Fade to Black
Part 1

This one carries a small violence warning for implied stuff.

All disclaimers and notes may be found in the introduction.

*

The last 24 hours has been rough for the Seaborn's - both of us, and I
can't quite figure out how our life went so wrong, so fast. After all,
this morning was normal enough. Sam woke me up a little before 5, we made
blueberry pancakes and black coffee, and gave each other the same running
pep talk we share every morning. Then Sam took a shower, and I cleaned up
the kitchen. I think the last thing I told him was to keep Josh on a
short leash at the hearing. Somehow, I could picture Josh blowing up, and
derailing half of DC for a day. I couldn't have been further from the
truth. It wasn't Josh who'd derail Washington, but I didn't realize my
mistake until I was already at work, sitting in front of the TV set, and
watching it like one watches a train wreck - with rapt attention, and an
inability to avert your eyes........

*

I can't tear my eyes away from the TV. It's been a long time since CSPAN
was this enthralling, but Josh and Sam look ready to do some damage to
the Republican leadership as soon as they leave the room. Every night,
I've had to listen to all the sordid details of Peter Lillianfield's
witch hunt, and this is where it led to - a televised congressional
hearing.

My fingers are tightly crossed. Leo McGarry is a close friend. Not as
close as Josh, but close nonetheless. Ever since the Department of Labor,
I've been afraid, worried, concerned, and downright petrified that
someone would find out about Leo's problem - about the drinking, and the
drugs, and the Tucson center. The first time, Lillianfield didn't have
the political stomach to keep digging, this time, he's going to retire,
and he plans to take this White House down with him.

Josh is being downright combative, and while I expect nothing less from
him, I think the committee expected something different. Sam looks like
he's struggling to reign him in, but he might as well be dragging
boulders uphill for all the luck he's having. There is so much I should
be doing right now, but I've learned over time that I can't be effective
unless I'm focused, and I cannot focus while the inquisition is happening
on TV, while Josh and Sam are being roasted for protecting Leo, and,
might I add, they're doing a valiant job.

"I have studies that say 1 in 5 White House staffers use drugs. Do you
deny this?" Of course they do, Congressman. What have they been shouting
about all morning? "Are you taking any drugs, Mr. Lyman?" I have to laugh
at that, because in all the years I've known Josh, which is over a
decade, the only drug he's ever been high on is life, although there were
a few months back there, after the shooting, when I wanted to put him on
prozac. His no is so emphatic, that I think Lillianfield almost
reconsiders his next question.... his next question.... oh no. Sam,
whatever you do, don't say yes. Don't say yes. He doesn't know. He can't
call you on it. Sam, just don't admit to anything.

"What about you, Mr. Seaborn? Are you taking any drugs?" See!
Lillianfield is just mugging for the cameras. He doesn't expect you to
answer that, or at least not to say yes. Josh is getting ready to elbow
you, just listen to us, okay? I knew I should have thought harder about
this hearing. I knew that feeling in the pit of my stomach was for a
reason, I knew....."Yes. Yes, I am." Oh Sam.

*

It had been worse than I imagined. By the time the afternoon edition of
the Post came out, the lead story was Sam as his illness. He called me,
about a half hour after the paper hit my desk, and said Leo was sending
him home. I wanted to ask if it was just until the press cooled off, but
something in his voice warned me away from the question. I told him I'd
be home as soon as I could, but when I finally pulled up at the house, he
wasn't there.

I had roamed through the house a bit, straightening up this and that, and
I even sorted laundry, thinking that I would have time to do it later. I
had just picked up the phone to order takeout of some sort for dinner,
when my cell phone started ringing. I knew whose voice I would hear even
before I pressed the 'talk' button. Jamie's voice told me a car would be
picking me up shortly, and I knew it had to be serious. Today was my
second wedding anniversary, and there were things I didn't want to have
to do today, places I didn't want to be at 10:30 at night, but duty
called.

*

The National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime opened during my
first year of graduate school. I was living with my father, and still
figuring out what I wanted to do with myself. I was still learning to
appreciate the benefits of having an ocean separating me from my mother
and stepfather, and beginning to realize I wanted to be like my father. I
wanted to serve, to help others, to...... to make a contribution. I was
an idealist, and I saw that as his job.

I must have worn that on my sleeve, because the day the Center opened,
under the direction of the FBI, he came home as asked if I was interested
in behavioral psychology, because if I still wanted to work for the
Bureau, they would be needing criminal profilers. He pushed me that way,
I think, because he didn't ever want me in the line of fire. He saw the
job as a shrink for felons, but he was off base with that one.

I was only the sixth person at the Center when I received my JD-MA four
years later, and when I left two years after that, for a world of
politics, law, and Josh Lyman, there were only 12 profilers with the FBI.
To this day, I'm not sure why I came back, except, I had already fought
my own demons, and tired of politics and corrupt clients in corporate
law. James Sattler caught me in at a weak moment. I had just come back to
the city. Sam had left me. I was starting over again.

When I hear the knock at my door, I know Jamie's on the other side of it.
He has a distinctive knock, to me at least. His knock and Sam's.... I can
always recognize them. We walk down the sidewalk, and he starts to tell
me what they know so far. At 9:58 PM there was an anonymous call,
reporting a body on the steps of the Capitol. By 10:11 PM, the Capitol
police and the Office of the Sergeant at Arms had both called DC Police
and the FBI. I'm surprised that we don't know anything more, but Jamie
tells me that it was obvious she was dead, and they're waiting to examine
the body until we get there. It all sounds like a perfectly normal and
completely pointless killing, just like they all do, until he adds in one
last thing. The anonymous caller.... they requested me.

That takes me aback, and I question him about it, but Jamie fixes me with
that look. That look that reminds me there are only 29 criminal
investigative analysts, 29 profilers, that work for the FBI, and only one
Elizabeth Lloyd. That's my second surprise. No one's called my Elizabeth
Lloyd in two years. I opted for tradition when I got married, besides,
there's nothing wrong with Sam's name. I would question him more, but
we're stopping outside the barricades, and an officer is opening my door,
and asking for my ID.

*

There's a light dusting of snow covering the capitol, and while it's not
as bad as it was during the holidays, it's still wet and icy. January
must be the worst month of the year. I'm not the only one that thinks
that though. I'm sure the woman in the center of this storm would agree.
A few of the DC police step back, giving me a clear path to the body. I
didn't expect this. I expected a mugging or some drug deal gone bad.
After all, the capitol isn't in the best neighborhood, but this resembles
something else entirely.

The woman is laying on her back, her body resembling that of a broken
doll as it flows over several steps. Glancing up, I can't ignore the
possibility that leaving her here, on the steps of the capitol, is a
statement, possibly a statement of intent. Just the possibility starts my
mind spinning in new directions. If that was the only message the killer
was sending, it would have been enough, but the man, I've already decided
it was a man, wants to make it perfectly clear.

Covering the woman's head and chest is an American flag, an old one, one
of those that says, 'Don't tread on me'. Pulling on latex gloves, I bend
over the body as the police buzz in the background. Peeling the flag away
from her face, I stop cold. I know this woman. I stared at her picture
for months while I was in New York. I saw her at night in my mind's eye,
when Sam wasn't with me. I listened to CJ rant about Sam's stupidity
because of her. Somewhere behind me, an officer is looking through her
purse, and when I hear the name, I try not to show my heart on my sleeve.
"Hey, if it matters to anyone, her name was Lauren Crenshaw." Laurie.

I can hear Jamie somewhere in the crowd now, getting rid of personnel
that shouldn't be here. He works his way up the steps to where the action
is, and I feel a hand on my shoulder while I examine the blood stains on
the stars and stripes. "Lisa." Turning my head, I feel this odd twinge,
as he holds a baggy in front of me. One of Sam's business cards, they
just pulled it out of her purse. I'm trying to rationalize it, to tell
myself that she's probably had the thing for years. I mean, I'm a pack
rat too, and..... Jamie turns it over. Our address, the new one, for the
house, is scrawled across the back. The handwriting is undeniably Sam's.

"Just tell me you can be impartial." I say the words then, but I don't
believe them. Jamie doesn't push though. I mean, just because of who she
was, who she might still have been to him, does not mean I cannot be
professional. It's my job to be professional. I can't crouch here any
longer. Instead, I peel off my gloves, and drop them into one of the
evidence bags. There are rivulets of blood forming in the snow, and I
feel sick. It's a common feeling, and I know it will pass, but I have to
walk away, just for a moment.

A picture is starting to come together in my mind. The whole scene is
very organized. Very clean. My first instinct still stands. It was a man,
and he killed her here on the steps, he stabbed her through the heart.
Something's not right with that. It almost sounds like a crime of
passion, but the flag shows planning, unless he happened to have it with
him, and covered her out of respect. How many people carry antique
American flags though? It would have been premeditated. The time was
chosen too. The hill was nearly empty and.....

Jabbing my hand into my pocket, I yank out my cell phone. "Seaborn." It's
Josh. Apparently he's been trying to track me down, and when I tell him
I'm working, he sounds apologetic. Sam just showed up at his apartment,
and he thinks he's drunk. I don't have the time for this. I should, but I
don't. Josh senses it though and promises he'll sober him up, and take
him home. My savior. He wishes me a happy anniversary, and offers an
apology. I don't ask why. Josh is still on a guilt trip about the hearing
this morning. I expect nothing less from him. Then he stops, just before
he hangs up, and says he thinks Sam might have been in a bar fight, and
he's going to call CJ and give her a heads up.

Why are all my instincts, as a wife and as an investigator, screaming at
me now?

 

Fade To Black - 2

 

 

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