Something Worth Fighting For - part 2

 

            Leo screamed repeatedly at both of them on the phone.  First, he wanted Josh at the temple and Sam at the emergency rooms.  Then he wanted them both together.  "Who the hell knows if you arenít targets yourselves?"  He theorized at one point.  Josh attempted reason, but Leo wasnít interested in anyone elseís ideas.  Any suggestions were met with admonitions to "Shut up and Listen!"  Sam was ordered to get his cab over to Joshís apartment.  As anxious as he was to get to the hospital, Sam chose in this moment to obey his chief.  He didnít really believe that he was a target, but the tenor of Leoís commands were not to be ignored.

            He picked up Josh and they headed for the synagogue.  Josh was silent.  Sam could see the rage building inside of him.  For a while, the only sounds in the cab came from Sam who heaped abuse upon the cabby in an effort to bolster his performance.  Then the phone calls started.  Leo was calling about every five minutes to throw his own abuse their way.

            Josh heard from Ron Butterfield who was in contact with DC police at the scene.  Fire was still raging inside the synagogue, but everyone had been evacuated.  DC police indicated that most of the injured had been taken to area hospitals.  Ron believed that, at this point, they would have more luck finding Toby at a hospital than at the temple.

            Sam ordered the abused cabby off in the direction of Washington General.  Leo called again.  He was with the president.  They both were anxious for some news.  He harassed Sam for a few minutes while Sam tried to explain the vagaries of DC traffic.  "Find him!" was the only response he got before he heard a click.

            Sam turned his head to the front as Josh shouted out an expletive.  The road ahead was jammed with traffic and emergency vehicles.  They were dead in the road.  The cabdriver tried to explain that with the explosion, traffic was being rerouted all over the city but Josh wasnít interested.

            "How close are we to the damn hospital?"  He asked through clenched teeth.

            "About a mile, I would suppose."

            "Sam, pay the man."  Said Josh already halfway out the door.

            Sam caught up with Josh as he was running through traffic. Josh wore that determined look that Sam knew all too well.  He hoped that he could keep up.  It wasnít athleticism that made him wonder.  Sam was every bit as good an athlete as Josh.  Itís just that Josh forgot himself in moments like these.  He could be so single-minded that he wouldnít notice exhaustion or strain.  Before Sam could worry about this further, the phone rang again, this time on Josh.  Josh never stopped or slowed.  He merely put the phone to his ear for a moment.  Then he turned his body and flipped the phone at Sam.  "Itís Leo."  He shouted before disappearing around a corner.  A stunned Sam stopped and put the phone to his ear.  Leo was in mid-rant and not pleased that he had lost his intended caller.  Sam tried to jog and listen as Leo served up Joshís punishment on him.

 

 

            CJ paced her office anxiously.  When Leo called, he had little to say.  Once she arrived, she found the West Wing in some chaos.  Leo was having trouble getting any kind of coherent information from the scene.  He had set himself up in the Oval Office with phones and people all around him.  She watched as he barked orders at people and into phones.  The President was on the phone at his desk using a much quieter tone.  CJ suspected that he was speaking to some of the countryís Jewish leadership.  He glanced up, saw her standing there looking lost, and he motioned her over.  Putting down the phone, he looked up at his press secretary.

"Claudia," He began gently.  "This is not the place for you right now."  He could sense that she was starting to bristle.

            "What I mean is that you should be in your office fielding press calls.  Leoís in another world right now.  Heís not going to be able to give you a decent update for some time."

            "I am no good to anyone especially the press if I donít have information."  She said defensively.  "Besides, the press doesnít know about Toby yet.  I have no calls coming in."

            "We donít know that Toby was there."  He reasoned.  From the look on her face, he could tell that she wasnít interested in any kind of false hope.  They both knew that Toby was at Shul every Saturday morning without fail.

            "I want to be in the loop."  She said firmly.

            "And you will be.  But this place is too crazy right now.  You will be my first call the minute we have anything solid.  I promise you."

She nodded reluctantly and turned to leave.  At the door, she stopped once and looked back.  The President had already returned to his many phone calls.

Here it was half an hour later and she had heard nothing.  CJ found that her frantic pacing was the only thing that allowed her some semblance of control.  There was a soft knock at the door and she jumped.  Abby Bartlett walked in wearing a grim smile of sympathy.

"I wanted to see how you were doing."

"Do you know anything?"  CJ responded desperately.

"Not really.  I just stopped at the Oval Office.  The only thing I know is that Sam and Josh are having some trouble with traffic.  When I left, Leo was trying to spur them on with his own special brand of encouragement."

"They keep trying to kill us, Abby."  CJ had adopted a haunted tone.  She resumed her pacing.

"CJ."

"They tried six months ago, and now they are doing it again today."

"We donít really know whatís going on right now."  Abby reasoned.

"Weíve been so lucky,í Continued CJ ignoring the First Ladyís logic,  "Sam is almost as good as new.  And every time I see Leo, he seems to need that cane less and less."

"Weíve been fortunate."

"You know it canít last, Abby.  This kind of luck never lasts.  Maybe today is the day, you know.  Maybe today it runs out."  CJ was having trouble maintaining her composure.

"I donít know what to tell you, CJ.  I am praying that today is not that day."  Abby said softly working not to minimize CJís fears.  "Come sit with me."  She gestured to CJ from her spot on the couch.  "Weíll wait together.  And we wonít let our fears rule us until we know the facts."

The young woman approached Leo quietly.  The Oval Office was crowded with people busy with phones and each other.  It took her some time to maneuver herself close to the chief of staff.  She waited until he noticed her presence.  In her extended hand lay a note.  Leo recognized her as one of his rabbits.  He grabbed the note and read it quickly.

"Sheís in intensive care!"  He bellowed getting the attention of most of the room.  "What the hell is going on?"

"Susan has gone over to Bethesda to personally get an update."

"Who the hell is Susan?"

"The other rabbit."  She said with meaning and then retreated back into the crowd.  Leo stared after her as she disappeared.  He decided he would have to worry about that situation later.  Right now, he had a communications director missing in action and a critically ill Margaret.  He shook his head brutally at the insanity of it all and tried to concentrate on who would be next to receive his considerable attentions.

 

 

Sam thought that his lungs would explode.  Normally he could do a mile run with no problem.  But it was a different matter when a person is running decked out in wingtips and a suit, while trying to reason with his boss on the phone.

He spotted Josh at one of the hospital doors engaged in some sort of dispute with hospital security.  The hospital grounds were a zoo.  There was a wide array of emergency vehicles parked, backing in, or taking off.  Medical personnel were everywhere, running and barking orders as they escorted the injured inside.

"I swear to God that by the time I am done with you, you will be pushing a broom for the parks department!"  Josh was thundering at the security guard as Sam approached.

"Stop it, Josh."  Sam admonished his friend.  He turned to the young guard who appeared completely unfazed by Joshís bluster.

"Weíre with the White House.  An official close to the president may have been injured in this tragedy.  We need to get inside and find him."  Sam said calmly showing the young man his White House identification.

"I already told him all of that!"  Josh exploded.

"All I recall is a lot of yelling and threats out of you."  Retorted the guard.  "You can get in for sure."  He said to Sam.  "Him I donít know."  He wouldnít even look in Joshís direction.  Josh, on the other hand, looked about ready to grab the kid by the throat.

"Donít worry.  Iíll watch him."  Said Sam quickly pushing Josh through the door ahead of him.

The scene in front of them was madness.  There seemed to be people everywhere.  A wet, sooty smell floated around them.  Sam could see that finding Toby was not about to get any easier.  It seemed as though every chair and space along the wall was taken by someone wearing burnt clothing and dazed looks.  The air was filled with a mixture of groans, sobs, orders, and shouts.  Feeling dazed themselves, Sam and Josh walked slowly about the room searching for Toby.  Josh spotted a nurse behind a desk.  She was frantically working and didnít look up as they approached.

"Excuse me, Miss," Josh was trying a whole new approach now.  "We need to know if a friend of ours is here."

"You and everyone else in this city."  She said still not looking up.

"This is really important," Sam tried.  "This friend is an important government official who may have been in the explosion."

"Look. I am not trying to be evasive here."  She looked up this time and they could see her sincerity.  "The information you need doesnít exist yet.  Right now, we are doing triage.  Weíll have that kind of information for you in a couple of hours."

"We donít have that kind of time." Josh said desperately.

"I donít know what I can tell you."  She threw her arms up in the air.  They turned away dejected and prepared to resume their person by person search.  She yelled after them, "Wait!"

"Thereís a Rabbi Glassman around here somewhere.  He was just looking for the same thing.  He seems to know everyone who came in here.  There he is."  She said pointing to a soot-covered man kneeling beside an elderly woman.  As they turned to leave, Josh mouthed a thank you to her.

"Rabbi, sir, we are so sorry to bother you at such a time as this."  Began Sam tentatively as he approached the man.

"Rabbi Glassman, we are looking for Toby Ziegler," Josh jumped in more forcefully.

"And you gentlemen areÖ?"  The rabbi began with an understandable touch of wariness.

"We work with him.  Weíre his friends."  Said Sam.

"Did this happen because ofÖwere they trying to kill Toby?"  He asked searching their faces.

"We donít know, rabbi, but we need to find him.  Have you seen him?"  Josh added with a touch of impatience.

"I saw him this morning.  He was seated early as usual.  But when the explosion happened, I lost track of so many people.  We were stunned.  There was smoke everywhere and then the fire."  The rabbi remembered with glazed eyes.

"Have you seen him since the explosion?"  Sam asked hopefully.

"No, I would have remembered.  If you donít find him here, there are other hospitals that took congregants.  And then there is the morgue."  He shook his head sadly.  "I am told that there were causalities."

Josh looked up at the ceiling trying to maintain some level of calm.  He wanted out of this place. He didnít want to see any more bruised or damaged people.  And he certainly didnít want to find Toby in a morgue.  Josh was a man of action and he needed to be somewhere where he wasnít so helpless.  Rage had become a physical presence growing inside of him.  He didnít want to see the rabbiís sad, exhausted eyes.  He wanted to see outrage and anger, not the tired acceptance of a man who believed the facing atrocity was a part of Jewish life.  Beside him, Sam could feel the growing rage.  He placed his hand on Josh and turned him away from the rabbi.

"Josh."  He hissed.

"He is so complacent, Sam."  Josh whispered angrily.

""You think that heís complacent?"  Said Sam incredulously.  "I think heís in shock.  The anger will come later.  Whatís the matter with you?"  The younger man scolded.  Josh avoided his eyes.

Sam turned to speak again to the rabbi but he was gone.  Sam scanned the room and hallways looking for him.  He finally spotted him at the end of a long hallway kneeling before a dark figure who was crouched on a bench.  The rabbi looked up and caught his eye.  Keeping his gaze on Sam, he pointed to the man in front of him.  The man turned his head at the rabbiís direction and Sam could see a dark, familiar face.  "Toby!"  He yelled grabbing Josh and pulling him down the hallway after him.

 

 

It had been a quiet cab ride back to the White House.  Toby had insisted that he was fine.  After that, he wasnít interested in conversation.  At the hospital, Sam had suggested that they wait for a doctor, but Toby was already looking for the door and Josh was happy to oblige him.

They had to run interference for him once they got to the White House.  Everyone knew what was happening and wanted to offer support and sympathy.  Toby didnít even seem to notice the genuine affection with which people approached.  There was something about the way Toby moved his body and the glassy look in his eyes that made Sam wish they had stayed at the hospital.

The President didnít wait for them to get to the Oval Office. He came bounding down the hall with Secret Service in tow.  He stopped short when he got a good look at Toby.

"Oh, boy, you really had a day, didnít you?"  He exclaimed.

"Yes, sir."  Toby answered quietly looking down at the floor.

"Josh, get everybody except Leo out of my office now."  He said never taking his eyes off Toby.  "We could probably use a few minutes of quiet."

"Did you see a doctor?"  He asked.

"He insisted he was fine."  Sam responded weakly.  The President gave him a look.

The President took over for Sam, putting his arm around Toby and leading him into the Oval Office.  People had gathered up their things and were heading out the side door.  Leo was still on a conference call handing out threats to any enforcement agency that was not 100% cooperative in this investigation.

"I want these idiots caught."  He growled.  "And I want to hear that you are all cooperating with one another in an effort to do just that.  No excuses!  I want you to act as friendly as a bunch of schoolgirls at a slumber party."  He slammed the phone down for effect and then immediately found a grin for Toby whom the President seated carefully on the couch in front of him.

"Do we know anything?  Were they after me?  Were they after the synagogue?"  Toby asked with haunted eyes.

"The investigation is just getting started.  Donít you worry, Toby.  I am going to have everyone but the kitchen staff working on this thing."

Toby nodded distractedly.

"Toby, if you donít mind me saying so, you donít look so hot."  Said Leo who had exchanged his grin for a worried look.

At that moment CJ rushed through the door with Abby Bartlett trailing after her.  CJ gave a small gasp upon seeing Toby.  She saw a dazed man, covered in soot and bruises.  He looked back at her for a moment as if she were the only one in the room.  She could sense the pain radiating from him.  Then he dropped his head wearily.  When CJ tried to move to him, Abby stopped her.

"Heís in shock."  She said into CJís ear.  "Let me take a look at him."  She made a sign to Sally who was standing at the door and the young woman disappeared.

"I donít suppose anyone thought the medical attention might be a good idea."  She said sarcastically to the men in the room as she rounded the couch and sat beside Toby.  Sam tried to form a response, but the president waved him down.

"I am fine."  Toby mumbled unconvincingly as Abby began to look him over.

"You are the second person in 24 hours to lie to me about that."  She said shooshing him when he attempted to respond.  She picked up a wrist to take his pulse.

From the doorway, Carol motioned to CJ.  She was reluctant to break away from the group gathered around Toby, but she knew that she had responsibilities.  At the door, she almost ran into Sally who was bringing in the First Ladyís medical bag.

"Give us some room."  Scolded an irritated Abby Bartlett, prompting the group to take a collective step back.

"I suppose you all thought he looked just fine."  She continued wrapping a blood pressure cuff around his arm. "Maybe you were hoping to involve him in a little pick-up basketball later this evening, huh?  Wanted to make sure that you had enough players, was that it?  God forbid anyone around here be encouraged to take care of themselves."  She threw her husband a glare.

"Well, maíam, what happened wasÖ" Began Sam before he was interrupted.

"Sam, I implore you not to respond to the First Lady right now."  Jed Bartlett begged.  "My wife is not waiting for any responses.  In fact, responses can often be quite hazardous."

"You got that right, Pumpkin."  Added the First Lady as she began to gingerly feel his bones.

"We just take our punishment, all of us, deserved or otherwise."  Said the President matter-of-factly.

Before the First Lady could continue her tirade, Toby let out an agonizing howl of pain.  Leo and Josh each gave a little shudder.  She had been feeling his right shoulder at the time.  Calming him, she began to touch softly around the painful area.

"Does it hurt when you breathe?"

"I donít know." He mumbled.  Abby stopped her work and looked him in the eye.

"Yes." He admitted miserably.

"I donít like the look of these ribs."  Abby had opened up his shirt and was carefully probing the right side of his chest.

ĎWell, then donít look at them." Toby growled through clenched teeth.  Her probing was seriously threatening his attempts to stay stoic.  Abby smiled in spite of herself. 

"Youíre an original, Toby Ziegler, you know that.  We got lucky today because originals can never be replaced."  Then she leaned over and kissed him on the cheek.  Through his grief and pain, Toby tried to offer her a grateful look.

That small, sweet moment resonated powerfully through the men in the room who had spent the day being exposed to nothing but the outrage of a needless tragedy.  Jed Bartlett smiled at the woman, his woman, who could yield such power.

The spell was broken as CJ entered with Ron Butterfield behind her.  CJ was deathly pale and she was nervously fingering a piece of paper she had in her hands.

"Ron wants to give you a quick update on how everything is coming together."  She said unsteadily.

"Good."  Announced Leo. "Ron is going to be our liaison with the other agencies throughout this investigation.  DC police seems happy to have the back-up. Right now, we have the FBI, Justice for the hate angle, Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms for the bombing, ÖI donít know, anyone else, Ron?"

"CIAís got some guys who do amazing stuff with computers.  I got a strange call from one of the internet servers. It might be related to this thing. Weíre checking it out now.  But I think that we might need these guys." Ron said firmly clearly leaving the impression that he wasnít yet ready to say more. Leo took the hint.

"Iíll talk to the CIA this afternoon. What else do you have for us, Ron?"

"We have a team with everyone represented meeting in half an hour over at Justice.  Weíre going to map out a plan and establish everyoneís territory."  Ron turned his eyes to Toby.  "I realize that you have been through a lot today, Toby.  But it would be really helpful if you could answer a few questions for me before I head over to that meeting.  Something you say may help us know where to start."

Toby nodded.  He attempted to rise.  Before Abby could protest, Butterfield raised a hand.

"No need to get up."  He said quickly. "Just a few simple things.  Stay where you are."  Toby sat back with a grimace.  Abby gave him a healthy glare.

"Toby, has Bonnie talked to you about anything especially sinister in the mail for you lately?"  Everyoneís hate mail was sorted by their assistants daily and handed it over to the secret service every Wednesday.

"No, Iíve asked her not to." No one was surprised.  There wasnít much you could do about it and the venom that came from some people tended to be pretty distracting.

"Toby, you notice anyone unusual hanging out when you leave your apartment in the morning, go to temple, anything?"

"I donít pay much attention."

"Okay, what do you remember about this morning before the explosion?"

"I was at temple early.  There wasnít anything that I noticed right away.  The place was filling up with people. Then I heard a noise."

"Describe it."

"Like steam escaping, I think.  Maybe like a radiator."

"Then what?"

"I got up and started to look for the origin of the sound.  I was trying to get to the aisle.  Thatís the last thing I remember beforeÖ"

"What about after?"

"I was on the ground against a wall.  Someone was yelling at me.  I was under some beams or something. There was smoke everywhere."

"Those beams saved your life.  My agents were able to find the firefighter that pulled you out, a kid named Jeff Hernandez. The explosion must have thrown you against a wall.  When he found you, there was a bench tented over you and a lot of debris on top of that.  That bench saved you from further concussion."

"I wanted to stay and make sure that everyone was out."

"You were one of the last they found, Toby.  Hernandez said that you were quite a handful.  Kept trying to go back inside."

"Someone sat me in an ambulance with other people.  I tried to get out, but it drove off."

"Thank God for small favors."  Abby said patting his cheek before getting up.  "Honey, I need to use your phone."  She headed for the Presidentís desk.

"Do you know if everyone got out okay?"  Toby asked hesitantly.  Ron looked at him for a minute before responding.

"CJ has those numbers."

"Well, these would have to be preliminary numbers.  Letís wait until we have something solid."  Leo jumped in.

"I need to know."

"Letís give you a chance to rest, Toby."  Suggested the President.

"Stop protecting me!"  Toby wrestled himself to a standing position before anyone could intervene.  He stood in front of the President, his good arm holding onto the couch tightly.  Abby looked up from the phone.

"Please."  He said desperately to Jed Bartlett.

"CJ, give us the numbers."  Jed Bartlett said tightly.  CJ looked down at her list and then moved closer to the group from her spot near the door as if unsure that she could be heard from a distance of more than ten feet.

"57 people were taken to area hospitals by ambulance.  Of that number, 23 were admitted, 6 of them in serious condition.  CJ paused for a minute to allow this information to be absorbed.  Tobyís grip on the couch tightened.  He thought about all of those people coming to temple to worship, just to be with their community.  Jed Bartlett was shaking his head wearily when CJ continued.

"4 people are dead."  She said quietly looking at Toby.  He felt like there was a string in his head being pulled tighter and tighter.  He heard the President from what seemed like a great distance asking for the names of the deceased so that he could call their families.  Sam was next to him talking, but he couldnít understand what he was saying.

"The only name we have so far is a Mrs. Alessandra Wise.  She was 78 years old."  CJ bowed her head having finished her sad duty.

"Mrs. Wise," He thought, with her smiles and nods.  Always taking time to inquire about his health, worrying about him when he didnít wear a heavy enough coat. She herself was always wearing long sleeves to cover the numbers that had been indelibly pressed into her skin by the Nazis.  "You deserved to pass with so much more dignity than you were allowed."  He thought to himself swaying slightly.  Abby Bartlett was yelling something at him, and he turned to her hoping she would know what to do about the string pulling so tightly against his brain.  Then the string popped.  Problem solved.

"Toby!" CJ screamed as he slid to the floor.  Sam was there trying to break his fall.  Then everyone was there, Abby having to claw her way through to get to the fallen man.

 

 

Something Worth Fighting For - 3

 

 

 

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