Josh groaned and threw his arms to cover his head as the beeping grew incessantly louder. In the back of his tired, hung over mind, he concluded the wildly objectionable sound must be some kind of warning of a nuclear attack. Good thing he gave that stupid NSC card back to Leo, he decided. Now he didn't have to worry about heading to the nearest bunker or airplane and could just lay in this nice, warm bed and sleep. If only that damn beeping would stop.
Mumbling something unintelligible, he tried to further bury his head under a pillow.
C.J. ripped it from his hands and tore the blanket off his body. "Josh, you have to get up right now," she ordered.
The sudden rush of cold air against his skin jolted him awake. He shot up, only to grab his head and fall back to the bed groaning. "C.J., the room is spinning, my head is pounding, and I seem to have developed some kind of ringing in my ears."
Racing around the room in search of the source of the obnoxious noise, C.J. finally picked up one of his shoes. Holding it upside down and shaking it, she caught the beeper as it fell out and tossed it to him unsympathetically. "We have to get to the office."
His red rimmed eyes narrowed as he read the message on the small screen. "Does this really say what I think it does, or is this just a horrible nightmare?"
"Both," she answered sharply and threw the suit he wore the day before on the bed. "Get dressed," ordered C.J., already heading out the door. "I've already called a cab. It should be here in a few minutes," she yelled.
Leo looked up to see the two rush into his office. C.J. was dressed casually in a pair of jeans and dark red cardigan. He figured she had been already awake for a couple hours. Josh, on the other hand, looked like death on a trisket, as Zoey was so fond of saying.
"Margaret," Leo bellowed as he took in the younger man's blood-shot eyes and the grey hue of a complexion; his condition unfortunately all to familiar. When his secretary appeared in the doorway, Leo instructed, "Bring Josh a cup of strong, black coffee and a bottle of aspirin."
Looking appropriately embarrassed, Josh ducked his head to avoid his boss' scrutiny.
"What's going on with WH-203, Leo?" C.J. quickly brought the discussion back in focus.
The Chief of Staff sighed heavily and leaned back in his chair. "One of our friends on the other side of the aisle is saying that Caddell is talking behind closed doors about going to the press with evidence regarding Davidson and illegal campaign contributions."
"Christ," cursed Josh in disgust.
"Let me get this straight," C.J. said, her eyes wide with horror. "Four days before a critical House vote on campaign finance reform, Congressman Caddell is going to go to the press with some kind of evidence that involves the House Minority Leader and illegal campaign contributions?"
The House Minority Leader, whom aside from President Bartlet, is probably the most high profile supporter of campaign finance reform," she said.
Leo turned to look at his deputy, who was downing the handful of aspirin Margaret had supplied him. "Excuse me?"
"Who are we getting this from," clarified Josh. "Are they reliable?"
"I didn't drag you down here on the word of some junior gofer in Majority Council office, Josh," replied Leo, his tone tinged with anger and frustration that, in all honesty, had little to do with his deputy. "This is from a high level Republican Congressman who happens to support Campaign Finance and doesn't want to see the bill derailed by eleventh hour theatrics!"
Realizing he was taking his anger out on the wrong person, Leo took a deep breath and continued, "And we need to work fast to make sure that doesn't happen." He started to shuffled through a stack of papers on his desk. "Margaret is calling your support staff in." He wondered for a brief moment why Josh suddenly looked like he was going to be ill, then quickly dismissed it. "Toby and Sam were on the first flight out of New York this morning and should be here-" He was cut off by the sound of an enraged voice thundering through the hallway.
"Can just one goddamn thing go right around here?!"
C.J. looked to Leo. "I think they're here," she deadpanned as Toby came crashing through the door, followed closely by Sam.
Toby unceremoniously dropped his bag on the floor. "Murphy's Law of this White House must read that we will always and forever be screwed when we try to get something done!" He looked around the room at his co-workers, his voice adopting a lecture tone. "Do you know what we did wrong?"
"We tempted fate," Sam answered, no doubt by rote. His monotone voice matching the weary expression on his face.
Sam ran his fingers through the short, black spikes of his hair and sighed tiredly. Ignoring Toby as he continued to mumble about 'tempting fate' and 'very bad luck', he turned to address Leo. "What exactly are we dealing with?"
"We don't know," the Chief of Staff answered. He looked around the room to his staff, who were now all quiet and waiting his marching orders. "C.J. - get on the phones. We need to know who has it, when they're going to run it, what they're going to say about it, and, you know, what exactly it is." She nodded smartly, already jotting notes on her notepad. "Sam, Josh - work the House. Josh, take the Republicans; Sam, the Democrats. We can't afford to lose any votes. I'm going to be in meetings with the President and Nancy McNally all day talking about the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, so you all report to Toby."
He paused to breath and turned to the glowering man. "Toby - I need you to handle the Minority Leader's staff. I've already talked to Ross Brady, Davidson's Chief of Staff, and made it clear that they are to give you their full cooperation. Brady is working on contacting Davidson. Apparently the Congressman was spending the morning sailing. Talk to him. Maybe he has an idea what kind of evidence Caddell might have. In any case, we need to know if there is any truth to it."
"Caddell is a blowhard, but he isn't Lillienfield," Josh interjected. "Once he starts dealing in specific threats, he delivers."
The room was quiet for a moment as they all recognized the accuracy of Josh's assessment. "Yeah," Leo said, breaking the silence. As he started towards door that connected his office to the President's, the senior staff took that as a signal to get to work. "Report to Toby," he called after them. "Toby - keep me informed."
The halls immediately filled with loud voices as they filed out of the room for their offices.
"I want those Congressmen married to yea votes," hollered Toby as Sam and Josh were simultaneously dictating lists to Cathy and Donna of members of the House they needed to talk to.
"Ed and Larry are here," Bonnie announced.
Toby addressed the two Congressional liaisons. "Josh and Sam are talking to the swing votes. I need you two to focus on the votes firmly in our column. Calm them down. Don't get specific, but assure them that we are handling it and nothing will stop the bill from passing. Bonnie will help you." He turned to catch CJ racing down the corridor.
"Carol, get me Ted Walls from the Post."
"Why Ted?" Toby asked, matching her fast pace.
"He hears everything," she answered. "And off the record, he's a big supporter of campaign finance reform. I'm hoping he knows who Caddell has been or is planning to talk to and will tell me."
"Talk to me as soon as you know something."
"Yeah," she said as they turned a corner. "Make sure Davidson's press secretary doesn't say anything until I talk to him. In fact, I don't want anyone in that office to say anything to the press unless it's 'no comment.'
As they reached their neighboring offices, she came to a stop and looked at him. Their eyes locked and for a brief moment everything and everyone around them melted away, as they silently acknowledged each other. The moment was quickly broken as Carol called, "Ted Walls in on the phone."
The corners of C.J.'s mouth quirked up in a small smile as she turned and headed to her office.
"You said it was probably nothing," he called after her, the edge in his voice slightly diminished.
"You agreed," she yelled back.
He sighed and muttered under his breath, "yeah," then turned to his office.
"Ross Brady is on line two," said Ginger.
"Okay," he said. "I need the campaign disclosure reports on both Congressmen Caddell and Davidson."
"From the last election?"
"From all elections."
"The New York Times is running it," C.J. reported as Toby hung up the phone, or more correctly, slammed down the phone. "It'll be in tomorrow's paper."
"What does Caddell have?"
She sighed and ran her slender fingers through her hair. "Mark Howerton wouldn't tell me the specifics," said C.J. "But, the gist is Caddell is claiming Davidson accepted over $100,000 in illegal soft money contributions in the 1990 campaign from the heads of some major aviation businesses. The upside is all of the evidence is circumstantial and of course, the fact that it allegedly happened ten years ago."
"What''s the downside?"
C.J. shrugged. "According to Mark, the evidence is circumstantial, but there's a lot and it's fairly compelling. And although Davidson's never been on the transportation committee in the House, those particular companies have received several lucrative government contracts in the past ten years. The perception isn't good," she concluded.
"No, it isn't," agreed Toby. "Ginger! I need to see Sam and Josh the next free moment they have, and then I'll need to talk to Leo."
Ginger nodded and said, "Ross Brady is on the phone. He's says Congressman Davidson will be arriving in the office in about five minutes."
"Tell him I'll call him back in about ten minutes and tell him that I'm not happy."
"I'm going to see what I can do to soften the blow with the Times," C.J. said and left for her office.
As she passed Carol's desk, her assistant said into the phone, "can you hold for a moment?" Then, she looked at C.J. "They're starting to pick up the scent," she warned, referring to the press corps.
"I'm busy," replied C.J. "And can you get Mark Howerton back on the phone?"
"Sure," Carol said, then turned back to the phone. "C.J.'s busy right now, Steve, but we'll let you know as soon as she has something to say." She was quiet for a moment, then said, "She's playing 'Battleship' with Admiral Fitzwallace. Last I heard, she just sunk his tanker."
When Sam emerged from his office several hours later, the scene was markedly more calm. Ed, Larry, and Bonnie were in the Roosevelt room still calling Congressmen, but it didn't look like there were any deserters. C.J. and Toby were holed up in Toby's office on a conference call with Davidson's office working on a press statement from the Minority Leader. The bullpen was relatively empty, except for Cathy and Ginger at their desks, busily typing memos.
Taking advantage of the break in the storm to address the shocking news from the night before, Sam approached the two women. "The two of you should be ashamed," he said, feigning disappointment.
"What are you talking about, Sam," responded Cathy.
"I'm just saying, you pride yourselves on knowing everything that goes on here, yet I know probably the biggest piece of gossip of the year before you do," he bragged.
The memos quickly forgotten, Cathy and Ginger rose from their desks. "What do know," Ginger asked excitedly.
"I can't believe you haven't noticed it, yet."
He paused dramatically, then said with a smug smile, "Toby isn't wearing his wedding ring anymore."
It was quiet for a moment, while they digested his news. Then, to Sam's surprise, Cathy said, "That's it?"
"What do you mean," he yelped.
"He stopped wearing it a few months ago," Ginger shrugged and headed back to her desk.
Sam's mouth opened in shock. "Why didn't someone tell me?"
"We thought you noticed," replied Cathy aloofly.
"I don't believe this! Next you'll tell me you know who he's dating."
Both Cathy and Ginger's heads snapped up. That was news. "Aha," Sam declared triumphantly. "I do know something you don't."
They wasted no time in firing questions at him.
Sam held up his hands in surrender. "I don't know. I don't know! All I know is last night at the fundraiser, I overheard a woman ask him out and he told her he was involved with someone."
They exchanged glances.
"Do you think?" Cathy questioned.
"I don't know," was Ginger's answer. "Maybe."
"What," Sam cried out in frustration. "Tell me!"
Cathy shrugged and explained, "Maybe Toby just said he was seeing someone to let her down easily."
"But why did he take off his ring," Sam countered. "I'm telling you, he's got a girlfriend."
Silence filled the air again as they looked at each other. They knew what they had to do.
Josh tensed up when he saw Donna walk into his office. She hadn't yelled at him, yet, or given him the silent treatment like he had feared. Then again, they had been extremely busy all day. Maybe she was just waiting until things were calmer to be mad at him.
He blinked in surprise when she sat the mug she was carrying on his desk. "You brought me coffee? Have you done something to it," he asked suspiciously.
"You'd certainly deserve it if I did," she retorted. "What were you thinking, Josh? How many times do I have to tell you that you have a del-"
"Would you stop saying that!"
"Well you do." She sighed, "Did you do anything that you'll need to warn C.J. about? Do you even remember?"
"Actually," Josh said, excitement creeping into his voice as he remember the previous night's revelations, "I was with C.J. and you'll never guess what I found out about our little Claudia Jean."
"What," asked Donna warily.
He grinned impishly then said in a sing-song voice, "C.J.'s got a boyfriend."