~
1. Ambush
~
She calls me from the cold
Just when I was low, feeling short of stable
And all that she intends
And all she keeps inside, isn't on the label
"Shimmer," Fuel
~
[August 19, 2001]

I am quite possibly the only person in the world who knows that CJ was
hysterical after the shooting not because she had just been shot at or because
Sam had cracked her head when he pushed her down. Both of these things were
probably contributing factors, but they weren't the real reasons. The real
reason was the gunpowder, the cordite smell. I'm willing to bet that smell is
instantly identifiable to anyone who had ever fought in a war, been in law
enforcement, or spent any significant amount of time around guns. It's also
instantly identifiable if your brother killed himself in the bedroom next to
yours by shooting himself first in the foot, then in the left hand, and finally
through his mouth. Once, when she talked about Mark, she told me how the cordite
smell lingered in the house for what seemed like forever. It had permeated the
whole house, and they couldn't get rid of it because it was winter and all the
windows had storm windows and were sealed against the cold. Months later, it
would still hang just at the edge of her perception, although she admits that
was probably illusionary. That smell freaks her out so much that it is a serious
act of will to watch fireworks outside. She can do it, but she's usually pale
and shaken afterwards, and given the choice, she'd much rather watch them
inside. I remember, several days after I'd been shot, I watched CJ sitting by my
bed as she stayed with me in order to give Donna a break. She thought I was
asleep and I could see that she was still terrified, although she was probably
putting up a pretty good front for everyone. At that moment, I said a quick
thankful prayer that CJ hadn't been the one to find me. I know she'd seen me,
but she hadn't been alone when she did.

Right now, I'm not certain of much, as I sit here in a car speeding through DC
with prayer and fear lacing my panicked thoughts, but I am fairly certain that
CJ did not choose a gun to end her life. I don't think she could ever
consciously look at one up close, let alone touch it. This thought is my only
comfort. Leo told me, when we got in the car, that if she'd done anything else
to herself, we would probably get there in time to save her. At most, she's had
30 minutes. Pills don't work that fast, and Leo thinks it would take longer than
that for slit wrists to bleed out. I hope he's right, but I can't help but
remember something I heard when I was in college. Someone I vaguely knew through
my roommate's friend's roommate committed suicide when we were sophomores. This
girl told me that if someone close to you committed suicide it would be more
likely for you to consider an attempt later on. I don't know if that's true, but
she made it sound reasonable. She said that if you know someone who did it, the
idea becomes real to you and it makes it an option that people who have no
experience with it would not necessarily consider. I'm not too sure what I think
about that, considering my own actions last Christmas, but Mark was probably the
one person who was the closest to CJ in her whole life. I try not to think about
the possible ramifications of this as I burst out of the car and punch CJ's
access code into the door keypad with trembling fingers.

~
Days like this, I don't know what to do with myself
All day and all night
I wander the halls along the walls and under my breath
I say to myself
I need fuel to take flight
-"Sullen Girl", Fiona Apple
~
[February 25, 2001]

Today I swear I can feel every single scar on my body, both inside and out.
Oddly enough, though, it's the faint white lines that track almost forgotten
over my pale skin that throb more than the internal keloids. I feel old today.
Decrepit and desiccated.

As I lay on the couch with my eyes closed against their tingling pain, I wonder
when I went from being mistaken for being much younger than my years to being
mistaken for being older than I am. When did I become the voice of maturity? God
knows I wasn't always. I feel Josh reaching out to brush my hair off my face,
because he thinks I'm asleep. My hand shoots up and grabs his wrist before he
can do so- good to know that my reflexes are still lightning quick, even if I do
feel about 90 years old. It's not that I mind him waking me like that, it's that
I still have to put the lid on the day and I don't feel like fixing my hair
before I do that. Don't ask why I'm laying on my couch.

I open my eyes and let go of Josh's hand. "Sorry," he says softly. I nod. "What
are you doing?"

"Leo said I couldn't put the lid on until he talked to me. Something's up, but
he's not sure if it's going to be a thing, or a non-issue." I explain.

He nods, understanding. "Had dinner yet?"

I know Josh measures my emotional state by my nutritional intake. Unfortunately,
I'm also fairly sure he knows I skipped lunch today, so the dinner question
becomes crucial. "No," I admit.

"Ok," he says, not saying anything more, but I know I'm probably in for a
force-feeding or a lecture. He sits down on the floor with his back against the
side of my desk and regards me for a long moment. I attempt an innocent face,
but I know I fail. Today I am not an ingénue. "So, I have a question for you,"
he says finally.

"What's that?" I ask, fairly certain I really don't want to know.

"Last week, when your automatic response to everything was "I quit," was that
your idea of letting me know you're getting ready to run on me? Because if it
was, I have to tell you, when we made the deal, I was hoping you'd be a bit more
explicit than that," he says, looking at me with penetrating eyes.

I look at him, tired. I'm really not up for this conversation, but it's no good
to lie. "Yeah, I know."

"So then?" he asks.

"I don't know," I admit. "It just..." I trail off, unsure how to explain it. "I
just realized how long we'd been here."

Josh doesn't say anything for a long moment. I wonder if he can feel his scars,
too. Then I wonder if we started adding them up, who would win. "Are you
scared?"

I laugh, humorlessly. "Josh, you've known me for what, three years, now? Have I
ever not been scared?" I ask.

He winces in reply. It was almost a cruel question. He is the only one who knows
just how scared I am. We say nothing for almost five minutes. Then a knock on
my door startles Josh into standing, embarrassed. Leo sticks his head in. "You
can call the lid," he tells me.

"What's up?" I ask.

"It may still be nothing, but if you get a question about South America, you
don't know anything," he replies. I give him a curious look. "You don't know
anything, CJ."

I nod and stand up. Leo and Josh both follow me down to the pressroom. I know
they'll talk while watching me from the doorway, which is oddly comforting
tonight. Tonight is not complicated, but someone has watched me during almost
every difficult briefing I've ever done. My first White House briefing, Josh,
Toby and Sam all came down to watch me. So far as I know, they hadn't planned it
that way, it just happened. When things are likely to be especially tough, Josh
will usually find a moment to walk me to the pressroom, and watch me, if he can.
Sam has been known to pop into the back when he thinks I may need some moral
support. And Toby watches every single briefing I do on television. The only
time I've ever felt truly alone up here was after the shooting when I really
*was* alone. I don't think I'd have been so dazed if someone, anyone, had been
lurking in the back.

I put the lid on, and had the mild pleasure of smacking Danny down. He asked
what took me so long, and I told him he should be glad it took so long because I
could tell them all about these tax abatement things that I really don't
understand. Carol and I paused by Josh and Leo as the pressroom emptied. I
counted slowly to sixty, knowing that the building would be devoid of press by
the time I finished. Carol must have been counting too, because just as I
reached the end, she turned to me and said, "Do you need anything?"

Thinking quickly, I shook my head. "No, go on home. Have fun with the kids." She
flashes me a grateful smile and slips away. I know her boyfriend's custody
arrangements just changed so that he has the kids every other week. I also know
that he and his ex-wife changed it so that Carol can be more involved in their
lives, because her boyfriend is ready to propose to her as soon as the kids are
comfortable with the idea. I try not to be jealous of the fact that my
assistant's love life is much more fulfilling than mine.

I look at Leo expectantly, waiting for him to explain South America. He sighs,
and begins. "There's some backlash over Colombia," he tells me.

"Against us?" I ask uncertain. I don't want to think too hard about Colombia,
just as I hadn't wanted to think too hard about India and Pakistan.

"No, against Colombia. Brazil wants to flex some muscle, show how democratic
they are, but a few other countries are trying to either avoid being involved or
to calm Cardoso down because they don't want to be between the two. We're not
getting involved, but it could have aftershocks up here later if it gets heavy,"
he explains as I nod understanding. "So, while I'm not saying don't go home, I
am saying you might get paged later tonight."

It's not terribly late, and I wouldn't be going home immediately anyhow. I have
briefing notes on those abatements and several other things to do before I can
leave. "Can you give me odds?" I ask.

"Better than a 50/50 chance. Probably more like 65/35," he tells me.

I close my eyes and bite my lip. "Ok." I tell them without looking. "I'm going
to go down and take a shower. I'll be back here in 30 minutes, come get me if
you need me."

"You're staying?" Leo asks.

"Yeah, might as well, odds like that," I say, looking at him.

Josh nods. "Go. We'll get some food and get some work done."

Leo shrugs. "I have to get back," he said.

"Ok," Josh says, reaching out to push me gently towards the door. "We'll see you
in a bit."

*
I wince as the hot water hits my skull. It makes the scar under my hair tingle
and I close my eyes against memory. The water manages to find all of them, all
my scars. The one on the side of my foot that I got when I tripped on a sharp
rock when I was four. The lighter patches on both legs from too many badly
skinned knees. The faint line across my left collarbone where my stepfather hit
me is thankfully only visible in certain light, since most of my shirts won't
cover it. My appendectomy scar from when I was 16, my only surgery. The tiny
little bump in the center of my right hand as a reminder of meeting Toby and the
advisability of not handling sharp objects while overtired. The jagged shape on
my lower back from falling against a tree the time I went rock climbing with
Jeff, my ex-boyfriend. And finally, the one I've never seen, the scar hidden
under my hair. I don't know how big it is, I don't know what shape it is, I just
know it's my souvenir of glass and asphalt and bullets.

It's the last one that changed everyone. The instant that made everyone
different. It made the President a little quicker to say we've done a good job.
It made Leo a little quicker to kick our asses when we screw up, but also a
little more protective of us. It made Charlie both more distant and more clingy,
as though so long as he had us within an arms length, we'd be ok. It made Toby a
little more outspoken, a little more vocal, but a little quieter all the same.
It made Sam angry, made him the angry boy he never was. It made Donna watch us
all more carefully, made Margaret, Carol, Bonnie, Ginger and Cathy all a little
more reluctant to let us out of their sights. It made Zoey withdraw, just enough
to be noticeable, but not enough that we never see her. And it made Josh be
someone else entirely. But I didn't change, I just witnessed.

I step out of the shower to dry off and find that my shirt has fallen into a
puddle of water. Cursing under my breath, I pull the rest of my clothes on, glad
I wore a decent camisole, one that can double as a tank top, because I don't
have an extra shirt. I was *wearing* my extra shirt already. I'll just find
Donna and borrow the sweater she keeps around, I think as I climb the steps.
It's not freezing in here, but I'll be shivering in about five minutes. Reaching
my office, and stashing my shower gear, I can hear Josh and Donna talking in his
office. Before I can interrupt, Josh steps into my office.

"You're tiebreaker. Pizza or Chinese?" he asks.

I consider a moment, but the fact that I've started to shiver makes up my mind.
"Chinese."

"Cool," he says and walks away before I can tell him what I want. I start to try
and stop him, but he's already yelling for Donna. "We're getting Chinese, CJ
wants sweet and sour chicken, hot and sour soup and a vegetarian egg roll."

"Spareribs?" Donna yells back.

"No, she can share mine. I want those, General Tso's and shrimp fried rice." he
calls. I blink hard. Stop it, Claudia Jean, I tell myself. So Josh knows what
Chinese food you'd order. So Donna knows that I'd probably want spareribs too.
What's the big deal? But it plays into the whole "I quit" thing...I get too
comfortable, I get too close, I get too scared, I run. But Josh won't let me
run, not over this. Not just because people know what Chinese food I like to
eat.

I'm standing there with my arms wrapped around myself to stop the shaking when
Josh reappears. "You cold?" he asks.

"Yeah, a bit," I tell him.

"Come here," he says, holding an arm out to me. I hesitate, but let him give me
a hug and briskly rub my back and shoulders before he lets go. I know he wants
to mother me a little bit, and as always, I don't want him to do it. I know why,
though, so I give in to him. "What happened to your blouse?"

"It fell off the bench while I was showering and got wet," I explain.

"That's no good. You want Donna's sweater?" he asks. I nod and he goes to find
it. "Here," he says, offering me the grey cardigan. "She won't mind."

It's only a little too short. Donna's not much shorter than I am, which is good,
because had it been Cathy's, it would have looked like a 3/4 sleeve cropped
sweater. "Thanks," I say.

"No problem. Food should be here in about half an hour." He looks at me
carefully, and I know he's wondering if we should continue our conversation. I
meet his eyes without too much difficulty.

"Ok. I need to talk to the President about the Surgeon General," I tell him,
solving his dilemma. I really *do* need to talk to the President; it's not a
lie. It also could wait until the morning, but Josh probably doesn't know that.

"All right," he said softly. He got the message, but he wasn't happy about it. I
nodded, then walked away. I know Josh wants to know what's wrong, but how can I
tell him if I can't define it myself?

Josh wants to mother me because he needs to make up for lost time. We lost
time, we lost each other in some weird fashion. I spent time in August, time in
the fall spelling Donna when Josh was in the hospital and then when he was home
and couldn't be left alone. His mother was there, but somehow Donna and I
couldn't just leave her alone with Josh. We both knew about his father dying,
and how Rachel Lyman took care of him. We didn't want her to have to face
memories alone. And on some level, I think Donna thought she'd lose him if she
wasn't with him as much as possible. I don't know what I thought. But Josh
wasn't the same after. There was this curious distance, and God help me, I was
all right with that. It was enough that he was alive, that he was working. I
could handle everything else. And then he started to scare me. He started acting
like Mark had sometimes, and I was scared. I didn't tell anyone, because I
didn't want it to be true. If I feel guilty about anything, it's that. It's the
fact that I recognized something was wrong as far back as November and didn't
say anything to anyone. I didn't do it because of the political ramifications. I
did it because I was too petrified to move on it. So then,
Christmas...happened...and Josh made it through. We talked a lot, Christmas Day.
Just the two of us. He felt like he had to apologize, and it took all my
strength not to tell him how scared I'd been, and how guilty I felt. He knew,
though, just because he's Josh and knows things about me that no one else does.
That's when he started making up for the time we lost, making up for August and
what came after. And most of the time I let him. But now...now I don't even know
what I feel. I just notice how everything changed. I just feel how it seems like
things are trying to reach out and catch me, hold on to me. And I don't know
what to do about that.

"Hello, dear, is there something you needed?" I jerk out of my reverie to find
Mrs. Landingham smiling at me.

"Oh, ma'am, I'm sorry. Yes, I need to see him, if he's available," I say,
smiling back a little bit.

"Yes, he is. Hang on a moment, I'll let him know you're here." I watch Mrs.
Landingham walk quietly into the Oval Office, then reappear after a moment. "You
can go right on in, CJ."

"Thank you," I say softly, walking towards the Oval.

"CJ, come in, have a seat," the President says, smiling at me. He's sitting on
one of the couches. I smile a little and seat myself on the couch across from
him. "What can I do for you?"

"I just wanted to keep you up to date about the Surgeon General, sir," I reply.

"They still after you about that?" he asked, shaking his head.

"It's mostly become a non-story at this point," I admit.

"Well, it *is* a non-story. I wouldn't worry about it, CJ." he tells me.

"No sir," I answer.

"So, anything else new? I feel like I haven't had much time for conversation
with any of you lately," he says.

"Nothing, really. We're just waiting right now." I explain.

"Ah, yes. South America." He looks at me for a long moment, then says, "I didn't
apologize for yelling at you and Josh when I came back from Japan."

"It's not necessary, sir," I tell him, shrugging.

"You didn't deserve what I said, of course it's necessary. I know you and Josh
were really running the show that week, and you did a good job. What happened
was out of your control, and your damage control was exactly right," he says,
looking me in the eye.

"Thank you, sir," I said softly.

Before the President can say something else, Charlie pops into the office. "Sir,
Mrs. Bartlet is on the phone for you."

"Thank you, Charlie," he says, rising. I climb to my feet as well.

"If you'll excuse me, sir," I say politely asking dismissal.

"Yes, of course. You have a good night, CJ," he tells me.

"You too sir. Tell the First Lady I say hello," I say, smiling.

"Will do. Good night." He was already reaching for the phone. I nod and slip out
the door.

"Would you like a cookie, dear?" Mrs. Landingham asked as I passed her desk. I
hesitate a moment, unsure of what I've done to deserve one. "They're
snickerdoodles, which if I remember are one of your favorites," she adds.

I smile at her and nod. "Thank you, ma'am."

"You're quite welcome. You're too thin, CJ. Got to keep your strength up around
here," she tells me as she hands me one of the cinnamon scented cookies.

"Yes ma'am," I say dutifully as she waves me back to work. I eat the cookie
slowly as I walk down the hallway. It's fairly quiet; most people must have
decided the odds were good enough to head home. Toby's desk lamp is on, but he's
not in his office. Neither is Sam, but his briefcase is sitting on the chair.
Bonnie and Ginger are both gone, and I don't see Cathy. I circle back to my side
of the office and find Donna standing by her desk, her phone to her ear.

"There you are. The food's in Leo's office, go on and eat," she tells me.

"Ok. What are you doing?" I ask her.

"Calling Ryan before he goes to work. He's probably in the shower, since he's
not picking up." She sighs.

"Oh." I nod.

Donna put the phone down with a sigh. "Let's go eat before it gets cold and they
eat all our food," she tells me. I follow her to Leo's office and find Josh,
Toby and Sam sitting at the table. "Hey," Donna says, sitting down between Josh
and Sam.

"Hey yourself," Josh says. Sam and Toby both nod at her and me as I slide into a
vacant chair.

Toby pushes my soup towards me, and I nod a thank you to him. I start to sip as
I look around. Leo's not there and Josh is doing damage to the spareribs he
ordered for us to share. Toby appears to be absorbed in his Cashew Chicken. Sam
isn't eating, and looks tired. "What's up?" I ask, just to say something.

"Nothing so far," Toby tells me. "Good job not giving anything away."

"I didn't know there was something to give away. Leo didn't tell me until
afterwards," I reply.

"Doesn't matter," Sam tells me. I nod, tilting my head at him and giving him a
curious look. "Yeah, I'm just gonna go, ok?" he says, looking around at
everyone.

"Ok," Josh said slowly, but not protesting. He knows what's going on, I realize,
but don't say anything.

"You want some of this to take with you?" Donna asked. "I can pack some of it up
for you."

"Nah, you guys go ahead and eat it. I ate already anyhow," he tells her. She
nods. "I'll see you all in the morning."

"Night, Sparky," I tell him, getting a tired smile. Sam walks away as Donna
shoots Josh a curious look.

"What?" Josh asks.

"What's the matter with him?" she asks.

"Nothing that you can do anything about," Josh said, not unkindly. Donna looked
at him funny, but nodded, and went back to her Moo Shu Pork.

"I have a question," I say finally, to break the silence. Everyone looks up at
me, so I continue. "Why are we eating in Leo's office?"

"Because I'm hungry too," Leo says from behind me as he walks through the door.

"Oh," I reply, scooting my chair over to make room.

I nibble at my egg roll as Josh and Toby get into an argument about the blue
ribbon campaign. The argument escalates into a full-fledged screaming match
between the two of them, and I abruptly lose what little appetite I had. I can
handle arguing. I can even handle yelling. I can usually handle Toby going at
someone's throat, especially with Josh, only because it happens about once a
week. But tonight, I can't do it. Donna shoots Josh a disgusted look and glances
at Leo for permission before picking up her carton and leaving. I would get up
and go too, but I can't move. This is a very familiar feeling, this paralysis,
but it doesn't make it less nauseating. I stop eating altogether, and just sit
quiet. Leo notices, and a beat later speaks up. "That's enough. Take it outside,
I want to eat in peace, thank you."

"My office," Toby says automatically, and the argument resumes as soon as they
pass the threshold.

Leo looks about to say something to me when the phone rings. He answers it, says
something quietly to the person on the other end and exits into the Oval. I
continue to sit and stare at my food, since Leo didn't tell me to leave too, and
I don't want to hear Josh and Toby fight.

About a half hour passes. Leo doesn't come back, but I start nibbling again.
I've managed to finish my soup and egg roll by the time Josh comes back. "Hey,"
he says softly.

"Hi," I reply.

"Sorry." He sits down next to me. I shrug. "You done?" he asks, surveying the
food still on the table. He and Toby had taken their boxes with them while they
argued.

"Yeah." I nod.

"You look tired," he says gently. I nod again. "You can take a nap," he
suggests.

"I should get some stuff done," I reply.

"It'll be there in the morning. You're ready for the morning briefing, right?"
he asks. I nod again. "Then come take a nap." I raise my eyebrow at his
phrasing, but he's already standing with a hand outstretched. I stand up and
follow him back to my office.

He sits on the couch, but I go check my email. The weekly one from my dad. One
from Sam that looks like an apology from the subject heading. Two from Carol,
reminding me of things she forgot to tell me. Nothing urgent, nothing that
demands my immediate attention. Nothing to keep me from taking a nap. And I am
quite tired. I walk over to the couch, and Josh pats the cushion next to him. I
sit, but he grabs my arm and gently pulls me down so my head is in his lap and I
have no choice but to curl my legs up on the other end. He plays with my hair,
and it's rather soothing. "So. Are you running?" he asks softly.

I don't respond right away, but I eventually sigh. "No."

"Are you unhappy?" he asks, more tentatively.

"Not any more than usual," I tell him. I look up to see him nod at that. I can't
be anything other than honest with Josh when he asks these questions. If I am,
he knows it, and then it becomes more about why I'm lying to him, than what the
answers are.

"But you're going to stay." It is a statement, not a question.

"Yes." I don't add anything, and he doesn't say anything, either. We sit like
this until I find myself drifting off. The last thing I hear is him whisper that
he's glad and he loves me, but I'm almost certain he thinks I'm asleep.

*
A knock at the door makes me jerk awake and see Leo poking his head into my
office. I try to sit up, but wind up rolling off the couch instead. Josh is fast
asleep, and doesn't notice me moving. "Leo," I start, but he waves me quiet.

"Don't worry about it," he tells me.

"Nothing's going on," I tell him.

"CJ, honestly, don't worry about it. I'm not concerned about you and Josh, I
know you guys are close. Don't make a habit of it, is all I ask," he says,
smiling a little bit. I have a feeling he's giving us a little leeway because of
how Josh was at Christmas, and how I was a couple of weeks before after the
State of the Union. I don't mind, though, since it means he won't lecture us.

"What's up?" I ask, scrubbing my hand over my still burning eyes.

"Nothing. It's over, nothing happened," he informs me.

"So what do I say in the morning?" I ask.

"You say that we were aware of the situation and monitoring it, but that it was
a purely South American matter and we are not stepping in where we're not
invited. Things were resolved to everyone's satisfaction, and that's the end of
it," he shrugs. I nod. "You should wake Sleeping Beauty up and both go home to
bed. It's only 1."

"Ok," I sigh.

"See you later, sleep well," Leo says as he exits.

"Josh?" I say, poking his arm gently.

"Mmm?" he murmurs.

"Wake up. Leo says it's over and we should go home." I say, putting on the shoes
that had fallen off my feet while I was sleeping.

"Oh." He yawned and stretched. "Ok."

"Did you send Donna home yet?" I ask as I find my bag.

"Yeah, long time ago. What time is it?" he asks.

"About 1, I guess." I look at him, tired.

"Gives you about 4 more hours to sleep," he tells me, standing up and walking
into his office. I glance out the window and see that it's snowing a little. He
comes back with his backpack and his coat. "Come on, I'll drive you home."

"I drove," I protest.

"It's late, I'll drive you home," he says in a no-nonsense voice. I'm too tired
to argue, and just let him help me into my coat and lead me out of my office,
flicking off the lights as he shuts the door.

After all...if our scars were competition, we'd both win. And I'm weary enough
to miss our lost time. So for tonight, I'll let Josh mother me. Just tonight.

~
it's not the wind that cracked your shoulder
and threw you to the ground
who's there that makes you so afraid
you're shaken to the bone
and I don't understand
you deserve so much more than this
"Good Enough," Sarah McLachlan
~
[August 19, 2001]

"Sam?" Ainsley pushed her head into his office.

"Come on in," he sighed. She sat down in the chair next to his desk, and
regarded him a moment.

"Any news?" she asked.

"Not really. They, um, think now she has some kind of head injury, but they
don't think it was, um..." he trailed off.

"Self-inflicted?" she finished for him.

"Right. They can't figure out how it happened. I guess the cops are going to
look at her place though." Sam glanced at the clock. "Someone ought to be
calling soon. They did some kind of blood test to see what she took."

"She didn't," Donna said from the doorway. "Tox screen was negative, blood
alcohol level was unappreciable," she said, reading off a scrap of paper. Her
eyes were red and Sam stood up and reached out. She came over and accepted the
hug, then settled herself on the edge of his desk as he sat back down. "Toby's
going to call as soon as they finish the CT scan."

"Can we, like, go down and see her?" Ainsley asked with uncharacteristic
brevity.

Donna shook her head. "They're only letting Josh and Toby see her, because
they're listed as next of kin. Leo's still there, but they won't even let him
in. And Toby and Josh only get to see her for a couple of minutes at a time."
Sam nodded. It was why Leo had sent Donna and him back to the White House.

Ainsley nodded. "Do they know why?"

"Why this happened?" Sam asked. "Not that I know."

"The shrink was debating about the note, Leo said," Donna explained. "On one
hand, she left a note. On the other hand, it's not a typical suicide note,"
Donna finished, her voice almost breaking on the last words.

After a moment, Ainsley asked, "What did it say?"

Donna sighed. "Look in the green box. I love you, see you after, love CJ," she
replied. "Suicide notes usually apologuise, or explain, or at least say goodbye,
the doctor said."

"How did Josh know something was wrong then?" Sam asked. "I couldn't figure that
out."

"I'm not really sure," Donna replied, regrouping. "I think it had something to
do with a promise CJ made. She told him awhile back, before the grand jury, that
she wouldn't leave. I think, though, there was something that said she'd let him
know if she changed her mind. Leo thought the green box meant something, but I
think it might be the I love you."

"That does seem quite odd, doesn't it," Ainsley said.

"Maybe it wasn't a suicide note. Maybe Josh misread the signals she was
sending," Sam said thoughtfully.

"I don't know." Donna admitted. "It's possible she didn't have time to do
anything before she fell or whatever.

Sam sat up straighter at Donna's words. He frowned and asked, "The cops are
still searching her place?"

"They finished for now. There's only one unknown set of prints. All the others
are CJ's, or Senior Staff, which makes sense, because you've all been over there
within the month, and CJ doesn't seem to have had time to do much cleaning. You
all have airtight alibis, since everyone was either here or on the Hill. They
think the unknown set is probably the guy she's been seeing, but they don't have
his prints on file. They can't get ahold of him, either. CJ told Josh he'll be
away for another week or so," Donna told him.

"Hm," Sam mused. "CJ broke her arm last week."

"She said she fell," Donna said uncertainly. Ainsley nodded in agreement.

"I'm not sure I believe that," Sam said softly. "Look at it. She meets this guy,
goes out with him once or twice, tells us it wasn't really anything. We don't
even know she's still seeing him until two weeks ago when she and Josh have an
argument about it, and the next week, Leo's picking her up from the ER in the
middle of the night. And now this mysterious head injury that they can't seem to
decide how she gave herself." He paused and looked at Donna and Ainsley. "Can
you honestly consider all this and tell me you still believe she fell down those
steps?" Ainsely bit her lip and shook her head slowly.

"No," Donna said softly.

 

 

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