A fiery sunset burns out along the darkening horizon in Old Town Alexandria at not quite five P.M. the Monday after Thanksgiving.
The wind is kicking up and fitful, the moon shrouded by fog rolling in from the Potomac River. Trees and shrubbery shake and thrash, dead leaves swirling and skittering over the tarmac. Ominous clouds advance like an enemy army, the flags flapping wildly in front of my Northern Virginia headquarters.
I crouch down by the fireproof file cabinet, entering the combination on the fail-safe push-button lock. Opening the bottom drawer, I lift out the thick accordion folder I’ve been hauling around for many months. I smell the musty oldness of declassified government documents going back to the late 1940s, many heavily redacted and almost illegible.
I’ve got much to review before the next meeting of the National Emergency Contingency Coalition, better known as the Doomsday Commission, this time at the Pentagon. My White House–appointed responsibilities aren’t for the faint of heart. But they’re not nearly as pressing as what’s right in front of me, and I can’t stop thinking about the murdered woman downstairs in my cooler…