• The President Killed His Wife
  • Counterblow
  • Never Bloodless
  • The Atomic Eagle
  • Sigma Division
  • The Kennedy Secret
  • The Gilded Treachery
  • Histats

Read a preview of The Kennedy Secret

Here is an excerpt from my thriller The Kennedy Secret. It is currently available for download in multiple formats — dare I say every format — at this location.

Prologue

It was June 5, 1968 and no one noticed the intruder. It was understandable, really. Music was blaring through the Ambassador Hotel and people were partying up a storm amid the fallen balloons. Robert Francis Kennedy was beginning to believe he might have a shot at becoming the next President, having just won the California primary.

Bobby’s eyes rested on the intruder for a moment but he thought nothing of it. It was just a kid, early 20s, like most of his base. There was something in his eyes though. They were blank, not expressing satisfaction like the other supporters. He was about to say something about it when he was ushered by his aides out of the ballroom.

He saw Fred Dutton and his bodyguard Bill Barry move to the left. At the same time he was engulfed by the crowd. Standing nearby, the hotel maître d’ noticed what was happening. He had seen his share of celebrities and he knew what to do.

“This way, Senator. There’s a shortcut through the back.”

Positively surrounded, Bobby didn’t have a choice and simply moved with the swarm toward the kitchen. They entered a passageway made narrower by the presence of tray-stackers and an ice machine. A figure cut them off.

It was him. It was the intruder.

As the first shot rang out, Bobby didn’t think about his wife or children. All he could see flash through his mind was the odd meeting he’d had two weeks ago.

*   *   *

The view of the San Francisco Bay was breathtaking, he thought. The morning fog over the city was thicker than usual. It was also a little frightening. It felt claustrophobic, like a white blanket was trying to smother him. Bobby sure didn’t need to feel like this at the moment.

He was a first-term senator representing the state of New York. He was 42 but looked older than his years. Wrinkles were multiplying in his face and his skin was losing color. Politics had a way of doing that to a man.

As always, he was doing three things at once. He was redoing his tie because the knot was crooked, he was going over his schedule for the day, and he was drinking some coffee. He was halfway through his cup and he already wanted a second one.

To make matters worse, he couldn’t have breakfast. A club – Lions, Rotary, Elk, he’d have to check to make sure which – was having a breakfast for him. It was a good opportunity for a stump speech but it meant he’d have to hold off eating even one lousy toast, lest he lost his appetite and offended somebody.

There was a knock at his Fairmont Hotel bedroom door and a moment later a charming young lady walked in carrying some files.

“Good morning, Bobby. I have the op-eds from the L.A. papers you wanted to see. George wants to go over last night’s speech, he isn’t happy you changed around three paragraphs, and Peter wants to know if we can play around with this afternoon’s schedule. He says the VFW could be interested in organizing something for you.”

She dropped off the file and left.

Bobby kept getting impressed by her. She was just a volunteer but she acted as if she was the one running the show. The best part – maybe the worst part – was that she was easy on the eyes. All-American blonde with legs that went down to Bakersfield and a chest that… Better think about something else, he told himself.

He was happy Ethel was in Massachusetts at the moment, it eased the guilt. His brother Jack would probably have sampled her charms seven ways from Sunday but he wasn’t like him. It wasn’t that it was against God’s ways. He simply loved his wife too much.

He scanned the file she’d given him. Some people liked the way he ran his campaign and some didn’t. Some pundits were even calling him a Communist but that was to be expected. He drained his coffee, glanced at his watch, and tied his necktie for a second time.

The young lady knocked again and came in.

“Excuse me, Senator,” she said, making him believe with her formality that there was someone standing behind her somewhere in the suite.

“Yes?”

“There’s somebody here to see you, says it’s important.”

“We’re on a tight schedule this morning, I can’t miss the Shriners breakfast.”

“Kiwanis,” she said, giving him the answer he was looking for.

A man, late fifties with thick white hair, pushed past the young intern and stepped into the bedroom. He was wearing a finely tailored charcoal suit and the watch on his wrist was a pricey Patek Philippe. The man indeed looked important.

“I’m sorry to bother you, Senator Kennedy,” he began. “I know your time is precious at this juncture in the campaign but I have something to discuss with you that can’t wait.”

“Well, maybe we can make an appointment for later today. I can probably see you for a few minutes before dinner tonight.”

“I’m here for something related to your father, sir.”

At that, Bobby stopped finicking with his tie and turned to the young lady who was following the exchange with both personal and professional enthusiasm.

“It’s okay,” he said. “Give us a few moments.”

She nodded and left, closing the door behind her. Bobby led the older man to one of the two armchairs by the window. They sat down.

“What about my father? Is he all right?”

“Yes, Senator. I suppose he is, under the circumstances.”

Joseph Kennedy, the clan patriarch, had suffered a debilitating stroke in December 1961 and his health had been fragile ever since. Now he permanently stayed at the family estate in Hyannis Port.

“What is this about then?” Bobby asked with both curiosity and a small measure of annoyance at being disturbed.

“My name is David Anderson Connolly. I’m a senior partner with the law firm of Joiner, Keith & Carter in Chicago.”

“I’ve heard of it, it’s pretty high profile. Civil law, right?”

“That’s correct, I specialize in probate and family estates. I’m handling some legal matters for your father.”

“That’s impossible. My father’s legal affairs are handled by a firm in Boston. My brother Ted and I deal with most of it ourselves.”

“Which is why I’m here today. There’s a certain issue your father didn’t want handled by his regular attorneys. We’ve had a document in our possession for over two decades. Mr. Kennedy has contacted the firm and charged me with giving it to you.”

He put his briefcase on the table and retrieved a letter-size envelope. It had once been white but was now turning a dirty shade of yellow. Without waiting, Bobby took it from the older man’s loose grip.

He turned it over in his hands and saw it was sealed. With an experienced finger, he tore the envelope open. In it he found a single sheet of paper. A small key fell to the ground when he unfolded it. He picked it up and read the letter’s four lines.

“What’s this?” he asked in confusion.

“I don’t know, Senator. I’m not aware of the content of this document. What I know is that your father told me this letter comes with two clauses.”

“Which are?”

“First, you can absolutely not tell anyone about this document. Not your campaign staff, not your friends, not your mother, not your attorneys, and certainly not your wife.”

“And the second clause?” Bobby asked as he played with the small key. It was made of brass but looked mass-produced and cheap.

“You are to comply with what is written in this letter only in the event of your father’s death or if you feel you’re going to lose the election.”

“Why?”

“I’m not privy to that information, Senator. All I know is that if you don’t agree to these clauses I’m supposed to take the letter back. There are other stipulations at the office in the event you refuse.”

“No, I accept. I’ll take the letter.”

“Keep it in a secure place. I would keep it on my person until I could find a proper safe deposit box if I were you.”

The distinguished attorney took his leave while Bobby reread the letter. He was frustrated that he didn’t understand what it meant or why his father had never told him about it or why some obscure Chicago lawyer was entrusted with it.

He wanted to call his father about it but there was no time. His schedule was already overbooked and he barely even had time to think. He undid his necktie and proceeded to knot it for a third and final time.

*   *   *

As the three bullets entered his head, Bobby couldn’t help but realize that he wasn’t being shot because of his politics. No, it was because of that document which had since been stolen from his hotel safe.

He was being shot because of the family secret.

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