Something Worth Fighting For - part 6
"Thatís all I have to say." Said the young man in the video recording.
Toby rewound it again. This would be his fourth time watching it since the Secret Service brought it over. Luckily, they were able to find another TV. Actually in this suite he now called Ode to Over-indulgence, they were able to find five TVs. Toby needed to listen to it one more time. Something about it resonated with him, but he was having trouble defining it. This time as he pressed play, he would close his eyes, and concentrate on the words.
"Mr. Strong," Began a female news anchor, "We are so glad you could join us today in the wake of this terrible tragedy. You have been difficult to reach for comment and when found you have chosen to not speak much on this tragedy leaving some to conclude that you have some feelings about how this investigation is being handled."
"You certainly have taken some leaps in logic there." The young man answered her.
"You have refused to say whether you have spoken to Toby Ziegler and if so, what he said to you." The anchor persisted.
"This is all covered under the publicís right to know?" He seemed to enjoy her frustration.
"Do you have any comment about the explosion, the investigation, or any contact you have had with Toby Ziegler?"
"The explosion was wrong. I hope that the investigation is successful, and I have spoken to Toby Ziegler. Once."
"Have you been frustrated with reports that he has had hate mail for some time. Yet he continued to go out into public, endangering the lives of others?"
"No, but I am frustrated that this line of questioning continues from reporters." The woman let a sigh escape at this response. This was not going well.
"Perhaps, you could enlighten us a little about your perspective." She was taking a stab in the dark. Russell gave her a long look.
"My grandmother talked about Toby Ziegler. Said she always sat near him. She worried about him. He always appeared to be a man with a lot on his mind. She followed him in the press. Said that he is a man who fights hard and has integrity. This is, was, important to my grandmother. She said that the most underused natural resource that this country has is true courage. He took on a controversial bill at great risk to himself and for the good of this country. I work on the streets. I understand the power of guns more than any suit and tie Republican. I understand the power of what he was fighting for." She tried to interject but he continued. "He did all of this to change this country for the better and now he is asked to apologize and feel responsible for people who were killed by the hands of others. When he called me the other day, he apologized for how his fight took my grandmotherís life. I was angry at him about that. Angry that the courage of his convictions was being sucked out of him. Angry that the meaning of the fight itself was fading." She stared at him until he finally muttered.
"Thatís all I have to say." Toby clicked "stop" and sat pondering the young manís words.
"Would he link my name with courage if he could see me now?" Toby wondered. Russell reminded so much of himself twenty years ago, so fierce and clear. Now, as happened to so many, he had become a man of compromise. His integrity no longer had the sharp edges he remembered so well. "Russell is right," he thought, "I have spent this entire week wishing that I had never fought for gun control. Wishing that I had given in to the first compromise, the one that everyone had been prepared to accept." Toby sighed. "There are a lot of things I have given up on."
"Toby." Came a voice. Toby was startled. CJ was standing only a few feet away. He wondered how long she had been there. He wondered how much was showing on his face.
"I keep hearing you play that tape over and over. I wanted to see how you were doing." Standing before him was a shining example of his selective integrity. He looked at her trying to reason through the crazy thoughts running through his head.
"Are you okay?"
"Is there ever a good reason to abandon courage?" He asked her cryptically.
"Excuse me." CJ was confused.
"Do you ever get tired of being afraid? Isnít it more work to be afraid than to be brave?" CJ could see that he was sincerely considering these questions.
"I donít know what to say."
"Is it that you donít know or is it that there is too much risk involved in saying what you mean, what you feel?"
"I realize that I sound strange, CJ. Itís just that I am tired of being held hostage and I am not referring to the Secret Service. I am referring to fear. It has eaten away at me. It chipped at anything you and I could have had together. And now it threatens to destroy who I am. It is turning me into a cautious person, careful not to provoke anything. It is turning me into a person who wants to risk nothing." He finished and watched her stand stock still staring at him.
"Are you saying something about you and me?"
"Why does it matter? Who cares what I am saying. What does it mean for you? Donít you get tired of walking within such well defined boundaries of what to do or to say?"
"Toby, itís been such a hard week."
"I know. I suppose because it has been such a hard week, the only thing I have left is what I really mean."
"Well letís get some rest. And we can talk about it in the morning." CJ suddenly felt like she was working without a net. She turned and walked to her bedroom.
"CJ, no matter what anyone says, the fact remains that people died this week because I sat near them. Thatís what happened." Toby looked at her with sorrowful eyes. "I donít think that I killed them. But that connection will always be there and it will always hurt. Thatís what I really mean." She nodded her head at him wondering what was coming next. "What I also really mean is that I love you, CJ. Even if nothing ever happens between us, you should know that I love you deeply." CJ felt like the air was being sucked out of her body. Toby looked straight at her as he said it.
"Josh says love isnít enough for the two of us." She said softly.
"Heís probably right, CJ. Fear is a powerful thing." He replied gently. "Why donít you go to bed, CJ. Get some sleep. Maybe weíll talk again in the morning." After a minute of standing in silence, CJ turned and left him sitting there in the living room. She couldnít undress. She couldnít lie down. Feeling shaky, she walked back and forth, thinking about what he said. Which was harder, fear or courage? Fear or courage?"
Toby actually felt better now. He understood now what was holding him back, keeping him in one place. He would fight his fear as hard as he would against anything that was unjust and wrong.
"I donít want to be afraid anymore." Said a soft voice. He looked up and wanted to chuckle. She had such an amazing ability to move quietly into a room.
"Leo was right, CJ. You really should wear a bell." He said smiling.
"We never really fought for one another, did we? Maybe it felt wrong to me, to us, that love should be a challenge. But Toby, I donít want to be ruled by fear. I want to fight for us."
"I need you, CJ. I donít want to go through this without you."
CJ felt herself filling with a sense of calm and contentment. For a minute, she just looked at this complex and lovely man. Then she approached him and held out her hand. He reached out to her and allowed her to pull him upright. Silently, she led the tired man into her bedroom.
Toby lay on the bed with his eyes open. A beautiful woman held him from behind nestling her head into his neck. Over and over, he replayed this night. CJ seemed to know that what he needed more than anything was comfort. Still dressed, they lay on the bed together, holding onto one each other and talking softly. Toby remembered a night 6 months earlier that had been similar to this. He had screwed that one up. But this time he wasnít going to give into his demons. This time he wasnít going to let her go.
He had tried to sleep, but too much was happening inside his head. Visions of CJ competed with visions of the temple, his rabbi, and Russell Wise. Slowly these pictures had woven themselves together and he now was beginning to understand how he could stand up to this evil. Instead of feeling tired, he felt energized and alive. He was ready to get in the game.
Toby got up gently and slowly, taking care not to disturb CJ. She started to wake, but he stroked her hair and spoke to her softly. She turned over and buried her head in a pillow. He looked at her for a minute before leaving the room. He never knew he could be so touched by another human being. He carefully closed the door behind him and went to the phone in the living room.
While he had worked carefully not to disturb CJ"s sleep, he had no compunction about waking Sam.
"Who is it?" Mumbled a groggy voice.
"Sam, itís me. Wake up."
"Toby, what time is it? Did something happen? Is everything okay?" Sam was trying to orient himself.
"Listen, Itís almost 5 a.m. I need you to get up now and start prepping for my meetings today."
"What the hell, Toby?"
"Iím not coming in. So you need to meet with Ways and Means and you gotta deal with the guys from the tobacco lobby. If you get up now and go down to the office, you might be prepared enough not to embarrass me."
"Are you sick? Is your shoulder going to fall off? Or is this further punishment for my little idea?" Sam couldnít keep the irritation out of his voice.
"None of the above. I am fine. I am very fine, in fact. And I am thinking of never punishing you again."
"Whatís going on? You live for torture."
"Well, if you have to know, it was a very bright idea to have CJ and I in the same place."
"Oh, my God! Did something happen? I knew it would. I knew it!"
"Shut up, Sam. I swear to God, if you say anything to anyone, I am going to make you wish you chosen a life of crime."
"Oh, Toby, your secret is safe with me. I got your back, big guy. Donít you worry."
"Alright, you know where my stuff is?"
"I got you covered, Toby. You crazy kids just relax and have your little day of fun."
"What! You depraved imbecile! I am staying here to work. Get your sordid mind out of the gutter. CJ will be going into work today. And if you so much as look at her with your pornographic thoughts, Iíll maim you with a toothpick!"
"Toby, I didnít know, I wasnít thinkingÖ"
"I take back what I said about punishment. Punishment is back on the table, my little sex-crazed friend. Thinking that CJ and I planned on frolicking while this country goes to hell in a handbasket. What lunacy!"
"Now Toby, would you just calm down. I got a little carried away is all."
"Alright, but you are going to behave yourself today. If I hear that you spent even one minute looking at CJ with your idiot grin, so help me, SamÖ"
"I get the picture, Toby. Iíll be the soul of discretion. I promise you."
"You know, youíre right about one thing."
"I am almost afraid to ask."
"I do live for torture."
"Be prepared for a long day, Princeton. I am going to need you later on."
"Okay. I will wait to hear from you. Say Toby, ah, before you go, did you really have to say frolic Ďcause you know, now I am going to have to deal with the actual visual of you frolicking, which is very scary, and I really should be concentrating on these meetings, you know." Sam quickly hung up before Toby could land more abuse on him. Toby chuckled to himself. Sam was getting very, very good at this. He picked up the phone again and ordered a pot of coffee.
Then he went to his briefcase. He pulled out three yellow legal pads and some pens. He set everything down on the lamp stand next to the couch. He sat down and leaned his head back, thinking. Then he picked up a pen and pad and began to write.
The anxiety and excitement of the nightís activities were competing inside of her for Donnaís attention. Since 10 p.m. the night before, they had been in and out of chat rooms and message boards plying their wares. The guys were expert at finding and accessing sites off the beaten path. They would get Josh in and then let him loose. Josh then went to work, adding provocative questions and comments to the conversation. There was no question in Donnaís mind that Josh would be a skillful litigator if he chose. He might not know the law as well as a guy like Sam, but he could think on his feet. He left every chat room he entered in a state of chaos and confusion. The guys marveled at how he could weave an argument around they threw at him.
The racist premise that he put forth was simply that the temple bombing was meaningless. It hadnít cut at the power structure of the government. He suggested that true growth in the white power movement would only happen through the courage of men willing to stand up for their convictions. Instead this action had only brought sympathetic attention to this countryís Jews. Donna flinched whenever Josh wrote something anti-Semitic on the computer screen. She searched for signs of the conflict that must be brewing within. But all she saw on his face was fierce concentration. During one of the short breaks between chat rooms, Josh noticed her concern. He assured her that he had no problem using the rhetoric of hate to fight these men. "I know who I am, Donna. I have no conflict with this. I will use the hate they have for people like me to bring them down." He assured her softly, brushing his hand lightly through her hair. It was the tender moments like these that brought emotions to the surface for Donna that she wished she could ignore.
It was five a.m. now. Two hours earlier, they had logged onto an obscure site called Heaven Sent. Despite the gentle name, this was a site devoted entirely to the premise that Godís chosen were white, Christian, heterosexual Americans. Josh thought that it was amazing how many people were on these sites throughout the night. He was able to easily provoke some ideas on the message board and then lured several people into the siteís chat room.
At first, it had been nothing but the same old rhetoric coming Joshís direction. Most of it was relatively unschooled and Josh was able to dismiss it easily. Then something curious happened. Someone new logged on with the screen name, IITEOTL4. At first, he quietly lurked in the room. Then he entered a startling question.
"How does man offer up the righteous deaths of these Hebrews to the Lord?" Josh stared at the screen for a minute before responding.
"Thatís the first intelligent question I have heard all evening. Can you say more?"
"There is no more to say. Those who are righteous live their lives for the Lord. Sacrifice is necessary to pay homage to his greatness."
"That explains the deaths of four Jews?"
"There is no hate in the heart of a true believer of the Lord. There is only recognition of a natural order to things. To ignore that order is to turn your back on the almighty. The Jew is at the bottom of this order. It is not with hate that he is killed. It is merely the will of the Lord." Donna felt a cold chill run down her spine with a horror that was different than anything else she had felt since entering the underworld of white supremacy. This was certainly not the Christian Protestant perspective with which she had been raised. She held her breath as Josh considered his response.
"That is the first interesting perspective I have heard since this action occurred."
"I donít know who you are. I donít know what you represent. But I am tired, so very tired of the misunderstanding this country has fostered about this event. Even those who would call themselves my brethren talk of this offering to God as if it was some sort of guerilla action. This was not an attempt to irritate the heathens within the US government. It was about the Jewís unwillingness to recognize their lot in life, especially the Jew Ziegler. I tired of watching him assume an exalted position in life." Joshís throat tightened and his breath quickened.
"You sound as if you see this with a clearer eye than some of our less educated brothers."
"I see with eye of a true believer. I see with the eye of one who has been at the temple of the Jew and watched it fall in flames."
"Finally, I am able to talk with someone who knows of what they speak. Please tell me about the temple and the flames."
"No, I have no time for further conversation with you tonight."
"We have so much to talk about."
"Do not e-mail me. It will return unanswered. When I am ready, I will find you somewhere in this community."
"I will look for you again tomorrow evening. I have thoughts to share with you as well. Before you go, your screen name, I am curious about it. What does it signify?"
"Innocent in the eyes of the Lord."
"And the four?"
"My offerings to God."
Then he signed off. For a minute, there was silence. They were all stunned. Then Bob nudged Rupert and they jumped at their computers, looking for a way to track him. Red Eye looked for a minute at the man he had so cavalierly dubbed Fred a mere four days ago, he considered something to say, but then he just shook his head and joined his comrades in the chase.
"You are going to need a King James Bible." Donna said, her eyes were still wide from the encounter.
"I wonít know what to do with the New Testament."
"Thatís what Iím around for, Fred. I am your resident Protestant, remember."
"Donna, Iím not sure that itís such a good idea for you to stick around down here. Thereís lots of things that need doing upstairs. Besides, I didnít anticipate intensity of hisÖcraziness."
"You are not getting rid of me, Josh. Iím in this all the way. I have a stake in this too. Heís going down, Josh. You and I are going to make sure of that." Donna spoke in a clear, firm voice. Then she noticed the slight trembling in his hands from exhaustion and anger. She put her hands over his to calm them. Josh looked at her gratefully.
"Itís time to bring Ron Butterfield into this, Josh. He can help us do this." Donna continued speaking to him firmly. Josh nodded his understanding. Back-up sounded good about now.
"I wonder what name our three stooges will christen poor Butterfield with." He wondered out loud.
"It doesnít matter right now, Fred. Youíre going to bed."
"Iím not going home." He protested.
"I know. I think Charlie can help us scare up a little space for you in the residence."
"Youíre coming too!"
"Well yeah, Fred, I would really love to, you know. Itís just that Mrs. Landingham has this thing about us napping with our bosses." She brushed away his protest. "Donít worry about me. Iíll use your couch. I am used to it. I have spent many an afternoon whiling away the time there when I got bored doing work." She grinned at him devilishly. Then she linked her arm in his and together they walked out the door.
Leo walked into his front office at 7 a.m. that morning. He was surprised at how quiet it was. He could usually count on at least a couple of his rabbits no matter what time he came in. He was contemplating this development when a woman with her head intently reading a file emerged from his office.
"Margaret!" He yelled.
Thoroughly startled, Margaret screamed, and Leo watched his work on the North Korean Arms Agreement rise up into the air and then flutter to the ground.
"Leo!" She scolded him as she frantically tried to gather up 100 pages of sensitive material. Leo joined her on the floor unwilling to let her exert herself.
"You said next week, Margaret."
"Well, I am better now, Leo. Besides you wouldnít believe what those girls did to my computer. I am going to have to rewrite code and everything." Leo experienced an involuntary grimace when he remembered the last time Margaret started getting creative on her computer. He suspected that tech support was going to have another collective aneurysm. They regarded her a menace of epic proportions.
"Margaret, I swear to you, if tech support has to visit me one more time about your antics, I will help them build a federal case against you." Leo warned her.
"Well your welcome has been most inspiring, Leo." Margaret wilted him with her eyes.
"Margaret, I am not at all sure you should be here yet. I donít want you sick again. I donít think I can handle you ever being sick again for the rest of your life. Itís inconvenient, you know." Margaret was touched by his words until the last sentence.
"The doctor saw me yesterday and he says Iím fine. In fact, he thinks work may be more restful for me than being at home."
"And why would that be?"
"Well, he caught me painting my kitchen yesterday." Margaret said chuckling before realizing what she had said.
"Your doctor makes house calls?"
"Oh, yeah, well, just this once." Margaret said nervously.
"What the hell kind of doctor is this? Nobody from Bethesda makes house calls. If anyone did that, my hip and I would know about it."
"The kind of doctor who wants to take me out to dinner."
"What! What kind of ethics are those. I will have him out of there on his butt so far itíll make your head spin." Leo threatened.
"You will do no such thing, Leo. He is a very nice man. He took very good care of me. And he didnít ask me out until he said that I had no further need of his services. So you just stay away from him."
"Well, what do you know about him?" Leo persisted.
"He is a few years older than me. He was recently divorcedÖ"
"Divorced! This is not a clue to you!"
"Leo, youíre getting divorced and I am thinking something biblical right now about he who casts the first stone." She gave him a long look.
"Margaret, I expect better from you than to see you to take up with any old Tom, Dick, or Harry that comes along." Leo was ignoring her logic on the divorce thing. "You should be waiting for just the right man."
"Leo, I am forty years old. My allusions about the "right man" were dashed about 10 years ago. Besides I really like him."
"Alright, Margaret. When am I going to meet him?"
"Hopefully never." She mumbled.
"Can I even know his name?"
"No, I donít trust you. Youíll put a tail on him or something."
"Okay, but you will tell me if there is any kind of a problem."
"Yeah, Leo, you will be the first one I run to."
He eyed her suspiciously. Was that sarcasm or would she really come to him if there were trouble?
"Leo, letís to work. There is a lot going on today. I talked to Donna. She and Josh have been with some computer guys all night. They think they have some important stuff to add to this investigation. Their guys are finishing up some tracking or something. Anyway, they want to meet with you at noon."
"Why not now?"
"I told you, these guys are doing some sort of tracking thing. And Josh and Donna are sleeping. Donna says that Josh has been up the last two nights straight. He wants to be coherent for you."
"There is plenty for you to do on your desk. Go in there and stop bothering for me for a while." She gave him a quick smile and settled down at her computer with a screwdriver in hand. Leo saw the screwdriver and he fled. There was no telling what manner of illegal activity she was going to engage in now. It was usually best if he stayed ignorant to her projects for as long as possible.
Leo shut the door and headed for his phone. He found a number in his book and dialed.
"HelloÖThis is Leo McGarry. I have a job for youÖI need a background check done on some doctor from BethesdaÖNever mind whyÖ.Hereís what I want you to find outÖ