Fade to Black
Part 27

All disclaimers and notes can be found in the introduction.

Mrs. Bartlet shooed me out of the room, and I'm not sure why. Everyone
else is hiding in the office in back, and I don't want to know what
they're talking about. Defending oil companies from litigation is looking
like a pretty good vocation, but then again, writing speeches looks good
too. It's this whole crime-fighting, protect my wife, serve my country,
sacrifice for my President routine that I don't think I can handle much
longer.

During the whole ordeal after the Congressional hearings and Laurie's
death, I wrote a letter of resignation, I updated my resume, and I
started thinking about what it would be like to work for a member of
parliament. Lisa would have adored me. She's always talking about moving
back to London, if for no other reason than to torment her mother with
her taste in men. Have I mentioned my mother-in-law likes me even less
than Jenny McGarry?

I just couldn't bring myself to leave. Forget about Bartlet being the
real deal. Forget about Lisa wanting to spend time with her father.
Forget about Sarah being in California and London being half a world
away. No, this was all about owing Josh. Every time I turned on the TV in
those days after the hearings, Josh was playing the political spin game
acting like the big brother I never had. That was about the time I
realized I was too indebted to Josh to leave. He brought me on board,
defended me from Toby, stuck up for me to Leo, and introduced me to Lisa.
Add to that not breaking my jaw when I accused him of sleeping with her
and I think that's a pretty big payback he's got coming.

After some subtraction for blaming the fire in the Mural room on me.

*

"Seaborn!"

No, please, someone hide me. "Alice, not now, really, I'm...." "Sitting
on the floor outside headquarters?" Okay, so she's got me. Is that any
reason to harass me? Then to door swings open behind me, taking away my
backrest. Alright, so flat on my back isn't the best position to
negotiate from. Mrs. Bartlet is standing over me, and I think she's
trying not to giggle. "Sam." She hitches her thumb towards the couch and
I scramble to my feet and lurch inside without a backwards glance.

"I don't know what's going on here, but she should be resting not running
around the Convention." Well, that's easy. Since she's been running
around the Five Boroughs she hasn't had time to run around the
Convention. "I gave her some sleeping pills, and I expect you to make
sure she sleeps." I feel like I should salute or something, but she fixes
me with a glare and mutters something about getting ready before the
speech.

For the first time in four days, the conference room in quiet. With only
Lisa sitting on the couch and myself staring at her, the room feels
positively empty. "How long 'til the pills kick in?" She gives me this
guilty look then, and opens her hand slowly. Two yellow pills. Now this
is why we can't have kids. The inherited sneakiness would do me in. "Help
me get cleaned up?" I'd rather not. I'd much rather tuck you in bed
somewhere - preferably as far from here as possible, but since I doubt
you're going to let me.... "Sure."

*

According to Ron, every agent in the city has a copy of Lisa's revised
profile. No one without proper credentials is permitted within a hundred
feet of the building. The subway below us has been closed since yesterday
and the airspace above us has been cleared since five this morning. Why
then do I think this has so many possibilities for tragedy?

From the back balcony, I can see everything. Lisa, Ron, and Mr. Lloyd
pacing off the area around the delegates. Leo and Josh head to head near
the stage curtains, just out of camera range. Carol and Cathy herding the
press back behind the ropes. CJ playing tour guide to most of the major
TV networks. I can even see her spare an occasional glare in Josh's
direction. Toby is the only one I can't see, but I know exactly where he
is. He's standing outside the conference room with a phone in one hand
and a series of Secret Service protocols in the other.

Now, if only I knew how to find a psycho bomber and killer in a crowd of
thousands. That's the one thing I want to know how to see, because these
people.... these people look just like everyone else. One of them wants
to kill the President. Maybe he killed Harrold Keeter today too. Maybe
someone else did. Maybe that someone's here with his own agenda. Maybe
I'm moving back to London with Lisa tomorrow.

When the President walks out, the crowd cheers wildly, and I can't help
but thinking that at least one man's applause won't be genuine. I can't
see Ron and Lisa anymore, but I can see Mr. Lloyd moving up next to Leo
and whispering to the agents just off stage. CJ's abandoning the press to
Carol's tender loving care. There's supposed to be a moment - a moment at
the end of the speech, where the Bartlet's and the senior staff all get
on stage for a photo op. I ought to be moving down there, but my feet
feel like lead. No, no, lead's not heavy enough. Maybe two anchors. Yeah,
that's right. Two anchors.

Toby is walking slowly towards the stage and I can just see him along the
walkway out of the corner of my eye. "Good evening my fellow Americans.
Today we stand on the brink of a new America. An America where...." I
wrote those words. It feels like years ago that I wrote those words, but
really it was only a week. Taking a deep breath, I try to ignore the
hitch in my chest as the oxygen fills every empty space in my lungs. Then
I walk.

This is going to be a stand-up speech, and the President forbade any and
all tinkering Toby might choose to do. Somehow, that just doesn't make me
as happy as it should. The stairs echo beneath my feet. The invasion of
our home was bad. This feels like an invasion of my patriotism. When I
hit the floor, I notice two things. The activity on the floor is
unbelievable. I almost wish the speech would have been a dud, because
with the crowd going wild, I think the good guys are going to have a much
harder time. The second thing is more comforting. Lisa is leaning against
a chair. The distance between her and the President makes me feel better.
The soft gasping sounds she's making aren't nearly so comforting.

"Sam." The anchors are back. I couldn't move away right now if my life
depended on it. "What if I'm wrong? What if we're looking for the wrong
thing?" The statement alone is disturbing, but I'm more worried about the
gaps for breath between every word. "...Four years ago I stood before you
to accept your nomination for the President of the United States...." How
did we get so close to the end? I.... wait. What if we are looking for
the wrong thing? If he's smart enough to connect her to Mark in London,
smart enough to break into our house, smart enough to eliminate his
competition.... smart enough to kill the President.....

We're supposed to be looking for a white male in his thirties with a gun.
If he's so smart, who will he have here? I didn't even realize I said
that out loud until Lisa's hand closed around my arm. "A woman. It will
be a woman and she'll have a bomb." Her eyes are searching the crowd now,
but I catch the green blazer first. I see the woman - the girl - out of
the corner of my eye, not because I'm looking for her. I would have
noticed her under any circumstances. She looks like Lisa. She looks like
Lisa, and she's dressed just like Lisa in all those horrible pictures
from the subway in London. Green blazer, blue jeans, and a black blouse.
Lisa's gaze follows my eyes because she pushes forward, and I know where
she's going. The stage. She's running for the stage.

As she steps away, I feel something cold and hard pressed into the palm
of my hand. The woman has vanished in the crowd and I wade in after her
before I realize I'm now holding a gun. Shit. I don't want to be holding
a gun. The wave of delegates swallows me up and I realize I can't see
anything except for the waving signs and the clouds of red, white, and
blue. No green.

"....and I am proud to accept your nomination for the Presidency of the
United States of America!"

Bartlet pumps his fist at his side, and then I lose sight of him as the
crowd surges toward the stage and the banners and signs block my vision.
I can hear the click of cameras and see the glitter of flashbulbs.
Bartlet was adamant when he said everyone would be acknowledged on stage.
CJ has stepped up to the microphone and in the midst of the pandemonium
she tries to introduce the rest of the first family and the senior staff.

The next color I see is orange. The flash of orange mixes with black and
red and there are screams all around me. I feel myself being carried back
as the delegates flee from the stage. There is no doubt in my mind that
someone just blew up the front half of the stage. The President? Is the
President dead? Is Josh? Did Lisa make it up to the stage?

Then I see green.

 

Fade to Black - 28

 

 

Home        What's New        Author Listings        Title Listings