Stephane Dion emerged from the elevator just past midnight, walking fast in a dark suit, his wife at his right, his daughter at his left. Down the hall, past the water fountain, then a left, then another hundred feet and into the first burst of camera flashes and questions.
“Mr. Dion, can you stay on as leader?”
He kept walking. The mob crushed in close. One of his bodyguards, perhaps a bit protective of Mr. Dion by now, sent a TV correspondent sprawling. Mr. Dion paused briefly to appeal for calm, then kept on.
As he arrived at the ballroom he pulled Janine and Jeanne in close, one arm around each. He waded through his supporters then climbed on stage, waving to the crowd, but unable to muster a smile. In the audience, one of his long-time aides watched with red eyes.
The speech was brief, the crowd quiet, the only sound coming from the dozen cameras clicking at his feet. Up close, his voice bouncing off the walls, his words seemed somehow disembodied.
Unlike the brisk walk on the way in, his exit was slow. A long, silent march back to the elevator, flashes popping in his eyes. Down the hall, turn left, down another hall, turn right. Past the water fountain and the bar and the lobby and then up and away from this.