5/5
5/5

OMG!! Early reviews say this is a blockbuster of a novel. Long-awaited next Rothstein novel coming June 3.  For sneak peak of Chapter 1, click on book cover.

5/5

The Moment of Menace is scheduled for public release June 3. But you can begin reading it here.

Moment of Menace

Chapter 1

For most of the year, Ohio’s governor, Lester Bowles, followed the same morning routine: awake at 5:00 a.m., mount his Trek Domane and bike the predawn streets from the governor’s residence to nearby Alum Creek Trail, then follow the trail south five miles, where a waiting staff member would drive him back to the governor’s residence; shower, dress, breakfast at six thirty, begin his work at his residence office at seven thirty.

Occasionally a state legislator or a political ally or an enterprising lobbyist or a resourceful reporter would join him on his ride. The paved trail ran easily, conducive to private conversation. When snow or other severe weather became an obstacle, Bowles remained in the governor’s residence, utilizing its well-equipped gym to focus on strength training.

This routine was severely constricted during the six months he was the Republican Party’s nominee for vice president of the United States. Six horrible, embarrassing, forgettable months. Now it was over, the unwanted notoriety mercifully receding. The comfortable, organized, productive life he never really wanted to give up was slowly returning to routine.

This winter had been exceptionally mild for Ohio. By early February only patches of snow remained. They were shaded by beds of Indian grass that lined portions of the bike path. Winter chill required layering up a bit, but for Bowles, a fifth-generation Ohioan, the crisp air washing over him felt like a pleasant wake-up shower.

The remainder of this day would not be his own. The legislature was in session. A full calendar would demand his time. But now, on the trail alone, Governor Bowles could just be Les, free to converse with himself, often a productive partner. Solitude was welcome for a man who enjoyed his own company.

When Bowles reached the southern section of the Alum Creek trailhead this morning, however, much to his annoyance he could see he would not be alone. Another rider already was there in semidarkness, silhouetted against the bare branches of the red maples that lined that portion of the path.

“Les.”

It was a half-whispered call.

Les? Supplicants who arrived for these morning rides almost always deferred to him as “governor.”

And then a bit louder: “Les.”

This time loud enough for him to recognize and be startled by the source.

“Gil?”

“Yes.”

The apparition moved closer.

“My God,” said Bowles. “Gil! Where have you been?”

“Here, near the trees, where it’s darker,” the voice summoned him.

The generally undemonstrative Bowles wrapped his arms around the shadowy figure. For the past few months, Bowles had been quietly searching for Gil Adonis.

Gil eased out of Lester Bowles’s grasp.

“We have to be very careful,” said Gil. “If anyone sees us, this needs to look like two friends out for a casual early morning ride. Nothing unusual.”

“Gil, if you’re in trouble, I’ve got a state police car waiting nearby. They monitor me just in case,” said Bowles. “I’ll call them. Let’s take it back to my place.”

“No,” said Gil. “Someone wants me dead, Les. I don’t know who. It could be the president herself. I can’t be seen with the law, even yours. Let’s just ride and talk. I’ll explain.”

“How did you know I’d be here?” asked Bowles.

They started biking slowly together.

“Do you think there’s anything I don’t know about you after all these years?” said Gil. “Unless the snow’s waist-deep, I knew you’d come. I just thought you’d come sooner. I’ve been here every morning for about a week waiting for you.”

Gil Adonis and Lester Bowles had grown up together in a wealthy Columbus neighborhood. Bowles, scion of a political family, was ordained to follow his father, grandfather, and uncles into government. Gil set out to make millions managing his own hedge fund and instead made billions. Last year, Gil had engineered the nomination of Zach Bowman as the Republican Party’s presidential candidate; then he had talked a reluctant Lester Bowles into serving as Bowman’s vice-presidential running mate. A Bowman scandal late in the campaign blew up the team’s election chances. After the election, Bowles, embarrassed by his association with Bowman and in a bid to minimize media contact, went to Europe with his wife for an extended vacation. When he returned, Gil had disappeared.

There was barely enough light to see, but the trail was well maintained with few ruts or obstacles. Gil and Les were alone on the trail, riding at an easy pace.

“I need your help, Les,” said Gil. “Someone tried to kill me. I don’t know who. Most likely my old friends at the Salvation Project put out a contract on me because I failed to elect you and Bowman. I knew when I signed up with them that they were a ‘take no prisoners’ crowd. And since I didn’t deliver a president for them in the election, that’s probably a capital offense in their eyes.”

“Who else could it be? A jealous husband or someone you screwed in a stock deal?”

“I wish,” said Gil. “I could get out of that easily. No. If it wasn’t the Salvation Project guys, it was the president.”

Les stopped biking and turned to look at Gil.

“You can’t be serious. Tenny won the election. She beat you. Why would she want to kill you?

“Because I tried to kill her.”

Lester Bowles shook his head in disbelief. “I can’t believe that!”

“It’s true, Les. I was on a mission to save the world. That meant getting rid of her and electing that idiot Bowman, with you as vice president. Then, maneuvering you into the White House. I’m not a killer, but most people who fire weapons in war aren’t killers either. They fight for a cause they think is worth killing for. That was my mindset.”

The sun was a bit higher now, the trail much easier to see.

They resumed biking.

“That was your mindset, or still is?” Bowles asked.

“The most unbelievable thing happened a few days after the election,” said Gil. “The president invited me to have dinner with her at the White House. Her intelligence people had found out about our project. They arrested some of our key people. I was sure they knew about my role in all of it, and damned if she doesn’t ask me to come and have dinner with her.”

“Likely a trap to arrest you.”

“That’s what I thought. But I figured that if I didn’t accept her invitation they’d find me anyway. No point running away from a president of the United States who might be stalking you. So I went. It was just her and me, having dinner together like we were old friends. And yes, she knew all about the Project and where I fit in. Tenny even knew I tried to have her killed. She wanted to know why.”

“That was pretty gutsy of her.”

“Not just gutsy, but she really wanted to know why someone like me, stinking rich, powerful in my own world, would get involved with a conspiracy like the Salvation Project. And why other successful people would be part of it too. So I told her. We spent nearly three hours alone together.”

“How’d she react?”

“She pretty much agreed with me about what needed to be done to save the country, but she disagreed about our plan for doing it.”

Bowles biked in silence for a moment. “It sounds like you should have talked with her long before the election. It would have saved you a lot of money and trouble. Why do you suspect she might have set you up to be murdered?”

“Les, after our dinner I got into my car, parked right outside the White House. It was a driving rainstorm. I jumped into the back seat not realizing that the driver wasn’t Hughes, my regular guy. Whoever was in the driver’s seat turned around and smashed a towel against my face. I don’t know what was on it, but it knocked me out before I knew what was happening. When I woke up, I was in a doctor’s office. Luckily, my security guys were parked nearby and realized I was in trouble. They tracked the sensors in my car and chased off the fucker who gassed me. Then they took me to one of the docs on my medical team. If my guys hadn’t been sharp enough, whoever was behind it would have killed me and dumped my body somewhere.”

“And you think your meeting with Tenny was set up so she could do that to you?”

“That was my first guess. Who else would know I was there? So after I left the doc’s office, I found a place to hide. I needed time to think, time to stay out of sight. Let whoever tried to kill me think I might be dead from that shit they shoved up my nose. I didn’t want the FBI or CIA looking for me.”

“So now what will you do?”

“Since the election, the president’s been doing what she told me she’d do. I’ve been following it in the news. She’s saying the right things, putting together people to study the problems we talked about. I’m less inclined to think she was behind what happened to me. If it wasn’t her, it must have been the Salvation Project people. In that case, I need her help to get them off my back.”

“How?”

“I can give her more information so they can break up the Project. As long as they’re operational, I’m not safe, and she’s not safe either. They’re a ruthless crowd, Les. I didn’t realize that until late in last year’s campaign. When I got involved, I thought I was dealing with people like me who think humanity’s at risk and that we need to change things pretty fast to save it. Toward the end of the campaign, that’s not what I was seeing. What I saw was a bunch of murderous people who would do anything to get power. They’ve taken control of the Project. It’s the real threat now.”

“And what if you’re wrong about who tried to kill you? You’d be signing your own death warrant if you contact Tenny and she’s the one who set you up. She’s one tough lady, and I’m sure she holds grudges like the rest of us. Finding out you tried to kill her makes for one helluva grudge.”

“It’s a gamble. But I need to find out. I can’t hide forever. I need to make contact with Tenny. And I need to do it in a way the Project doesn’t find out. That means I can’t just pick up the phone and call her directly. That’s why I’ve come to you. I need your help.”

Bowles stopped riding.

You know that. Let’s go back to house. The place is guarded like Fort Knox. You’d be safe there.” He reached for a small box attached to his belt. “All I need to do is press this button and my security guys will be here in a minute.”

Gil shook his head. “No good, Les. I’ve thought this through. There’s no place to hide. How long could I stay with you without people raising questions? Word would get out. You and your whole family would be in danger. All my life, when I’ve had a problem, I’ve dealt with it, not ducked it. This is the biggest problem I’ve ever had. A real life-and-death problem.”

“How can I help, then?”

“Let’s ride and keep talking,” said Gil.

Morning light spilled through the lowest branches of a grove of pines. Gil’s forehead became a ruddy image behind a protective riding mask and gray wool cap. Only his eyes seemed to speak.

“Les, I need to meet with Tenny again. Find the safest way for me to get that message to her without calling her yourself or contacting her directly. That would tip off someone in the White House who might monitor her calls.”

“The Project has someone in the White House?” asked Bowles incredulously. “With all that security?”

“I’m sure,” said Gil. “That’s the only way they could have known I was meeting her for dinner. And they may be monitoring your contacts too. You need to go through a third party.”

They biked in silence to the point along the trail where Lester Bowles’s car and driver were waiting.

Gil reached into his pocket and pulled out a three-by-five card.

“Here’s my new cell number. When you’ve got a plan, get someone, not you, to call that number. Let it ring twice and then hang up. I’ll meet you the next morning just like this, for a ride down this trail. You’ll do it?”

Bowles removed his riding helmet and lightly tapped his friend’s with it. “And now where are you going?”

“I’ve got a place, safe for a while,” said Gil Adonis. “Remember, I grew up in Columbus, same as you. And I’ve got my own security guys waiting for me, same as you.”

If you want an email alert when Chapter 2 is posted, use the contact box

Comments? Criticism? Advice?

Your contact information appreciated but optional

Why I Write

Joe Rothstein’

Welcome to my corner of the Internet. It’s where I talk about my novels and about current events. I have a lot to discuss.

 

I sat down to write my first book when I was in my 20s. It didn’t take long for me to realize that I could not write a book because I had nothing useful to say. I’d have to live my life first. Among other things, between then and now:

 

–I was the advance man for a traveling automobile stunt show. In the act I was “Suicide Saunders.” (That’s my next book). 

 

–I sat, as an aide to the governor of Alaska, in the private quarters of the top military commander in Alaska, while he clutched a red telephone expecting a call telling him we were at nuclear war with Russia over the Cuban missile crisis. 

 

–I experienced the most powerful earthquake in U.S. history, in Alaska, and worked on rebuilding in the aftermath.

 

–I became editor of a daily newspaper, The Anchorage Daily News, before I was 30.

 

–I flew as a passenger with the Navy’s Blue Angels (and have the photo to prove it).

 

—-As chief of staff of a United States Senator I was deeply involved in the Pentagon Papers episode.

 

–I was political consultant to Congressman Peter Rodino of New Jersey as he presided of Richard Nixon’s impeachment.

 

–I worked as strategist and media producer to help elect and re-elect nine U.S. Senators, dozens of members of Congress, and countless other candidates.

 

–I’ve started five businesses, one which went public, and another that’s become an important Internet news distribution service.

 

–Also, I’ve had the experience of raising four sons and, among other things, coaching their Little League baseball team, which was one of the most intense political experiences I’ve ever had.

 

And now, in my 80s, I’ve written three novels with two more in progress. Having something to say no longer is an obstacle.

 

My first three novels feature a charismatic Mexican-American heiress who becomes the president of the United States and is confronted with a series of events like none other in U.S. history.

 

I hope you enjoy them. And if my words and thoughts in these novels and my current events blogs prompt responses from you, please share them with me at jrothstein@rothstein.net.

Newsletter

Want Joe’s opinion blogs delivered by email. Just give us your address here.

The Moment of Menace is scheduled for public release in May. But you can begin reading it here.

Chapter 1

For most of the year, Ohio’s governor, Lester Bowles, followed the same morning routine: awake at 5:00 a.m., mount his Trek Domane and bike the predawn streets from the governor’s residence to nearby Alum Creek Trail, then follow the trail south five miles, where a waiting staff member would drive him back to the governor’s residence; shower, dress, breakfast at six thirty, begin his work at his residence office at seven thirty.

Occasionally a state legislator or a political ally or an enterprising lobbyist or a resourceful reporter would join him on his ride. The paved trail ran easily, conducive to private conversation. When snow or other severe weather became an obstacle, Bowles remained in the governor’s residence, utilizing its well-equipped gym to focus on strength training.

This routine was severely constricted during the six months he was the Republican Party’s nominee for vice president of the United States. Six horrible, embarrassing, forgettable months. Now it was over, the unwanted notoriety mercifully receding. The comfortable, organized, productive life he never really wanted to give up was slowly returning to routine.

This winter had been exceptionally mild for Ohio. By early February only patches of snow remained. They were shaded by beds of Indian grass that lined portions of the bike path. Winter chill required layering up a bit, but for Bowles, a fifth-generation Ohioan, the crisp air washing over him felt like a pleasant wake-up shower.

The remainder of this day would not be his own. The legislature was in session. A full calendar would demand his time. But now, on the trail alone, Governor Bowles could just be Les, free to converse with himself, often a productive partner. Solitude was welcome for a man who enjoyed his own company.

When Bowles reached the southern section of the Alum Creek trailhead this morning, however, much to his annoyance he could see he would not be alone. Another rider already was there in semidarkness, silhouetted against the bare branches of the red maples that lined that portion of the path.

“Les.”

It was a half-whispered call.

Les? Supplicants who arrived for these morning rides almost always deferred to him as “governor.”

And then a bit louder: “Les.”

This time loud enough for him to recognize and be startled by the source.

“Gil?”

“Yes.”

The apparition moved closer.

“My God,” said Bowles. “Gil! Where have you been?”

“Here, near the trees, where it’s darker,” the voice summoned him.

The generally undemonstrative Bowles wrapped his arms around the shadowy figure. For the past few months, Bowles had been quietly searching for Gil Adonis.

Gil eased out of Lester Bowles’s grasp.

“We have to be very careful,” said Gil. “If anyone sees us, this needs to look like two friends out for a casual early morning ride. Nothing unusual.”

“Gil, if you’re in trouble, I’ve got a state police car waiting nearby. They monitor me just in case,” said Bowles. “I’ll call them. Let’s take it back to my place.”

“No,” said Gil. “Someone wants me dead, Les. I don’t know who. It could be the president herself. I can’t be seen with the law, even yours. Let’s just ride and talk. I’ll explain.”

“How did you know I’d be here?” asked Bowles.

They started biking slowly together.

“Do you think there’s anything I don’t know about you after all these years?” said Gil. “Unless the snow’s waist-deep, I knew you’d come. I just thought you’d come sooner. I’ve been here every morning for about a week waiting for you.”

Gil Adonis and Lester Bowles had grown up together in a wealthy Columbus neighborhood. Bowles, scion of a political family, was ordained to follow his father, grandfather, and uncles into government. Gil set out to make millions managing his own hedge fund and instead made billions. Last year, Gil had engineered the nomination of Zach Bowman as the Republican Party’s presidential candidate; then he had talked a reluctant Lester Bowles into serving as Bowman’s vice-presidential running mate. A Bowman scandal late in the campaign blew up the team’s election chances. After the election, Bowles, embarrassed by his association with Bowman and in a bid to minimize media contact, went to Europe with his wife for an extended vacation. When he returned, Gil had disappeared.

There was barely enough light to see, but the trail was well maintained with few ruts or obstacles. Gil and Les were alone on the trail, riding at an easy pace.

“I need your help, Les,” said Gil. “Someone tried to kill me. I don’t know who. Most likely my old friends at the Salvation Project put out a contract on me because I failed to elect you and Bowman. I knew when I signed up with them that they were a ‘take no prisoners’ crowd. And since I didn’t deliver a president for them in the election, that’s probably a capital offense in their eyes.”

“Who else could it be? A jealous husband or someone you screwed in a stock deal?”

“I wish,” said Gil. “I could get out of that easily. No. If it wasn’t the Salvation Project guys, it was the president.”

Les stopped biking and turned to look at Gil.

“You can’t be serious. Tenny won the election. She beat you. Why would she want to kill you?

“Because I tried to kill her.”

Lester Bowles shook his head in disbelief. “I can’t believe that!”

“It’s true, Les. I was on a mission to save the world. That meant getting rid of her and electing that idiot Bowman, with you as vice president. Then, maneuvering you into the White House. I’m not a killer, but most people who fire weapons in war aren’t killers either. They fight for a cause they think is worth killing for. That was my mindset.”

The sun was a bit higher now, the trail much easier to see.

They resumed biking.

“That was your mindset, or still is?” Bowles asked.

“The most unbelievable thing happened a few days after the election,” said Gil. “The president invited me to have dinner with her at the White House. Her intelligence people had found out about our project. They arrested some of our key people. I was sure they knew about my role in all of it, and damned if she doesn’t ask me to come and have dinner with her.”

“Likely a trap to arrest you.”

“That’s what I thought. But I figured that if I didn’t accept her invitation they’d find me anyway. No point running away from a president of the United States who might be stalking you. So I went. It was just her and me, having dinner together like we were old friends. And yes, she knew all about the Project and where I fit in. Tenny even knew I tried to have her killed. She wanted to know why.”

“That was pretty gutsy of her.”

“Not just gutsy, but she really wanted to know why someone like me, stinking rich, powerful in my own world, would get involved with a conspiracy like the Salvation Project. And why other successful people would be part of it too. So I told her. We spent nearly three hours alone together.”

“How’d she react?”

“She pretty much agreed with me about what needed to be done to save the country, but she disagreed about our plan for doing it.”

Bowles biked in silence for a moment. “It sounds like you should have talked with her long before the election. It would have saved you a lot of money and trouble. Why do you suspect she might have set you up to be murdered?”

“Les, after our dinner I got into my car, parked right outside the White House. It was a driving rainstorm. I jumped into the back seat not realizing that the driver wasn’t Hughes, my regular guy. Whoever was in the driver’s seat turned around and smashed a towel against my face. I don’t know what was on it, but it knocked me out before I knew what was happening. When I woke up, I was in a doctor’s office. Luckily, my security guys were parked nearby and realized I was in trouble. They tracked the sensors in my car and chased off the fucker who gassed me. Then they took me to one of the docs on my medical team. If my guys hadn’t been sharp enough, whoever was behind it would have killed me and dumped my body somewhere.”

“And you think your meeting with Tenny was set up so she could do that to you?”

“That was my first guess. Who else would know I was there? So after I left the doc’s office, I found a place to hide. I needed time to think, time to stay out of sight. Let whoever tried to kill me think I might be dead from that shit they shoved up my nose. I didn’t want the FBI or CIA looking for me.”

“So now what will you do?”

“Since the election, the president’s been doing what she told me she’d do. I’ve been following it in the news. She’s saying the right things, putting together people to study the problems we talked about. I’m less inclined to think she was behind what happened to me. If it wasn’t her, it must have been the Salvation Project people. In that case, I need her help to get them off my back.”

“How?”

“I can give her more information so they can break up the Project. As long as they’re operational, I’m not safe, and she’s not safe either. They’re a ruthless crowd, Les. I didn’t realize that until late in last year’s campaign. When I got involved, I thought I was dealing with people like me who think humanity’s at risk and that we need to change things pretty fast to save it. Toward the end of the campaign, that’s not what I was seeing. What I saw was a bunch of murderous people who would do anything to get power. They’ve taken control of the Project. It’s the real threat now.”

“And what if you’re wrong about who tried to kill you? You’d be signing your own death warrant if you contact Tenny and she’s the one who set you up. She’s one tough lady, and I’m sure she holds grudges like the rest of us. Finding out you tried to kill her makes for one helluva grudge.”

“It’s a gamble. But I need to find out. I can’t hide forever. I need to make contact with Tenny. And I need to do it in a way the Project doesn’t find out. That means I can’t just pick up the phone and call her directly. That’s why I’ve come to you. I need your help.”

Bowles stopped riding.

You know that. Let’s go back to house. The place is guarded like Fort Knox. You’d be safe there.” He reached for a small box attached to his belt. “All I need to do is press this button and my security guys will be here in a minute.”

Gil shook his head. “No good, Les. I’ve thought this through. There’s no place to hide. How long could I stay with you without people raising questions? Word would get out. You and your whole family would be in danger. All my life, when I’ve had a problem, I’ve dealt with it, not ducked it. This is the biggest problem I’ve ever had. A real life-and-death problem.”

“How can I help, then?”

“Let’s ride and keep talking,” said Gil.

Morning light spilled through the lowest branches of a grove of pines. Gil’s forehead became a ruddy image behind a protective riding mask and gray wool cap. Only his eyes seemed to speak.

“Les, I need to meet with Tenny again. Find the safest way for me to get that message to her without calling her yourself or contacting her directly. That would tip off someone in the White House who might monitor her calls.”

“The Project has someone in the White House?” asked Bowles incredulously. “With all that security?”

“I’m sure,” said Gil. “That’s the only way they could have known I was meeting her for dinner. And they may be monitoring your contacts too. You need to go through a third party.”

They biked in silence to the point along the trail where Lester Bowles’s car and driver were waiting.

Gil reached into his pocket and pulled out a three-by-five card.

“Here’s my new cell number. When you’ve got a plan, get someone, not you, to call that number. Let it ring twice and then hang up. I’ll meet you the next morning just like this, for a ride down this trail. You’ll do it?”

Bowles removed his riding helmet and lightly tapped his friend’s with it. “And now where are you going?”

“I’ve got a place, safe for a while,” said Gil Adonis. “Remember, I grew up in Columbus, same as you. And I’ve got my own security guys waiting for me, same as you.”

If you want an email alert when Chapter 2 is posted, use the contact box

Comments? Criticism? Advice?

Your contact information appreciated but optional

5/5
5/5

OMG!! Early reviews say this is a blockbuster of a novel. Long-awaited next Rothstein novel coming June 3.  For sneak peak of Chapter 1, click on book cover.

5/5

Why I Write

Joe Rothstein’

Welcome to my corner of the Internet. It’s where I talk about my novels and about current events. I have a lot to discuss.

 

I sat down to write my first book when I was in my 20s. It didn’t take long for me to realize that I could not write a book because I had nothing useful to say. I’d have to live my life first. Among other things, between then and now:

 

–I was the advance man for a traveling automobile stunt show. In the act I was “Suicide Saunders.” (That’s my next book). 

 

–I sat, as an aide to the governor of Alaska, in the private quarters of the top military commander in Alaska, while he clutched a red telephone expecting a call telling him we were at nuclear war with Russia over the Cuban missile crisis. 

 

–I experienced the most powerful earthquake in U.S. history, in Alaska, and worked on rebuilding in the aftermath.

 

–I became editor of a daily newspaper, The Anchorage Daily News, before I was 30.

 

–I flew as a passenger with the Navy’s Blue Angels (and have the photo to prove it).

 

—-As chief of staff of a United States Senator I was deeply involved in the Pentagon Papers episode.

 

–I was political consultant to Congressman Peter Rodino of New Jersey as he presided of Richard Nixon’s impeachment.

 

–I worked as strategist and media producer to help elect and re-elect nine U.S. Senators, dozens of members of Congress, and countless other candidates.

 

–I’ve started five businesses, one which went public, and another that’s become an important Internet news distribution service.

 

–Also, I’ve had the experience of raising four sons and, among other things, coaching their Little League baseball team, which was one of the most intense political experiences I’ve ever had.

 

And now, in my 80s, I’ve written three novels with two more in progress. Having something to say no longer is an obstacle.

 

My first three novels feature a charismatic Mexican-American heiress who becomes the president of the United States and is confronted with a series of events like none other in U.S. history.

 

I hope you enjoy them. And if my words and thoughts in these novels and my current events blogs prompt responses from you, please share them with me at jrothstein@rothstein.net.

Newsletter

Want Joe’s opinion blogs delivered by email. Just give us your address here.