”What kind of emergency?” I asked.
”The President was found in the study unconscious and unresponsive, they are trying to revive him. It doesn’t look good,” the agent said.
He was interrupted by another agent, ”Washington wants to know if there is a judge close by if we need one?” the second agent asked.
”Yes, former Maryland Supreme Court Judge Tony Slaughter. He is retired but still on the docket rotation for special cases,” I said.
I gave them the judges unlisted phone number, ”Just keep redialing, he will answer,” I said.
By now all the girls were up.
”Jenny, call your Mom and Dad. Tell them it is an emergency and to get here quick! Vicky, call my Mom and Dad and tell them the same thing. Marcy call Jeanna with the same message. I will call Jake; I am not sure anything is going to happen but I think it is likely,” I said.
”I’m going to activate the video camera system in the living room so we can record what happens,” Ching Lee said.
As a second thought I called Hanna. When she picked up the phone, ”This is BJ – get over as fast as you and the camera can, even in your PJ’s if you have to,” I said.
Troy called, ”It’s not good, they are trying to revive the President, but no luck so far. The senior agent indicated they had a judge on the way; that’s good, it looks like he is needed. Other assets left immediately for your place, so be expecting them,” he said.
It had been fifteen minutes since the first call. If they didn’t get him back by now, they weren’t going to was my thought.
Jason, Lisa, Mom, Dad, and Jeanna had arrived. Hanna was at the gate; the guard called before letting her and Jed in. The judge arrived a few minutes later.
Judge Slaughter, the senior agent and I had a conversation while we were waiting. They were waiting for the conversation to complete on the other end of the phone. We would need confirmation for us to proceed.
I talked with my family to fill them on what I knew. I hugged each of my mates, told them how much I loved them and that I knew how difficult this was going to be for them.
The senior agent interrupted, ”President Alexander Thomas was declared deceased at 0210 this date. Madam Vice President, where would you like to take the oath?” he said.
”In the living room so we can record it,” I said.
We assembled and crowded the room. Vicky adjusted the camera and set the controls to record. She also hit the broadcast button.
”Here is what you need to have BJ say,” the senior agent said as he handed Judge Slaughter a slip of paper.
”BJ, raise your right hand, place your left hand on the bible and repeat after me.” It was the family bible; Mom had given me her family bible and Jake got Dad’s family bible when we started having children. Dad was holding the bible.
“I Roberta Josephine Jones do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States so help me God,” I said.
There were cheers from the family. Even with the saddest of times, they had reason to be pleased.
”May I be the first to congratulate you and call you President Jones,” Judge Slaughter said as he reached to shake my hand.
Hanna had broadcast live to her connected stations; it was carried nationwide. Vicky had hit broadcast when she set up to record. Every JBG security site worldwide had witnessed my swearing in. it would be repeated tomorrow and officiated by the Chief Justice.
When I looked around there was a Navy Admiral with a case handcuffed to his arm and an Air Force General with another handcuffed to his arm.
I knew what they were – one was the football as it was nicknamed; it contained the controls to launch nuclear weapons to destroy the world. The other contained the launch codes to use after the football was activated
”Madam President, can we have a minute? We need to explain to you how this works,” the general said.
”My God; what have I got myself into?” I thought.
It took an hour for them to go through the process and a practice demonstration. In reality if it came to be, it could be done in as little as three minutes.
A thousands things raced through my mind that I needed to do.
I needed to pack some clothes. No, my go bag would do for today, the girls could pack some things for me and bring them over. I wanted some to stay with me – they could rotate every couple days.
The Secret Service was antsy, wanting to get on the road to Washington. All of them were on the phone talking to control.
My mates and I went to my bedroom. I changed and put on the light body armor and much better clothes. When I finished they were crying; it was time for more hugs and talk.
”I’m so proud – we all are – these are tears of joy,” they said as a group hug surrounded me.
“You and the boys are coming to Washington with me for a couple days until we get a system worked out. Aren’t you?” I asked.
”Yes we are all coming over today to be with you. We want to watch you do the oath again. You are going to need some familiar faces I think. We will be there around ten. Call if you need us before then,” Jenny said.
It took another fifteen minutes to get things organized; my JBG bodyguards were still my primary bodyguards. One more of the thousand things that needed to be ironed out today when the sun came up.
A round of good byes and I walked out to my Suburban. It looked like a thousand flashing lights were around the place. Summers Road was closed. The dual highway was closed off in both directions and the overpass entrances. Police cars lined both highways.
The convoy was at least thirty vehicles or more with flashing red lights. There were state police, county sheriffs and transit authority. I had never seen so many police cars in one place at one time on the shore.
Ziva was beside me as the convoy started rolling, ”You’re in control now boss and we got your back,” she said.
We talked on the ride over about the changes that were coming.
The White House was a madhouse – and it was only 0400. The media was everywhere yelling and screaming. One more thing to do – a news conference. The two White House photographers were clicking away for the official records.
Troy met me at the door. The man had been crying; he was taking the death hard. He had been on President Thomas’s staff when he was a senator decades ago and with him ever since.
I broke the rules and gave him a hug. ”It’s going to be tough but we will get through this,” I said. It was a picture that was going to make the media in a few minutes.
When we separated he gave a little smile. ”Yes we will, coffee strong, black and plenty of it coming up,” he said.
”You know it, let’s get started,” I said.
In the Oval Office we went through the President’s desk, boxing up the personal things to give the first lady and placing them on the nearby table. Other things would become my work.
I kept the private notebook from the top right drawer. It looked like passwords and access codes. There was also a sealed envelope addressed to me in President Thomas’ hand writing. I assumed it contained the unused resignation letter I had given the President long ago. I placed it back in the drawer.
I tried to access former President Thomas’ government email account with the latest password but it was locked.
There were several bills from Congress that Thomas had not signed; they had just been sent from the Senate this afternoon. I would have to look at them – for now they could wait up to thirty days if necessary.
”The printing office will have official personalized stationary for you by 0900. You’re going to go through a lot of it,” Troy said.
I started a list of official things to do and it quickly grew. There would be more all day.
”Troy, would you consider being my chief of staff?” I asked.
“I would be honored to be your chief of staff,” he said.
“I am thinking about asking Senator Colin Harrison to be my Vice President.”
Senator Harrison had been in the Senate for thirty years. He was retiring at the end of this term. He was well liked in the Senate and I could surely use his experience in the Senate and use it to my advantage.
Not looking to run for higher office added some comfort to any suggestions he had and I would not have to worry about him using me as a stepping stone. He was always on my side in any meetings we were in.
”I think he would be a great choice,” Troy said.
“I will call him to come here for a 0800 meeting to ask him,” I said.
First was a Presidential order. The President had two avenues open to him with limitations.
One was a Presidential Order basically used for general housekeeping – for the lack of a better term – for decades. Recent past presidents had begin to imply they had the power do more official things. It seemed the courts had sent a mixed message on just how powerful they were.
The next was an Executive Order. An Executive order carried the weight of law to all branches of the federal government that answered to the President. Only the court on constitutional grounds or the congress by two thirds vote in both houses could overrule an executive order.
R. J. Jones Presidential order #1
”I order all flags to be flown at half mast for thirty days in honor of President Thomas.”
“R.J. Jones Presidential order #2
“Traditionally when there is a change in President all appointed department heads tender their resignation. Given the unexpected death of President Thomas I am asking all department heads to temporarily postpone this tradition. All departments and all policies of all departments and agencies will be reviewed going forward and the necessary changes made at that time. ”
I ordered a staff meeting at 0830 of former President Thomas’ general staff. Troy sent the notice out for me. With this meeting I hoped to be able to decide when I needed to address the nation on national television.
I wondered which agencies planned a state funeral of this magnitude and what I was required to do.
At 1000 Chief Justice Hamilton Burger was to swear me in to satisfy a constitutional requirement.
I ordered a national Security Council meeting at 1100.
I ordered a meeting with the Joints Chiefs at 1200.
I asked Troy to get me transcripts of all meetings and phone calls for the last thirty days. Then I asked if it was possible to get access to President Thomas’ email account.
I knew it would be a stretch and would probably take Art Cummins to authorize my access, but I felt I really needed it.
It was 0600 and time for my first real break. The senior White House Secret Service agent and I walked the White House. I was shown all the nooks and crannies; the escape tunnels, deep bomb shelter and other top secret things I didn’t know existed.
At 0700 the normal White House staff started showing up. Long faces, tears, a very down group of people. It was going to be one long day for them and all of us.
I ordered breakfast from the kitchen, 2 eggs, bacon, and toast. While waiting for them to be delivered to the Oval Office I mingled, talked and consoled the staff. There was not much I could tell them. An autopsy would tell the final story. It would be up to the family for the results to be released unless there was something nefarious about the findings.
Edit by Alfmeister
Proof read by Bob W.