Fade to Black
Part 30

All disclaimers and notes can be found in the introduction.

I lost her. How could I have lost her? I couldn't have been more than a
few feet away the whole time we ran through the crowd. I could see her
jacket through the crowd until she hit the press gaggle - or at least,
where the press gaggle should have been. Standing in the center of the
empty square of the Convention floor I feel like a fool. How could I have
been so close? She can't have been easy to miss. If Lisa hadn't been
standing beside me, I would have sworn it was her, and.... and the stairs
to the offices and private meeting rooms rise up in front of me. No
woman.

If she looks like Lisa, and has no credentials.... If she left, security
would stop her, or at least check with someone since she doesn't have her
credentials with her. Where could this woman go then? The stairs are
almost right in front of me, and I realize why I lost her, why I can't
see anyone in a green blazer. She could have run upstairs before I broke
out of the panicking mob behind me. My feet pound against the stairs, and
I take them three at a time ignoring the racing pulse beneath my skin
and the tendrils of fear tangling themselves into my consciousness.

There's no security officer outside the conference room, and almost as
soon as the thought enters my mind, I wonder if there should be a
security guard of some sort outside the conference room. After all, this
is command central, and more importantly, the President was scheduled to
attend a staff meeting here after his speech. My hand touches the handle
and I realize that I have no idea who or what is inside. I swallow my
stomach from its well-entrenched spot in my throat. The heft of Lisa's
gun in my hand jumps to the front of my consciousness. Could I
really..... My hand rests on the door handle for this agonizingly long
moment. Then, I turn the handle.

As the door swings open, I linger in the hallway, off to the side of the
doorway. Glancing hesitantly up and down the hallway, I don't see a
single person. Damn. I was hoping for some.... I don't know -
reinforcements maybe. I should have watched more cop shows. All that CNN
and ESPN didn't exactly equip me for the next few minutes of my life. For
the first time, I'm aware of the space spreading out in front of me. For
a week, I've whined right alongside Josh about how cramped our office
space really was. Today, it's an abyss, spreading out in front of me.

Slipping inside the door, I glance around anxiously. The phone bank
covers the table in front of me, and I wish I had X-ray vision because I
realize that the wall near the entryway blocks my view of the couch. I
raise the gun in front of me, and I feel pretty stupid standing here like
this. Regardless, I step around the wall clutching the gun like a life
preserver.

The couch is empty and I release the breath I didn't know I was holding.
My heart is pounding so loudly, I swear anyone in here could keep time to
its thumping. Glancing around, I realize there's only one closed door -
the one to the small back office Josh and Leo set aside for themselves.
Extra credentials in case they hired someone for something are crammed
into a desk drawer - third from the bottom. I didn't even know they were
there until Lisa needed credentials for some of the FBI investigators she
was bringing in.

The rush of blood in my ears overpowers the soft sounds of my feet
shuffling across the carpet. Brown. Everyone seems to like brown carpet.
I suppose that's because it doesn't show stains. I know that's why I had
brown carpet in my old apartment. Of course, Lisa has to be different.
The whole house has cream colored carpeting. The only thing I can
honestly say I learned buying the house was the twelve different shades
of cream in the house. Frankly, I didn't know cream came in shades. I
don't think the brown carpet will hide a bloodstain though. No,
definitely not. Besides, as Josh and I learned, there are ways to
resurrect bloodstains even after you think they're gone.

The door feels cold, and my hand feels numb. Would anyone fault me for
running out of the room? Clenching my jaw, I close my left hand around
the doorknob and clench my right hand tightly around the gun. Glancing
down at it, I realize I should put a finger on the trigger. Should I put
my finger on the trigger? What about all the statistics we keep citing on
the number of people accidentally killed by firearms? You know, I'm not
even 100% sure on how this thing works. Is there a safety or something I
ought to know about?

Quit stalling, Sam. Open the door.

The door opens and almost takes my arm off. Maybe I shouldn't have
clutched the door handle so tightly. She's staring at me, as if she's
surprised to have company, and time screeches to a halt. She's wearing
credentials now - the temporary kind that fill the third drawer of the
desk. She's holding the green jacket over her arm, and up close she looks
less like Lisa, although I'm afraid that no one else would notice the
differences. Her nose is a bit shorter and it's turned up just a tad on
the end. Her eyes are more hazel than green, and they're cold. They could
be.... they could be my father's eyes.

When time begins to move again, I see the glint of metal beneath the
jacket. The blazer concealed her gun. The reaction is instinctive, and I
bring my hands up to shield my face. She steps back when she sees the
gun, and when I see the blast in front of me, I'm not sure which one of
us fired. A split second later, when I'm still standing and she isn't, I
have the answer to my question.

The woman is slumped over against the half-open door. A dark wig has
slipped off her forehead revealing bright blond hair. For a second I
can't move, and then I lean over, reaching for her throat. The throbbing
of a pulse releases my heart from a stranglehold. How can people do this?
"Sam!" The tension building in my muscles explodes then, and I literally
jump in response to Toby's voice. "Sam, what..... I'll.... I'll call
someone. Are you alright?" I don't even acknowledge him, setting the gun
down gingerly on the table beside the main phone line.

Then, I walk out the door. The Convention floor looks like the stopper
has been pulled and the people have been drained from the building.
Activity near the stage draws my eye for lack of anything else to focus
on. Lisa. Josh. The President. Grabbing the railing, I let it lead me
back towards the stairs and down to reality.

The shouts echo across the distance, and paramedics block my way back
into the hallway. The President would have disappeared down this hallway.
That's why the tape was significant. Someone wanted to see how the Secret
Service works. Tell me Lisa isn't down there. Please, just tell me Lisa
isn't down there.

God hates me. I'm going to take that as a given from now on. Josh looks
like he's just seen a ghost, and the two paramedics arguing with him
leave him alone once he convinces them that he wasn't actually in there
during the explosion. He takes two halting steps forward and stops in
front of me. I get this sinking feeling in my stomach when he refuses to
meet my eyes. "Sam, the President...... he...." Josh swallows then, and I
can see this look on his face, one that I haven't seen since his father
died. Since his....."Is he dead?"

"We should go to the hotel. Everyone is supposed to meet there in case
of.... of something like this." Oh God, the President's dead. I can't
bear to ask. He hasn't said anything about Lisa, but he hasn't said she
was alright either. Josh, is she okay? Tell me she's okay, even if it's a
lie. He glances up at me then, and closes the distance, that last step
that separates this. The hug was meant to be comforting, but it only
confirms what I fear. He knows something about Lisa. He knows something
and he won't tell me.

"Sam, we should...." You go. I'll..... I'll be here until I know for
sure. "You know, Sam, Convention bylaws make Cordova the nominee." Okay,
I know Josh, but sometimes I forget how much Josh loves politics. Josh
loves politics enough to still be aware of them at a time like this. He
walks away then, and I'm certain he's gone to the hotel to count heads,
rally the troops, and figure out where we go from here. I sink down to
the floor and sit Indian style, waiting.

Five minutes later, Josh sits down beside me and grumbles for a moment
about his knees before resting a hand on my shoulder. "Shouldn't you be
at....." He shakes his head then, and points to his cell phone. "Margaret
is already organizing everyone."

When the brown shoes pause in front of me, I realize I'm afraid to see
who it is. Josh's voice eliminates my willful ignorance too soon.
"Detective Bailey, have you....." Josh's voice dies out mid-sentence and
slowly I raise my head.

Our father, who art in heaven.... Please let him have good news. Let that
look on his face be a lie. Let this day end with no more tragedy. Into
thine hands, father......

TBC

Fade to Black - 31

 

 

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