They never saw this coming…
This story picks up right where State of the Union left off with another wild ride for the First Couple as they navigate work, family and an all new and extra baffling murder mystery that has Sam pushing the boundaries to get answers before a killer can strike again. Meanwhile, Nick contends with the aftermath of his landmark State of the Union address as a person from his past threatens to undo all the progress he’s made since assuming the presidency.
Hold on to your hat for the next First Family book.
“I have been reading the Fatal series since the beginning and love Sam and Nick and all their friends and family. I can’t wait to see what happens now that Nick is the President of the United States and Sam is the First Lady. This was not the path that Nick and Sam wanted for their family but Nick knows it is his duty and responsibility to take over as POTUS.” Five Stars from Phuong on Amazon for State of Affairs.
State of Shock
First Family Series, Book 4
A full minute passed before Angela’s words registered with Sam.
Spencer won’t wake up.
Dr. Harry Flynn bolted from the table, yelling for his fiancée, Lilia, to contact the Camp David medical team and get them to Birch, which was Angela and Spencer’s cabin. “Tell them to hurry.”
Sam’s husband, Nick, and brother-in-law Mike ran after Harry. Her sister Tracy went to Angela, who was hysterical.
“What’s going on?” Sam’s son, Scotty, asked.
“We aren’t sure,” Sam said. “Stay with the twins, okay?”
“I need to be with him,” Angela said.
“Let’s go, then.” Tracy glanced over her shoulder at Sam as she led their middle sister to the door. “Sam.”
Sam tried to shake off the shock. Spencer was young and strong. He’d be fine. Her sister needed her. Shake it off, she told herself. “Where’re your kids?”
“With Celia,” Angela said. “She took them for a walk so we could sleep in.”
“What can I do for you?” Lilia asked. At work, she was Sam’s chief of staff. Here, she was a close friend.
“Pray,” Sam said, even though she wasn’t particularly religious. What else could they do at a time like this?
Sam followed her sisters out the door and ran to Birch, a short distance from their cabin. The Camp David ambulance and fire department were already there. “Wait,” Sam said to her sisters as her training kicked in. “Ang shouldn’t go in there.”
“I want to be with him,” Angela said pleadingly. Her pretty face was red and puffy, her belly round with her third pregnancy.
“Let me go in and see what’s happening first.”
“You don’t want to see things that can’t be unseen. Trust me on this.”
“Wait with me.” Tracy kept her arms around Angela. “Let Sam check first. Go, Sam. Hurry.”
Sam went up the stairs and stepped into chaos.
Spencer was on the floor of the living room. The first thing she noticed was that his face was gray. Sam recognized the automated external defibrillator from a training they’d had at work. The AED was hooked to Spencer as Harry performed CPR.
“Did you give him Narcan?” Sam asked, knowing it was routine to give the overdose drug in cases when an otherwise-healthy patient was unresponsive, even if the victim wasn’t a known drug user.
“Twice,” one of the EMTs said as they worked frantically.
That he hadn’t responded to the drug that quickly reversed an overdose could mean any number of things. Besides, there’s no way this was drug related. Spencer didn’t have a drug problem.
“Ask Angela when she last spoke to him and if he was taking meds,” Harry said, doing chest compressions as the EMTs worked on intubating him.
Sam ran outside to ask Angela the questions.
“Earlier this morning,” Angela said, her voice shaky. “He got up to use the bathroom and then went back to bed. Celia said she’d get up with our kids. He… He said to wake him up for breakfast.”
“Was he taking anything?”
“Just some pain meds.”
Sam went back inside. “She talked to him earlier this morning, and he was on pain meds.”
“We’ve got a faint heartbeat,” one of the EMTs said.
“We need to get him to GW Trauma ASAP,” Harry said, as he stopped compressions. “Get the chopper ready.”
“It’s standing by, Dr. Flynn.”
Working together, they got Spencer loaded onto a gurney.
Spencer’s heart might be beating, but he looked dead to Sam. How could this be happening? He’d been fine the night before. They’d played Pictionary. He’d drawn the funniest giraffe.
She went out ahead of the EMTs.
“They’ve got a heartbeat, and they’re taking him to GW,” Sam told her sisters.
“I want to go with him,” Angela said.
“There may not be room in the chopper.”
Nick came outside, looking pale and shocked. “We’ll take her on Marine One. Tell Elijah he’s in charge of the kids. Let’s move quickly.”
While Tracy took off to do that, Sam stopped Captain Tisha Martin, the Camp David commanding officer.
“Please keep everyone out of the cabin until I can get back here.” She glanced at their FBI agent friend, Avery Hill, who had an arm around his wife, Shelby, as they watched the drama unfold. “Especially him.”
“I will,” Captain Martin said. “No one will get in there except for you.”
Sam squeezed her arm. “I appreciate that. I want to protect their privacy.”
Within minutes, they’d arranged for the kids to stay behind with Eli and Candace in charge while Celia had Angela’s kids and Tracy’s. They boarded Marine One with Angela, Tracy and Mike.
The Secret Service agents who protected Sam and Nick entered through the rear doorway.
Taco, the Marine colonel who flew the helicopter, had them airborne within seconds and headed for DC.
Sam could tell they were flying much faster than they normally did.
Angela was crying so hard she could barely breathe.
Brant, Nick’s lead agent, came into their cabin, whispered something in Nick’s ear and then returned to the aft cabin.
“What?” Angela said. “Tell me.”
“He crashed again,” Nick said. “They’re trying to resuscitate him.”
Sam wanted to scream at someone to tell her how this was possible. Spencer was thirty-six and in perfect health as far as she knew. What could’ve happened between last night and this morning? The detective in her wanted answers, and she wanted them now. But her sister needed her, so she kept her focus on Angela.
“The kids…” Angela said.
“They’re with Celia and Shelby,” Tracy reminded her. “They’re fine.”
“I can’t lose him,” Angela said. “I can’t.”
“You won’t,” Tracy said. “He’s young and strong. Harry is with him, along with the rest of the presidential medical team. They’re the best.”
“She’s right,” Nick said. “The medical helicopter has all the state-of-the-art equipment.”
That seemed to pacify Angela ever so slightly, but it did nothing to calm Sam’s nerves after having seen for herself that Spencer’s condition was dire.
Nick took hold of her hand and gave it a squeeze.
When Sam glanced at him, she saw the truth in his blank stare. He was far more worried than he’d let on to Angela.
God, what would Angela do if Spencer died? Jack was seven, Ella not even two and a third baby was due in June.
“I need him,” Angela said. “I need him to be okay.”
“He will be,” Tracy said again.
“Has he had any medical issues recently?” Sam asked because she couldn’t help herself.
Angela glanced at her, in obvious torment that went beyond the current emergency. “He’s been struggling.”
“With what?” Sam asked sharply, earning her a glare from Tracy.
“He hurt his back playing football with his college friends about a year ago,” Angela said haltingly.
“I remember that. What about it?”
“He didn’t want anyone to know. He said he was handling it.”
Sam couldn’t help but go into detective mode. “Know what? Handling what?”
Angela took a deep breath. When she released it, she choked on a sob. “He got hooked on the meds they gave him for the pain.”
“Was it Oxy?” Sam asked.
Angela nodded as she wiped her face. “And Percocet.”
Sam looked at Nick. “We need to get word to Harry to order a tox screen immediately.”
Nick pulled his phone from his pocket and put through a call. As the personal physician to the president, Harry would make sure someone took that call. “Tell Dr. Flynn that Sam said to order a tox screen. He was on Oxy and Percocet.” Nick listened for a second. “Was it prescribed by a doctor?”
Angela stared at him as if she was uncertain how to reply.
“Angela!” Sam immediately regretted her tone, but this was no time to worry about whether Spencer had obtained illegal drugs. “Tell them what they need to know to save him.”
“The doctors wouldn’t give him anymore. He was getting it somewhere else.”
“Jesus,” Sam whispered. “Tell them it could be fentanyl poisoning.”
“He didn’t take that!” Angela cried.
“The pills he bought might’ve been laced with it.” To Nick, she said, “Tell them.”
He relayed the information to Harry and the others.
Spencer must’ve taken something when he got up earlier that morning, Sam thought, her mind racing.
Angela broke down again into heartbroken sobs. “He was trying so hard to quit taking them. You don’t know what he’s been through.”
“He seemed fine when we saw him,” Sam said. “He was riding Jack around on his back on Christmas.”
“He was medicated then. They cut him off in January, and it got really bad then.”
“Why didn’t you tell us, honey?” Tracy asked tearfully.
“He wouldn’t let me. He didn’t want it to blow back on Nick.”
“Oh God, come on,” Nick said, sounding agonized. “I don’t care about that.”
“That’s what I said, but he was embarrassed. Last year when the Secret Service took us all to that bunker? I said he was away on business, but he was in rehab.”
“Ang,” Sam said, battling tears. “I’m so sorry you guys were going through such a difficult thing all by yourselves. We would’ve been there for you.”
“He was adamant. He didn’t want anyone to know.”
And now he might pay for that decision with his life, Sam thought. If he’d taken pills laced with fentanyl, it might be too late to save him.
The next few hours played out like a horror movie, with bad news on top of more bad news. Despite the heroic efforts of Harry and the EMTs in restarting his heart, Spencer’s brain had been deprived of oxygen long enough that the doctors could find no activity. They would have to test that several more times before they declared him brain dead, but they said it was unlikely that he would recover.
Angela’s heartbreak was utterly devastating.
While she supported her sister, Sam was overcome with rage. Someone had done this to him, to them, and she was going to find out who as soon as she possibly could. She would make them pay for taking Spencer from his wife and children. The need for justice for Spencer and Angela was so intense, Sam had to fight it back so she could be there for her sister in her time of need.
Sam and Tracy never left Angela’s side during that long, hellish day, physically holding her up more than once as it sank in that Spencer was gone and not coming back.
“What will I do?” Angela asked between sobs as she paced the ICU waiting room while the doctors tended to him. The room had been closed to everyone else by the Secret Service, who stood watch outside the door. “I don’t know what to do.”
Sam couldn’t think of a single thing to say in response to that as she paced along with Angela, wanting to stay close to her. What would she do with three little kids and no husband? Spencer was also the primary breadwinner for their family, and his loss would be a huge economic blow on top of the emotional one. So many thoughts ran through Sam’s head that she was nearly dizzy from the spiral.
“You need to sit for a minute,” Nick said at one point.
“I don’t want to.”
“Sam, your hip is still healing. You should get off your feet for a bit.”
“Angela needs me.”
“You’re right here for her. Come sit with me. Just for a minute.”
Sam felt almost guilty taking comfort from her husband while Angela was losing hers. It felt wrong to have Nick’s arm around her when Spencer could never again put his arm around Angela. He would miss the birth of their third child and everything else with their kids. It was beyond belief. “How can this be happening?”
“I keep asking myself that,” Nick said. “He was fine last night, and now… I feel sick that they felt they had to keep this from us because of me.”
“That was their choice. You can’t take that on.”
“Yeah. I don’t know what’s more shocking—what happened today or that this had been going on right in front of us and we had no idea. I mean, I knew he hurt his back playing football, but not the rest.”
Dr. Anderson entered the room. “I came in when I heard something was up with your family. Can I help?”
“I wish you could,” Sam said. “But thank you for coming.”
“Do you know what happened?”
“We just found out he was battling a pain med addiction and had turned to acquiring them illegally.”
“Ah, damn. If I had a nickel for every time I’ve seen that in the ER lately.”
“It’s happening a lot?”
“Huge uptick in recent months.”
That information made Sam only more determined to find out who was dealing poisonous pills and get them off the streets before this tragedy happened to another family. And why in the hell hadn’t the Narcotics squad sounded an alarm about a surge in overdose deaths? She’d be asking that question as soon as possible.
“I guess if you heard about this, that means the word is out,” Nick said, overhearing the conversation with Dr. Anderson.
“It’s all over the news that a member of your family suffered a medical emergency at Camp David,” Anderson said.
“Angela,” Nick said, “I hate to ask you this, but we might have to issue a statement because the press has caught wind of an emergency at Camp David.”
“Do whatever you need to,” she said.
What did she care about a statement when her husband was brain dead?
“Are you all right with us saying who it is?”
“Before that happens, you need to notify anyone who shouldn’t hear it from the news.”
“I’ll help you with that,” Tracy said. “Give me your phone and tell me who to call or text, and I’ll take care of it.”
While they did that, Nick called Trevor, his communications director, speaking softly into the phone as he conveyed the news to him and the American people, through his team. “For now, just say his condition is grave and his family is with him,” Nick said. “Give us an hour to notify everyone who needs to know before you release it.”
Spencer’s parents and sisters arrived, compounding the heartbreak with their agony. His brother’s family was in Italy but had been notified.
Celia called Sam, looking for an update. “Jack is asking for them. I don’t know what to say.”
“It’s not good.”
“Oh God, Sam. Really? How is that possible?”
“Angela told us he’s been battling a painkiller addiction. After the doctors cut him off, he turned to acquiring them illegally. We think he might’ve gotten laced meds.”
“What?” Celia asked on a gasp. “How long had that been going on?”
“Awhile. They kept it private.”
“Oh my Lord. Poor Angela. And the kids…”
“I’m going to talk to Nick about getting you guys home.” As she said the words, he stood and went to confer with his lead agent. “Nick is talking to Brant. Just bring everyone to the White House, and we’ll be there when we can.”
“I can’t believe this is happening.”
“None of us can.”
“Is destroyed. I don’t know, Celia. I just don’t know.”
“Tell her I’m taking good care of her babies and not to worry.”
“That’ll help. Thank you.” Sam realized they needed to tell their mother what was happening. This surreal day brought back so many memories of the morning last October when her dad passed.
“If there’s anything else I can do, please don’t hesitate to let me know.”
“Tell Angela I love her.”
“I will. Love you.”
“Love you, too.”
“Ang,” Sam said. “Celia said she loves you and she’s taking good care of Jack and Ella.”
“Do you want me to call Mom?”
“Yeah, I guess we should.”
Sam placed the call to her mother, Brenda.
“Hi there. How’re things at Camp David?”
Sam realized she hadn’t seen the news. “Mom.”
“Something’s happened to Spencer. He’s at GW, and it’s not good. He’s… They’re saying he’s brain dead.”
“No. Sam. My God!”
“We thought you’d want to know.”
“We’re in the ICU waiting room.”
“Okay. Tell Angela… I’m coming.”
The line went dead, and Sam closed her phone, wishing there was something she could do to turn back the clock, to keep this from happening to her sister, niece and nephew. “Mom is coming.”
As tears ran down her face, Angela stared blankly at the wall. What did she care who was coming when the only one she wanted was gone forever?