Upon their arrival at the White House, Gina immediately went to brief her superiors, leaving an angry Zoey to face her father. She walked into the Oval Office to find him talking with Abby, Leo and two other people she didn’t recognize.
"Hi Mom, Leo." She didn’t trust herself to say anymore. She purposely did not acknowledge her father. She was still angry at him for not telling her what was going on.
Abby got up and hugged her daughter. "Are you okay, sweetie?"
"Yeah Mom. I’m fine." She looked daggers at her father.
He could read the fury in her eyes, but he didn’t flinch from her gaze. Jed simply said, "Zoey, I’d like you to meet Special Agents Lauren Forbes and Jonathan Stewart from the FBI. Agent Forbes, Agent Stewart, my daughter, Zoey Bartlet."
The dark-skinned woman stood and greeted Zoey with a handshake. Her partner also stood; he practically dwarfed everyone in the room. Lauren spoke first. "Miss Bartlet, it’s good to meet you, although I wish it were under better circumstances."
"Same here," Zoey responded. "Please call me Zoey.
"Fine, Zoey." Lauren gestured to the couch across from them and they all sat down. Lauren noticed that the girl sat as far away from her father as she possibly could. However, he remained silent. He was defaulting control of the situation to the two agents. Lauren took all this in, then spoke. "Agent Stewart and I have been investigating the threats that have come in against you and Charlie Young. We’ve been called in to investigate his disappearance."
"You think that one of those white supremacist groups is responsible?"
"Not necessarily," Jonathan said. "We’re treating this as a routine disappearance, but we are also investigating those leads."
"Have there been any demands or anyone claiming responsibility?" Zoey asked.
Lauren smiled briefly. This kid was sharp. "Not so far. But if one of these hate groups is responsible, they’ll make themselves known soon enough. We’ve got the phones tapped her in the Oval Office, Leo’s office, Josh Lyman’s office and the residence. If they make a call directly, we’ll be ready to trace." She quickly changed the subject. "Zoey, I need to ask you some questions. First, I need a description of what Charlie was wearing last night."
Zoey sighed. "He was wearing black jeans, a white t-shirt and a black v-neck sweater with gray trim. I gave it to him for Christmas," she added softly.
"Okay. Did you have a fight?"
"Was he upset about anything?"
"Other than the fact that he was going to have endure my father’s pleasant morning disposition, no," she said, sarcasm dripping from her voice.
"Take it easy, Zoey," Abby warned.
Jonathan spoke up. "Zoey, was there anybody around campus giving either of you a hard time?"
"No. We just stayed in my room watching movies. You’d have to check with Gina to see if she noticed anything."
Jonathan made a note. Leo had already arranged for them to speak with the Secret Service detail later.
Lauren picked up the thread of the conversation. "Zoey, your father said you got a call from Charlie last night."
"Yes. I went down the hall to my friend Lisa’s room. We were studying for our anatomy quiz, so I wasn’t there when he called. By the time I got back, I was so wiped I didn’t even notice the answering machine until this morning."
"Do you have the tape?"
Zoey nodded and reached into her purse and pulled out a small plastic bag with a mini-cassette. She handed it over to Lauren, who pulled out a small cassette player. She popped the tape in and pushed the play button. From the noise on the cassette, it was obvious that the call came on a cell phone, there was a lot of static and breaks within the tape. Lauren turned up the volume on the machine and listened intently along with the rest of the room’s audience to Charlie’s voice:
"Zoey….need your help….tell your father…don’t let him….sorry." The message ended abruptly.
As it played, Zoey gripped her mother’s hand for dear life. Leo looked sick and Jed had paled. Zoey quietly wiped a tear from her face. Even though she had heard this before, the reality of Charlie’s disappearance coupled with the fact that the FBI was now involved was tearing Zoey’s heart in two. She managed to keep her voice steady as she asked, "Have you tried contacting his sister?"
Lauren looked at Jonathan then at Jed and Leo. Zoey didn’t miss this silent exchange. "What happened? Where’s Deena?"
"She’s missing also," Abby answered.
Zoey sank back on the couch. "This just gets better and better!"
At that moment the phone rang. Leo answered it and handed it over to Lauren. She answered and listened intently. She glanced over at her partner and jotted him a note. He read it and nodded in agreement. She hung up the phone and made a few additional notes. The phone rang again and this time Leo listened then said, "Mr. President, Toby and Sam are here to review your speech for the DAR Luncheon this afternoon."
Zoey didn’t say a word. She jumped up from the couch and went to stare out a window. She was furious with her father for not leveling with her in the first place. Now he was planning to carry on with his day as if nothing had happened.
If Jed and Abby were to rate Zoey’s anger on a scale of 1 to 10, she would be at about 12. Jed was about to say something to her, but Abby shook her head. She knew that if Jed said anything right now, he and Zoey would wind up in a shouting match. Right now, cooler heads had to prevail. This was not the time or the place to deal with the emotions that were boiling under the surface; there would be time for that later.
Lauren observed all this and decided on her next course of action. "Zoey, have you ever been to Charlie’s apartment?"
"Yes. A few times," came the reply.
"Do you think you’d be able to tell if something were missing or out of place?"
"I suppose so."
"Good. I need you to go with Agent Stewart to the apartment. If you notice anything at all out of place, tell him. It may help us to figure out what’s happened."
At first, Zoey didn’t respond. But she finally nodded and went to gather her things. She blew out of the office, followed by Jonathan.
Leo waited until the door was closed soundly before he spoke up. "You know something."
"Yes," Lauren answered. "But it’s nothing that she should concern herself with."
"But why send her to Charlie’s apartment?"
"Because of her relationship with Charlie, she may have a more, shall we say, intimate knowledge of his surroundings and his life. She may or may not provide us with clues that will help us locate him and his sister."
"Bull," Jed said tersely.
"Jed," Abby said.
"You can skip the Psych 101 lesson, Agent Forbes. You already know that nothing Zoey finds at the apartment will be of any use to you in this investigation. You wanted her gone because you already know what’s happened to Charlie."
"Not exactly, sir."
"But you do have some more information," Abby said.
Lauren nodded. "When Leo called, I began some digging. I made a few phone calls. The DC Police found Charlie’s car, abandoned, about ten miles from the Georgetown campus. His cell phone was there, inoperable."
"No," Leo whispered.
"There’s more. There was a charge to his credit card for two tickets on a United flight to Atlanta last night. Our assumption was that they were headed for their grandparents’ home. They never made the flight. Our field office in Georgia made a check on the grandparents’ home. They found the house in a shambles; no sign of either of the residents."
"Dear God in heaven," Abby prayed softly.
"What else?" Jed’s voice was hard. "Finish it."
Lauren let out a long breath. "We’ve secured the surveillance video from Dulles at the United entrance. Deena Young made it to the airport. Before she checked in at the ticket counter, she was accosted by an unknown white male, who led her out of the airport." She looked Jed in the eye and said, "His head was shaved clean."
"WHAT!!!" Jed roared. "Where was airport security!"
"They apparently did not believe she was in any immediate danger. She appeared to leave willingly."
Jed stood up, enraged. He uttered through clenched teeth, "Agent Forbes, whatever it takes. Find Charlie and Deena Young."
"Yes sir." Lauren stood. "I’ll be in touch," she said to Leo. Leo nodded escorted her to the door.
Abby went to her husband and placed her hands on his shoulders. The tension seemed to ease at her touch. "Are you going to be all right?"
"Yeah," he replied. "I’ll have to tell Zoey about this."
"Because she has a right to know what’s going on. I’ve always played it straight with her, Abby. This time, I held back. She’s so angry with me right now, she won’t even talk to me."
"She’ll get over it, Jed. When she’s had a chance to slow down and process everything, she’ll calm down and she’ll understand."
"I hope so, Abby." He looked up at his Chief of Staff. "Leo, have Toby and Sam come in. Might as well get this over with."
"Yes sir." He went to the phone and spoke briefly.
Abby asked, "Want me to come with you to the luncheon?"
"No," he replied. "You’d better be here when Zoey gets back."
"Okay." As Toby and Sam entered, she leaned over and kissed him. "It’ll be okay, Jed. It’s going to be okay."