Home, Sweet Home
"Vegas!" she called to her toy Maltese, posing under the balcony dog shade Sunstream had crafted out of a Salvation Army bedsheet stretched smartly over a tee-pee made of re-purposed tomato cages. (She had posted her balcony tomato photos one day before the branches had all bent and broke last week.) "Smile!"
A few miles to the west, Glenn Michael Beckmann was not smiling. First of all, he was not over Sunstream! And it ticked him off that her lifestyle blog had almost caught up to his own fake lifestyle blog in popularity. (Sometimes he would forget that his lifestyle blog was actually a conspiracy blog written in code to avoid federal detection.) He was exhausted from the constant orders he had to fill for "Beckmann's Floral Cushions"--the fake name in his blog for his security firm, Beckmann's Bad Asses. And he was still dealing with the aftermath of that unfortunate mass wedding shooting committed by a Beckmann's Bad Asses client in April--an event which had gained him as many clients as it had lost him, and gave him nightmares about when the cops would break down his door and haul him in for questioning.
And now this! Beckmann was standing outside the Old Post Office Pavilion, alternating between taking notes from casing the joint, and shaking his fist and muttering that he would never allow Donald Trump to turn this federal architectural treasure into a den of casino thieves and hotel harlots financed by Saudi petro dollars! The appearance of Trump on Wednesday for the ground-breaking ceremony had reinvigorated Beckmann's determination to thwart the New Jersey mafia from bringing their dirty money to destroy the beloved viewing bell tower in which he had once kissed politician Christine O'Donnell! [That memory was actually a figment of his imagination.] He would never allow that Russian Trump to take away such a wonderful public monument and then charge $400/night for the privilege of walking through the post office door! No, he would rather blow it up!
One man who would give anything to stop things from blowing up was Dr. Khalid Mohammad, who had recently returned to George Washington University Hospital after more than a year on sabbatical to treat Syrian war refugees in his native Jordan. "I just couldn't do it anymore," he told Nurse Consuela Arroyo, over coffee in the cafeteria. "I know when you're a doctor that you just treat patients, and you can't stop all the reasons for war, but I just couldn't do it anymore. Nothing is getting better. After ISIS declared the caliphate, I realized just how dangerous it has gotten. I decided I needed to come back here, start working again, and then bring all the relatives I can to the U.S. I cannot believe that just a few hundred miles from where I grew up, there are men who believe female genital mutilation will make their society into what God wants! They are the sickest, most depraved men on Earth, full of hatred and violence-induced psychoses. They think everything will be better if they can turn time back 1,000 years--this is how ignorant they are. But they love their modern weapons! And somewhere safe, the sociopaths that sold them all those weapons are going to retire comfortably--those international arms dealers, scum of the Earth."
Nurse Arroyo was amazed at how quietly Dr. Mohammad uttered these words, as if he barely had the strength to utter them but was determined to force them out of his mouth.
"And now I cannot get them out of Jordan fast enough!" he continued. "Israel and Palestine blowing each other up again. The Lebanese are a divided people, and Jordan is like the last breath of sanity and peace in the whole region--it will be completely overrun by refugees, and then the refugees in Jordan will become completely militarized. Here," he said, gesturing around him, "there is violence, and I will sew up bullet wounds, and maybe it will even get worse every year, but living here, at least the women in my family--" With that, his voice choked up, and he could say no more.
"Don't give up hope," said Nurse Arroyo, a very religious woman. "The Philippines saw a lot of violence and oppression, but things did get better there."
Dr. Mohammad smiled in thanks. He had missed her, even if her words were utterly useless.
A few miles to the west, Marcos Vazquez's words felt utterly useless to him--his wife had made up her mind. "I just don't know," he started again.
"It's such a beautiful house!" Golden Fawn beamed, as their adopted son Joey Bent Oak wandered around the weedy backyard. "It's a great neighborhood, with good schools, and we can spruce it up, and it will be great!"
Vazquez could not argue about upper Georgetown's being a great neighborhood, but he was having a lot of trouble accepting that their finances were so constrained that their best option for buying a house was to buy a haunted one. He looked up at the kitchen window, where realtor Button Samuelson quickly jumped out of view, and he shivered, wondering if he would actually start seeing ghosts.
"It's been on the market a long time," Golden Fawn said again, though they both knew this was because of the murders which had taken place here. "The price is too good to pass up."
"Are you sure? I mean, I know you have some abilities, but taking on this kind of evil--"
"I think that girl can help us--Angela de la Paz."
"Do you know how to find her?" asked Vazquez.
"I think she'll find us, after we move in."
And so they walked back into the three-story row house and told their realtor they wanted to make an offer to the bank which owned the property. Vazquez thought he heard somebody laugh and watched Joey's eyes dart to the corner, and then he shivered. And suddenly he longed for a clap of thunder, and bolt of lightning, and a deluge of rain to assure him that even this place was under Heaven, after all.
A few miles to the north, in Cleveland Park, Angela de la Paz, was, in fact, having a vision about the house in Georgetown.
"More peas?" asked Mrs. Prudence Higgety-Cheshire, whose meals cooked for adults were not much more exciting than what the nanny cooked for her toddler charge, Buffy Cordelia Wu. Angela didn't hear her, and Charles Wu recognized the look on Angela's face.
"She's having a vision," he said to his governess.
"Really?!" Mrs. H-C exclaimed. Much to everybody's surprise, the shocking ninja-like attempted robbery the week before, followed by the revelation that her deceased husband had been a British spy the entire time they were married, followed by the revelation that Wu was also a British agent, had neither given her a nervous breakdown nor sent her packing back home to her grown children in England. "I've been longing to see this!" she whispered, thinking it better to quiet her voice. "A psychic with mystical powers--it's utterly magnificent!"
Wu nodded pleasantly. He had not actually told his governess that he also worked for the Americans and Chinese, as he still believed the less she knew, the better. In some ways, his life was a little simpler now that she knew he was a spy, to be sure. On the other hand, it was obvious that Prickly and The Third (British agents Nigel Blackthorne and Richard Mollington) had not told him everything about her late husband, and he would have to proceed with the worry that they were constantly doing surveillance on his house--or that thugs might show up again at a time when Angela was not in town. He was thinking about firing Mrs. H-C, but he could scarcely stand the thought of little Delia's losing another nanny.
Angela was now gazing from Wu's backyard deck to the shed in the yard of the Cigemeier house next door. "That was a piece of cake," she said, thinking about the real estate demon she had detected and banished there the first day she had moved in with the Cigemeier's. "This will be different."
"What will be different, my dear?" asked Mrs. H-C, grasping Angela's hand in hers.
"I won't stay in the hotel much longer," Angela said, turning back to Wu and the governess. "I know where I need to go live now."
Next door, the pink warblers now living in the shed came out to sing their encouragement to Angela.
COMING UP: A visit with Reggie and Fergie at the White House.