Chapter 16

She should have been a wreck, a mess, falling apart. She wasn’t.

She felt better than she had in at least a year.

She crossed back to DC over Chain Bridge, across the same river, just downstream but with current much more dangerous. She was going against afternoon rush hour and the going was slow. At the light on MacArthur Boulevard, she flipped open her phone and called Andy: “Pretty much no comment,” she said. “But he was babbling about having plenty of comparables. I know you have that in there.”

She got Linney from Jessica’s, with many thanks. “Hot out there,” she said. “But it went a lot easier than I thought it would.”

She got home, actually cooked—chicken, pasta, salad—ate dinner with Nils, telling him only what had happened in the office, mentioning nothing about her trip to Seth’s. She gave Linney a bath and they sang together, then she fed her and put her down. She had a glass of wine while Nils watched Sports Center, then pulled him into the shower with her and got inventive with the towel rack, which she was still light enough to hang onto without pulling it out of the wall.

She scanned the news all weekend, enjoying hearing the occasional burbles about Sinclair. She avoided calling Bebe or Lee. Saturday, they saw the Sisters, and when they made their suggestions about what she should be doing, she smiled and sailed on.

Life could, apparently, be made more than tolerable if one were going around secretly almost getting shot at. It was a discovery she would have to learn to work with. She suspected in the future she would need a secret adrenaline source, just like an addict would have a hidden stash. Maybe she could take up rock climbing—skydiving was too expensive. Or a decent project. As she drove Sunday to meet the Sisters for a brunch on Capitol Hill, she took the route down North Capitol, and watched a mother pushing a stroller when she was stopped at a light. Was anyone giving her duct tape and Cipro in case of a terrorist chemical attack? But the post office at Brentwood, where the two workers had died of anthrax, wasn’t far away from that corner. They’d never let her in to the post office, of course—it had all gone federal. And the people in the neighborhood might never trust her. But she could try. It was evil, the way the people there had been treated. The government had given the workers on Capitol Hill all kinds of protections against anthrax, but had waited to treat the postal workers at Brentwood—waited too long, it turned out. She’d have to see what she could get away with. There might be a shitstorm with her name on it to deal with come Monday.

It didn’t wait that long to hit.

Andy called her at home Sunday afternoon, and that was something that did not happen, ever.

“Did you read the Patriot Papers?” he asked. This was a trashy but avidly read right-wing blog. It would have been ignored by most, except for the fact that right-wingers had found it a convenient place to break anonymously sourced stories against Democrats—and after that, some of these same stories had found sources and broken big and badly in the mainstream. This gave its writer, a funnel-cake addict who sometimes actually appeared in public wearing a tricorn hat, the illusion that he was a “real newsman,” although up until he had made the move to revolutionary blogger, he had by all accounts been a successful and well-liked Radio Shack assistant manager.

“Did he pick it up?” she said. “What else was it on?” She’d seen a Sinclair piece in the Post, on A16, but not bad.

“No. I mean he picked it up to deny it, but I’m talking about something else. Look, before you even see it, I want you to know I’m on it. I’ve been doing damage control.”


“It’s about you. No names. I’m the only one who would know it’s you. It’ll never fly. Please, Malone, don’t worry. No one will take this anywhere. It’ll choke and die right there where it lays, three screens in. I’m serious. No one will go with this. It’s a complete fabrication. Whatever I don’t get rid of, Harlan will shut down tomorrow.”

“What are you talking about?”

“Just check it out, and I’ll see you at work tomorrow. Don’t stay up all night. I wanted you to know I’ve already got it.”

She was entirely unprepared for what she found after a good 15 minutes of searching around the idiot Patriot Pages.

Castro-supporting D-list pop musician Jackson Hill, formerly of the band Seawall, made the news when he got into trouble about a month ago on suspicions of kiddie porn and terrorist supporting emails. But when liberal fans rushed to the Bono-wanabe’s defense, all the charges magically went away. Funny how that happens. Yet what many don’t know is that he was hanging out with an old crony—a photographer for the puffy Capital Life magazine, who has delusions of playing gotcha paparazzi on noted Republicans, without much success. And what else many don’t know: this libtard shooter won her notoriety when she photographed a series on young runaway boys. Birds of a feather, anyone?

She didn’t sleep. She pretended to read a book all night. She knew that Andy was right. This was just a side squirt of the long-running pissing match between Harlan and Sinclair, part of the latest flare-up between the East Coast and the West Coast crews.

But it was also the flip side of the energy the secret had given her, she realized. Taking action had made her feel free, and this night of fear was the payback. Fear after fear welled up—that Nils and the Sisters would somehow believe it, that they’d be able to take her daughter away, that her friends would leave her, that Jessica would spit at her, that she would be put away, medicated into submission and tied down when she resisted, like her brother—like her brother. That she was ill, like her brother, and maybe this was just the first symptom. She wrestled each one, pressing it down to nothing. She would stay cool. Sometime around 4 a.m., she remembered Bebe talking about honesty and authenticity, that the secret to looking honest was to give less away. She’d give it a try—withhold, and withhold more. The corollary was the phrase everyone lived with since the attacks: If you don’t have anything to hide, you don’t have anything to worry about. If she didn’t sleep, she wouldn’t have nightmares, and then maybe they wouldn’t come true.

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