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 12/27/2014. Follow Washington Water Woman on Twitter @HorrorDC ....

Sunday, August 30, 2015

The Bold and the Beautiful

Bo-oz Consulting (the ultra secretive "5G" division of Booz Hamilton) was hosting the senior executives of International Development Machine on a riverboat outing from Georgetown to the Chesapeake Bay.  IDM President Augustus Bush had grown up in the U.S. Virgin Islands clan of the Bush family and was therefore accustomed to surfing, jet skis, and deep-sea fishing in the Caribbean, but the other executives were overjoyed from the free flow of booze and wind in their hair.  After the sandwiches, brownies, and watermelon were consumed, when the first waves of drowsiness were rolling across the participants, economist Fen Do Ping stood up to make his pitch.

"There are 200,000 refugees in Europe," he began.  "Some of them are dying in smugglers' trucks.  These are people risking their lives to start somewhere new, so why not take advantage of that?  We have mapped out a pilot project which will train these refugees to take back Crimea from Russia."  (He saw several jaw drop.)  "Do not underestimate these people!  They made it out of some of the most hellish war zones on Earth, not to mention some of the regions burning up from climate change.  They are desperately pushing their way through Greece, Turkey, and the Balkans for what?  To end up in Northern Europe, impoverished, marginalized, and easy prey for Islamist radicalization.  With our plan, they will be transported across the Black Sea, to land on the Crimean peninsula in amphibious ships."

"Nobody wants to go to Russia," protested Bush.

"That's true," said Ping, "but nobody wants to live in a refugee camp, either.  If we send all 200,000 at once, they will establish their own colony.  Crimea won't be Little Russia anymore:  it will be New Syria."

"Hm, I do like the sound of that," said Bush.  "'New Syria!'  Really rolls off the tongue."

"The Russians will just slaughter them!" the European Director protested.

"That's where you're wrong," said Ping.  "We have done extensive cost-benefit analysis of what it would take for Russia to repel the sudden arrival of 200,000 refugees.  And don't forget there are still native Ukrainians there who would join the refugees to fight off the Russians.  And the Russians can't afford to be seen in a humanitarian crisis of that magnitude--it would cause Chechen Islamists to rise up in a full-scale rebellion the likes of which Russia has never seen.  What we are talking about, ladies and gentlemen, would be the 21st century's first-ever European attack on Russia using refugees.  It shatters all the paradigms."

"It sounds very risky," said Bush.

"That's why we brought this proposal to IDM, first.  We know your team has the guts to push it through."

"They would need massive firepower, and a lot of those 200,000 are women and children," said Bush.

Ping nodded.  "We would certainly need to put in some experienced mercenaries, but those are easy to come by--especially for a shot at invading Russia."

"I really don't see the international donors funding this," said Bush.

"We've already identified a variety of private foundations and international financiers we think would be very interested in funding this program."

"Please tell me they're not neo-Nazis," said the European Director.

"Not as far as I know," said Ping.  "If this pilot program works, we have sixty million total refugees out there in the world today.  We could topple dictatorships in Africa, take Tibet back from China, populate the Arctic Circle to lay claims to the underground petroleum reserves there."

"Whoa, Nelly!" laughed Bush.  "Let's not get ahead of ourselves!"

Back in Washington, conspiracy blogger and militia man Glenn Michael Beckmann had finally put together his plan to blow up the Trump Hotel under construction on Pennsylvania Avenue.  In the end, he had decided he could trust nobody to keep the plan secret (especially members of the Hunter-Gatherer Society, since their President, Sarah Palin, was infatuated with Donald Trump), so he was lugging the explosives by himself in a rolling suitcase on the bus ride up from his Southwest Plaza apartment to the Old Post Office Pavilion.  It would be a shame if his targeted explosives accidentally took down the beautiful old tower along with the Trump-built monstrosity around it, but sometimes you just had to throw the baby out with the bath water!  He got off the bus, then started rolling his suitcase toward the construction site.  He was going to place the explosives on the four corners of the site, then run around the site with his gun to shoot each pile of explosives one at a time.  (Setting timers was too tricky for him.)

After he pulled out the first pile and set it on the northeast corner, the federal agent tailing him yelled, "Freeze, hands in the air!"

"Damn it!" exclaimed Beckmann.  "Where did you come from?"

"Step away from the bag, face down on the pavement--now!"

Beckmann was still a little uncomfortable from getting shot in the shoulder two weeks earlier, so he lay down on his back instead.  "The doctor said I can't sleep on my stomach--it twists my shoulder too much."

"Whatever!"  The federal agent called his supervisor to request the bomb squad, then shook his head at Beckmann.  "How could you think you would get away with this?"

"The guy's a total asshole!" said Beckmann.  "He insulted veterans, insulted Megyn Kelly, uses Russian thugs as bodyguards, and hired raping Mexicans to work on this construction site--which, by the way, is going to be a den of casino thieves and hotel harlots financed by Saudi petrodollars!  We cannot stand idly by while this Joker destroys Gotham!  Where's Batman?  Nowhere!  Where's Glenn Michael Beckmann?  Here, sir!  Ready to do my patriotic duty!"

"Yeah, I didn't like it when he insulted Megyn Kelly, either!" said the federal agent.  "Somebody needs to give that guy a good punch in the mouth!"

"But nobody can get close to him!" exclaimed Beckmann.  "He's got the Russian mob protecting him!"

"Alright, I probably shouldn't do this, but why don't you just leave?  I won't arrest you."

"Can I get my candy bar out of the suitcase first?  It melts if I carry it in my pocket, so I put it in--"

"Leave the suitcase alone!  Go!"

On the other side of the White House, former Senator Evermore Breadman was in the hallway outside his Prince and Prowling office, rearranging his Wall of Me--again.  Putting the photo taken with Donald Trump on the top was the easy part, but how far beneath him should I place the photo taken with Jeb Bush?  Oh, wait, that's not even Jeb--it's that other guy that looks like Jeb.  I do want to keep Marco Rubio and me near the top because he's the only Hispanic I have.  Wait, I forgot Bridezilla took a photo of me with Carlos Slim!  Breadman moved a few pro-Iranian Democratic politicians up because his clients were clamoring to open up markets in Iran, took Joe Lieberman out of his frame, and went to find the photo Bridezilla had printed for him.

Unable to find it, he used his Senior Partner meta-password to log into Bridezilla's cloud account and search for her photo files from the Cuba Practices Group.  Here we go!  He scanned the photo album titles:  Cuban Embassy, U.S. Embassy, Boehner Cuba Caucus....  Ah, this must be it!  He clicked on a file called "Latin Bad Boy" and started looking through the slide show, only to discover it was a series of photos starring a young man who was definitely not Carlos Slim.  Is that____?  He scrolled through a few more, including selfies taken with a scantily clad Bridezilla and the young man on a Cuban beach.  "That's our contract attorney!" he exclaimed out loud.  "She's messing around with the contract attorney!"  He looked up to see if anybody had heard his exclamation, but there was no sound from the hallway.  She took him to Cuba as her translator, then messed around with him!  For a moment, he indignantly thought about pulling up her billing files, but then thought better of it:  as somebody who had been blackmailed himself for such indiscretions, he decided he would save this information for a time when it might become more useful to him.

Several miles to the east, Anacostia's most profitable gun dealer sold another handgun, and another Washingtonian planned another murder for the wee hours of the morning.

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COMING UP:  Reporter Perry Winkle goes for a Pulitzer Prize!

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Hacks

Only a minute had passed since Angela de la Paz had temporarily tossed the cursed Rolex onto the roof of the Reiki Triplets' house during last week's kerfuffle, but by the time she had attempted to retrieve it, it was missing and her psychic powers could not tell her where it was.  The catbird had spotted the shiny Rolex gleaming on that roof immediately, retrieved it to decorate her late-season nest, then received a message from Ardua of the Potomac to deliver it to somebody else.

And so it was that psychiatrist Ermann Esse had found the Rolex pushed through his mail slot.  It was a little dirty and sticky, but after carefully cleaning the watch, Dr. Esse was thoroughly convinced it was authentic.  He had spotted two sets of initials engraved on it, but could not quite match them to any of his patients.  Still, like any logical man would do, he had concluded that a grateful patient must have decided to leave it for him anonymously.  Usually August was slow, and Dr. Esse had planned to leave Washington this week to go hiking for ten days in Japan, but the psychotropic rush produced by the Rolex had made him too spastic to get on an airplane.  Then the Ashley Madison cheaters' website had been hacked, and his office had been inundated by hysterical sessions with wronged spouses.

Dr. Esse had long specialized in old-school psychiatry--with long conversations, occasional hypnosis, and therapeutic recommendations.  Many high-ranking federal workers who had to pass frequent drug tests for their security clearances went to Dr. Esse for therapy because he would not prescribe drugs.  But after days of listening to whining, unhappy people, coinciding with days of wearing the cursed Rolex, something in him snapped, and he simply did not want to be around miserable people anymore.

So today he was prepared.  He nodded sympathetically for a few minutes as a White House staffer began bemoaning the sense of betrayal and abandonment she felt after discovering her husband trolling for lovers on Ashley Madison, then he suggested they try hypnosis.

"I just told you I have lost all sense of trust, and you want me to surrender to hypnosis?!" she cried in bewilderment at the shrink.

But the psychiatrist was adamant.  A few minutes later, she was in la la land, and he told her to pay no attention to the syringe of drugs he was injecting into her thigh.  Then he told her that every time she saw her husband's face, she should hit it until she stopped seeing it.  Then he had a sudden urge to have sex with her while she was hypnotized, but he decided to wait to see if somebody more attractive might be coming in later this afternoon.  Then he woke her out of the trance.

"Wow!" she told Dr. Esse.  "I feel great!"

"I'll see you in one week, unless you need to come in sooner."

She left his room happily after only a quarter hour, and Dr. Esse realized he had some free time.  "Maybe I'll try online porn?" he thought.  "I should get better educated, for certainly my next wave of patients will be the dumped spouses who become addicted to Internet porn."

Meanwhile, the Holier Than Thou Caucus was having an emergency meeting on Capitol Hill to discuss how to deal with the Ashley Madison scandal.

"What if we bring back tar and feathering?"

"It's carcinogenic--you can't put that on people's skin."

"Well, people using federal email accounts to access a cheaters' website need to be fired!  Why are we spending tax money on enabling that?"

"There are Representatives who have been busted, too.  If we make the bureaucrats lose their jobs, we need to make the Representatives, too."

"We can't!  But we could read their names on the House floor during the next filibuster."

"That could be weeks or even months off!  We need to file ethics charges against them."

"What if they were just browsing, but never actually had an affair?"

"That's what they'll all say!"

"Excuse me," said Congressman Herrmark.  "It seems to me those people are probably going to have to go through excruciatingly embarrassing divorces, probably with great financial losses, and their kids will hate them, so do we really need to pile on, too?  And is shame even an effective tool in our society anymore?  Planned Parenthood got exposed as cannibals that hack up babies, and they still have no shame at all."

The others stared at him blankly, since the entire Holier Than Thou Caucus was premised on lording it over sinners, rather than stopping evil.

Over at the Federal Reserve Board, the Camelot Society was also having an emergency meeting--but their topic was the recent Wall Street panic.

"They used to say if the United States sneezed, the whole world got a cold.  Now it's China."

"And if Greece sneezes, people just vomit, ha ha ha!"

"China's not the problem!  The problem is there's never enough liquidity!"

"You've really become a broken record on that subject!"

"I agree:  the problem is growing income inequality.  If people had decent wages--"

"We can't do anything about wages!  We need to return to quantitative easing!"

Obi-Wan Woman jumped up on the Round Table.  (She was still wearing her tunic, leggings, and tall boots despite the summer weather.)  "No, no, no!" she exclaimed.  "We cannot make these mistakes again!"

"She's right!" exclaimed Luciano Talaverdi Yellen (not really related to Janet Yellen).  He had not slept with Obi-Wan Woman in a long time, and was actually a happily married man, but he just could not resist her charisma.

"Right about what?  She didn't even say anything!"

"Because it's the End of Hyperbole!" exclaimed Luciano, jumping on his chair.  "Death before dishonor!  China cannot break us!"

Security dog Princess Buttercup stopped by with her handler to see what all the shouting was about, saw that Luciano had not brought Petro Pig (her love interest), sniffed in disappointment, and turned to leave the library.

Back on Capitol Hill, the Speaker of the House was so happy about the Ashley Madison hack that he was almost willing to ratify the Iran nuclear deal--almost.

"This is much worse than the stuff I was being blackmailed for!" Congressman John Boehner crowed to his bodyguard, Solomon Kane.  "I'm a free man again!"

"Sir, I'm not sure it's that simple.  For one thing, Ashley Madison got hit by the same hacker you did."  (By that, he meant the Tarantula.)

"What?!  Are you sure?!"  (Kane nodded.)  "That guy hired by the guy you won't tell me about, with the psychic bodyguard?"  (Kane nodded.)  "Damn it!  When are you going to put an end to that guy?!"

"Look," said Kane, "we have to wait and see how this plays out.  He exposed all those people publicly, so he can't exactly blackmail them.  However, he might blackmail people who have additional secrets.  If he gets busy with them, he might give you fewer demands about how you vote.  It's just a big wild card right now."

"I'm tired of wild cards!" exclaimed Boehner.  "Why can't I control anything?  I'm two heartbeats away from the Presidency!  I want you to kill Donald Trump!  Can you at least do that for me?!  Or are you going to pretend Trump also has a psychic bodyguard?"

"Now, come on, sir!" said Kane, walking behind the Speaker of the House to start rubbing his shoulders.  "It's not that bad!  You control all sorts of things!  You're a very powerful man!  And you don't even need to run for reelection this year!  Life is good!"  Boehner sighed and surrendered to his man crush.

Out in the river, Ardua of the Potomac looked up with interest as Charles Wu passed over the bridge, on his way to the airport to take his little girl on vacation to England.  Wu looked down in amazement, still overwhelmed from learning that a large underwater demon was responsible for the suicide of his first nanny ... and Angela had not told him.

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COMING UP:  Bo-Oz Consulting pitches their new refugee plan.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

The Quest

It had been two years since Glenn Michael Beckmann had seen his mother in a vision, rising from the lake [Potomac River] to hand him Excalibur.  The fact that Excalibur was an ax in no way dissuaded him from the epic reality and importance of Excalibur, and his role in destiny.  Nor did it matter that this memory had been supplanted in his mind with a different memory from one year ago of his mother handing him Excalibur at Fat John's Lake.  Excalibur (wrapped carefully in deerskin) was kept reverentially at his Southwest Plaza apartment--under his bed when he was sleeping, under the couch while he was watching television, under the table while he was eating, etc., etc.  The fact that Bristol Palin (daughter of the President of the Hunter-Gather Society, Sarah Palin) had broken off her engagement with that silly Alaskan boy to have Beckmann's love child could not distract him from his sacred duties to fix everything that was wrong in this country, and let Excalibur lead the way.

A legend in his own mind, Beckmann believed that Excalibur (in his hand) had slain 5,000 terrorists, 2,000 illegal aliens, 1,000 zombies, 600 Russian and Cuban spies, 400 Saudi bankers, 200 Chinese spies, 100 liberal politicians, seven Kardashians, three members of the Federal Reserve Board of Governors, and the General Counsel of Au Bon Pain.  The death toll was barely a fraction of that--since most of Excalibur's action was in his dreams and it was easier to carry guns and knives on public transit--but there was certainly dried blood on Excalibur, and Excalibur was certainly coming out to play today.

The target was the Japanese Embassy on Massachusetts Avenue.  He would sneak up from the hiking trail in Rock Creek Park, toss hand grenades into the embassy, then chop up Japs as they fled the fire.  This plan had come to him in a dream last night, after he was whipped into a frenzy by American media accounts that Japan was not being very apologetic about the terrible things they had done seven decades ago.  (Never mind that over 200,000 Japanese had been killed by American atomic bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki!  No, nobody needed to apologize about that!)  Beckmann was realizing today that he had been quite remiss about punishing Japanese, and there was no need for a patriot such as himself to wait for even-numbered anniversaries to go after the wicked.  He was plodding along the trail, pondering whether he should also be doing more to kill insufficiently remorseful Koreans, Vietnamese, or Panamanians, when he was suddenly accosted by John Doe, whom he had not seen in a long time.

"Thank Goodness I caught you in time!" said Doe, a little out of breath.  "Ghost Henry says I need to tell you that the Japanese are our allies now, and have been for seventy years."

"What?!"

"We don't kill Japanese anymore!  But Ghost Henry said we can still kill neo-Nazis.  I mean, not me, you!  I'm an autistic-mystic-shaman; you're a killer."

"I'm not a killer!  I'm a patriot!" protested Beckmann.

"Yeah, I dunno know all the details, but Ghost Henry--"

"Ghost Henry?!"

"You remember him:  he's in the Ghost CIA."

Beckmann put down his backpack (really heavy from the ax and the bomb) and sat against a tree.  "Is this going to take long?"

"No:  here's the address where you can find her."  The brain-damaged amnesiac with temporal lobe epilepsy handed Beckmann a slip of paper, and sat down against another tree.  "Ghost Henry says she has a meeting set with the KGB to sell CIA secrets."

"The KGB?" asked Beckmann.  "Why is a Nazi selling secrets to the KGB?"

"Neo-Nazi," said Doe.  "She needs money, and there are no Nazi buyers.  She hates the Chinese and the Saudis and the Israelis and the Spanish."

"What's wrong with the Spanish?"

"They're not white enough.  The KGB are really white:  they're a pale people."

"What about the KKK?  They wear sheets to look whiter."

"What?!  They don't buy CIA secrets!"

"You want some water?" asked Beckmann, taking a swig from his canteen, then handing it to Doe, who looked hot.

"Thanks," said Doe, who naturally had no idea that by "water" Beckmann meant gin and tonic on the rocks.  "Whoa!"  Doe quickly went into an epileptic seizure, and the ghost of Henry Samuelson went apoplectic.

Beckmann pulled some beef jerky out of his backpack and watched in amazement as Doe began mumbling nonsensically about a potpourri of things like recorder music, squirrel babble, the recent meteor shower, helicopter landing practice on the South Lawn of the White House over and over and over again, and the record total of 233 minutes of Washington siren wails in the last 24 hours.  Beckmann chewed thoroughly and thoughtfully as Doe pressed his fingers like a pretend gun against his own temporal lobe and started chanting, "shot, shot, shot, shot, they were all shot, shot, shot, shot, I was shot, shot, shot, shot."  Doe had actually never been shot--his brain injury had come from a vicious baseball bat attack--but he was seeing visions of all the city's shooting victims from the past week.

"Guns aren't the problem, man," said Beckmann, reaching over to pull Doe's hand away from his head.  "Guns are our friends!  One of these days I'm going to be riding Metro at the right time and shoot the Hell out of these crazy knife people!  Or maybe at a movie.  I never get a movie theater shooter to shoot at!  That's my dream.  Oh, who's the big man now, loser?!  Bam, bam, bam!"  Beckmann was now using his own hand as a make-believe gun, and aiming it at a jogger passing by.  "Are you done yet?  I can't just go to this address and kill somebody:  you haven't even given me a name or a description."

Five minutes later, Beckmann had finished his beef jerky and canteen beverage, and John Doe was waking up.  "What happened?" asked Doe.  "Did I have a vision?"

"Sure, plenty," said Beckmann, waving the piece of paper in Doe's face.  "Who's this neo-Nazi?  What does she look like?"

"She looks like death dressed up as a Girl Scout in blond braids," said Doe, trying to refocus as Ghost Henry poked and prodded him.

"Blond braids--got it," said Beckmann, standing up.  He put his backpack back on, offered a hand to pull John Doe up, then said, "tell Ghost Henry I said 'hey'."

And so it was that Glenn Michael Beckmann aborted his plan for carnage at the Japanese Embassy, and led the Federal agents following him around today straight to the Wardman Park house at which Barbara Hellmeister was squatting while its owners were in Europe for the month of August.  Hellmeister was in the back yard doing experiments on a litter of baby squirrels when Beckmann pulled out his ax to hack through the Bamboo hedge.

"Hey!" shouted the Federal agents at Beckmann.  "Federal agents!  Drop the ax!"

"She's a neo-Nazi!" protested Beckmann, just seconds before Hellmeister shot him in the shoulder.  By the time the Federal agents got to the hedge, Hellmeister and her backpack of emergency belongings were already racing in the opposite direction, through the neighbor's yard, and onto her motorcycle (with sidecar).  "Damn it!  You let her get away!" exclaimed Beckmann, before passing out.

And so it was that Glenn Michael Beckmann was separated from Excalibur, and his destiny was altered....

Meanwhile, a few miles away, a catbird reluctantly removed the cursed Rolex from her late-season nest and flew off to deliver it where Ardua of the Potomac had ordered her to....

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TO BE CONTINUED....

Sunday, August 09, 2015

That Capitol Hill Vibe

"I'm a very busy man," said Charles Wu, who was swimming around Roosevelt Island.  "China's losing badly in Russia's military games, Britain thinks I'm holding back intelligence on Syria, Hong Kong's hotter than Hell but my mother won't leave, Evermore Breadman wants me to bribe his corporate client out of trouble in Brazil when bribery is exactly what got them into trouble in the first place.  And on top of all that, I've got my own SuperPAC now, and I need to pick one of these clowns to start driving the other morons out of the race."  (That last comment was about the field of Republican Presidential candidates.)  "I was thinking if Trump were actually elected, it might finally bring Congress together so they always have enough votes to override his vetoes, don't you think?"

Ghost Dennis was at his wit's ends.  "Why won't you tell my daughters about Demetri?"

"They're not going to believe me!  I told you, I'll have my agent take care of Ghost Demetri when she gets back from vacation."

"That might be too late!  I haven't been at the White House all week because I'm running interference with Demetri day and night at my daughters' house!  He's gotten addicted to chi and starts sucking it out of anybody that falls asleep.  Then when I clobber him, he picks up one of those feline ghosts-from-Hell and throws it at me, and it sprays ghost pee on me, which (I can assure you) smells ten times worse than the real thing!  Then I toss the feline ghost across the room, and it knocks a lamp off a table or something like that, and the triplets are starting to think that their house is haunted!"

"It is haunted!" grunted Wu.  "You wanted them to know, and now they know, so what do you need me for?"

"But they don't understand about the chi-sucking," said Ghost Dennis.  "They think it's a poltergeist, and they're curious, which is a really bad idea.  They're starting to hold more séances!"

"I thought you met them because of a séance?"

"Well, yeah, but they just conjured up some horrible segregationist from 1952 and a wife-beater from 1985.  You know, not all ghosts are as nice as me!  There have been some real assholes living in that house.  And Demetri's just losing it!  He tried to choke the segregationist to death, even though the guy's already dead.  Please talk to my girls!  All they want to do is spread a little love and reiki in the world!"

"Fine, fine!" grunted Charles Wu.  "Let me finish my swim in peace!"

Meanwhile, over near the Capitol Hill home of the Reiki Triplets, the phantom activity had already attracted attention from other parties.  First, there was Sebastian L'Arche, who, after detecting the problem, was trying to talk the practitioners into letting him bring Petro Pig in during his session.  They said it was utterly impossible because of the live butterflies they use during all their therapy sessions, and he was willing to forgo the butterflies, but they insisted if they started making exceptions, there would be no end to the parade of animals showing up at their door.  L'Arche left Petro Pig in the waiting area with instructions to chase down any ghosts that came near, but he was not very optimistic that Petro Pig would get the chance to bolt the waiting area.

Secondly, there was Congressman Jacques Javert, who had been wearing a cursed Rolex for over a year now.  Lately, he had found himself taking a very circuitous route back and forth to work so that he could walk past the recently renovated federal style rowhouse with the zen water fountain full of water lilies in the front yard, just in front of the Japanese maples and rhododendron.  He would stop to smell the rosebushes bordering the sidewalk, close his eyes, and then feel himself trembling all over as Ghost Demetri tried to suck the demonic energy out of the Rolex.  Then the Rolex would fight back with a power surge that knocked Ghost Demetri on his spectral backside.  Then Congressman Javert would puff up with testosterone and amphetamines and practically sprint to his office to start barking orders at interns and legislative assistants about needing more road money in Louisiana (or some such thing).  Now it was Sunday, and he could not even articulate why on Earth he was taking this long walk on a hot day, but he paused again at the house of the Reiki Triplets, and felt the Rolex grow cold against his skin.

Thirdly, there was Washington Post "Metro" reporter Perry Winkle, following up on a series of incongruous tips about the Reiki Triplets:  (a) they were popular because they were giving out marijuana in every session, (b) they used so much incense to try to cover up the smell of pee from the hundred cats they were hoarding in the house, (c) their children ran wild, causing odd noises throughout the sessions, and (d) crack heads and meth heads were being dragged to the sessions as an effective method of bringing them back down to Earth.  His research had shown a surge in early popularity, followed by some decidedly odd postings on Yelp.  Winkle arrived with a lot of questions, but it turned out the first question he asked was while he was still outside the house:  "Congressman Javert, are you alright?"

Javert was sitting in the water fountain, closing his eyes, fondling water lilies with his left hand, and holding his right arm up in what resembled the Nazi salute of an epileptic.  "I'll show them what it means to have blood coming out of their eyes!" he shouted.  "Louisiana will rule this nation!"

"Are you talking about Governor Bobby Jindal?"

Javert burst into maniacal laughter, his eyes still closed.  Just then, Petro Pig managed to open the door and rush out into the front yard, where he knew that Ghost Demetri had abandoned sucking L'Arche's chi in favor of making another run at the cursed Rolex.  Petro Pig started grunting furiously at Ghost Demetri, and then at the other ghosts who had started fighting him to get at that wicked energy.

Then the staff members from Javert's office who were part of the Anti-Zombie Caucus (who had been following their boss for twenty minutes) jumped out of the bushes with their axes ready to behead a zombie, scaring L'Arche to death until he was able to convince them he was not a zombie and they started debating whether Javert was.

Then Charles Wu arrived with Lynnette Wong in tow to sprinkle ghost-repelling herbs.  He had never told her before that he occasionally saw ghosts, and he hadn't told her this time, but she figured it out from the herbs he requested at their Chinatown shop.  "This looks much worse than you told me."

Wu was still processing what she had told him during the car ride about a huge demon in the Potomac River which had killed her father, when they got out and found the commotion.  "Wow!" cried Wu, who rubbed his eyes to make sure he was seeing correctly.  "Ghost Demetri is fighting with some other ghosts, but something weird is happening:  it's like they're all getting fused together, there's a red glow covering them, and their bodies are getting fused together.  Demetri's in the middle, and his arms are just gone.  They're like Siamese triplets now."

Then Angela de la Paz jumped out of a taxi, ran past the throng, telekinetically removed the Rolex from Javert's wrist and hurled it up on the roof, pulled Javert out of the pond, shoved the Siamese triplet ghosts into the pond, poured holy water into the pond, and stopped to take a breath.  She turned around to survey the scene, trying to figure out who could see the ghosts and who couldn't.

"You stole my Rolex!" cried Javert, oblivious to the water dripping off his body or the water lilies stuck to his shorts.

"There was no Rolex," said Angela, looking him fiercely in the eye.  "You were sleepwalking."

Javert blinked, accepted that explanation, and turned around to go home--only to find some of his staffers holding axes.  "You had brought these axes," one of them quickly lied.  "You were having a dream about chopping out Congressional corruption at the root!"  This was not remotely plausible to him, but Javert was tired and decided it was time to go home.

Perry Winkle followed Javert to get the story on the sleepwalking, resolving to follow up on the Reiki Triplets later.

Petro Pig, seeing he was no longer needed, calmly went back to the waiting area to chew his bone until L'Arche finished his session (which was one of the best the Reiki Triplets had done in weeks).

Angela turned back to the Siamese Triplet Ghosts.  "That was really stupid."  Their heads turned to look at each other, but none of them spoke.  "I can't even send you to Purgatory like this!  You're going to have to find your individual identities again, first."  They awkwardly floated out of the pond back into the house and went up to the attic to argue about their next move.

"Thank you!" cried Ghost Dennis, weeping phantom tears of joy.  "My daughters are safe now!  I can get back to the White House to work on the energy plan!"

"Sure!" smiled Angela, shaking her head.

Then it was just Angela, Lynnette, and Charles Wu.

"Anybody hungry?" asked Wu.

"Is that all you can say?" exclaimed Lynnette.

"Welcome back from vacation, Angela!" Wu said.  "I was actually trying to handle that myself.  Lynnette was helping."

"I told him about Ardua," said Lynnette.

Angela took a deep breath.  "We better get something to eat."

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COMING UP:   
The legend of Ex Calibur...as told by Glenn Michael Beckmann.

Sunday, August 02, 2015

The Haunted Ones

Charles Wu was settling in for another session with the Reiki Triplets in their Capitol Hill home/office.  The truth was that Wu didn't really need any help with his chi, and didn't believe much in reiki, but, like the other clients flocking to see Cal, Maggie, and Sassy, he just loved the experience.  The scents, the music, the soft voices, the occasional hand touches, the surrealism of seeing three identical faces encircling him with earnest gazes and heartfelt words:  it was all simply entrancing.  But today, it wasn't feeling the same:  the scents seemed off, and the music seemed static.  The Triplets were holding hands with each other, rather than passing their hands over him, and their eyes were all staring at something above him.  He felt groggy and had to blink several times before his vision cleared and he finally saw the ghost hovering above him.  It looked as if were sucking energy right out of his body.

"Hey!" Wu shouted, punching at the specter, then jumping off the reiki table.  He had seen ghosts a few times before, but this was completely unacceptable.  He looked around accusingly at the Reiki Triplets, who had dropped hands and were blinking in confusion.  "What the Hell is going on here?"  The Triplets looked at each other, but nobody spoke.  "What did you conjure that for?!"

"We're just drawing healing energies," said Maggie.

"You saw it!" retorted Wu.

"You can't see the energies," said Cal.

"You were all starting at it!" insisted Wu.

"I think you should leave," said Sassy.  "We won't charge you for this session."

"You people have a serious problem here!  There was a ghost sucking my chi!" exclaimed Wu.

"Please leave," said Maggie.

In the corner, Ghost Dennis, the late father of the Triplets, writhed his hands in consternation.  He had visited them many times since they moved to D.C., and sometimes they said they felt his presence, but he could never get them to hear a word out of his mouth.  And now this!  A damned house ghost latching onto every visitor like a vampire!  His poor girls were putting all their effort into mustering a little energy for their patients, and then Ghost Demetri would get a hold of them and draw more and more and more power through those poor people until everybody was exhausted at the end of the session instead of feeling better.  And as a former member of the Better Business Bureau of San Clemente, he knew this was all wrong!  And he was also a little concerned about what the house ghost was doing to his girls, even though Ghost Demetri had insisted to Ghost Dennis it was just a little fun.

Not to mention the fact that Ghost Pippin, Condoleeezza Rice's deceased cat, had now brought his band of feral feline troublemakers to take up residence there, as well!  Cats weren't even supposed to run as packs!  Ghost Dennis had been spectral since his murder during the waning days of the Nixon Administration, but that didn't stop him from getting nervous when creepy supernatural entities started multiplying, particularly around his girls.

"You're always nagging me about politics in the West Wing--the least you could do is show up when I ask you for some help here!" he shouted accusingly into the ether.  He watched his girls as they changed the sheet and reset the music for the next client.  When they went upstairs, a few members of The Shackled finally floated in.

"You won't listen to us about Turkey's air force, but you want us to help you with this petty matter?"

"Petty?!  These are my daughters!  I think they're in danger!  What if he's a demon?"

"Demetri is just a common hoodlum.  You have more important things to worry about!  What is Obama gonna do about those abortion doctors harvesting baby organs?"

"Oh, come on!  Obama can't fix everything," replied Ghost Dennis.

"He bombs the Hell out of the Middle East, then expects Americans to show restraint with their own guns?"

"That's not the same thing!" retorted Ghost Dennis.

"It is the same thing!  It's people saying they get to win because they have more guns!  And he's got Donald Trump whipping white folks up for a race war against Mexicans!"

"Well, what on Earth is Obama supposed to do about that?!" protested Ghost Dennis.

"He could cancel that lease at the Old Post Office Pavilion."

Ghost Dennis sighed.  "Look, maybe you're right about all of that, but the President tries really hard not to hear me or see me.  You Departed guys know that, yourselves.  I'm lucky if I can get a good whisper into his ear once a week."

"Well, you're there everyday!  We've got to cover the whole city."

Ghost Dennis nodded.  "Alright, I'll try harder."

"And Nixon's ghost ain't there, so stop acting like he is!"

"Alright!" exclaimed Ghost Dennis.  "Now what can be done about Demetri and those freaky cats?"

The Departed just shook their heads.  "Maybe you should try that fellow who was just here.  If he could see Demetri, maybe he'll see you?"

"And then what?  He left without even trying to help my girls!" said Ghost Dennis.

"Well, I think he blamed them--you need to explain it to him."

So Ghost Dennis went off to follow Charles Wu.

A couple miles away, Justice Department attorney Atticus Hawk was seeing ghosts of his own.  He closed the file and leaned back in his office chair, rubbing his eyes to make them go away.  They were all the same:  eyes bright with fear, mouths screaming, no noses, no ears, no hair.  He got up to open his door and see if anybody else was around in the Attorney General's suite, but even Loretta Lynch's most loyal lieutenants usually made it home for Sunday dinner.

Hawk walked back into his office, shut the door, and sat down at his computer.  He could not procrastinate it anymore:  the Attorney General was waiting for his psychological profile on the escaped Barbara Hellmeister, and he had promised it for Monday morning.  It had taken the intervention of the White House, and the CIA was still pretending they didn't know how the files had been temporarily misplaced, but Hellmeister's papers had finally been delivered to DOJ on Wednesday.  The FBI had the originals in order to do fingerprinting, carbon-dating, and DNA sampling, but just touching the photocopies was enough to give him chills--every time.  The Nazi experiment journal of her grandfather.  The notes on the drug cocktails she had synthesized for her clients and for Hawk.  The methods she had used to torture and interrogate prisoners in the CIA black site hidden beneath the National Arboretum and the Washington Times headquarters.  He had been the Department's torture apologist for many years, but his nightmares had finally come true:  he really had been a victim this time.

Hawk started typing.

"EXECUTIVE SUMMARY:  Barbara Hellmeister (most recent alias Barbie Bucephalus) does not fit the profile of a serial killer, or a killer of any sort.  This is because her purpose is not to end life, but to experiment with it.  That said, Hellmeister is a sociopath who shows no regard or remorse for the human suffering which was incidental to her grandfather's experiments and her own activities."  Hawk paused to swallow some more beer.  "It is likely she burned down her own Maryland home to cover up evidence of patient harm that had occurred during her time as a private consultant.  Her audacity in returning to work in the D.C. area, even with an alias and the sponsorship of the CIA, suggests she has unrealistic expectations of a lack of repercussions for her actions."

Hawk paused again, this time for several minutes, and ultimately decided he needed to put more there.  "The fugitive's recklessness in rekindling a relationship with a Justice Department employee offers even stronger proof of a megalomania."  And then, to deflect a little bit the embarrassment off himself-- "The fugitive's ability to seduce and/or brainwash a guard to free her from federal custody suggests that she may have permanently altered her own body chemistry, possibly by enhancing the attractive effects of her sexual pheromones."  This last part was pure speculation, and an outrageous thing to put in a memo to the FBI, but Lynch had told him to hold back nothing.  "It is likely the fugitive will lay low for a long time, but her past behavior suggests that she will eventually resurface and make contact with the people she values the most--all of whom should be constantly monitored, including everybody she worked with at the CIA."  He knew he was dooming himself to FBI surveillance, possibly for years to come, but so be it.

Up in Cleveland Park, Wu had just finished dinner with his daughter and governess, and excused himself to make some phone calls before rejoining them for bedtime stories.  It was then that Ghost Dennis floated in and whispered in Wu's ear.

"Gaaaa!"  Wu jumped out of his office chair and turned around.  "What the Hell?!"

"Can you hear me?"

"Don't sneak up on people like that, and give me back my chi!"

"I didn't take it," replied Ghost Dennis.

Wu was aiming his dragon stone ring at the ghost as if it could shoot lasers, but then Wu saw it was not the same ghost.  Wu lowered his hand.  "Who are you?"

"The triplets are my daughters.  I can't get through to them.  You have to help my girls!"

Outside the window, Ghost Demetri started getting very, very angry.

********************************
TO BE CONTINUED....

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Marijuana and Guerrillas

Television reporter Holly Gonightly and her crew were going over the details one more time to be sure they all knew exactly what to do when.

"We probably have only one minute to broadcast," she said, referring to the satellite transmission they would upload instantaneously to the television station's website.  "Then they'll grab the cameras and cut off the satellite feed."

"But we're not actually doing anything illegal?" asked her cameraman, again.

"The legal counsel cleared it.  It's a public sidewalk.  Ready?"

Her crew nodded, and they exited their van and sprinted over to the bomb-proof planter where the marijuana plants had been spotted outside the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

"Holly Gonightly, reporting live from FBI headquarters in downtown Washington.  Will marijuana plants deter suicide bombers?  Did the General Services Administration authorize this landscaping?  Or was this a gift left by lifestyle guru Giuliana Sunstream's guerrilla gardening crew earlier this summer?"  She beckoned a passing pedestrian to come take a closer look.  "Ma'am, do you know what these--"

"Hands in the air!  Nobody move"  And with that, another FBI smackdown began, and another FBI smackdown video took flight into cyberspace.

Meanwhile, a few miles north of the White House, Sunstream's former boyfriend and conspiracy blogger, Glenn Michael Beckmann, was passing out marijuana seeds at the biggest rally he had ever put together.  People had come from the Hunter-Gatherer Society, the local anti-government militia, Beckmann's Bad Asses clientele, Beckmann's Floral Cushions clientele (they were the most baffled...), Iraq war veteran circles, Justice for Darja supporters, Cuba haters, and Donald Trump haters.  They stretched out on the 16th Street sidewalk all the way from Euclid to Fuller, with Beckmann planted squarely on a milk crate right in front of the newly reopened Cuban Embassy.  The FBI, DC police and Secret Service agents were encircling the group to stop them from spilling into the street or, worse, trying to get over the fence, but for the moment, the crowd was hot, sleepy, and eyeing each other suspiciously.

"It's all connected!" began Beckmann, shouting into a megaphone.  "Donald Trump doesn't think I'm a hero because I got captured in Iraq?"  (This was a figment of his imagination.)  (Several hisses from the crowd.)  "I was serving my country while he was building dens of thieves in Atlantic City!"  (Cheers and applause.)  (A few FBI officers found themselves nodding in agreement.)  "I was invading Commie Cuba while he was getting into bed with Saudi petro dollars and Eurotrash hookers!"  (More cheers and applause.)  "I was feeding myself with my own two hands while Trump was another NBC parasite feeding off the hard work of interns!"  (This was the comment that got the best reaction from his Beckmann's Floral Cushions clientele.)  "I was killing illegal aliens while Trump was hiring them to clear-cut trees and build a damned golf course for Wall Street swindlers and bribed politicians!"  (More cheers and applause, coupled with raised eyebrows among the law enforcement officers.)

"It's all connected!" Beckmann hollered.  ("What about Darja?" somebody shouted.)  "I haven't figured out yet who killed her, but I've narrowed down the suspects!  It might even be a Cuban terrorist I've seen around town.  We have to stop all these un-American people!" he exclaimed, pointing at the Cuban Embassy behind him.  (More cheers and applause.)  ("What are we going to do about it?" someone else shouted.)  Beckmann, who was not entirely insane, eyed the police presence encircling his rally, and began speaking in code.  "We are going to assemble poplin and muslin with buckwheat filling into the best cushions this town has ever seen, and then we'll embroider daisies and petunias alongside the hibiscus until those floral cushions are delivered to the jackasses and burros and ragheads bringing our country down!"

The dozen people who had quickly translated that speech in their heads burst into wild applause, and the rest joined in so they wouldn't feel stupid.  The FBI commander and Secret Service chief of mission were both talking on cellphones with their bosses, explaining that they were still uncertain if Beckmann had directly threatened anybody, while the DC police lead detective was talking to his boss about whether he should bring Beckmann in for questioning about his claim to have killed illegal aliens.  All of them knew that Beckmann had been under federal surveillance since threatening to blow up the Federal Reserve Board, and the instructions were simply to put it into the reports.

Inside the Cuban Embassy, curious VIPs were gathered at upstairs windows to watch the rally.

"Ese tío está loco," said the ambassador, who turned to Prince and Prowling's interpreter to confirm his opinion.

"Yes," nodded Paul.  "A complete lunatic."

Bridezilla (a Prince and Prowling junior partner) smiled at Paul, who had been by her side at every Cuban Practice Group event the entire week since the embassy's flag-raising ceremony on Monday.  "Ladies and gentlemen, why don't we get back to the presentation?  The best way to counter extremism is to show that Cuba is open for business, and American business is going to be there to out-compete all comers!"  (She giggled at the word "comers" because having a secret affair with a contract attorney she was with day and night made her prey to frequent dirty thoughts.)  "Prince and Prowling is lobbying diligently in Congress to lift the restrictions, and you could be the first with commercial agreements in place to take advantage of the return of the Yankees to Havana!"

The Cuban ambassador handed another rum-and-Coke to Paul, who had repeatedly assured him that Prince and Prowling was not a CIA tool--just a firm that was truly willing to make money anywhere.  "Viva la Revolución!" Paul said, clinking glasses with the ambassador.

Back at FBI headquarters, the Director had bigger things to worry about than Beckmann's latest rally or even the marijuana smackdown video going viral:  Barbara Hellmeister had seduced and/or hypnotized her guard and escaped federal custody.  They knew she wouldn't dare return to the CIA, but the question remained:  where was she?  Outside the Director's window, a catbird sat on the ledge, mocking him with imitated walkie-talkie sounds, and he threw his stapler at it to make it fly away.  The catbird flew off but returned quickly, and this time it simply stared until the livid Director finally walked over and closed the blinds.

*************************************************
COMING UP:  The haunting of the Reiki Triplets.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Yasmin

It had been a month since the neurosurgeon at George Washington University Hospital had saved Yasmin's life, and three weeks since Dr. Khalid Mohammad had spirited her away before her violent father could take her home.  Khalid had put Yasmin in the master bedroom of his Foggy Bottom apartment and taken the guest bedroom himself.  Instead of succeeding in obtaining visas to get his relatives out of Jordan before ISIS wreaked further violence, he had rescued an American girl.

She would never be the same.  He hadn't known Yasmin before her father had dented her skull for dating an infidel, but the brain damage was obvious.  Today they were making lunch together, but she still couldn't hold her hand steady enough to chop anything--she did the stirring and spreading and moving things around.  She still wore a head scarf that partially covered her face, but perhaps now it was more to cover her shaved head and surgery scars.

It had taken awhile for Khalid to convince her that she was nineteen and did not have to go home with her father.  Yasmin had finally acknowledged to Khalid that she didn't know anybody to take her in whom her father wouldn't find out about, and here she was.  He couldn't see her mouth, but he knew she was smiling at him because of the way her eyes looked at him.  The smiles were still fairly new.  He thought she might never take the scarf off unless he married her, and maybe he would, but it was not going to be easy.

Up in Cleveland Park, triple agent Charles Wu was discussing the matter over lunch with Angela de la Paz, while they watched through the window as Wu's English governess sat (without her usual sense of decorum) in the kiddie pool, spraying little Delia with a water gun.  It had been Wu's neighbor and de facto employee, Liv Cigemeier, who had first been contacted by Dr. Mohammad through her Girl Hurl blog.  She had discussed the case with her attorney husband, who had secretly turned to Wu, whom he knew had far more going on than Liv suspected.  Wu had put Angela on the case, and now she was telling him how it stood.

"Yasmin's father is from Cappadocia, Turkey.  His mother was ethnic Armenian, but he was raised Sufi Muslim by his father--a genuine whirling dervish.  His father used to take him around to the ancient sites to show him beheaded pagan statues from the first century B.C., and the Christian dwellings abandoned after the Islamic conquest.  He spent time in Iran as a spy feeding intelligence to NATO.  Got his visa to come to the U.S. twenty-five years ago. Married a Syrian woman, and they had a daughter, then a son.  He still works as an intelligence analyst for the CIA, but Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo radicalized him.  Changed mosques, put his womenfolk in veils, sent his son to an imam."

"He's still working for the CIA?" asked Wu.  "Why do they trust him?  Didn't they notice this?"

"If they didn't notice it before, they definitely noticed it after his daughter ended up in the emergency room.  But they haven't cut him loose."

"He knows too much?" asked Wu, and Angela nodded.

"He never let her get a driver's license, and she's never had a passport," added Angela.

"Well, that just makes it simpler," said Wu.  "We'll just get her Social Security number, change her legal name, and let her start over."

"Start over?" asked Angela incredulously.  "She's a walking bull's eye!  If that doctor really wants to protect her, he needs to take her hundreds of miles away from that father."

Wu leaned back, finishing his mimosa.  "I don't think so.  I think she needs to go public on Liv's blog."

"She's living with a man right now!" exclaimed Angela.  "She'll have more than her father trying to finish her off!  And the doctor will be under threat, too!"  Wu smiled, and Angela was aghast.  "How can you smile about this?!"

"I'm smiling at you," he said.  "I realize now I can let you handle this on your own."

Angela sat back and let this sink in for a few minutes.  "I never had a vision about this girl.  Why didn't I have a vision in the first place, to protect her?"

"Because you can't protect everybody.  And you don't need a vision now--you know what to do."

Angela went upstairs to the guest bedroom, which just happened to have a window that looked over to the bedroom of Lucas Cigemeier, whom she had given up for adoption over a year ago.  She didn't have to enter the Dreamtime to know Lucas was taking his afternoon nap.  She lay down on the bed, closed her eyes, and looked for him there.  He was happy.  She picked him up, and they talked for a few minutes--she was the only one who could understand his baby babble.  She told him she had something important to do, but would see him tomorrow.

She looked for Yasmin's father, but he wasn't asleep.  She had never summoned somebody to the Dreamtime before, so she looked for her mother and abuela instead, and they found Yasmin's grandfather to help her do it.  A few minutes later, Yasmin's father was overcome with drowsiness and lay down to take a nap.  Then he was back--back in the Cappadocia mountains, back near the waterfalls.  The imam was calling the faithful to prayer, but his father was in a Sufi daze, twirling and twirling and twirling.  His father rose to the sky, floated past the secret Christian cave dwellings, past the fairy chimneys, all the way to Nemrut Dağ.  Then Yasmin's grandfather motioned to Yasmin's father to look at the ancient pagan gods and goddesses, decapitated by religious zealots.  "Your faith is not here," he said.  Yasmin's father said he knew that already.  Yasmin's grandfather shook his head.  "Your faith does not come from smashing the heads."  Yasmin's father started trembling.  "You smashed my granddaughter's head."  Yasmin's father started weeping.  "She does not belong to you anymore.  But you still have a son."

Then Yasmin's father was alone, in a shimmering pool of melted snow, shivering, and this is when Angela came to him.  "Who are you?" he asked.

"I am the one who will kill you on Earth if you cause her more harm...but you won't, will you?"  (He shook his head.)  "Then go to your wife and son.  Tell them you know Yasmin is in a safe place.  If she marries and has a child, that is when you will see her again."

He vanished from the Dreamtime, awoken.  Angela opened her eyes.  How many could she drag into the Dreamtime, away from their fear and hatred?  If she did it all day and all night, it would never be enough.

Angela went downstairs and told Wu it was done:  Liv Cigemeier could tell Khalid and Yasmin that her attorney husband (Felix Cigemeier) was taking care of everything.  Yasmin could change her name, and her father understood there would be grave consequences if he did not stay away from her new life.  "We never worked on a pro bono case together before," Angela said to her boss, who was filling more water guns at the kitchen sink.

"Pro bono?" he laughed.  "I've got a new contact at the CIA that I can blackmail!"  Angela shook her head sternly at him.  "Maybe 'blackmail' is too strong a word."  She shook her head again, but this time she was smiling.

"I'm going to take a vacation to Turkey," Angela said.  "I want to see those places."

"Turkey is right next to Syria, you know."

"I know," said the woman formerly known in Egypt as "she whose gaze must be avoided" because anybody that saw her face died.  "I might take a hit at ISIS while I'm there, but I know I can't save everybody.  By the way:  get Mrs. H-C out of the sun before she has a sunstroke."

Out in the backyard, the sparrows resting in the shade of the bushes watched in delight as Charles Wu beckoned his governess and young daughter back into the house.  A flock of starlings dove for the kiddie pool, but the sparrows got there first and wouldn't give it up.  The starlings flew off, a fury of shimmering feathers and heated darkness.

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COMING UP:  
Glenn Michael Beckmann rallies veterans against Donald Trump, and the FBI suffers a setback.