Date Published: 7/31/2020
Publisher: Regal House Publishing
It’s 1909, and Teddy Roosevelt is not only hunting in Africa, he’s being hunted. The safari is a time of discovery, both personal and political. In Africa, Roosevelt encounters Sudanese slave traders, Belgian colonial atrocities, and German preparations for war. He reconnects with a childhood sweetheart, Maggie, now a globe-trotting newspaper reporter sent by William Randolph Hearst to chronicle safari adventures and uncover the former president’s future political plans. But James Pierpont Morgan, the most powerful private citizen of his era, wants Roosevelt out of politics permanently. Afraid that the trust-busting president’s return to power will be disastrous for American business, he plants a killer on the safari staff to arrange a fatal accident. Roosevelt narrowly escapes the killer’s traps while leading two hundred and sixty-four men on foot through the savannas, jungles, and semi-deserts of Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Congo, and Sudan.
About the Author
James A. Ross has at various times been a Peace Corps Volunteer, a CBS News Producer in the Congo, a Congressional Staffer and a Wall Street Lawyer. His short fiction has appeared in numerous literary publications and his short story, Aux Secours, was nominated for a Pushcart prize. His debut historical novel, HUNTING TEDDY ROOSEVELT won the Independent Press Distinguished Favorite Award for historical fiction, and was shortlisted for the Goethe Historical Fiction Award. His debut mystery/thriller, COLDWATER REVENGE, launched in April 2021 and is available wherever books are sold. Ross’s on-line stories and live performances can be found at: https://jamesrossauthor.com.
A man always has two reasons for what he does—a good reason, and the real one.J. P. Morgan
NEW YORK CITY
THIRTY-TWO YEARS LATER
J. P. Morgan stood at a window of his Manhattan townhouse and watched his two guests alight from separate horse-drawn carriages. Neither was aware he was about to help plan the assassination of the outgoing president of the United States.
Andrew Carnegie, aging steel tycoon and the wealthiest man in the world, emerged from his plain black coach accompanied by a grey-coated footman who brushed snow from the old man’s cape and lent an arm for support. Behind him, William Randolph Hearst emerged unassisted from a gold-trimmed carriage as large and gaudy as Carnegie’s was plain. Ignoring the wind and the cold, the newspaper publisher lifted his chin toward lower Manhattan as if to survey a tiny portion of his rapidly growing dominion. Then turning toward the townhouse, he mounted the snow-covered stairs two at a time.
Inside, a uniformed butler ushered Hearst and Carnegie into the library, while another brought hot cider in a silver pitcher to the teetotaler Carnegie, and a Cointreau to the newspaperman Hearst.
“Gentleman,” said J. P. Morgan when the butler had finished serving libations and closed the twenty-foot high mahogany doors behind him. “Our esteemed and soon to be ex-president, Theodore Roosevelt, has decided to follow George Washington’s example and not run for a third term. When he leaves office in a few weeks, he will lead an expedition to Africa to collect specimens of various game animals for the Smithsonian Museum and the New York Museum of Natural History.”
“Hear, hear,” said Hearst.
Carnegie fixed a rheumy eye on Morgan and said nothing.
“The museum sponsors will be content if our beloved president slaughters a sufficient number of beasts to fill their exhibit halls, but we, the financial and journalistic backers of the Roosevelt safari, have different measures of success. I’ve asked you here so that we might discuss what we hope to gain from our respective investments of money and newsprint, to help each other if possible, and, at a minimum, to avoid working at cross purposes.”
Carnegie put down his cup of hot cider and waved a bony finger at Morgan. “We know what you want, Pierpont: Roosevelt out of the country for a year so you can work with his successor to undo all that trust-busting nonsense. If he should take up with some African princess and never come back, so much the better!”
Morgan inclined his head. “Indeed, Andrew. I believe our cowboy president to be a fool of the worst kind: capable, energetic, convinced of his own myopic wisdom, enormously popular, and damn near unstoppable. But as long as he intends to gift the country with a temporary respite from his overbearing personality, I would like to use that gift to good purpose. As do you.”
Carnegie drove the tip of his mahogany cane into the Persian rug at his feet. “Yes. To put those fine qualities you just listed to work for a higher purpose—peace and progress.”
Morgan cocked his head.
“Unlike you, Pierpont, I’m fond of our presidential cyclone. He doesn’t understand business. We all know that. But he’s a force of nature. Unstoppable. Once he’s out of office, I want to harness that force on behalf of progress.”
Hearst placed his Cointreau on the small rosewood table at his side. “What did you have in mind, Andrew?”
“World peace. As I’ve said and written.”
Hearst laughed. “Theodore Roosevelt? Cowboy, Rough Rider, builder of the Great White Fleet? He’s a warmonger, sir.”
“You should talk!” Carnegie snapped.
The self-assured young publisher seemed to enjoy provoking the older Carnegie, but Morgan needed both for what he had in mind.
Carnegie ignored Hearst and addressed himself to Morgan. “The Swedes gave Roosevelt their Nobel Prize for helping the Russians and Japanese mend their differences after Port Arthur. I want him do the same with the Kaiser, the French, and the British. To talk them out of their disastrous arms race. In exchange for my paying half the safari’s costs, our peace-loving president has agreed to stop in Berlin on his way back from Africa to meet with the German Kaiser. What I want, since you ask, are arrangements for his protection. I don’t care to spend a small fortune financing the largest safari in history, only to have some savage put an end to world peace with the point of a spear.”
Morgan exhaled a cloud of cigar smoke and watched it rise toward the Mowbray mural overhead. “U.S. Steel has the Pinkertons on permanent hire. I can arrange for them to guard President Roosevelt while he’s on safari. But is another European war such a bad thing? For America, I mean.”
Carnegie choked on his cider, glaring sideways at Hearst and then at Morgan. “Don’t tell me you’ve become a warmonger, too, Pierpont! I’ve spent half my life making steel and watching the god-awful things people do to each other with it. Do you know that there’s a cannon now that can hurl a hundred-pound shell thirty miles and level a whole city block? Guns that can fire a thousand bullets a minute? Modern war is insanity!”
Morgan exhaled a cloud of smoke and watched it rise toward the ceiling. “You misunderstand me, Andrew. I’ve read your books and I admire your principles. But the American economy is now as strong as any in Europe. If England, France and Germany get into another war and America stays out, that may be our nation’s chance to finally fulfill its destiny: to become the dominant global power and reap the rewards that go with it.”
Carnegie shook his head in disappointment.
Hearst rolled a cut glass tumbler between his palms and smiled. “An interesting point, Mr. Morgan. But I must confess that my newspapers are more experienced at promoting foreign wars than keeping us out of them.”
“A legacy I wouldn’t want to defend when my time came,” Carnegie muttered.
Morgan raised a hand. “What does Congressman Hearst see as a satisfactory outcome to the Roosevelt safari? Or Publisher Hearst, if you prefer.”
The newspaperman put down his drink. “They’re the same. Congressman and publisher both want an African version of the Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show. Ivory-fanged lions and dark African maidens. Not a word on domestic politics or global affairs. Theodore Roosevelt returns from Africa as famous as ever, but as a gaudy adventurer, not a serious politician. My newspapers will sell a million copies, and no one will consider Roosevelt a serious candidate if he decides to run for president again in 1912. Remember, his pledge was not to run for a third consecutive term. He left the door wide open for another nonconsecutive term.”
“Do you have someone else in mind for the position, Randolph?”
Hearst smiled and remained silent. Morgan knew perfectly well who the Hearst newspapers planned to promote as the next president of the United States—their owner and publisher, William Randolph Hearst.
Lighting his twentieth cigar of the day, Morgan tossed the cutting into a fifteenth-century Italian marble fireplace deep enough to roast several of Roosevelt’s African big game animals together. “Well gentlemen, our views of a successful African safari may differ, but our actions needn’t interfere with one another. I will arrange protection for Citizen Roosevelt to see that he comes to no harm before he can meet with the German Kaiser on behalf of world peace. I will use the coming months to educate the incoming administration on the benefits of a less hostile relationship with business. Mr. Hearst’s newspapers will provide ample coverage of African animal slaughter, but not a drop of ink about our former president’s idiotic views on global economics or business regulation. As long as we get what we want, Mr. Carnegie and I will continue to provide the Smithsonian with funds to pay for this enormous undertaking. Are we agreed?”
Hearst raised his tumbler. Carnegie nodded. Morgan suppressed a smile.
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