TITLE: "The Flood" (4/8)
See notes on part one.
* * *
After Hoynes told his wife, he made a call to his mother. As he listened to Betty Hoynes cry on the other end of the line, John found himself thankful that his father hadn't lived to see this day. Ruth had taken the phone and tried to comfort Betty, all the while shooting very pointed glances John's way. When he couldn't take anymore of it, Hoynes showered, shaved and dressed in his best suit. As Ruth knotted his tie, he had wanted to apologize to her, but he didn't know how. He took her hand, and she gave his a quick squeeze before she pulled away and walked out the door.
When he got to the White House, Hoynes navigated the halls quickly. He wanted to delay the inevitable meetings with Leo and C.J., not to mention the President, for as long as possible. As he passed people in the halls, he sensed their eyes following him. The back of his neck prickled, and his face was hot. He kept his head down and walked faster. Hoynes breathed a sigh of relief when he got to the small office he used and could shut the door behind him.
"Hello, Mr. Vice President."
Startled, John looked up and saw Agent Ron Butterfield waiting for him.
"Agent Butterfield," Hoynes walked past Ron and sat down at his desk.
"We need to talk, sir."
Hoynes motioned to a chair. "Yes, why don't you have a seat?"
Ron shook his head. "No, thank you, sir. I'd prefer to stand."
Hoynes eyed Agent Butterfield for a moment before looking down at his desk. "I take it you know about Justin."
"Yes, sir, I do know about Agent McCorkle. I know about how you paid him four hundred dollars to leave you alone last night. I know how you've been paying him to leave you alone for the last six months." Though Ron was restraining himself, the anger was evident in his voice.
"Has he been fired?"
"Yes, sir, he has been terminated."
"And he's been instructed not to speak to the press?"
"Yes, sir, but--"
"I wish you'd stop saying yes, sir," Hoynes interrupted.
"Yes, sir." Ron coughed politely before he continued. "If I may be so bold?"
John shrugged. "Everyone else has been."
"I'm curious as to why you think it matters that Agent McCorkle was told not to speak to the press."
"You were able to buy him with four hundred dollars, sir. I can guarantee you that reporters are on the phone with him as we speak, offering him substantially more money than you did."
This time it was Ron who interrupted. "You've made a joke of the Secret Service!"
Hoynes stood. "I resent that!"
"And I resent looking like a fool!" Butterfield's voice echoed through the room, and he realized that he had just yelled at the Vice President. Lowering his voice, he spoke again. "Sir, it is my job -- no, my responsibility to keep you safe. If you go off without proper protection, you could get attacked. If you go off without proper protection, you could get shot. If you go off without proper protection, you could die. If that happens, sir, it's on my shoulders. Whatever it is that you're doing -- is it worth your life?"
John took a deep breath, and a silence filled the room. He looked at the walls and his desk, his books and the hallway beyond his office, and finally responded. "No."
Ron nodded quickly. "Okay." He turned to leave, and his hand was on the doorknob when Hoynes called out.
Ron looked over his shoulder. "Yes, sir?"
* * *
The day, Leo decided, was never going to stop getting worse. "We look like idiots," he declared.
"You don't need to tell me that," C.J. said, following him into his office.
"You went in there uninformed." He held up a hand when she started to speak. "I know, it's not your fault. Still. It's embarrassing. What do you have for the next briefing?"
"I have Sam's statement of vague support."
"Good." Leo sat down behind his desk. "And?"
"And I'm denouncing the picture as misleading, biased, and unreliable."
"Are you really saying unreliable? It's a photograph."
"It's blurry. I'm working with that." She yawned. "Excuse me. Is the President on his way over yet?"
Leo glanced at the clock on his wall. "Ten of six? Charlie's probably waking him up right now."
C.J. smiled dryly. "I'm not jealous of his job, at least."
Margaret opened the office door and leaned in. "Leo? Toby's--" Toby stepped past her. "Here," she finished, lamely, and shut the door again.
Leo and C.J. looked at Toby expectantly. Toby brandished a folder. "We got him."
Leo leaned forward. "Tell me."
"Does the name Christy Cable ring any bells with you?" Toby asked. Leo shook his head. "Well, that's probably because you're a rational, thinking person."
"I know that name," C.J. said, thoughtfully. "Is he the one who drives around shouting ethnic and sexual slurs at tourists?"
"Out of the window of his yellow Chevette," Toby confirmed derisively. "Guy publishes a newsletter -- and by 'publishes' I mean he drops it off at Kinko's -- called 'Right Power'. He's also a frequent caller to right-wing talk radio shows."
"He hates our guts," C.J. summarized.
"Him, and a couple million other people," Leo said. "Well?"
"Christy Cable has a criminal record -- a couple counts of trespassing from protest rallies, a couple disturbing the peace -- but he's stopped short of actual stalking." Toby didn't need to consult the file; he'd already memorized its contents. "His cousin, Travis Cable, seventeen years old, flunked out of high school, helps him deliver these newsletters."
"Ah," C.J. said. "Travis Cable waits tables, maybe?"
Toby smiled humorlessly. "Travis Cable works at the Madison."
"A teenage boy," Leo said, flatly.
Toby continued. "Phone records show that someone called Christy's apartment from the pay phone in the lobby of the Madison, twenty minutes after midnight. The call lasted about five minutes."
"A teenage boy."
"And a radical bigot," C.J. added. "The biggest newspapers in the country bought a cruddy picture from a guy who painted 'Slaves obey your masters' on the hood of his El Camino."
"Chevette," Toby corrected, automatically.
"Whatever!" C.J. was exasperated. "Isn't there something we can do about this guy legally?"
"Technically, Cable didn't break any laws," Toby said, frowning. "You'd think it would be libel, or something."
"Unfortunately, it's not libel if it's the truth." Leo sat back in his chair and consulted some notes. "I'm having this Tim Bayliss brought in. C.J., I want you in there with me."
C.J. looked uncomfortable, briefly. "Yes, sir."
He turned to Toby. "Good work finding this guy. The President's going to want everything you've got on him."
"By the end of the hour I'll know his damn genetic code," Toby guaranteed.
As he left Leo's office, Margaret hovered in the doorway. "I didn't know he was going to march past me like that, you know," she said, abruptly.
"For heaven's sake, Margaret, who cares?" Leo put his glasses on and rummaged through the files on his desk. "It's Toby, not the Iraqi president."
"Can I get anyone anything?"
"More coffee," C.J. requested, plaintively.
Leo got up and handed Margaret a sticky note with a phone number. "I need you to make a call."
* * *
TO BE CONTINUED