Fatal Legislation Excerpt

“Senator Harper,” I called out.

His milky blue gaze showed no surprise at my approach, and he waved me into the car. “Ms. Cardinal, I’ve been wondering when I’d hear from you. I’m headed over to the Russell building.”

The doors closed behind me, and the elevator operator, an elderly African-American man dressed in the requisite navy-blue blazer and striped tie uniform, pressed the button that would take us to the basement.

“Did you have a nice weekend, Arnold?” Harper asked the elevator operator.

“Yes, Senator. My oldest granddaughter came home for the weekend.”

“She’s a sophomore this year?” The senator’s wheezing breaths filled the small car.

“Yes, sir.”

“Remind me, what college is she attending?”

“University of Maryland.”

We ended our descent with a slight bump. “Give my best to your wife.”

“Will do, sir.”

The elevator spit us out not far from the entrance to the underground passageways connecting the Capitol to the Russell, Dirksen and Hart Senate office buildings. For an overweight man in his early seventies, he walked at a relatively brisk pace, and my sensible heels clacked against the aged russet stone flooring. Fortunately, my height provided an advantage when walking with taller men and I could easily replicate their stride.

“How’d you get past security?”

“I came over from Dirksen with Senator Kollingwoods.”

Either he preferred not to talk over my noisy heels or his own pace was too much for him, because he slackened his gait. The heavy breathing continued, and I was relieved he slowed us down. “You want to know why I voted against the bill,” he stated.

“I don’t understand. You voted for it in committee, and on the Senate floor the first time. Why?” We exited the drab putty-colored walls of the Capitol basement to enter the bright white halls of the tunnel system.

“You know why.”

“The amendment?” I clarified.

“Amendment? Try amendments.”

“That happens with every bill as it passes back and forth between the two houses,” I pointed out. “Everyone has to do a little give and take. We knew it wouldn’t come back the same way it went over. Some negotiating has to be done.”

“Negotiating?” He gave a dark laugh. “Is that what you call it? By the time it came to a vote on the Senate floor, there was so much pork added to it you could wrap the White House up in bacon and deep fat fry it like a Thanksgiving turkey.” He indicated for me to proceed him down the short escalator.

“Granted, I wasn’t thrilled with the ten million Texas package,” I conceded as we rode down. “But, overall the bill retained its integrity. It would have helped the lower income families.”

“The Texas package was the least of my concerns. Did you know Florida stuck on a fifty million grant to research chickens?”

“Wild fowl, migratory birds.”

“Ducks, geese, chickens!” He coughed and pressed a hand against his chest. “What does it matter?”

One of the trams that carried passengers through the tunnel to the Russell building cruised around the curve and out of sight. The other tram sat empty with an OUT OF ORDER sign on its side.

“I believe it had something to do with research on aging.”

“Fifty million! For fowl! Let’s walk.”

I squinted at Harper. Beads of sweat covered his upper lip and his coloring seemed to have paled. “Are you sure you don’t want to wait for the tram?” I asked.

“My doc says I need to get more exercise.” He lumbered past the tram stop to the walking path. “I’d have been willing to vote for it until the Uptown Trio gutted the incentives.”

“I agree the incentives were a blow. But, when your support departed, you took your own trio along, Tottengott, Goldman, and Tucker. Surely the incentives were a minor blip that could have been righted through section seven, part c. I won’t even mention the position you put me in with the Alliance or the damage it’s done to my reputation and possibly my career.”

“Pfft. Your reputation is fine,” he said. “You can’t tell me the National Healthcare Advocacy Alliance is going to fire you over this. You’re too well connected, and I’m sure they didn’t like the changes either.”

They didn’t, but I wasn’t about to let him get away that easily.

“Besides,” he continued, “Tottengott, Goldman, and Tucker make their own decisions. You can’t place their votes at my doorstep.”

I gave him an arch glare. Harper had been in the Senate for over twenty-five years and was considered the leader of the few moderate republicans—a dying breed—left in the Legislature. Gloria Tottengott, Stephen Goldman, and Rhonda Tucker tended to stick together on votes, and often followed Harper’s lead.

He flapped his hand. “Bah. You can direct that look elsewhere. I’m working on something even better. Something that will make S46 pale in comparison. Something that will put the fat cats in their place.”

“Really? Tell me. How can I help?”

“You’ll know when I’m good and ready for you to know. You lobbyists are all the same. Couldn’t keep a secret if your life depended on it, and right now I’m working the back channels. I decided it’s time to call in some chips . . . maybe all of them.” His breath came out in pants and he stumbled.

“Senator!” I reached out to steady him.

He pulled a roll of Tums out of his coat pocket, but his hands were so unsteady that he fumbled to open the package.

“Here, let me help you.” I used my thumbnail to slit the wrapper, and two antacid tablets fell into his palm.

He pressed his fist against his chest as he chewed. “Must have been the pastrami sandwich I had for lunch.”

It was close to six. Lunch had been hours ago, and I didn’t like the greenish tinge of his coloring. “Are you going to be okay? Do you want me to get help?” We’d reached the curve, the midpoint between the two buildings. The tram at the far end was empty of passengers and the operator.

“I’ll be fine.” He puffed past me.

“I’m not sure, Senator.” I glanced over my shoulder to see if anyone was coming from the Capitol side. “I think I should—”

His right hand slapped against the wall, his knees buckled, and he pitched forward.

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Dark & Stormy Interview

Delivering a shout-out to Dark and Stormy Book Club for hosting me on the podcast Saturday, August 25. The podcast is now live for you to enjoy. We talked about the inspiration for Isabella’s Painting, the Gardner Museum art heist, and mystery writing in general. The ladies brought some of their own knowledge to the table as the book spurred some of their own research into the 1990 theft of $500 million worth of art. To listen to the interview in its entirety, click here. 


Cover Reveal Time!


Governing Turns Deadly…

D.C. lobbyist, Karina Cardinal, is pounding her Capitol beat when a Senator dies in her arms. What seems like a common heart attack turns sinister when the coroner determines this death was no accident, and Karina makes the FBI’s suspect list. 
Meanwhile, Karina follows her own theory for the Senator’s death and chases a lead that puts her in the killer’s crosshairs.

Giveaway Time!

In order to celebrate the release of The Brass Compass in Audio Book, I’m giving away a copy.  Head to my Facebook Page to enter to win an audio copy of The Brass Compass! Entry instructions on the page.  Click here to go to Facebook and enter.

The Brass Compass Wins IndieReader Discovery Award

Robin Cutler, Director of IngramSpark, announced the 2018 IndieReader Discover Award (IRDA) winners on Saturday, June 2 at Book Expo America BookCon Event at the Javits Center in New York City. THE BRASS COMPASS by bestselling author, Ellen Butler, won in the historical fiction category.

IndieReader launched the IRDAs in order to help worthy indie authors get the attention of top indie professionals, with the goal of reaching more readers.  Noted Amy Edelman, founder of IR, “The books that won the IRDAs this year are not just great indie books; they are great books, period.  We hope that our efforts via the IRDAs insure that they receive attention from the people who matter most.  Potential readers.”

Judges for the awards included prominent publishers, agents, publicists and bloggers. Butler said, “she is honored to have won the prestigious Discovery Award for her historical fiction.” According to Dave Eisenstark of IndieReader Reviews, “For WWII buffs, history buffs, romance addicts, or those who just enjoy a fast-paced adventure story, Ellen Butler’s THE BRASS COMPASS delivers.”

Poplar Place Returns in Print

Ellen’s romantic suspense about a District Attorney, who has a break-down and drops everything to move to a small town USA to find a tranquil life, has returned to print. You can get your copy at Amazon and Barnes & Noble today!

Former District Attorney, Cara Baker, cuts ties with her tumultuous life in Pittsburgh and moves to South Carolina where she embraces the peaceful, laid-back style of small town living. Everything seems to be falling into place when Cara finds the perfect house to round out her plans. Well… perfect except for the immovable hermit living on the top floor. Throwing caution to the wind, she buys the fabulous house—hermit and all—without meeting him. By wooing her reclusive renter with notes and mouth-watering meals, he caves and invites her up to the apartment. Preconceived notions are blown out of the water when she finds Danny isn’t the nerdy Mr. Mole she envisioned. Unfortunately, phone calls from the FBI bring Cara’s summer idyll to an abrupt halt. Will demons from a former life destroy Cara’s tranquility?

What follows is a work that knows what it wants to be and nicely achieves it. What feels initially like a straightforward romance becomes more interesting when the past intrudes, raising the stakes. Plot,character and setting are each well imagined and nicely executed in a story that moves at a page-turning clip.
~ Publisher’s Weekly Booklife Prize for Fiction

Ellen Butler has created a great romantic story! Poplar Place was a wonderful mix of elements; a little mystery with a little romance and the perfect length to finish quickly. Poplar Place provides a great romantic escape from our everyday lives, even if it’s just a visit.
~ Readers Favorite

“Poplar Place” is such a wonderful, unique story! The flow is spot on and it keeps the reader riveted to the page
~ InD’tale Magazine 

Curiosity Can be a Killer

Isabella’s Painting Press Release

On March 18, 1990, after midnight, two men dressed as police obtained entry into the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston. The pair blindfolded and handcuffed the guards and proceeded to steal thirteen pieces of art valued at $500 million. Twenty-eight years later the art is still missing … until now. When Karina Cardinal accidentally glimpses an infamous stolen painting, she faces a dangerous choice. Should she back off while she still can? Dig deeper? Or seek help from her old flame who is now a FBI agent? Either way, the next move she makes could destroy innocent lives…including her own. In Isabella’s Painting bestselling author, Ellen Butler, sets in motion the new Karina Cardinal mystery series with a captivating thrill ride into a notorious art heist.

The Gardner museum robbery is considered one of the highest valued thefts of private property in history. FBI agents, investigative reporters, professional art recovery specialists, and amateur detectives have spent hundreds of man hours trying to locate the paintings. Karina Cardinal, an intelligent D.C. lobbyist with a sharp wit, and a curiosity to rival Jessica Fletcher, stumbles across something she shouldn’t. Her subsequent actions lead her down a dangerous path.

According to retired FBI Special Agent Robert K. Wittman, Founder of the FBI Art Crime Team and New York Times bestselling author of Priceless: How I Went Undercover to Rescue the World’s Stolen Treasures,Isabella’s Painting takes the reader on a rollicking ride through the high-stakes world of art thieves and the investigators who work to get them back… it is a fast-paced, entertaining and engrossing fictional exposé of the shady underbelly of the art world.” In the words of an InD’tale Magazine reveiw, “The creative take on documented historical events enriches the reader, and the descriptions make one feel drawn into the tale. Karina has a lot of spunk and doesn’t put up with a lot of nonsense, making her a character that one can get behind. The relational conflict is riveting, making the reader eager for the next book in the series.”

Get your copy of Isabella’s Painting today! 

Isabella’s Painting Trailer

Isabella’s Painting Arriving May 2, 2018. Enjoy the trailer today!

View on YouTube.

Click Here for Purchase Links. 

OSS Receives Congressional Gold Medal

On March 21, 2018, in the midst of a Washington, DC snow storm that shut down the federal government, the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) was recognized with the highest civilian honor Congress can bestow – the Congressional Gold Medal. Over 75 years after the OSS, the predecessor to the CIA, was formed Congress presented the medal which was accepted by Charles Pinck, President of the OSS Society, and approximately 20 attending WWII veterans. Of the 13,000 people who worked for the OSS at the height of the war, it is estimated that there are only 100 surviving veterans left. Though only 20 veterans were present, Emancipation Hall was packed full with family members, friends, and supporters of the OSS. Speaker of the House of Representatives, Paul Ryan, presided over the event at the United States Capitol, opening with moving words about to William “Wild Bill” Donovan.

In 1941, before the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Roosevelt knew it was only a matter of time before the United States would enter the war. Realizing that our own intelligence was spread across the varied defense organizations, the FBI and State Department, he appointed Donovan as Coordinator of Information to begin the task of creating a single over arching group to gather and assess intelligence data. After the bombing of Pearl Harbor Donovan’s group became operational and was named the Office of Strategic Services. These men and women not only  analyzed data for the war effort, they also dropped behind enemy lines in the dark of night to organize resistance groups, helped POWs escape into Allied territory, infiltrated enemy groups to provide intelligence, and much more. The OSS hired a wide variety of military, civilians, races, religions, genders, and even a few criminals to carry out their mission. Operatives worked in secret and for so many years their contributions remained unknown. With the Congressional Gold Medal, their bravery has finally been given the recognition it deserves.

OSS, The Spearhead that Leads the Way

Excerpt: Isabella’s Painting book 1 in Ellen Butler’s Karina Cardinal mystery series. 

Isabella’s Painting will be arriving May 2, 2018. It is now available for preorder. Visit your favorite digital booksellers here:  

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The hallway was silent, but I could see well enough—tiny nightlights plugged into outlets intermittently lit the way to the grand staircase. My socked feet barely made a sound as I drifted down the steps. The tick of the grandfather clock in the front hall sounded loud to my ears, and I nearly jumped out of my skin as it struck the half hour with a sing-song chime. I stopped in my tracks with a hand to my chest. Finally, the last echo of the bells ended, and I carried on to the kitchen. It took but a moment to find a clean glass, fill it with water, and slug back the two little pills that would bring relief.

When Patrick told me his mother had invited us to spend the night following the party, I’d originally thought it a fine idea. It allowed both of us to drink and not have to worry about driving home or getting a cab. Now, I wished for the comforts of my own bed. As I swallowed the last of the liquid, I glanced around the kitchen, also lit by nightlights, and found little sign of the party that had just finished a few hours ago. No glassware or dishes lined the sink, and the counters were wiped clean. The catering staff did their job well. I ran my hand along the quartz and saw a green light in the corner, near the ceiling, turn to red. It was one of the motion sensors Patrick had pointed out earlier. He’d said the motion sensors were only turned on when the house was empty. The light turned green again. I waved my hand, and the light went red. I guessed the sensors were always on by default, just not armed to trigger the alarm.

Gently, I laid the glass on the counter. Something else came to mind that Patrick had mentioned. There were no cameras inside the house. Molly had put her foot down, and refused to allow Marty to install interior cameras, because she “didn’t like the feeling of being spied on in her own home.” His father relied on the pressure plates beneath the sculptures and artwork to keep them safe. When I’d asked Patrick about the hunting scene above the fireplace in library, he laughed and said it was practically worthless. His mother had picked it up at a flea market when they were a young couple, struggling to make ends meet. It held more sentimental value than a monetary one.

The knob twisted beneath my fingers, and the low glow of the lamp came to life. Somehow my feet had drawn me down the hall to the library, and now I stood staring at the “worthless” painting. Though I valued the beauty and importance in historical culture, I knew very little about art. Living in the D.C. area, I had trotted through the art museums on the Mall for class field trips, and occasionally played tour guide for out-of-town guests. I could differentiate between a Picasso and Degas, but that’s where my expertise ended.

The hunting scene looked good to me. The brush strokes were fine, and the bright red paint colors of the hunter’s coats drew me into the picture. Black and white hounds, their tails up and ears perked, seemed ready to dart off into the fields to find their fox. However, the painting wasn’t the reason I stood in the library now. Brazen curiosity could be the only explanation.

My fingers pushed and prodded decorative pieces of trim surrounding the mantle, the fluted plinth, the center of a carved flower, the pineapple in the middle of the frieze. Nothing. I couldn’t shake the feeling something had moved in this area, and Marty had definitely been irritated by my barging in. Was there a hidey hole in the fireplace, or possibly a passage to a secret room? The residence was large enough to house a hidden chamber. I remembered reading an old gothic novel about an art collector who kept high-value artwork in a concealed room off the study. I felt like Nancy Drew searching for a clue.

But a clue to what?

When the fireplace yielded nothing, I turned in a circle. Floor to ceiling bookshelves lined both sides of the long walls of the rectangular room. A library ladder on rails stood midway down on the left side. It would take hours for me to test the books and knick-knacks filling the shelves. Besides, my instincts told me the books were the wrong track.

The opposite end of room from the fireplace revealed a pair of French doors leading out onto the back patio and pool area. Marty’s antique desk sat closer to the doors than the fireplace. On it was a desk blotter, pencil holder, a few framed photos of family, and various bric-a-brac. The cleanup crew must not have visited this room because the brandy snifters from earlier remained. Chris’s still held liquid in the bulbous glass, however, Marty’s had been emptied.

The leather chair creaked as I lowered myself onto the seat. Ahead of me rose the magnificent fireplace. The bottom drawer was locked, but the other drawers opened and closed with little effort and were filled with nothing unusual—files, paperclips, pens, a stapler. What had Marty been reaching for? I closed my eyes and allowed my fingers to feel under the lip of the desktop. Sure enough, some sort of catch met my searching touch. I pressed. There was a click. The hunting scene disappeared upwards to reveal another smaller painting.

The grandfather clock began its chime, startling me. I jumped, pressing the hidden button, and the painting disappeared. In between the tolling, I heard a new sound—the creak of a floor board.

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