----
"Jo-osh..." Donna came perilously close to whining as she wiped her hands on her skirt to remove the dust. "I don't see the file."

"I don't either." Josh sighed. They had been looking through files for an hour and a half now, and had found York's, but not Barton's. "I'm beginning to think that maybe she doesn't have a file."

"She has a file." Ainsley yawned, now extremely tired. "Everyone has a file. I just don't know where it would possibly be."

"Well, that doesn't help," Josh said peevishly. He turned to Sam. "I move we go upstairs and get ready for a long uncomfortable night."

A bell clanged in Sam's head. "Yeah, Josh, let's go upstairs. I have some things I have to do."

"I have to finish, besides," Ainsley said. "I'll keep an eye out for this woman's file. It's so strange," she puzzled. "According to what Mr. Tribbey told me about the filing system, all congressional aides dating from the first year of the term are stored in this cabinet."

Josh was lost in thought too, until he recalled her precise words. "Ainsley, when Tribbey said the first year of 'the term,' did he mean the president's term, or the current congressional term?"

Ainsley paused, trying to evoke an answer. Finally she said, "I believe it was the current congressional term that he spoke about."

"And where have we been looking?" Sam smelled success.

"In the files from 1999 - the first year of the president's term."

"Damn." Josh was quick to kick himself. "Congresswoman Jarrard was a midterm appointee, wasn't she?"

"Yeah," Sam answered, chagrined. "Her husband finally passed away and they offered her his seat."

"Thus she would have brought some of her own people with her when she took office."

"Maybe Melissa Lynnette Barton." Sam sounded altogether too pleased with himself for a train of logic that should have happened quite a while ago.

Donna had to laugh. "I'm here with two members of Bartlet's senior staff - two of the brightest men in the country - and you don't think to look after the midterms?" Both men shot her dirty looks. "Well, I'm right."

Ainsley sighed. "All right, let's find the other cabinet. It'd be labelled WH26435, I think. That's where most congressional aides are. That and 26436."

"Do you have keys to those?" Josh asked.

Ainsley checked the key ring, "Actually, I think I do," she said, surprised. The four of them began to pick their way in the dark over to each filing cabinet.

Eventually they located the correct ones. "I really hope this works," Donna said. "I'm beginning to feel at one with the bats that live down here."

Josh laughed, teasing her. "Come on, Donnatella, don't tell me you're afraid."

"I'm not afraid," Donna said stoutly, yet with a cast to her mien that gave her words the lie. "It's just difficult to navigate with darkness, plus all this on the floor."

"Will you two shut up?" Ainsley's patience was wearing thin. "Here." She yanked open the drawers, then ringingly declared, "I'm going back to my closing arguments. Good night, all." She left the room, but was careful to prop the door open behind her.

"OK, let me see here." Josh nimbly flipped through the files. It didn't take him long to reach his goal. "Here it is," he said, holding up the grimy folder.

"All right." Sam snatched up York's file and said, "Come on, let's get back above ground." Josh and Donna's flirting was making him anxious to set his own problems on the right track.

Once back up in the Wing, Josh set about ransacking his chaotic office. "What in hell are you looking for?" Sam asked.

"Another flashlight," Josh answered. "I left mine in the file room."

Donna rolled her eyes. "Here." She turned on her outsized light. "Can we read the files?"

"Sure." Josh took Melissa Barton's first, turning it open to the first sparse page. "Not much here," was his comment, "even for a twelve-month employee."

"There's a background sheet; that's really all." Sam still peered at it, interested. "Melissa Lynnette Barton, age twenty-eight, born in Richmond, Virginia..."

They all continued to peruse the sheet, but it was Donna who saw it first. "Hey. Look." She pointed. "Barton was a poster child for the National Rifle Association."

"Yeah." Josh looked further down the sheet. "Helped with fundraisers and everything."

"And look!" Sam pointed out. "Here's an article she wrote for Gun Magazine - 'Bartlet - Friend of the Pacifist.'"

"How in hell did this woman get clearance to the White House?" Donna wondered aloud.

"She hasn't done anything, Donna," Josh told her. "However, this is looking like a pretty good bet for our leak."

"I'd say so." Donna felt jubilant. "You want to get a hold of her and take her down?"

"Yeah," Josh answered. "Sic the Secret Service on her. No," he responded in all seriousness, "let's leave it alone for a bit." The evil Josh grin that was so familiar slowly spread across his features. "Give her enough rope, she'll hang herself if she's the one. Besides, Donnatella," he added, admonishing slightly, "we still don't have any proof, remember?"

Sam nodded his assent. "Yeah, besides, there's not much we could do tonight, with no phones or power."

"Yeah, well." Donna looked a bit shamefaced. Then she turned to Sam. "Don't you have things to finish up?"

The tone of her voice brooked no argument, and Sam found himself nodding. "Yes. You're right, Donna; thank you for reminding me." He took a deep breath and squared off in the other direction, but turned back, "Will you two be in here?"

"I think so; why?" Josh looked mystified.

Sam had to grin; he would have otherwise shouted. "Just curious." Closing the door behind him, Sam made his way to C.J.'s office. *Here it comes,* he thought. *Reckoning.*

 

Too Marvelous for Words - 9

 

 

 

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