Something Worth Fighting For - part 8

 

            "I think thatís everything."  Danny said clicking stop on his tape recorder.  Toby breathed a sigh of relief.  Interviews were always a struggle for him.  As easy as it was for him to know what others should say or not to say to the media, it was different dealing with his own passions and feelings.  CJ interrupted the pacing she had begun the minute the two most important men in her life sat down across from one another.

            "What do you think, Danny?"  CJ asked anxiously.

            "I donít know.  Itís incredible.  Itís different.  Itís risky."  He said.  CJ shot him a look of impatience.

            "I get that you want something more than that."  Danny replied taking verbal cover.  "Itís just that I donít remember seeing anything else done in this way.  I can tell you that the letter is beautiful.  Itís naked.  It shows so much of who you are and what you are feeling, Toby.  And to be honest with you, itís the last thing I would have expected to come from you."

            Toby merely nodded his head.  All of what Danny had said was true.  Now they have to see if it was worth all of the heart he had put into it.

            "The letter will be in the Sunday edition of the Times.  That is the most read edition of a newspaper in the world.  I would imagine that you would reach an appropriately large audience."

            "You will print the whole thing, Danny, and the interview too?"  Where do you do think it will be?  Itís large.  Can you fit the whole thing?  I want the front page, Danny." CJ was throwing all her anxiety his direction.

            "CJ, it will be on the front page.  And we will print all the pages necessary to get the whole thing in, I promise."  The editorial team will squawk for about two minutes and then theyíll realize that tomorrowís edition could turn into one of the largest selling in the companyís history.  Not to mention the fact that our story will be reprinted in newspapers and talked about on news shows for the next week.  I think we can safely say that weíll get the story out to the people."

            "Okay.  Sounds good."  CJ was trying to relax.  She resumed her pacing. Toby wished she would sit down on the couch with him, he knew she wasnít about to get anywhere near him while Danny was still there.  He appreciated her sensitivity.  He was not interested in causing Danny any discomfort either.  Even though, for years, the two of them had acted like rivals, long before CJ ever came on the scene. And although he would never call himself a friend of Danny Kincannonís, he respected him.  He knew that there was no one else who would treat this story with the care and attention that Danny Kincannon would.

            "Youíre sure you donít want to do a little TV in addition to the article?"  Danny asked curiously.

            "No, we donít want him on TV."  CJ said rolling her eyes.  Toby looked up at the ceiling.  No one ever passed up the opportunity to comment on his on air performances.  They couldnít seem to help themselves. "Josh once said that watching Toby on TV was a little like watching a junkie jonesing on his third day without a hit." Danny started to laugh.

            "Yes, thank you, CJ.  That would be the reason that I will not be appearing on television at this time.  We would not want Americans to think that I was without my daily fix."  Tobyís comeback had some of the funny, acerbic quality that CJ had missed so much in recent weeks.  She couldnít help smiling at him, the warmth of her gaze belying the depth of her feeling.

            "I should go."  Danny said suddenly. Toby stood up to shake Dannyís hand and thank him for doing this story.  Watching them, CJ wondered if there would ever come a time when the three of them could spend time together laughing and enjoying each other without any kind of awkwardness.  She was hoping for that miracle when Sam burst through the front door.

            "Boy, do I have news for you!"  He exclaimed before realizing that Danny was standing there.  Sam stopped short upon seeing Danny and just stood there breathing like a man after a marathon. "I ran the stairs."  He explained between huffs.

            "Letís hope thatís not your big news."  Danny joked with him.  Sam looked at Toby.

            "Will we be giving the press this?"  Toby asked.  Sam nodded at him.

            "There is a briefing scheduled in 30 minutes."

            "Damn it, what the hell is going on?  I canít get there in time."  CJ bellowed.

            "I know, CJ, itís okay.  Leo is going to do this one."

            "What!"  CJ was gearing up for a major storm.

            "Shit, Sam, I am not going to make it either.  What the hell is going on?"  Realized Danny.  Sam was feeling danger from two directions now.

            "Okay, slow down, everyone."  Toby mediated.  "Sam, why is Leo doing the briefing?"

            "He and Butterfield decided that this news was potentially explosive.  He decided in light of recent events, he would be the one to be out front right now."

            "Sam, you have something important, donít you?"

            "Yeah."  He glanced at Danny briefly.

            "Do you have the statement he is going to read?"

            "Yeah."

            "Can I have it?"  Sam silently handed him the paper.  Toby read it.  For a minute, he just stood there.  Then he looked at Danny.

            "My office has a strict policy.  Material is never leaked to anyone under any circumstances. Iím sure you understand.  Besides, you already have a big chunk of the story.  Iím sure you can make it back there in time to catch the end of the briefing.  Let me walk you out."  Danny started to protest, but Toby was already steering him toward the door.

            In the hallway, Toby extended his arm as if to shake Dannyís hand again.  Except in his palm was the press statement, tightly folded.  Danny looked at him, surprised.  Toby nodded at him.  He reached out and palmed the paper.  Before he could thank him, Toby had turned to go back inside.  Danny stood there for a minute staring at the door to the suite.  Then he turned and ran down the hallway, trying to punch numbers into his phone and read the statement all at the same time.

Back inside the suite, Toby immediately found himself with an armful of CJ.  Clearly Sam had spilled the beans.  Sam stood back and smiled that big farm boy grin that Toby so enjoyed about his young friend.

            "They got them!"  CJ was ecstatic.  She was trying to hug Toby without disturbing his shoulder.  He just stood there good-naturedly and basked in all of her attention.

            "They arrested Randolph Marcus this afternoon at 3p.m. our time.  They arrested his brother, Donald and two of their associates, Phillip Hart and Steven Smith, about an hour later."

            "The case looks good?"  Toby looked at Sam with hopeful eyes.

            "They had a search warrant, Toby.  Marcusí house was like a dream come true for our guys.  There were weapons, anti-Semitic literature, and articles of the temple bombing pasted on all over the walls.  Hey Toby, listen to this.  This is the best part.  There were bomb-making materials spread out on a table in the basement workshop."

            "The nightmare is over!"  CJ was positively gleeful.  Having found it difficult to hug Toby properly with his bad shoulder, she turned her attentions to Sam. Toby had sobered a little with her last statement.  Sam could see the drop in his mood.

            "Whatís wrong?"  He asked.

            "This is great news, Sam.  It really is.  But it doesnít solve everything.  There are still a lot of guys that might think killing me is worth $20,000."

            "Yeah, I know Toby.  Still I have a lot of faith that this will work out for us.  I canít wait to see what happens with this newspaper article.  I think that things are really going to go our way."  Sam smiled at both of them with the face of an optimist.  Instead of feeling cynical, Toby was comforted by Samís faith.

 

 

            CJ sat on the couch next to him, resting her head on his good shoulder.  Sam had left only minutes earlier.  Still exuberant, he was returning to the White House to hang out with Leo, Josh, and whoever else might want to share his joy.  She was glad they were alone.  Ode to Overindulgence had become a sanctuary where they could hide from everything.  Part of her feared that they would lose this magic when it was time to go home again.

            "I would imagine you are pretty tired."  She asked him breaking the silence.

            "Actually, I am still a little wired."  He replied softly.  "In fact, if it wasnít for my bad wing, your virtue would be some pretty serious jeopardy this evening, Claudia Jean."

            "I have been waiting for you to take advantage of me ever since you kissed me at Camp David."

            "I know.  This "taking it slow" business is for the birds."

            "Tell me again why you canít ravage me?"

            "Well, Iím still kind of awkward with only the one good arm."

            "You know Ziegler, if I had wanted graceful, I would be out stalking Mikhail Baryshnikov right now."  She gave him a meaningful look.  "And if you are running low on arms, I know where you could get a couple extra for a good deal."  Toby wasnít about to argue with her.  She reached up for his face and gave him a long, tender kiss. He watched as she then stood up and gestured to him with an unmistakable smile.  Then he got up and followed her obediently into the bedroom.

 

 

            Jed Bartlett gave his protection one more meaningful glare.  He knew they were just doing their jobs and he was lucky to have such diligent, courageous men on his detail.  Still he wanted them to remember that he was a man who prayed nightly for the coming of a day when there werenít men in suits following him around like puppies, shaking their heads every time he wanted to look out a window, or order a pizza, "For Chrisísakes."  He was planning to hold onto the pizza thing for a while.  It would have been perfect for this eveningís little event.

            He had decided he was going to have a little celebration this Sunday evening.  Of course, being Jed Bartlett, he decided this about two hours before the celebration was to begin. Abby expressly forbade him from throwing the kitchen staff into hysterics with a large meal and no notice.  So he came up with pizza.  He was going to order the best pizzas DC had to offer.  Only the Killjoy Boys intervened.  Abby jumped in before he got to the point of having to do some apologies.  Being married to Jed Bartlett meant that she was in the running for the title of Most Patient Woman in the World.  A few minutes with the kitchen staff, and she had arranged for them to do three simple things; make a large batch of pizza dough, put together a lovely pizza sauce, and put out fresh vegetables, meats, and cheeses.  Then she dismissed the long-suffering staff for the evening. Thus began the forever memorable Jed Bartlett Impromptu Celebration and Make Your Own Night.

 

 

            "Wasnít it amazing?"  Sam exclaimed one more time.  Josh was getting worried that Sam would pop a blood vessel in his head or something if he didnít calm down soon.

            "It sure was.  I have never seen anything like it in my life.  But donít you think you oughtaÖ." Josh attempted before Sam cut him off.

            I mean "This Week with David Brinkley" went so far as to read the entire letter in the first half of the show!  Thatís unprecedented, Josh!  Iíve never seen anything like it!"  Josh wondered where he could get a tranquilizer gun.  Donna was sniffing at Samís version of a pizza.  It had things like arugula and goat cheese on it.  "Californians are weird." She thought before returning to Joshís more traditional, but messy, 10 vegetable delight, heavy on the olives.

            "The Times had to print an extra!  You can bet itís been a while since theyíve been able to do that!"

            "Listen there, buddy.  I have not been in coma for any part of today.  I am aware of the electric response out there to Tobyís letter."  Josh was taking control.  He was looking Sam in the eye as a snake charmer might with an unfocused cobra.  "But we gotta take this slow, Sam.  Iíve been checking the chat rooms.  So far, nobody much knows what to say about this response to the craziness hatred alive in this country.  They arenít even talking about the arrests. We have to see what they do with all of this."

            "It has to be good for Toby and CJ.  There is no other way I can see it."  Sam pleaded with him.

            "I bet youíre right, Sam.  Butterfield says that if things stay quiet for the next few weeks, CJ and Toby wonít need a safehouse anymore.  But letís just hold it down to a dull roar until it feels a little more solid, okay."  Josh reasoned.  Sam got somewhat subdued for a minute.  Then he spotted Kathy in the corner and made a beeline for her position.  Josh suspected she would rue the day she had ever accepted an invitation to the Presidentís party.

            "Your pizza is awfully messy, Josh."  Said Donna, trying to contain the vegetables on her crust long enough to get them into her mouth.  "So what I am thinking is this.  Since this outfit is new, if I spill anything on it from your defective food product, I will go so far as to get it cleaned myself and then just leave the bill on your desk.  I think itís a pretty good plan.  What do you think?"  He smiled at her and then planted a big, wet, pizza kiss on her check.  He laughed as she squealed and ran off to find a napkin.

            At the other end of the room, Leo was engaged in conversation with the President.  While Leo seemed rather concerned, the President could not erase the amused look that kept creeping onto his face.

            "Iím serious, Jed.  She hardly knows this guy.  Itís same as if some stranger approached her on the street."

            "Did she have a good time last night?í

            "She wonít tell me.  But it must have been good.  He took her out to an expensive place and they stayed for hours.  They even had dessert. Sheís probably gonna marry him."  Leo wore a disgusted look.

            "She wouldnít tell you anything and yet you have some awfully interesting information about her date, sort of the kind of information a person might have if they had followed them."  Jed gave his friend a pointed look.

            "Oh, Jed, I would never do something like that. Thatís like stalking.  No, I just had a guy from Justice, you know, go and have a little dinner there." Leo was beginning to wish he had never brought this up.

            "Leo, you crazy person!  You canít do that! You have to let her live her life!  Whatís wrong with you?"

            "I donít know."  Leo admitted.

            "Do you have feelings for Margaret?"

            "Oh my God, Jed.  Of course not!  Where would you get that?"  Leo thundered, outraged at the mere suggestion.  Jed Bartlett just looked at his friend and shook his head.  "Who knows whatís really going on in that head of his?" He thought whiling politely listening to Leoís protests.  Abby had managed to catch part of their conversation.  Curious now, she went in search of Margaret whom she found curled up on a couch glumly ignoring the pepperoni pizza in front of her.

            "Hey, Margaret.  Mind if I sit down?"

            "Oh!"  She exclaimed noticing the first lady.  "Yes, Maíam.  Please do."

            "I hear you had a date last night with the doctor I referred you to.  Howíd it go?"

            "Yeah, I suppose everyoneís going to know by the time Leo gets done.  Leo thinks that he is some sort of Ted Bundy character."  Margaret said sullenly.

            "Well, did you have a good time?"  Abby persisted.

            "Sure, I did.  Heís smart, funny, successful, gracious, and he acts interested in everything about me.  I told Leo that he was almost perfect."

            "You know, Margaret, usually when my daughters describe the perfect man as you have, there is a tone of excitement in their voice."

            "Iím excited.  He wants to see me again next weekend.  Wants to take me sailing on his yacht."  Margaret replied unenthusiastically.

            "Margaret, whatís going on?"

            "Youíll tell him.  Iím not ready for him to know.  I want him to suffer just a little longer."  Margaret said looking at Leo across the room.

            "Margaret, I wonít tell a soul.  If Leo deserves a little punishment, you would be just the one to give it to him."  Abby assured her.  Margaret eyed her suspiciously for a minute and then decided to go for it.

            "Okay.  Hereís whatís going on.  Iím not going to go out with him again.  Thatís my big secret.  And I want to let Leo stew for a few days before I tell him."

            "This is the perfect man.  What happened?  Did he do something?  Was he mean?"  Abby searched her face for clues.

            "No, none of the above.  He was a perfect gentleman.  And he acts like he really likes me."

            "Margaret, you have to help me here.  What happened?"  Said the exasperated Abby.

            "Well, he was talking about how easy things have been for him.  He mentioned that he was able to get rid of his loans quite quickly.  I guess he wanted me to know how solvent he was or something.  Anyway, he tells me this story.  He says that he had paid for most of his medical school education with the government loans.  Itís the kind of loan that they forgive if you work in an impoverished area as a doctor upon graduation.  Apparently he got sent to a small town in Texas near the Mexican border.  He said that nobody appreciated his skills there so he left after three months.  Said the government never figured it out and they forgave $35,000 in loans.  Can you believe that?  He laughed when he told it.  When I told him I didnít think his story was funny.  He gets all contrite and sorry for me, but says he would feel worse if it wasnít for the fact that a lot of doctors do it.  What kind of person is that?"  She asked passionately.

            "Unfortunately heís right.  A lot of doctors do get away with not fulfilling their service commitment.  Itís a disgrace.  But Iím curious. Are you basing your decision not to see him on this alone?"

            "Isnít it enough?  All the money, charm, and graciousness in the world canít make up for a man without integrity.  Donít you think?"

            "Margaret, you are a very bright woman.  Leo is lucky to have you in his life."  Abby said putting her arm around her.  Margaret smiled a little and despite herself, she started to feel better about her life and its single status.

            Rabbi Glassman entered timidly into the room.  He looked around for Toby, but wasnít able to locate him immediately.  He was wondering if he might have been directed to the wrong room when the President of the United States came barreling his direction.

            "You must be Rabbi Glassman.  I am so glad you could stop by."  He said extending his hand.  "Toby is around here somewhere.  In fact,ÖSam, could you see if Toby is in the kitchen?"  Jed yelled across the room.

            "Toby will be glad to see you."  He said smiling at the Rabbi.

            "Is he doing well?"  Asked the concerned man.

            "I think so, Rabbi.  Heís a strong man and he has a lot of support." Said Jed thinking for a moment of the way Toby and CJ had been acting around one another this evening.  "Oh, here he is."  He gestured to Toby who had emerged from the kitchen.

            "Rabbi Glassman, I didnít expect you this evening."  Toby wore a surprised look.

            "The President called me today.  Heís going to attend temple services at Mount Sinai this next weekend."

            "You are?"  Toby looked at the President.

            "You bet I am.  And I would like you standing next to me."  The President said seriously.

            "Thatís a wonderful idea.  You should go.  I think maybe I am not ready yet." Toby said looking down at the floor.

            "Toby, this was not your fault."  Jed said.

            "I know.  But those people, they didnít know how dangerous it would be to stand next to me.  I canít put people at risk like that again."  Toby insisted. "Sometimes, I think I should have known better."

            "Toby, I know how important temple is to you.  Staying away is not the answer." Rabbi Glassman counseled him.

            "Then what is?  How many temples are you willing to rebuild?  How many congregants are you willing to lose?  So that I can go to Shul."  Toby was beginning to raise his voice.

            "You have taken risks to better this country.  We have the right to take risks as well."  He returned defiantly.

            "Do you speak for your congregation?  Do they have the right to choose?"

            "Toby, it will take some time to rebuild our temple.  In fact, when I leave here, I am meeting with the committee about the architectural plans.  But I have something for you before I go."  He turned to the doorway and pointed at three large boxes the Secret Service had carried in.

            "What is it?" He asked cautiously.

            "They are filled with letters to you and invitations.  They sent them to me because people werenít so sure that you would get mail while you were in hiding."

            "What do they say?  What invitations?"  Toby looked at the boxes with trepidation.

            "They are from Jewish congregations and a surprising number of non-Jewish congregations around the country.  The invitations are asking you to join their synagogues and their churches. They express their regret at the loss of your temple and they offer their own so that you will have a place to worship.  There are letters and invitations from Alaska, Ecuador, Florida, from all over the country and the world." Toby struggled to contain his emotions.  "There are about 750 letters from members of our temple, Toby.  They all wish you to return once we have rebuilt, all of them, Toby.  You are not going to fight alone.  We have the right to stand beside you."  When he finished, he put his hand on Tobyís shoulder.  Toby had given in to his tears.  He let them fall unhindered.

            "So it is decided then.  I will see you at Mount Sinai this Saturday."  The Rabbi said.  Toby nodded at him.  Rabbi Glassman gave his shoulder a supportive squeeze and then he turned and left.  Toby watched him disappear.  Behind him, the room had grown quiet.  Everyone had seen the drama unfolding between Toby and his rabbi.  Toby could sense the attention.  He was reluctant to turn and face them with his emotions so clearly imprinted on his face.  He felt an arm going around him and he prepared to stiffen.  Then he smelled the soft, sweet scent of CJ Cregg and he relaxed into her embrace.  He let her hold him tightly.  And then others approached them hesitantly with their hugs and supportive pats.  He let them all in.

 

The End

 

 

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