The pertinent information is located in Part 1.

"I didn't play games when I was boy. Actually, while technically having physically been a boy, I seem to always have behaved like a grumpy 40 year old. At least that's what my sisters told me, Sir."

"Toby, you're starting to scare me. You're sitting there starting to sound like me when I'm telling a story. You need to stop it. I'm the only one allowed to sound like that."

"Sir, I was just thinking how earlier I had asked God to just kill me now. I'm thinking, He should still smite me, cause you're about to tell me one of your infamous tales of delight now, aren't you."

"Toby, my wife is going to oh-so take care of you."

"I was afraid of that."

"Can I continue now? Cause, you know, I am the Leader of the Free World. That should give me a little power."

Toby took a deep breath and gestured with his hand for the President to continue.

"This game, Crack the Whip, is played by getting as many friends to hold hands in a big long line. Everyone starts running, holding on for dear life. The leader yanks them in whichever direction, causing the whole chain to whip this way and that. The more friends holding hands, the more wild and frightening the ride. There's almost constant shrieking, screaming...laughing. Now, the goal of the game is to keep the chain from breaking no matter what. Well, as you might guess, some players do get hurt when the chain finally does breaks. I remember one time Abbey and I, found Ellie on the ground, her worried friends gathered around, with a big gash on her knee. Ended up having stitches too. And you know what happened? She ended up playing that game again and again, because she loved it, because her friends coaxed her to. They didn't want to play without her. To this day, when she gets together with those girls and boys, they compare combined scars and fondly reminisce about that silly game.The President looked over at him, wondering if he was getting through.

"Toby, you know what I'm trying to tell you, in a really awkward way, right?"

Toby smirked in his beard. "Yes Sir...I think I do."

"Are you going to put me out of my misery?"

Before Toby could reply, Abbey and Leo stepped back into the room.

"Times up, boys. Toby let's go."

Toby rose with the President's help, it took him a moment to control a wave of dizziness. Abbey, Jed and Leo shot each other worried looks when Toby made no effort to protest his fate. Abbey held one hand and the President held the other. As they slowly made their way out of the office, Toby abruptly stopped them dead. Here it comes...the "you can't make me" argument, but it never happened. Toby looked over at Leo, but was hesitant to speak. Leo gave him an encouraging smile.

"Leo, could you please shut off my laptop?"

"Sure Toby." Leo rounded the desk and couldn't help but read what was on the screen. He swallowed hard. He looked from Abbey to Toby with just a touch of fear in his eyes. It was a pretty good guess that Abbey knew what was there. Leo also understood this was Toby's way of letting him know he was still a trusted friend. For that, Leo was grateful.

"What do you want me to do with this?"

"Delete it. It's nothing important."

As the close knit group walked out the door, Abbey leading, Leo finished shutting down the computer. He followed them, grabbing Abbey's medical bag, turning off the lights and closing the office door.

Crack the Whip - 19




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