Fade to Black
Part 28

All disclaimers and notes can be found in the introduction

Sam was swallowed up in the crowd, but I can't stop moving forward. Josh
meets my eyes from the midst of the on stage celebration. I'm nearly to
the steps when I hear CJ's voice through the speaker system. If I were
any farther away, her voice would be lost in the jubilation of the
onlookers. I try and gesture to Josh - try to wave the President
offstage, but the confused wrinkle in his forehead conveys his confusion.
The woman from the warehouse.... her face looked strange because it was
my face. The blond hair threw me. It shouldn't have, but it did. Is this
woman the bomber? Did she kill Harrold Keeter? Did the bomber hire her to
kill Keeter? Damndamndamn. I can't catch my breath any more, and my
vision is bordered with a black fuzz. I trip on the first step to the
stage, and my body jolts as my knee raps against the metal riser.

I hear the noise then. I hear breaking glass. In the split second between
the sound of the bomb shattering it's casing and the explosion as the
fuse runs out, I have time for two thoughts. God save the President and
God save us all. There are screams and splintering wood and crunching
metal, then there are sobs and shouts...... Planting my hands on the
steps in front of me, I realize I'm shaking. I'm shaking, and I can't see
onto the stage. I'm shaking and there is glass crunching beneath my
palms. Stumbling up the risers, I peer onto the stage. The bomb doesn't
look too damaging. The stage is still intact. Abby is up and leaning over
Charlie. I can't see Zoey, but I know if she were hurt, the first lady
would be there first. There's a lot of debris, and I can't figure out
where it's from at first. Then I peer over the edge of the stage.

The station the Secret Service set up at the base of the stage is gone.
It's been completely obliterated. All those men.... all those agents.....
what a price for serving your President. "The President?" Josh. Josh is
okay. Josh looks like he's four seconds from a full fledged flashback,
and he's bleeding. There's this cut over his right eye, and I remind
myself that a wound like that - it looks worse than it is. The President?
I can't see the President? Then I see Ron. He must have been in the other
aisle.... he was supposed to be in the other aisle. Anyway, he must have
been there, because he obviously wasn't at the Secret Service station,
and he's running up the stairs on the other side. Near the podium, under
a few pieces of..... something, I can see the President and Leo. Of
course, Leo would have to be next to the President - even though he knows
how dangerous it could be standing at Bartlet's right hand today.

It's been, maybe thirty seconds. Ron is hauling the President to his feet
and off the stage. He should have been on the way out by now, but I don't
think there are any agents left in the area. Any agents left will meet
him at the stairs and they will hustle the President out the door through
a side exit. I kneel next to Leo to check him out, but he waves me off
and looks at me. "He's fine. The President is fine." He gets moving then,
scrambling to his feet faster than I thought a fifty-seven year old was
capable of. I see his destination quickly though. Grabbing Abby, he half
leads, half drags her off the stage. I guess if Ron ever decides to
retire, there's already a replacement waiting in the wings.

They'll be headed towards the designated exit and..... No. Oh no. I'm an
idiot. I try to run after Ron and Leo - try to get then to turn around,
but my feet won't cooperate. That fuzzy black border is threatening to
overcome my vision. A minute. All the drills, all the training at the
shooting range, all the.... it's been a minute, no more. Josh's voice
carries, and I know he's doing a literal head count of the senior staff.
I'm not sure how I made it across the stage, but I can see the hallway
leading to the side exit. There are too many people there. The Secret
Service was the target of the first bomb. The Secret Service can't clear
the hall if they're all bleeding in front of the stage. The first bomb?
Will there be a second or will the woman in green have a gun this time?
Will someone else be waiting? Dammit! Why didn't I put two and two
together. The tape.... the tape was a study of Secret Service procedure.
Grab the protectee and run for the designated route. I should have....
should have thought of that sooner.

Pushing through the crowd is like swimming upstream, and I see Ron's head
bobbing ahead. Thank heaven for tall men. "Turn around! Turn around! Take
the other route!" He doesn't hear me, but Leo does. I can see the Chief
of Staff stop abruptly and search for me in the crowd. He knows the
voice. I shouted enough during the campaign - mostly fighting with Sam -
enough to embed it in his mind. He moves forward again and my shout this
time is more like a scream. He understands this time, and Abby is yanked
off her feet as he aims for a cross-hallway. She doesn't want to go, and
her voice joins mine in yelling. She screams 'Jed' twice before Leo drags
her out of earshot.

I'm almost within shouting distance to Ron when I hear the noise. This
isn't a breaking a glass.... this is a breaking window. The glass
casing.... the short fuse..... the same thing we found in the subway. In
the split second between the musical sound of the shattered casing and
the deafening explosion, my mind dregs up the image of the bodies.....
the commuters... Mark..... the blood..... Then I am knocked off my feet.
The bastard.



Fade to Black - 29



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