"It's done. I'm looking at it now. It's good. In fact it's very good and it's done." Sam struggled to keep the phone tucked under his chin as he put on his coat.
"Yes, Toby…no…yes…okay I'm going-" Toby interrupted Sam again and so he decided to just let him rant as he continued to collect his belongings together.
"Toby…Toby…you know what? I'm going to hang up now because instead of standing here in my apartment telling you what I've written I could actually be, you know, at work, showing you." Sam smiled to himself as Toby continued to quiz him about the speech that he had spent most of the night finishing.
"Yes I know we're meeting Mitchell in an hour…yes I know that too and if you don't hang up there's every chance I will still be standing here in an hour." Sam reached for his briefcase and in doing so knocked the speech off the table. It fluttered down to the floor, sheet upon sheet. "Okay, we probably could have done without that," he muttered as he crouched down and started to re-order the pile of papers.
"Nothing, no nothing's wrong, Toby…I'm on my way…I'm going now…I'm hanging up." Sam sighed loudly as he flipped his phone shut and continued to try to work out the order of the pages. Glancing at the clock, he decided that he would have to finish the task at work. Half of the pile was in order and the other half still needed sorting. He had the speech on his laptop so it wasn't really a problem but he also knew Toby would want to see it as soon as he got in. He bundled the pages together and shoved them into his briefcase. Grabbing his keys from the side he rushed out of his apartment and to his car.
Sam threw the briefcase onto the front seat and ran around to the driver's side. He started the engine, started to pull out then slammed his brakes on as a car he hadn't seen whizzed by him. Okay, just slow down, Sam, he told himself. The need for Toby to see the speech before staff really wasn't worth getting his car wrecked for. He pulled out, this time checking over his shoulder twice first. It had been raining hard all morning but now the sun was breaking through the clouds. Sam fumbled for his sunglasses to combat the glare of the sun on the wet road. Unable to find them he settled for pulling down the eyeshade instead. He turned a corner and grabbed hold of his briefcase before it could slide away from him and off the seat.
With one hand on the wheel, Sam propped the case back against the passenger seat and then attempted to clip it shut. His fingers groped the metal latch as he kept his gaze on the road ahead. The sun continued to shine as a sudden downpour began which took Sam completely by surprise. He flicked on his wipers to the fastest setting. Not only was the sun still glaring but now the rain was making it almost impossible to see anything more that a few feet ahead. He pressed lightly on the breaks a couple of times and then slowed down.
'There'll be a rainbow,' he thought to himself and that was the last thought he had before his world was irrevocably changed by the events that followed.
He heard the scream first, then the dull thud. Between the wipers' furious strokes he saw a figure zoom towards him and then disappear. He slammed down on the brakes and skidded in the rain before he came to a stop. He sat still for a few seconds gripping the steering wheel. The wipers continued to swish from side to side. It had stopped raining and the smooth sound had been replaced by a repetitive squeaking. Sam heard the sound of cars braking behind him and was then shunted forward violently. In the seconds of silence that followed, Sam heard a scream. It shook him from his daze and he fumbled with his seatbelt before jumping out of the car. He looked at the woman whose scream he had heard. She was still screaming and Sam was relieved but amazed to see that the figure that a few moments ago had been hurled up into the air was now standing and walking and making a noise.
She was staring directly at Sam now. Her face was pleading with him as her screams were replaced with words. "Help her…please…help her." She stopped looking at Sam and her horrified expression switched to the ground beside his car. He moved quickly and then stopped suddenly as he saw what she was staring at. Sprawled on the ground was another young woman, her body motionless but her eyes open and staring. Sam sat down beside her. He knew he shouldn't move her so he reached for her hand. Behind him he could hear someone calling an ambulance. The woman felt Sam's hand and tried to sit up but he told her not to move and asked her what her name was.
"Claire," she managed.
"I'm Sam." Her eyes widened and she groaned. Her raspy breaths turned into coughs and Sam wiped the blood away from her mouth. For a brief moment their eyes locked. Sam didn't care about not moving her anymore and placed her head gently in his lap. He felt her hand squeezing his but could make no sense of her mumbled words. He felt the warm blood sticking to his shirt. He watched helplessly as her eyes widened again. This time there was no groan, just a sudden expulsion of air. Her eyes closed and her hand fell limp in his.
The next thing Sam felt was someone forcefully pulling him up and away. He watched as the paramedics worked on the lifeless form in front of him. He wanted to tell them that it was no use. She had died in his arms. Instead he walked away and back to his car.
One of the paramedics watched him go. She tried to prioritise between the still hysterical woman by the side of the road and the shocked man walking away from her. She decided to tend to the girl first; the man was just sitting in his car and by the looks of the damage the car behind had caused, he wasn't going anywhere.
Nobody saw Sam open the passenger's door and remove the papers from his briefcase. Nobody saw him look vacantly around and then start walking away, Now I'm really going to be late, he thought, as the frantic voices and flashing blue lights faded behind him.
Toby listened to Josh explaining to Leo what they had decided to do about Mitchell.
"We're going to show him the speech first and when he knows what the President intends to say he should back down."
Leo nodded. "Good, show him what's on the table but don't discuss alternatives. I mean he's already got what, two, three-"
"Two paragraphs," Toby told him in a tone that suggested that it was two too many.
"Yeah, two paragraphs, and there's probably more in them than Mitchell knows about the subject anyway." Leo sighed, "Have you read it yet?"
Toby shifted forward so that he could see through the doorway. "No, and I won't be happy until Sam walks through that door and actually hands me the damn thing."
Leo moved on to the next item and nobody paid much attention to Sam as he quietly entered the room, passed the papers to Toby and went and sat on the seat furthest away from them.
Toby had felt the papers shoved into his hand and frowned as he continued to listen to Leo and shuffle them back into some form of order. He felt something sticky on his fingers and wondered how Sam had managed to spill coffee on them during the short distance between his car and Leo's office. He wiped his hand across his trousers and started to look at how much damage Sam had caused. He didn't recognise the red stain for what it was at first. His mind filed through a list of alternatives before he looked at his deputy, his stomach turning as he realised exactly what the stain was. Sam was sitting forward, his arms wrapped around his waist.
"Sam." Toby called his name, cutting Leo off in mid sentence. Toby moved quickly to Sam's side. The others watched in alarm as, despite Sam's protests, Toby un-wrapped his arms and pulled his jacket open. CJ gasped and Josh cursed as Toby revealed his blood-soaked shirt. Toby sat beside Sam who still tried to bat his hands away. Josh moved to his other side and held his arms as Toby frantically pulled his shirt from his pants. Finding no wound on his front, Josh pulled him forward so that Toby could look at his back. Satisfied that the blood was not Sam's, Toby eased him gently back against the sofa.
"What's happened, Sam?" Toby asked. Sam looked at Josh and Toby, his face void of expression. Now that his arms were still, Josh grabbed one of his hands. He squeezed tightly but Sam's hand was lifeless in his.
"It's alright, Sam," Toby continued, "You're safe now, tell us what happened."
Sam stared fixedly at Toby but again made no response. Everyone was too shocked by the sudden turn of events to even show surprise when a secret service agent burst into the room.
"He's here," he called over his shoulder and was followed by another agent, a police officer and two paramedics. The paramedics immediately went to Sam, watched closely by the police officer. One of them was the woman who had watched him walk back to his car earlier, she cursed silently as she took in Sam's blank expression and pale face.
"I told you," she said harshly to the officer standing behind her. He just shrugged and continued to watch her examine Sam. "Hi Sam, I'm Beth. Are you in any pain?" Sam didn't respond but Beth hadn't expected him too. She kept talking to him anyway.
Toby and CJ walked over to Leo and listened to the story the agent had managed to piece together so far. Josh stayed with Sam, who was now beginning to become more aware of his surroundings. The officer came over and stood behind the paramedics.
"Sir, can you tell me what happened?" Sam's gaze switched from the floor to the officer and then to Josh. "You wandered off from the scene sir."
"Don't say anything, Sam," Toby called over.
The officer crouched down beside Sam. "We need to know what happened."
"Back off," Josh warned. "You can see he's in no state to talk. You can question him later with his lawyer present. It's not like he'll have trouble finding one, I mean, there are three in the room right now."
The officer nodded and stepped away from the sofa. He knew Josh hadn't told him how many lawyers were present just to make conversation. During the exchange Sam had started to stare at his hands. He turned them slowly over and studied both sides of them. They were covered with blood. With a bewildered face he turned to Josh.
"I've got blood on my hands."
Everyone in the room turned at the sound of Sam's voice. He looked at the group standing with Leo, then at the officer, he turned his gaze quickly to the paramedics and then to Josh. Finally he looked down at his bloodied shirt pulling it away from his body. Josh watched, transfixed, as the realization of what had happened came crashing down on Sam. His breathing became harsher and his eyes closed, he wrapped his arms around his waist and rocked himself as he started to moan, "Oh God, oh no, oh God," over and over again.
The sound of Sam's cries filled the silent room and for a few seconds nobody reacted.
Before Josh could make a move to comfort him the paramedics had taken over. One of them talking calmly to Sam while the other tried to un-wrap his arms and make him open his eyes and look at him. Josh walked over to the window and stared out of it, trying to block out the sounds. Gradually the paramedics calmed him down until all that could be heard were his irregular, shuddering breaths.
Toby walked over to Sam and crouched in front of him. Sam turned to him and Toby thought how he preferred it when Sam's expression had been blank. At least then he didn't have to look at the horrified stare that met him now. He reached out and placed his hand on Sam's. Josh too, walked back over to where he sat and took up his place by the end of the sofa.
Beth left the group and walked over to Leo. "We're going to take him in."
"Is that necessary? Wouldn't it better if he stayed here with us? We can make sure he's alright." Leo knew it was pointless arguing with the woman but for some reason he had an urge to keep Sam safe in the White House. Leo turned at the voice of one of the agents behind him.
"I think it would be in everyone's interests if they take Sam to hospital. You've already got Officer Dibble over there wanting to know why Sam left the scene of the accident."
"You're saying Sam should be admitted to hospital for PR reasons," CJ asked incredulously.
"No," Beth interrupted, "Sam should be admitted because he's in shock, not responding how we would like and has suffered some injuries from the impact of the car that crashed into his and as he wandered off we don't know if he lost consciousness." She walked away leaving Leo, CJ and the agent to finish the discussion. The policeman made arrangements with Josh for Sam to make a statement and then left.
The paramedics gently helped Sam to his feet and started to lead him out of the room. He was completely compliant. He no longer seemed aware of anything or anyone, just the two steady hands holding him up and guiding him forward.
Toby began to follow them out but stopped when Leo called after him. "You can't go. You're meeting with Mitchell." Toby turned and looked at Leo. He knew he was right. They had spent the last week preparing for this meeting. Toby had just wanted the decision not to follow Sam to be made for him. Josh started to pull on his jacket.
"But I can go, right? I'm not meeting with anyone. I'm free all morning."
Leo stopped Josh in his tracks. "CJ's going." CJ looked surprised and waited for Leo to explain. "You find out every single detail about Sam's condition and treatment. You get the medical jargon explained to you, you say nothing to the press, you make sure the hospital doesn't release a statement, then you come back here and Toby will help you prepare for the briefing."
Josh had been halfway out of the door when Leo had spoken. Now he came back into the room slamming the door behind him, "I can't believe…you're putting a spin on this?"
"I'm not spinning anything. I'm trying to protect Sam." Leo sighed as he realised that Josh still didn't know the full story. "Sam ran a woman down this morning and killed her, and if that sounds harsh it's going to sound even harsher when it's splashed over the papers with the head-line, 'President's Senior Staffer leaves scene to seek refuge in White House'.
"Do we know what happened?" Josh had paled slightly at Leo's words. He had known that something awful had happened to Sam. But he had assumed that he'd had an accident and at the very worst seen someone die, never for one moment did it occur to him that Sam was in some way responsible.
"We know that he hit the woman and that he stayed with her until… from what the paramedics said Sam was with her when she died. It was raining and there was that damn glare on the road from the sun." Leo paused and admitted, "We don't know what happened."
CJ was the first to move. "I should get going." She looked at Josh apologetically, knowing that he wished he was going in her place. As she left the room Charlie entered. He was holding Sam's possessions which had been removed from his car. Toby was relieved to see his laptop; it meant he could throw the bloodied speech away and print off a new copy. He took all of Sam's things and put them neatly away in his office. He managed to catch CJ before she left and handed her Sam's coat.
When Ginger knocked on the door of the men's room, Toby ignored it. He was busy, bent over the sink watching it fill with water.
"Toby, Congressman Mitchell is here." She pushed the door ajar and poked her head around the corner. "He's been waiting for fifteen minutes." She watched Toby ringing a cloth in the water.
"Well he won't mind waiting another fifteen then," Toby bellowed. He sighed, turned to Ginger and apologised.
She walked into the room. "I can do this. You've got a meeting." She waited a few seconds and then Toby handed her the cloth. He looked at himself in the mirror for a moment then adjusted his tie.
"I should have given him the bloodied copy. That would have shut him up," he mumbled before he left.
Ginger watched him leave and then went back to her task. Toby had done a good job but there was still a little blood on Sam's briefcase and she carefully sponged it off, trying not to get the leather too wet.
"Okay, psychogenic shock, and that's why he wandered off?" CJ sat with a doctor writing every word he said on a notepad.
"That's a term most people will understand…this is for the press I take it?" CJ nodded. "We tend to call it 'protective withdrawal' or 'emotional crises'. Whatever you call it, Mr Seaborn basically shut-down in order to try to deal with what happened. As there's no sign of concussion we can assume that's the case. The symptoms the paramedics described certainly back that up. He passed out in the ambulance but came round in the ER and was agitated…am I going too fast?" CJ shook her head. "He was agitated so we decided to give him something to help calm him down. He's been out ever since but he should wake up in a few hours. Depending on how he is when he wakes, he can go home. I'd rather someone stayed with him though, it's those missing twenty minutes, if we knew what had happened then I'd feel a lot happier."
"Well Amen to that," CJ agreed. "Can I see him?"
"He won't wake for good while yet."
"Still, I'd just like to check in on him before I go."
The doctor led the way to Sam's room and held the door open, shutting it quietly behind her. She walked over to the bed and put her hand on his. He looked peaceful. His breathing was deep and slow. She knew that when he woke he would struggle to find this peace again and without drugs she doubted he would sleep like this for a long time. She bent down and kissed his forehead. "Don't wake up yet," she whispered. She let go of his hand, left the room and headed back to the White House.