Book 4 in the SSU Series
He’s tasked with keeping national secrets. Her job is to ferret them out. Falling in love could be deadly for them both...
In the aftermath of the resignation and death of the President of the United States, someone is using lethal force to eliminate all threats. Their next target is Siobahn Murphy, an investigative journalist who is looking into the circumstances surrounding the President’s death. Siobahn believes that the President’s abrupt resignation and death are connected to the mysterious reappearance of military and law enforcement personnel who’d been declared dead. Men she believes were funneled into a secret government program aimed at creating superhuman soldiers. Men she suspects had been ordered by the President to carry out an attack that, if it had succeeded, would have killed thousands of innocent people.
When Siobahn is nearly killed, Ryker, the director of The Surgical Strike Unit, steps in to offer protection. Keeping Siobahn out of danger while honoring his oath not to reveal the details of the President’s resignation is a challenge Ryker relishes, even as he finds himself falling for the sexy, headstrong reporter.
As the noose tightens on the men responsible for killing the President, Ryker and Siobahn risk their lives to uncover the last remaining elements of a conspiracy surrounding a deadly scientific program that started during the Vietnam War.
Siobahn Murphy did not like unsolved mysteries. She never put a book down in the middle of a cliff-hanger. No matter how desperately she needed the facilities, she wouldn’t leave a movie theater if a major plot point was about to be revealed. Friends had learned not to play board games with her unless they wanted a cutthroat fight. Worse, she was damn competitive when it came to figuring out whodunnit.
All of that made her an excellent investigative journalist, if she did say so herself. Her ex-husband, wherever his philandering soul might be, had called her a damned bulldog who didn’t have the sense to take herself out of the line of fire. Given that he’d died in Iraq trying to pull one of his men out of range of a sniper’s bullet, he hadn’t really been one to talk.
Nothing sent her journalist’s instincts into overdrive faster than receiving negative attention from the government or law enforcement. A few minutes ago, a team of FBI agents had shown up at her office. Brushing aside the objections of the senior management and their protestations about freedom of the press, the agents had presented a subpoena that allowed them to remove all of her research notes on the article she’d written about the mysterious circumstances surrounding supposedly deceased military and law enforcement personnel.
Standing in her senior editor’s office, arms crossed and one toe tapping, Siobahn demanded, “Why does the FBI need my notes now on an article that has already run?” What she really wanted to know was why the FBI had waited so long to take action. Surely they’d discovered the same information she’d published. That men from the FBI, other law enforcement agencies, and the military had been reported as dead, then later reappeared, alive, hundreds or thousands of miles away from their last known location. The men had all been more muscular than before, suggesting an excessive use of steroids. A few of them had been spotted “Throwing things around and roaring like damn Godzilla” per one eyewitness.
Not long after, most of those enhanced men had been dead. For real.
Yet during Siobahn’s research she’d found no evidence that the FBI or any of the other affected agencies had been working to put an end to the situation. Although, Toby Andrews, an officer with military intelligence and the brother of her friend and former colleague Faith Andrews, had started an unofficial investigation into the matter. Unfortunately, Toby had then disappeared. Unable to find her brother, Faith had turned to Siobahn for help, fearing that Toby had suffered the same fate as the men in Siobahn’s article.
With typical stoniness, Ajax Fairchild, the jerk of an agent-in-charge—yes, dammit, another ex, although at least she hadn’t married this one—refused to answer. “Sorry, we can’t tell you that. National security.”
“Where were you two months ago when my story ran?” she countered. “Don’t you think the FBI should have taken action to protect its agents long before now?” Oops. Seemed she wasn’t going to hold back after all.
But Ajax—who the hell named their son Ajax in this day and age? Even worse, what did it say about her that she’d slept with him despite his overblown name?—ignored her question. After his team boxed up her paper files, the small whiteboard she hadn’t erased because she’d been working on a follow-up article, and confiscated her computer, Ajax handed her a form. “Sign this, please.”
She felt so smug as she scrawled her name, acknowledging that the FBI had given her a receipt for the removed items and swearing that there were no other items on the premises covered by the FBI’s subpoena.
Her smugness lasted until Ajax pointed out that the subpoena covered any information she kept at home, as well. Angry at the violation of her privacy when she hadn’t done anything wrong, and wary because it was likely people within the FBI had been part of the cover-up, she insisted on being present, along with the newspaper’s lawyer, while the FBI entered the premises.
It wasn’t the first time she’d ended up on the wrong side of government scrutiny because of a story she’d been chasing. Just never before inside the United States.
Of course, this was also the first time she’d uncovered such a far-reaching conspiracy within her own government. She had evidence suggesting that the missing men had been forced into a secret government program run by a man named Dr. Kaufmann. In pursuit of their goal of creating superhuman soldiers, Kaufmann’s scientists treated their subjects as disposable tools without regard to the men’s consent, comfort, or survival. The program operated under such a high level of secrecy that some extremely powerful government officials had to be involved in covering up its activities.
In fact, Siobahn believed the conspiracy reached all the way to the Oval Office. A little over a month ago, Faith had called Siobahn, warning her to take extra security measures. Faith had learned that President Bryne MacAdam planned to use Kaufmann’s enhanced soldiers in an unspecified upcoming attack, which meant that anyone aware of his plans was in lethal danger.
That had explained why Siobahn’s contacts had shut the door on her inquiries, but it drove her crazy that she’d failed to ferret out details about the attack. All she’d had were Faith’s reassurances that capable people were working to stop the attack.
Then, a few days later, President MacAdam had mysteriously resigned. The animated politician who’d loved to talk to the public in person had read a prepared statement from an undisclosed location, wearing a fixed expression that would have done Stonehenge proud.
The short speech had included an unconvincing line about him still being unable to come to terms with his son’s death five years ago at the hands of terrorists. Since his resignation had occurred shortly after the anniversary of the day his son died, the statement had been taken at face value by the press.
Except, nope, Siobahn hadn’t bought it.
Here is a short playlist of songs that are connected to Aftermath:
- "Goodnight Saigon" by Billy Joel. Captures Ryker's experience in Vietnam.
- "When a Boy Falls in Love" by Sam Cooke. Because even though Ryker is older, meeting and falling for Siobahn makes him feel young again.