Read Presidential Shift Online

Authors: C. G. Cooper

Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Action & Adventure, #Mystery; Thriller & Suspense, #Thriller & Suspense, #War & Military, #Genre Fiction, #Political, #Thriller

Presidential Shift

BOOK: Presidential Shift
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“Presidential Shift”

(The Complete Novel)

Book 4 of the Corps Justice Series

Copyright © 2014 Corps Justice. All Rights Reserved

Author: C. G. Cooper

Editor: Karen Rought

(
http://www.CorpsJustice.com
)

This is a work of fiction. Characters, names, locations and events are all products of the author’s imagination. Any similarities to actual events or real persons are completely coincidental.

To hear about new books first (and get free copies), sign up to my
New Release Mailing List
.

Warning:
This story is intended for mature audiences and contains profanity and violence.

Dedications

To our amazing troops serving all over the world, thank you for your bravery and service.

Semper Fidelis

Episode 1
Chapter 1

Vienna, Virginia

7:04am, December 15
th

The runner sped past a woman pushing a lime green jogging stroller. Despite his fast pace, the jogger didn’t look winded. Adjusting his white Adidas cap as he turned into the public park, he scanned the area from behind Oakley running glasses. His brown hair could barely be seen peeking out.

There was a hidden alcove of trees off to the right and he ran that way. Headed toward a row of park benches, he waved to a thin man seated wearing a heavy parka. The dark-complexioned man looked up from an Arabic newspaper at the sound of the man’s footfalls and returned the wave with a smile.

The runner floated to a halt in front of the bench surrounded by a tight copse of pine.

“Morning, Mansoor!” the runner offered with a smile.

“And a good morning to you, Richard,” the Middle Easterner replied, in slightly accented English. “Are you finished with your exercise already?”

The man nodded. “Yeah, just a quick run today. Probably head to the gym after work. Mind if I stretch while we chat?”

“Not at all. May I offer you some of my tea?” Mansoor asked.

“Is it the stuff your cook makes?”

“It is.”

“That stuff is amazing. Much better than the crap you get at Starbucks.”

Mansoor nodded. “It is one of the many things I miss about my country.”

While the young runner Mansoor knew as Richard stretched, the Arab poured out a cup of tea. Richard glanced up casually to see his friend pouring a second cup, and without taking his eyes off Mansoor, he reached down and looked to be adjusting the sock around his ankle.

“Funny I keep bumping into you like this,” Richard said.

Mansoor looked up from his tea. “If I was a suspicious man, I would think you might be following me, Richard,” he responded playfully.

His companion shrugged. “What can I say? I guess I’m into good-looking Arabs with hot tea.”

Blood rose to Mansoor’s face as he waved away the compliment. They’d only met days earlier, but had quickly found they believed in many of the same things. Most importantly, they’d spoken at length about the wars still being waged in the Middle East. Mansoor had found it comforting to meet such an enlightened, and handsome, American. It hadn’t taken long to figure out that Richard was probably gay, although his last comment was the most overt flirting either one had yet attempted.

“Why don’t you come have your tea?”

Richard nodded and sat down next to his friend. He took the paper cup and held it up in a toast. “To new friends.”

The two men tapped their cups together and took sips of their tea. Mansoor savored the taste of his past. A few minor errands, and soon he would return to his country. He smiled at the thought.

Richard looked up from his tea and cocked his head. “What are you thinking about?”

Mansoor shook away his thoughts and focused on his prize. “I was thinking that maybe we should do dinner sometime. What do you think?”

Richard’s light complexion flushed slightly as he took another sip of his tea.

“What is it, my friend?” asked Mansoor, stroking his slick goatee carefully.

Richard shook his head as if to say he was too embarrassed to respond

“Come, Richard. You know you can tell me anything. What is the matter?”

“I don’t know if I should tell you. It’s…it’s kind of a secret.”

Richard took another hurried sip of his tea. Mansoor placed a hand on his friend’s shoulder.

“Please tell me,” he whispered. His oversized obsidian eyes glinted with excitement.

Richard nodded and leaned in to whisper in his ear. Mansoor shuddered involuntarily and moved in closer. Richard used his left hand to bring Mansoor’s head near. It was an almost intimate gesture. His lips were right next to Mansoor’s ear.

Richard whispered, “I have to kill you now.”

Mansoor’s eyes widened as the killer inserted a double-edged blade into his throat. He struggled against the pull, but the executioner held on to his head and twisted the knife, forcing the man’s lifeblood out in a steady flow. The assassin was careful to cant his victim’s head to avoid the gushing blood.

The Middle Easterner’s eyes glazed and his movement stopped. Moving quickly, the assassin laid the dead man down on the bench and covered him with the open newspaper, avoiding the pooling blood. Next he wiped his blade on the man’s jacket and returned it to its sheath.

He heard a rustling from the woods and turned to see another man dressed in running gear walking toward him.

“You okay?” asked Daniel Briggs, the blonde pony-tailed former Marine sniper.

“I’m good,” Cal Stokes answered. He looked down at his watch and exhaled. “Let’s head back to the hotel and get cleaned up. We’ve gotta be at the Oval office in two hours.”

Chapter 2

The White House,
Washington, D.C.

10:15am, December 15
th

They’d been waiting for the president for fifteen minutes.

“You think we should call him on the fifteen-minute rule?” asked Cal with a smirk.

Daniel returned the look.

“I’m not sure that would go over well.”

“You’re probably right. Our professors at U.Va didn’t like it much when we up and left after waiting for them for fifteen minutes.”

“Is that really a rule?”

“Of course. That’s why they call…”

Before Cal could finish his sentence, the president stepped into the Oval Office followed by two aides.

“Cal, Daniel, I’m really sorry I’m late.”

Both Marines stood to shake the president’s hand.

“Doesn’t bother me, Mr. President. It was Daniel that was about to enact the fifteen minute rule,” said Cal with a straight face.

Daniel glared at his friend. There was an awkward pause as the president glanced between the two men. A small grin found its way to Cal’s face and the president chuckled.

“You Marines never let up, do you?”

“No, sir,” answered Cal. “Keeps us on our toes.”

The two men standing with binders behind the president stared in shock. Cal winked at them.

The president laughed again.

“Don’t mind Mr. Stokes, fellas. We go way back. Would you excuse us?”

One of the aides, a freckled-faced redhead, looked like he was going to say something. He changed his mind and the two men departed.

The President jotted something down on a notepad.

“Can I get you two anything? Coffee, water?” he asked.

“No, sir,” the Marines answered in unison.

“Give me one minute and then we’ll head down to the situation room.”

Cal looked at Daniel with one eyebrow raised. The sniper shrugged his shoulders in response.

A minute later, the president ripped off the sheet of paper, folded it, and stuck it in his pants pocket.

“Let’s go.”

They followed him out of the Oval Office and through the White House maze. Secret Service agents shadowed them quietly. Few people they passed even looked up from their work. To them, seeing the president was nothing new.

After being cleared, the trio stepped into the secure conference room. There was one man waiting for them.

“What are you doing here, Brandon?” Cal said.

Newly elected Senator Brandon Zimmer, a Democrat from Massachusetts, rose to greet his friends. They shook hands.

“It was a last minute thing. The president called me yesterday and said he’d been trying to get you to come in for a couple months.” He scanned Cal’s placid face. They’d become close over the previous months, with Zimmer often calling on Cal to play devil’s advocate. “What have you been up to?”

“Nothing special. Just a little busy.”

Brandon looked at his friend for a second longer, waiting for further explanation.

“Why don’t we all have a seat, gentlemen,” the president suggested.

The four men took seats at one end of the long conference table.

“First, I’d like to once again thank you for saving my tail before the election. I will never forget it.”

Cal, Daniel and even Brandon had been part of a dicey operation months earlier to uncover a plot by Japanese imperialists and Brandon’s own father, Senator Richard Zimmer, to kill the president and take over the country. Richard Zimmer was now dead. It was a bullet from Brandon’s own hand that had done the deed.

The event cemented the relationship between Cal and Brandon. It had also tied them to the president. They’d all agreed that the assassination attempt would be kept secret. So far it had, and the president had won re-election without the sympathy votes that such a revelation would have stirred.

“Second, I know I don’t have to tell you this, but what I’m about to say stays in this room.”

The others nodded.

The president took a weary breath. His face sagged a bit as he looked down. When he lifted his head, his eyes looked tired.

“I have reason to believe that someone within my administration is leaking information.”

His small audience waited for him to explain.

“I know what you’re probably thinking. Leaks are as common as liars on Capitol Hill. But…this feels different.”

He paused as if searching for the right words. None came. The anguish on his face was plain.

Cal broke the silence.

“Maybe if you start from the beginning, Mr. President?”

The president nodded and began.

“After the attack in Las Vegas, everything seemed to go back to normal. Other than the usual threats, nothing new came up. Right around the election, I’m not sure exactly what day, I kept seeing the same man in the crowds. He wasn’t part of any of my details. The man didn’t do anything except act like any other onlooker. I can’t really explain what I saw. It was more about what I felt. It was like he was watching me. I asked the Secret Service about him, but by that time he had disappeared.

“Election night rolls around and it’s all excitement. We were leading in the polls and, of course, eventually won. That’s when things changed.”

“How, sir?” asked Cal.

The president looked up from his brooding with a half smile.

“Sorry. I must be tired.” He took a moment to gather his thoughts. “I won’t sit here and pretend that politics is a clean sport. You know as well as I do that there are a lot of shady characters running around D.C. trying to grab all the power they can. I knew that going in. Before my first term, I made some subtle promises. A wealthy donor would give X amount of money to my campaign, and I promised to consider his help in the future. Senator Zimmer can tell you that it’s as common as church on Sunday.”

Brandon nodded.

“After the attempt on my life that you gentlemen so bravely thwarted, I…I started thinking about my legacy. I started…”

He glanced over to see that Cal’s face had hardened.

“Did I say something wrong, Cal?” asked the president.

“It’s none of my business, Mr. President.”

“What’s none of your business?”

“How you run the country.”

“I wouldn’t have asked you here if that were the case.”

“I’m sorry?”

“Why don’t you say what you were thinking? I’d rather know it up front before going further.”

Daniel cleared his throat and caught Cal’s eye. The sniper shook his head. Cal ignored the warning.

“I don’t like politics, Mr. President. Senator Zimmer can tell you that. I couldn’t care less about the back room deals you make to get in office. To me it’s a bunch of horse shit. You make a bunch of promises and then turn the other way.”

“Is that the reason you didn’t come see me the day I called?”

There was no accusation in the president’s tone. Just a question.

“That was part of it. The other part, that you might not know, is that I’d just buried one of my best friends. Put the two together and yeah, you could say I wasn’t exactly in the mood to visit.”

“I’m sorry for your loss,” offered the president. “I didn’t know.”

“Thank you.”

“Would you like to go on?”

Cal rubbed his eyes slowly.

“It’s not that I don’t think you’re a nice guy, Mr. President. I came because I’m a Marine and I respect the office that you hold. I don’t agree with your policies. In fact, I think they’ve weakened our country. Your push for social welfare reform is giving people a free pass. Americans’ sense of entitlement is obscene. Whatever happened to an honest day’s work and helping your neighbor? Now it’s all about how the government can support me. Me, me, me.”

The president nodded grimly.

“I understand how you feel,” the president said.

“I’m not so sure about that, Mr. President.”

“I think you’d be surprised.” He stopped and smiled. “Your reservations actually play perfectly into why I called you.”

Cal’s face scrunched in confusion.

“How is that?”

“Let me back up a bit. I’m not a stupid man, Cal. I may have walked into the presidency a little naïve, but I’ve kept my eyes and ears open. I understand that many of the initiatives I first sought to introduce were well meaning, but…misguided. What I failed to see was man’s greed. I’ve watched as billions of dollars have been wasted on junk programs. I’ve seen my constituency beg for milk money and spend it on drugs. I’ve shaken hands with members of Congress only to see them take their money and funnel it into their pet projects. Most Americans have no idea the level of corruption that exists within their own country. I can tell you that I’m quietly trying to root out these elements.”

“So why do you need us?”

The president looked at each of his three visitors.

“Someone is trying to stop me.”

“Stop you from doing what?”

“From cleaning up Washington.”

There was only silence in the conference room. An amused look fell across Cal’s face.

“No offense, Mr. President, but that sounds a bit grandiose.”

The president chuckled.

“I know how it sounds, but I’m dead serious.”

This time it was Brandon who broke the uncomfortable silence.

“And how do you propose to do that, Mr. President?”

“I don’t know yet. I’ve been putting out feelers to some of my most trusted advisers. They’re all telling me it can’t be done. One of them even had the nerve to tell me to let it lie.”

The president shook his head angrily.

“I will not stand by and watch this country be ripped apart. We have enough enemies overseas. Killing ourselves from within is suicide.”

“How can we help, Mr. President?” asked Cal. His demeanor had calmed. He could see the president had changed. Now it was time to see how much.

“I need two things. First, help me come up with a way to dig out these parasites and expose them for what they are. Second, find out who is trying to sabotage my efforts.”

Cal exhaled.

“I’m not sure you want me doing that, sir.”

“Why not?”

“I don’t think you’d approve of my methods.”

“And if I did?”

“Then I don’t think you’d like what we’d find.”

The President put his chin in his palm.

“You mean you think this will lead back to me.”

“Shit rolls downhill, Mr. President.”

Instead of being angry, the president laughed.

“Did you learn that in the Marine Corps, Staff Sergeant?”

“I did, sir.”

“So tell me, what happens in the Marine Corps when a unit is found to be ineffective or negligent?”

“They go after the commanding officer. But that doesn’t happen in Washington.”

“I beg your pardon?”

“Unless a politician murders someone or sneaks gold bricks out of Fort Knox, they won’t be fired. Let me equate it to the civilian world. If a CEO leads his corporation into bankruptcy or even has bad quarterly earnings, the board lets the CEO go. That doesn’t happen here. It’s okay for politicians to play with our money, waste it, misspend it, and yet they keep getting reelected.”

“And you don’t put any blame on the American people?” asked the president, eyebrow raised.

“Of course I do, sir, but it starts at the top. If I were a CEO and led my company poorly, I would feel it was my obligation, no, my duty, to step down.”

“You know I can’t do that, Cal.”

“You asked, Mr. President,” Cal answered with a shrug.

“So what do you propose we do when we find these corrupt officials?”

Cal grinned. “Go after them with everything we’ve got.”

“And how would we do that?”

“We’d run it case by case. We’ve been known to get creative.”

“You’d have to promise me that no one would get hurt.”

“You mean physically?”

The president nodded.

“That wasn’t my plan anyway, sir. There are plenty of ways to skin a cat.”

“So you’re saying you’ll do it?”

Cal looked to his two friends.

“I’ll do it on two conditions.”

The president’s eyes narrowed.

“And what would those conditions be?”

“One, I bring in anyone I need.”

“And the second?”

“The gloves are off, Mr. President. We expose these crooks to the world. No second chances.”

“Agreed,” replied the president without hesitation.

“So, where would you like—.” Cal was cut off when five Secret Service agents burst into the room.

“What is it?” asked the president, more annoyed than concerned.

The first agent into the room answered. “There’s been an attack, Mr. President. We need to get you to safety.”

“Where?”

“At the Air and Space Museum.”

The president’s eyes widened. Cal, Daniel and Brandon looked confused.

“The first lady?”

“She was wounded by the blast and taken to the closest hospital for emergency surgery.”

The president stood up from his chair and moved toward his security detail. He looked to his guests.

“I’m sorry, gentlemen, but if you’ll excuse me.”

The three men rose quickly and moved in the direction of the exit. One of the large agents put his hand to stop them from coming closer. Cal looked annoyed.

“Mr. President,” said the lead agent.

The president turned to face him.

“There’s more, sir.”

“What do you mean?”

The agent’s stoic face hesitated momentarily.

“The vice president is dead.”

BOOK: Presidential Shift
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