Washington, D.C., was a much larger city than Dana had imagined. This was the power center of the world, and Dana could feel the electricity in the air. This is where I belong, she thought happily.

Her first move was to check into the Stouffer Renaissance Hotel. She looked up the address of the Washington Tribune and headed there. The Tribune was located on 6th Street and took up the entire block. It consisted of four separate buildings that seemed to reach to infinity. Dana found the main lobby and confidently walked up to the uniformed guard behind the desk.

"Can I help you, miss?"

"I work here. That is, I work for the Tribune. I'm here to see Matt Baker."

"Do you have an appointment?"

Dana hesitated. "Not yet, but - "

"Come back when you have one." He turned his attention to several men who had come up to the desk.

"We have an appointment with the head of the circulation department," one of the men said.

"Just a moment, please." The guard dialed a number.

In the background, one of the elevators had arrived and people were getting out. Dana casually headed for it. She stepped inside, praying that it would go up before the guard noticed her. A woman got into the elevator and pressed the button, and they started up.

"Excuse me," Dana said. "What floor is Matt Baker on?"

"Third." She looked at Dana. "You're not wearing a pass."

"I lost it," Dana said.

When the elevator reached the third floor, Dana got out. She stood there, speechless at the scale of what she was seeing. She was looking at a sea of cubicles. It seemed as though there were hundreds of them, occupied by thousands of people. There were different-colored signs over each cubicle, EDITORIAL...ART...METRO...SPORTS...CALENDAR...

Dana stopped a man hurrying by. "Excuse me. Where's Mr. Baker's office?"

"Matt Baker?" He pointed. "Down at the end of the hall to the right, last door."

"Thank you."

As Dana turned, she bumped into an unshaven, rumpled-looking man carrying some papers. The papers fell to the floor.

"Oh, I'm sorry. I was - "

"Why don't you look where the hell you're going?" the man snapped. He stooped to pick up the papers.

"It was an accident. Here. I'll help you. I - " Dana reached down, and as she started to pick up the papers, she knocked several sheets under a desk.

The man stopped to glare at her. "Do me a favor. Don't help me anymore."

"As you like," Dana said icily. "I just hope everyone in Washington isn't as rude as you."

Haughtily, Dana rose and walked toward Mr. Baker's office. The legend on the glass window read MATT BAKER. The office was empty. Dana walked inside and sat down. Looking through the office window, she watched the frenetic activity going on.

It's nothing like the Claremont Examiner, she thought. There were thousands of people working here. Down the corridor, the grumpy, rumpled-looking man was heading toward the office.

No! Dana thought. He's not coming in here. He's on his way somewhere else -

And the man walked in the door. His eyes narrowed. "What the hell are you doing here?"

Dana swallowed. "You must be Mr. Baker," she said brightly. "I'm Dana Evans."

"I asked you what you're doing here."

"I'm a reporter with the Claremont Examiner."


"You just bought it."

"I did?"

"I - I mean the newspaper bought it. The newspaper bought the newspaper." Dana felt it was not going well. "Anyway, I'm here for a job. Of course, I already have a job here. It's more like a transfer, isn't it?"

He was staring at her.

"I can start right away." Dana babbled on. "That's no problem."

Matt Baker moved toward the desk. "Who the hell let you in here?"

"I told you. I'm a reporter for the Claremont Examiner and - "

"Go back to Claremont," he snapped. "Try not to knock anyone down on your way out."

Dana rose and said stiffly, "Thank you very much, Mr. Baker. I appreciate your courtesy." She stormed out of the office.

Matt Baker looked after her, shaking his head. The world was full of weirdos.

Dana retraced her steps to the huge editorial room, where dozens of reporters were typing out stories on their computers. This is where I'm going to work, Dana thought fiercely. Go back to Claremont. How dare he!

As Dana looked up, she saw Matt Baker in the distance, moving in her direction. The damned man was everywhere! Dana quickly stepped behind a cubicle so he could not see her.

Baker walked past her to a reporter seated at a desk. "Did you get the interview, Sam?"

"No luck. I went to the Georgetown Medical Center, and they said there's nobody registered by that name. Tripp Taylor's wife isn't a patient there."

Matt Baker said, "I know damn well she is. They're covering something up, dammit. I want to know why she's in the hospital."

"If she is in there, there's no way to get to her, Matt."

"Did you try the flower delivery routine?"

"Sure. It didn't work."

Dana stood there watching Matt Baker and the reporter walk away. What kind of reporter is it, Dana wondered, who doesn't know how to get an interview?

Thirty minutes later, Dana was entering the Georgetown Medical Center. She went into the flower shop.

"May I help you?" a clerk asked.

"Yes. I'd like - " She hesitated a moment. " - fifty dollars' worth of flowers." She almost choked on the word "fifty."

When the clerk handed her the flowers, Dana said, "Is there a shop in the hospital that might have a little cap of some kind?"

"There's a gift shop around the corner."

"Thank you."

The gift shop was a cornucopia of junk, with a wide array of greeting cards, cheaply made toys, balloons and banners, junk-food racks, and gaudy items of clothing. On a shelf were some souvenir caps. Dana bought one that resembled a chauffeur's cap and put it on. She purchased a get-well card and scribbled something on the inside.

Her next stop was at the information desk in the hospital lobby. "I have flowers here for Mrs. Tripp Taylor."

The receptionist shook her head. "There's no Mrs. Tripp Taylor registered here."

Dana sighed. "Really? That's too bad. These are from the Vice President of the United States." She opened the card and showed it to the receptionist. The inscription read, "Get well quickly." It was signed, "Arthur Cannon."

Dana said, "Guess I'll have to take these back." She turned to leave.

The receptionist looked after her uncertainly. "Just a moment!"

Dana stopped. "Yes?"

"I can have those flowers delivered to her."

"Sorry," Dana said. "Vice President Cannon asked that they be delivered personally." She looked at the receptionist. "Could I have your name, please? They'll want to tell Mr. Cannon why I couldn't deliver the flowers."

Panic. "Oh, well. All right. I don't want to cause any problems. Take them to Room 615. But as soon as you deliver them, you'll have to leave."

"Right," Dana said.

Five minutes later, she was talking to the wife of the famous rock star Tripp Taylor.

Stacy Taylor was in her middle twenties. It was difficult to tell whether she was attractive or not, because at the moment, her face was badly battered and swollen. She was trying to reach for a glass of water on a table near the bed when Dana walked in.

"Flowers for - " Dana stopped in shock as she saw the woman's face.

"Who are they from?" The words were a mumble.

Dana had removed the card. "From - from an admirer."

The woman was staring at Dana suspiciously. "Can you reach that water for me?"

"Of course." Dana put the flowers down and handed the glass of water to the woman in bed. "Can I do anything else for you?" Dana asked.

"Sure," she said through swollen lips. "You can get me out of this stinking place. My husband won't let me have visitors. I'm sick of seeing all these doctors and nurses."

Dana sat down on a chair next to the bed. "What happened to you?"

The woman snorted. "Don't you know? I was in an auto accident."

"You were?"


"That's awful," Dana said skeptically. She was filled with a deep anger, for it was obvious that this woman had been beaten.

Forty-five minutes later, Dana emerged with the true story.

When Dana returned to the lobby of the Washington Tribune, a different guard was there. "Can I help - ?"

"It's not my fault," Dana said breathlessly. "Believe me, it's the darned traffic. Tell Mr. Baker I'm on my way up. He's going to be furious with me for being late." She hurried toward the elevator and pressed the button. The guard looked after her uncertainly, then began dialing. "Hello. Tell Mr. Baker there's a young woman who - "

The elevator arrived. Dana stepped in and pressed three. On the third floor, the activity seemed to have increased, if that was possible. Reporters were rushing to make their deadlines. Dana stood there, looking around frantically. Finally, she saw what she wanted. In a cubicle with a green sign that read GARDENING was an empty desk. Dana hurried over to it and sat down. She looked at the computer in front of her, then began typing. She was so engrossed in the story she was writing that she lost all track of time. When she was finished, she printed it and pages began spewing out. She was putting them together when she sensed a shadow over her shoulder.

"What the hell are you doing?" Matt Baker demanded.

"I'm looking for a job, Mr. Baker. I wrote this story, and I thought - "

"You thought wrong," Baker exploded. "You don't just walk in here and take over someone's desk. Now get the hell out before I call security and have you arrested."

"But - "


Dana rose. Summoning all her dignity, she thrust the pages in Matt Baker's hand and walked around the corner to the elevator.

Matt Baker shook his head in disbelief. Jesus! What the hell is the world coming to? There was a wastebasket under the desk. As Matt moved toward it, he glanced at the first sentence of Dana's story: "Stacy Taylor, her face battered and bruised, claimed from her hospital bed today that she was there because her famous rock star husband, Tripp Taylor, beat her. 'Every time I get pregnant, he beats me up. He doesn't want children.'" Matt started to read further and stood there rooted. He looked up, but Dana was gone.

Clutching the pages in his hand, Matt raced toward the elevators, hoping to find her before she disappeared. As he ran around the corner, he bumped into her. She was leaning against the wall, waiting.

"How did you get this story?" he demanded.

Dana said simply, "I told you. I'm a reporter."

He took a deep breath. "Come on back to my office."

They were seated in Matt Baker's office again. "That's a good job," he said grudgingly.

"Thank you! I can't tell you how much I appreciate this," Dana said excitedly. "I'm going to be the best reporter you ever had. You'll see. What I really want is to be a foreign correspondent, but I'm willing to work my way up to that, even if it takes a year." She saw the expression on his face. "Or maybe two."

"The Tribune has no job openings, and there's a waiting list."

She looked at him in astonishment. "But I assumed - "

"Hold it."

Dana watched as he picked up a pen and wrote out the letters of the word "assume," ASS U ME. He pointed to the word. "When a reporter assumes something, Miss Evans, it makes an ass out of you and me. Do you understand?"

"Yes, sir."

"Good." He was thoughtful for a moment, then came to a decision. "Do you ever watch WTE? The Tribune Enterprises television station."

"No, sir. I can't say that I - "

"Well, you will now. You're in luck. There's a job opening there. One of the writers just quit. You can take his place."

"Doing what?" Dana asked tentatively.

"Writing television copy."

Her face fell. "Television copy? I don't know anything about - "

"It's simple. The producer of the news will give you the raw material from all the news services. You'll put it into English and put it on the Tele-PrompTer for the anchors to read."

Dana sat there, silent.


"Nothing, it's just that - I'm a reporter."

"We have five hundred reporters here, and they've all spent years earning their stripes. Go over to Building Four. Ask for Mr. Hawkins. If you have to start somewhere, television isn't bad." Matt Baker reached for the phone. "I'll give Hawkins a call."

Dana sighed. "Right. Thank you, Mr. Baker. If you ever need - "


The WTE television studios took up the entire sixth floor of Building Four. Tom Hawkins, the producer of the nightly news, led Dana into his office.

"Have you ever worked in television?"

"No, sir. I've worked on newspapers."

"Dinosaurs. They're the past. We're the present. And who knows what the future will be? Let me show you around."

There were dozens of people working at desks and monitors. Wire copy from half a dozen news services was appearing on computers.

"Here's where stories and news breaks come in from all over the world," Hawkins explained. "I decide which ones we're going with. The assignment desk sends out crews to cover those stories. Our reporters in the field send in their stories by microwave or transmitters. Besides our wire services, we have one hundred and sixty police channels, reporters with cell phones, scanners, monitors. Every story is planned to the second. The writers work with tape editors to get the timing exact. The average news story runs between a minute and a half and a minute and forty-five seconds."

"How many writers work here?" Dana asked.

"Six. Then you have a video coordinator, news tape editors, producers, directors, reporters, anchors..." He stopped. A man and woman were approaching them. "Speaking of anchors, meet Julia Brinkman and Michael Tate."

Julia Brinkman was a stunning woman, with chestnut-colored hair, tinted contacts that made her eyes a sultry green, and a practiced, disarming smile. Michael Tate was an athletic-looking man with a burstingly genial smile and an outgoing manner.

"Our new writer," Hawkins said. "Donna Evanston."

"Dana Evans."

"Whatever. Let's get to work."

He took Dana back to his office. He nodded toward the assignment board on the wall. "Those are the stories I'll choose from. They're called slugs. We're on twice a day. We do the noon news from twelve to one and the nightly news from ten to eleven. When I tell you which stories I want to run with, you'll put them together and make everything sound so exciting that the viewers can't switch channels. The tape editor will feed you video clips, and you'll work them into the scripts and indicate where the clips go."


"Sometimes there's a breaking story, and then we'll cut into our regular programming with a live feed."

"That's interesting," Dana said.

She had no idea that one day it was going to save her life.

The first night's program was a disaster. Dana had put the news leads in the middle instead of the beginning, and Julia Brinkman found herself reading Michael Tate's stories while Michael was reading hers.

When the broadcast was over, the director said to Dana, "Mr. Hawkins would like to see you in his office. Now."

Hawkins was sitting behind his desk, grimfaced.

"I know," Dana said contritely. "It was a new low in television, and it's all my fault."

Hawkins sat there watching her.

Dana tried again. "The good news, Tom, is that from now on it can only get better. Right?"

He kept staring at her.

"And it will never happen again because" - she saw the look on his face - "I'm fired."

"No," Hawkins said curtly. "That would be letting you off too easily. You're going to do this until you get it right. And I'm talking about the noon news tomorrow. Am I making myself clear?"


"Good. I want you here at eight o'clock in the morning."

"Right, Tom."

"And since we're going to be working together - you can call me Mr. Hawkins."

The noon news the next day went smoothly. Tom Hawkins had been right, Dana decided. It was just a matter of getting used to the rhythm. Get your assignment...write the story...work with the tape editor...set up the TelePrompTer for the anchors to read.

From that point on, it became routine.

Dana's break came eight months after she had started working at WTE. She had just finished putting the evening news report on the TelePrompTer at nine forty-five and was preparing to leave. When she walked into the television studio to say good night, there was chaos. Everyone was talking at once.

Rob Cline, the director, was shouting, "Where the hell is she?"

"I don't know."

"Hasn't anyone seen her?"


"Did you phone her apartment?"

"I got the answering machine."

"Wonderful. We're on the air" - he looked at his watch - "in twelve minutes."

"Maybe Julia was in an accident," Michael Tate said. "She could be dead."

"That's no excuse. She should have phoned."

Dana said, "Excuse me..."

The director turned to her impatiently. "Yes?"

"If Julia doesn't show up, I could do the newscast."

"Forget it." He turned back to his assistant. "Call security and see if she's come into the building."

The assistant picked up the phone and dialed. "Has Julia Brinkman checked in yet...? Well, when she does, tell her to get up here, fast."

"Have him hold an elevator for her. We're on the air in" - he looked at his watch again - "seven damned minutes."

Dana stood there, watching the growing panic.

Michael Tate said, "I could do both parts."

"No," the director snapped. "We need two of you up there." He looked at his watch again. "Three minutes. Goddammit. How could she do this to us? We're on the air in - "

Dana spoke up. "I know all the words. I wrote them."

He gave her a quick glance. "You have no makeup on. You're dressed wrong."

A voice came from the sound engineer's booth. "Two minutes. Take your places, please."

Michael Tate shrugged and took his seat on the platform in front of the cameras.

"Places, please!"

Dana smiled at the director. "Good night, Mr. Cline." She started toward the door.

"Wait a minute!" He was rubbing his hand across his forehead. "Are you sure you can do this?"

"Try me," Dana said.

"I don't have any choice, do I?" he moaned. "All right. Get up there. My God! Why didn't I listen to my mother and become a doctor?"

Dana hurried up to the platform and took the seat next to Michael Tate.

"Thirty seconds...twenty...ten...five..."

The director signaled with his hand, and the red light on the camera flashed on.

"Good evening," Dana said smoothly. "Welcome to the WTE ten-o'clock news. We have a breaking story for you in Holland. There was an explosion at an Amsterdam school this afternoon and..."

The rest of the broadcast went smoothly.

The following morning, Rob Cline came into Dana's office. "Bad news. Julia was in an automobile accident last night. Her face is" - he hesitated - "disfigured."

"I'm sorry," Dana said, concerned. "How bad is it?"

"Pretty bad."

"But today plastic surgery can - "

He shook his head. "Not this time. She won't be coming back."

"I'd like to go see her. Where is she?"

"They're taking her back to her family, in Oregon."

"I'm so sorry."

"You win some, you lose some." He studied Dana a moment. "You were okay last night. We'll keep you on until we find someone permanent."

Dana went to see Matt Baker. "Did you see the news last night?" she asked.

"Yes," he grunted. "For God's sakes, try putting on some makeup and a more appropriate dress."

Dana felt deflated. "Right."

As she turned to leave, Matt Baker said grudgingly, "You weren't bad." Coming from him, it was a high compliment.

On the fifth night of the news broadcast, the director said to Dana, "By the way, the big brass said to keep you on."

She wondered if the big brass was Matt Baker.

Within six months, Dana became a fixture on the Washington scene. She was young and attractive and her intelligence shone through. At the end of the year, she was given a raise and special assignments. One of her shows, Here and Now, interviews with celebrities, had zoomed to the top of the ratings. Her interviews were personal and sympathetic, and celebrities who hesitated to appear on other talk shows asked to be on Dana's show. Magazines and newspapers began interviewing Dana. She was becoming a celebrity herself.

At night, Dana would watch the international news. She envied the foreign correspondents. They were doing something important. They were reporting history, informing the world about the important events that were happening around the globe. She felt frustrated.

Dana's two-year contract with WTE was nearly up. Philip Cole, the chief of correspondents, called her in.

"You're doing a great job, Dana. We're all proud of you."

"Thank you, Philip."

"It's time for us to be talking about your new contract. First of all - "

"I'm quitting."

"I beg your pardon?"

"When my contract's up, I'm not doing the show anymore."

He was looking at her incredulously. "Why would you want to quit? Don't you like it here?"

"I like it a lot," Dana said. "I want to be with WTE, but I want to be a foreign correspondent"

"That's a miserable life," he exploded. "Why in God's name would you want to do that?"

"Because I'm tired of hearing what celebrities want to cook for dinner and how they met their fifth husband. There are wars going on, and people are suffering and dying. The world doesn't give a damn. I want to make them care." She took a deep breath. "I'm sorry. I can't stay on here." She rose and started toward the door.

"Wait a minute! Are you sure this is what you want to do?"

"It's what I've always wanted to do," Dana said quietly.

He was thoughtful for a moment. "Where do you want to go?"

It took her a moment for the import of his words to sink in. When Dana found her voice, she said, "Sarajevo."

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