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Susan Ford, the daughter of President Gerald R. Ford, brings her "White House insider" perspective to this sparkling debut novel, the first in a series of "First Daughter" mysteries. Double Exposure introduces us to Eve Cooper, photographer extraordinaire and the daughter of the newly elected President of the United States.
Eve and her family have barely settled into the White House when the first crisis erupts. There's a dead body in the Rose Garden. In the corpse's pocket is a fragment of a photo that features an unclad and unidentified couple in the Lincoln bedroom, clearly involved in very unofficial activities. The story (complete with photos) is on the front page of The Washington Post, and the press is in a feeding frenzy.
With the help of official White House photographer Michael Cauffman, Eve sets out to clear the President by discovering exactly who took those pictures, and when, and why. As Eve closes in on the truth, she opens a vast Pandora's box of new troubles, both public and private. And the body count keeps rising.
Rich in suspense, humor, and mystery, Double Exposure is an auspicious launch for the literary career of First Daughter Susan Ford, and a fresh and exciting new entry to the popular genre of presidential fiction.
Author Biography: Susan Ford is the daughter of President Gerald R. Ford and Betty Ford, and spent her formative years living in the White House. She has had a successful career as a photojournalist and has been very active in such organizations as the Susan G. Komen Foundation, the Gerald R. Ford Museum, the National Breast Cancer Awareness Program, and the Betty Ford Center. She is in great demand as a public speaker, and continues to work for charitable causes. She lives in New Mexico with her family.
Laura Hayden is an award-winning author and scriptwriter who has published seven novels and seen a script she co-wrote produced by a major network for a national audience. She lives with her family in Colorado.
About the Author
Susan Ford is the daughter of President Gerald R. Ford and Mrs. Betty Ford. In addition to a successful career as a professional photographer, she is very active in charity work. She has received both the Profiles in Progress Achievement Award and the Action for Cancer Awareness Award in recognition of her work in the battle against breast cancer. She currently lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico, with her family.
Laura Hayden has published seven novels, primarily in the romantic suspense category. Her book, A Margin in Time, won the Golden Heart from the Romance Writers of America. She currently lives in Colorado with her husband, a colonel in the U.S. Air Force.
Read an Excerpt
After only three weeks, I wanted out.
During the campaign, the idea of living in the White House had sounded almost exciting. Almost exotic. Almost fun.
But then again, my mother had always warned us to be careful what we wished for; we might get it. I wish she were still alive so I could tell her, "We got it, all right, Mom. So...now what?"
My name is Evelyn Ann Cooper. Most people call me Eve. The press really loves that--a First Daughter named Eve. Some genius stumbled onto that little story hook back in September on a slow news day. I cringe every time I see it in print.
So now, post-inauguration, I'm stuck here, essentially living in a national monument, surrounded by museum pieces I'm afraid to touch, people I don't know, and legions of Secret Service agents whose faces would probably shatter if they dared to smile.
So far, the only person I've met who seems to be able to smile around here is Michael Cauffman, Dad's hand-selected official photographer. In fact, Michael's constant--and may I say sappy--grin is beginning to get on my nerves.
Jealousy on my part, I guess.
But he can afford to be happy; after his daily duties in the White House, he goes home at night to his apartment. He doesn't have to deal with the same problems my family has facing them. No Secret Service agents. No hovering ushers, afraid that you'll leave a Diet Coke can on a $65,000 antique table. No slinking through the hallways trying to avoid the public areas and hordes of tourists, with Secret Service agents dogging your every step.
What I want to know is--who decided it'd be nicefor the President, and his family, to live in a freakin' museum?
With armed guards?
But then again, when I look out my window and glance down to see a group of visitors trooping toward the house, the reality of the situation hits me like a fist in the solar plexus.
I live in the White House.
Eve. The same Eve who came here when she was nine and wrote her "What I did on my summer vacation" paper about her once-in-a-lifetime tour of the President's house.
It's times like these that I wonder what weird set of cosmic forces decided I belonged here, rather than in the midst of the tourists taking that famous twenty-minute tour. Somehow I suspect I'd fit in better with them, all those hordes of earnest citizens visiting the White House on vacation, than I do actually living here, dealing with all the rules, the regulations, the ushers, the history, the grandeur, and, oh yeah, don't forget, the antiques. Sometimes it makes me stop in my tracks and I have a hard time catching my breath.
When the feeling hits me, I can't help but sigh.
"Quit sighing," Michael ordered, "and lean a little to your left and tilt your head down a bit."
I crossed my eyes and stuck out my tongue.
He snapped a picture. "Okay, that takes care of The National Intruder. But Ladies' Home Daily will want something a bit more traditional."
"The Ladies' Home Daily can kiss my rosy rump."
Michael laughed. "Don't be surprised if they offer. They're begging for the lowdown on the Cooper administration, and they might sink that far to get it." He drew an imaginary headline in the air. "'President Prefers Oatmeal for Breakfast. Poultry and Pork Markets Suffer Unprecedented Drop.'"
"Forget the pork." I stretched cramped muscles. "I'm going to be the one dropping if I don't get some fresh air." I stood up and yawned.
Michael reached down by his feet for his camera bag. "Then let's go outside and grab some shots. I'm ready for a change in venue, too."
"Outside? Sure. Anywhere but"--I paused to shudder-"the Rose Garden. There's nothing worse than a cheesy picture of the First Daughter admiring the roses."
So far, every First Daughter since the invention of film has posed for a beauty shot like that, and the press always run the things forever. Heck, those carefully posed portraits even show up in their obituaries.
"I'd just as soon be different," I added. Lord knows I felt different--like I didn't quite belong here, even if my father did.
Michael packed away his Nikon. "Trust me, Eve, this picture will be different. Besides, it's February. The snowstorm yesterday buried most of the greenery. No roses in bloom. Not even an apple tree to tempt you." He laughed at his own joke. "In fact, the Democrats will be the first ones to tell you there's no Tree of Knowledge anywhere on the White House grounds. Not for the last four years and not for the next four, either."
"Very funny," I said with a muffled snort.
All right, so it was funny. But I wasn't going to give Michael the satisfaction of letting him know I thought so. I hadn't figured the guy out yet. Dad had latched onto him somewhere along the campaign trail. Michael appeared to be a stand-up guy, and even I had to admit he was a good photographer.
In any case, my father sure seemed to be fond of him. Maybe it was a matter of Dad missing his own kids while he was on the campaign trail. After all, Michael wasn't that much older than me. Somewhere between the primaries and election race, Dad sort of "adopted" Michael.
I guess it was our fault--my brothers' and mine. Certainly the three of us had done our best to stay out of the pre-election madness when we could. My brother Charlie, one year my junior, avoided politics as much as possible, just like me. But he'd been more successful than I had in his avoidance techniques. Charlie had a very satisfying life in Vermont, where he ran an Internet software business that he'd built from scratch and that was making money out the wazoo. Thanks to his cyber fortune, he was living the life of a comfortable Net hermit. But even if he were dirt poor and destitute, there wasn't enough money in the world to bribe him into playing the candidate's son during the campaign.
The only time he willingly left his self-imposed hibernation was when Dad asked him to make an appearance. And then Charlie'd grumbled constantly how he'd rather be back home with his computers. But he didn't fool me; I knew how much Charlie loved Dad and how he'd do anything Dad asked him to do. Then again, Dad respected Charlie's need for privacy and didn't ask my brother to violate it too often or too much.
Dad even knew not to suggest that Charlie live in the White House.
But my younger brother, Drew, didn't have the same freedom.
Drew was only fifteen, so he couldn't have tagged along on the campaign trail because of school, no matter how he felt about it. Lucky stiff. Of course, now that we were in the White House, Drew wasn't feeling too lucky. He'd had to change schools and currently had the distinction of being not only the new guy in class, but the President's son as well.
Poor kid. I tried to give him an outlet to vent at, to be a safety valve for him, but he's at that age....Could you imagine having to suffer through driver's ed class with two Secret Service men in the backseat of your car?
And think about a teenaged boy asking a girl for a date with a couple of grim-faced security types hovering in the background.
As I said, poor kid.
As for me, during the campaign, I used graduate school as my excuse not to tag along with Dad, but because I worked part-time as an NPS wire service photographer, our paths crossed frequently enough for him to be happy. NPS liked it because, as the candidate's daughter, I had access to photo ops that few other photographers could even dream of.
Except for Michael Cauffman.
Michael had taken some candid shots of Dad during the early part of the campaign--shots that had ended up on the front of several magazines, most notably Time and People. The photos had captured Dad's dedication to duty, as well as providing an uncannily accurate look at the man I knew and loved.
They were good shots...really good shots.
Okay. Maybe I was jealous of him. For more than just his sappy grin and what I assumed was his satisfying life in an antique-free apartment without armed guards.
His expression was definitely sappy when he nodded toward the door. "So let's go outside."
I phoned ahead for a security escort. It's not quite like calling ahead for a pizza, but close. The family floor is the only real bastion of privacy we have in the White House. Once we leave that area of the building, the family members are escorted by Secret Service agents. So once Michael and I left the private quarters, we picked up two agents. They went by the names Perkins and McNally. I hadn't gotten brave enough to ask them their first names, but top money said they were Bulldog and Spike--at least, that's what I called them behind their backs.
The gang of us stumped downstairs, avoiding the public areas by ducking behind security screens, and headed toward the infamous Rose Garden, despite my earlier protests.
Michael's words rang in my ears: Ya gotta give the public what they want...I suppose he had a point.
I was glad the two Dawgs led the way; I kept getting turned around, wandering into the wrong part of the...house. Forgive me, but I'm still having a hard time thinking of this over-ornamented goldfish bowl as a house, much less a home.
Or, heaven forbid, my home...
Home was where I grew up, the place where my family and I lived until I left for college. Or, once I became an adult, home meant my apartment in Colorado, which had just made the transition from austere to having that indefinable warm, lived-in feeling when Dad asked me to move with the family to Washington.
Long story short, I did, and now I was stuck on the wrong side of the lens on a possible photo op from hell.
Talk about a cold day in hell...
But once outside, I realized the weather wasn't really bad for February in D.C.--clear blue skies and a bite in the air. However, everything was pretty much covered in snow because we'd had a really good snowfall the day before. You usually see pictures of the Rose Garden in full bloom and sporting such flowery descriptions in the captions as "...a floral symphony crafted by master gardeners, often adorned with even more tulips than roses." But I had to admit the place was awfully grand-looking, even all covered in snow. Back in Colorado, snow was considered the great equalizer, covering everything with the same white blanket. Here, even the snow was ornamental. Rather than masking the beauty of the garden, the snow magnified it.
But after a half hour of fresh air, my admiration for snow-flocked beauty diminished fast. What had seemed a bearable cold at first now had a real meat-locker feel to it.
I seemed to do that a lot since I moved into the White House.
"Hold your breath," Michael ordered. "You're fogging up the shot."
I nodded because answering would simply make the frosty cloud hanging around my head even worse. But then my teeth began to chatter, spoiling the close-up.
He lowered the camera. "You're doing that on purpose."
"If I c-could stop, I w-would. I didn't g-grow up here in the cold, cruel North like you. I don't do...cold. Not well at all."
He rubbed one gloved hand briskly against his pants leg, a gesture I didn't miss. Evidently, Superphotographers could get chilled, just like the rest of us poor mortals. It was comforting to know that.
"You can't fool me with the cold, cruel North stuff. You used to live in Denver."
"Well..." I hedged. "You're cold, too. You're shivering," I noted, trying not to grin. Presidents' daughters weren't supposed to take comfort in the suffering of others. It made for bad press. "Why don't we stop? Don't you have enough shots?"
He contemplated the scenery while he slapped his gloves together briskly to warm his hands. After a few moments, he said, "Nah...just a few more."
With his fingers evidently thawed, he began to position me, using the weak winter sunlight to its best advantage. I might not have staged the shot quite like he was, but I had to admit to myself that he was higher up the food chain than I was, career-wise. Probably talent-wise, too, but I wasn't ready to admit that.
Besides, I was still learning. Why, I might just catch up with the boy genius, any minute now.
Suddenly, I noticed that his lens wasn't pointed exactly at me. Mind you, I don't have to be the center of attention all of the time, even most of the time, but I did think the purpose at the moment was to get shots of me. If I was going to suffer in the freezing cold for Michael's sense of art and composition, he could at least make the effort to aim his camera somewhere in my direction.
"Excuse me?" I raised my hand and waved. "I'm over here, remember?"
He continued to focus somewhere five or so feet to the left of me. "Hang on for a minute." He stepped closer, almost pushing me aside to get a better angle. Suddenly, I wanted my own camera. I recognized the look on his face; I'd seen it on the faces of a hundred other photographers. That intense interest, the sudden attention when something was happening--something interesting and possibly very photographic.
I craned over his shoulder, trying not to jostle him. Call it photographer-to-photographer respect. "What is it? Where?" I squinted against the glare of the snow, not seeing anything of any particular note. What did the man have? X-ray vision?
He freed an index finger to point toward the snow-covered hedges that ran along the west colonnade. Just beyond the walkway was the Oval Office. I figured maybe he was pointing toward the window or the glass door leading inside.
"What?" Panic ran through me as I squinted again. "Dad?"
"No, beneath the boxwood..." His voice trailed off. I could hear him swallow hard.
"What?" I reached up for his camera but knew his grip would be iron-tight. I couldn't blame him; I wouldn't have given up my camera if I'd framed a great shot in my lens, either.
I peered toward the boxwood hedge that peeked out over the bank of snow. Nothing there. In front of the hedge, smaller shrubs laid out in a sort of rickrack pattern were covered in a blanket of white, with bare crabapple trees emerging from the snow mounds, their branches like gnarled fingers. I shivered, not knowing whether to blame the cold or my overactive imagination.
Shielding my eyes, I tried to block the glare from the snow. Finally, I thought I saw something dark at the base of the hedge.
A squirrel, maybe? I was being upstaged by a bushy-tailed rodent? Somehow, I doubted it.
Michael turned to me, his face drained of color. "Oh, shi..."
Now I was really alarmed. "What?"
He looked beyond me and made a motion. A split second later, Perkins and McNally, my two Secret Service Dawgs, were beside us. Michael pushed me toward them. "Take her inside. And get your boss out here. Quick."
Perkins was already doing his protect-her-at-all-costs shtick, hustling me toward the building while McNally played rear guard, scanning the area, watching our backsides, and talking into his wristwatch or the radio up his sleeve or something Dad always calls their "Dick Tracy-Flash Gordon wrist communicators."
The Secret Service guys ushered me--a nice way to say they pushed me--into the building, choosing the closest entrance. Once we passed through the security check ("Hi, I'm Eve. Remember me? I live here"), we rushed straight to my father's office, where, as luck would have it, he was taking a break.
Standing at the window, Dad was little more than a silhouette against the glare of the snow outside. I could see a steaming mug in his hands. Hot chocolate, I'd bet. After three weeks, the most closely held secret in this administration is the fact that my Dad hates coffee.
What would the American public say if they knew?
He glanced over his shoulder and gave me a wave. "Hi, doll." He pointed toward the cluster of men who stood on the other side of the box hedge, their attention focused on the ground beneath it. "Looks like there's a little excitement outside."
Suddenly, I was glad there was bulletproof glass between my father and the outside world. I stepped beside him and saw Michael, who was still out there, standing off to one side and snapping pictures like mad. My jealousy soared to new heights. Something was happening and I wanted to be in on it. I was torn between running upstairs and getting my camera and possibly missing some of the drama, and staying there in the Oval Office and witnessing firsthand whatever intrigue might unfold.
Curiosity got the better of me, and I decided to stay where I was and watch. It helped that I saw two agents suddenly block Michael. They made unmistakable gestures that suggested they didn't want him taking any more pictures. I had a sneaking suspicion he was lucky they didn't rip the film out of his camera right then and there or dig into his bag and get the cameras he had stashed there. He trudged toward the building with his camera tucked in his arm, the lens conveniently pointing toward the growing cluster of men. Although I couldn't hear it, I was sure the shutter was clicking as Michael took purloined shots during his forced retreat.
What red-blooded photographer wouldn't?
I turned my attention back to the police, who'd arrived along with some other guys who looked like paramedics. Everyone was bundled up so much that it was hard to figure out who was who. But what I did notice was that everybody was hanging back, not trampling all over the snow in the vicinity of the dark shadow. Somehow, I didn't think it was reverence toward the plants hidden beneath the snow that made them so careful.
So far in my career, I've been sent on a variety of assignments as a photographer, covering everything from the beautiful bodies walking the world's catwalks to not-so-beautiful bodies found dead in abandoned cars. The way everyone moved out there looked to me like the way cops tried not to disturb a potential crime scene. I didn't like it.
I nudged Dad. "Why don't you call someone and see what's going on?"
He shook his head. "I don't want to bother them in the middle of whatever they're doing. It looks important. They'll tell us soon enough." He turned to the Dawgs. "Right, guys?"
Spike stood next to us, apparently ready to hurl himself between us and the window should the need arise. Bulldog guarded the door, holding a conversation with his watch. They both gave curt nods, knowing they'd been asked to find out exactly what was going on--fast. I had to hand it to Dad; he was really getting the hang of this presidential power thing.
But me? I wasn't as diplomatic. Straight to the point--that was much more my style. I turned to Bulldog. "C'mon...don't you know anything yet?"
He shook his head and continued his soft conversation with his arm, only to stop when someone knocked on the door. He stiffened, then glanced at Dad, who nodded. Then Bulldog cautiously opened the door.
Michael stumbled into the room, his face still pale and his camera trembling in his bare hands. He was panting as if he had run all the way after being ejected from the scene outside. Come to think of it, he probably had run, once he'd gotten inside the building. He'd have known that we in the Oval Office would have a decent ringside seat to whatever was going on out there in the Rose Garden.
Dad stepped forward, bracing Michael, who, I'll admit, did look a bit unsteady on his feet. "Good God, Mike, are you all right? What's happening out there?" He reached up to take the camera from the photographer, but Michael still had a death grip on it. I figured his unbreakable grip was a sure sign he probably had some very good shots of whatever had transpired outside. In the same situation, I don't know if I'd have been so willing to give up my camera, either.
Even to the President.
Michael looked down and saw clumps of melting snow falling off his shoes and onto the rug with the presidential seal on it. A large chunk landed on the eagle's beak. That seemed to shake him back into some semblance of control.
"Oh...sorry, sir." He bent down, picked up the melting snow clod, and, after a moment's confusion, stuffed it into his coat pocket. Then, as if suddenly cognizant of where he was, he rushed toward the window, almost pushing me aside in the quest for a better view. "Can you see it from here?"
"Not really." My father joined us, not nearly as pushy as Michael. "And I'm not sure what 'it' is. What did you see while you were out there, Mike?"
"It must have been there all night long. It was pretty much covered up, buried in the snow."
"'It,'" I repeated. "'It' as in what?" Somehow I already knew the answer. I restructured my question. "Or is it 'It' as in who?"
Dad looked shocked. "Who? You mean..."
Michael gulped, then nodded. "Yes, sir. A dead body. A man. Under the snow. I noticed...what I thought was a hand when I was taking shots of Eve out in the garden. When I got closer, I was sure...." His voice trailed off.
We all turned simultaneously toward the window, straining to make out a corpse on the ground. The most we could see were the grim faces of the men tending to the body.
"Are you sure it...he was dead?" I asked, not liking the quivery tone in my voice.
"I didn't hang around to take his pulse." Michael looked as if he suddenly remembered where he was. "I mean, he looked dead to me"--Michael flushed-"but I don't have much experience in that department. I do portraits, celebrity stuff--I never had the city beat."
My father said nothing, but I noticed him twisting the ring on his right hand. It had been a present from a man whose life Dad had saved in Vietnam. I knew what was going through his head; he'd seen more than his share of death as a young man and wasn't all that anxious to view it now, especially not in what amounted to our own backyard.
Dad walked across the room to a small credenza to the right of the fireplace. From its recesses, he pulled out a bottle and a glass.
"Brandy," he said, pouring about two fingers into the glass. "For medicinal purposes, of course. To warm the body, as well as the soul. Even though all the medical experts tell me it doesn't work, I still find it comforting in extreme circumstances." He handed the glass to Michael, who gulped its contents all in one grateful swallow.
"Thanks, sir." The liquor seemed to help him control the worst of his shakes. He sat down on the couch, on the end next to the fireplace--a fireplace I wished was more functional than decorative at the moment. It wasn't just Michael who felt half frozen. I couldn't stop shivering, either.
Michael drew a long, deep breath, as if he couldn't get quite enough oxygen into his system. "I saw his face," he said.
Both Dad and I stared at each other.
"Did you recognize him?" Dad asked.
Michael nodded, but said nothing else.
"Well?" I prompted.
He closed his eyes. "It looked like Mr. O'Connor."
"O'Connor?" I repeated. "Burton O'Connor?" I said. Dad and I stared at each other. "The head usher here?"
Michael nodded. "Yeah, him."
Dad glanced at Bulldog, who listened intently to his forefinger, then nodded. "About the body, sir. They're saying it's probably been there since late yesterday afternoon, judging from all the snow on him."
Dad and I again shared an incredulous look.
"But that's impossible," I blurted. "We saw Mr. O'Connor at breakfast this morning. All of us--Dad, Drew, and me. He wanted to discuss decoration changes on the second floor with us."
Michael looked confused. "But I'm sure that's who I saw. I mean, that's who it looked like to me--and I don't make mistakes about faces. That was Mr. O'Connor."
Dad released a sigh. "Couldn't be. Not unless he has an identical twin brother."
Two hours later, we learned that Burton O'Connor did indeed have a twin brother.
Now a very dead one.
Copyright 2002 by Susan Ford Bales