1. Washington

80 Days Earlier
Washington, D.C.
Friday, 9 November 2018
E-3 Days

“The Sun is on fire.” announced Mike Evans, science reporter with the Washington Observer.

“No shit, Sherlock,” replied next desk neighbor, political reporter and best friend Hewitt Blackwood, distractedly. “It’s what the Sun does.”

“Not like this,” replied Evans, turning his flat screen monitor toward Hewitt’s desk.

“Jesus,” said Hewitt, “I’ve never seen that before.”


70 Days Earlier
Washington, D.C.
Friday, 31 August 2018
E-73 Days

Hewitt Blackwood leaned back in his chair and rubbed his eyes. He had been writing up a storm to buy an early start to the long weekend, but he was not done yet. He had only one more story to file. Congress was headed home for Labor Day, and the “bad news” press releases had piled up in the morning. Typical for a Friday, thought Hewitt. Political offices released good news on Mondays, to take advantage of the early week news cycle, and they released bad news on Fridays, when they knew the public’s attention would be diverted to recreation—especially on a long weekend.

Military base closures, staff changes, resignations—Hewitt had to sift through all of them to decide which merited ink and space at the Washington Observer. Hewitt worked Capitol Hill most of the time, filing stories for his own paper and sometimes through the wire services for publication in dailies “back home” in America’s 535 Congressional and Senate districts. He had decamped from his office on the Hill, and returned to his desk on the expansive, bright, floor of the Observer.

It had been a long week. With mid-term elections imminent the buzz around Capitol Hill was deafening. Hewitt was up to his eyeballs in political stories and had to separate the wheat from the chaff. Those eyeballs were getting sore, and the glare didn’t help. The fluorescent lights were bright enough, but were no match for the scene outside: Sun washed concrete, with only a few pools of shadow cast by the scattering of a few large elms around the building and along the street, made Hewitt squint as he stole a glance out to the real world.

“Mike, do we absolutely have to take the boat out this weekend?,” whined Hewitt to his neighbor at the next to his left, nearer the window.

Mike Evans was the paper’s last full-time science reporter. Despite their different branches of journalism, Mike and Hewitt had become the closest of friends. They had been desk-mates for almost 10 years. They co-owned the Scribes’ Pride, a small sailboat that was the focus of family and weekend time on Chesapeake Bay.

“This is the only weekend I’ll have available, Buddy,” replied Mike. “If you want to delay the job you’ll end up having to do it all yourself, because I’ll be away for the next three weekends.”

“And I’m away for that wedding on the weekend of the 29th,” said Hewitt. “Shit. OK, let’s stick with this weekend. We don’t have anything tropical moving up the coastline. Let’s take that as a sign from above. How’s your day looking now, Mike?”

“I’m pretty much done. Some rewriting, but nothing new is brewing. I should be able to blast off by mid afternoon. What about you?”

“I’ve got one left. I’ll have it filed in about an hour if I can get another coffee into me.”

“Do you want to try for Monday to take the boat out?”

“Yeah, give me a couple of days to get the cobwebs out. By Labor Day I’ll be good to go.”

“OK, Hew.”

Mike turned back to his computer, while Hewitt leaned forward and let a soft groan escape as he slowly raised himself out of his chair; empty coffee cup in hand.

“Poor baby,” said Mike.

“Screw you,” replied Hewitt.

Mike smiled contentedly as he scanned his copy.


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