... CONTINUED FROM PART 1


C.J. walked unsteadily down the hall and into her office, where she
collapsed on the couch. Dark red spots dotted her clothes. Carol and Donna
followed her in, looking concerned.

"C.J.," Carol said gently. "Are you okay?"

"I guess I'm about as well as can be expected considering I just saw one of
my colleagues shot right in front of me," C.J. responded weakly.

"I'll go get you some tea," Carol said.

"Thanks," C.J. said, smiling gratefully as Carol hurried out. She turned to
Donna. "Where's Josh?"

"Sam drove him over to the hospital," Donna said.

"Is there any word yet?" C.J. asked.

Donna shook her head sadly. "No."

C.J. closed her eyes and leaned back on the couch. After a moment Carol
stuck her head back in the door. "There's someone here to see you, C.J."

C.J. sat up and started to protest until she noticed who her visitor was.

"I'll just go try Sam's cell phone again," Donna said, picking up on her
cue to leave.

"Danny, you're not supposed to be here," C.J. said.

"Carol came and got me," the reporter answered.

"Oh. I thought she was getting tea."

"Guess you'll have to settle for me instead," Danny said, taking a seat on
the couch next to C.J. "I'm sorry about Mandy," he said softly.

"She was standing right next to me, Danny. One second she's talking to the
President and the next she's lying on the ground and there's all this
blood, and..." C.J. trailed off, noticing the blood spots on her shirt.

"Try not to think about it," Danny said gently.

"It's all I can think about," C.J. said wrapping her arms tightly across
her chest. "It could so easily have been me."

"I know... C.J., why don't you let me take you home?" Danny asked.

"What good am I at home? I need to stay here until I find out how Mandy's
doing."

"You could change clothes, for one thing," Danny suggested.

"I'm fine," C.J. said. "Shouldn't you be like, working and reporting on all
this or something?"

"Does the White House have any comment on the attempt on President
Bartlet?" Danny asked.

"Not until the briefing."

"There, all done. Looks like I've got some free time for the next few
hours. Mind if I spend it with you?"


Toby and C.J. walked into the Oval Office and took their seats. President
Bartlet was pacing by the window and Leo stood leaning against the desk. No
one said a word.

A moment later, Sam walked in, looking grim, followed by Donna, who shut
the door behind her.

Leo glanced around the room taking stock. "Where's Josh?" he asked.

"In his office," Donna said.

Leo looked from Donna to Sam, trying to read their expressions. "All
right," he said finally, with a nod.

Leo took a deep breath before continuing. "Mandy was hit in the right
temple. The bullet is lodged in her brain and the doctors say it's too
dangerous to remove it. She remains unconscious in the ICU. No one else was
injured.

"An arrest has been made and all indications are that the shooter acted
alone. We need to prepare a statement and schedule the press briefing."

C.J. sat up. "I can be ready--"

"No," Toby cut in. "Sam will do the briefing, I'll work up the statement."

"I'm fine," C.J. protested. "I can handle this."

"Toby's right," Leo said. "You've been through too much already. Let
someone else worry about it for a while. In fact, you shouldn't even be
here."

"Leo--"

Bartlet spoke up for the first time, interrupting C.J. "That's an order,
C.J. I've sent Charlie home too. I don't want to see your face again until
tomorrow, got it?"

"Yes, sir," C.J. answered.

Leo continued with his instructions. "Toby, I want you to get up to speed
on the China business so you can take it over from Josh for the time being.
That's all for now."


Josh sat with his back to the door, staring out the window without seeing
anything. His face was a mask, revealing no expression.

Someone knocked softly at the closed office door, but Josh made no
indication that he'd even heard.

After a moment Donna opened the door and entered tentatively. "Josh?" she
said softly.

Josh still didn't respond. Donna approached and stood next to his chair.
"Toby's taking over the China stuff," she said. "I gave Ginger all your
files."

Josh nodded absently.

"I thought you'd want to stay at the hospital," Donna said.

"Her parents are there now. I thought it'd be best to leave them alone with
her," Josh responded.

"I'm sure she'll pull through, Josh. Doctors can do amazing things. We just
need to stay positive and--"

"She's got a bullet in her brain, Donna," Josh snapped. "It's not a
question of if she'll make it but how much longer."

Donna flinched, as much from the grim reality as from the harsh manner in
which it was delivered.

Josh realized he'd upset Donna and reached out for her hand. "I'm sorry. I
shouldn't have snapped at you like that. I'm just..."

"It's okay. I know," Donna said, squeezing his hand.


Leo walked into the Oval Office and found the President at his desk, deep
in thought. "Why don't you go on back to the residence, sir. There's
nothing more you can do."

"They tell me the shooter was mentally ill, Leo," Bartlet said, looking up
at his friend.

Leo nodded. "Yes, sir."

"Been in and out of hospitals and halfway houses his whole adult life,"
Bartlet continued. "Tossed around by the system, no one to give a damn, no
one to help him. I suppose I should feel sorry for him, shouldn't I? He
wasn't responsible for his actions, didn't understand what he was doing."

"I suppose."

"Then why is it, Leo, that all I can feel right now is hate?"


Sam glanced up from his laptop at Toby, sitting at the desk across the
room. They were both in Toby's office working up statements on the
incident, the sounds of their computer keys creating a constant rhythm.
Until a moment ago, that is, when Toby had stopped typing.

"What?" Sam asked.

"Huh?" Toby responded distractedly.

"You stopped typing," Sam said. "I was just wondering if everything was okay."

"Yeah," Toby replied. "I was just thinking."

"You wanna--"

"No."

"I'm just sayin'--"

"It's nothing."

The door to Toby's office opened and Josh came in, eyes red-rimmed. Sam and
Toby knew why he was there, and for a moment no one dared to speak.

Finally Sam broke the silence. "Josh? Is she...?"

Josh nodded slightly. The three men were silent while the news sunk in.
After a moment Josh cleared his throat. "The memorial service is Friday,"
he said in a strained voice. "I put her parents in touch with the
President's office to take care of all the arrangements."

"Of course," Toby said. "Are you--"

"I'm going home," Josh said, then turned and walked out of the office.


TO BE CONTINUED...

 

Next

 

 

Home        What's New        Author Listings        Title Listings