Fade to Black
Part 16

All disclaimers and notes may be found in the introduction.


I don't want to be in the middle of this. If I thought yelling at the
President was bad, the way Lisa yelled at Leo.... I thought people were
going to self destruct. I mean, he just stood there and looked at her,
and gave in. Hell, I thought Leo would have yelled right back. Shows me
how much I know today. Of course, that has nothing to do with me being
stuck in the middle. No, you can chalk that up to a couple Polaroids, my
two best friends, and Donna. God, Donna........ See, Donna should be here
right now, because she..... she could tell me what to do, and...... and I
sort of need her right now. She's not here though, and she isn't going to
be, and I can't figure out what to do.

Of course, this is all Leo's fault. I mean, if he hadn't needed a chief
of staff, then Lisa would never have been involved in the Labor bill, and
she and Sam would never have talked like that. Then we could just forget
about this whole mess. Right about now, that sounds like the only way
for me to not be involved in whatever Sam may or may not have done.

I can't worry about that now. I have to organize the firing of the
Vice-President of the United States. This is going to be hard. This is
going to be really hard, because we can't let the President take the fall
on this one, and I drew the short straw. I grab my jacket off the floor
by the coffee maker and glance at my watch. I'm only running a few
minutes late. In Convention terms, I think that makes me early. I jog
down the hall, and in the small set of rooms where Hoynes' people are set
up, I find the Veep, and his people looking anxious. I think they're
expecting the firing squad, you know, Leo, Toby, the President. Instead,
they just get me, but that doesn't make my job any easier.

"Josh." Mr. Vice-President, I think I ought to start off by apologizing.
I was unexpectedly..... disconnected from my phone last night. That's not
a complete lie either, having to entertain thoughts of Sam being some
sort of psycho killer disconnected my brain from life for a moment.
"Josh, with the news I think you're here to deliver, maybe you ought to
call me John." He looks old. It's like overnight, Hoynes aged ten years.
He knows. Lisa and Toby were completely open about their talks with
Cordova, and I swear half the delegates are whispering about it behind
our backs. "No sir, with the news I'm here to deliver, I think I should
stick with Mr. Vice-President."

He keeps his chin up, and if nothing else, I have to respect his ability
to persevere. After all, I'm not the Vice-President, and I'm still not
sure I'd take being kicked out quite this well. His people are scrambling
around the room, but Hoynes is immobile in his chair. I'm not sure what
to say, but I don't think it's appropriate to get up and leave. "When
will he be talking to the press?" Okay, that is the last thing I expected
Hoynes to ask. This afternoon, the President and Cordova are going in
front of a selection of the White House press corps. Private press room,
upstairs. He nods, and then he gets a little upset. "What did I ever do
to him?" Well, sir, it might have something to do with making him beg, or
maybe with the ethanol tax credit, or quite possibly the Oversight
Committee.

We sit for a few moments and listen to the bustle around us, and then he
rises and I follow. I try not to think about his career, because as
irritating as he can be, John Hoynes is a good politician. He'll recover
from this - eventually. "Hey, Josh." I half turn as my hand touches the
door knob. "He doesn't want a strong Vice-President. Tell him that
Cordova's not going to go any easier on him." I just nod, and step
outside. Yeah, Cordova's tough. Cordova makes CJ look like a pushover.
What is Bartlet thinking? You don't nominate the drug czar when you want
someone to follow in lockstep.

I make it ten feet, tops, down the walkway before Senator Havverson tries
to knock me over in his rush to get somewhere. I lose my cell phone, and
my schedule, and he stops to help me pick them up. He stuffs them into my
hands, except, now they feel a bit heavier, and by the time I manage to
juggle everything and open up the file, Havverson is long gone. He must
have stuffed one of his files in with my schedule by mistake. I consider
hunting him down, and giving it back to him, but if he'll be at the
meeting this afternoon on Lillianfield, and I'll worry about it then.

Alice Ritcher hollers at me then, and I tuck my schedule and the file
under my arm. I'm pretty sure I delegated Alice to Sam, but I don't think
I can make my escape. I've been caught. "What are you going to say about
Bennet?" She's in my face, and I have to step back just to breathe
properly. What did Bennet do that warrants a reaction from us? He did
what? Who's reporting this? Yeah, yeah, I'm on it. Thanks for the head's
up. She calls my name again as I turn to walk away. "Does this mean the
pro-choice plank is back in?" No, Alice. We're running for President,
you're in the running for world-class-pain-in-the-ass. That means we call
the shots. Thanks for the head's up though.

*

"How does he even have the security clearance to do that!" Toby's going
off the wall, and Leo and I can't quite manage to wrap our minds around
the implications. CJ keeps asking what our statement is, because every
time she disappears to spin another version of 'no comment', she
reappears ten minutes later, telling us that not even the MTV chick is
buying it. Of course, CJ doesn't call her a chick, and she'd probably
smack me if she knew I had. "He ran the CIA. How do you think he got
security clearance?" Leo's using the tone of voice that even stops Toby
in mid-rant. "Now, what do we gain from a statement?"

Good question, Leo. Let's see, ah, we get to point out that the
Republicans have been breaking the law to scratch each others back.
That's good for us. We remind people that Lillianfield is a
bottom-feeder, and Bennet will bend over backwards to screw us over. I
think we gain a hell of a lot. "Sam, why not start on a statement." His
head snaps up, and I don't think he's entirely with us today, but I'll
watch his back. I got him into this, and I'll keep an eye on him for as
long as he's here. Leo must notice that Sam's a little out of sorts,
because he's looking him over. I think Leo's a little upset with Sam,
after all, he didn't find out about Sam's..... condition, until it hit
the papers. Actually, I think he was more annoyed that CJ and the
President knew and didn't tell him.

"Leo! I need a statement. 'No comment' is killing us." He gives Sam one
more hard look, before sending CJ with him to work up a statement. I grab
the files on the table, and head for the door, but Leo calls after me.
"Make sure I get an update on that thing." He doesn't say it, but he
does, in a way. He wants to know how the investigation is coming......
almost as much as I do, but not quite. I nod, but I don't stop walking. I
can't stop walking, because if I stop, I won't get up the energy to keep
going today.

*

"Alice, I could care less." She looks at me, and opens her mouth to argue
again, louder, but she's irritating and two days of this is two days too
long. I don't care if NOW is a traditional democratic player. She can go
pester the Republicans for all I care. Glancing at my watch, I end our
conversation and start to stalk away. I'm halfway to the press room
before I notice Sam falling into step next to me. We don't talk for the
longest time, and then he tells me Lisa will be at the press conference.
Alright, I'm confused. "Toby pissed off Cordova, so she wants Lisa
there." Note to self: beat Toby over the head with my knapsack.

Lisa is talking to Cordova when we walk in, and Leo's scowling. Leo's
definitely scowling except I can't tell who he's scowling at. I can hear
the press next door rattling folding chairs and calling CJ's name louder
by the second. There have definitely been some rumors floating around
this Convention. I swear, half the benefit of surprise has been lost, and
all the problems of dumping Hoynes from the ticket still exist. This is
definitely not a good idea.

Carol's opening the door now, and the President is moving from his silent
post behind Leo to lead the procession. Cordova follows him, and Sam and
I step up to the door. Lisa is hanging back, and I wonder if she plans to
actually step in view of the camera. Of course, since technically she
doesn't work for us anymore, I would expect nothing different. We're
halfway through the announcement, and CJ's finally stopped sweating
bullets, when I realize Leo didn't come out here. What the hell?

When it's over, Sam and I have to nearly herd Elena Cordova away from the
press. CJ threatened our lives if that woman made one more comment about
Lillianfield or the drug war before the Convention was over. With these
kinds of headaches, I'm already starting to miss John Hoynes. The
President is nearly glowing. I think his ego's starting to grow, what
with not having to cater to Hoynes politically.

CJ's trailing after me, and I have this bad feeling that whatever it is,
I'm not going to like it. I'm right, I hate it. "What's the story with
Havverson?" There's a story with Havverson? "Something about Lillianfield
and bank statements. His office has been leaking stuff to the press." CJ,
let me be the first to thank you for always being the bearer of bad and
confusing news. Find out what he's talking about. She doesn't answer me,
she just sort of scowls, and does an about face. Even through the thick
of the crowd, I can hear her shouting for Danny. Havverson sending out
information about..... wait a minute. What was the folder Havverson
dropped in my schedule? Okay, I'm an idiot, he didn't drop it, he planted
it.

I'm jogging now, and I can't quite convince myself that I'm not a
complete idiot. "Margaret!" The redhead doesn't even glance up from the
pile of papers Leo's been tossing her way all morning. "What?" That
folder, the one you put my schedule in, where is it? She picks out some
random file, and for a second she reminds me of Donna, then she politely
hands it over and resumes sorting. No, nothing like Donna. Now, if only I
could convince the hammering in my chest of that. Donna's gone, Lyman.
Get over it.

I dump the contents of the folder on the table, and try to ignore the
ringing phones. Ten bucks says I'm going to refer 99% of those calls to
Hoynes' people anyway. I pull the file out and flip through it. Hell, I
am an idiot. Those bank statements CJ was talking about - I'm the one who
has them. I'm going to get a tattoo that says 'I'm an idiot'. 'cause I
really, really am.

 

Fade to Black - 17

 

 

 

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