10:27. Most of the West Wing had grown quiet hours ago. Office doors had closed for the night. The fire-hot bulbs of desk lamps had darkened and cooled. Soundless, non-skid soles of nighttime custodians replaced the furious daytime cadences of high heels. Quiet. Silence.

Josh stood from his desk chair, his limbs heavy as he plodded across his office. He rolled his shoulder as he raised his arm to switch on the radio that roosted near his bookshelves. Spinning the tuner dial to the left, Josh leaned against the file cabinet and listened, driving his fingers through his hair, ready to stop for a familiar melody. Budget analysis had nearly lulled him to sleep; his brain needed a change. New material. Just enough to recharge before he forced himself back into his chair.

The drowsy haze lifted-vanished-and Josh jerked his hand away as a soft minor chord drifted out of the speakers.

"Come on, Josh. I can play the whole thing while we're waiting. All the way through, no stopping. You'll like it. Come here."

He stomped to the corner of the living room, reluctantly abandoning the kitchen archway where the air carried the aroma of warm, buttery oil. Joanie's smile stretched wide, and she waited until Josh reached the piano before she positioned her hands and struck the first note.

Josh braced himself against the cabinet. His fingertips slid over the glossy metal, and he gripped the corners, blinking rapidly as his skin pulled over his knuckles, thin and tight. He knew this piece; circumstance had branded it into his memory.

He hadn't heard it-hadn't wanted to hear it-in twenty-five years.

He frowned, smearing his fingerprints on the polished surface of Joanie's Mason & Hamlin, crossing one foot behind the other as he propped his elbows on the lid.

Joanie shook her head, gently swaying on the bench with her music. "Mom's going to make you clean that when she gets home."

He defiantly slapped both hands on the lid, leaving complete hand-prints. "Joanie, can't you do this after we had-"

"No, listen to this," she interrupted, her smile growing wider. "Here's where it really starts."

The sudden right-hand arpeggios-rapid and whirling-punched the breath out of him like a blast of subzero winter wind.

As Josh closed his eyes, he struggled to hear Chopin's Etude Op. 25 No. 11 without the gallop of his own heartbeat, without the hiss of curling wallpaper, the groan of cracking timber. Without Joanie's voice and her shrieked demand to go! Go! Get out, Josh! Now!