Blood and Thunder

Jane Harper

RATING: R (language, some violence) 

SYNOPSIS: The fifteenth man has talked, someone is being stalked, someone is pursued by someone they know, and someone is doing what he should have long ago. Burma Shave. 

ARCHIVE: Sure. Just let me know where. HTML available. 

DISCLAIMER: We didn't start the fire. Please don't sue us, your attorneys would laugh when they see the balance sheet.



"CJ, I could lose my job for this. I'm going to hand you something explosive, because I have great respect for the President and don't want to see him irretrievably hurt." He led her over to her sofa and both of them sat down. "I'm glad you're sitting down."

"Danny, you sound like Chicken Little. What are you talking about?"

Pausing a moment and taking a deep breath, he asked, "Has the White House been covering up the fact that President Bartlet has a fatal illness?"


"Good God no, Danny," CJ answered. "What a cockamamie notion. The President's annual physical examinations are a matter of public record, and his doctors have pronounced him entirely healed from the shooting."

"Are you sure?" Concannon asked, looking her straight in the eye.

"Cross my heart and kiss my elbow," she responded. "Do we need to issue a statement on this? I mean, is it something that's all over the room, or is this just a single deluded source of yours?"

"Right now I think it's just mine, but it comes from a knowledgeable source, and I wouldn't blow it off until you talk to somebody. I'm giving you a head's up because I think he's not going to stay quiet."

CJ frowned. "You wouldn't consider telling me--"

"CJ!" Danny looked shocked. "No, I wouldn't consider telling you!"

"OK," she replied, getting up. "Thanks, and I owe you one."

He grinned. "I'll remember that." And he stood up and left her office.

She crossed over to her desk and picked up the phone, punching a button. "Hi Margaret, it's CJ. Is he free?"

* * * * *

"Rabbi Glassman, please. Toby Zeigler calling." Toby was sitting at his desk nervously tapping the surface with a pencil.

An answering voice came from the receiver. "Toby! How are you?"

"I'm fine, Rabbi. Listen, can I make an appointment to come in and see you?"

"Is there something wrong?"

"No, not-- it's nothing per-- no, there's nothing really wrong. I'd just like to talk to you about something."

"OK. When is good for you?"

"How's tomorrow afternoon? I have some time free around three."

"Great, Toby. I'll expect you tomorrow at three. See you then."

As he hung up the receiver, CJ knocked at the door to his office. "Got a minute?" she asked.

"Sure." He leaned back in his desk chair.

"There's an incredible rumor out there," CJ said, sitting down in one of the office chairs. "Just incredible."

"What's that?"

"That the President has a fatal disease," she said, grinning. "No mention of what that might be."

Toby laughed. "And this is coming from the White House reporter for the Enquirer?"

"Actually, no," CJ answered. "It came from Danny."

"Was he drunk?"

"I hope not, at nine in the morning."

"You never know."

"I'm going to give Leo a head's up," she went on. "Just in case somebody tries to ambush the President tomorrow at the news conference."

"We're working on prep this evening and tomorrow, right?"

"Yeah." She got up and headed for the office door. "I'm going over to see Leo now."

"OK," Toby responded, and went back to his pencil-tapping.

* * * * *

It was all Leo could manage not to react more strongly to CJ's news.

"A fatal illness?" he asked, putting on a smile. "Danny didn't by any chance mention which one, did he?"

"No," CJ answered, smiling. "He was taking it 'way too seriously, I think. Somebody is trying to jerk him around."

"Okay," he responded. "Do you think we'll need to be prepared for something at the press conference tomorrow?"

"I doubt it. And all we'll do is deny it categorically, right?"

McGarry did not respond.

* * * * *

"Sarah, you seem distracted today," Margaret said to her at lunch. "Are you OK?"

"Oh yeah, I'm fine. What's happening on your side of the street?"

"Not much. The President has a press conference tomorrow, so senior staff will be tied up in prep all afternoon and half the morning tomorrow. I wouldn't count on Himself getting home early."

Sarah laughed. "I don't count on Himself getting home, period. I expect him when I see him standing there."

"Smart," she responded with a grin. As she got up to leave, she said, "You'll probably see me later tonight, I suspect I'll be over to pick Himself up a change of clothes."

"Ever think of keeping some stuff in the office for him?"

"Then he'd have an excuse never to go home."

"Well you wouldn't have to _tell_ him!"

"That would only work the _first_ time. Once is a habit with him, you know." Margaret got up to return to her office.

"You're right. Don't want to do that." Sarah waved. "See you later!"

* * * * *

Abbey Bartlet looked up to see Leo standing in the door to her office.

"Well, well!" she said. "We don't often see _you_ over here in the East Wing! To what do I owe the privilege?" She got up from behind the desk to greet him with a hug, and the two of them sat on the sofa.

"Abbey, I have something to talk to you about, and I didn't want to do it in the West Wing."

The First Lady frowned. "This _must_ be serious."

"It is," he acknowledged. After a moment, he leaned forward and looked her in the eye. "When the President was shot, did you happen to mention--"

"Yes I did."

"Oh my God, Abbey, who did you tell?"

"The anesthesiologist. He _needed_ to know!"

"Did you invoke any kind of confidentiality over the information? Mention national security?"

She shook her head no. "I was so upset, Leo--"

"I know."

"I told him there were only fourteen people who knew, that he'd be the fifteenth. That should have said something!"

"What did you tell him about the press, anything?"

A look of shocked recognition crossed her face. "Oh, God..."

His voice grew more urgent. "What did you _tell_ him?"

"I said, 'tell the press, don't tell the press, it's up to you.'"

"Well it's out there. It's out there distorted, but it's out there."

Abbey put her face in her hands.

* * * * *

When Sarah got back to her office, two things were waiting for her. One was a tall stack of software design proposals submitted for the Veterans' Affairs project, with a note from Janeane on top: "VP needs these abstracted for AM meeting. Sorry. J."

*So much for dinner at home,* she thought, and looked through her desk drawer for the deli delivery menu, which she stuck to the desk lamp to remind her to order something later.

The other thing on her desk was a box about seven inches long and four inches wide, covered in bright and colorful wrapping paper with a bow. She opened it eagerly, wondering what kind of a present she was getting, but inside there was only a 3 x 5 card. In the same square printing that had written the one earlier in the day, it said, "A wonderful surprise awaits you at home. Don't be late."

Laughing, she set it aside. She was a lucky woman, she thought, to be involved with such a romantic.

* * * * *

Margaret stood in front of the door to Leo and Sarah's condo and dug through her purse for the security code. Finding it, she stooped to pick up the small brown parcel someone had left by the door.

Opening the deadbolt, she did not hear the beep that meant the security system had detected her entrance, and when she checked the keypad the green light indicated that the system had not been armed.

Expecting to see Sarah at home, she put the parcel down on the coffee table and called, "Hello?" but there was no answer. She checked quickly in each of the rooms, but no one was home.

*Umpteen thousand dollars for an alarm system,* she thought, *and nobody turns it on.*

She went into the bedroom, gathered up two clean shirts, a fresh-pressed suit and two pairs of socks and underwear, and left.

* * * * *




Blood And Thunder - 3




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