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Once upon a time, in a political process far, far away, the candidate selection results were known before they were announced to the general public. With necessary enhancements in security and increases in the number of delegates who chose to vote remotely, this has changed over the last twenty years. These days, no one knows who’s taking the nomination until the announcement is made. Call it part of a misguided effort to reinsert drama into a process that has become substantially more cut-and-dried as the years went by. Reality television on the grandest of scales.

Emily and Peter Ryman were sitting in a pair of folding chairs near the stage, his left hand clasped in both of hers as they watched the monitor that was scrolling current results. David Tate was pacing not far away; he shot me a poisonous look as I entered.

“Miss Mason,” he said. “Looking for more muck to rake?”

“Actually, Governor, I was looking for more facts to pass along,” I said, and continued for the Rymans. “Senator. Mrs. Ryman. I hope you’re ready for the results?”

“Ask not for whom the bell tolls, Georgia,” said the senator gravely. Then he laughed, releasing his wife’s hand and standing to grasp and shake mine. “Whatever the numbers say, I want to thank you and your crew. You may not have changed the race, but you made it a hell of a lot more fun for everyone involved.”

“Thank you, Senator,” I said. “That’s good to hear.”

“After Peter’s had a few weeks to rest, all three of you must come and visit the farm,” Emily said. “I know the girls would love to meet you. Rebecca’s very fond of your reports, especially. It would be a real treat for them.”

I smiled. “We’d be honored. But let’s not assume a break just yet.”

“Far from it,” said the senator, with a glance at Governor Tate. Governor Tate’s return look wasn’t a friendly one. “I think we’re going to go all the way.”

A bell rang as if to punctuate his words, and a hush fell over the convention. I stepped back, lifting my chin to bring the camera on my collar to a better angle.

“Let’s see if you mean that,” I said.

Over the loudspeaker, the voice of a third-rate celebrity who’d gone from bad sitcoms to convention announcements blared: “And now, the Republican Party’s man of the hour, and the next President of these fabulous United States of America—Senator Peter Ryman of Wisconsin! Senator Ryman, come on out here and greet the people!”

The cheers were almost deafening. Emily gave a little squeal that was only half-surprise, and wrapped her arms around the senator’s shoulders, kissing him on both cheeks as he lifted her off the ground in a hug. “Well, Em?” he said. “Let’s go make the people happy.” Beaming, she nodded her agreement, and he led her onto the stage. The cheers doubled in volume. Some of those people wouldn’t be able to talk at all the next day. Right then, I doubted any of them particularly cared.

Tate stayed where he was, expression blank. Before I moved toward the stage exit, still filming, I paused long enough to get a reaction shot of a man whose dreams had just been dashed. “Go, Pete, go,” I murmured, unable to keep from smiling. He had the nomination. That was our man out there on that stage, accepting the nomination.

We were going on the road.

My ear cuff beeped three times, signaling an emergency transmission. I tapped it, stepping away from the opening. “Shaun, what did you—”

Buffy’s voice cut me off. It was all business, and so cold I almost didn’t recognize it at first. “Georgia, there’s an outbreak at the farm.”

I froze. “What farm?”

“The Ryman farm. It’s on all the feeds, it’s everywhere. They think one of the horses went into spontaneous conversion. No one knows why, and they’re still digging in the ashes and setting the perimeter. No one knows where the where the—oh, God, Georgia, the girls were in there when the alarms went off, and no one knows—”

Slowly, as if in a dream, I turned back toward the opening. Buffy was talking, but her words didn’t matter anymore. Senator Ryman had formally accepted the nomination and was standing there grinning, his beautiful wife holding his arm, waving to the crowd that chose him to bear their banner toward the highest office in the country. They looked like the happiest people in the world. People who had never known what a real tragedy was. God help them, they were about to learn.

“—you there? Mahir’s trying to control the forums, but he needs help, and we need you to find the valid news feed into all this, we—”

“Tell Mahir to contact Casey at Media Breakdown and arrange a fact-only feed-through of the situation at the farm; tell him we’ll trade an early release on my next candidate interview,” I said, tonelessly. “Wake Alaric, get him backing Mahir until Rick finishes on the floor, then throw him in there, too. He wanted to join the party? Well, here’s his invitation.”

“What are you going to do?”

Emily Ryman was laughing, hands clasped together. She had no idea.

Grimly, I said, “I’m going to stay here and report the news.”


Index Case Studies

The difference between the truth and a lie is that both of them can hurt, but only one will take the time to heal you afterward.


We live in a world of our own creation. We’ve made our bed, ladies and gentlemen, whether we intended to or not. Now, we get the honor of lying down in it.


I’ve done a lot of difficult things over the course of my journalistic career. Few, in the end, were pretty; most of the supposed “glamour” of reporting the news is reserved for the people who sit behind desks and look good while they tell you about the latest tragedy to rock the world. It’s different in the field, and even after doing this for years, I don’t think I grasped how different it was. Not until I looked into the faces of presidential candidate Peter Ryman and his wife and informed them that the body of their eldest daughter had just been cremated by federal troops outside their family ranch in Parrish, Wisconsin.