Disclaimers/etc: part one.
"Um, sorry to bother you, but..."
Sam looked up swiftly from his perch on the bench in the lobby. "Yes?"
The young man who'd accosted him looked vaguely familiar, but Sam couldn't place him. "Ah... I just wanted to ask if everything was all right, Mr. Seaborn. I... heard Irwin's threat."
"Oh." Must play it down, Sam thought. "It's nothing, don't worry. Jim gets a bit excited in discussions like we were having." He stuck out his hand. "You seem to know my name, but I'm at a disadvantage."
"Oh!" The young man started slightly and shook hands. "I'm Kyle Gage."
Sam's eyes went wide. " *Gage* ?" he repeated. "As in old man Gage's son?" Here, he thought, was an ally worth cultivating. And besides, he seemed like a nice kid.
"Grandson, actually." The young man shrugged. "We don't get along too well."
"How come? Just out of curiosity, I mean."
A rueful smile appeared on Kyle's face. "I'm a Democrat."
Sam found himself grinning too. "That would do it."
"Yeah." Kyle shrugged. "He tends to keep me on a tight leash." He sighed. "I've been bugging him about letting me work on one of the national campaigns this time around, but he hasn't said anything one way or the other."
A light had jumped into Sam's brain as soon as Kyle had spoken. "Kyle... I have to ask you a question."
What the hell. "What would you say about a woman running for President?"
"Are you kidding?" There was a gleam in Kyle's eyes that Sam liked. "I think it'd be great! The country needs a new direction, and God knows we're sick of Stewart for the past four years. It's felt like purgatory. Why?" he asked abruptly. "Did you have someone in mind?"
"Yeah, actually." Sam felt a momentary swell of pride. "My wife, C.J. Seaborn, may do it."
"C.J. Seaborn... didn't she used to be Press Secretary under Bartlet? And isn't she Catholic?"
Kyle looked at Sam solemnly. "She doesn't have a lot of experience."
"Yeah." Sam said no more.
Kyle paused, turning it over in his mind. Finally, he spoke. "I like the idea."
"That's really, really good to hear." Sam fumbled in his pocket for a slip of paper and was struck by the irony. Years ago he'd have had an immaculate little card. Now he was reduced to scribbled slips of paper.
He wrote his phone number on the card and handed it to the young man. "Here. This is my number. I have to tell you, this may break any day if she decides to do it. So take this and call me when you see it break."
"Okay." Kyle looked at the scribbled numbers. "I'll do that." To his credit, he didn't even bring up his grandfather as Sam walked away.
Who to talk to now? Sam wondered. He needed more information. He'd talked at Gage Whitney. The White House was out of bounds, being Republican and all.
Wait. Of course!
Sam immediately changed directions and headed home, for his address book. He had to call Leo and get a name.
Hoynes. Of course, Hoynes would run. And he'd be C.J.'s opposition. How would he react?
Cursing his stupidity, Sam drove home as fast as he could. How could he have forgotten Hoynes?
The house was silent as Sam walked in. He walked to his study and found the thick notepad that served as his address book. Dialing Leo and Eleanor's summer place, he waited impatiently for one of them to pick up.
Eleanor picked up the phone. "Hello?"
"Hi, Eleanor, it's Sam. Is Leo around?"
She could hear the urgency in his voice. "I think he's on the deck. Let me go find him." She put the receiver down, and Sam could hear her shouting, "Leo! Telephone!"
Finally Leo came to the phone. "Hello?"
"Leo, it's Sam. I need your help."
"Sure, what's up?"
"I need someone to call in Hoynes' office." Sam prayed that Leo wouldn't ask why; he didn't want to broach the subject yet. "Do you still have contacts on his staff?"
"I think so." Leo paused, thinking. "There's a few people you could call. What do you want with them?"
Improvising, Sam came up with something suitably vague. "Just a fact-finding mission."
"Okay." Leo thought a moment more and came up with an answer. "How about Maria Quinn?"
"Who's she again?"
"She's Janeane's assistant. If something's going on with Hoynes, she'd know."
"Sure. Hey, Sam?"
"You will tell me what this is about, right?"
Sam grinned. "Eventually."
He hung up and dialed the number Leo had given him. While waiting for her to pick up, he asked himself what he would say. His gentle approach hadn't worked too well on his friend at Gage Whitney. How could he approach Maria and get results?
"Hello?" Maria Quinn sounded harried as she picked up the phone.
"Hi, Maria, it's Sam. Sam Seaborn." He paused. "Did I call at a bad time?"
"Oh, hi Sam." Maria's voice flooded with happiness upon hearing him. "It's a little busy around here, but when is it not? How are you? How's C.J.?"
"I'm fine, Maria, and actually, C.J.'s the reason I'm calling." Sam saw his opportunity. "She's all right and everything, but there's something I'd like to ask you." He could trust this woman. She might work for Hoynes, but she played fair.
"Well... it's no secret that Hoynes is gonna run for the nomination, right?"
"Right. Most of the work that goes on around here is preparing for the campaign."
"Well, here's my question." Sam hesitated, again wondering about the phrasing. Finally he decided that straight to the point would be best. "Maria, C.J.'s thinking of running for President."
There was a silence on the other end of the phone, and Sam wondered for a second if she'd hung up. "Maria?"
"I'm here, just thinking." She laughed, just once. "That'd be pretty interesting. The senator would explode."
"Because she's an opponent, or because she's a woman?" Sam kept with his blunt approach.
Maria stopped to think. "You know, Sam, I'm not sure? He doesn't like her personally, I don't think, but that's a Bartlet grudge, not a misogynist grudge. But I know he would probably take it even more personally if he was beaten by a woman. Just because it's not supposed to happen."
"That makes sense." Sam tried to keep his tone upbeat, but he wasn't surprised. Hoynes was a political animal, and this was right in keeping with his personality.
"Sam, if it's any consolation, I'd vote for C.J."
Sam laughed. "I know you would, Maria. Thanks."
"No problem, Sam. But call me more often, would you?" Maria said. "The only time I ever hear from you is if I read something you've written."
"Okay. I promise. I'll keep you posted." Sam hung up, mentally adding another black mark to his list. This wasn't good. But perhaps it could still be salvaged.
He would just have to leave everything to C.J. and see what she decided.