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  • Published: 14 May 2024
  • ISBN: 9780241667651
  • Imprint: Michael Joseph
  • Format: Trade Paperback
  • Pages: 400
  • RRP: $34.99

Clive Cussler’s The Heist

Extract

When Woodrow Wilson entered the lavish dining room aboard the presidential yacht, Mayflower, the men seated around the conference table got to their feet and turned to him in silent reverence. The slender President was dressed in a fashionable mocha- colored lounge suit that seemed to add to his tall stature. He had a long, some said horsey, face, while his stance and expression were that of a stern schoolmaster. But when his lips parted, a velvety voice laced with humility and intelligence enraptured all within earshot.

 “Gentlemen, please take a seat before a Potomac River cross-current forces the issue.”

A ripple of laughter reverberated through the room as the men visibly relaxed and retook their seats with the President. A whitegloved steward closed the doors behind the chief executive while two Secret Service agents took up station just outside the room.

“Thank you all for joining me today,” Wilson said as he settled at the head of the table. “The captain informed me that we will cast off shortly. We will head down river to our planned lunch at Mount Vernon, although I’m sure there are some in this town who would prefer that we keep on sailing, all the way to South America,” he added, to a flourish of grins. “While this would be a prime opportunity for a few hands of poker and a good cigar among new friends, we do have a bit of business to conduct.” He tilted his head a moment, then turned to the steward. “On second thought, there’s no reason we can’t enjoy a smoke and a drink in the process.”

Wilson was relatively new to politics, having won the White House only two years after being elected the governor of New Jersey, but he’d been a college dean for many years prior and knew how to lead. And having garnered nearly fifty percent of the popular vote in a three-candidate race, he enjoyed a strong mandate to do so.

The twenty-eighth President of the United States was given a rosewood box of cigars and he handed it to the man on his left. As the cigars were passed around the room, the steward returned with a tray of shot glasses and a bottle of amber liquid with a label so old it was peeling away.

“This is our first meeting together and it must be one of celebration. This bottle of scotch was a congratulatory gift from H. H. Asquith, England’s prime minister, upon my inauguration. I’m told it was aged in a barrel for fifty years and has been in this bottle another fifty.”

Shots were poured and the room was soon wreathed in aromatic smoke. The consensus was the whiskey was the finest any had ever enjoyed. “I might just be compelled to run for reelection if Asquith will promise another bottle for a second inauguration,” Wilson said to more laughter.

The meeting on the yacht was the culmination of years of work and careful negotiations across party lines and involving all three branches of the government. The President, knowing he had his audience, began his speech.

“If I were to claim the absolute brain trust of American banking was assembled before me today, there wouldn’t be a dissenting voice in all the nation. Each of you have dozens of years of experience running some of our most successful banks and now each of you has agreed to head one of the twelve newly created Federal Reserve Banks and fi nally give the country the centralized monetary system it needs as we forge ahead.”

“I need not tell this august group that the United States is growing or that the budding twentieth century will be our time to shine among the nations of the world. But in order for us to reach our fullest potential, we must come together in a more centralized fashion.”

He was greeted by murmurs of agreement.

“We saw less than twenty-five years ago how the states and even individual counties set their own time standards. Efficient railroad scheduling was nigh impossible as a result, and fatal accidents occurred with regularity. It took all the railroad owners coming together to codify the system of regulated time zones we use today.

“That is but one example of how our nation’s needs have outstripped our ability to meet them at a state or local level. The devastating bank runs we endure on a cyclical basis are another example of how America is falling behind the rest of the civilized world. The Panic of 1907 nearly ruined many of us and left countless businesses and individuals destroyed in its wake. I imagine each of you had at least one acquaintance or close friend endhis life because of his ruination.”

Heads nodded around the table.

“The individual states will maintain all of the rights laid out in our Constitution, but the federal government must take a stronger leadership role and that begins with a private, centralized banking system overseen by the board I have appointed.”

The men in the room hung on Wilson’s every word. All but one man. Peering out a side porthole in boredom, Isaac Bell, lead detective for the Van Dorn Agency, found few topics less appealing than banking.


Clive Cussler’s The Heist Jack Du Brul

Isaac Bell returns for another white-knuckled mission in a new installment of the thrilling series

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