A prison riot in Modesto forces Lou to send some reporters upstate. Ben Pomeroy gets the assignment but Billie joins him as she was promised the next big state story. With the only available airplane already chartered by magazine reporter Helen Patterson, Lou has to use his charms to convince her into giving the free seats to two reporters from the competition. At the airport a fourth reporter, Bob O'Brien, unsuccessfully tries to get on as well. With the plane about to take off, Billie receives a message from The Tribune: she is urgently needed for another story for which she has laid the groundwork. Bob O'Brien gets her seat on the plane.
Rossi, suffering from severe allergies, gets a curious assignment from the environment desk. The rare Julian Sphinx moth will soon make a short appearance in California. During an interview with Keith Wilbert, an entomologist, Rossi learns more about the endangered moth. Its disappearance could be a environmental warning sign and unfortunately moth collectors pose the greatest risk for the little insect. Wilbert offers to show Rossi and Animal the area where the moth will appear.
Billie is complaining in the city room about her bad luck when news comes in that the little plane has crashed. She is shocked to hear that all occupants have died.
The next day Mrs. Pynchon expresses her displeasure with the obituaries the paper published for the victims of the plane crash. She feels the reporters deserve a bigger story and orders Lou to arrange that. Surprisingly Billie, still very emotional after her near-death escape, asks to write the stories. Lou agrees but suggests that he should do the story on Helen Patterson, a woman he only talked to once on the phone .
For her piece on Tribune reporter Ben Pomeroy Billie interviews Ben's ex-wife. Denise Pomeroy tells the story of a man who liked to be the center of attention, but who was insecure. They divorced after Denise became a successful businesswoman on her own. Colleagues at The Tribune paint a similar picture: Ben had a habit of hanging around young reporters, playing the father figure.
Animal and Keith Wilbert go out into the countryside, looking for the Julian Sphinx moth. When they notice the infamous moth collector Colonel Taylor following them, Wilbert turns back to the city in disgust.
Lou does research on Helen Patterson, talking to her son Parker. The very successful reporter turned out to harbor feelings of guilt, believing she did not spend enough attention to her son.
The third crash victim, Bob O'Brien, wrote one bestselling book on the Vietnam War and then sank into depression and alcoholism. Billie talks to a former colleague and to patients at the halfway house where he recovered from detox treatment. She finds his notes for future books.
As it is clear that collectors will do anything to catch a Julian Sphinx moth, Animal and Wilbert come up with a plan. Animal will drive Wilbert's jeep, luring collectors away from the real breeding place. The ruse works beautifully and Wilbert succeeds in counting and marking the moths without anyone else seeing them. It does mean, however, that Animal fails to get a picture. Lou finds it in his heart to forgive him.
The Tribune prints extensive stories on Pomeroy, Patterson and O'Brien, showing them to be complex characters, but not dwelling on the negative.