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Fade to Black
All disclaimers and notes may be found in the introduction.
Sam's called me five times in the last ten minutes. I'm telling you, we
cannot let him go sailing until Bartlet's out of office. Anyone that
can't follow simple directions cannot be let loose on the Atlantic... or
the Pacific. I can just imagine the chaos if a member of the senior staff
ended up lost in the middle of the ocean.
"Josh!" CJ grabs my arm and yanks me into a mostly vacant hallway. Of
course, if it were completely vacant, delegates wouldn't be giving me
strange looks as CJ hollers at me. "Josh are you completely insane!" See,
this is the hard part. I have no idea what she's talking about, and that
leaves me pretty damn clueless when it comes to defending myself.
"I'm telling you, I'm going to kill someone! Toby's off dealing with
the....the...." I open my mouth to supply the phrase she's looking for,
but the withering glare freezes the sound in my mouth. "And Lisa vanished
into the great abyss that is New York during a Convention. So who does
that leave to manage every bad sound bite that comes out of Cordova's
mouth? Hmmm?" Okay, CJ's really starting to scare me. True, Elena Cordova
isn't the most media savvy candidate in the world, but she's solidly
behind our agenda, she's loyal to the administration, and dammit, she's
not John Hoynes. Isn't that enough?
Apparently not, because three and a half minutes later, I am standing
next to our choice for Veep. The only negative here is the thirty
reporters - give or take - surrounding us. You know, I'm half tempted to
distract them with a secret plan to fight inflation. CJ gives me one last
thumbs up before ducking through a connecting door and through to the
Leadership's suite. I'm going to get even for this.
Leo doesn't even glance up when I walk in. "You realize we don't actually
have a policy regarding the American Association of Women Sausage Makers,
right?" This is worse than the plan to fight inflation, I can feel it in
my bones. We're alone in the conference room and you'd think with the
events of the last few months we'd have something better to talk about.
"Leo, about Lillianfield. Do you think we ought to..." "I will kill Alice
Ritcher and it will be slow and painful!" Okay, the moment's over, and
Toby's fuming. Exit, stage left.
I try hiding out in the back room with my crime-fighting files, but my
attention is less than focused right now. My mind starts to wander as the
thud-thud-pound of the main door brings me to my feet and into the
conference room. Leo's on his feet gathering Lisa up - she's about two
steps from collapsing - and she looks up at me with this.... this look.
Then she asks me to call Ron. Shit. What happened?
Toby and CJ are standing off to the side, and the dazed and confused
looks don't abate one bit when Sam storms in, panting for breath and
muttering something about a building with a pink flamingo and finding
Lisa in a closet. What the hell? A closet? She's rambling. Something
about GI Joe, Lillianfield, and a blond - somehow, that's not all that
I display my mastery of speed dial in my rush to summon Ron, Detective
Bailey, Lisa's father, and a doctor. I hesitate on the doctor. How many
people should I really drag into this? With a heart rendering sigh, I
dial Mrs. Bartlet's pager number. She calls me back with blinding speed,
and I barely have a chance to tell her where to come and why before Ron
blows into the room.
Leo's busy shooing CJ and Toby into the back room, and I suppose this is
where the conspiracy is going to have to end. "Take care of this, Josh."
What? I can't take care of this! Leo's the chief of staff, taking care of
the administration's crises is his job! "What's the problem?" I think for
a split second that Ron is talking to me until I turn around and see him
kneeling in front of Lisa. She's whispering and when I get closer I can
hear the hoarseness in her voice and the fear vibrating through the air.
"There's a....a.... Sam knows where it is." Ron's head snaps around as if
noticing Sam for the first time. He doesn't stop to ask exactly where
this building is, because Lisa's still talking. She mutters something
about being cold, and Sam rests his jacket around her shoulders.
Definitely still sick - no other excuse for being cold in August. "... He
was.... they were... Ron, they're going to try to kill the President."
Ron is on his feet and talking into his wrist in a heartbeat. One ear
must still be trained on Lisa, because as she talks, he adjusts the
orders he gives to those listening on the other end.
I pity the poor guys he's sending out to do.... whatever, but I think I
pity myself a bit more because CJ just stormed out of the back room and
if looks could kill.....
I think I understand Lisa's comment about GI Joe in an Armani. This guy
looks like the Green Berets mixed DNA with the Mafia. Of course, I'm sure
he was more impressive when he was alive. Harrold Keeter, CIA operative
and headache extraordinaire is dead as dirt. The only problem? We don't
know who killed him. Honestly, no one ever would have found him if it
wasn't for the directions to the warehouse Sam rattled off. Believe me,
Detective Bailey and Ron are having some unpleasant conversation right
now, and Lisa is just barely hanging in there. Of course, Sam won't move
more than two feet from her, so who do you think CJ and Toby are taking
out their frustration on? It sure as hell isn't Leo.
"How could you not tell us!" It might actually be hazardous to my health
to answer that. It started off as such a.... well, I can't say small
thing, but it didn't involve the President until Lisa and James started
to figure things out. Then everything went to hell in a hand basket. CJ's
starting to get irritated because it's pretty obvious that I'm watching
Sam and Lisa and only half listening to her.
"The President can't speak."
"The President has to speak!"
"Surely you can defend him in a building we obviously control."
Ron's argument to that is spirited to say the least, but I'm not
interested in that. I'm only interested in the quiet conference between
Lisa and her father. I can't catch all of what she's saying, but I hear
her say something about Rosslyn and the tape. She must have told him all
about the tape, because he doesn't ask for anything, just makes a comment
about James and possible copies. Whatever she planned to say next is lost
is the clatter of Mrs. Bartlet's arrival. She's carrying her black bag
and zeroes in on Lisa like a missile. Certainly with better targeting
abilities than our NMD.
Ron and the detective leave abruptly with their heads together. Leo only
spares them a glance. They'll find a way to safeguard the President long
enough for him to give his speech. At least, I hope they will. CJ is
still bristling from being left in the dark, but she stalks off. I think
she's half afraid the press will find out about this, and half afraid of
finding out what else she doesn't know. Only Toby remains to corner me
when I slip back to my collection of files.
This isn't going to be a fun conversation.
Fade to Black - 27