Leo had gathered the senior staff in his office to relay the news and updated them on Abby’s condition. With the exception of CJ, everyone else was still in a state of shock. "Mrs. Landingham has spoken with the assistants and Lilly Mays is speaking with Mrs. Bartlet’s staff," Leo said quietly. He wanted to give them more time to digest the news, but it was not a luxury he could afford right now. "I’ve spoken to the Vice President. For the next few days, he’ll be handling the President’s schedule."
"Has the President signed the memo?" Toby asked, remembering the chaos surrounding the question of executive authority in the hours surrounding the shootings.
"No," Leo replied. "The President isn’t ceding power to Hoynes and Hoynes knows that. But for the time being, the President can’t focus on this office and his wife at the same time. Hoynes will be representing the President and giving our allies and enemies a stable leade r to focus on. But he and the President will be in constant communication and if need be, the President can be back at the White House in a matter of hours. Charlie and I will be heading to New York this afternoon and we’ll remain there at least through Monday or until we have a better idea of Abby’s prognosis."
"What are we giving to the press?" CJ asked.
"Only the basics. Sam, Toby, keep it short and sweet, just like Rosslyn. I’ve been in touch with Abby’s parents, but the President’s daughters haven’t been notified; they’re both incommunicado for the time being. CJ, I want you to handle the initial briefing here, but I’m going to need you to coordinate the media at the hospital. Regular White House briefings can be done by that Simon guy you hired as your deputy."
"Leo, that’s not official yet," CJ said.
"It is now. Notify whoever you have to, but get him up to speed." He turned to his deputy. "Josh, you’re covering for me here. Margaret will get Donna up to speed on my schedule. You’ll also have to work with Hoynes to keep him in the loop. If anything blows, you can reach me at the hospital’s Presidential suite or on my cell."
Noting the despondent faces of the staff, Leo spoke quietly but with an edge. "Look guys, I know this is bad. But the President is counting on all of you to be the professionals that you are. He knows how concerned you are for Abby’s well-being, but his focus needs to be on Abby. He can’t do that if he’s got to worry that the country’s going to hell in a handbasket because you guys can’t put your personal feelings aside and do your jobs.
"I know how hard this is on all of you, how helpless you feel. But by staying focused, doing what needs to be done around here, that’s more valuable to the President - and to me - than you will ever know. We’ve been through worse. And we’ve come out on the other side. We’ll do it again, I promise you that." He looked at each of them and, confident of what he saw, he dismissed them.
Wearily, he sat down in his chair. He wanted to wallow in sorrow for what was happening to his friends, but he couldn’t. He grabbed a report on the accident and started to read through it. Moments later, he heard a soft tapping at his door and looked up to see his daughter standing in the doorway, tears threatening to spill over her eyes.
He stood and came around his desk "Mallory? What are you doing here?"
"I heard a news report about Abby. Is it true? Is she okay?" Mallory asked.
Mallory was especially close to her godmother. And as badly as he wanted to lie to protect his only child, he knew she would see right through it. "It’s not good, sweetheart. She’s in surgery now. Jed and Zoey are on their way to the hospital."
"I talked to Mom. She wanted to go, to be with them, but she thought…"
"She thought it would be too awkward right now," Leo answered, completing her thought. He had signed the divorce papers last night and seeing Jenny was not something he was ready to deal with right now.
Mallory crossed the room and hugged her father tightly. "Abby’s going to be all right, isn’t she Dad? She just has to be," Mallory sobbed.
"Yeah, I hope so." He held on to her and for the first time since he heard the news, he began to shed his own tears freely.