Leo McGarry looked up at the knock on the door of his hotel room.
Jed Bartlet, President of the United States, opened the door. Leo stood respectfully.
“Hey, Leo. Want to go for a walk?”
The Chief of Staff blinked. “You’re kidding.”
“Sir, it’s ten o’clock at night.”
The president nodded.
“We’re in Los Angeles.”
Jed cocked his head to one side.
“The Secret Service is gonna be pissed if we do.”
“Yep.” Jed raised his eyebrows. “So, want to go for a walk?”
Jed stuffed his hands into his jacket pockets. “Ah, it’s good to be out in the fresh air.”
“Okay, semi-fresh air.”
“Okay, polluted air, but we’re doing something about that, right?”
Leo threw him an exasperated look. Even after more than forty years of being his closest friend, Jed Bartlet could still get on his nerves. “Would you listen to me for a minute?”
Jed glanced at him out of the corner of his eye, a slight, mischievous smile on his lips.
Leo sighed. “We need to talk.”
His sigh was echoed and the smile disappeared. “I know.”
“The National Multiple Sclerosis Society wants you to give a speech.”
“About being the President and having MS.”
“I don’t think it’s a good idea on a reelection campaign. I think it’ll draw too much attention to your health, and not enough to the issues.”
“Yeah. Listen, Leo… I think I should. You know, there’s a lot of people out there with MS. Some of them doing their jobs, some who will never be able to work again. Now that people know I have this thing, I feel like I can do something for them.”
“But the other 99% of Americans don’t like to be reminded that their President is sick, even if it is in remission.”
“Mr. President, I—” He broke off, startled by a car pulling up near them. It was a black sedan, and looked like one of theirs, but something didn’t seem right. The Secret Service Agents on their protection detail, previously ignored, swarmed around them. Something was definitely wrong.
The doors flew open and the sound of automatic weapons fire filled the night. A second later, an explosion buffeted them.
Leo turned to Jed, trying to get between him and the shooters. Never mind that the agents were already there. He wanted to protect his President, his best friend. Agents were falling; Jed was on the ground, pinned under one of them.
He had barely registered that fact when another agent pulled him down. He wondered why they weren’t getting them out of there. He struggled to look up, to find the limousine that had been following. It was on fire. The explosion. There was nothing left but twisted, burning metal. There was nowhere for them to go.
The agent covering him jerked and went limp. Leo pushed himself out from under him, reaching for the 10mm pistol in the agent’s slack grasp. Just as his fingers brushed the warm metal, hands grabbed him, dragging him away.
“Leo!” Jed shouted. Leo twisted around, seeing Jed also being pulled toward the waiting car. But not by agents. Every one of the protection detail was lying on the sidewalk, either dead or dying. It was no comfort that he could see several of their attackers down as well.
The terrorists threw Jed into the back seat of the car, with Leo following a second later. Two gunmen piled in with them, the door slammed, and then they were driving off, leaving their dead behind.
“Hi Dad, it’s me. No, I’m on my way to the hospital. I’m on my cell phone.” Steve smiled. “No, Dad. I’m at a stoplight. Do you want a ride home? I thought we could go out to a late dinner.” Traffic on the police radio caught his attention. He leaned over to turn it up.
“Shots fired. Repeat, shots fired near 185th and San Juan Boulevard. Complainant reports multiple gun shots and automatic weapon’s fire. All units in the area, please respond.”
“Sorry, Dad. I think I’m going to be late. Got a call just a few blocks away. I’ll call you later.” A pause. “I love you too, Dad.”
Steve hung up the phone and put the cherry light out the window and onto the roof of his truck. Flipping on the siren, he headed to the scene.
“Lt. Steve Sloan, LAPD.” He showed his badge to the uniformed officer who had beaten him there.
The young man looked up from where he knelt beside a body. He nodded and let out a breath. “Yes Sir. I- I’m glad you’re here, Lieutenant.”
Steve nodded. He tried to give him a reassuring look, but all he managed was grim. There was blood everywhere. At first count, by the light of the burning car, he saw seven men down.
A second look showed two more a little farther away. “You get all the weapons?” He asked as he knelt beside a second victim. He was alive, but unconscious. He pressed a handkerchief to the chest wound.
“Yes, sir, I think so. I was going to leave them for the crime scene unit, but when I realized that some of them were still alive—“
“Ambulances on the way?”
“Yes, sir. They’re coming from St. Joseph’s and Community General. Those were the two nearest, and with so many…”
Steve let the officer trail off. He was looking at the victims. Six of them were wearing black suits and ties, the other three more casual clothing. A horrible suspicion began to form and his stomach knotted. “You check for ID?” he asked as his right hand felt inside the man’s jacket pockets.
“N- no… Not yet, I—“
Whatever else he was going to say was drowned out by sirens as three other police cars and two ambulances approached.
Steve wasn’t listening anyway. He was staring at the identification in his hand, his mouth dry. There wasn’t a cop in LA County who didn’t know why there would be so many Secret Service agents in one place here, tonight. He looked around, already on his feet. He looked at each face, searching.
“Was there anyone else?”
Steve whirled on the young officer. “Was there anyone else? Did you find any other bodies?”
Steve turned to look at the burning limousine. “Oh, God…”
Dr. Mark Sloan looked up from his desk in surprise at the near panic in the young doctor’s voice. “Jesse, what’s wrong?”
Jesse was leaning around the doorframe of Mark’s office. “Remember those drills we’ve been having for the last week?”
Mark took off his glasses with a sigh. “Another one?”
“It’s not a drill.”
“Oh my God.”
His chair fell back, unnoticed, as he ran from the room. Amanda joined them on the way to the Emergency Department.
“It’s not a drill? Are you sure?” She asked.
Mark nodded, not slowing. “Steve!” He called to his son as he entered the ER.
“Are you all right?” Fear was evident in the doctor’s voice. There was blood on Steve’s shirt.
“Yeah, it’s not mine.” He stepped aside as the first gurney was wheeled in, a Secret Service agent, IV lines trailing from each hand. A paramedic knelt between his legs, holding pressure on a chest wound.
For too long, chaos reigned. Steve tried to simply stay out of the way while he sorted out what the agent had told him in the ambulance, while he was still conscious. He’d called the FBI and the Secret Service from his cell phone; they assured him someone was on the way.
Steve turned. A man in a suit, mid-forties, strode in. As tall as he was, he still wasn’t a guy who would stand out in a crowd. “I’m Steve Sloan.”
“Special Agent Ron Butterfield, United States Secret Service. I’m told you spoke to one of my men.”
“Yes sir. He’s in surgery now.”
“I need to know everything he told you.”
Steve nodded and motioned toward the doctor’s lounge. “It’s not much.”
Steve filled him in on what little the agent had been able to tell him about the shooters. Two cars, at least eight men, automatic weapons. Then he told him about the President.
“He wasn’t injured?”
“Agent Taylor didn’t think so. He said the Chief of Staff was with him. He believed he was uninjured as well. Seems like they had this well planned.”
Ron didn’t comment. He sat in silence for a moment, then rose. “Thank you for your help, Lieutenant.” He gave Steve a long look, taking in the blood on his clothes. “I mean that. We’ll be in touch.”
Steve quickly stood. “I’ll do whatever I can to help.”
Another appraising look. Whatever he saw must have satisfied him. He nodded. “I’d appreciate that. You’ll have local contacts we don’t have. The FBI has agents on the way. We work together in situations like these.”
“I don’t think there’s ever been a situation like this,” Steve said grimly.
Ron’s gaze was equally grim. He rubbed his left hand as if it pained him. “No. Not like this.”
“Leo! Leo, wake up! Can you hear me?”
Leo moaned and rolled onto his side. Cold, slightly damp concrete kissed his cheek. He leaned into it, trying to ease some of the pain in his head.
“Leo? Are you all right?”
“I feel like I have the worst hangover since…” He broke off. “Jed?” His eyes flew open as memory struck. He squinted against the light. “Mr. President—“
He pushed himself to his hands and knees and looked around him. He was in some kind of prison cell. Jed stood on the other side of the bars, staring at him with intense, worried eyes. “Sir? Are you hurt?”
Jed shrugged. “I’m all right. Thank God you’re awake. That bastard hit you with a pistol.”
Leo looked around again. “Jesus,” he breathed.
“Why are your hands tied?” He moved closer to the bars, not quite touching his friend who leaned his shoulder into them. Jed’s hands were secured behind his back.
Jed shrugged again, not meeting Leo’s gaze. “Handcuffs. I don’t know.”
“We have to get out of here.”
“Yeah, no kidding.”
The door swung open and both men jerked involuntarily. Jed turned to face their captors. Leo gripped the bars tightly. Their captors were young to middle aged, from mid-twenties to late fifties. All were white, male, and had close-cropped haircuts. Several had visible tattoos, but one in particular was most prominent. A swastika. Leo got a sick feeling in his stomach.
“Mr. President.” The first man smiled mockingly.
Bartlet stood up straighter and glared at the man. Anger and authority filled his voice. “What do you want?”
“It didn’t take long for you to get back on your feet after Rosslyn, last year, did it?” The man continued as if the president hadn’t spoken. “You and your people have been busy. Trying to take away our guns, our freedoms! Or has it been killing babies and letting homosexuals teach our kids?”
“God forbid we should make certain people have equal rights.”
“You don’t get it, do you?” The leader stopped just inches from Jed and leaned over him. “This country was founded as a White Christian Nation! That’s the way it was meant to be!”
“That’s bull—” A hand cracked across Jed’s face.
“You show him, Tom!” The others shouted encouragement.
“You’re in my territory, now, Bartlet. You don’t speak unless I tell you,” he growled. He grabbed Jed’s arm and pulled him to the center of the room. He turned him roughly, so that he was facing a scarred, pitted wall. Leo, to his left, shifted uneasily.
“On your knees.”
Jed raised an eyebrow and looked Tom in the eye. “Right,” he said dryly. “Forget it.”
Another man pulled a gun from a holster at his side and pointed it at Leo.
Jed’s eyes widened as he looked from the gunman to Leo and back to Tom, who smiled slightly. “On your knees, now, or he dies.”
The President of the United States slowly knelt.
Tom stared down at him. Jed met his gaze evenly, his posture proud and defiant.
The terrorist moved to Jed’s right. He opened a sheet of paper and read aloud. “President Josiah Bartlet, the Knights of the Holy Order of the White Cross have found you guilty in a trial in absentia of the following crimes against the White Christian Nation of the United States of America: Discriminating against the White race with affirmative action laws, propagating the moral degradation of society by encouraging homosexuals in their foul sins, of soiling the White Race by allowing a Negro to court your daughter, the wrongful incarceration of David Barnes, John Cook, Lance Weaver, Cyril Plummer, Albert Beal and Henry Farnam who are imprisoned under the Hate Crimes Act, of defiling our government by hiring and appointing Negroes, Jews, Asians, Latinos and other inferior races, of defiling our land by allowing immigrants not of White European decent,” he paused. “And the murder of Leonard Bullard, Edmund Dobbin, Elliot Thurston and Donald Boxer, who died at the hands of the FBI, ATF or while wrongfully imprisoned under the Hate Crimes Act. We, the patriot citizens of the United States of America, find you guilty of these charges and sentence you to death.”