Oath of Officeby Michael Palmer
Michael Palmer, the New York Times bestselling author of A Heartbeat Away and The Last Surgeon brings us a shocking new thriller at the crossroads of politics and medicine.
What if a well respected doctor inexplicably goes on a murderous rampage?
When Dr. John Meacham goes on a shooting spree the office, his/p>/i>/p>/i>/i>/i>/i>… See more details below
Michael Palmer, the New York Times bestselling author of A Heartbeat Away and The Last Surgeon brings us a shocking new thriller at the crossroads of politics and medicine.
What if a well respected doctor inexplicably goes on a murderous rampage?
When Dr. John Meacham goes on a shooting spree the office, his business partner, staff, and two patients are killed in the bloodbath. Then Meacham turns the gun on himself.
The blame falls on Dr. Lou Welcome. Welcome worked with Meacham years before as a counselor after John's medical license had been revoked for drug addiction. Lou knew that John was an excellent doctor and deserved to be practicing medicine and fought hard for his license to be restored. After hearing the news of the violent outburst, Lou is in shock like everyone else, but mostly he's incredulous. And when he begins to look into it further, the terrifying evidence he finds takes him down a path to an unspeakable conspiracy that seems to lead directly to the White House and those in the highest positions of power.
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Oath of Office
By Michael Palmer
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2012 Michael Palmer
All rights reserved.
One hour down. Three hours to go.
The afternoon was turning out just as Lou had hoped it would. Enough traffic through the ER to keep things from being boring for Emily, but nothing that would leave her with a lifetime of nightmares and therapy bills. Not that the teen wouldn't be able to handle just about anything that came down the pike. But in an inner city emergency room — even a small satellite facility like the Eisenhower Memorial Hospital Annex, the pike, on occasion, might be carrying violence of the highest order.
"Okay, Em, Mr. Schultz is being a perfect patient. Ten stitches and not a peep out of him. Two more and we'll get him bandaged, up, and home."
"Thank you, Doc," the man beneath the saucer-shaped light said in a raspy voice that could have cut stone. "I didn't feel a thing. Your dad does great work, miss."
"Thank you. I know," Emily replied. "He loves sewing my jeans when they tear, and he was always stitching up my stuffed animals, even when they weren't ripped."
"My son's school has Take Your Kid to Work Day, just like yours," Schultz said, "but I'm a roofer. Three stories up with the wind blowing doesn't seem like a great place for a nine-year-old, so Marky went to the nursing home with my wife and helped her put the trays together. What does your mom do, miss?"
"My name's Emily, Mr. Schultz," she reminded him. "Emily Welcome. My mom's a psychologist. Mostly couples therapy. She didn't think her patients would enjoy having her thirteen-year-old kid sitting in on their sessions."
"I can see why she might feel that way."
"But for a second choice," Lou said, tying off the final stitch, "I believe Mom might have chosen to send Emily up on the roof with you, rather than into this place."
In fact, the first argument he and Renee had gotten into in months was about her belief that there had to be a rule against bringing a doctor's family member into an emergency room — even one with only three nurses, a licensed nurse's aide, an armed security guard, a receptionist, one ER resident, and one board-certified emergency specialist. The Annex essentially served as a walk-in center to reduce the volume of the massive mother ship, just six blocks away.
"Let me send her into the office with Steve," Renee had pleaded.
"Steve's not her father. I am. Besides, how interesting could it be for her to hang out surrounded by a bunch of starched shirts and musty law tomes? I can hear her now reporting to her class: 'I spent my day with my mother's new husband, Steve, watching him making piles of money off a bunch of unfortunates who are suing a bunch of other unfortunates. Or you might as well send her to my brother's office. Graham does even better at making money than Steve. Plus it might actually give him something to talk to me about besides my lack of a 401(k).'"
Even though Lou had ultimately won that round, he had to admit that as usual, Renee had a point, and he had told her so when he apologized for sounding like a jerk. For whatever reason, he had been feeling sorry for himself on the day the forms were due back to the Carlisle School. And despite some misgivings of his own about exposing Em to the raw underbelly of D.C., he had decided to turn Take Your Student to Work Day into Little Bighorn.
Two hours and thirty-five minutes to go.
So far, so good.
Despite a steady stream of patients, Gerhard Schultz was about as challenging a trauma case as the Eisenhower Annex typically saw. Lou missed the action in the main ER, but in his past life, he had squirreled away enough action points to star in a video game. For now, part-time shifts at the old Annex would do just fine.
Not surprisingly, the patients and the staff loved Emily to pieces. There was a grace and composure surrounding her that won people over almost as quickly as did her dark, unassuming beauty. Thirteen going on thirty. People loved to say that about their kids — especially their daughters. But the old saw, though true in Emily's case, invariably brought Lou a pang. It was hard not to believe that in many ways he had robbed those seventeen years from her.
"Okay, Mr. Schultz," he said, "one of the nurses will be in to dress your arm in just a few minutes. No work until next Monday. If you need a note, the nurse will put one together and I'll sign it. Last tetanus shot?"
"A year or so ago. I ... um ... tend to bump into sharp things."
"Sharp, rusty things," Lou corrected. "We'll give you a wound-care sheet."
"Your dad's a good man," the roofer said again. "I been around a lot of doctors. I can tell."
"I've been around a lot of fathers, and I can tell, too," Emily said.
Lou wouldn't have been surprised if her smile had healed Schultz's nasty gash then and there, in addition to curing any illness that might have been lurking inside him.
Looking utterly perfect in her sky blue scrubs, she walked back to the doctor's lounge, shoulder to shoulder with her father.
"Well, that was fun," she said when he had settled her in on the sofa, around a cup of hot chocolate from the Keurig machine.
"You think you might like to be a doctor?" Lou asked, remembering that he could have answered that question in the affirmative when he was four.
"I suppose anything's possible. You and Mom are certainly good role models."
"She's a terrific shrink."
"It's hard for you, isn't it."
"What's hard?" Lou asked, knowing perfectly well what she was talking about.
"It wasn't what I wanted, if that's what you mean."
"People get remarried to their exes. It happens on TV all the time."
"Em, Mom is remarried. You got that, bucko? Add me to the mix, and you get a sitcom that would compete with Modern Family."
Emily chewed on her lip and picked at a fingernail. "I'm glad you won out and brought me in with you today," she said finally.
"I didn't win anything. It's Take Your Kid to Work Day, and you're my kid. You always were, and you always will be."
Lou crossed to the door and glanced over at the two new arrivals in the waiting room — a Latina woman and the extremely ancient man he assumed was her father. The fellow's color was poor, and he was working for each breath.
"Check an oh-two sat on him, Roz," he said to the nurse, "and have Gordon start going over him right away."
"Thanks. I'm glad you feel that way," Emily was saying. "What would you say if I told you I was losing interest in school?"
Lou narrowly missed spraying out his coffee. "You're, like, tops in your class. You get all A's."
"I'm looking out the window and daydreaming a lot. That can't be anyone's idea of an education."
"You don't go to school to get an education."
Emily immediately perked up. "What do you mean?"
"Call it Welcome's Law. You go to school for the degree. Anything you learn while you're there is gravy.
Her eyes were sparkling now. "Go on."
"Every single day that you manage to stay in school translates into ten thousand people in the world that you won't have to take BS from in your life. The more degrees you have, the fewer little, small-minded people there will be who have big power over you. I stayed in school long enough to get an M.D. degree. Now, nobody can boss me around."
"What about Dr. Filstrup at the Physician Wellness Office?"
Lou groaned. In terms of insight and verbal sparring, Emily was her mother's daughter.
So much for Welcome's Law.
Lou's affiliation with the PWO went back nine years — to the day when his medical license was suspended for self-prescribing amphetamines. He had always been a heavier-than-average drinker, but speed, which he took to handle the sleep-deprivation of working two moonlighting jobs, quickly brought him to his knees. Enter the PWO, an organization devoted to helping doctors with mental illness, physical illness, substance abuse, and behavioral problems. The PWO director arranged for an immediate admission to a rehab facility in Georgia, and kept in close contact with Lou's caseworkers and counselors until his discharge six months later. After that, a PWO monitor met with him weekly, then monthly, and supervised his recovery and urine screens for alcohol and other drugs of abuse. After a spotless year, his license was restored and he returned to work at Eisenhower Memorial. Three years after that, he was hired as the second of two PWO monitors. For the next year, things went perfectly. Then Walter Filstrup was brought in by the PWO board to head up the program.
"You know, bucko," Lou said to his daughter, "sometimes you're too smart for your own good."
Although he seldom went out of his way to discuss his job frustrations with his child, neither was Lou ever one to measure his words. And the kid was a sponge.
"All right," he said. "Consider my current position with PWO the exception that proves the law. Now, let's get out there and see some patients. You ready to stay in school?"
Emily cocked her head thoughtfully. "For the moment," she said.
"That's all I can ask for. So, let's not fall behind. In the ER business, you never know when something's going to come out of left field and slam you against the wall."CHAPTER 2
With a nurse, the licensed nurse's aide, and the resident busy with the old man in one of the back examining rooms, Lou handled an ear infection in a toddler, an upper respiratory virus in an elderly woman, and a cracked finger bone in a fifteen-year-old high school shortstop, who was dangerously close to losing an entire limb if he didn't stop leering at the doctor's daughter.
Sixty minutes to go.
It may have been a case of doing the right thing for the wrong reason, but Take Your Kid to Work Day was proving to be a total success.
The nurse clinician, a newlywed named Barbara Waldman, appeared behind a wheelchair at the door to the treatment room. The man in the chair was someone Lou knew well — a sixty-two-year-old who lived in various doorways near the Annex.
"Desmond!" Lou exclaimed, helping the man onto the examining table and out of his tattered air force jacket. "That gang again?"
Desmond Carter dabbed at his bleeding nostrils with a rag and nodded.
For most of the homeless in the area, being beaten for sport by any of several gangs who roamed the neighborhood was routine. Usually, though, the attacks occurred at night. Desmond, though black, was known for playing Irish tunes on a battered pennywhistle. When the music business was slow, he cashed in bottles. A Vietnam vet, he was rail thin, but with eyes that never betrayed the hardship of his life. Today, his face was swollen and bruised, with a split lip and the bloody nose. His oily trousers were shredded at the knees, revealing deep abrasions. One shoe was missing.
"Good to see you, Dr. Lou," Desmond said.
"Sorry this keeps happening, my friend. Want us to send for the police?"
"Ain't worth it. Just some bandages and fix my nose if it's broken. How you been?"
"Still at the gym?"
"When I have time. A little sparring, some training when one of the up-and-comers asks for it. Listen, we got to get you undressed and cleaned up. Then we'll check you over and get an X-ray of your nose and any other part that needs it. Desmond, that gorgeous young woman over there is my daughter, Emily. She's here helping us out for the day."
"Ms. Emily," Desmond said, nodding and managing a weak, toothless grin. "It's fine with me if you want to stay."
Lou considered the situation and shook his head.
"Yeah," Emily said. "You walk around your apartment all the time in your boxers."
Had Barbara Waldman been chewing gum, she would have swallowed it.
"You have your hands full with that one, Dr. Welcome," she managed.
"Listen, Em," Lou said, "I don't think so. Why don't you wait in the lounge until we get Desmond taken care of."
He missed his daughter's glare as she left the room.
Nurse and doc gently stripped the vet down and helped him into a pair of disposable scrub pants and a johnny. He had absorbed a pounding, but it was hardly the first time. His abdominal wall was a road map of scars — the result of wounds, Lou had learned, that had led to two Purple Hearts.
Lou clenched his jaw. He had encountered more than enough violence and depravity to have developed something of an immunity, but in truth, he knew he would never be inured — especially when the victim was a guy like Desmond Carter.
He was preparing to examine the man when he heard the soft clearing of a throat from the doorway. Emily was standing there, hands on her hips, looking incredibly like her mother.
"Dad, you know how much I hate being treated like a baby," she said. "I've seen street people before and black people, and even hurt people. It's okay for me to watch — I promise you. You're not protecting me from anything."
Lou looked up at the ceiling and then the wall — anyplace but at his daughter's wonderful face. He had been outmatched by her from the day she was born. Besides, exposing her to Desmond Carter this way seemed right. Still, it was probably something he should discuss with Renee. He envisioned his ex after the fact, arms folded, tapping her foot in exasperation, and heard her reminding him that she did, in fact, have a cell phone.
Better to ask forgiveness than permission, he decided.
"Barbara, does Desmond have a record of an HIV test?"
"Negative test drawn here four months ago," she said.
"Em, you can come in," he heard himself say. "But stand over there by the wall. Barbara, how about getting her into double gloves and a gown. Might as well give her a face shield as well."
Swimming in her gown and looking like a teenager from outer space, Emily inched forward and watched as Lou packed both Desmond's nostrils and explained what he was searching for in each segment of his physical exam. He could see her eyes widen at the man's scars.
"Desmond, are you sure about no police?" Lou asked.
"Next time, maybe. I got a caseworker. I'll tell her."
"Barbara," Lou said, turning to the nurse, "how about ordering a chest film and nasal bones? Maybe get a CBC as well. Then we'll do whatever we have to, to fix that schnoz."
"Okay. Then I'm going to stop in the back and see if Gordo and Roz are all right with that poor old man. I think they're going to transfer him."
"No problem," Lou said.
Moments later, the receptionist appeared at the doorway.
"Dr. Welcome, there's a Dr. Filstrup on the line for you — he says it's urgent."
Lou suppressed a smile.
An urgent call from Walter Filstrup. That had to be an absolute first. He probably wanted Lou to pick up some tuna on his way home and drop it off at the office.
Largely because of the documented strength of his recovery, and the way he related to clients, Lou was well regarded by the PWO board. But he was hardly ready to take over as director. And the truth was, there were few beside Filstrup who seemed interested in the job.
From day one, he and Filstrup were like a cobra and a mongoose — actually, more like a cobra and a baby goose. The wellness office was a small one as physician health programs went, leaving the opinionated, bombastic therapist with only a couple of minions to boss around ... chief among them, Lou.
"Em," Lou said, "Barbara will be right back. Linda, please patch Dr. Filstrup over to the doctors' lounge. I'll talk to him there."
The phone was ringing as Lou entered the lounge.
"Welcome? It's me."
Lou cringed at the sound of his boss's voice. "I'm a little busy right —"
"Welcome, listen. You've really blown it this time."
"I left the seat up in the office men's room?"
"You're not funny. In fact, you're never funny."
"Walter, what is this all about?"
"It's about your darling client, John Meacham, the man whose license you single-handedly got restored."
"He's a terrific guy and a terrific doc. I had coffee with him the day before yesterday. He's doing fine."
"Well, today he shot seven people to death in his office and then turned the gun on himself."
Lou sank onto the arm of the worn leather sofa, unable to take in a breath. "If you're messing with me, Walter," he managed finally, "I swear, I'm going to hang you by your thumbs."
"Turn on the news. Any news."
"You sure it's our client?"
"Your client. In case you forget, I never thought he was too tightly wrapped, and I told you that on more than one occasion. I kept pushing to get rid of that touchy-feely social worker therapist you were using, and to get him to a psychiatrist. But no."
Excerpted from Oath of Office by Michael Palmer. Copyright © 2012 Michael Palmer. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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I've been a big fan of Michael Palmer's since discovering his writing some years ago, and this one didn't disappoint. In the interest of full disclosure, this review is based on a complimentary advance copy of Oath of Office, furnished without any expectation of how well or poorly I'd treat the book in my review. Michael Palmer's last three books have not only featured medicine but have a political bent, and this one goes them one better. It not only has a doctor as a protagonist (two, if you count the President's wife, a no-longer-practicing pediatrician) and is set in Washington DC with a President who has a rather unusual mindset, but it also discusses a social issue that most of us don't even think about: genetic modification of the food we eat. Frankly, I had never considered the implications of this, but after reading Oath of Office, I certainly will. Michael juggles all these subjects superbly, and keeps the reader turning pages--at least, that's what I did. The action is rapid, the scenario chillingly believable, and the end was unexpected but satisfying. The book occasionally makes use of a few words you didn't hear in Sunday school, but the plotting is excellent and the message of the book makes worthwhile reading.
Rarely do I find a novel that tackles a unique issue, provokes thought, educates without preaching, and also manages to entertain. With 'Oath of Office', Michael Palmer does all these things masterfully. This book is a combination medical and political thriller, but is not defined by either genre. The characters are rich in dimensions, the plot multi-layered and fast-paced. At times the dialogue made me laugh, other times a scene had me cringing. I was captivated from start to finish, and can only complain that the story had to end. ** I noticed a few negative reviews criticized the plot for being far-fetched. I'd suggest some reading on the truth of genetically engineered foods. **
I’ll admit that although I love TV shows and movies that deal with political scandals and medical mysteries and dramas, I have not read many books in this type of genre. However, when I read the synopsis for Oath of Office, I was intrigued and requested an Advanced Reader Copy of the book. I thought it was interesting that the book was released on Valentine’s Day because it is definitely not a Valentine’s story!! It is a thought-provoking page turner with amazing twists and unexpected revelations with every turn of the page. In the letter I received from the author with the book, he wrote that the book was inspired by the documentary Food, Inc., and states “My hope is that my book will make readers more aware about the importance of being educated in the areas of labeling and the genetic modification of what we eat.” I have not looked into more about our food in the past, but after reading this book I do want to learn more about what is put into our food. I hope that it opens other people’s eyes too and that others don’t just read it strictly as a fictional book. Although it is fiction, if we are not careful we could easily have some kind of similar situation on our hands, especially with the way our economy is currently. I know that what we eat and medicines we take can influence our thoughts and actions. I hope that we never have to deal with some of the extreme examples of loss of reason that occur in the book. I don’t want to give anything away, but there was one situation in the book that was so extreme it almost caused me to stop reading. However, at the same time, it made me want to read more to find out what happened in the end and how things were resolved. Oath of Office is one of the most eye-opening and reflective books I’ve read in a while and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.
This is a splendid blend of medicine, research and corrupt politics. The mix of these topics is complicated yet simplistic. The ending was unexpected, yet believable. There must be a follow-up with these characters.
Dr Lou Welcome, unusual name for an unusual man. When Dr. Meacham, who is under Dr Welcome's care for abuse problems does something completely out of character, Welcome is not as fast to judge as some others. He races to the hospital where Meacham had been taken after shooting his staff and then himeself. One of the first things he notices is the unusual behavior of the staff at the hospital where Meacham has been taken for emergency treatment. There was something that was hard to describe, but just a little off. He realizes that he is seeing the same thing in Meacham's wife. Behavior that is a little off, but hard to explain. She is not the last one to baffle Welcome by her behavior. What is it that can affect an entire community? Is there a commonality that he is missing? And why is the First Lady of the country doing some investigating of her own? Can the President himself be affected, or worse, involved? Fast paced read, likable characters and good story.
When Dr. John Meacham goes on a shooting spree killing his partner, staff and two patients and then turns the gun on himself all the blames falls to Dr. Lou Welcome. Dr. Welcome was working with a group that helps doctors regain their licenses. In this case the doctor’s license had been removed for alcoholism and losing his temper with a patient. He had worked with Meacham for years and knew Dr. Meacham was an excellent doctor and advocated strongly to have his license returned. When he learns about what happened he is shocked like everyone else but he believes the authorities are missing something. Dr. Welcome just can’t let it go so he starts to investigate himself. What he discovers is truly terrifying. Dollycas’s Thoughts This is quite a suspense thriller. I used the terms “scary good” back in 2010 to describe The 19th Element by John L. Betcher and this story tops that. Betcher’s story was about Al Quada terrorists striking in the Midwestern United States. Oath of Office is about Americans terrorizing other Americans through products we need to survive. All in the name of greed and the path leads directly to the White House. I would say it is Spine-Chillingly Excellent!!! The truly scary part is that if you do an internet search for the scientific terms in this book they are out there. Hopefully we can trust that they are being used for good and there are regulations in place to save us from something like this occurring. But with all the deregulation talk spinning around Washington could make this story more fact the fiction. Michael Palmer is a bestselling author for very good reason. He writes an extraordinary story. This book will hold you in its grasp tightly from the first page until the very last word. I never thought of myself as a squeamish person but chapter 39 almost did me in. That’s my only caution about this book. The book is fabulous and I give it my highest recommendation. I can honestly say this is the best book I have read in a very long time.
Michael Palmer's novel, "Oath Of Office, is exceptionally well written with enough action and intrigue making it difficult to take a break. The chapters "fly by" so fast that I was disappointed when I read the last page of the last chapter. I kept wishing for another chapter to appear, but alas it was not to be. "Oath Of Office" is a winner in every sense of the word, IMHO.
I have read most of Michael Palmer’s books wondering how he could add more excitement and deeper involvement than in his preceding books. “Oath Of Office” is no exception as I thoroughly enjoyed the entire book wondering while advancing through the book how the author can be so knowledgeable as he delves into so many subjects in various fields and subjects? The story begins as Dr. John Meacham has a huge verbal fight with a patient, certainly not the type of thing he would normally do. As that patient stormed out of his office he started thinking beyond the normal box that all those in the office would give him trouble reporting the incident to the hospital and other boards. He decided he would just stop any of them from hurting his future and started shooting and killing any patients in the office and waiting room, his own staff, and any doctors in the immediate vicinity, followed by shooting himself. Dr. Lou Welcome was a good friend of Dr. John Meacham and couldn’t believe that this man could take the actions he had taken with such finality to everyone involved. Dr. Meacham had barely survived the bullet he put in his head and despite all the medical attention he was given, including some from Lou, he didn’t make it. The wife of the President of the United States, Darlene Mallory, was a good friend of the Secretary of Agriculture, Russell Evans, and was hurt that he had been caught with a hooker and had to resign his cabinet job. She needed to find out if the story was true or not. Their meeting was done secretly, planned well with the help of one of the Secret Service agents assigned to cover Mrs. Mallory, Victor. Victor was a very good agent but also was top notch at helping the presidents’ wife do almost anything she wished to do, outright or secretly. Lou was beginning to suspect something was going on affecting the minds of some causing them to do some outlandish and not near normal activities that had started with his friend killing so many and Dr. Meacham’s wife not acting normal also. Lou had been taking boxing lessons from a good friend, Cap, and had for some years. This helped Lou stay in good physical shape and he loved the action and boy, did he need some relaxation now after all he had been through the past few days. He and Cap worked out and had a good chance to talk. The town of Kings Ridge was the closest populated area and Lou went there to meet Chief Stone, Chief of the Kings Ridge Police force. Lou told Stone that he was suspicious of some strange things going on in the area with people doing and saying some strange things, some things from their local hospital, the local doctors, and the actions of Dr. Meacham. The chief took note but did not feel there was anything wrong. Action really picks up even more so involving all of the above, the President of the United States who was involved in a reelection campaign so did not have much time for close friends or his wife, Lou’s friends and associates, Secret Service agents, and many more. As I said, Michael Palmer has spun a great tale in this book and to try to tell you any more than I have would ruin your enjoyment while reading the book. The writing is excellent, the plots are great, and the characters are very real. When the book gets into genetically modified goods, we enter a current problem facing our world right now. How dangerous are these GE products?
Got my attention with the first chapter and held it to the end. Didn't want to put it down.
If you like medical mysteries then this one is for you! I was hooked after the first page. I have read all of Michael Palmer's books and this is one of his best. You can kind of figure out what has happened but how it evolves keeps you on edge. junebug1228
It's a pretty corny story, and chock full of gibberish-sized events that defy reason and probability. But once again author Michael Palmer has tied a doctor to the White House and made a story out of it. I give it three stars, which translates as good, but it is not great.There are so many taut thrillers out there that don't have the holes this one does; I reserve five stars for those.
Love the characters in the book. Any Michael Palmer book featuring his character Barrington is a great read and worth picking up.
Story started slowly, but got more and more interesting a it went on,,,, makes you wonder about the food industry!
Works on paperwork
Awful, terrible and a total waste. Like reading the "Hardy Boys". A Save your hard earned money.
As a fan of medical mysteries and Michael Palmer, this ranks near the top. Lou Welcome was introduced in this book and is an ongoing charachter in two later books so you should read this one first before Political Suicide and the latest Palmer book released 5/20/2014. If you read them out of order,go ahead with these. It's worth the read.
This is well written and a very good story. I really enjoyed reading this book.