​​​​​​BARBARA NORTON​  
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PART ONE
Shoot It Down
1.

It wasn’t my first time at the White House rodeo, or my first network news job, but I was sure if I screwed it up, it would be the end of my career in TV news. Becoming a senior White House correspondent could be considered a step down from a network anchor chair, but what can I say? It was this or the unemployment line.

I’d already passed through the first security check point. No guns or shiny objects in my purse or on my person. No bombs under my Lexus or unexpected passengers hiding in my trunk. Press Secretary Gene Davis had left word I’d be coming. I was handed a plastic-encased ID to wear around my neck. Its tan background color identified me as a member of the media with access to the West Wing, so I was waved on to the gate nearest the press briefing room. The guard there recognized me.

“Jillian Rain, NBC News, right?”

“Not anymore,” I admitted. Trying to sound upbeat, I added, “I’m with BNN News now.”

“BNN,” he said as he checked my credentials, “never heard of it.”

“The Breaking News Network,” I said gamely. “It’s new. Most people haven’t yet, but I’m hoping to help change that.”

“Oh, yeah. Sorry, I remember now. My wife showed me that picture of you in her People magazine – pretty embarrassing, huh? I mean …” He looked at me sympathetically. “Sorry ‘bout that.”  He shut up and directed me to the appropriate parking space.

The BNN job meant I had to relocate from New York City to Washington, D.C. – but that was probably a good idea since my life in the Big Apple is in the dumpster, buried under all those heartless tabloids and entertainment news shows that smelled blood and made a lot of money off of my embarrassment. I made my way to the briefing room in the West Wing, took a deep breath and entered. I found hot water and a tea bag at a table along the back wall, and stood there a moment scanning the room for friends, and maybe a few enemies.

Press Secretary Davis strode up the aisle, welcoming me and apologizing for not having time to talk, but assuring me we’d get together in his office later. We’d met before. He stopped at a young man seated near the middle of the crowded auditorium. “Jillian Rain, this is Keshawn Silverman. He’ll be your photographer. Feel free to ask him for anything you need.” Then he excused himself.

Silverman kept his seat on the aisle, shifting his long legs to one side to let me pass. I squeezed by him and his cameras and equipment. He continued checking his Twitter and Facebook accounts.

“Nice glasses,” I said. “I love your name.”

He used his index finger to reposition his oversized black-framed glasses back up his prominent nose, holding out his pinky like Superman disguised as Clark Kent. He smiled a Cheshire smile, though it was very brief and his chocolate eyes never left the screen. Pale brown skin with freckles on his cheeks near that Jewish nose, and a pony tail that tamed his unruly Afro, made him a poster child for the great American melting pot. In a room full of suits and ties, his leather jacket, purple shirt, and jeans made it clear Silverman was someone who danced to his own creative drummer. Most of the photographers I’ve known seem to take pride in being a little weird. (I say that with love. I liked him instantly.) His smile seemed genuine and I hoped we could become good partners in crime because at heart I’m a rule-breaker too.

Davis announced we would be joining the president on the South Lawn. Vice President Rick Gomez and First Lady Alexis Ward had just attended a literacy conference and were due to arrive any minute aboard the VP’s Marine Two helicopter.

Coffee cups were abandoned; coats were retrieved. Nearly everyone made a quick check of their calls and text messages while we moved en-masse through the briefing room door that leads outside and onto the West Colonnade Walkway. We hurried past the Cabinet Room and Oval Office to the cordoned-off press area outside the Diplomatic Reception Room entrance, beneath the Truman Balcony that overlooks the nation’s back yard.

 

2.

I took in the mansion’s impressive white-columned-and-curved South Portico with its breathtaking view of the Washington Monument and looked up to find the counterterrorism snipers I knew would be positioned on the White House roof. They wore black battle dress uniforms – you know – like the ones police SWAT teams use. The Secret Service was trying harder these days, although recent scandals of their own meant they were dragging around that same tarnished reputation that I’ve been dealing with since my contract was abruptly terminated by NBC.

“Jillian Rain – where the hell you been? You still with NBC?” the Times guy asked, even though I’m sure he knew I was not. How could he not? My fall from grace had been splashed on the covers of every tabloid and in the entertainment sections of many legitimate rags and magazines, not to mention TV tabloids like Extra and Inside Edition.

“Hi, Jim, no, I’m with BNN now,” I began to explain, but I stopped talking when the video cameras began to whir and bar lights and microphones snapped to attention. The bullet-proof door leading from the Diplomatic Reception Room entrance opened and four watchful Secret Service agents stepped out onto the walkway, followed closely by the commander in chief, President John Wesley Ward. He gave the very pregnant Mrs. Gomez’s hand a squeeze and led her out of the White House.  We could hear the whomp, whomp sound of the chopper approaching. The press secretary announced, “Ladies and gentlemen, the President of the United States.”

 

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