Fade to Black
Part 4

All disclaimers and notes may be found in the introduction.

CJ and Sam are in the attic trying to find the box of cards and board
games, and somehow Lisa and I got stuck washing dishes. She keeps
flicking water at me when she thinks I'm not looking, and every now and
then, I swish the dish towel in her general direction. She's in a good
mood, which is a definite improvement over this afternoon on the phone.
Suddenly, the giddy smile slides from her face as she hands the last pan
to me. "Joshua, whatever you do, don't cut me out of the loop." She
cannot mean the shirt. She never saw the shirt. I'm just jumping to
conclusions here. I try to be subtle, and I ask her what loop I'm cutting
her out of She shrugs. "Just a request to consider." What does she know?
Sam promised, and I know he's too honor bound to break his word. How does
she know?

Then she smiles again and grabs the spray nozzle on the sink. I'm
weaponless here, and I bring the pan up to block some of the water..... I
hear CJ scream. I think, at first, that I imagined it, but Lisa has
lowered the spray nozzle and glances between me and the stairs. Then she
takes off. I expect her to run up the stairs, but instead, she stops at
the banister, and grabs her coat, fishing a gun out of her pocket. At
least I know why there used to be guns in my apartment. I guess the FBI
likes everyone to be armed.

I can still hear CJ, quieter now, and Sam must have come down from the
attic before we could come up, because now I can hear his voice trying to
calm her. She's standing inside the master bedroom, and when Lisa and I
run in, I can tell she's making a noticeable effort to collect herself.
She's saying that she came in to find some dice for monopoly that Sam
said were on his dresser. I don't think Lisa's listening anymore, because
even though she's lowered the gun to her side, I can see her eyes sweep
over the room until they settle on Sam.

Sam is standing across the room, his eyes locked on the bed, and Lisa
stops a few feet away from him. She must see whatever it is that he's
looking at, because she starts giving me directions without turning her
head. "Go downstairs. My cell phone. Number 3 on the speed dial, and take
CJ with you." Right, phone. Who am I calling? Dragging CJ downstairs is
harder than I thought, and I can't find Lisa's cell phone. Finally CJ
spots in on an end table. Number three.... I vaguely recognize the
number. One ring, two rings, three.... "Sattler." It's James. I glance at
CJ, and hand off the phone, directing her to tell him what happened.

I have to know what's going on. I'm paid to know what's going on. I take
the stairs three at a time, and when I get to the master bedroom, Sam is
still rooted to the carpet. The only difference is now he has his hand
clamped tightly over his mouth. Walking over slowly, I keep peering at
the bed. Suddenly, the pictures come into focus, and I feel sick. I can't
stop myself. My arm darts out, and I almost need to pick one up and see
if they're real, but Sam's hand darts out and grabs my arm. His voice is
choked when he opens his mouth. "Lisa said not to touch them." Speaking
of Lisa, where did she go?

The pounding of feet on the attic stairs seems to answer my question, and
a moment later, she comes back in the room, and with her gun tucked in
the back of her waistband, she almost looks like a real crimefighter
instead of my best friend. Honestly, she really does resemble an FBI
agent and not Sam's wife. Her hand settles on Sam's arm, and she pulls
him away, glancing at me to make sure I'm following her. By the time we
get downstairs, CJ is opening the door, and James Sattler and what looks
like half a dozen FBI agents are standing outside. It couldn't have been
more than five minutes.

It's all I can do right now to form coherent sentences. Sam told me once
he made the mistake of snooping around in Lisa's study. He quickly
learned that there are some things he doesn't want to see. I understand
why. CJ's telling James about walking in looking for dice, and seeing the
pictures on the bed and screaming. I can confirm that. CJ is a very
effective screamer. Now I see why Toby is so hard of hearing some
mornings. Lisa is talking to someone else, and Sam looks like he's
holding her up. I'm not sure who's supporting who over there, but I'm
pretty sure it would be nice to have someone like that in my life.

Now James is asking me questions, and all I can tell him is that I saw
nothing, and I know nothing. He's about to turn away when he stops, and
turns to face me straight on. "Just don't leave me out of the loop." What
is it with leaving people out of the loop? I mean, I don't have any power
to leave the FBI out of the loop, and..... Wait. Lisa and James, they're
telling me that, not as Josh Lyman, but as the Deputy Chief of Staff. I
get it, they think this is big, and they want to make sure they have all
the information. Well, they do.... except for the shirt, and I'm not
about to tell anyone about that. It looks too bad for Sam, pictures or no

The pictures..... they're bringing the pictures downstairs inside those
evidence bags I always see on TV. Lisa is looking at them now, and she
keeps talking quietly to James. I hate this. I'm a know-it-all, and I
don't know anything. Sam called Toby and Donna, at least, I think he did,
because Toby is trying to get CJ to come home. Toby has a purpose here
though. There is no reason I need my assistant around to take care of me.
I can't help myself. I'm trying to position myself so that I can listen
in on Lisa and James without having to see the pictures.

"They were alive, Jamie." I can't see them, and the disembodied voices
are a little disconcerting, under the circumstances. "Forget the picture
for thirty seconds. You can't stay here...." Lisa's all over that,
arguing that she will not be scared out of her house. Telling him that if
they wanted to make sure she was working on the case, and if they were
willing to break in and leave her photographs, then those were entirely
new clues. James probably would have lost, but Sam saved him.

I have to make sure I'm not hearing things. Lisa is not a woman you can
order around. Believe me, 11 years and I haven't managed to do it once,
but Sam does. He orders her to listen to James and says they'll stay
where ever he thinks is safe. Only the fact that I'm not supposed to be
listening keeps me from applauding. Sam, you are the man. Of course, I
don't think Lisa shares my sentiment, because she's still arguing, but I
don't think Sam plans to take no for an answer this time.


Lisa is still arguing while she and Donna make coffee in my kitchen. The
FBI ordered surveillance on their house, and on Lisa. I think she's
getting off easy, because apparently CJ or Toby called the President, and
Sam and I are being protected by the Secret Service, just in case. Just
in case? Just in case of what? I mean, this guy, he's killing young
pretty women. Now, ego or not, I don't think I fit that category. No, I
definitely don't fit that category. Mandy told me once that I was a
pretty-boy, but I am so not a woman. Although, now that I think about it,
Mandy was probably just being sarcastic. Anyway, I'm not young either.
Lisa keeps telling me that I can't be young any more. Every time I refer
to the fact that I'm a young man she insists on pointing out that forty
is already a year behind me. Actually, I'm looking forward to calling her
old next year when she hits that mark.

The point though, is I can't figure out why I need Secret Service
protection. I'm sure they have better things to do. Right? Like, you
know, protecting the First Family, which contains three pretty young
women, all of whom happen to be daughters of the President. Shouldn't the
Secret Service spend their energy there?

"Josh." No, Sam, I don't want to talk about the shirt yesterday. The
girls will be back in here in a minute. He doesn't want to talk about
that, or at least, about the shirt though, because he just looks at me,
and asks how people can do that, be that cruel to each other, be that
hateful. I'm not sure what's going on in his mind, but I think he's
playing a mental game of connect the dots - connecting this monster to
the three others at Rosslyn and to the one he grew up with. It's almost
freakish sometimes how his mind works.


The evening is almost normal. Sam and Lisa are snuggling on the couch.
Donna is curled up in the chair, and she even gave me back my pillow so
that I could prop my head against the base of said chair. The girls made
popcorn, and since none of us can even think about sleep, we're having an
all-night movie marathon. I think I've regressed back to college, or at
least back to those first few days living with Lisa when we were so busy
getting the energy bill passed we forgot to sleep.

The fact that there are three men with guns in the hallways gives it a
bit of a different flavor. Sam's been pre-screening the movies we pop in,
eliminating anything that might make Donna scream. I don't want to see
those guys rushing in here looking for something to shoot, and I don't
think Sam does either. I have to say, Lisa must have the best coping
skills in the room, because she's actually managed to doze off a few
times with Sam's shoulder as a pillow. I don't think I could sleep even
if I had Donna as a pillow. Whoa! Back that up, Lyman. Donna Moss equals
assistant. There will be no yearning there. As Sam would say, bad
personal choices result in the President asking for an audit, but it was
funnier when he said it. Thinking it, that just sounds weird.

I didn't plan to go to sleep. I wanted to keep an eye on Donna since she
insisted on staying, and Lisa, because...... Then I wake up. I can see
Sam, still sitting there, still watching the TV, even though it's the
news now, and not videos. He's been keeping watch while I was asleep on
the job. At least that proves I'm too old to have insomnia.


Fade to Black - 5



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