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“Shit,” the taxi driver said, looking over his shoulder at Gabrielle. “Looks like an accident up ahead. We ain’t going nowhere. Not for a while.”

Gabrielle glanced out the window and saw the spinning lights of emergency vehicles piercing the night. Several policemen stood in the road ahead, halting traffic around the Mall.

“Must be a hell of an accident,” the driver said, motioning toward some flames near the FDR Memorial.

Gabrielle frowned at the flickering glow. Now, of all times. She needed to get to Senator Sexton with this new information about PODS and the Canadian geologist. She wondered if NASA’s lies about how they found the meteorite would be a big enough scandal to breathe life back into Sexton’s campaign. Maybe not for most politicians, she thought, but this was Sedgewick Sexton, a man who had built his campaign on amplifying the failures of others.

Gabrielle was not always proud of the senator’s ability to put negative ethical spin on opponents’ political misfortunes, but it was effective. Sexton’s mastery of innuendo and indignity could probably turn this one compartmentalized NASA fib into a sweeping question of character that infected the entire space agency‑and by association, the President.

Outside the window, the flames at the FDR Memorial seemed to climb higher. Some nearby trees had caught fire, and the fire trucks were now hosing them down. The taxi driver turned on the car radio and began channel‑surfing.

Sighing, Gabrielle closed her eyes and felt the exhaustion roll over her in waves. When she’d first come to Washington, she’d dreamed of working in politics forever, maybe someday in the White House. At the moment, however, she felt like she’d had enough politics for a lifetime‑the duel with Marjorie Tench, the lewd photographs of herself and the senator, all of NASA’s lies . . .

A newscaster on the radio was saying something about a car bomb and possible terrorism.

I’ve got to get out of this town, Gabrielle thought for the first time since coming to the nation’s capital.