, and it is only a matter of time until I am able to obtain proof.
But time may be another of your enemies, and that is why we are writing this letter. I mean, why I am writing this letter. You must be alert to the danger confronting you, Mr. President. You must be vigilant, as we are. As I