The characters herein are not mine and remain the sole property of people like Aaron Sorkin, NBC and Warner Brothers. Think of them as a library book. Here is the much-requested sequel to 'Big Shoes' which I hope lives up to its predecessor. Spoilers for "In Excelcius Deo", "Noel" and the "Pilot" Words to O Canada available on request, and just for the record our capital is Ottawa not Toronto, tell your friends. Thanks very much for reading- BG

Smoke and Mirrors
By The Bondi Gargoyle.

The phone pierced through the still morning. Groaning Josh reached for it without opening his eyes. "What?"
He listened for a minute "Yeah okay, I'm on my way in. Who else has been called? Good. No bring Charlie Young in but tell him not to wake the President 'til I'm there. Thanks"
He hung up and rolled over onto his back. He fumbled for his watch and glanced at the luminous dial.
"This is why I have no sex life," he muttered. "I have yet to meet a woman who loves me enough to tolerate being habitually woken up at this time of the morning."
He picked up the phone again and hit the speed dial, calling the one woman who seemed to put up with it.
"What do you want, Josh?" she mumbled into the receiver.
"Is that how you always answer the phone?"
"At..." he heard her pause as she looked at a clock "three am, it is. Do we have to go in?"
"Afraid so. I'll pick you up in twenty-five minutes."
"You don't have to."
"Isn't your car still with the mechanics?"
"I'll take a cab," she yawned.
"By yourself at three am? No I'll come get you." He hung up before she could argue and headed for the shower.

Donna was waiting just inside the front door of her building when he pulled up.
He leaned over and opened the car door, accepting one of the two travel mugs of coffee she was carrying.
"I didn't think Starbucks would be open this early," she explained
"The Shell station on the corner has coffee."
"Which tastes almost as good as drinking their gasoline."
Josh took a grateful swig and just about choked.
"How much sugar did you put into this?"
"That one must be mine, yours is black and you're welcome."
He smiled "Sorry. Thank you." They traded mugs. He sipped it more tentatively this time but when the untainted coffee slid across his palate he gave a heartfelt sigh.
"I've noticed something" he commented as they drove through the near empty, but never quite quiet, Washington streets. "Since I became Acting Chief of Staff you've started bringing me coffee."
"Yes."
"Why?"
"Well for a start, there's a coffee maker on the filing cabinet in Margaret's office."
They still referred to the spaces they worked in by the names of the usual occupants.
"So?"
"So I can make and bring you coffee without anyone seeing it."
"So this all about appearances."
"It's not all about appearances, but I don't feel the need to perpetrate the stereotype of what a personal assistant does any more than is necessary"
Josh considered this. "If, when we move back to our own side of the building, I were to put a coffee maker on the filing cabinet next to my desk would you make me coffee?"
"Why would I walk from my desk, into your office, to make you coffee, when you could reach it yourself by merely standing up. If you put a coffeemaker on your filing cabinet, I'll expect you to bring me coffee."
"Don't hold your breath."
"Instead of turning this into an argument, why don't you just appreciate it while you've got it?"
"What's the fun in that?"
They grinned at one another.
"Tell me something." Donna said sinking back into her seat, "Is there a reason we're going into work at this ungodly hour, a mere four hours after we went home? Or are you just testing my professional devotion?"
"Hurricane Taylor made landfall in Cuba."

"But we already have guys on the ground there!" Sam was close to yelling.
"Who?" Jack Davidson, the Defense Secretary lobbed back at him.
"The marines at Guantanamo Bay."
"Absolutely not! Taylor hit the guys at Gitmo too. They're digging themselves out, let alone helping anyone else. Furthermore, even if they're fine, they are the last ones we are sending in on an aid mission."
"Why?"
"Because the minute they cross the fence line, it's going to seen as an act of war."
"You don't think Castro's going to understand that it's a relief exercise not an invasion"
"I don't think Castro trusts us any further than he can throw us, with some historical reason. All of which is moot Sam, because we haven't yet determined whether we can actually send aid to a hostile nation" said the Assistant Secretary of State for Latin America and the Caribbean, George Leolo, in a more conciliatory tone than his colleague had used.
Josh looked at the President who rolled his eyes and looked skyward. They had been in this meeting for about an hour but it was a variation of the same meeting they'd been having all day. So far, no one had come up with anything new.
"We're talking about sending aid to a relatively poor country that's just been made poorer by a catastrophic natural disaster" pressed Sam.
"We're talking about sending aid to a country that once pointed nuclear weapons at us and dared us to cross the line in the sand. People haven't forgotten that." Davidson argued back.
"They were Russian Missiles" Sam countered hotly "We give aid to Russia."
"They were Soviet missiles" corrected Josh, "And we don't give aid to the Soviet Union, we give aid to the people of the former Soviet Union."
"It's a hurricane Josh, they have no homes, no drinking water, it's a hell of a time to ask them to suddenly embrace Capitalism."
"I don't disagree with you Sam, but Congress might, not to mention the American public. And as the Secretary just said, we aren't even sure if Castro will accept aid from the U.S. even if we can make our people fall into line."
"What if we went through Canada?" Toby asked, not for the first time
Leolo shook his head "You heard MacCready, he says it smacks of Iran-Contra"
"MacCready aside, I think there's a difference between a weapons deal involving a shadow army opposing a freely elected government and giving food and medicine to a population who have just been hit by a hurricane," Toby growled.
"Unfortunately you don't chair the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and MacCready does" said Davidson.
"MacCready doesn't scare me."
"Well perhaps he should. Furthermore there are some serious and legitimate legal questions as to whether we can give aid to a foreign power to spend on our behalf." Leolo reiterated for what had to be the fourth time.
"Yeah because you just can't trust those Canadians. They might just keep it and use it to buy new snowmobiles which they'll later use to invade Wisconsin."
"Wisconsin doesn't actually share landfall with Canada"
"Sam!" Toby hollered
"I'm just saying with snowmobiles they'd be better aiming for Minnesota or North Dakota. If they wanted Wisconsin, they'd use boats."
"I ask for international relations, I get National Geographic" the President declared, his temper waning
"Okay," Josh jumped in. "Time out. Let's all take a break here. Go back to your various offices and try and think up an argument that we haven't already discussed eight times today."
"But Josh-"
"Sam."
Josh glanced at CJ who nodded, and headed for the door taking Sam and Toby with her.
"You used to be more fun" Sam declared as he walked past Josh.
"Bite me"
"And funnier. You're wit and your devil may care attitude have both suffered of late."
"I'll live. Go stare at a map of Cuba for an hour then come back"
"I have an idea," The President said once they were alone in the office "Let's just send all of them to Cuba."
"I thought you wanted to help the Cubans" Josh said straight-faced though his eyes twinkled.
"That was this morning. Now I just want to stop the pounding inside my head."
"I'll have Charlie bring you an aspirin."
"Yeah that and change the locks. You'll..."
"Run interference until someone has a tangible idea?"
"Thank you."
As Josh headed back into the Chief of Staff's office, Jed Bartlet mused on how surprisingly well the apprentice had taken up the sorcerer's wand. When Leo had first become ill, Bartlet had been nervous (though no where near the flat out terror he suspected Josh had felt), worried about how he would cope without his closest advisor. In the months of his friend's convalescence, however, the President found himself growing to trust Josh and now felt almost as comfortable with the younger man at the helm as he had with Leo.

Unaware that he was the subject of any speculation, Josh walked into, what was temporarily, his office.
"Donna?" he called through the open door to his assistant's desk, "Can you get me the-"
"Files on U.S. foreign disaster relief for the last twenty years." Donna walked though the door and deposited the stack on his table.
Josh stared at her. "I'm going to start calling you 'Radar'. You're getting seriously spooky"
"Josh."
"No I mean it"
"Gee Josh, have you had a meeting all day that hasn't involved the hurricane? It didn't exactly require a crystal ball to know that you needed these."
"True. Hey is anything interesting going on in the rest of the world? We have been a little myopic today."
Donna handed him the wires.
"Do you count the fact that food chemists in Sweden have determined that artichokes reduce the chance of impotency in roughly 35% of men, as interesting?" she asked.
"If I did, I don't think I'd admit to it."
"How about a protest against the protection of beavers in Michigan?"
"By who?"
" 'Friends of the Michigan Muskrat' whom they feel was passed over unfairly."
"This is all that's going on in the world?"
"This one could be interesting. In the Ashes Test Match, England was all out for 117 in the first innings while Australia declared at 345"
"And what are we talking about?"
"Cricket"
"Can you explain what any of that means?"
"No. Should I call Lord Marbury?"
"Er no." Josh shook his head
Donna nodded sagely " You can probably skip reading the rest of those."

Thirty minutes later Josh knocked on the door of the Oval Office. The President waved him in.
"What have you got?"
"The beginnings of an idea" Which had oddly enough begun when Donna told him the cricket scores.
"Shoot"
Josh took out a quarter and held it up. Then he passed his other hand over it making it seem to disappear. He held up both empty hands then reached over and pulled the quarter from the President's ear.
"My granddaughter Annie can do that, only she uses a whole silver dollar".
"Don't mock, Sir. It took me months to perfect not getting the quarter caught in my sleeve."
"And this has what to do with Cuba?"
"How about we don't send aid to Cuba?"
"Josh," Jed Bartlet said with condescending patience "I know it's been a long day and obviously your brain is starting to overheat but for those of you who just joined us, the point of this was to determine how we can send aid to Cuba."
"Thank you Mr. President, for clearing that up" Josh laughed "And in all seriousness the way we get aid to Cuba is by not sending aid to Cuba."
" I think we've long since determined that neither of us enjoy it when I lose my patience" Bartlet said pointedly
"We send aid to Peru for the mudslides, we send aid to Sri Lanka for the floods and we send aid to Turkey for the earthquake."
"Aren't we already sending aid to those places?" the President demanded.
"We are. In all three cases in joint efforts with the Canadians or the British."
"So what are you suggesting?" A hint of understanding began to glint in Bartlet's eyes.
"That we buy them out. You have a good relationship with Geraldine Alexander right? And John Marbury loves you; he'll sell Pierce-Forrest on it. So let's tell Canada and Britain that if they'll guarantee that those resources freed up will be sent to Cuba, we, in turn, will take over their part in relief efforts in the aforementioned countries?"
"Will it be enough?"
"I think so. We wouldn't be sending aid to a hostile nation, and since we're already in place in those countries, you can up our presence without in any way having to involve Congress. I mean someone's going to catch on eventually, probably Danny Concannon, but the fallout should be negligible"
"Let's make this work."
"I still want to run it by the Counsel's office and State," cautioned Josh, "but I think we'll be fine."
The President beamed at him. "Let's make this work!"

"Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you Joshua Lyman!" Sam called out as Josh walked into the Georgetown bar, Donna following close behind him.
They made their way through the crowd to the table as Josh received a round of applause from his friends.
Josh held up his hands for silence then picked up Sam's drink, since it was closest "A toast," he declared "To our Northern cousins, eh?"
"Eh!" they all echoed as Josh sat down.
"Do you want a Moosehead?" Donna asked dryly
"Like a real one?" He looked around the bar as though they might have one on the wall they would be prepared to give him.
"No like the bottled kind. You seem to be on a theme" she glanced at the others "I heard the finer points of the Parliamentary system on the way over."
"Moosehead's just fine, eh?"
"That's getting really irritating by the way." She went to the bar.
"They've landed?" asked Toby.
Josh checked his watch "Forty-five minutes ago the engineers of the Eighth Canadian Highland Regiment arrived in Havana, with more of their comrades en route. The British are mobilizing right now and they'll be there within the day."
"Good job, Josh." Toby slapped his back in a rare show of genuine camaraderie.
"Yeah, Rocky, way to pull a rabbit out of your hat," CJ chorused.
"Didn't Bullwinkle do that?" interjected Sam.
"What are you the cartoon police?" CJ glared at him
"I'm just saying Rocky's a flying squirrel, I think a rabbit would be bigger than him"
"Cause other than that it's reality based television" the Press secretary sighed " Anyway well done, Josh"
Josh shrugged "When you got it, you got it. And in one more week Leo can have it back."
Donna returned with their beers.
"I've always felt a certain kinship to Canada" Josh mused taking a sip from the green glass bottle.
"Josh you've never even been to Canada" Donna argued "The closest you come to a kinship with them is watching the Canucks, Rangers game on TV and then you argue with every call against New York."
"It's a spiritual thing, eh?"
"Drink your beer and shut up."

As Josh walked into work Monday, Donna met him in the lobby.
"What now?" he demanded taking one look at her face.
"Here you better read this, the media guys just found it" she handed him a folded over newspaper.
"What am I looking at?"
"The article entitled 'Man of the People'"
"I meant what paper?"
" 'The Forth Horseman'"
" 'The Forth Horseman' has actual news in it?"
"Well this time it seems to be making it."
Josh quickly skimmed the page
"Where is he?" he hollered, reaching the paragraph in question.
"He's not in yet."
"Call him, tell him to get here now."
"Yes, Josh"
"CJ and Toby?"
"Haven't seen CJ yet. Toby's in his office."
"Okay I'll start with him."
Josh's pager went off. It had two words on it "Residence. Now."
He showed it to Donna "Suppose he's seen it?"
" 'The Forth Horseman'?"
"Yeah maybe I got lucky and we've just declared war against New Zealand"
"Why would we...?"
"Donna, give me a break, it's six thirty Monday morning, I haven't even made it to my office yet and I'm already dealing with an irate President and Sam's stupidity."
"But why New Zealand?" she asked taking his coat and backpack.
Josh tapped the ad for flights next to the article "The power of suggestion is a dangerous thing."
He handed her the paper "I'd like them in my office when I get back"


Josh stood at the door of the Residence, "Please God, please, please, please."
He knocked.
"Come in"
"Sir you wanted to see me?"
"Ah, Joshua, do you know what this is?" The President held up a copy of 'The Forth Horseman'
"You couldn't give me just one?" Josh muttered to the heavens, then aloud said: "It's a newspaper"
"Could you be more specific?"
"It's a weekly paper. You can get it for free in most coffee shops, clubs, bars and theatres. It covers the movies listings, which band's playing where, what play is opening, an occasional news column. I didn't think you read it, Sir"
"I don't. ZoŽ left it here over the weekend. I thought I should try to get in touch with my younger daughter's world, so I picked it up over breakfast. Have you read this week's issue?"
"Saturday night I read the movie listings."
"Did you go to a movie?"
"Donna dragged me to some British chick flick Masterpiece Theatre thing. She's trying to lower my stress rate."
"Did it?"
"It lulled me into a near trance"
"Great literature is never dull, Joshua."
"Well in the interest of not shattering that view point, Sir, I suggest you avoid the latest version of 'Wuthering Heights' since it's excruciating. Not unlike this" he added under his breath.
"Did you happen to see any other part of the paper, Josh?"
"I glanced at it, Sir."
"Well so did I; and this, this was very interesting: 'Rory Cronin should be called Rory Crony. He is the relic of the kind of politics that embodied Daly's Machine. His conniving, disgenuine, self-serving approach is the shame of the Democratic Party'."
"That has an unfortunate ring of truth."
"Apparently Sam agrees with you. So much so that he said it to a reporter. Damn it, Josh!"
"I know Sir, I know."
"I thought we were through with these sophomoric mistakes."
"So did I, Mr. President. Look I've got an APB out Sam, CJ and Toby. Let's give Sam the benefit of the doubt until we find out what's going on. He may have been misquoted or taken out of context."
"What context would make this kind of stupidity okay?"
"That's a very good question, Sir, for which I don't currently have an answer but give me a little time."
"Josh, are you aware of how much we need Rory Cronin?"
"Yes, Sir"
"I mean I don't like the man but he is on our side theoretically and we need him."
"I know."
"Josh, I going to want Sam's resignation"
Josh shook his head "Mr. President, due respect, you didn't ask me to resign when I insulted Mary Marsh."
"Mostly because Leo talked me down."
"Then Sir, let me go find out what's going on and then maybe I can talk you down."
"If you'd said it to Al Caldwell, I'd have fired you"
"I wouldn't have said it to Al Caldwell."
"We need Rory Cronin just as much."
"I know. I'll get to the bottom of this."
"Fine. Go, get it done. But I'm serious Josh I'm not walking away from this."
"No, Sir"

Smoke and Mirrors - 2

 

 

 

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