Something Worth Fighting For - part 7
Toby had to give up on using his right hand about noon. He had always felt a little less creative on his laptop, but today he couldnít wait. After a couple of hours, his shoulder was aching far too mush for him to do anything but let it rest. He tried to sleep a little until the pain went down, but he couldnít. He was far too wired. He attempted to cajole the Secret Service into doing some typing for him, but they declined emphatically. He tried a few histrionics, but they remained unimpressed. "Apparently Butterfield really knows how to put the fear of God into these guys." Toby thought.
Then he went at it from a different angle. After much discussion and consultation, they finally agreed. At about 6 pm, on a Friday evening, Sam was deposited at his spacious living room. It took a few minutes to get him on task. He much preferred wandering the suite, exclaiming, "Wow!", as he entered each new room.
"Get over here. We have work to do." He said in an exhausted and irritated tone. Dark circles had deeply imprinted themselves under his eyes. He indicated a coffee table littered with filled sheets of yellow legal paper surrounding a laptop with a filled screen. Sam let out a whistle as he surveyed the chaos.
"What do you have going here, Toby?"
"Iím not exactly sure." He admitted.
"Well, I can see that everything is numbered. Thatís something, at least." Sam was giving Toby a critical once over. "How about we make a deal." He advanced. "You let me go at this. Iíll organize it while you get some sleep."
"You might need my help." He said stubbornly.
"Iíll hold any questions I have until you wake up."
"No, we donít have a lot of time. CJ and I canít live like prisoners for much longer."
"Okay, but youíre just going to get in my way. Close your eyes at least. Iíll nudge you the second I need anything." Sam watched as Toby tried to find a spot at the corner of the couch. Sam could see that Toby was in some serious discomfort. Yet despite the pain, Toby was soundly sleeping within a few minutes. Sam picked up the stacks of paper and sighed. He was curious about what Toby had been up to all day. But he could see from the mess that it was going to take a little time before he was going to be able to make any sense of it.
"Sam!" CJ exclaimed as she entered the suite around midnight. She had been at a state dinner all evening waiting impatiently to return to the refuge of this place and Toby. She was not prepared for Sam to be there. "What are you doing here? There isnít a problem, is there?"
Sam shook his head at her and then put a finger to his lips, gesturing at the sleeping Toby who was draped over the arm of a sofa.
"How long has he been sleeping?" She asked in a soft voice careful not to wake him.
"I showed up at six and convinced him to close his eyes for a little while."
"Has he got you working on that project he started this morning?"
"He tried to explain what he was doing, but I wasnít sure that even he understood what it was."
"Itís amazing, CJ. Itís sort of an open letter to his attackers and their followers."
"What do you mean?" CJ wore a concerned look. The last thing she wanted was for Toby to receive more exposure. "Itís not a good idea for him to be public right now."
"This letter is brilliant, CJ. It may be a little risky, but it will be the right thing to do."
"I donít understand, Sam." She was worried. It had only been 24 hours since she and Toby had finally been able to reach each other in a meaningful way. She wasnít interested in plans that would threaten that accomplishment in any way.
"Listen to this, CJ. It is very subtle.
"I am a man as you are men. We are separated now, as we always will be, by culture, history, and beliefs. We will never understand one another and we will never try. None of us are men of compromise. As you believe me to be a danger to this country, I believe you to be the same. I will fight to defend my country against you as you have against me.
I value the traditions that define what it means to be an American. I value my right to believe differently than you. I value my right to face my accusers. These traditions speak to what it means to be a man of honor in this country. I wish to live my life in this way.
I wish to stand and face you as a man of honor. Will you stand and face me? Will you conduct your fight in the open? If you do, you will find me waiting, ready to battle. I will choose the pen as my sword. What will you choose as yours? Or will you continue to attack me under the cover of darkness? Will you own your victory? Or will you hide in the shadows and deny yourself?"
"CJ, he speaks to them man to man. He doesnít try to manipulate or persuade. He calls them out and asks their intentions. He brings up the issue of honor. He even appeals to their probably misogyny. Itís incredible."
"It sounds to me like he will only bait them and put himself at greater risk." She replied angrily.
"Thatís what is so subtle about it. Heís not daring them to come after him. Heís daring them not to come after him. Heís daring them to stand and be men."
"And you honestly think this will reach them. They are sadists. They are criminals." CJís eyes were beginning to well with tears.
"They are believers. Before anything else, they are believers, CJ. They think they are doing what is right. They will respond to this. Their right to believe differently is acknowledged. They are asked to stand up as men of courage. Itís a point of honor. It will be meaningful."
"I think you just want it to be." CJ was trying to protect what so recently had become hers.
"Take some time, read the rest of it. The whole letter is about 20 pages in length. He writes beautifully about this country, its origins, its traditions, and its history. Itís poetry, CJ. His emotions, his pain, struggle, joy, everything is in there. In this letter, heís not a government official. He is a man with a deep love for his nation. It translates, it really does. They wonít come after him now. It would embarrass them. This letter effectively ties their hands. They canít have his soul. He already gave it to the American people."
"Sam, you are getting carried away."
"I know I am. But he canít lie down and wait for them to come. That will destroy him before they ever could. His choice to stand and fight will be respected by everyone. Everyone, CJ." Sam spoke so earnestly that CJ began to calm. She sat on the sofa beside the sleeping Toby. Reaching out, she softly stroked his arm.
"I donít want to lose him." Her voice caught, her vision blurring from the tears collecting in her eyes.
"I wonít let it happen. I promise you." Sam delivered his promise with ferocity.
She wished that it was as simple as all that. But all the same, she appreciated Samís commitment to protecting his boss and friend. With her hand on his arm, she considered the path he was choosing.
"Howís does he want this to go out?" She said finally, her eyes never leaving the sleeping man.
"He wants you to call Danny and have him come down here, tomorrow."
"The Secret Service will allow this?"
"Yes, weíve already had that very long fight. Itís been approved."
"What about television?"
"We decided no. Toby always looks like heís got ants in his pants when heís on the tube. The last time he was on, the affiliates were flooded with callers who thought Toby was having some sort of heart attack. I mean, he was sort of, cause Tillinghouse was debating gun control with him, but it wasnít a physical kind of heart attack."
"This better work, Sam. I am in deep here. I donít want to do this life without him." Samís eyes met hers. He nodded his understanding and then he moved to help her get Toby up and to his waiting bedroom.
It was 2 a.m. on Saturday morning and the sub-basement had attracted quite a crowd. The regular cast was assembled there as well as a star-studded list of special guest stars. The FBI and Justice directors were there although they were relegated to the space near the back wall, much to their chagrin. Leo was hanging around near them. He was aware of their dissatisfaction but it mattered little to him.
Ron Butterfield was there. He had a team of people huddled around the now famous conference table engaging in all sorts of technical activity. The most VIP of the guests was Josiah Bartlett who had asked to be summoned the minute they made contact with IITEOTL4. When he arrived, he saw Josh frantically working the screen trying to keep his perpetrator interested. Donna was beside him, thumbing furiously through a King James Bible for quotations that would bolster Joshís positioning. He stood behind them for a minute observing the battle in process. Then he gently prodded Donna out of her seat. He took the bible out of her hands and sat down beside Josh. He looked at the screen for another moment and with two flicks of his wrist, he had found the appropriate response in Revelations.
The guys were still able to retain their spot at the table. At the noon briefing on Friday, they gave a compelling report on their tracking activities. Leo listened carefully to what they had to say. Most of it he didnít understand. Margaret tried to explain whenever he got a confused look on his face, but most of the time she was as stymied as he was. What Leo could figure out from the report was this. The guys had been able to determine that IITEOTL4ís system was heavily secured. And that it was strong enough to have posted and run the Toby sites. They also indicated that IITEOLT4 was running off the accounts of many layers of unsuspecting computer users. He would be difficult to track. However, and this is where it got real technical, he was using some sort of antiquated something in his system. If Josh was able to keep IITEOLT4 on the screen long enough, they would be able to triangulate some sort of a thing to his location. Leo finally just shook his head trying to clear it of all the cognitive gymnastics he had just attempted. He looked at the three scruffy men in front of them and asked them what they needed in order to get this done. They looked at each other in surprise. Nobody in government had ever asked them their opinion of anything. With some prodding from Josh, they were able to put together a list of what they needed. Josh noticed a change in his delinquents. They were less acerbic and more respectful to their surroundings. He suspected that they were finally being allowed to be a part of something. When this was all over, he was going to have to find a way to get them out of Lesterís clutches for good.
Leo looked at the enforcement agency heads with some frustration. They were here reluctantly. Each had spent the afternoon lobbying to have the entire investigation turned over to them. The idea of a couple of White House staffers and a few computer geeks cracking this case was a little more than either one of them could bear. He was glad that Butterfield had the good sense to take Joshís little project in stride. For a minute, he wondered about Butterfield as a possible candidate for Willsí position, but then he thought better of it when he considered the excellent job Ron does in protecting the president.
"So you thought you were too good for our geeks, huh?í He liked torturing John Parks, the FBI head. Park let out a long suffering sigh.
"Leo, they are convicted felons."
"So is half of Congress, John."
"They broke into the Department of Defense."
"Yeah, but it was kind of cute."
"They reprogrammed a nuclear warhead to point at Minneapolis, Minnesota."
"Only because they had money on the Redskins and the Vikings won. I remember that game. I would have trained a missile on that iceberg myself given half a chance."
"Well, Leo, I am glad that you think it was funny."
"John, they check the positioning on warheads every fifteen minutes. The Twin Cities was a target for approximately 7 minutes if I recall correctly."
"So you donít think it was a serious thing."
"John, I think it was a very serious thing, as was the bombing of a synagogue right under our noses. I told you I wanted full cooperation across the board, and I got a bunch of prima donna bullcrap. So enjoy your view here, itís the closest you are going to get to the glory of this righteous collar, my friend." Having said his piece, Leo left the apoplectic FBI director at the back wall and he went to join the others who were clustered as close around Josh and the President as they dared.
The President and Josh were teaming closely. They discussed possible responses together in low tones before they posted. IITEOTL4 was hanging in there for the time being. He seemed to enjoy the sharp exchange he got from his two pursuers. While he sparred with them eagerly, he showed little of the frankness he had displayed earlier. Impatiently the President urged Josh to talk about the Toby sites. Josh was reluctant. The pressure of the last two nights was beginning to wear on him. He was becoming afraid that he would lose this man. That it would all end up accomplishing nothing. He was losing his edge. The President could see all of this in the young manís bloodshot eyes. He leaned over and whispered some things to Josh. Josh listened intently and then he looked at the President. He nodded his head slightly and the President squeezed his shoulder before taking over the screen. He assumed Joshís screen name and continued the conversation. Soon he was leading IITEOTL4 into a discussion about the web sites.
"How do the Toby sites fit into your perceptions about this being an honorable fight?" He asked boldly.
"The sites are not mine." This revelation stunned the room. There was an assumption that the killers had to be connected to the sites. The information was so accurate. Maybe they had the wrong guy here. Josh had to remember to breath.
"Those who made the sites are younger than I am. They are vainglorious and unfocused. They do not yet serve the Lord as completely as do I. I told them that the reward was an insult. I can assure you that there will not be another site." There was a collective sigh of relief in the room. It was connected and it sounded as if there was some dissension within the group.
The President was going to continue his questions about the site when a shout came from the other end of the table. Rupert was on his feet.
"Provo, Utah!" He yelled. The suits around the room galvanized. They attacked whatever electronics were in their immediate area.
"Randolph Marcus." Now Red Eye was standing. "We donít know for sure, but his account is connected to IITEOTL4 differently than the others." Butterfield was up and walking the room, giving orders.
"I want a check done on him now. Does he have a criminal record? Does he have a file anywhere? I want to know if he has left Utah in the last three weeks. What groups does he belong to? Does he own a gun? Nobody sleeps! Nobody eats! I want information for breakfast today!" He turned to the enforcement heads. "Either one of you want to give me a big plane for the day. I suspect we donít all want to bet the farm on the local authorities to do this thing right." They looked at one another and immediately began to argue about who could offer Butterfield the better plane.
"Sweet Jesus!" Thundered a disgusted Leo. "I have to sit here and think about what my daughter does when kids in her kindergarten act this way. What kind of nonsense is that? Ron, you take whatever plane you want. Weíll seize it if we have to."
At the other end of the room, there were three people with nothing to do.
"We are going to get them." Josh said more to himself than the President or Donna. For the moment all he could do and stare at the tabletop and ponder the immensity of this thought.
The President had begged off his conversation with IITEOTL4 perfunctorily. He had no interest in speaking further with a man who had coldly tried to execute a temple full of people. "Does he really believe that he worships a different god than they do?" He wondered to himself, shaking his head.
"Sir, I just spoke to your wife. She wants you back in the residence. She says she will come and get you herself, if she has to." Donna said.
"My wife told you to call her the minute this thing was finished, didnít she?" He eyed her suspiciously.
"Sir, itís never very clear to me which of you I should fear more." She gave him an apologetic smile. He chuckled at her and then looked at Josh.
"Our part is done here, my friend. We will get out of their way now, and let them do what it is they do best. Josh, you have performed magnificently. You too, Donna. Now it is time to rest. Tomorrow, we will have new battles to fight." He patted Josh on the shoulder and walked out the door, his protection giving their colleagues a quick look of envy before hurrying after him.
"Come on." Donna said helping him to his feet. Despite his obvious exhaustion, she knew that he wasnít quite ready for sleep. "I am going to take you to Murrayís. Weíre going to have a huge breakfast. Iím thinking waffles, eggs, and bacon. Then weíre going to go sit on the mall and watch the sun rise. What do you say there, big guy?" Josh looked at her with red, blurry eyes and smiled.
"Iím all yours, Donna. I always have been." Her heart leapt for a minute and then she quickly grounded herself in what she believed to be the reality of their situation. He put his arm around her and together they walked out of the sub-basement for the last time.