Here is part two. Disclaimers in part 1. I will post part three tomorrow afternoon.

At the White House, Toby and CJ quickly joined Deputy Director of Communications Sam Seaborn in Leo’s office. All four keenly felt Josh’s absence. Eyeing his staff, Leo quickly surmised that everyone knew about their friend's probable whereabouts. Clearing his throat, he began to speak. "Okay. Toby, I trust you filled CJ in on the details." Toby nodded. "Sorry CJ, I did not want to take the chance over the phone." CJ nodded as well, understanding his caution. "Sam, what's the latest from Delta?"

"The manifest is on its way via secure fax. Margaret is standing by and will bring it right in here. The press will not get it before nine - that buys us six hours."

Leo acknowledged Sam's report then continued. "The president is in constant contact with London. There are at least nine heavily armed terrorists. They were disguised as ground crews and shot their way onto the plane. Four security offices, six ground workers and at least three passengers are dead. The passenger's bodies were thrown onto the tarmac. The rest are still where they fell as of 15 minutes ago. Negotiators are trying to arrange for medical personnel to be allowed to approach the plane and remove the bodies. We wont know anything until that happens." Leo paused. No one had to ask what he meant. "The terrorists claim to be IRA. That has not been confirmed and this is out of character. They need Irish American support. CJ - you will brief the press in 20 minutes. Emphasize the facts and that we do not know the identity of the terrorists or the passengers. Emphasize that the president is in constant contact with London and that the situation is fluid. I don't have to tell anyone in this room that the press cannot know that Josh may be on that plane. If he is he’s an anonymous hostage. If he is tied to this office his life is in much greater danger."

Everyone in the room nodded, Sam started to speak, but before he could open his mouth there was a knock at the door. Toby stuck his head out then backed up as Margaret entered. Crossing the room she handed the fax to Leo than exited. The Chief of staff quickly scanned the list he’d been given.

"This is the flight manifest from Delta. 225 passengers. Nine crew. 184 passengers and 7 crew are Americans. The rest are a mix of nationalities, mostly British and Irish." Leo inhaled then set the fax on his desk. Taking off his glasses he rubbed his eyes. "Josh’s name is on the manifest and his is listed as having boarded the plane."

Around Leo the staff bowed their heads at the confirmation of their worst fears. For a moment no one spoke, then Sam raised his head, his voice small. "Leo, I know this has to stay within these walls, but what about Donna?"

Leo slumped back in his chair. "I’ll tell Donna. She deserves to know as do Margaret and Mrs. Landingham. I will personally call Josh’s family on a secure line. I will emphasize to everyone that there can be no leaks. I will not sugar coat it. If this gets out it could mean Josh’s life."

"What do we do about the press?" Toby asked. Leo and the others eyed CJ.

CJ closed her eyes and sighed. "I am going to pull in favors. I am going to ask every reporter and editor I know not to mention Josh. I am going to say that we cannot let people find out this way and that we might endanger these hostages. I am going to beg and debase myself if I have to." CJ was shaking. Toby, the closest one to her, put his arms around her shoulders.

Leo eyed his press secretary. "Thank you. I . . we know you will do what you can."

"Can’t we just ask Delta to take his name off the list?" Sam asked, his face showing the fear for his best friend.

Leo shook his head. "No. That’s tampering with the Freedom of Information Act. Its illegal. We can’t and Josh wouldn’t want us to. It could come out anyway and really cause problems. This way at least maybe we can get the press on our side."

Sam nodded as did the others. "Okay, " Leo said. "Let’s get to work."


Friends and Lovers- Grace Under Pressure - 3



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