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Authors: Joseph Flynn

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The President's Henchman

BOOK: The President's Henchman
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The President’s Henchman
 

Joseph Flynn

 
Stray Dog Press, Inc.

Springfield, IL

2013

 

Praise for Joseph Flynn’s novels

“Flynn is an excellent storyteller.” —
Booklist

“Flynn keeps the pages turning.” —
Houston Chronicle

“Flynn propels his plot with potent but flexible force.” —
Publishers Weekly

 

Digger

“A mystery cloaked as cleverly as (and perhaps better than) any John Grisham work.”


Denver Post

“Surefooted, suspenseful and in its breathless final moments unexpectedly heartbreaking.”


Booklist

“An exciting, gritty, emotional page-turner.”— Robert K. Tannenbaum,
New York Times
Bestselling Author of
True Justice

 

The Next President


The Next President
bears favorable comparison to such classics as
The Best Man, Advise and Consent
and
The Manchurian Candidate.
” —
Booklist

“A thriller fast enough to read in one sitting.” —
Rocky Mountain News

 

The President’s Henchman

“Marvelously entertaining.” —
ForeWord Magazine

 
Copyright
 

The President’s Henchman

Joseph Flynn

 

Published by Stray Dog Press, Inc.

Springfield, IL 62704, U.S.A.

Originally published by Variance Publishing, 2008

 

Copyright Stray Dog Press, Inc., 2013

All rights reserved

 

Author website:
www.josephflynn.com

Flynn, Joseph

The President’s Henchman / Joseph Flynn

131,809 words eBook

ISBN 978-0-9887868-4-4

 

Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise), without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the above publisher of this book.

 

Publisher’s Note

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously; any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

 

eBook design by Aha! Designs

 
Dedication
 

For Dad, who introduced me to storytelling, and in memory of Mom, who taught me all about character.

Acknowledgements
 

My thanks to my wife, Catherine, who is always the first editor of everything I write; to Ellen and Steve Feazell, for being gracious hosts while I did research in Washington D.C.; and to Bob and Sarah Schwager for their keen and insightful editing and copy editing.

 
Character List
 

[In alphabetical order by last name]

 

Gen. Altman, Air Force Chief of Staff

Cheryl Altman, General Altman’s wife

Bobby Beckley, Sen Hurlbert’s campaign manager

Edwina Byington, the president’s personal secretary

Daryl Cheveyo, CIA officer, Todd’s agency contact

Arlene Cowan, Capt. Dexter Cowan’s wife

Dexter Cowan, U.S. Navy captain

Gawayne Blessing, White House head butler

Celsus Crogher, Secret Service Agent in charge of white House Security Detail

Carolyn [McGill] Enquist, first wife of Jim McGill

Lars Enquist, Carolyn’s second husband

Kira Fahey, Mather Wyman’s niece, White House staffer

Patricia Darden Grant, former congresswoman, now president, second wife of Jim McGill

Andrew Hudson Grant, Patricia Darden Grant’s first husband; philanthropist; murdered by Erna Godfrey

Sen. Howard Hurlbert (R-MS), co-sponsor of Support of Motherhood Act [SOMA]

Graham Keough, Chana Lochlan’s first boyfriend

Monty Kipp, Washington bureau chief for W2N, Chana Lochlan’s boss

Donald “Deke” Ky, Jim McGill’s personal bodyguard

Leo Levy, Jim McGill’s armed driver

Carina Linberg, USAF colonel

Chana Lochlan, White House reporter; McGill’s first client

Eamon Lochlan, Chana’s father

Maxwell Lucey, owner of A-Sharp Sound, recording studio in building that houses McGill’s office

Chief Petty Officer E.P. McGill, Jim’s late uncle and the creator of Dark Alley

Jim McGill, Patricia (Patti) Darden Grant’s second husband, aka henchman, private investigator

Abbie McGill, oldest child of Jim McGill and Carolyn Enquist

Caitie McGill, youngest child of Jim McGill and Carolyn Enquist

Kenny McGill, middle child of Jim McGill and Carolyn Enquist

Bob Merriman, Chief of Staff to Senator Roger Michaelson

Roger Michaelson, Senator D-OR, Patti’s foremost political nemesis

Galia Mindel, Chief of Staff to President Grant

Dikran “Dikki” Missirian, McGill’s business landlord

Artemus Nicolaides, White House physician

Merilee Parker, press secretary for Senator Howard Hurlbert, Galia’s spy

Major Clarence Seymour, adjutant to Air Force Chief of Staff

Putnam Shady, Sweetie’s landlord

Margaret “Sweetie” Sweeney, McGill’s longtime friend and police partner; Putnam’s wife

Damon Todd, deranged psychotherapist

Aggie Wu, Press Secretary to President Grant

Mather Wyman, Vice President of the United States, Kira’s uncle, former governor of Ohio

Welborn Yates, the president’s personal (official) investigator, Air Force captain

 
Chapter 1
 

When McGill was formally introduced to the White House press corps, Helen Thomas asked him how it felt to be the country’s first First Gentleman.

He responded, “I prefer to think of myself as the president’s henchman.”

The line got a good laugh from the newsies; even Press Secretary Aggie Wu grinned. But Chief of Staff Galia Mindel reacted to the remark with a mighty frown. McGill saw the look of disapproval but didn’t worry. He didn’t work for her.

Just wait until Galia learned he’d gotten his P.I. license.

And his concealed weapon permit.

She’d be about as thrilled as the Secret Service had been. They’d changed his code name from Valentine to Holmes. Which McGill had laughed at and, on the whole, considered an improvement.

Galia wasn’t likely to crack wise, though. She’d try to fight him. And lose.

McGill’s career choice came with a presidential stamp of approval.

“What exactly does the president’s henchman do?” Candy Crowley inquired.

“Things nobody else can,” McGill told her with a twinkle in his eye.

Galia didn’t like that answer either.

 

James Jackson McGill became a minor historical figure when his wife, Congresswoman Patricia Darden Grant (R-IL), became a major historical figure by becoming the first woman to be elected president of the United States. McGill had worked as the de facto head of security for Patti’s presidential campaign. Before that, he’d been a Chicago cop for twenty years, and the chief of police for five years in the posh North Shore suburb of Winnetka, Illinois.

It was in this latter capacity that McGill met the future president. He solved the murder of her first husband, philanthropist Andrew Hudson Grant. Cracked the case in twelve hours.

Which was why the president-elect couldn’t argue with McGill when he told her the week before her inauguration that he was going to have to find something to do while she was busy running the country. He wasn’t ready to go fishing or spend all his time cutting ribbons.

“You still want to be a cop, don’t you?” Patti asked.

“Yeah.”

“But I know you don’t like any of the federal agencies. So you don’t want me to appoint you to run, say, the FBI.”

“No.”

“Do you want to stay in Illinois? Have a commuter relationship?”

McGill shook his head. Firmly.

“So what does that leave?”

“Private license,” he said.

Patricia Darden Grant was a very smart woman. Processed information like a supercomputer. But that one stopped her cold. Long enough to make her laugh, anyway.

“You … you want to be the private eye who lives in the White House?”

McGill said, “Why not? You’re the only one who gets to break tradition?”

What could she say to that? Only: “You’ll be careful, Jim?”

“Sure,” McGill said. “Won’t do a thing to embarrass you.”

“I wasn’t talking about politics. I can always get another job. But I don’t want to bury another husband.”

McGill kissed the most powerful woman in the world, loving her more than ever, and did his best to reassure her he would be around for a long, long time.

 

McGill absolutely refused to have more than one Secret Service agent assigned to guard him. The head of the White House Security Detail was an unsmiling humanoid named Celsus Crogher. Although Crogher was only in his late forties, his gray hair was turning white. His eyes were the color of silicon; his skin was slate. It was as if all pigment had been pruned from his family tree. Crogher wanted McGill’s protection closer to platoon strength. The president brokered a compromise: McGill would have one Secret Service bodyguard and an armed driver from the White House Transportation Agency.

McGill interviewed several men and women for each position. In the end, he picked Secret Service Special Agent Donald “Deke” Ky. The son of a Eurasian Vietnamese-American mother and an African-American GI father, Deke had tightly waved black hair, blue eyes behind epicanthic folds and skin the color of a new penny. Leo Levy was a self-described good ol’ Jewish boy from North Carolina. Long and lanky, with a face out of the Levant and an accent out of Andy Griffith, he’d driven the NASCAR circuit before getting into government work.

Both men had exemplary records, and each took a solemn pledge never to rat out McGill for anything he said or did. Celsus Crogher and Galia Mindel were not to be privy to any of the doings of McGill Investigations, Inc. Beyond that, Deke and Leo were to let McGill know if they detected any government busybodies snooping on him.

 

Starting in February, just after Patti’s inauguration, McGill walked all over Washington, D.C., like a rookie cop learning his new beat. Before meeting Patti, he’d visited the city only once, as part of an American Studies course at Saint Ignatius College Prep. Deke Ky walked between McGill and the street. Leo Levy idled along in a supercharged and armored black Chevy sedan a half block behind.

As often as not, McGill went unnoticed. When people did recognize him, they usually just smiled and called out hello. The exceptions were the elderly and the kids. Both groups wanted to talk with him, not infrequently from a distance of a few inches.

The kids’ questions were easy to answer.

Did he think the president was pretty? Gorgeous.

What sports teams did he like? The DePaul Blue Demons.

Had Michael Jordan played better in Chicago or Washington? Chicago.

Was he going to be president, too, someday? No. One president per family was enough.

The elderly had more serious matters in mind: war and peace, the economy, the environment, crime, immigration. Almost without exception they would rest a hand lightly on his arm as they spoke.

When an opinion was called for, McGill did not bob and weave. His answers were sincere and plainspoken, but he did preface whatever he had to say with: “Please understand, this is just my opinion, and I’d appreciate it if it stays between us.”

Nobody went running to the newspapers with McGill’s words of wisdom.

Quite often the old folks also asked for his help. With Social Security. Medicare. The Veterans Administration. At first, McGill didn’t know how to help. So he took people’s names and phone numbers and promised to get back to them. Soon, though, Deke carried with him a BlackBerry that stored the names and direct phone numbers of every top administrator in the federal and district governments. McGill passed them along to those in need of assistance.

And added, “Tell them Mr. McGill said you should call.”

Hoping he had the clout people imagined he did.

It turned out he did, and that was how his walking tours became news. Someone let it be known how helpful he’d been. Soon it became impossible for him to go out without a media horde at his heels and a throng of supplicants in front of him. No good deed went unpunished.

He had to start traveling in the back of Leo’s Chevy.

 

By the time the cherry blossoms appeared, he knew his way around town, at least a little. And he found office space to rent on P Street just above the Rock Creek Parkway. The building was a rehabbed three-story ivory-brick structure. It housed a commercial recording studio, A-Sharp Sound, on the first floor, and a small accounting firm, Wentworth and Willoughby, on the second. W&W actually moved down one floor to accommodate McGill Investigations, Inc. The Secret Service explained that in the event of an emergency Mr. McGill might have to be evacuated from the roof of the building by helicopter.

McGill apologized to the other tenants for all the bother he’d caused — which included the feds investigating every employee of both existing businesses back to infancy to see if he or she might be a threat to McGill’s life — and compensated his new neighbors with tickets to a Redskins game or a Kennedy Center performance, per their preference.

 

On the morning in May when McGill arrived for his first day of work, there was a line down the hall. By ten o’clock, the queue ran down the staircase to the ground floor and out the front entrance. The building’s owner, an astute Armenian immigrant named Dikran Missirian, quickly rented several café tables complete with Cinzano umbrellas. He provided complimentary sparkling mineral water and gourmet coffee to the crowd waiting to see McGill.

Business cards were exchanged all around.

Dikki made several valuable business contacts that day.

McGill netted not a single client.

Without exception, the ladies and gentlemen waiting to see him were lobbyists. Sugar, sorghum, and sweet corn were among the foodstuffs they represented. Trucks, trains, and planes were just a few of their preferred modes of transportation. Albania, Algeria, and Angola were but the beginning of the countries whose interests they advanced.

None of them had a criminal matter or even a straying spouse to investigate.

All of them offered retainers, six-to-seven figures per annum, in the event they might someday need professional investigative services. McGill politely listened to each of them and respectfully turned down all of them.

He explained that he worked cases.

Couldn’t take money on the mere possibility that something might come up.

Didn’t say he’d never sell access to his wife, the president, but everybody seemed to understand. Most of them were gracious about being rejected. They’d given it the old college try and were happy just to meet him and shake his hand.

A couple of type-A personalities, however, tried not to take no for an answer, and Deke Ky quickly put a whispered word into their ears. Both hard chargers abruptly turned pale and left the office on wobbly legs.

McGill appreciated Deke’s concern but didn’t feel that prospective clients, no matter how rude, should be threatened with either lengthy incarceration or swift death. He needed someone to run interference for him. Someone who could discourage the jerks with nothing more than a hard stare. So he got on the phone to Chicago.

“Sweetie? It’s Jim. If you’re not busy, I’ve got a job for you.”

 

Margaret “Sweetie” Sweeney had been McGill’s strong right arm on the cops in both Chicago and Winnetka. She’d even taken a bullet that rightfully should have been McGill’s. A rich suburban punk had kidnapped his ex-girlfriend and locked the two of them in his bedroom. Things got to the point where murder-suicide looked imminent. McGill’s plan had been to break down the door on the count of three. Sweetie went on two.

“So I’m gonna be what around here?” Sweetie asked when she arrived the day after McGill called. “The office manager, the dragon lady, the anchor on your more outlandish impulses?”

“My partner,” McGill said. “The bad cop to my good cop. Same as always.”

Sweetie noticed Deke looking at her. She knew right away McGill had told him about her. Now, the Secret Service hero was wondering: Could he really take a bullet for someone?

“Only one way to find out,” Sweetie answered the unspoken question.

Deke pretended he didn’t know what she was talking about.

“Patti would like you to stop by for dinner tonight,” McGill told her.

The president had a special place in her heart for Sweetie after learning what she’d done to spare McGill. And, of course, the grief Sweetie had later saved her from personally.

Sweetie smiled, and McGill thought, as he always did, that she looked like St. Michael the Archangel. Or a Valkyrie, if you preferred Norse mythology.

“Yeah, I’d like to see her, too,” Sweetie said. “Did she get my birthday card?”

“Made her day,” McGill answered truthfully.

The card had been addressed to Mrs. James J. McGill, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

 
BOOK: The President's Henchman
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