It's a ring, he thought, when he heard the girls screaming and sobbing. A ring or the rabbit died. All it took was one girl coming back from lunch with a diamond or a baby on the way and then all of them were no good for the rest of the day. It was silly, really, but he couldn't blame them for celebrating getting the things they wanted most.
It's a heck of a thing, he imagined himself saying. Who's the lucky man? He'd offer the girl a drink and make a toast. Heck of a thing.
He was ready when the door to his office opened. "Heck of a— Cosgrove?"
Through the open door he could see the girls, crying as he'd thought, but not with joy. Some of the guys were providing comfort, others were milling about near Don's office. There was a low buzz of conversation, barely audible above the sobs and shocked gasps.
"Campbell," Cosgrove called out. "In here."
Pete followed him into the office. "Kennedy," he said. Then he repeated it, to get a feel for the room. "Kennedy."
"Paul's bringing the television from his office." Sal crossed his legs and rested his ankle on his left knee. "It's on every station."
H e nodded, as if he understood.
"Kennedy was shot," Don said.
"Right next to Jackie," Sal said with a shudder. "Poor dear."
"Coming through." They moved aside to make room for Paul to push the television cart into Don's office. Everyone watched silently as Paul knelt to plug it in. Once he had, he rose and changed the channels and angled the rabbit ears until a picture came into focus.
"Twelve thirty two p.m. central standard time… President Kennedy shot… Rushed to Parkland Hospital in Dallas…"
Cosgrove's voice shattered the silence. "Is he dead?"
"Poor Jackie. And those darling children. So sad."
Pete sat on the couch and accepted the drink handed to him. "How does a thing like this happen? He's the President."
"Nobody's safe," Peggy said, drawing her arms in around her body and hugging herself. "If this can happen to the President, it can happen to anyone."
"She's right, you know." Cosgrove slumped back into the sofa. "Things like this, they shouldn't happen."
"We don't know what's happened, yet," Don said. "And I think we should all calm down until we do."
The room fell silent and Pete bobbed his head along with Don. "Yes, best to wait and see. No need to rush into things." It was always best to act only after having all information in your grasp. Going forward without all the details could lead to errors and embarrassment.
His eyes met Don's over the group. Don nodded once at Pete in approval. Creative types, they could get out of control if there wasn't a firm hand leading them. Someone had to show everyone how to behave. He and Don both understood that.
One of the girls peered tentatively around the door. She was red-eyed and her hair was mussed. Very unprofessional. "Mr. Draper? Mrs. Draper is on the phone."
Don held his hand up to silence the room while he took the call. "We don't know what's happened yet," he repeated. He used the same tone and inflections as he'd used with the room, Pete noted. The he softened his voice slightly. "I'm sure they'll tell us as soon as they know."
Pete stood then edged near the door and the crying secretary. "Why don't you get yourself a glass of water." The girl nodded through her sniffles. "No need to get so upset until we know more." She smiled gratefully at him.
"Nice going, Campbell. Get them when they're vulnerable."
He nodded vaguely. That hadn't been his intention but it was good to know. People could be so different in the ways they perceived you. You had to remember not only to whom you were speaking but who might be paying attention. Cosgrove wouldn't have thought that of Don, Pete thought. What was the difference between them, that Don would be assumed to be offering comfort and he to be taking advantage? Something to think about.
He gestured at the television. "What's happening?"
"I just wish we knew something!" Peggy burst out. "This waiting is killing me!"
Sal rubbed her back and Paul poured her a drink. Normally abstemious, Peggy accepted. Everyone except for he and Don had more than their usual share of drinks today. People did that when they were upset. Pete didn't because he found it to interfere with his carefully schooled behavior. As to why Don didn't, he didn't know, but he'd rarely known Don to overindulge, unless there was something to prove. Apparently there was nothing to prove here, no measurement of one's reaction to tragedy to which one had to adhere. That was a nice change of pace.
"Something's happening," he said, and indeed it was. The network anchor disappeared and was replaced by footage of a man he didn't recognize standing in front of a podium, the seal of the United States of America hanging behind him.
"Malcolm Kilduff," Sal explained. "Acting White House Press Secretary." He took a deep breath and continued to rub Peggy's back. "This is it."
"I don't know if I can watch," she said.
Sal murmured sounds of comfort while Cosgrove and Paul edged away from her. Unsure of what to do, Pete studied Don, looking for cues. He didn't want Peggy or anyone else to think he was behaving improperly and trying to take advantage while she was vulnerable, but his every attempt at comfort seemed to be met with that attitude. It wouldn't do to have Peggy think that now. Or Don.
"It'll be okay." Don stood behind his desk and slightly turned to face the television. "Whatever's happened has happened. We'll get through it."
"President Kennedy was pronounced dead at one p.m. central standard time."
Don sat heavily down in his chair and hid his face in his hands.
Pete stared blankly ahead, feeling rudderless and alone, though from the lack of Kennedy or Don he didn't know.