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The Patriot Threat
Author:Steve Berry

The Patriot Threat by Steve Berry




For Sam Berry, my father






This is my first novel with Minotaur Books, part of Macmillan Publishers. The experience has been wonderful. My sincere thanks go out to John Sargent, head of Macmillan, Sally Richardson, who captains St. Martin’s, and my publisher, Andrew Martin. Also, a sincere debt of gratitude is offered to Hector DeJean in Publicity; Jeff Dodes and everyone in Marketing and Sales, especially Paul Hochman; Jen Enderlin, the sage of all things paperback; David Rotstein, who produced the cover, Steven Seighman for the excellent interior design work, and Mary Beth Roche and the folks in Audio.


As always, thank you Simon Lipskar for another great job.


And to my editor, Kelley Ragland, it’s been a joy getting to know you.


A few extra mentions: Meryl Moss and her extraordinary publicity team (especially Deb Zipf and JeriAnn Geller); Jessica Johns and Esther Garver, who continue to keep Steve Berry Enterprises running smoothly; M. J. Rose, one of the original members of the Plotters Club; and Richard Stamm, curator of the Smithsonian Castle (for pointing me toward a clever desk).


As always, to my wife, Elizabeth, who remains the most special of all.


This novel is dedicated to Harold Earl “Sam” Berry, who is the namesake of Harold Earl “Cotton” Malone. How each acquired his respective nickname remains a mystery.


What’s not in doubt is the effect both men have had on my life.






No feeling in the world is greater, more ennobling and more sacred than patriotism.
















5:00 P.M.


Franklin Roosevelt hated being in the same room with his infamous visitor, but he appreciated the need for them to talk. He’d been president four years, but three weeks from now history will mark his second inauguration, the first held on January 20. Before that the oath had always been taken on March 4, commemorative of the exact day, in 1789, when the Constitution first took effect. But the 20th Amendment changed that. A good idea, actually, shortening the time after the November election day. Too much of a lame duck made for a dead duck. He liked being a part of change. Hated the way anything was once done.


And he particularly despised any member of the “old order.”


Like his visitor.


Andrew Mellon had served ten years and eleven months as secretary of Treasury. He started with Harding in 1921, then worked for Coolidge before being eased from office by Hoover. He completed his government service with one year as ambassador to the Court of St. James, finally retiring in 1933. Mellon was a staunch Republican, then and now one of the wealthiest men in the country, the living embodiment of “old order” wisdom the New Deal longed to change.


“Here, Mr. President, is my offer. I hope it can be carried out.”


Mellon handed over a piece of paper.


He’d invited this pariah to afternoon tea because his advisers had cautioned him that you can kick a mean dog only so long.


And he’d been kicking Andrew Mellon for three years.


It started just after his first inauguration. He’d instructed the Bureau of Internal Revenue to audit Mellon’s 1931 tax returns. There’d been departmental resistance to his over-exercise of presidential power—words to the effect that Internal Revenue should not be used as a political weapon—but his directive had been carried out. Mellon had claimed a $139,000 refund. The government found that he owed $3,089,000. Charges of tax evasion were brought, but a grand jury declined to indict. Undaunted, Roosevelt ordered the Justice Department to proceed civilly and a trial was held in the Board of Tax Appeals, involving fourteen months of testimony and evidence. It had ended only a few weeks ago.


They occupied the Oval Study on the second floor, his favorite spot in the White House to conduct business. It had an overcrowded, lived-in look from packed bookcases, ship models, and a confusion of paper piled everywhere. A fire raged in the hearth. He’d abandoned his wheelchair and sat on the sofa, Attorney General Homer Cummings beside him. Accompanying Mellon was David Finley, a close associate of the former secretary.


He and Cummings read Mellon’s offering.


It laid out a proposal for the establishment of an art museum, to be located on the National Mall, which Mellon would erect at his own expense. The building not only would become a repository for Mellon’s own massive collection, it would also accommodate future acquisitions.


To be called the National Gallery of Art.


“Not the Andrew W. Mellon Gallery?” he asked.


“I do not want my name publicly associated with the building.”


He appraised his visitor, who sat ramrod-straight, head held high, not a muscle moving, as if presidents still bowed to his every whim. He’d always wondered why three would choose the same man for their cabinet. He could understand the first—Harding, a weak and inept fool—and maybe even the second—Coolidge, who’d finished out the term after Harding had the good sense to die two years into office. But in 1924, when Coolidge earned his own four years, why not select a new Treasury secretary? That made sense. Every president did. Then Hoover repeated the mistake, reappointing Mellon in 1929, only to finally be rid of him three years later.


He said, “It states here that the gallery will be managed by a private board of nine trustees, five appointed by you. It was my understanding that this institution would be administered by the Smithsonian.”


“It shall be. But I want the gallery’s internal operation to be wholly independent of the government, as the Smithsonian currently enjoys. That point is non-negotiable.”