Washington Horror Blog

SEMI-FICTIONAL CHRONICLE of the EVIL THAT INFECTS WASHINGTON, D.C. To read Prologue and Character Guide, please see www.washingtonhorrorblog.com, updated 4/12/2014. Follow Washington Water Woman on Twitter @HorrorDC ....

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Clarity

Henrietta "Button" Samuelson was struggling to fit one more client viewing into her schedule, but the Adams Morgan Day festival was not cooperating.  "Come on, come on!" she pleaded to the line of parked cars on the sixth street she turned down.

"Maybe we can come back later this week," said the realtor's client.

"No!" Samuelson exclaimed.  "That house will be sold!"  Mortgage rates were extremely low, and she was frustrated she was not closing more client deals.  "Let me try this street."  The Heurich Society was taking up too much of her time, what with all the backlash after Glenn Michael Beckmann had snuck into their meeting.  She knew most of them wanted her to resign, didn't think she could handle it, and did not respect her.  The more they opposed her, the more she wanted to crush the opposition--the truth was, she was becoming more like her late father every day.

"It's getting late," said her client.  "I'd like to go home now--I have things I need to do."

"More important than buying your dream house at the right time in the market?!" Samuelson practically sneered.  "Fine!"  She clicked the button to unlock the passenger-side door.  "Get out!"

"Excuse me?"

"GET OUT!" exclaimed Samuelson, and her startled client told her to f-off, then got out of the car.

"Wow, that felt good!" said Samuelson out loud, and she started to laugh because a parking spot was now opening up.  "I'm quitting this job!"

Meanwhile, over in Chinatown, Beckmann was investigating Lynnette Wong's herbal shop--partially because he had heard some conspiracy theories about it, but mostly because he was having trouble coping with the pain of recovery after shattering both his knee caps during that time he had snuck into the Heurich Society meeting.  "You do acupuncture?" he asked.

Wong stayed behind the counter, not at all liking the feeling of his chi.  "Sorry, sir--only herbs.  What is bothering you?"

"Wouldn't you like to know?!" he asked, momentarily suspicious again.

"Here is a pamphlet about--"

Beckmann snatched it out of her hands to read it.  "Okay," he said after a few moments.  "Why not?  I used to do this stuff in 'Nam anyway."  (Beckmann had never been to Vietnam--was not even old enough to have fought in that war--but he had some false memories about it.)

"Um, okay," Wong said.

"Now it's all about the drones," Beckmann said.  "Whoops!  I wasn't supposed to tell you that!"  He got a strange glint in his eye, then remembered that drones were not a secret--only shooting down Charles Wu's drone.   "What have you got for shattered knee caps?"

Wong leaned over the counter to look at his knees, both enveloped in serious structural hardware.  "I'll give you something to speed up the healing."

"I meant for the pain!" groaned Beckmann.

"Also for the pain," Wong lied.  She turned to start reaching for bottles and jars behind the counter.

"Where you from, anyway?"

"My parents were from Taiwan, but I was born here," said Wong.

"You're lucky," said Beckmann.  "They've even got the damned Islamist terrorists in China now!"

Wong reached for another jar--the herb for mental clarity--though she was fairly certain it was a hopeless case.

Over in Dupont Circle, several Heurich Society members had arrived early at the Brewmaster's Castle to discuss recent disappointments.  Han Li was still polishing the windows in the upper floor meeting room (Condoleezza Rice said a whiff of ammonia in the air was excellent for mental clarity) when they trudged in and asked where the coffee and snacks were.  Han Li abandoned his window in mid-streak, and headed out silently back to the kitchen, leaving them to scowl at the filthy view out onto the street.

"I think it's time to make a motion-of-no-confidence," said the former CIA agent.  "This experiment with girl power is not working."

"She still has all that information on us!" exclaimed the investment banker.

"How can she blackmail us now?" asked the international arms dealer.  "Her protection is long-gone."

"The last thing I heard before the former chair skipped town was to never, ever, ever go up against Button!" said the investment banker.  "He was scared out of his mind!"

"Fine, I'll go up against her myself," said the arms dealer.  "She's no fun!  She's trimmed two-thirds of my Middle Eastern client list already!"

"What about the Bloodsucker?" asked the former CIA agent.  "If we boot the only other female, Rice might not like it."

"Rice might not like what?" asked Samuelson, gliding into the room even before Han Li had returned with refreshments.

"Um, we were just talking about Turkey and the--"

"Yeah, sure," said Samuelson, tossing down her bag and sitting down to write some notes on a scratch pad.  Han Li returned with refreshments as more members trickled in--mostly chatting about sports.

Finally, Samuelson declared the meeting open.  "I need a salary," she began.

"What?!" asked the Treasurer.  "Nobody has ever gotten a salary!  We share dividends from our profits--that's how it's always been!"

"I'm going to work full-time for the Heurich Society now," said Samuelson.

"What?!" the voice of Condoleezza Rice exclaimed over the speaker phone.

"I quit my realtor job.  There's too much work to be done to whip this Society into shape.  The first thing we need to do is neutralize Glenn Michael Beckmann.  I've ordered a Russian mail-order bride for him, and we will pay her to pretend she's a Russian/Ukrainian double agent."

"What?!" asked a chorus of voices.

"Then when he's thoroughly brainwashed, we'll strike."

"Strike what?" asked the arms dealer.

"Do I have to spell out everything?" asked Samuelson.

"No, no, I get it," lied the former CIA agent, who had no idea what she was talking about, but found her new attitude a real turn-on.

"What about the Middle East?" asked the arms dealer.

"Definitely time for the neutron bomb," said Samuelson.  (Over the speaker phone, they could hear Rice choking on her bourbon.)  "Kidding!  Just kidding."  A few members started laughing, while the others looked at each other uncertainly.  "But seriously, don't you think it's time?"  (Dead silence.)  "Our goal is to maximize wealth, power, and freedom, people!  Stand up and recite that with me!"  The Heurich Society members got up to recite their motto, and Samuelson looked around the room, very pleased.  Oh, yeah.

A mile away, "Didymus" (the ghost of former Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara) burst into Dr. Ermann Esse's office in the middle of his session with Italian economist Luciano Talaverdi.  "No, no, no!" exclaimed Didymus.  "Military advisers--that's how it began in Vietnam!  Obama is just falling into it all over again!"

"Alright, but we'll have to talk about it when I finish with my current patient," said the psychiatrist, getting up to escort the frantic Didymus out to the waiting room.  "Now where were we?" he asked Talaverdi, as he sat down again.

"Um," began Talaverdi, uncertain whether his shrink had hallucinated another patient, or Talaverdi had hallucinated the shrink talking to an invisible person.
"I think we were talking about the sock drawer issues."

Good heavens, thought Dr. Esse.  This man is a little too nutty to ask his girlfriend to move in.

Over at the White House, Ghost Dennis was frantically whispering into Obama's ear as the President stared uncertainly at the contents of his sock drawer.  "This is the best option," Obama kept whispering to himself, even as Ghost Dennis kept telling him, "no, it's not...."

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COMING UP:  Nation to Nation.

Sunday, September 07, 2014

The Congressional Record

"It's just all starting up again, Doc," said Congressman John Boehner to his psychiatrist, Ermann Esse.  "It's relentless!"

"Yes, but you thrive on the importance of your work and the enormity of your responsibilities," replied Dr. Esse.  "You must balance out the drawbacks of your position with the benefits you feel."

"Drawbacks!  Well, that's one word for it," said the Speaker of the House.

"Give me another word."

"Blackmail!" exclaimed Boehner.

"Oh, has that started up again?" asked Dr. Esse.

"Like clockwork!  This damned 'Tarantula' dropped me another menacing note warning me about the legislative agenda."

"I thought there was no legislative agenda?" asked Dr. Esse (who could never convince his patient to go to the FBI).

"I've got legislative bills coming up the wazoo!  Even from the normally lazy people, like Jacques Javert!  'Louisiana lumpkin!'  That's what we called him!"

"Charming," said Dr. Esse.

"He was charming!  But no more!  Now he acts like he's Mr. Untouchable, and he can do whatever the Hell he wants, and he's got all these demands.  People say he's flashing around this Rolex like a swamp pimp, but he's always scratching under it, like he's allergic to real gold or something.  He's taking money from Big Oil and then laughing in their faces--maybe he'll help them out, maybe he won't."  The Speaker lifted his head off the couch cushion to look directly into Dr. Esse's eyes.  "Some people think he's cruisin' for a bruisin', if you know what I mean."

"I'm afraid I don't," said the psychiatrist.

"He took money from BP, and now he's crowing about their gross negligence finding at trial!  The man's running out of friends and making a lot of enemies."

"I see.  Let's get back to you."

"I've gotta deal with Congressman Herrmark, who secretly put together a bipartisan coalition of ninnies to complain about hydrofracking on public lands.  I've got pro-police and anti-police factions up in arms (no pun intended) about this Ferguson police fiasco.  I've got a bill requesting President Obama to pardon Governor McDonnell and his wife.  I've got requests for a National Robin Williams Day, National Joan Rivers Day, National Gluten-Free Week, National Fossil Fuel Appreciation Month, and renaming five different post offices 'Seal Team Six' in honor of capturing Osama Bin Laden.  And the Tea Party's gotten stupider than ever!  They actually told me they want to censure Obama for not declaring war against Russia and not declaring war against ISIS!"  (Dr. Esse nodded sympathetically.)  "Well, he can't!  Congress is supposed to declare war--not the President!  These dimwits don't even know the basics about our government!"

"This is an excellent opportunity for you, Mr. Speaker!  This is the type of challenge from which you could derive real job satisfaction if you viewed it as an opportunity to exercise your leadership abilities, demonstrate your knowledge about the separation of powers, and instruct your junior colleagues on a more effective means of attacking this goal."

"Ha!"

"Well, it won't be easy--"

"Ha!"

"--but if it were an easy job, then anybody at all could do it.  You have been entrusted with this job because you have unique talents for it."

"I need help, for God's sake!  Nobody's helping me!  What are ya gonna do for me?"

Many important federal officials came to Dr. Ermann Esse because he was able to treat them without giving them drugs that would ruin their security clearances.  But sometimes, they just didn't want to do the hard work necessary for effective psychotherapy.  "Unbutton your shirt--I'm going to suck the toxins out of your pancreas, and this will help you relax and focus."  Dr. Esse took out a drinking glass from his kit, removed the hotel-style sanitary wrapper, and drove it gently but forcibly into Boehner's abdomen, just as he had seen in the You Tube video.  "This is something you should do twice a day, at approximately 10 a.m. and 10 p.m.  I will draw the circle around the cup with this permanent marker so you know the spot.  You need to lie here for three minutes with the cup on, and then three minutes with it off, and with your eyes closed, visualize the cortisol flowing to your skin and evaporating harmlessly into the air.  Your body will naturally replace the cortisol with an amphetamine and dopamine mix which is what you need to make the right decisions."  Dr. Esse smiled encouragingly at his patient.  (The placebo effect of this silly treatment was helping a lot of his patients.)  "And then you will be able to explain why we cannot risk nuclear war with Russia."

"That sounds good," said the Speaker of the House, who dutifully closed his eyes and visualized the chemicals evaporating away from his tummy.

I wonder if the Senate is in this kind of turmoil?, thought the psychiatrist.

Several miles to the north, spy Charles Wu hung up the phone with the Tarantula, then headed to the dining room for another hearty meal to replenish his body after his earlier 23rd place finish in today's National Triathlon.  Tomorrow, the Senate, he thought.  (These were tasks he was doing for former Senator Evermore Breadman, over at Prince and Prowling, and, truth be told, they were a welcome respite from Beijing's incessant requests for more information about what the U.S. was going to do against Russia.)  Truth be told, after McCutcheon vs. FEC, he wasn't even sure the blackmail was strictly necessary--but it was still a lot cheaper and more efficient than buying off scores and scores of elected officials.

Over on Capitol Hill, coroner John Constantine had his own Congressional agenda.  "Before we eat dinner," he said to his girlfriend, "I need to show you something."  Ann Bishis (Congressman Herrmark's Chief of Staff) had spent the last two hours painstakingly recreating her grandmother's baklava recipe, and was suspicious about the look on his face.  "I know it's a lot to ask, but I want you to look at this autopsy photo."

"What?!"

"Please, just do it.  It's really important.  You might lose your appetite for awhile, but I figure that's better than vomiting later."

"Thanks?" Bishis said, nervously.

"Will you look at it?  It's a Congressional staffer that died over the weekend.  He worked for Jacques Javert."

"OK," she said, but managed no more than a one-second look.  "Oh!"  She turned away and covered her eyes with her hands.

"There's no scientific explanation for this death."

"What are you saying?"

"I'm saying, we have to take these rumors seriously.  There are things in this town that are not right.  Some would call it demonic.  I was raised not to believe in such superstitious nonsense, but I don't think my father or grandfather ever did an autopsy on a corpse like that."

"I've seen something, too," said Bishis hoarsely.  "Our former Chief of Staff...."

"What about her?"

"She didn't disappear.  We took her out on a sailboat to test her, to see if she was a zombie.  Then this maniac showed up in a kayak and chopped her head off.  Then maggots came out of her neck."

Constantine the coroner sat in stunned silence for several moments.  "Why didn't you ever tell me that before?"

"It didn't come up!"

Over in Alexandria, a rejuvenated Congressman Boehner was meeting with realtor Henrietta "Button" Samuelson.  "This is perfect!" he exclaimed.  "It's going to have to be handled by the GSA, though."

"What?"

"The General Services Administration."

"For your new bar?"

"It's a long story," said Boehner, who could not tell her that he had only used her to scout a location for the New Dominion Boat Club, future secret drone base.  "Thank you for your trouble!"  He pulled out a $25,000 blank check from an Ohio corporation and handed it to her, kissed her on the cheek, then sauntered off into the night.  "I'm a natural leader!  Intelligent, knowledgeable, forceful, effective!"

Well, thought Ardua of the Potomac, who had been watching this from the demon's watery home, let's see how long that lasts.

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COMING UP:  
The Heurich Society gives Glenn Michael Beckmann one more chance.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

A Visit to Georgetown

British special agents Nigel "Prickly" Blackthorne and Richard "The Third" Mollington were knocking back another lager at Kafe Leopold, whining quietly but vehemently about the refusal of their boss, Paul, to let them have a 3-day weekend with the Yanks.

"Where is this bloke, anyway?" muttered Prickly.  "I've told Paul a hundred times these Viennese agents are overrated."

"You're preaching to the choir, mate," said The Third.  "They're good at selling arms to terrorists, and then forgetting where the arms go!"

"And forgetting their appointments," said Prickly.  "Bloody useless!  Wait a minute!  Maybe he said to meet us at Stoney's?  He likes their grilled cheese."

"What are you bloody talkin' about?!" exclaimed The Third.  "Who would pick Stoney's over Kafe Leopold?"

"Well, a bloke's gotta mix it up," said Prickly.  "I think maybe we're supposed to be at Stoney's."

"How could you get it so screwed up?" asked The Third.

"Oh, don't start on me!  I had a rough week!"

"Binge-watching 'The Musketeers' doesn't count as a rough week!"

"And I had to go salsa dancing with Carolyn!  It was dreadful!"

"It's too late to catch him at Stoney's now," said The Third.

"Maybe he'll stop at Whole Foods and do his shopping afterwards?" suggested Prickly.

A few tables away, Camisole Silk signaled Apricot Lily that it was time to make their move.  The two got up and sauntered over to the British agents they had lured to Georgetown.

"This song is a great song to tango to," said Silk, looking directly at Prickly.  "Would you like to clear a few tables and dance with me?"

Prickly looked over at The Third for guidance, but The Third had a weakness for beautiful Chinese women, and Lily was extending her hand in a silent invitation to dance, as well.

Prickly looked back at Silk.  "I tried the salsa last week, but I mucked it right up--a total halibut, I was."

"Tango is much easier," said Silk, grabbing his hand and pulling him up.  "Really, you just push me around backwards, and I do the rest."

"Really, is that all?" asked The Third, rising to his feet to dance with Lily.

"Count to four," whispered Lily.  "One, two, three, four."

The Third had never seen lips that red and shiny.  "One, two, three, four."  He promptly pushed her into a table, but she just giggled at him.  "And you have to look over my shoulder."

Prickly, on the other hand, was having no trouble looking over Silk's shoulder--he was too terrified to make eye contact with her.  Mostly he was worried he'd never be able to eat at Kafe Leopold again, imagining the waiters sneering at them in the future as British dolts' hiring Chinese hookers.  But Silk and Lily didn't need their money--Charles Wu was paying them for this.

Not far away, Wu was having a quiet dinner with Angela de la Paz at the Old Europe restaurant on Wisconsin Avenue--not too far from the haunted house she was keeping vigil over.

"You didn't have to do this," said Angela.  "You're paying me to work for you!"

"Well, I haven't been seeing you too often lately, and I wanted to thank you in person for retrieving my drone."

"It was no big deal," said Angela.  "And it wasn't even in one piece."

"No big deal for you, maybe, but I never would have found it again without your help!  You need to tell me more about this Ghost CIA."

"They're mostly harmless," said Angela.  "Sometimes they get their act together, but there are much bigger threats out there."

"Are they really in the CIA, haunting actual agents?"

"Sometimes.  Sometimes they go overseas.  Samuelson keeps shifting focus, so his leadership is a little problematic."

Wu took another sip of wine, trying to wrap his head around all this.  "What I was worried about was Condoleezza Rice having enough evidence to get me deported!  The Ghost CIA was not remotely on my radar."

"What are you trying to get out of Prickly and The Third?" asked Angela, who knew about the spy operation underway at the other end of Georgetown.

"I'm not sure," Wu said.  "I think they're hiding something from me."

"They're spies!" she laughed.  "That's what you all do!"

"No, it's something big," he said, looking at her wistfully--he had given up trying to convince her to use her Dreamtime abilities for mentally invasive espionage, and was grateful her scruples still allowed her to work for him at all.  "I know, I know--if I'm in real danger, you'll know."

"You're not in any danger," Angela said.  "But I worry about the bigger picture."

"Look, this ghost stuff is a bit much for me--I can't really think about that."

"No," she said.  "I mean Russia and everything.  Don't you worry about how the things you do fit into the bigger picture?"  (One thing Angela had in common with Ardua of the Potomac:  they both knew Wu was poised in a perfect balance between good and evil, seemingly immune to either side's ability to tip him completely over.)  "China, the U.S., Britain--you're spying for all of them, so how does it balance out?  What good does it do?  People talk about World War III like it's going to happen someday, but the world is always at war.  I think someday I'm going to have a vision about nuclear bombs, but I'm just one person."

Wu took another sip of wine, at a loss for words.  All the choices he had made in his life--every, single one of them--made perfect sense to him.  His chi had made him more powerful, more intelligent, more skillful than almost anybody he had ever known.  But he had vulnerabilities, and the more he tried to ignore them, the more Angela reminded him of them.  He took another sip of wine, as she waited patiently for him to say something, but he just wanted to go home, read a bedtime story to little Delia, and then get drunk.  "You are just one person," he said at last.  "But in your case, it's far more than enough."  They both knew she had wanted him to say something about nuclear secrets, high-level espionage, and what direction the world was really going in, but he couldn't.  "And you're still young!" he added, wondering how many more of his messes she would have to clean up before it was all said and done.

Back at the other end of Georgetown, Camisole Silk and Apricot Lily had coaxed Prickly and The Third down to the waterfront, where the Chinese spies twirled in the rain, soaked (most becomingly) to the skin.

"Come on, now!" shouted Prickly.  "There's lightning!  It isn't safe here!"  He tried to grab Silk, but she slipped through his hands.

"Lily!" pleaded The Third.  "The thunder's too close now, love!  We need to find a taxi!"  He slicked his wet hair out of his eyes, feeling more alive than he had in years.

The ladies finally acquiesced to getting into a taxi with their marks, barely eluding the grasp of Ardua as she lunged out of the river to grab them.  The lightning cracked again, and the demon glided back towards Key Bridge to continue her hunt.

Up on the hill, in a darkened Georgetown University building, The Seekers sat silently around a conference table, looking out the window at the approaching storm.

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COMING UP:  Congress returns to town, and still accomplishes nothing (except groping Senator Kirsten Gillibrand).

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Constantine the Coroner

John Constantine was finishing his final autopsy of the day.  All in all, it was a fairly typical Sunday of work after the usual late night and early morning shootings and drunk driving accidents.  He was annoyed that his days off earlier in the week had been rainy, and he had to work on this beautiful Sunday, but all the coroners took turns covering the weekend-blowout shift, and it was his turn.

He peeled back the sheet and began examining another Great Falls drowning victim.  It was a young man who looked healthy and strong enough to swim, but Constantine knew by now that a lot of people died in the Potomac's tricky tides and currents.  The young man's friends had told his parents they were sure they saw something capsize his kayak and drag him under, so the parents had requested an investigation for foul play.

Constantine's boss popped into the room.  "You can write two reports, if you want--one for the public and one for my private file."  He looked at the young man for a moment.  "You probably won't see it, but sometimes...."  He didn't finish his thought, knowing that Constantine was well aware of his boss's belief that an evil demon lived in the river.  "But you can call me at home if you want to," he concluded, then left.

"OK, buddy," Constantine said.  "If you want to tell me who or what killed you, I'm all ears."  He stared at the corpse for a few moments, but got nothing.  "I don't know why people believe in ghosts," he muttered.  "There would be no unsolved murders if ghosts really existed!"

The corpse's ghost howled in frustration, but, like most new ghosts, he was too angry and frustrated to listen to his elders' advice on how to communicate to the living.  "Ardua!" he kept noiselessly yelling.  "Ardua of the Potomac!"

Over at Southwest Plaza, Glenn Michael Beckmann (who had sent a few people to the D.C. coroner's office) was taking an afternoon nap, unaware that the Ghost CIA had invaded his apartment to inspect the Charles Wu spy drone he had shot down a few hours earlier.  "No!" he moaned, having a nightmare about wallpaper patterns.  "Stop it!"  (His fake lifestyle blog and front business, Beckmann's Floral Cushions, were taking a toll on him.)  "No!"

"What is wrong with him?!" exclaimed Ghost Henry's deputy.

The ghost of Henry Samuelson shrugged.  "Bad dream--just ignore it."

Beckmann was getting very agitated.  He kept walking into new dream rooms where the wallpaper was different, and then then the floral cushion in his hand would change pattern to match the wallpaper.  "Stop it!  I worked hard on these flowers!"  (Ghost Henry shook his head in disgust.)  Finally, he jumped up screaming, then started screaming even louder because he had taken off the knee braces protecting his shattered knee caps.  He sank back onto the bed, now howling from conscious pain rather than unconscious demons.

"Hard to believe the Heurich Society wanted to hire this clown," said Ghost Henry's deputy.

"Well, he did get Charles Wu's drone!" replied Ghost Henry.

"I wish John Doe had arrived to pick it up for us before Beckmann woke up," said the deputy, who had been struggling for 20 minutes just to get the hallway door unlocked for Doe.  "Now, what are we gonna do?"

"We'll just have to wait and signal Doe when Beckmann is in the bathroom," said Ghost Henry.

"How do you know he'll use the bathroom?"

"He ate three chili dogs and drank a fifth of scotch before his nap," said Ghost Henry.  "He'll be in the bathroom as soon as he can hobble over there!"

Back at the coroner's office, John Constantine was finishing his two reports--the official one, which said that the young man died from water in his lungs and cardiac arrest, and the unofficial one, which added:  "Slimy, viscous liquid under fingernails, which could be consistent with digging fingers into an unknown marine life form.  Other signs of struggle include four broken ribs and eyes locked in open position."  Constantine sighed.  There's no point in telling his family this, right?  What are they gonna do?  Ask the police to search for a suspect in the river?  Constantine returned the body to the cooler.  He shivered.  Eyes wide open.  Drowning victims always have their eyes shut, don't they?

Over in Georgetown, Angela de la Paz was having a backyard picnic dinner with Golden Fawn, Marcos Vazquez, and Joey Bent Oak.  The family had turned the key on their new house a couple hours earlier, and were not entirely surprised to find that Angela had been camping out there for weeks.

"So there's nothing you can do?" asked Golden Fawn, smoothing out the blanket over the wild plant growth beneath them.

"Not yet," said Angela.  "I need more time.  I can't just destroy them, like demons."  She looked at young Joey, who was not eating his cherry pie as enthusiastically as one might expect.  "But I can keep you safe."

"Are you absolutely sure?" asked Vazquez.

"Yes," she said.  "These are definitely the angriest ghosts I've ever seen, but I can block them from hurting you.  I think eventually they'll get frustrated and leave."

"Will they go haunt a different house, then?" asked Joey.

"There's only one place they can go--Purgatory."

"And then Heaven?" asked Joey.

"After their penance," said Angela.

"Because they were bad?" asked Joey.

Angela was not going to tell any of them--least of all little Joey--that the ghosts had been responsible for more murders and suicides than the realtor had disclosed to them prior to their bargain-priced purchase from the bank.  "Yes," Angela said.  "They were bad.  They were treated very cruelly as slaves in this house, worked to death, and then sought revenge--except they treat every new owner in this house badly, not just their own.  They need to learn that's wrong."

Golden Fawn pulled Joey into her lap.  "Maybe we should take a little vacation--give Angela more time?"

"No!" exclaimed Joey.  "I'm not afraid!  I'm not afraid of those ghosts!  They should be afraid of me!"

Angela smiled:  the ghosts were just starting to be afraid of her.

A few miles to the east, John Constantine was sipping absinthe alone at the Black Squirrel, waiting for his dinner to come.  He usually preferred quieter places after a busy day, but tonight he was hoping the din of the crowd would drown out the thoughts in his own head.  Constantine came from a long line of coroners, and had been taught early on not to fear death, but he was seeing things in this city that gave him the creeps.  He sighed, half wishing that his girlfriend was back from her Greek vacation, half glad she wasn't.  He had very little in common with her, and come October, it would be a year--time to fish or cut bait.  He sighed again.  She had all kinds of kooky (pagan?) habits herself, but whenever he tried to bring up anything weird weighing on his mind, she strenuously resisted.  Ann Bishis did not want to be sidetracked by anything outside her comfort zone, and their relationship was stuck in a dull and shallow pattern.  And yet.  He smiled at the arrival of his dinner, and nodded to accept the waiter's offer of another absinthe.  A little voice inside his head kept telling him, push this woman to another level.  He just didn't know why or how.

A few miles to the south, the ghosts of Regina and Ferguson were very excited to have the Obama family back at the White House.  Bridge looked up at them on the roof, using the solar panels as slides.  "Reggie!  Fergie!  You come down from there!"

"Why?" the twin preschoolers shouted in unison.

And then Bridge realized he had no reason to give them--he was just instinctively telling them everything they did was wrong.  I guess there's no harm in that sliding, he thought, absent-mindedly swatting away a late-summer bee.  But why won't they move on?

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COMING UP!  The (espionage) adventures of Prickly and The Third!

Friday, August 15, 2014

The Revenge of Pippin!

"This is it, boys," said Condoleezza Rice, who had flown into Washington for this emergency meeting of the Heurich Society.  She laid a tiny electronic device down on the conference room table in the upper floor of the Brewmaster's Castle.  "The coroner found it during Pippin's autopsy."  ("Why did Pippin have an autopsy?"  "Because it's northern California!"  "But why?")  "Gentlemen!" exclaimed Rice, making Henrietta Samuelson cringe a second time.  "I spent $48,000 on feline leukemia treatments, and I needed to know why he died!"  ("This is what killed your cat?")  "No, this is not what killed him!  That's not important now.  This is a listening device I've traced to Charles Wu."

"Damn it!" cried a former CIA officer, who grabbed the device and dropped it into his glass of water.  "Why did you bring it here?  Of all the idiotic things to do!"

Rice stared icily at him for several seconds.  "Do you really think moisture can stop it?  It's been inside my cat for God-knows how many years!"

"You're right," he replied.  "We need a hammer."

Rice grabbed the water glass away from him and fished it out.  "The listening component is on mute right now.  I want to use this to entrap Wu."

"Brilliant!" cried the international arms dealer.

"There could be listening devices all over this place!" exclaimed the investment banker.

"The Castle is swept for bugs daily," said Samuelson, the Chair of the Heurich Society.  "What's your plan?" she asked, knowing that Angela de la Paz, their dangerous former errand girl, was now working for Wu.

At that moment, the crawl space above the conference table collapsed, and a chunk of ceiling formerly holding up Glenn Michael Beckmann crashed down on the table.  Beckmann (who thought he had planned this surveillance a lot better than the last one--which had left the conspiracy blogger with two broken feet), shattered both his knee caps...and smashed Wu's listening device into a hundred minute pieces.  (The conference room table, impressively, was still standing!)

Han Li rushed into the room at the sound of the crash, and the members looked up expectantly at him.  "Should I call the police?" he asked, knowing full well they would say no.

"We need to interrogate this jackass!" said the former CIA officer.

"Always itching to waterboard somebody," sneered Rice, who had started going through the unconscious Beckmann's pockets.  She pulled out lip balm, a Metro SmartTrip card, a sheathed dagger, two lottery tickets, a tear gas canister, a ski mask, a small revolver, and a folded-up newspaper article about aroma therapy--in that order.  "He's just a nut job."

"Check the attic," said Samuelson to Han Li.  "Maybe there's a bag or something."

"How did he get in here?" asked the germ warfare specialist.

"He must have slipped away from a tour group," said Samuelson.

"Well, this is unacceptable!" said the investment banker, and all eyes turned to Samuelson.

A few miles away, Charles Wu began receiving a series of text messages from Han Li recounting the incident.  "An autopsy!" Wu exclaimed out loud.  "On her cat?!"  He read some more messages.  Well, that explains why I've heard nothing in two days.  He looked anxiously out his office window at little Delia frolicking around the back yard while her governess pruned the rose bushes.  I can't believe Rice did an autopsy on her cat!  This is not good.

Back at the Brewmaster's Castle, the ghost of Pippin (who had followed Rice from  California) was distraught at seeing the destruction of the listening device.  He was trying furiously to claw Beckmann, but it wasn't working.  He hissed in frustration and jumped out the window to search for this Charles Wu himself.  Now cats have small brains, and feline ghosts are not the sharpest spirits out there, so Pippin really had no idea what he was doing.  The ghost of Henry Samuelson, who was arriving late for this meeting, ran into Ghost Pippin outside.

"What are you doing here?" he asked, but Ghost Pippin just hissed because feline ghosts can't talk any better than live cats can.  "Did you come with the Bloodsucker?  Why is she in town?"

It was then that Ghost Pippin recognized Ghost Henry from photos he had seen previously...and he knew that Rice hated him.  He jumped on Ghost Henry and started clawing furiously.  This time it worked!  Ghost Henry cried in unfamiliar pain and knocked Ghost Pippin to the ground.

"Knock it off!" yelled Ghost Henry.  "I've got to get in there and find out whether they support another invasion of Iraq."

Ghost Pippin lifted his leg and urinated on Ghost Henry.

"Hey!" hollered Ghost Henry, who didn't even know ghosts could pee.  He kicked the cat to the curb, then flew upstairs to enter the conference room.

A few yards away, the Dog Whisperer had been watching this all with great curiosity.  He had never seen a ghost before, though he knew from the whispers that they existed.  However, now he could see Ghost Pippin.  He looked down at his charges.  The Great Dane was sniffing a tree.  The Springer Spaniel was sniffing the Great Dane.  The Golden Retriever looked up at Sebastian L'Arche, and L'Arche knelt down to whisper.  The dog told L'Arche what had transpired with Ghost Henry (whom L'Arche had not seen).  L'Arche sighed heavily, feeling he had more important things to do, but there it was.

"Pippin," whispered L'Arche, and Ghost Pippin turned around and looked at L'Arche suspiciously.  "They won't hurt you," L'Arche said, nodding at his three charges.  "Why don't you move on?  This isn't a good place for your kind."  Even L'Arche did not think this was a compelling argument, but it was all he had at the moment.  Ghost Pippin, who still had a small brain, had no idea what L'Arche was talking about.  "You don't belong in this world anymore," continued L'Arche.  "Do you see a light that you can go to?"  Pippin looked around in the bright sunlight, saw a glint of light reflected from the Dupont Circle fountain, and ran off to check it out.  The Dog Whisperer looked at the Golden Retriever, shrugged his shoulders, and continued their mid-day walk.

Meanwhile, Ghost Pippin continued on his way, unaware that his spectral hissy fit had sent a nearby John Doe into a temporal lobe epileptic fit.  A couple of river rats near the Dupont Circle fountain watched him approach with sinister curiosity--after all, no mind was too small for Ardua of the Potomac to recruit into her army.

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COMING UP:  Constantine the coroner.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

The Washington Lifestyle

And now the thumping again.  Chloe Cleavage marched out on her balcony to register a complaint about the thumping on the balcony next door, where Joey Bent Oak was dribbling his basketball.

"Oh, come on!" he replied.  "I waited until noon!  You can't sleep that late!"

"It's a disturbance of the peace at any hour!"  Cleavage could not believe she had sold all her eggs for a million dollars and purchased a D.C. condo, only to end up living next door to this freaky Indian/Puerto Rican family.

"You complain about everything!" cried Joey.  "It's ridiculous!"

"How many people do you have crammed into that condo, anyway?" asked the Prince and Prowling staff attorney.  "There are rules!"

"You don't scare me!" he said.  "I climbed Eagle Mountain all by myself and spent the night there, too.  I jumped into the Gray Gorge and swam across it when I was only six!  I--"

"Sure you did, kid!  But you've never known fear and trembling until you've faced the wrath of a D.C. condo association board!  You tell Golden Hind and Marco Polo I'm reporting you!"

"It's 'Golden Fawn' and 'Marcos Vazquez', you idiot!" he exclaimed, as she slammed her balcony door shut.  "And we're moving," he added, more softly, thinking about the creepy house they had just purchased in upper Georgetown.

A couple miles away, Luciano Talaverdi was also struggling to maintain his peaceful lifestyle.  "It's hard to read the newspaper when he just sits there staring at me!" he complained to Helen Yellen.

"Oh, don't be such a sourpuss!" she replied, scratching the pot-bellied pig with her bare feet.  "He learned not to sit on your Italian leather, and not to pee on the lemon tree, and not to rub against the medieval tapestry on the wall.  When are you going to cut him some slack?  Petro Pig is a good boy!"

"I don't think he's happy as a pet," said the Italian economist.

"Well, he's not gonna be happier as prosciutto!" she pouted.

"I didn't say that!" protested Talaverdi (who now only ate prosciutto at the Federal Reserve Board cafeteria).  "But he only seems happy outdoors!  He's very restless indoors."

"He likes an active lifestyle, that's true," Yellen said.  "But it's good exercise for us to take him out a lot.  And his outgoing personality is making me a lot of money!"

Talaverdi couldn't argue with that, though he was not exactly comfortable with his girlfriend renting Petro Pig out for political and social events.  Petro Pig oinked agreeably at Talaverdi, pleased that he was paying attention to the porker.  "Can you just get him to stop staring at me?" the economist pleaded, wondering if he could ever raise bambini with this woman.

"He can't help it," said Yellen with a smile.  "He loves you!"

Over at Meridian Hill Park, love was also in the air...as well as an active lifestyle:  dog walkers in the grass, welter-weight boxers on the pavement, wedding party photos beneath the waterfall, guitar players on the wall, bees in the clover, bongos up the hill, lovestruck interns next to the duck pond, hula hoops under the trees.  Nothing aroused Glenn Michael Beckmann's conspiracy theories more than an excessive number of happy people gathered only a couple miles from the White House, and he walked around uneasily in his cut-off army fatigues.  Too many foreigners, he thought.  Too many young people.  Too many idle people.  Too many people watching other people.  Too many cameras.  He snapped a photo of Africans playing a suspicious-looking musical instrument.  Don't they all have something better to do?  Beckmann, in truth, was secretly hoping to be recognized, after having been interviewed earlier in the week on "Let's Talk Live".  Though it was humiliating to be on television talking about his front organization, Beckmann's Floral Cushions, it had been a great opportunity to broadcast coded messages about illegal aliens (how their mass movements cause tornadoes), the true origin of ISIS (Minnesota), the secret agenda of the African summit (elect more Africans to the White House), and how they tampered with the evidence against Governor McDonnell (there was more than one cheerleader in that mansion!).  The talk show appearance had been very confusing for the hosts (especially when he presented them with personally embroidered pillows that appeared to have guns in the motif), but his blog hits had skyrocketed, and he had gained three new clients for Beckmann's Bad Asses.  (Only the baddest bad asses could understand his coded messages!)  But, somehow, being on television had not made him famous, and he had always thought it would.  There must be a conspiracy against me, he thought, looking around in perplexity at all the people ignoring him.

Across town on H Street, Beckmann's lifestyle blogging rival (and former girlfriend), Giuliana Sunstream, was still enjoying a huge run of popularity on her blog, but she was consumed with jealousy that Beckmann had landed a spot on "Let's Talk Live".  Now the NoMa streetcars were on the brink of becoming operational, and it was the biggest chance she had to attract national attention.  "The beauty of the streetcar," she typed furiously, "is that the rider becomes organically entwined with the pulse of the city rendered electrically.  In other words, the rider is no longer a solitary particle in the urban landscape, but has become statically connected to the wave of pure energy which is a living city."  That's good! she thought.  "You can also knit your recycled sock fibers more comfortably, because the ride is smoother than on the bus."

Over at Prince and Prowling, former Senator Evermore Breadman's wife was knitting furiously in the corner of the conference room as he prepared to begin his emergency webinar on ethics for public officials.  "Really, honey, this is going to be so dull for you," he said to her one more time, but she was tired of his saying he had to go to the office every Sunday, and she was temporarily in-between lovers.

"No, I'm really looking forward to this!" she called through gritted teeth, wishing with all her might that Maureen McDonnell would be sent to the Big House so that she, Mrs. Evermore Breadman--who never had a chance to be a first lady of anything after her husband left the public sector for Prince and Prowling--could visit her in prison and give her a hand-knitted scarf (jailhouse gray).

The webinar producer signaled Breadman that the camera was rolling, and he could begin.  (The producer was going to get a 20% cut of all the $700/head webinar registrations.)

"Ladies and gentlemen," began the former U.S. Senator.  "I'm going to start today by reminding you that public office is not the place for you to make your personal fortune--it's the place where you learn everything you need to know to make your personal fortune later."

A few miles to the west, Angela de la Paz gritted her teeth as she walked into the haunted house in upper Georgetown.  She had lived in poverty before.  She had roughed it in the Afghan mountains, Egyptian slums, and Iraqi deserts.  But this place was the most miserable place she had ever lived.  "I'm home!" she called out robustly to the ghosts, as she made her way into the kitchen to prepare herself some lunch.  She looked around at the knocked-over chairs, broken plates on the floor, and food dumped out of the refrigerator.  "You're not scaring anybody!" she said, which was true enough for now, but the ghosts were wearing her down, and Golden Fawn's family would be closing on the house this week.  "I know you're angry about a lot of things, but those people that hurt you are long gone!" she cried, pulling out one of the paper plates she had thought to purchase at the store today.  "There's a lovely family getting ready to move in here, and we are not the enemy!"  Her abilities had become so advanced that she rarely had to use violence anymore, and could telepathically convince most people--or demons--to stand down, but these ghosts had some type of fierce psychic energy which she had no power against.  "We might only have another week or two alone," she said to the ghosts.  "You can talk to me whenever you want."  She sat down to eat.  "You will never be able to hurt these people," she added.  "You need to find something else to do."

Outside the house, a pair of pink warblers began singing in the trees, until a cackling cat bird chased them away.  Then it started laughing--like a ghost.

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COMING UP:  The Revenge of Pippin!

Sunday, August 03, 2014

Some people never grow up.

"Some people never grow up," Bridge muttered to himself, shaking his pruning shears at the ghost pre-schoolers running through the First Lady's vegetable garden.  "NOT NOW!" he shouted at Regina and Ferguson.  "I told you about the African leader summit and the state dinner this week!  This place has to be in tip-top shape!  Reggie!  Fergie!"  He caught himself, remembering that people might be watching from inside the White House, and started moving closer to be in whispering range, but they stuck their little ghost tongues out at him and ran off to see if Sasha and Malia were home.

A mile away, a few members of the Heurich Society were thinking about sticking out their tongues at the arrival of their president, Henrietta Samuelson, to the upper meeting room of the Brewmaster's Castle, but they held their tongues.

"Alright," she said, tossing down her bag and getting straight down to business.  "I've carefully considered the surveyed responses--"

"I was led to believe there would be ice cream," said the international currency trader.

"What?" said Samuelson.  "Oh."  She looked at the crystal platter covered in Krispy Kreme doughnuts.

"It's too late in the day for doughnuts," added the disgraced former Congressman from Alabama.

"Well, I guess Han Li forgot about the ice cream," said Samuelson.  "Now getting back to--"

"Maybe you forgot to ask him!" said the member from the FBI.

"Maybe if you wanted ice cream so damned much, you should have stopped at Ben and Jerry's before you came here!" exclaimed Samuelson.

"Here, here!" echoed Condoleezza Rice from the speakerphone.  (She was rarely in town to get the snacks.)

"Our new mission statement is 'maximize wealth, power, and freedom,'" Samuelson blurted out rapidly, before she could be interrupted.

"Well, that's a bit vague," said the international arms dealer.

"We don't do anything which does not advance at least one of those goals," continued Samuelson.  "That means no more meddling in the Academy Awards, or the Super Bowl--"

"Now, wait just a minute," said the member from the CIA.  "Who's going to decide whether something advances the goals?  Just you?  Because it's not a dictatorship!"

"No, it's not," said Samuelson.  "It's a secret society with a ridiculous amount of money and a mind-boggling array of agents around the world.  If we're going to get involved in projects like the Black Sea, we can't be wasting energies on trivial matters."

"I thought you had dropped that project," said the retired army colonel.

"It was not advancing our goals," said Samuelson.

"Says you!" he retorted.

"Gentlemen!" interrupted Condoleezza Rice.  "We have leaders from the entire continent of Africa coming to town!  Please tell me we are prepared for this!"

Samuelson shook her head at Rice's use of the word "gentlemen".

"Yeah, yeah," said the African affairs committee leader.  (He didn't like being on that committee, and pouted for months after he was passed over for Asian Affairs.)  "Maximizing power and all that jazz.  It fits our goals!"

"Does this involve more than embarrassing Obama by sneaking cockroaches into the State Dinner?" asked Samuelson.

"Of course!" he retorted.  "There's more than just that!"

Back in the White House neighborhood, cockroaches had, in fact, been reported in Prince and Prowling's state-of-the-art, totally secure, underground document review center.

"How is this possible!?" declared the Managing Partner, who had just spent half a million dollars (some of that to bribe city building inspectors to overlook the lack of permits) in emergency renovations to re-stabilize the foundation after the entire building had shifted.  "Do we need to fumigate the contract attorneys?"

Laura Moreno pretended she hadn't heard that last remark.  "They've been working very long hours, so they have to eat."

"But they're not allowed to bring anything into SOTA-BUNK!" he declared.  "They even take their clothes off and put on our jumpsuits!"

"Chloe Cleavage was bringing them some snacks," Moreno said, referring to the other staff attorney involved.

"SNACKS?!"  The managing attorney started typing furiously on his computer to pull up access to the security tapes.  "What kind of snacks?!"

"Costco boxes of snacks with pre-packaged chips, cookies, that sort of thing."

"That sort of thing makes crumbs!"

"Well, she wanted them working more hours, so--"

"Good Heavens!" the Managing Partner exclaimed, finding a snack time in the video replay.  "They're stampeding like Somali refugees spotting bowls of rice!"

"Yes," said Moreno softly.  "People like to be first in line to get first pick of what's available."

"This is totally unacceptable!  They can only eat when they exit SOTA-BUNK!"

"Then they'll have to get more breaks," said Moreno.

"In my day--" began the Managing Partner, but then he thought better of it.

"What are we going to do about the roaches?" asked Moreno.

"Won't that self-correct now?" he asked.  (A small sigh escaped Moreno.)

Up on the top floor of Prince and Prowling, former Senator Evermore Breadman had his own snack problem--Congressman John Boehner's compulsively plowing through the last of his Little Debbie Cupcakes.  "You want more whiskey with that?"

"Absolutely!" said the Speaker of the House.

"Look, John," said Breadman, "I know they voted you the authority to sue the President, but to be honest with you--"

"Be honest with me!" declared Boehner, raising his shot glass encouragingly.

"There are three branches of government--"

"Not that again!"

"John!  The Constitution says the remedy is impeachment.  There's only so much wool you can pull over the American people's eyes."

"This is not about wool!"

"Congress is the weakest branch of government right now.  Why on Earth do you want to toss off your impeachment power and ask the judicial branch to handle it?  The judicial branch, for crying out loud!  Sissies who wear robes to work!  Instead of having handsome Congressmen in dark suits entering testimony on the House floor, you'll have sissies in robes telling you exactly what kind of evidence you can or cannot submit--"

"Evermore!" cried Boehner.  "Those Congressmen in dark suits are useless to me without a Republican Senate!"

"You can still impeach!"

"Evermore!" cried Boehner.  "A judge could say Obamacare is unconstitutional!"

"But it IS constitutional, John!" exclaimed Breadman.  "The Supreme Court said so!  The SUPREMES!  The best you could get is some narrow little ruling about maybe one or two pieces of regulation in Health and Human Services, and the court will just tell HHS to rewrite them!"

"But I can do that," whispered Boehner conspiratorially, "with just the lawyers I hire!  No more wheeling and dealing with all these prima donna a-holes in the House!  Do you know how many hours of my life I've wasted inserting mark-ups that will never get through the Senate, let alone across Obama's desk, just so those a-holes can put in their next campaign ad, 'I fought for blah, blah, blah!'"

"That's what people think you're doing!" exclaimed Breadman!

"What?!  Me?!"

Back at the White House, Regina and Ferguson were now in the Oval Office, rearranging books on the shelves and hiding framed photos.

"Reggie!  Fergie!"  The ghost twins looked up in annoyance at Ghost Dennis.  "When are ya gonna grow up?"

"When are you?!" exclaimed Ferguson.

"Yeah!" echoed Regina.  "Silly old summits!  Men just sit around in their fancy clothes, and then they go back to killing each other the next week!"

"And nothing you whisper in Obama's ear can change that!" said Ferguson, before he whispered something in their secret twin language to Regina, and the two ran off in a burst of giggles.

Ghost Dennis sighed and set to work putting things back in the order they should be, as best he could.  There has got to be a way, he moaned softly.

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COMING UP:  The Washington lifestyle!