He is standing by the window, but he isn't looking out over the parking lot, or beyond it to the cars on the highway. His eyes are closed, and he is listening.

There is a roof below the window, probably sheltering the emergency entrance, and the rain that falls in large, fat drops has been drumming on it all evening. Not quite the same sound it made on the roof of the rental car as they crawled up Highway 5. That had been more metallic, a constant pinging accompanied by the whack-whack of the wipers all the way from SeaTac.

He runs a hand over his head, probing the neat line of stitches in his scalp. The noise of the blowout, sharp as a gunshot, is still ringing in his ears. The radio was still playing, an all-news station talking about homeland security and the bill of rights, after the car had careened off the road and landed on its passenger side in the ditch, when he was hanging in the seatbelt harness, looking down at the still figure of his deputy while the rain streamed past the windshield and turned the world outside into a watercolor painting.

In the corridor outside this private room, people squish by on soft-soled shoes and call muted names over the PA system. Inside there is only the rain and the beep beep beep of the heart monitor – just a precaution, Mr. Ziegler, standard procedure in these cases – that at once shreds his nerves and keeps him grounded.

"Toby?" The voice is raspy, weak.

Sam, who will go so much farther than Toby Ziegler could ever dream of going, who will maybe even be President someday, is confused and a little scared and needs him.

He opens his eyes and turns away from the window. "Hey, Sam."