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  • The Gun Runner's Daughter
  • Written by Neil Gordon
  • Format: eBook | ISBN: 9780307803115
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The Gun Runner's Daughter

A Novel

Written by Neil GordonAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Neil Gordon

eBook

List Price: $7.99

eBook

On Sale: December 07, 2011
Pages: | ISBN: 978-0-307-80311-5
Published by : Random House Random House Group
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Synopsis|Excerpt

Synopsis

In 1995, Neil Gordon's Sacrifice of Isaac was one of the most acclaimed novels of the year. Newsday said it "immediately vaults Gordon into the company of John le Carré and Graham Greene." The Washington Post called it "one of those rare works of fiction that are both edifying and almost sinfully pleasurable." The San Francisco Chronicle described it as "the best kind of page-turner."
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Now Neil Gordon returns with The Gun Runner's Daughter, an equally compelling tale of moral and psychological suspense, the story of two lawyers who fall in love while they are on opposite sides of an arms-dealing scandal.
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For twenty-seven years, Allison Rosenthal has lived the life of the liberal elite, from summers in Martha's Vineyard to her studies at Yale. But when her father is indicted on federal charges and his profession--arms dealing--is exposed to public scrutiny, her placid life changes radically. And when her secret childhood lover is named as her father's prosecuting attorney, she must decide where her loyalties lie in a trial that is rocking the presidential administration.
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Does family come before politics? Love before law? Truth before loyalty? These are the questions the gun runner's daughter must face as she tries to negotiate the dangerous and murky world of her father's profession and the ambiguous morality of power politics in America and Israel. In this audaciously entertaining intellectual thriller, Neil Gordon brings the personal and political together with the mastery of a great storyteller.


From the Hardcover edition.

Excerpt

July 1, 1994.
New York City.

1.

Only the innocent wake unafraid.
Six months earlier, she had woken when the telephone rang, muted and frantic beyond the bedroom door, and fear expanded in her like a spill of cold water on ice.
A bitter wind on her face.
A distant thunder outside.
In a fluid movement she was up, her body moving of its own volition, turning on the lamp. She was in her bedroom on Jane Street, in New York City. The cold was the air conditioner next to her bed; the thunder fireworks booming through the Village streets. It was night, or rather morning, July the first, and she was leaving in a few hours for Martha's Vineyard, where she was to meet her father at their summer house for the holiday weekend.

Under a sleeveless T-shirt her breathing eased and from her face, tanned and lightly covered with freckles on fair skin, the fear lifted, leaving no trace. Her eyes were a muted green in the dark, wide awake now, perfectly aware. Her hair, blond and heavy, untangling from the pillow, fell shoulder length.

And the telephone was ringing.
But only the innocent wake unafraid. Only the innocent close their eyes in movies, turn from danger, hesitate in fright. Allison Rosenthal went directly through the bedroom door into the living room, stepping smoothly through the trapezoids of light cast by streetlamps through the windows, and without hesitation approached the source of her fear.

Bob Stein, her father's lawyer.
"Allison. Now listen to me, doll. Your dad was arrested yesterday in Arizona. I'm on my way out. He said you could pick up a couple things for him at his place."
"Arrested for what?"
Stein's voice changed pitch. "A screwup, darling. We'll have it straightened out by dinnertime. Can you pop up to your dad's place and then down to my office? I'm on my way in. Then I got to catch a plane, so you need to step on it, honey."

His confidence was clearly forced. She hung up and returned to the bedroom. From her hips she slid the white gym shorts, from her torso the sleeveless T-shirt. Around her neck, falling to the top of her breasts, hung a heavy golden Star of David, and it swung free of her skin as she turned to the clock. It was four a.m.

Her father, she knew, would need fresh clothes, toiletries, and money--a lot of money. He would need a passport, preferably an Israeli one. All of these could be found at his apartment at 454 Park. Shifting her attention, she put on jeans, a black cotton shirt, sandals. Comfortable clothes she had expected to wear that day on the drive up to Woods Hole. Instead, she wore them into the liquid heat of the street and found a cab.

On the way she stopped at a Korean for the Times, where Ronald Rosenthal's arrest was already front-page news.

2.

His business in Phoenix had concluded the morning before. His assistants were dispatched back to the New York office, his security returned to the embassy. That afternoon he was to fly out: a Falcon Gulfstream was at the airport, and it would land him nonstop in Martha's Vineyard. There was no hurry. His daughter would not be there until the following day.

He had a leisurely lunch in the restaurant of the Grand Hyatt. A squat, handsome man, filled with the ease of wealth, eating expensive food with huge, vital appetite. After lunch he packed and stepped into the shower: Ronald Rosenthal spent a good portion of his life in planes and he knew that hot water immediately before and after a flight obviated most of its bad effects. It was while he was wet that he heard noises in his room. For a time, perfectly still, he listened. Then understanding dawned and he opened the glass door.
There were seven federal agents in the bathroom, weapons drawn. They cuffed him and took him naked into the bedroom. In the hallway, a team was staged: they didn't know he had returned his bodyguards. There were a lot--a lot--of nerves in the room.
Dripping with water, he had a strange dignity as he tried to calm his frightened captors.

"Listen to me. I'm unarmed, I'm unguarded. For God's sake, I'm naked."
An agent placed him formally under arrest. The charge was arms export control violations. Rosenthal was profoundly surprised.
"Do you know who you're talking to?"
When the agent answered in the affirmative, he shrugged and held out his wrists.
"Then undo these so that I can get dressed."

In the summer dawn, Allison read the story in the taxi to her father's apartment at 454 Park. So much for the weekend. So much for the Fourth of July weekend, her first chance to go to the island all summer, the first chance to see her father in months. A bitter moment of resentment crossed her stomach. Then, as if in compensation, she suddenly saw what her father had seen when he stepped out of his shower. Some of the federal agents arresting him were women, impassively watching a naked Jew.

3.

"Now Allison, you're not to be scared. Ron'll be out tonight. If he's not, it's utterly out of the question they won't let us post bail on a holiday weekend. So above all, don't you worry."

Once again, Bob Stein's orotund voice carried no conviction. He wore a crisp shirt with colored collar, dark blue tie hanging carelessly open. His hair, silk-thin and white, lay groomed across his pink scalp, his fingernails as he poured and drank a cup of coffee were buffed and trim at the end of his soft, long-fingered hands, one thin wrist adorned with a Mercier. His grooming, somehow, reassured her. When, however, she raised her eyes to his face, in the gray of his smooth-shaved cheeks, she saw exhaustion, then anxiety, and for the first time she began to feel seriously concerned. Bob was speaking.

"What do you know about this business, honey?"
"As little as possible."
"Is that right?" Stein regarded her appraisingly: a blond woman of twenty-seven in jeans and a black shirt. No one had ever believed that her short, dark father had provided the world with two such beautiful children: Pauly too had been blond, tall, and heartrendingly handsome. And no one had ever believed that either of them was Jewish, nor their regal blond mother, but they were. Ronald Rosenthal might have a fluid definition of legality, but he was not about to marry a shiksa.
"How's school?" Stein asked, as though the subject had not changed.
Disarmed by the non sequitur, she shrugged, and perhaps now he saw more a girl than a woman. "How's law school ever?"
"You're in first year?"
"Just finished second."

"Yeah." Stein's voice, suddenly, shifted, and Allison saw that the non sequitur had been deliberate. "Well honey, a third-year law student at NYU. Cum laude from Yale, am I right? Phi Beta Kappa? You know something about your dad's affairs, I'm guessing."
In a neutral voice, she answered with some respect: Bob knew how to be blunt.

"Daddy represents the Falcon Corporation in America. The Falcon Corporation is an Israeli defense manufacturer and dealer. The New York office brokers deals for the Israeli defense technologies, works codevelopment deals with American companies, and handles fulfillment of U.S. sales, grants, and other transfers to Israel."

And yet while she recited, she heard another account, Pauly's account, as he had once delivered it, drunk, at a Yale party when someone had asked him what his father's company did. "Falcon Corporation? Why, Falcon sells Wide Area Penetration Tools for use in Soft-Target-Rich Environments, of course, as well as Very Large Potentially Disruptive Reentry Vehicles and Violence Processing Equipment. All of it is in the interest of something called National Security, which is a term that seems to make the most sense to the people making large profits by it."

Bob brought her back to the present, speaking conversationally.
"Alley, honey, your dad's charged with illegally selling military supplies to the Bosnian Muslims in contravention of the U.N. embargo."
She listened, watching out the sun-flooded window, her green eyes, catching the morning light, nearly on fire. Even she, who tried not to know about such things, knew this was untrue. Clinton was known to oppose the embargo, in fact, had recently sent Warren Christopher to try to overturn it.

"Bob. I don't care what my father was arrested for, so I certainly don't need to be lied to."
"I'm not lying." Stein spoke very slowly now, and carefully. "There's either something we don't understand, or the arrest was a mistake. Either way, we'll have him out tonight. It's the Fourth of July weekend, for Christ sake."
Standing again, she opened her bag and unpacked her father's things under Bob's suddenly attentive eye. "You do that, Bob. Now, there's my dad's stuff, okay? Can I go now?"
"Go where?"
"To the island. I got a four o'clock ferry at Woods Hole."

4.

She did not need to be lied to. She had always known about it. Once, for a month, the entire building staff of their apartment block in Borough Park had been replaced by Secret Service agents; once the Hebrew day school on Forty-ninth Street where she was in fifth grade and Pauly in third had been ringed for a full week by the NYPD. Years later, Leslie Cockburn reported that each occurrence had been to protect against a death threat, the first against her father by the Tupac Amaru when the Falcon Corporation had been selling helicopters to the Peruvian military at Carter's behest; the second against her and Pauly by a business competitor based in Lebanon.
In those days, she had a kind of respect for him. Her classmates' fathers were chemists, shopkeepers, small businessmen. Hers was a romantic, elusive figure, in and out of the country day to day. But that was long ago. When Reagan came, there was no longer any need for that kind of person; the industry in which her father had made his fortune came entirely above ground, and slowly her respect for him waned.

That was the difference between Allison and her younger brother: she knew him before Reagan, he only after. To Pauly he was just a businessman who dealt in instruments of death. Once she had tried to tell him, but he'd shrugged it off with the insolence of the young.

"Don't give me that, Alley. Death dealing isn't Zionism."
"You don't get it. Ben-Gurion built an arms industry when no one else in the world would arm them. The '48 war, right after the Holocaust: Pauly, it was life or death, you know that. And because they had to arm themselves once, they think they have to be able to do it again. No matter what it costs."
"No matter what it costs other countries, you mean. It's bullshit, Alley. It's 1990, not 1948: Israel's about as likely to be annihilated as New Jersey. They sold to the Shah, to Mobuto, to South Africa. Now they can't give arms exports up for the same reason Bush can't: they need the fucking money."

Pauly, after all, had been able to forget Borough Park, the neighborhood of her own childhood where Yiddish, Hebrew, and Russian are spoken more than English and which harbors more camp survivors per capita than anywhere else in the world--a population that included Ronald Rosenthal's parents, survivors of Dachau. He had shed the past as quickly as he'd removed his kipah and abandoned David--a king's name--for Paul the first day of school in their new neighborhood, Brooklyn Heights, where Rosenthal had moved his children in 1980. God, how she'd hated to see him do that, or rather, hated to see the ease with which he'd done it. Still, she too had introduced herself in the new neighborhood, and ever since, as Allison rather than her given name, Esther. Pauly was too hard on his father. They'd both adapted to the new surroundings, and so had he.

He had had to. Those who could not change to Reagan's way of doing business were replaced by people who could: people from the department of defense, or lawyers, or MBAs. Her father's Yale law degree was more important, now, than his army service: more lucrative, too. And under Clinton there was no longer any need for cloak-and-dagger because nothing, virtually, was illegal anymore. In the interest of the balance of trade and keeping the vast Cold War arms industry healthy--a vital constituency for Democrats and Republicans alike--Clinton's State and Commerce departments were there to facilitate any little problems with end-user licensing and Arms Export Control Act limitations people like Ronald Rosenthal might encounter. That was when her father completed his trajectory from Borough Park by moving to Park Avenue.

Riding home from Bob Stein's office in a cab, she reflected that that would be what so surprised Bob about the arrest. Her father had made a fortune by his fine knowledge of what the government could be induced to allow: his entire expertise was in identifying market niches in unacknowledged government operations. And Clinton's tacit support of the Bosnian Muslims had been a campaign promise, for God's sake. He had accepted the embargo only to placate the allies in the NATO peacekeeping force, all the while tacitly approving the many pipelines supplying the Bosnian Muslim militias, to the great profit of the many Turkish, Croatian, and former-Soviet dealers involved. The Israelis, she had no doubt--America's traditional representatives in such matters--resented being left out of that extremely lucrative proxy position. Her father, she had no doubt, had confidently expected to be cut in.

Allison remembered a winter's night in their Brooklyn Heights townhouse at Grace Court, when she was in high school. She'd woken up thirsty and come down the back stairs to get a bottle of seltzer. Through the swinging door in the kitchen, she had seen him sitting in front of a rocks glass and a bottle of Absolut vodka at the dining room table. He had, it was clear to her, just come in, for his overcoat was still on, his tired face with its thinning hair emerging, used and lined, from the bulk of the black cashmere.
"Hello, my Essie. Congratulate me, doll." He was too drunk to attempt to dissimulate his loneliness: with the move from Borough Park had come the departure of his wife, who had gone one step further than her husband in their flight from their roots by moving to California and marrying a goyish art dealer.

"Hello, Daddy." She sat down across the big oak table from him. "What for?"
"Becoming a billionaire."
"Congratulations. Ready for bed now?"
"Yeah." He drained his drink and stood, unsteadily, while Alley rounded the table and took his arm. She smelled Yves Saint Laurent on his cashmere coat, tobacco and booze on his breath. Supporting him gently up the stairs, she breathed deep his smells.
"So are we really billionaires?"
And now her father laughed, happily. "With seven figures to spare, doll. It'll be in tomorrow's papers."
But in his bedroom he stopped, staring out the window over Grace Court for such a long time that Allison began to grow alarmed.
"What's the matter, Daddy?"
And in a soft voice, no longer drunk, he whispered: "Nothing. I just wish Abba'd lived to see it."
Abba. His father. Later, upstairs in her attic room, her father safely asleep, she had allowed herself to feel what Pauly had both understood and misunderstood: the simplicity of her father's ambition, the extent to which money mattered.

The next day the New York Times reported the sale of twenty-four rebuilt Mirages to Honduras. The sale, since the Israeli rebuilds used a U.S.-manufactured engine, had been signed off by Ronald Reagan, three weeks into his presidency. And the commission to Ronald Rosenthal, U.S. representative of the Falcon Corporation, was estimated in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

5.

That afternoon, in Arizona, the grand jury indicted her father on three counts: one violation of Arms Export Control Act, two violations of Arms Export Administration Act. Her father was arraigned, and bail hearings were held, at which Bob Stein presented the court's bailiff with three million dollars of Falcon Corporation money in six suitcases. Thereupon her father was charged and released. The national news reported it that night.

Allison watched it from her apartment on Jane Street--despite what she had told Bob Stein, she had no intention of facing the summer community on Martha's Vineyard while her father was in the national spotlight. She had a fairly good idea of what was next.
And indeed, the next morning the papers reported that Ronald Rosenthal had left Phoenix on a chartered helicopter, and that his whereabouts were now unknown. The helicopter, she thought, would have taken him to the Texas coast, from where a private boat probably took him to Havana. From there he would travel to Europe, then to Tel Aviv, where he was not terrifically worried about extradition: he was a citizen, he owned both influence and property, and there was a Labor Knesset seat available to him for the asking. The only mistake, she thought, was that he had already been arraigned. That meant, if she remembered correctly, that he could be tried in absentia.

July 4th. The summer day liquid. The summer night alive with explosions. The phone ringing endlessly, unanswered. Outside the window a television camera set up, filmed her window, did a spot, left. She waited out the day reading by the throbbing of the air conditioner as if it were nothing more than a dream from which she had been awoken by the phone, at night. When she'd finished her assigned reading--Bill Dykeman at the law firm where she was interning believed in continuing education--bored, she booted her computer, logged into Dykeman's Lexis account, and read some Arms Export Control Act law. That confirmed her apathy. Her father would never come to trial: pleas would be bargained, assets exchanged. This was business as usual.

That she thought this was because she did not yet know how deeply her father was in trouble, and how dearly he was going to be made to pay.

Nor could she. The percolation of events that would, by Thanksgiving, erupt again on the front pages of every major newspaper in America was, for the moment, so removed, so secret, that even Bob Stein had no inkling of it.
Which was, in many ways, fortunate.

For as the summer of 1994 crept across New York in a suite of indistinguishable days of ferocious heat, an epic dry spell that was breaking all previous drought records, days of high cerulean skies at noon and brilliantly clear starlit nights, it was, for Allison Rosenthal, the end of a kind of innocence she wasn't aware she possessed but which she would miss for a long time to come.

6.

Michael Levi, her father's second in command and lifelong friend, was arrested in mid-July. The press missed the importance of it and Levi's problems were relegated to section B, city news.

Allison didn't get it either. She read the item in the morning over coffee and juice at Brigitte's on Greenwich, the morning sun splashing through the high windows onto the newsprint. She was tired of how long they were taking to settle her father's messy, embarrassing problems. And for the first time the prospect of sitting in the offices of Dykeman, Goldfarb & Barney struck her as attractive: it would stop her thinking about her father.

When, a week later, Levi turned State's evidence in return for limited use immunity, the papers missed that too.
That evening--as every evening--Allison met Martha Ohlinger at a table in the Corner Bistro. At the New York Observer, Martha reported on Wall Street and Washington, and had often told Allison things she didn't want to know about her father. In doing so, of course, Martha was immeasurably helped by the fact that her own father was no less than the national security adviser and a close confidant of Clinton, as he had once been of Carter. Pushing back to Allison through the crowded room in jeans, sandals, and a black silk blouse, Martha sat and threw a copy of the Observer onto the table.

"You seen this, Alley girl?"
Allison watched her friend shaking her black curls free from under a baseball cap, letting them fall in a frame around her dark, complex, sharply delineated face. Her eyes, black and alive, were showing excitement, and not for the first time Alley thought that what made Martha attractive was intellect more than any of her more obvious assets. Just now, she was very attractive indeed.
"Martha? If you're going to tell me about my father, I don't want to know."
"You're going to want to know this, Alley."
The paper carried the story that the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York had announced her intention to pursue a conviction of Ronald Rosenthal, in absentia, using Michael Levi's immunized State's evidence.

And still, Allison Rosenthal did not understand.
"Big deal. My dad's sitting in a million-dollar house in Jerusalem. They'll never convict him, Marty. Peres'll come over and whisper a word to your dad, Falcon'll pay a fine. It's just making rain for Bob Stein."
Martha shook her head emphatically. The two had known each other since Alley's first day, eleven years old, at St. Ann's, and since then they had shared not only every emotional experience, but almost every intellectual one, arguing their way through to joint American studies B.A.s at Yale before their paths diverged, Alley to Paris, Martha to the London School of Economics.

"I don't think so, Alley, and unlike you I know what I'm talking about. The case has been given to Shauna McCarthy. U.S. Attorney, Southern District."
"And McCarthy'll make a deal. It's not about foreign policy, Marty. It's about an exchange of assets."
"That's just it. It is about foreign policy. And it worries me that you don't understand."
"Marty." Alley lowered her voice, as if explaining something embarrassingly simple. "Foreign policy is conducted by the Executive. Criminal prosecutions are the business of the Justice Department. Come off it."
"That's exactly my point." Calm and methodical, like a doctor administering unwelcome medicine, Martha counted off on her fingers. "McCarthyism. The destruction of the Black Panther Party. Watergate. The Iran-contra pardons. Paula Jones's tax audit. I got an example for every decade since the war of an administration abrogating to itself the tools of the Justice Department, Alley girl. Now, what exactly do you have to prove this administration's different?"
For a moment, Alley thought. Then: "Have they appointed a prosecutor?"
Martha nodded. That, to someone trying to gauge the seriousness of the government's intentions, was exactly the right question. "Not yet."

"Then don't worry about it. Okay?"
"Alley, I heard that Dee Dennis is under consideration."
She didn't answer that, but raised her eyebrows at her friend, who went on nearly unwillingly, her voice lowered.
"Christ sake, Alley girl. Ed Dennis is White House counsel. And his son is just looking for a job after five years on the Walsh prosecutions. Dee's probably as well qualified as anybody in the country to argue this. And he's a damn sight better connected."
For a moment, the two stared at each other, and the expression between them was one that had first been there over fifteen years before. Then Alley wiped her hands over her eyes.
"Let me alone, Marty, okay? I'm already like a goddamn pariah. You know what it's gonna be like going to DG&B tomorrow? I can't help what they're doing to my father."

But Martha was not calmed. "I don't give a fuck about your father, Alley. I'm worrying about what they're going to do to you."

7.

Still, she simply did not see. Nothing was happening to her: a couple reporters, so what. Nor could she see that her father risked much. A very great portion of his business took place in Israel and Europe, and those things left in America had earned their keep long ago. All through the month since his arrest, his checks had continued to arrive from his secretaries at his offices abroad, checks in bizarre amounts--$4,562.17; $12,603.50; $2,998.89--yielded by that day's exchange from deutsche marks, shekels, pounds sterling, checks drawn on Bank Leumi, Barclay's, Crédit Lyonnais.

By day, she went to work at Dykeman, Goldfarb & Barney; by night she went out with Martha, or read, or slept. True, it surprised her how increasingly many people, at work, now avoided her as the extent of the government's determination to prosecute her father came clear. Surprised her, but did not otherwise affect her. She had always been solitary. And she knew that soon the story would fade.

But as July passed into August, it became clearer and clearer that her father's affairs were far from disappearing from the media. She could judge the story's prominence by the treatment she received at work. And Martha, over drinks each night at the Corner Bistro, continued to feed her the most important points, like medicine to an unwilling child.

Allison was grateful, in her way. Sidney Ohlinger had told Martha to stay away from Allison after her father's arrest, and Martha had told him to take his regular chair in the Oval Office and shove it. Watching her friend one such evening at the bistro, Allison smiled at the memory, with gratitude, with affection. When Martha had woken one morning a few years back to see a front-page picture of Ronald Rosenthal testifying in front of the joint committee on Iran-contra, all she had said was: "You see? It's like I always told you, we both got crooks for old men."

Then the smile faded. Martha was the dearest thing in the world to her, but even Martha didn't really understand. Most American Jews didn't quite get it. You had to think of her father not as a boy from Brooklyn made good in a WASP world--like the perfectly American, perfectly liberal Ohlingers--but as an Israeli: he'd spent half of his life there since running away to join Tsahal, the Israel Defense Forces, at seventeen. Understanding that, for Alley, was key.

Once, after a dinner, Pauly had said: "Daddy, for Christ sake. How can you deal with these people?"
It was an evening not at Grace Court but at 454 Park, so she must have been in college. Her father had just ushered important dinner guests out: Amiram Nir, Richard Secord, and a young man with a South American accent who was somebody's son.
"How?" He answered absently, jotting down figures at the living room escritoire while she watched. Then he turned directly to him and spoke in the dimmed lights of the room. "Now you listen to me. Who do you want to have the profits? Portugal? Sweden? Germany? Or the country that has millions of Soviet Jews to absorb? David Ben-Gurion himself said that all military embargoes are embargoes against Israel. You decide, boychik."

That was the end of the conversation. The next day the man with the South American accent who was somebody's son called to invite her out, and she found out his name. It was Stroessner.

Thinking all this, watching Martha across the table at the Corner Bistro. But how could she tell her this? And Martha was speaking.
"I know what happened, Alley. Britain and France both got wind of your dad's sales. They know he works with our government all the time, they know he wouldn't do a thing like this without a directive from our government. Only thing is, Britain and France don't give a fuck about the Bosnian Muslims, and they don't want them armed and shooting on their peace-keeping forces, which our damn president forced them to send in the first place. So they filed diplomatic démarches."

Eyes narrowed, Allison was listening now. "Go on."
"So, what the fuck, Alley. If you're the president, that's why you use covert programs in the first place. He got his guns to Bosnia, now he has your dad prosecuted to prove he was uninvolved. That's called plausible deniability."
Alley shook her head emphatically. "Christ sake. Clinton's too smart to establish plausible deniability through the Justice Department."

"Oh? Who's the smart guy ordered Paula Jones audited by Treasury?' The voices of both women were rising in pitch now.
"I don't know. A lackey probably. Not the damn president."
"That's right, Alley girl. A lackey. Like my father. Or like Ed Dennis."
Deeply annoyed now, Allison stood suddenly. "Hey Marty? You have any word on who the U.S. Attorney hired to do the prosecution?"
Lips grim, Martha shook her head.
"Then stop telling me about it, okay? I know they're scapegoating my father. I also know nothing's going to stop them, and so does my dad. So let's stop wasting our time over what we can't help."

8.

Her father, his profession, it meant nothing to her: just another of the unsavory things adults did to one another at work. That she was in law school led people to think she was more concerned with her father's affairs--particularly reporters, one or two of whom she came to expect to find waiting in Washington Square as she came out of classes whenever her father was in the news, hoping for a comment. But law school had nothing to do with what she wanted in life: she had never wanted to go. When her father had started pressuring her to study law rather than go to graduate school, she'd obeyed only because she could not, or would not, fight back. That was less fear of him, she vaguely knew, than concern: her empire over her father's fragile emotions--his fear for her, his ambitions--since his divorce was so enormous that she didn't have the heart. She hadn't really needed to fight, anyway: Pauly, as always, had done it for her.

"You want her in the family business, Dad? Another Rosenthal
gonif?"
It was at the Shabbos dinner table, and her father had paused in incomprehension, then suspicion.
"What's that supposed to mean, David?"
Her heart was pounding as she watched, but Pauly seemed as calm as usual when he answered.

"For God's sake. I know what you do for a living. You think I've forgotten meeting Oliver North in this very house? Or Amiram Nir? Let's go ask Amiram Nir. Oh, wait, he's dead, right? That's what you want Alley to go to law school for? Or what, you going to introduce her to Greg Eastbrook in the NSC, and she's going to carry on the family business? 'Rosenthal and Daughter.' Sounds like the smoked-fish store on Houston Street. Except you don't sell fish, do you, Dad?"

Her father had listened to Pauly's speech, his jaw falling lower and lower with each name: not even his only son had ever talked to him like this before. Perhaps no one had. When his son had finished, he'd been too surprised to respond for long seconds. Then he'd asked the maid to leave the room, and addressed Pauly with restrained fury.

"What do you know about my work, David?"
He was nearly shouting, his face flushed, his body tensed against the table edge.
"I can read, Dad. You'd have to be blind not to see your name in these damn books, the library catalog indexes, the footnote references. I've seen enough of you in the papers."
Her father nodded, as if, despite his anger, Pauly was merely confirming what he had long suspected about his son.
"Calm down. I know you can read. Now tell me what you know about Greg Eastbrook."
It clearly surprised Pauly that her father had picked that name out of others. He calmed somewhat with his answer.
"I don't know what's your particular business with that scumbag, Dad, but by your response I'd infer that it's particularly insalubrious."

Her father answered now, decisively, and in the language of his business. "Infer, would you? Who made you the jury? And didn't the judge instruct you that if you see fit to 'infer' from ambiguous evidence, the law requires you to favor the exculpatory inference?"
For a few moments, silence reigned in the ornate, high-ceilinged dining room while her father considered his son. And then he turned to his daughter.

"Now you listen to me, Essie, not to this child, okay? You want to talk about my business, then you'd better be ready to be a big girl. First off, the law isn't about truth, it's about appearances. David wants to judge me, fine, but let him learn what he's talking about first. Then I'll debate the issues, not the emotions. You go read Thomas Jefferson, you go read Madison, then read Curtiss-Wright, and you'll see that what I do is the same as WASP businessmen in Washington do every day, okay? I work every day with the Pentagon, the State Department, the CIA. I change my name to Gladstone and no one's going to pay any attention to me. Only, I'm Rosenthal, get it? You ever read about the mail Bill Cohen and Arthur Liman got during Iran-contra? You see even the Hawaiian or Italians on the committees getting mail like that? And Cohen only sounds Jewish, he's a WASP himself."

He paused now, thinking so deeply that Alley was afraid to interrupt.
"Secondly, this isn't about me, and it's not about David. It's about you. Men have a lot more latitude. You be whatever kind of lady poetess you want to be, but you're going to do it with a law degree, okay? You do what your daddy says now, Esther. You get a law degree. I don't care if Farrakhan joins forces with the Michigan Militia, you're gonna be protected as sure as you got a gun. You follow me? This is America. The country's made for the people who know how to use the law. Okay?"
There was no arguing with her father. No one could. Even trying to screw up the LSATs hadn't helped, just committed her to going to NYU instead of back to New Haven. The best she'd been able to do was convince him that a year of finishing in Paris was what every girl needed after graduation, and then she'd managed to extend that to two.

But at the end of the second year, while she had been relaxing into a hot Paris summer, her brother had called her home. And even after he died, the deal had stood. Without either of them questioning it, she'd started law school at NYU in the fall after Pauly's death.
And although her father had never mentioned his business to her again--never directly--he had, after Pauly's death, come to treat her confidence as assumed, which was strange, as if Pauly's suicide had made her an accomplice.

***

Nothing, then, changed for Allison Rosenthal. As the dry August of 1994 swelled toward fall, by day she went to the offices of DG&B, a meditative, rote exercise in which she had no stake; by night she sat in the Corner Bistro, alone or with Martha, where the bartenders protected her from all comers. Or read. Or padded around her little apartment in her underwear, watching the saturated summer night reflecting from the surface of Eighth Avenue.

In mid-August, in a dinner during a Group of Seven trip to Europe, Clinton was reported to have referred to the Rosenthal trial as categorical proof of America's commitment to uphold the European Union's embargo of the Bosnian Muslims. Allison stayed away from work that day, and so was at home midmorning to receive, by messenger, a letter from Bill Dykeman asking her, in light of her father's approaching prosecution, to take the rest of her internship off with full pay. When the smart of the affront had subsided, it occurred to her that now she could spend the rest of the summer at Ocean View Farm, her childhood home, and for the first time since her father's arrest the chill lifted.

But not for long. While she was packing that day, to go up to the island, Bob Stein called to tell her he had received a federal notice of seizure on her father's property, including his business, his Park Avenue home, and his summer estate, Ocean View Farm.
She listened to Bob with incredulity. Did they not know that Ocean View had been Pauly's last home? Did they not know that everything else, for her, was gone? Briefly, it occurred to her that one by one the doors of her life were closing, and with each closing door she lost one of the small rosary of people she loved: her grandparents at Borough Park; her mother in Brooklyn Heights; and her brother, her dear, dead brother, from Ocean View. Now her father was exiled and they were taking Ocean View from her too. Then she interrupted.

"Wait a minute, Bob. You're saying my dad's going to be convicted."
Silence. Then: "I'm saying the seizure's going to take place in the fall. You knew they were using RICO, honey. We won't be able to stop that."
"Why?"
Stein let dead air sit on the phone.
"Cause he's guilty, right?"
"Allison. Calm down."
"Bob. Do something for me, okay?"
"Yes honey."
"Don't call me again. You hear?"
She must sound to Bob, she thought as she hung up, exactly like her father.

And it was only then that Allison Rosenthal's quiet courage failed and, alone at the desk of her apartment, in sunlight mediated by the leaves on the London plane tree outside her window, she let herself feel the horror of everything that had happened since July 1st, everything that had happened, just as Martha had worried, not to her father, but to her.


From the Hardcover edition.
Neil Gordon

About Neil Gordon

Neil Gordon - The Gun Runner's Daughter
Born in South Africa in 1958, Neil Gordon has lived in Scotland, France, and Israel. He is a graduate of the University of Michigan, where he was awarded two Hopwood Prizes for fiction, and he earned his Ph.D. in French literature at Yale. The Gun Runner's Daughter is his second novel. He lives in New York.

  • The Gun Runner's Daughter by Neil Gordon
  • December 07, 2011
  • Fiction
  • Random House
  • $7.99
  • 9780307803115

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