Fade to Black
Part 29

All disclaimers and notes may be found in the introduction.


The screams remind me of Rosslyn.

My heart thuds faster in my chest. I had almost the entire staff
assembled behind the stage when I heard the second blast. Toby and CJ had
been fine - a little bruised but fine. Charlie wasn't looking too great,
but it didn't look serious, and Zoey was glued to him. I'd seen Leo
leave, and I knew Sam and Lisa would be off somewhere, so I figured that
meant we were all okay.

Then I heard the second explosion.

No, heard is the wrong word. I felt it. The entire building rocked, and
CJ grabbed my arm roughly as she fell down to her knees. Where was it?
Was there another bomb near the stage? I took a shaky breath and gave
thanks that I'd gathered everyone behind the stage. Leo'd be proud that I
didn't screw up absolutely everything.

Then it hit me.

It wasn't the stage that exploded. It was the escape route. It was the
escape route and Ron and Leo had dragged the President and First Lady
down that hallway. It was like lightening hitting me, because suddenly, I
understood why Lisa had taken off running. She knew. She knew what was
coming and she tried to warn them.

My feet were rooted to the ground.

Toby was helping CJ to her feet, and suddenly Gina was in the middle of
our small group gathering Zoey and Charlie up off the floor. They were
trying to get to the exit. Not the escape route, but the one off the back
into the alley. They were talking about getting back to the hotel,
setting up camp in Leo's suite - just like we'd discussed. Just in case.

My feet were rooted to the floor.

Then I heard the screams.

I couldn't follow them. Instead, I was running back onto the stage and
across the empty space. The stage was nothing but open space and I
couldn't help but feel self-conscious as I crossed it - alone. I made it
maybe twenty feet down the hallway when I saw the smoke. The air in the
hallway seems charred and I crouch lower to breathe cleaner air. People
are packed in here, leaning against the walls and holding on to each
other. No one looks injured, and I press forward, trying to block out
images of fire and blood from times past that threaten to overwhelm me.

The first body rips my heart from my chest.

This end of the hall isn't empty, but its inhabitants are mostly sprawled
on the ground, or moaning against the wall. I want to turn and run. I
want to sit down and cry. I want Donna to hold me. I am a selfish
son-of-a-bitch and I don't care. I don't want to do this anymore. I'm
tired of being shot at because of what I do. I'm tired of..... No, I'm
just tired.

Seeing Lisa wakes me up.

She's sitting against the wall, and at first I think she's resting there.
She hasn't looked well, and I wonder if Sam ever considered dragging her
back to the hospital. Going AWOL couldn't have been good for her health.
I suppose I could drag her back to the hospital, or Leo could order her
back. Whatever happened in the subway has lingered over her. I mean, just
watching her walk the Convention floor with Ron was strange. She wobbled
a bit and every once in a while you could see her grab something for
balance.

I kneel beside her.

Then I see it. Reaching my hand out, I brush my thumb against her cheek,
meaning to wipe away the stain of blood. Only then do I notice the thin
line of blood leading up from that small stain. Tracing it upwards, I
wipe the blood from her cheek, from the small concave beside her eye, to
her temple. Oh God. There's a deep gouge there, and the glittering
crystals of glass look deceptively innocent. It doesn't look bad, it just
looks wrong. It looks wrong because in this building her greatest concern
should be CJ going ballistic over Elena Cordova's media skills. Nothing
more.

What about the President?

I don't even realize I've moved down the hall until I stumble over a
piece of..... I'm not sure what it is. I'm also not convinced I want to
know. The smoke is thicker here, and the walls looked like charcoal. The
smell.... Something burned here. The security guys look the same.
Bookends. The President - he'll be the one in the blue jacket. Everyone
else is in black. Secret Service style - that's what Sam and Leo
nicknamed the black suits during the campaign. The first campaign. There
- the blue jacket amidst the black.

The king is dead. Long live the King.

 

TBC

Fade to Black - 30

 

 

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