A lovesick expatriate Cuban, an unscrupulous Southern capitalist, and a sanitized Mafia heir scratching a mid-life itch come together in this barbed tale centered around a cache of Cuban cigars secured for JFK just before he tightened the embargo in 1963.
"synopsis" may belong to another edition of this title.
MEL McKINNEY is a retired trial lawyer who has published a number of articles and essays. This is his first novel. He lives with his family on California's Mendocino Coast.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
Where There's Smoke
ONE Washington, D.C. September 15, 1963 "ONE THOUSAND, ALL premium Cubans, is that what you said?" "You hear good, amigo. One thousand. Give or take a few. He has had them for two months." "How can you guarantee they will be his?" "Look, amigo, do you want them or not? They are his, just sitting up there in Massachusetts. I know others who would seize this opportunity. The way your father-in-law was talking the other night in my restaurant, he will kiss your feet for this. I owe you a favor, so I called you first. There, the debt is paid. You want them, you tell me now. I have no time for bullshit." The freshman congressman from Florida covered the telephone mouthpiece with his hand, sucked in a huge breath, and held it. This was more than politics; this was retaliation. His father-in-law, Cornelius Gessleman, thrived on retaliation. Even though the Cuban's proposal smacked of an inflated fraternity prank, Gessleman hadstewed over those thousand cigars since the rumors had surfaced. The Cuban was right: Gessleman would bathe his son-in-law in adoration when presented with the cigars. Wesley Trent Cameron exhaled slowly, clearing his mind. "I'll take them," he said, forcing a quaver from his voice. "Good. Congratulations. You will not be sorry." Then reality seeped through. "How much did you say?" "Amigo, maybe you do not hear so good after all. Twenty thousand." The Cuban ignored the silence. "Amigo, this will be a major operation, breaking into one of the most secure houses in the country. It will require a diversion, two teams of professionals." He paused. "Your father-in-law would not blink, you know. He would think it a bargain." My God, thought Cameron . Twenty thousand dollars. He would have to involve Gessleman from the outset. But the old robber baron would love that. Intrigue, vengeance, winning; these coursed through his father-in-law's veins, not blood cells. This venture would be sport compared to the ladder of broken backs mounted by Gessleman in his ruthless rise to privilege and fortune. Wesley Cameron also recognized a distinct, practical reason to get the cigars in the family. Cornelius Gessleman was eighty-six years old, and his doctor had cropped his cigar intake to one a day. At the same time, the congressman's own obsessive craving had escalated to three or four a day as he emulated his political hero, Winston Churchill. Yes, it would be convenient to have a thousand vintageCuban cigars in the family. Gessleman would hardly be able to smoke a dent in the prized cache by the time he ... "Amigo? Are you still with me?" "What? Oh, yeah, I'm still here. So how do we wrap this up?" "You get the twenty thousand together. You will know when I get the cigars." "How?" Cameron asked, leery of unnecessary contact with the Cuban. "Trust me, amigo, you will know--it will make the papers." The congressman thought about this. It would play nicely into the payback element. Gessleman would relish seeing the young president squirm as he answered reporters' questions about the theft of the cigars, the night of their purchase still shrouded in the hypocrisy of insider knowledge at the highest level. But publicity was always dangerous; like electricity, it needed to be channeled. "Is that wise? I mean, the papers and all? Look, I can't afford to be linked to anything like a theft or burglary. You know that." A chuckle. "Amigo, you are too much. You think me and some Pancho Villas are just going to break into his home and steal his cigars, guns blazing? Amigo, give me some credit." There was another pause. Cameron thought he could hear the Cuban breathing. Then the voice resumed. "Listen, I have a plan, a good one. Like a magic trick. Everyone looks to the right, and the bunny drops through the hole on the left. Get the money together. I will be in touch." "Wait!" said Cameron. "Give me some idea when. It's going to take some time to line up the cash." Actually, he knew he could get the money in minutes. Cornelius kept twice that much in a cigar box in his desk, just for pocket change. But he also knew his father-in-law was a stickler for details. He would demand a schedule. "Okay, amigo. This is September fifteenth. By the middle of November. Yes, by November fifteenth. Two months. No later." The line went dead. Congressman Cameron punched the intercom button, bringing his aide to the phone. "Sir?" came the pert voice. "Get me on the next flight from D.C. to Louisville. I need to meet with our number-one constituent."
One thousand miles south, in the heart of Miami's Little Havana, sweat glistened on Raul Salazar's forehead. The horns and shouts of the never-ending parade below his office window were muffled by the blood pounding in his head. Madre de Dios! he thought. What have I done? Had the stranglehold of the embargo conspired with his desire for Rosa to drive him crazy? And that magic-trick-bunny-rabbit farce he had rattled off; what possible diversion could make such a burglary possible? He would think of something. He had to. Rosa's fervored passion for this idiotic scheme she had hatched now ignited him. Raul lifted the phone and dialed the international operator. He recited the number in Mexico City for Dolores, Rosa's cousin. "Dolores? This is Raul. Listen carefully. Call Rosa andtell her it has begun. Do you understand? 'It has begun.' She will understand. Tell her that I will see her soon, in Kingston, as we planned. I must go. I have much to do." His eyes closed, Raul rested his finger on the phone peg, still trembling from his conversation with the congressman. Suddenly he was standing next to Head Nurse Rosa Solero at the single telephone serving the clinic in Cuba's rural highlands, his eyes feasting on her joy, his nostrils flaring at the scent of her excitement. A week earlier in Mexico City, as Rosa reclined in his arms, and her dark hair spilled across his chest, he had meant only to entertain her with Gessleman's drunken ravings about the Kennedy cigars. Her response had stunned him. "Why don't you steal the cigars for him, Raul? From what you say, he would pay handsomely for them. The money you send through Dolores is very generous, but your restaurant is failing. Use this Gessleman to help us buy the medicines Kennedy keeps from Cuba's children." She had propped herself up on one elbow, the taut nipple of her delicious left breast brushing his chest. Her eyes sparkled as she molded the impossible scheme. "You may not be my husband, but you can act like the husband you were going to be. Brave action is required, Raul. That monster Kennedy is killing Cuba's children. Every day his murderous 'embargo' devours one or two more." He had studied her face, searching for any trace of humor. Anyone proposing to steal the cigars of the president of the United States had to be joking. Instead of the glint of jest, he saw the irresistible blaze of revolution. "I will do this for you, I promise," he had said, drawn into the flame of her passion. She had rewarded him with a spontaneous burst of sensual joy that still seared his senses.
This promise, sealed in passion, could not be broken. Raul dialed his maître d' in the restaurant below. "Paulo, are Pedro and Jorge in the bar? Good. Ask them to come up and have a smoke with me, will you? Gracias." Raul brushed aside the stack of restaurant bills he could not pay, reminded of Rosa's truth. Noches Cubanas was failing. Though he managed to cover the wounds, he could not staunch the hemorrhage. Labor, food, maintenance, repairs, equipment; the weight of these bricks on his shoulders had become unbearable. The embargo was the last straw. Without Cuban cigars, Noches Cubanas would lose its luster. While his customers appreciated the excellent food, they came for the cigars. Rosa was right. Brave action was required. It was time to back up the bravado of his promise and the lure of the cape he had fluttered at the congressman. Raul selected three Bolivar Coronas Gigantes from his humidor. Magnificent plans call for a magnificent smoke, he thought, preparing the corpulent cigars. WHERE THERE'S SMOKE. Copyright © 1999 by Mel McKinney. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews. For information, address St. Martin's Press, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10010.
"About this title" may belong to another edition of this title.
Book Description U.S.A.: Thomas Dunne Books, 1999. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. Dust Jacket Condition: New. 1st Edition...... 5156 Language: eng Language: eng Language: eng Language: eng Language: eng Language: eng. Bookseller Inventory # 4A-30-C
Book Description Thomas Dunne Books, 1999. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. book. Bookseller Inventory # M0312206232
Book Description Thomas Dunne Books, 1999. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. Never used!. Bookseller Inventory # P110312206232