When Clemence and Elissa, close friends since college, meet again in Washington D.C., their friendship flares into passion. But they love each other during an era of national paranoia: the McCarthy witch hunts for political and moral "subversives". Elissa, as a staff member for a congressional committee, is drawn even closer to the political fray. Clemence, a clerk in the National Gallery of Art, is also caught in a crossfire - between Francis Hearn, the new director of purchases for the Gallery, and Robert Alden, intense young curator of medieval paintings. As the two men clash over the fate of "A Flight of Angels", a great painting treasured by Clemence, she learns that Robert has a past of interest to McCarthy's committee, and a past about which rumours swirl. And clouds have emerged between Clemence and Elissa. Elissa is calling herself a lesbian - an identity Clemence refuses to claim. But if she does not claim it, she will lose Elissa. Clemence must face her conflicts. Her decisions will be fateful - and irrevocable.