Starting a New Chapter in Her Life, Thanks to Richard Clarke

It's Washington's favorite literary exercise: Am I mentioned in the book??? At least the nonfiction ones have indexes, so you can go to Borders and look yourself up without having to buy. But those pesky romans a clef -- you actually have to read them to find out!

And of course all the names are changed, leaving much to guesswork. Still, those who read "The Scorpion's Gate," the new geopolitical thriller by former White House counterterrorism chief Richard Clarke, tell us that the cocky, conniving defense secretary is clearly a nasty riff on Donald Rumsfeld, that the overly intellectual undersecretary is a dead ringer for Paul Wolfowitz, and the femme fatale reporter reminds them a lot of Judy Miller.

Sarah Martin was never big on those kind of insider-D.C. guessing games. The 38-year-old advocate with the small nonprofit Refugees International was recently playing Washington's second-favorite literary exercise -- is my organization mentioned in the news today??? -- when a Web search unexpectedly brought her to an excerpt from Clarke's book.

The passage concerned the wife of the main character: A 38-year-old named Sarah . . . who works for Refugees International!

That was eerie enough, said Martin, who has never met Clarke. What caused her to keep reading was the protagonist's musing about their relationship: "After ten years they still hadn't gotten around to having a kid and now -- with Sarah at thirty-eight -- it was almost too late for them to start a family. She never complained about it. 'Not to decide is to decide,' Sarah would say to him, 'and I'm fine with that.' "

Martin -- also childless, though not married -- took offense at the notion that time has already passed her by. "I haven't given up hope!" she told us a few days ago before jetting off to the refugee camps in Darfur.

We wanted to ask Clarke if he indeed thought it was too late for Sarah Martin to meet a nice guy and have kids, but he never responded to our requests; a publicist said he was traveling.

Oh, and Sarah? Turns out your fictional husband has an affair with the fictional reporter. Who's sorry now?

Hey Isn't That . . .

* Oprah, working out with best bud Gayle King Monday afternoon at the Sports Club/L.A. in the District's West End. They spotted each other on the free weights. We don't know what big meal they were working off -- it certainly wasn't the Kennedy Center Honors dinner, seeing as how they skipped it.

* Laura Bush, ducking into the Georgetown Pottery Barn yesterday for barely five minutes, wearing a bright blue suit and wishing shoppers "Happy Holidays" in a very perky way. Didn't buy anything -- maybe just making her wish list?


"There will always be lesbians on this show. I make this vow to you. As long as I'm breathing, there will be lesbians. I will give the people lesbians because there is nothing sexier in this world than two women getting it on."


-- Howard Stern, discussing his move from the public airwaves to satellite radio with Fox's Bill O'Reilly in a two-part interview airing tonight and tomorrow. Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose. But what about luffas?

Surreal Estate

Seller: Mitchell Wade

Price: $3.5 million

Details: Raided, not seized, now sold. More real estate woes for defense contractor Wade (yes, the same guy who bought disgraced former Rep. Duke Cunningham's house way over value and sold it for a huge loss). Now he's hastily unloaded his six-bedroom Kalorama mansion, which he bought three years ago for $3.26 million. The September sale netted only a $230,000 profit -- barely enough to pay commission and closing costs -- when other homes in the prestigious neighborhood have increased 20 percent in value each year. Maybe he needed cash for the legal fees . . .