On the fourth floor of the ABC television studios, Gabrielle Ashe sat alone in Yolandas glass‑walled office and stared at the fraying carpet. She had always prided herself on good instincts and knowing whom she could trust. Now, for the first time in years, Gabrielle felt alone, uncertain which way to turn.
The sound of her cellphone lifted her gaze from the carpet. Reluctant, she picked up. Gabrielle Ashe.
Gabrielle, its me.
She recognized the timbre of Senator Sextons voice immediately, although he sounded surprisingly calm considering what had just transpired.
Its been one hell of a night over here, he said, so just let me talk. Im sure you saw the Presidents conference. Christ, did we play the wrong cards. Im sick over it. Youre probably blaming yourself. Dont. Who the hell would have guessed? Not your fault. Anyhow, listen up. I think there may be a way to get our feet back under us.
Gabrielle stood up, unable to imagine what Sexton could be talking about. This was hardly the reaction she had expected.
I had a meeting tonight, Sexton said, with representatives from private space industries, and‑
You did? Gabrielle blurted, stunned to hear him admit it. I mean . . . I had no idea.
Yeah, nothing major. I would have asked you to sit in, but these guys are touchy about privacy. Some of them are donating money to my campaign. Its not something they like to advertise.
Gabrielle felt totally disarmed. But . . . isnt that illegal?
Illegal? Hell no! All the donations are under the two‑thousand‑dollar cap. Small potatoes. These guys barely make a dent, but I listen to their gripes anyway. Call it an investment in the future. Im quiet about it because, frankly, the appearances arent so great. If the White House caught wind, theyd spin the hell out of it. Anyhow, look, thats not the point. I called to tell you that after tonights meeting, I was talking to the head of the SFF . . .
For several seconds, although Sexton was still talking, all Gabrielle could hear was the blood rushing in shame to her face. Without the slightest challenge from her, the senator had calmly admitted tonights meeting with private space companies. Perfectly legal. And to think what Gabrielle had almost considered doing! Thank God Yolanda had stopped her. I almost jumped ship to Marjorie Tench!
. . . and so I told the head of the SFF, the senator was saying, that you might be able to get that information for us.
Gabrielle tuned back in. Okay.
The contact from whom youve been getting all your inside NASA information these past few months? I assume you still have access?
Marjorie Tench. Gabrielle cringed knowing she could never tell the senator that the informant had been manipulating her all along. Um . . . I think so, Gabrielle lied.
Good. Theres some information I need from you. Right away.
As she listened, Gabrielle realized just how badly she had been underestimating Senator Sedgewick Sexton lately. Some of the mans luster had worn off since shed first begun following his career. But tonight, it was back. In the face of what appeared to be the ultimate death blow to his campaign, Sexton was plotting a counterattack. And although it had been Gabrielle who led him down this inauspicious path, he was not punishing her. Instead, he was giving her a chance to redeem herself.
And redeem herself she would.
Whatever it took.