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 Denial: refusing to admit the truth or reality of something unpleasant…

His mother has been arrested, his government is under new threat, the relentless media is driving him mad, and denial becomes the word of the day for President Nick Cappuano.

Meanwhile, his wife, DC Metro Police Lt. Sam Holland Cappuano has caught a big new case with suspects everywhere she looks. Watch for her partner, Detective Freddie Cruz, to take center stage in this investigation when a variety of personal situations keep Sam off the job.

With the countdown on to their second anniversary, the first couple is keeping their heads down and their eyes on the prize of a week away from the capital city. But with threats circling all around them, will they be able to make it happen?

The fifth First Family book picks up right where State of Shock left off, with Sam and her family continuing to absorb the loss of a beloved family member as she and her team work to clean up the mess former Lt. Stahl has left behind.

Order through my store and the ebook edition will be delivered by BookFunnel and transferred to the device of your choice. The audio edition will be delivered by BookFunnel to the BookFunnel app. 

STATE OF DENIAL is available on all the major retailers (Kindle, AppleBooks, Nook, Kobo, GooglePlay, etc). It will release into Kindle Unlimited about a month after the wide release. More to come on the KU release later.

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State of Denial

(First Family Series, Book 5)

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Chapter 1

A persistent banging on the door woke her far too early after a late night. Groaning, she turned over to go back to sleep.

The banging continued.

Her phone rang with a call from her neighbor Janice, three doors down in the condo complex.

“You’d better answer the door,” Janice said. “It’s the police.”


“The parking lot is overrun with cops and media.”

“What do they want with me?”

“You’d know that better than I would.”

“Wait until they find out who I am.”

“Careers will end, and heads will roll.”

“You know it, girlfriend. Thanks for the heads-up.”

She got out of bed, put on a red silk robe and took the time to brush her hair and teeth before she made her way downstairs, opening the door to chaos.

“Are you Nicoletta Bernadino?” a stern-looking man asked as he held up a badge.

“I am.”

He showed her a piece of paper. “We have warrants to search the premises and for your arrest.”

“My arrest? For what?”

“You’re being charged by the state with engaging in prostitution and solicitation of prostitution. The Feds want you for money laundering.”

“Do the Feds know who I am?”


“My son is their boss.”

“And who is your son?”

“President Nicholas Cappuano.”

The man showed no reaction to hearing the name of the president of the United States. “You’ll have to take that up with the FBI, ma’am. Our orders are to bring you in while our team searches your home.”

They wouldn’t find anything in her house. She wasn’t that stupid.

“And your place of business.”

Shit. This isn’t good.

“I want to make a phone call.”

“You’ll have the opportunity to make a call after you’re booked. If you’d like to change your clothes, I can have a female officer accompany you.”

“That won’t be necessary.” If they were going to arrest the president’s mother, then she would put on a show for the media. And how had they known she was being arrested? Her bitch of a daughter-in-law had probably tipped them off. She wouldn’t put it past her. It was concerning that mentioning her son hadn’t put a stop to this entire farce. Then it occurred to her that maybe he didn’t believe her.

“You heard what I said about my son, the president, right?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“You should think about what you’re doing while you still have a career to save.”

“I don’t work for the president, ma’am. I work for the people of the great state of Ohio, and you have the right to remain silent.”

The news of his mother’s arrest on misdemeanor prostitution and federal racketeering charges dominated the Monday morning news. President Nick Cappuano stood in front of the TV in the suite he shared with his first lady and watched the madness unfold in Ohio. They’d cuffed her and brought her out of her home in a red silk robe that clung to her considerable curves.

He took perverse satisfaction in noting she looked rattled. Her long dark hair fell in messy waves around her ageless face. People said she reminded them of Sophia Loren. She reminded him of disappointment and neglect.

He wondered if she’d dropped his name yet and then laughed. “Of course she did.”

“Did what?” his wife, Samantha, asked as she joined him, dressed for another day in charge of the Metro Police Department’s Homicide squad.

“I was wondering if she dropped my name and then decided of course she had.”

“No question,” Sam said, “but it doesn’t seem to have helped her at all. There were a lot of ways they could’ve arrested her.” Eyeing the TV, she said, “They went for a full-impact perp walk, and someone tipped off the media to make sure it was recorded for posterity.”

“Probably by someone who thinks her son is an illegitimate president.”

Sam sat next to him and rested her head on his shoulder. “I know I’ve already said it, but I’m sorry again to have brought this down on you.”

In a fit of rage toward his mother months ago, Sam had asked their colleague and friend FBI agent Avery Hill to investigate her. Nick had been furious when he recently found out his mother was about to be arrested thanks to that request. However, he’d calmed down after he’d had a minute to think it through. As always, his mother was causing him pain. He wasn’t going to allow her to cause a marriage crisis for him, too. No way.

“You didn’t. She did. At least we had a heads-up it was coming, which we might not have gotten without Avery’s involvement.”

“Did they say what she’s being charged with?” Sam asked.

“Misdemeanor state prostitution charges and federal money laundering.”

“State prostitution charges won’t pack much of a punch beyond the salaciousness, but the money laundering is a bigger deal. That’s almost always a RICO charge.”

“Tell me more about that.”

“Under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, RICO charges are invoked when someone has engaged in a pattern of racketeering activity related to an enterprise. So, if she’s been laundering money through another company to cover the activities of her bordello, that meets the threshold for a RICO charge.”

“Wasn’t that what mobsters were charged with?”

“Often. Yes.”

“Awesome. So my mother will be lumped in with mobsters and other famous madams.”

His personal cell phone rang with a call from his father, which he took, knowing Leo would’ve heard the news and was calling to check on him. “Hey, Dad.”

“Nick… I can’t believe this.”

“You can’t? Really?”

“Well, I can, but it’s outrageous. Did you know this was happening?”

“I knew it might be coming, but not when.”

“I’m sorry you’ll have to deal with this. She’s caused you enough hell and heartache in your life. This is the last thing you need right now.”

That much was certainly true. He’d spent the last few months trying to convince the American people that he could handle the office he’d never been elected to, and having his criminal mother marched across every screen in America wouldn’t help anything. “We’re handling it.”

“I wish there was something I could do for you.”

“I appreciate the call, Dad.”

“Check in later, all right?”

“I will.”

“I’d tell you to have a good day, but…”

Nick laughed. “Talk later.” He ended the call and put the phone in his suit coat pocket.

“What’d he say?”

“He’s disgusted by her, as usual.”

“What’s the plan for dealing with this?” Sam asked.

“I spoke with Terry and Christina earlier,” he said of his chief of staff and press secretary. “We’ll issue yet another statement that says the president has no relationship with his mother, has never had any relationship with her and will have nothing to say about her arrest.”

“I think that’s the right way to go. Not that I know anything about these things.”

“Thanks to me, you know more about crisis communication than you thought you ever would.”

“That’s a fact, Mr. President.”

Nick held her close for a minute before they went their separate ways for the day. He drew most of his strength from her and their relationship, which was a bright light at times like this, when outside forces threatened to intrude on their sacred bubble.

“I wish there was something I could do for you,” she said.

“This helps.” He breathed in her familiar lavender-and-vanilla scent, hoping it would rub off on his clothes and stay with him through the endless day. “What’s on your schedule for today?”

“More work on the mess Stahl left us. We’re reviewing all his old cases and figuring out which ones were investigated and which ones had reports that were total fiction.”

“Damn, that’s got to be a grind.”

“We have to go back to every witness who was supposedly interviewed and make sure they did, in fact, talk to him. Some did and some didn’t, so we’re asking them all.”

“Will that result in overturned prosecutions?”

“Undoubtedly. Malone is still trying to figure out who helped Stahl archive phony reports. He’s ruled out the senior officers and is moving on to the IT people who worked for the department at the time the reports were archived.”

“What a mess.”

“You have no idea. I fear it’ll get much worse before we’re done.”

“So we’re both spending today cleaning up messes someone else made for us.”

“Good times.”

He smiled as he kissed her. “The best of times. I’ll see you for dinner?”

“I’ll be here. The good thing about working cold cases is we knock off at quitting time.”

“I like when that happens. Later, we need to talk about our first overseas trip, which I’m under pressure to schedule. I’d love to have my first lady with me for that.”

“Where to?”

“Europe—London, Paris, The Hague and Belgium, to start with.”

“Those old places?”

“Yeah, nothing special.” Other than their trips to Bora Bora, Sam had never been out of the country.

“Get me some dates, and I’ll see what I can do.”

“Kiss me again and make it a good one to hold me over.”

“All my kisses are good ones.”

“Mmm,” he said against her lips. “They’re the best kisses in the whole world.”

Sam saw Scotty, Alden and Aubrey through breakfast and sent them to school with their Secret Service details. Then she went downstairs to meet her agents, Vernon and Jimmy, for the ride to Metro PD headquarters. Her fractured hip was now considered fully healed, and she’d been cleared to drive. But a funny thing had happened on the way to recovery—she’d discovered she liked being driven around the famously congested capital city, and she enjoyed the time she spent with her agents.

Who would’ve thought it? Not her, that was for sure. However, she’d come to see there were many perks to having the extra time to make calls, review her messages and plan her day before she got to work. Since she’d been so annoyed about having to be driven, she hadn’t bothered to mention to anyone that she’d been cleared to drive, even Nick.

Never let it be said that she couldn’t change her mind or adapt to new ways of doing things. Haha, she thought. She sucked at change, but in this case, she was making an exception to her usual rules.

“Good morning, Mrs. Cappuano,” Jimmy, the younger of the two agents, said as he held the back door to a black SUV for her. He was young, blond and handsome.

“Morning.” She got into the car, holding the travel coffee cup she’d filled upstairs, while continuing to mourn the diet cola she’d been forced to give up thanks to her cantankerous stomach. Coffee was no substitute for what she really wanted, but she drank the coffee because it kept her from being feral. With hindsight, she should’ve chosen a job that required little to no interaction with people. That thought made her chuckle.

“What’s so funny?” Vernon asked as he drove the car toward the gate. In his late fifties, he was Black, with graying hair that he wore in a close-cropped style.

“I was thinking I should’ve chosen a career that required no interaction with other people.”

After a pause spent probably trying not to laugh, Vernon said, “And what brought this on?”

“I was pondering my need for caffeine to prevent me from ripping the heads off the people I might encounter on any given workday.”

“Ah, I see.”

Jimmy cleared his throat to cover a laugh.

“You’re a character, ma’am,” Vernon said with a chuckle.

“So I’ve been told. A few times, in fact.”

“That’s shocking to hear.” Vernon’s sarcasm had won her over. That and the way he looked out for her with almost a fatherly concern had earned him a permanent place in her notoriously picky heart. After losing her beloved dad last October, she found herself looking for him in others and had found a hint of him in the least likely of places.

Vernon was a good guy. He and Jimmy both were, and she believed they would take a bullet to protect her. She prayed it never came to that.

Her phone rang with a call from Darren Tabor from the Washington Star, the one reporter she ever spoke to willingly—and even then it wasn’t like she relished having to talk to him. “Don’t ask me about Nick’s mother. I know nothing about it.”

“It hurts me that you think so little of me.”

And he cracked her up. Sometimes. “What can I do for you on this fine day?”

“I’m filling in a few more things from our recent interview and wondered if you have a minute to confirm some details.” She’d given him exactly two hours last week while she and her team were working on Stahl’s cold cases and told him to make the most of it.

“I have about two minutes.”

“I’ll be quick. Double-checking that you’re a graduate of Wilson High.”

“Yes, but we should note that it’s now known as Jackson-Reed.” Former President Woodrow Wilson’s racist legacy had sparked the name change. The new name represented two important people in the school’s history: Edna B. Jackson, the school’s first Black teacher, and Vincent E. Reed, who’d served as the school’s first Black principal.

“Right, got it. Our policy is to refer to the name of the school when the person graduated.”

“Maybe you could say the former Wilson High School in my case, since I fully support the name change.”

“I’ll do that.”

“I also wanted to confirm one of your quotes.”

“Which one?”

“‘I have three very important jobs—first and foremost as a wife and mother to three young people. Second as the lieutenant overseeing the Metro PD’s Homicide division. And last, but certainly not least, I’m proud to serve as the nation’s first lady.’ Is that correct?”


“My editors wondered whether you might want to play up the first lady part more than you do in that statement.”

Sam thought about that for a moment. “The point of this story you talked me into doing was for people to get to know me better, right?”

“That’s the goal.”

“Then it’s important to me that they also know where my priorities lie.”

“You’re apt to get some pushback on listing first lady last.”

“I can handle that.” She made a mental note to alert Lilia and Roni in her first lady office, so they’d be ready for anything.

“All right, then. I think we’re set.”

“This won’t be a hatchet piece, right?”

“Sam… And here I thought we were friends.”

“We are. For now, anyway.”

“You’ll like it. I promise. Thanks for giving me the exclusive. That’ll never be forgotten.”

“I do what I can for the people.”

“Happy to be one of your people.”

“When did I say that?”

“Have a good day, ma’am.”

“If you call me that, you’ll never be one of my people.” She slapped the phone closed for added emphasis while hoping she didn’t come to regret giving the interview Darren had pleaded with her to do.

Vernon drove her around to the morgue entrance at the back of HQ to avoid the media scrum always positioned outside the main door. She’d learned to wait for Vernon to get the door for her, because it mattered so much to him. She would’ve preferred to do it herself, but she’d compromised on that. See? She was growing up.

“See you in a bit, gentlemen.”

“Have a good day at the office, dear,” Vernon said, earning him a grin over her shoulder.

It’d taken serious effort to get him to call her anything other than ma’am.

Her partner, Detective Freddie Cruz, was coming toward her as she stepped into the antiseptic smell coming from the morgue. “Morning,” Sam said.

“We’ve got bodies.”

Chapter 2

“Bodies as in plural?” Sam asked.

“Unfortunately, yes.” Freddie walked with her to the detectives’ pit. “We’ve got a family of six found shot to death in Cathedral Heights. The father failed to show up for work, so one of his colleagues requested a wellness check.”

“What do we know about them?”

“Not much yet.”

“Let’s get everyone on this,” Sam said.

Freddie and her sergeant, Tommy Gonzales, rounded up the other dayshift detectives—Green, O’Brien and Charles.

They were about to leave when Captain Malone appeared in the pit. “You’re on the situation in Cathedral Heights?”

“Yes, sir,” Sam said. “On our way now.”

“Keep me in the loop.”

“Will do.”


She turned back to him.

“I heard it’s ugly. Four kids involved. Bring Trulo in as needed.”

Nodding, she turned away from him and jogged to catch up with her team, steeling herself for the gruesome scene.

“What’d he say?” Gonzo asked.

“That it’s a bad one.”

“Aren’t they all?”

“Some are worse than others.”

While Sam and Freddie got into her Secret Service SUV, the others headed to their cars. Freddie gave Vernon the address in Cathedral Heights.

“Use the lights, please, Vernon,” Sam said.

“Yes, ma’am.”

“Anything online about it?” Sam asked Freddie.

He scrolled through his phone. “Nothing yet, but there’s a helluva lot about Nick’s mother.”

Sam sighed. “That’s all my fault.”

“It’s not your fault she was running a prostitution ring, Sam.”

“It’s my fault that the FBI investigated her.”

“Did you work it out with Nick?”

“Yeah. As usual, he’s triggered by her, but he was so pissed when I told him I’d asked Avery to investigate her and failed to mention that to him. I haven’t seen him that angry in a long time.”

“He’s not mad at you. He’s mad at her.”

“And I know that, but the anger was directed at me. It was unnerving.”

“I’m sure it was, but at least he had warning this was coming. It might’ve blown up without a warning if you hadn’t gotten Avery involved.”

“I guess so. Nick was wondering if she’d dropped his name to the officers when he saw the coverage on TV this morning.”

“Of course she did.”

“That’s exactly what we said.”

“She’s a grifter, and soon the whole world will see what we’ve known all along.”

“I hope that’s how it goes,” Sam said. “It’s the last thing Nick needs with everything else he’s got going on. He’s finally making some inroads in convincing people he’s a legitimate president, and now this.”

“This, too, shall pass. Something else will happen to knock it out of the headlines. That’s how these things go.”

“I hope whatever knocks it out of the headlines isn’t worse than this.”

“I’m sure it won’t be,” Freddie said.

“I wish I could be so confident. It’s always something awful. That’s one reason I was so glad when he said he wasn’t running for president.” To Vernon and Jimmy, she added, “That’s on the deep down-low, guys.”

“Everything is,” Vernon said.

“Thank you.”

“How’s Ang?” Freddie asked.

“I talked to her last night, and she sounded pretty good, all things considered. She said the kids went down easy, and for the first time since Spence died, Jack didn’t cry at bedtime.”

“Poor kid.”

“I hate this for him more than anyone.”

“It’s so freaking tragic.”

Sam’s brother-in-law Spencer had recently overdosed on fentanyl-laced pain pills, and the family was still reeling from the sudden, shocking loss. “We’ve got the preliminary hearing in that case next week.” At the hearing, they would lay out the case they’d built against the people who’d produced and sold the lethal medication and hope to see it remanded over to trial.

“Gonzo can take that.”

“I’ll do it.”

“Sam, you don’t have to.”

“Ang will want to be there, so I’ll go with her.”

“Sometimes it’s all too much,” Freddie said with a sigh.

“Just sometimes?”

“Most of the time.”

“No one says you have to do this job for the rest of your life, you know.”

He shot her a look of pretend offense. “Are you trying to get rid of me?”

“Not even kinda, but there’s other stuff you can do besides this.”

“I’d be bored out of my mind,” he said.

“Probably, but you wouldn’t be subjected to trauma on a daily basis or thrust into danger on the regular.”

Freddie turned in his seat to study her more closely.

Sam rubbed her cheek. “What? Do I have something on my face?”

“Where’s this coming from?”

“Where’s what coming from?”

“You saying that I don’t have to do this job anymore if I don’t want to. Where’s that coming from?”

“Nowhere. I’m just stating the obvious fact that you didn’t sign a lifetime contract with the department.”

“Neither did you.”

“No, I didn’t.”

“Are you speaking for yourself or for me?”

“I’m just saying… You have options. There’re a lot of other things you could do that would be better than this.”

“I’ve heard you say—many, many times—that there’s nothing better than this.”

Sam hated when her own words were used against her. “That’s how I feel. Doesn’t mean you have to feel the same way.” She wished she’d never opened the can of worms that had Freddie looking at her like he didn’t know her at all, when he knew her better than most.

She’d been out of sorts since they’d arrested the people who’d sold the fentanyl-laced pills to her brother-in-law. That’d been a hollow victory, as many of their victories were for victims’ families. Arresting the dealers didn’t bring Spence back. In fact, it didn’t change much of anything for her sister, their children or the others who’d loved him.

As Sam got out of the SUV and followed Freddie to the front door of a large brick-fronted home with pillars and ornate trim, she hoped it would someday matter to Angela and her children that they’d gotten justice for Spence. Right now, that was cold comfort.

Patrol Officers Phillips and Jestings greeted them at the doorway, which had yellow crime scene tape across it.

“Lieutenant, Detective,” Phillips said.

“What’ve we got?”

“Marcel and Liliana Blanchet and their four children.” Phillips swallowed hard as he consulted his notebook. “According to the neighbors, they’re Eloise, age twelve, Abigail, age ten, Violet, age six, and August, known as Gus, age four. By all accounts, a loving and well-loved family.”

“Any info on what the parents did for a living?” Sam asked.

“He’s an OB/GYN and well-known infertility expert. She’s a lawyer.”

Professions that give us plenty to work with, Sam thought.

“Possible murder-suicide,” Jestings added. “The father was found with a gun by his body.”

“Give us the tour.” Sam pulled on gloves as Freddie and the rest of her team did the same. “Gonzo, you’re on photos.”

“Got it.”

They walked into the house, where the smell of death was nearly overpowered by the scent of potpourri or something else scented. In a big, gourmet kitchen, the wife and mother was on the floor with bullet wounds to her chest and forehead. She’d been a beautiful Black woman with long braids and bracelets on her arms. Sam noticed she was wearing a coat, and bags of groceries were scattered about on the floor. Whoever had done this had caught her arriving home to a nightmare.

The husband, who was also Black, looked to be about six foot four or five. They found him on the floor in an office or study, a bullet wound to the temple and brain matter splattered on a dark wood desk behind him. Next to his body was a nine-millimeter handgun. “After you take photos, bag the weapon and his hands,” Sam said. “I want them tested for gunshot residue. While you’re at it, bag the wife’s hands, too.”

While the others saw to her orders, Sam and Freddie followed Phillips and Jestings upstairs, where each of the children had been shot in the head in their beds. The eldest of the four had three obvious wounds. Each of the others had one.

Their innocent faces and sweetly decorated bedrooms reduced Freddie to tears that he quickly brushed away.

That didn’t happen to Sam anymore, which was probably cause for concern. She’d never understand how anyone could commit murder in the first place, let alone the murder of innocent children, but for some reason, she felt oddly detached from the brutal scene before her.

“Have you called the ME?” Sam asked.

“They’re on the way with two trucks,” Jestings said.

The sound of a woman shrieking had Sam and Freddie rushing downstairs, while Gonzo and the other detectives came upstairs to take photos, measurements and notes that would guide their investigation.

A Black woman with gray hair, wearing a red coat, stood outside the crime scene tape demanding to be let in. Another Patrol officer stood in her way.

“This is my family! Let me in!”

“Who are you?” Sam asked.

The woman did a double take when she recognized Sam. That happened far too often lately. “I’m Graciela Blanchet,” she said, her chin quivering. “This is my son’s home.”

Sam and Freddie ducked under the tape and led the woman away from the front door. “Trust me when I tell you that you don’t want to go in there,” Sam said.

“Are they… Are they dead?”

“Yes,” Sam said, making eye contact.

All of them?” she asked in a high-pitched tone.

“I’m sorry, but yes.”

The woman crumpled before their eyes.

Only Freddie’s quick action kept her from falling to the ground as she screamed the children’s names.

Sam watched the scene unfold in an odd state of numbness, as if she were an observer rather than an active participant in what was happening right in front of her.

This reminded her of the Reese case in some ways. In that instance, the father, Clarence, had murdered his wife and three young children and then gone on the lam. She didn’t like to remember that horrific case or how it ended in his suicide a foot from her. Maybe that was why she was reacting so strangely to this new situation.

“Are you all right, Lieutenant?” Jestings asked as he approached them.

Sam realized she’d completely checked out to take a trip to a past she’d much rather forget. “Of course. What’s the ME’s ETA?”

“Ten minutes out.”

“Thank you. How about Crime Scene?”

“They’re fifteen minutes out.”

“Good job, Jestings. Thank you.”

The rest of her team came out of the house, each of them seeming undone by what they’d seen. Who could blame them? Sam walked over to them while Freddie stayed with the grandmother. When the other detectives were gathered around Sam, she said, “Please ask for help if you need it after what you’ve just seen. There’s no shame in reaching out to Dr. Trulo at a time like this.” She said the words as a rote recitation, knowing they should be said, not because she felt the need for help.

Detective Charles, the newest member of her team, subtly swiped at a tear on her cheek. “I’ll never understand how a father can do that to his family.”

“It’s possible whoever did this wants us to believe the father killed them,” Green said.

“That’s something we need to fully investigate,” Sam said.

You think my son did this?” Graciela said with a shriek. “He would never have harmed them! He loved them with his whole heart. He would’ve died for them.”

Sam hadn’t realized the grandmother was listening to them. “Ma’am, would you be willing to come to headquarters to answer some questions about your son and his family?” Sam asked as gently as possible.

“If it would help.”

“It would,” Sam said. “It would help tremendously.”

“We’ll canvass the neighbors,” Gonzo said.

“Wait for the ME and Crime Scene, and then find out who their friends were.” Sam glanced at the gaggle of bystanders that formed any time a great tragedy occurred. It drove her crazy the way people felt the need to be up close and personal with disaster, as if to assure themselves they were fine. Or whatever weird need motivated them to stand in the cold and stare at a home where murder had occurred. “We’ll need some insight from those closest to them.”

“On it,” Gonzo said. “Will be back to the house when we’re finished.”

“Come with us, Mrs. Blanchet.” Sam led the woman to the Secret Service SUV. “Back to HQ, please, Vernon.”

Freddie got in the other side.

“Yes, ma’am.”

As the car pulled away from the crime scene, the older woman sobbed softly into a handkerchief that had crocheted edges. Sam was reminded of her grandmother Ella, who’d tried and failed to teach Sam and her sisters to crochet. They’d all sucked at it. The memory would’ve made her smile at any other time.

“Is there anyone we can call for you?” Sam asked her.

“My other son… Raphael. He’s in Richmond.”

“If you can provide the number to my partner, Detective Cruz, he’ll make the call for you.”

With trembling hands, the older woman withdrew her phone from her purse and recited the number, which Freddie wrote down.

Sam appreciated that she didn’t have to tell him to wait until the woman was out of earshot before he made the call. He understood such things without having to be told, which was one of many reasons he was the best partner she’d ever had.

“When was the last time you spoke to Marcel or his family?” Sam asked. Time was not their friend in cases like this, and there was no point in waiting to get to HQ to start the interview.

“Yesterday afternoon, and then nothing from any of them, which was why I came by today. It’s not normal to go that long without talking to them. The kids and I are in constant touch. They… They taught me to use an iPhone so we could text.” She broke down again. “How can they all be gone? My babies. My beautiful babies.”

Sam moved to the facing seat and put her arm around the woman, who leaned into the comfort she offered. “I’m so sorry for your losses.”

“My son didn’t do this. There’s nothing that could make me believe that. He was the most devoted, loving husband and father you’ve ever met. He recently cut back at work so he could spend more time with the kids as they got older and involved in more sports and activities.” She took hold of Sam’s hand and held on tightly. “Someone did this to them. It wasn’t him.”

“We’ll fully investigate every possibility,” Sam assured her.

“You should talk to Rory,” Graciela said with a bitter edge to her voice.

“Who’s Rory?”

“He was one of Marcel’s partners in the practice. Rory was furious when Marcel reduced his hours to spend more time with the family. Liliana told me the two men had a screaming fight over it. Rory accused Marcel of being selfish and thinking only of himself.”

Sam glanced at Freddie, who was taking notes.

“What is Rory’s last name and the name of their practice?”

“McInerny, and the practice is District OBGYN. The other doctor in the practice is Oriana Harvey.”

“Who else needs to be notified about their deaths before the names are made public?” Sam asked.

“Oh Lord, Liliana’s mother has terrible dementia. She and her sister, Esme, take care of her full time.”

“Do you know how we can reach Esme?”

Graciela withdrew her phone again and found the number, which she recited for Freddie. “I help them whenever I can, which is why I have her number.”

“Is there anything else you think we should know?” Sam asked.

She hesitated, as if debating whether she should share.

“Every detail, even the smallest thing, is relevant in an investigation of this sort.” She hesitated to refer to it as a homicide investigation until they were sure that Marcel hadn’t murdered his family before he took his own life. “If you know something, now is the time to tell us.”

“Marcel suspected that Liliana was having an affair.”

The First Family Series

Boxed Set

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~ Calvin Coolidge

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