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 ....

Monday, January 26, 2015

It's snowing drones!

"Cigemeier!"  (It had been awhile since Prince and Prowling partner Felix Cigemeier had heard that kind of yelling from former Senator Evermore Breadman, and he knew what it was about.)  "I thought you had this drone practice under control!"  Breadman threw down his coat and slammed Cigemeier's door.  "I get back from Augustus Bush's place in the U.S. Virgin Islands to hear drones are slamming into the White House, and one of our clients has self-reported to the Secret Service?!  Tell me I heard wrong!"

"Nothing slammed into the White House, Senator," replied Cigemeier.  "And it was just one drone--it landed on the lawn."

"In the middle of the night?!  Tell me you are not advising our clients they can fly drones over White House air space at two in the morning?!"

"Certainly not, sir.  They all know White House air space is off-limits 24/7."

"Well, evidently not!" exclaimed Breadman.  "Why the hell were they flying it in the middle of the night?"

"To take photos of the Washington Monument at night," said Cigemeier.

Breadman burst out laughing.  "Please tell me you're not that naive!"

"That's what he said, and I had no reason to question it."

"Because January is when people want to be out taking photos of the Washington Monument!" said Breadman sarcastically.

"It had something to do with the snow."

"You better screen these clients better!  Their money isn't worth this kind of risk for the firm!  I want you to put a GPS tracking device in every one of those drones, and if they get within three blocks of POTUS, SCOTUS, or the dome, an alarm goes off on your phone!  If they don't agree, drop them as clients!  Whose drone was it?"

"Glenn Michael Beckmann."

Breadman didn't recognize the name, and stomped out.  Cigemeier breathed deeply, certain he had escaped his worst-ever crisis at the law firm by the seat of his pants.  He didn't buy his client's story, either, but that's what Beckmann had said during the questioning--and some other crazy stuff.  The odd thing was that the Secret Service agents had seemed already familiar with Beckmann, by the questions they had asked.  And Cigemeier had been jubilant to get out of that conference room.  And now he was starting to envy Breadman's liquor stash.

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COMING UP:  Girl Hurl 2015!

Sunday, January 25, 2015

The Adventures of Ghost Pippin

They were gathered at Washington Circle for the funeral of Wolfman Jackie, a recently deceased Irish wolfhound.  Becky Hartley had placed shamrock-shaped hurricane-glass candles in a circle around the urn holding WJ's ashes, and Dizzy was 30 feet away, playing "Danny Boy" on his trumpet.  (The homeless musician had not been invited, but nobody seemed to mind.)  The co-owners (who had paid Hartley $50 for the economy package) were sobbing softly as she eulogized the dog.

"We are laying Jackie to rest at the time and place he loved best:  evening stroll, Washington Circle.  Jackie loved sniffing the park, barking at starlings, chasing a Frisbee, and watching people walk through the park.  Jackie also loved peeing on the statue of George Washington, which ignorant people might find disrespectful but which dog-lovers know meant that Jackie was marking our first President as his own.  Jackie was known for eating food out of the garbage, growling at bobbleheads, and letting small children take short rides on his back.  [Much louder sobbing.]  Let's spend a few moments talking about the day Wolfman Jackie first went home with--"

Sebastian L'Arche finally gave in to the fierce pulls of his seven leashed dogs and walked briskly away from his colleague.  Then the dogs abruptly stopped to the right of the George Washington statue, with hair raised and low growls in their throats.  Now the Dog Whisperer could see what they were riled up about:  the feline ghost of Pippin was sitting on the horse's tail, and the canine ghost of The Gopper was sitting below it.  "Oh, no," L'Arche moaned.  He had been hoping that Ghost Pippin was a supernatural freak, and was devastated to see his old pal, The Gopper, in spectral form.  "What the Hell?"  The Dog Whisperer had heard that The Gopper was last seen in the (hired?) company of a Capitol Hill staffer, but he had never heard the full story.  "Why, Goppie?" he asked, after approaching as closely as the taut leashes would allow him.  Then The Gopper told him about being ripped apart by the Zombie Caucus in the Congressional tunnels.

A hissing Ghost Pippin abruptly launched himself off the statue in the direction of L'Arche's pack of dogs, who violently jerked their leashes and ran away, with a disturbed L'Arche running behind them.  He finally got them to calm down before they ran into traffic, squatted down to whisper to them for a few moments, then persuaded the dogs to return to the memorial for their friend, Wolfman Jackie.

Hartley looked up at L'Arche's return with a hint of annoyance.  "And so we will not sprinkle Jackie's ashes, to be blown by the wind and rain into the sewers.  We will pour them gently into this six-inch grave I have dug under a grass divot, where Wolfman Jackie will someday become part of the grassy field he loved."

Some of the other dogs in attendance looked puzzled by this last bit, but not L'Arche's dogs:  he had explained in advance everything that would happen at the service.  Hartley lifted up the divot to show the grieving parents where to pour the ashes, and they jointly tipped over the urn, letting out an even louder burst of sobbing--which led some dogs to start howling.  Then they tossed in his favorite chew toy.  Hartley gently patted down the divot and handed them a water sprinkler.  "Just a few drops to help him mix in."  The parents were not enthusiastic about that last idea, but went ahead and did it.

"Please let Becky know when you're interested in adopting another dog," interjected L'Arche at this point.  "I'm always fostering dogs."

"Too soon!" whispered Becky, grabbing L'Arche's arm and pulling him away.  "Give them some time to grieve!  The clover-scented candles are still burning!"

"Sorry."

"What was all that about?" asked Hartley, when they were out of ear shot.

"I saw Ghost Pippin again.  He was with the ghost of The Gopper."

"Oh, no!" exclaimed Hartley.  "Why is this happening?"

"I don't know," said L'Arche.  "Goppie said he was ripped apart by the Zombie Caucus in the tunnels under Capitalism Hill."

"What the Hell does that mean?!"

"There must be zombies in Congress," sighed L'Arche.  "That's not really a big surprise, but these animal spirits are freaking me out!  Dogs always bark at ghosts, and they don't like ghosts, so what does it mean when dogs become ghosts?  Are they bad?"

"Do they even have a soul?" asked Hartley.

"They have something!  But this is really messed up."

"But you said Ghost Pippin seems evil.  Did The Gopper Ghost?"

"I don't think so," replied L'Arche, "but he was runnin' with Pippin."

Over on Capitol Hill, the Zombie Caucus was celebrating some of 2015's early victories--especially renaming the "Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights" to simply the "Subcommittee on the Constitution".  They raised their glasses of pulpy blood to the chief of staff for Senator John Cornyn and exclaimed in unison, "Down with humans!"  (They were dining on a cleaning lady tonight--an unfortunate immigrant from El Salvador.)  "Up with zombies!"

Back at Washington Circle, the funeral had broken up.  All the dogs and dog-handlers paying their respects were now gone.  Dizzy carefully finished cleaning his mouthpiece, and put his trumpet back in the case.

"Hssssssssssssssss!"

Ghost Pippin was arching his back at Dizzy, who picked up his case and started running.  Then he heard an unnatural bark, and turned to see another ghost--this time a dog!  He started running faster.

The Gopper Ghost was actually barking at Ghost Pippin, who complained that he never wanted Pippin to have any fun.  The Gopper repeated (for the hundredth time) that dogs and cats were supposed to help humans, not hurt them, and Pippin repeated (for the hundredth time), "fool!"  Ghost Pippin had been Condoleezza Rice's cat, and his view of the human race was very hawkish.  Pippin hated Charles Wu, Colin Powell, Laura Bush, Henry Samuelson's ghost, the Chicago Bears, the New York Giants, Miley Cyrus, Ted Turner, Sunny and Bo, Rizzoli and Isles, Stephen Colbert, Hillary Clinton, everybody on "America's Got Talent", the George Washington mascot of the Washington Nationals, Dick Cheney's housekeeper (Olivia), and probably hundreds (if not thousands) of other people, except that Pippin had a tiny little feline brain without a huge amount of memory.  For that reason, he was prone to erupting with rage at almost anybody, uncertain if they were somebody he actually hated.

Ghost Pippin also hated Petro Pig, but The Gopper Ghost was willing to let that slide.  However, he would not give up trying to convince Pippin that pets were supposed to like humans, and it was unnatural for pets to hate humans!  Pets should help humans whenever possible!

After months of this, Pippin was not the slightest bit convinced, so The Gopper finally decided to try a new tactic.  "Weren't you named after a prince in search of a grand purpose in life?"  (Pippin was actually named by a frenemy of Condoleezza Rice's, who was trying to convince the then-Secretary of State to let go of some of her grand ambitions and seek solace in domestic bliss.)  "'Corner of the Sky', 'Spread a Little Sunshine', 'Glory'--don't you want to find a purpose and mission?"

"'War Is a Science!'  That's what I remember!" exclaimed Ghost Pippin (who had, in fact, heard Rice play the "Pippin" soundtrack many times).

"Well, I think we need to warn the humans about the Zombie Caucus.  They're eating people!  And passing bad legislation."  (The Gopper Ghost had both a bigger heart and bigger brain than Ghost Pippin.)

"No!" hissed Ghost Pippin.  "And stop following me around!"  He hissed again, and The Gopper shook his head in disgust, then trotted away to search for a new pack.

Ghost Pippin jumped back on top of the George Washington statue, this time on the head.  He was filled with rage (all the time), but maybe The Gopper Ghost had a point?  Maybe he would be happier if he had a purpose?  Every day seemed so pointless--wandering around, throwing hissy fits, urinating on other ghosts, frightening the sparrows.  It was then that a catbird alighted on the tail, looked Ghost Pippin in the eye, and began chirping, "Ardua ... Ardua ... Ardua...."

Monday, January 19, 2015

Gyrations

In the upper floor conference room of the Brewmaster's Castle, the Heurich Society was observing Martin Luther King Day by watching a Beyoncé video while eating black and white cookies.  Henrietta Samuelson, chair of the secret society, had been hoping for a more robust follow-up to her triumphal humiliation of Dick Cheney in their last meeting, but when Condoleezza Rice had suggested these activities, she could not very well have argued that it was in bad taste.  In fact, Samuelson was quite certain it was a horrendous joke Rice was playing on the others, but what was she to do?  And Rice wasn't even here, of course!  Not even on the speaker phone!  After five minutes of gyrations, Samuelson shut the video off.

"OK, that's enough.  We have important work to do.  We have just learned that one percent of the world's population controls fifty percent of the wealth on this planet."  ("Hear, hear!")  Samuelson waved down the applause.  "By my calculations, our society only controls 2% of the wealth on this planet.  I think we can do better.  What is our motto?"

"Maximize wealth, power, and freedom," said her erstwhile lover, a former CIA agent.  "We do have to balance our efforts on the power and freedom--it's not just about wealth.  A lot of those billionaires really don't have power like we do."

"Does the ability to deflate footballs during an AFC championship game really count as power?"

"We did a lot more than that this week!" protested the international arms dealer (who had just earned another $3,000,000 in Europe--some of it from actual governments).  "We got the Kurds and Assad forces at each other's throats, didn't we?  That power vacuum is bound to burst wide open sooner or later!"  Samuelson stared at him in amazement.  "Oh, didn't you know about that?"

"The aid to the Kurds was supposed to be for freeing women from ISIS slavery!" exclaimed Samuelson.

"Well, they did a little of that, too" said the retired Army general.  "You gotta let them have some fun!  That's how these things work."

"But what good is money and power if we can't change how things work?" asked Samuelson.

"You can't control everything," said the retired Senator.  "People need a tiny bit of freedom, themselves.  Of course, most of the freedom is supposed to be for us, but we have to allow others the illusion of freedom."

"This is an illusion," said Samuelson.  "Adjourned."

"What's eating her?" asked the FBI assistant director.

"She just needs to get--"

"Shut up! hollered the former CIA agent, who rose and quickly went after her.

Out in Virginia, Wince was putting on his coat to leave Bridezilla's apartment.  "But it's Martin Luther King Day!" she protested to her fiancé.  "Even Prince and Prowling is closed for the holiday!"

"I thought you had 50 contract attorneys in your State of the Art review bunker today?"

"What?  Well, SOTA-BUNK doesn't count.  Anyway, we're doing them a service--otherwise, how would they get paid?  Is Lye, Cheit and Steele actually open today?"

"Not officially, but I can set up my new office and mingle with a few of the attorneys who are working today," said Wince.  "Learn where everything is, get familiar."

"But none of the partners will be there!" pouted Bridezilla, a junior partner.

"I'm just going in for a few hours."  (More pouting.)  "We can still go out to dinner.  Look, everything's going to be easier now that I left the Supreme Court:  we don't have to hide our engagement anymore!"

But Bridezilla was still hiding the engagement.  How could she tell the partners of Prince and Prowling she was engaged to the same man she had been engaged to many years ago, the one who had shown up at the altar to wreck her wedding to Buddy Lee Trickham just before that mystery guy had arrived to start shooting every P and P attorney in sight?  Not to mention Wince was a former Supreme Court clerk who had just gone to work for their rivals!  She had begged him to seek a corporate counsel position, but he had been so eager to get away from his alleged blackmailers (she rolled her eyebrows to herself) that he had said there was no time to lose, and took the first good offer he got!  And her, in charge of P and P's new Cuba practice group, while Wince would be toiling as a mere litigation associate, drafting tedious motions and running e-discovery reviews!  Her darling Wince who had single-handedly been drafting Justice Prissy Face opinions for years and shaping the very fabric of society!  She turned back to her coffee table book on "The 100 Most Beautiful Wedding Reception Table Centerpieces of All Time," but she was still pouting.

Over on Capitol Hill, an equally unhappy Solomon Kane was reluctantly sitting down for another meeting with Congressman John Boehner.

"Here," said the Speaker of the House, handing his former private investigator an envelope.  Kane opened it and saw the reimbursement check he had written Boehner, uncashed.  "You can't quit:  I need you to keep working for me.  Even if you are too chicken to tell me who my unknown enemy is, or who his psychic bodyguard is, at least you know, so you can protect me from them."

"I can't protect you from the blackmail, and they're not out to cause you physical harm."

"Maybe, maybe not.  You can't really count on anything in this town.  I have a House full of whipper-snappers coming in who think they rule the world now.  They want me to deliver a level of veto-proof power I don't have, and the blackmail is often tying my hands, anyway.  I think it's going to get uglier, not prettier."

"What do you want from me?"

"Surveillance on all my enemies," said the Speaker of the House, "and an added layer of protection."

"Don't you get Secret Service?"

"The people who hire hookers and forget to lock the front door?  Don't make me laugh!  Congressman Herrmark has two personal bodyguards!  He tried to pass them off as one because they're identical twins, but everybody knows he has two!"

It had taken Kane a very, very long time to ascertain that Charles Wu was behind the Tarantula's blackmailing of Boehner, so he was still baffled as to why the Speaker would ask him to take over all enemy surveillance duties.  "Look, I only know the one psychic bodyguard," said Kane.  "If you're hoping I'll come up with another one--"

"No," said Kane, "I want you to get me that one."

"I can't."

"My lady staffers call you a handsome fellow.  There must be ways you can persuade her to switch her allegiance."

"He's paying her a lot, and I tried wooing her before with no luck.  No offense, Congressman, but I'm not sure you or I could offer her anything she wants."

"We'll see about that," said Boehner, who was fixating on this issue because he was increasingly spacing out during political meetings, daydreaming about himself acting out storylines in "House of Cards," "Game of Thrones," and "Charlie's Angels."  Boehner tented his fingers in a theatrical way and waited for Kane to ask what the plan was, but Kane seemed painfully unaware of the script here.  "All in good time, my fine fellow," Boehner said at last in answer to the unanswered question.  Then he stood up, and the puzzled Kane followed suit.  "Report back tomorrow," concluded Boehner.

Kane had no idea what he was supposed to do between now and tomorrow, or how he was supposed to offer protection to Boehner with Boehner pointing him towards the door.  "Alright," Kane said, and walked out.

He encountered a young staffer on the way out who handed him another envelope.  "This will get you into the State of the Union address," she said, with a mischievous smile.  "Stand close to him at all times."

"Can I bring a gun in?"

"Oh, don't worry about that--he'll loan you a couple of his."  She leaned in close to whisper in his ear.  "And be careful of the Zombie Caucus."  She pulled away and winked.

Back in Virginia, Congressman Herrmark had rented out a private estate to practice killing zombies.

"OK," said bodyguard Nick, handing Herrmark his weapons.  "If you nail them in the head with a paint gun, that's a kill.  If your axe breaks the collar around their neck, that counts as chopping their head off.  If you get the Velcro torch flames to stick to their clothing, that counts as burning them up.  We hired 100 actors to play the zombies.  They think they're here for a private birthday party, and you're an eccentric millionaire from the Mars candy dynasty."

"I'm supposed to take out 100 zombies by myself!"

"Of course not!" said bodyguard Costa.  "We're all going to do it!"

Herrmark looked at his twin bodyguards and their cousin, Ann Bishis, his Chief of Staff.  "That's still three against 100!"

"Um, four, and they won't have weapons," said Bishis.  "They can only hurt us if they lay hands on us and disarm us.  We've done loads of research on this."

"But it's not like I can walk around Capitol Hill with these types of weapons on me!"

"No, of course not," said Nick.

"Ann will identify them by their voting records and other clues," said Costa, "and then we'll pick them off one by one--the staffers, the committee counsel, and the Members of Congress."

"ONE-BY-ONE," echoed Bishis.  "Ready?"  She shot her starter pistol in the air, and they waited for the hidden throng to emerge and attack.

Back in the city, Barbie Bucephalus (neé Barbara Hellmeister) was trying hard to forget all about the zombies she had accidentally created using notes from her Nazi grandfather's journal.  Her former boyfriend never knew anything about that, but she was not entirely certain he was buying her story about how her Maryland farm was burned and why she had fled for so long.  "I had to do my own witness protection program," she said to Atticus Hawk, who had temporarily lost his top security clearance as a U.S. Attorney because she was a fugitive from justice.  "I had provided drug-test-proof drugs to very powerful people in this city, and things had gotten very ugly and dangerous with one of the clients.  Don't ask me to reveal more than that, please!  I'm safe now!  The CIA has cleared me to work.  Isn't that good enough?"

Being DOJ's torture expert and trusting the CIA are not the same things.  Hawk fiddled with his pancakes.  "You can't really expect me to pick up things where we left off?  I had no idea where you were, what you were doing!"

"Well, you're not dating anybody else!" she said, as if this were unassailable logic.  "I know everything you've done for the CIA interrogation program, Atticus!  You, of all people, should trust and admire what I'm doing there!  We are working for the same things!"

Are we?, thought Hawk, feeling sick

"We belong together!" cooed Bucephalus.  She picked up a forkful of drugged pancakes and stuck them into his mouth, determined to get that warm, fuzzy feeling back into his heart.

Over at Lye, Cheit and Steele, Mr. Cheit walked in on Wince hanging up the photo of himself with Justice Prissy Face.  "Didn't know you were stopping by today, my boy!"

Wince had not been called a boy in quite a long time, but he attempted to interpret this generously.  "Just wanted to be ready at the start of the gun tomorrow, sir!"

"Excellent, excellent!"  The partner closed the door and sat down in a guest chair.  "Tell me, while we have a moment, how's the old fellow going to rule on that McGillicuddy business?"

"Um, I don't know, sir," said Wince.

"You know, my boy, you went straight from law school to the Supreme Court.  I understand you have certain guiding principles, but you're out of the ivory towers now.  One percent of the people on this planet own fifty percent of its wealth.  Why?  Because we helped them acquire it, that's why."  (Wince sat down.)  "These things don't happen because one percent of the people on this planet work harder than everybody else.  It's all about working smarter."  Mr. Cheit tapped his temple.  "Smarter."

"Yes, sir," answered Wince.  "I was being blackmailed," he blurted out.

"What?!" cried Mr. Cheit.

"I did have principles, but even Supreme Court opinions can't always be predicted, sir."  Wince sighed deeply.

"Are you telling me you're not free to do as you're told?" asked Mr. Cheit, turning red in the face.

"Oh, I'm free now, sir!  Free as a bird!  That secret was just something I had to keep secret from my boss because he wouldn't have liked it."

"Wouldn't have liked what?"

"That I'm not a, um, [air quotes] confirmed bachelor.  I have a fianceé."

Mr. Cheit burst out laughing.  "So you do have some entertaining stories to tell me about your boss!  Well, that's a relief!"  (He stood up to go.)  "Alright, see you tomorrow, my boy!"

Over at the White House, the ghosts were discussing Martin Luther King Day, and their latest attempts to whisper in President Obama's ear about the State of the Union address.  The clouds parted briefly, and they ventured out into the cold sunshine for a few minutes to chase the wicked starlings and infected ducks away.

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COMING UP:  The adventures of Ghost Pippin!

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Guantanamo Anniversary Weekend Torturers Tour

"I stand humbly before you," began Dick Cheney, "to make my case for returning to the Heurich Society."

"If you were humble, you would be on your knees," said Henrietta Samuelson, and several members gasped.

Cheney gave the former realtor a sinister smile.  "You really do take after your father, don't you, Button?"

"Don't call me that!" she replied.  "It's 'Madam Chair' to you!"

"The world is in a precarious state," continued Cheney, turning away from her.  "Look what happened in France!  Do you really want this young whipper-snapper in charge?"

"She's done OK," crackled Condoleezza Rice over the speaker phone.  (Like the others, she knew Samuelson had inherited enough evidence from her late father to put them all behind bars.)

"Who took care of the Darja problem?  Me!" Cheney declared.

"You?!" exclaimed Button.  "She was murdered!"

"It was a police incident," said Cheney.  "I know how to handle things!"

"Two protesters from Code Pink were just arrested at your house during the Guantanamo Anniversary Weekend Torturers Tour!  We can't have our members attracting this kind of publicity!  It's a secret society!"

"Well, that's not my fault!" exclaimed Cheney.

"Nobody was arrested at John Brennan's house!  You clearly didn't handle things as well as he did!  You make everything worse!"

"Now listen here, missy!" shouted Cheney, but he shut up when she pulled a clear jar of formaldehyde out of her bag and placed it on the table of the Brewmaster Castle upper floor conference room.  There were several gasps, and Cheney's face grew pale.

"Do you know what this is?" asked Samuelson.  "This is the heart they took out of your body.  I inherited it from my father."

Everybody stared at it in silence for a few moments.  It was a tiny, misshapen red mass, with white and black blotches all over it.  Then Cheney tried to snatch the jar, but Samuelson was too fast for him.  "You're a monster!" he exclaimed.

"Me?!  Some people in this town don't believe you really did get a heart transplant.  Some people say you're a zombie, Dick.  My father knew the truth."

Cheney pounded his fists on the table.  "This is an outrage!"

"Calm down, Dick," said Samuelson.  "Do you want to have another heart attack?  Because nobody here is going to use the defibrillator on you."

Cheney looked around for support, but found only a sea of shifting eyes.  "I still matter!  I'm important!  I'm willing to make the tough calls!"

"Well, you can always run for President," crackled Rice over the speaker phone.

With that, Cheney got up and stormed out.  "Je suis Charlie!" he hollered, in a terrible French accent.  After he was gone, for the first time ever, the Heurich Society stood up and applauded Henrietta Samuelson.

A few miles away, United States Attorney Atticus Hawk was still peering nervously out his window, terrified the Guantanamo Anniversary Weekend Torturers Tour would arrive at any moment.  He had never been publicly documented as the Justice Department's torture expert, but he never knew when the truth might end up on Wikileaks or, worse, get posted to his mother's Facebook page underneath her wall of son-bragging posts.  He was supposed to be at the office working on a memo regarding the contemplated prosecution of former CIA Director David ("Betray-Us") Petraeus, but how could he take the risk of being screamed at by Code Pink ladies?  It would be humiliating!  And he had no defense to such accusations!

"I could ask U.S. Marshals to escort me to work, right?  Why not?  We can't leave a 4-star general just hanging!  Holder has to decide on this indictment.  What kind of example would it be if we let a CIA director get away with spilling state secrets just because a woman is sleeping with him and writing a biography about him?  We can't allow that sort of precedent!  Not when we're cracking down on whistle-blowers, er, spies, all over the place!  Should Glenn Greenwald have to hide in Brazil while Betray-Us runs around the United States raking in huge speaker fees?  How can that be fair, and even if it is fair (which it probably is), we have to keep up appearances of justice and equality, right?"

Hawk was pacing furiously back and forth, talking to himself, when there was a sudden knock on the door.  He tiptoed to the peephole, heart pounding, and peeped.  Then he fainted dead away.

On the other side of the door stood Barbara Hellmeister (now going by "Barbie Bucephalus").  She frowned at the sound of the thud, pulled out a pin to pick the lock, but was thwarted by the chain.  She squatted down, reached in, and tried to shake him awake.  "It's me, Basia," she said.  She had been gone a long time--first in hiding from the FBI, then adjusting to life as a CIA interrogator.  (What better place to hide from the FBI than at the CIA?!)  She had used plastic surgery to alter her appearance slightly, and dyed her hair red, but clearly he had recognized her immediately, even through a peephole.  He never forgot me, she smiled to herself.  He had never told her what he did for the Justice Department, but after joining the CIA, she had found out.  It was always destiny, my sweet!  She kept shaking him, but he wouldn't wake up.

A few miles north, triple agent Charles Wu was trying to convince Angela de la Paz to go on her next assignment--a task which would require nimble maneuvering between CIA agents and rogue CIA agents in Russia.

"What's the difference between a CIA agent and a rogue CIA agent?"

"Well, this is where your telepathic powers will prove particularly useful," said Wu.

"I don't get visions distinguishing CIA agents from rogue CIA agents.  They all torture people for information, don't they?  I don't see the difference."

"The rogue CIA agents don't always follow orders.  Sometimes it's because they're being paid off; sometimes it's because they disagree with official orders; sometimes it's both.  (Angela frowned.)  There's a major CIA schism in Russia right now about how to take advantage of the political instability there.  China wants information about what the CIA is going to do--rogue or otherwise.  I think you're the only person who can go to Moscow and really figure it out."

"And then what?"

"And then we make a lot of money!" said Wu.

"Don't you think it's dangerous, selling China the CIA's secrets about Russia?  Don't you ever worry about the repercussions?"

Wu tapped his fingers slowly on the arm of his chair.  "I've been doing this a long time, Angela.  You can trust me."

Angela shrugged her shoulders to crack her spine.  (The ghost of Henry Samuelson was poking her between the shoulder blades, trying to get her to listen to him.)  "I'm worried about your judgment."

"I know you would prefer to see the world in a nobler and more idealistic way, but--"

"It's not that," said Angela.  "Something's going on with you.  Lynnette sees it, too."

"Lynnette?!  She didn't have any complaints when I took her to Jaleo for dinner last night!"

"You showed more kindness and feeling for her before you started wooing her.  There's a dark shadow hanging over you, and it's growing.  It started when you learned the truth about how Delia's mother died."

A hard look came over Wu's face.  "I don't want to talk about that."

"You have to talk about it!"

"I'll send somebody else to Moscow," said Wu, standing up.  "Stay here in Washington and wait for your next vision."  Angela stood up slowly, then left without a word.  Wu followed behind her to see if she was leaving the house or just leaving his home office, but she left the house.

Wu looked into Delia's bedroom, where her governess was reading her "Peter Rabbit" before nap time.  "Can I do that?" he asked hoarsely.

Outside, Angela started to cry.  She didn't have a vision for how to fix Wu.  In the trees, she saw a gang of starlings mocking her pink warbler, and she screamed at them until they left.

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COMING UP:  Wince leaves the Supreme Court to join Lye, Cheit, and Steele.

Sunday, January 04, 2015

We Need to Talk

Perennial Supreme Court clerk Wince just didn't get it.  With several oral arguments already held, and many upcoming arguments scheduled, he still could detect no pattern in what blackmailer "the Tarantula" was asking Justice "Prissy Face" to decide.  With demands to rule against the National Security Agency, securities investors, and mortgage borrowers, but for hijab bans in the workplace, gun rights, and the right to dump contraband fish, the blackmailer seemed to be all over the ideological map.  Now if you knew the Tarantula's employer, triple agent Charles Wu, you would know that some if these demands were for himself,  some for foreign governments, and some for private clients--but Wince did not know any of that.  (His chief suspect was Clarence Thomas, whom he suspected of being a zombie.)

"We need to talk," he finally blurted out to his fiancée, Bridezilla.

She looked up from the internet article she was reading about top global destinations for secret celebrity weddings.  "Look, I know we can't afford a private island, but since we're not going to be paying for any guests, we can afford to splurge a little, can't we?"  She made her martyr pouty face at him, a face he knew all too well.  "If we have to keep it a secret from your boss, I deserve to have a little fun, don't I?"

"Actually, we don't need to hide the engagement anymore.  I'm going to quit my job."

Bridezilla's facial expression changed to horror.  "You're going to quit the Supreme Court??!!"

"I thought you would be happy!  You can plan the wedding of your dreams, now!  I've been there long enough--I should be in the private sector by now.  I need to make more money and--"

"Leave the Supreme Court??!!"  Bridezilla was actually growing pale.

"I don't understand!" exclaimed Wince.  "I thought you would be happy about this."

"But you're doing so much good for society, there!  You have so much influence!"

"I can't anymore--I've lost control of Justice Prissy Face's agenda.  The truth is, I'm being blackmailed.  It's gotta stop."

A few miles away, private investigator Solomon Kane was entering Congressman John Boehner's man-cave bunker.   He accepted a shot of cheap bourbon from the Speaker of the House (who didn't give the good stuff to disappointing people like Kane).  "We need to talk."

"Let me guess," said Boehner, sarcastically.  "You still can't figure out who the Tarantula is."

"Actually, I did," said Kane, quietly.

"What?!" exclaimed Boehner, slamming the bottle down on his bar.  "Who is it?"

"I can't tell you," said Kane, quietly.

Boehner walked around the bar, grabbed Kane roughly by the coat sleeve, and pulled his face close.  "Look, you son of a bitch, I've been paying your expenses since 2013 and--"

"I'll pay you back," said Kane.

"That's not good enough!  How much is he paying you to keep his secret?"

"Nothing," replied Kane.

"Liar!" Boehner exclaimed.  He then tried to imitate a move he'd seen in the movies where you slam the guy's head onto a bar, but Kane was a highly skilled operative who quickly pinned Boehner's arms behind his back, then steered the Speaker of the House over to the leather couch and unceremoniously dumped him therein.

"It's for your own protection," said Kane, who had finally traced the Tarantula to Charles Wu, whom he knew was protected by Wu's mystically gifted agent, Angela de la Paz (whom he loved and feared).  "The Tarantula's boss is untouchable.  There's nothing I can do--there's nothing anybody can do."

"I'm third in line for the Presidency of the United States, and you have the audacity to tell me there's nothing I can do about a god-dammed blackmailer?!"  Boehner's face had turned bright red.

"You can give in to his demands, or you can go public.  But he's too well-protected to take him out."

"Too well-protected?  That's what they thought before the Red Wedding!"

"Sir, that's a television program."

"That's not the point."

"It has dragons--it's not the real world," sighed Kane.

"I wasn't elected to Congress to accept the real world as it was, but to change it!"

"That's debatable," muttered Kane.

"What?!"

"His bodyguard cannot be stopped!  She's psychic!"

"Oh, dragons aren't real, but psychic bodyguards are?!" scoffed Boehner.  (Kane nodded.)  "Then get me one!"

"She's the only one I know," said Kane, pulling a check out of his pocket.  "I'm repaying you the expenses.  Maybe you should just go public with those phone records--"

"Never!" screamed Boehner.

"I'm sorry," said Kane, turning to leave.

"Is it Marco Rubio?  At least tell me if it's Marco Rubio!"

"It's not a politician or government employee," said Kane, walking out.

"Is it Rupert Murdoch?!" shouted Boehner, leaping to his feet, but Kane shut the door behind him.  "Oh, my God," he whimpered, sinking back into the couch.  "Of course!  Nobody can touch Murdoch!"

Over on Capitol Hill, an even greater threat to Boehner was still underground:  the Zombie Caucus.

"We need to talk," said Ann Bishis to Congressman Herrmark, who was not pleased that his chief of staff had called an emergency meeting as soon as he was back in town.  He looked at his twin bodyguards, Nick and Costas (Ann's cousins from Greece), who nodded gravely at him.

"Halliburton's trying to kill me again!?" exclaimed Herrmark.

"No, it's not that," said Bishis.  "Your former chief of staff was a zombie."

"Well, that's not a very nice thing to say!" exclaimed Herrmark, appalled.

"She didn't just vanish.  She was decapitated, and maggots crawled out of her neck.  We were too freaked out to tell you at the time."

Herrmark looked back and forth between Nick, Costas, and Ann several times.  He knew schizophrenia ran in families, and it could emerge suddenly, but it seemed unlikely that it would emerge suddenly in three different people.  "Have you been taking any drugs--and I'm not judging!  I just need to know!  The marijuana or--"

"I went down into the tunnels with my boyfriend and a tracking hound.  We found a secret chamber full of zombies.  They murdered John."  With that, her voice cracked, and her cousins moved to her side to comfort her.

"We have to do something, sir!" said Nick, who (a) hated zombies and (b) had found guarding Herrmark's life a disappointingly boring job so far.

"We've been studying the films," said Costas.  "It won't be easy, but what choice do we have?"

"And they're probably the reason we can't get action on fracking!" whimpered Bishis, appealing to Herrmark's soft spot.

"I knew it!" exclaimed Herrmark.  "There's always been a conspiracy for fracking!  Wait, is Dick Cheney a zombie, too?  Oh, my God, now it all makes sense!"

"Maybe," shrugged Bishis.  "Yeah, that would explain a lot, wouldn't it?"

"Damned bastards!  They blew up my parents' vacation home!"  (The three nodded at him sympathetically.)

"Tell me what to do!"

Out in the river, Ardua of the Potomac cheered to the return of Congress--especially her zombies....

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COMING UP:  Dick Cheney argues his case for returning to Heurich Society.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Smoke on the Water

"You can't have a bonfire on a boat," the yacht captain pleaded over the phone.  "It's not safe."

"How dangerous can it be?" replied lifestyle guru Giuliana Sunstream.  "We'll be surrounded by water!"

"Seriously?" responded the captain.  "You think having a burning ship sink into the river to extinguish the flames is a good safety plan?"

"It's going to be 30 degrees tonight!" wailed Sunstream.

"Well, I'm not giving you the money back," said the captain.  "You said you wanted to do a New Year's Eve cruise, and this isn't the Caribbean."

"What are the options?"

"I have 3 electric heat lamps.  I suggest your guests wear parkas."

"Parkas?!  How can people do the limbo in parkas?!"  (The captain shrugged, which, of course, she couldn't see.)  Sunstream was charging $200/head for this "River of Resolutions" party, which, in addition to the limbo contest, was slated to have an ice sculpture in progress, a "celebrity" wedding officiated by the captain (the celebrities being two little people actors she had connected with through her NoMA lifestyle blog), champagne-caviar-cocoa soufflés, and a hip-hop harpist.  The highlight would be a performance artist (Chippendales dancer) on whom guests would write in watercolors all the things they hated about 2014--then he would dive into the Potomac River to wash them away.  He would return clean, and after he was dried off, guests would write their New Year's resolutions on his buck-naked body in permanent marker.  If he were standing in front of a bonfire, he would (a) look really cool and (b) escape hypothermia.  She wasn't so sure how a heat lamp would accomplish either of those feats.

"What if--"

"No," interrupted the captain.  "Three electric heaters.  But you can give people as much booze as you want to."

Not far from the yacht's mooring, a mourning and enraged Glenn Michael Beckmann was kicking in the gate at the Washington Marina in Southwest Waterfront.  Unable to discover who had gunned down his Ukrainian mail-order bride, he had narrowed down the suspects to Vladimir Putin, President Obama, Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen, and the CEO of Au Bon Pain.  (ABP had put the demon-possessed Darja on the Banned-for-Life list after she had started smashing soup pots on the floor upon learning they did not serve borscht.)   But for now, he had something else to focus upon.  "You!" he shouted, running over to the first large boat he saw with a human being on it.  "Take me to Cuba!"  He pointed his assault rifle at the startled yoga teacher from Philadelphia visiting her rich cousins, and she promptly fainted.  "Fine," Beckmann muttered to himself, "how hard can it be?"  He jumped onto the boat, picked up the woman, placed her limp body on the pier, cut the mooring rope with a knife, then walked carefully through the boat to look for others.  "Nope...nope...nope."  A startled cat hissed at him near the engine, and Beckmann crushed its skull with the butt of the gun.  Then the owner emerged from the head.  

"What the--"

"Take me to Cuba!"

"Seriously?"

"Take me to Cuba!"

"Okay, okay, settle down!  Can I call my wife?"

"No!"

"You need to let my cousin off first."

"Is she the redhead?"  (The boat owner nodded.)  "She's off already.  Come on, let's go!"

The owner, hands in the air, made his way slowly towards the captain's chair.  "Can I ask why we're going there?"

"To bomb all the harbors, of course!  Better dead than red!  Castro and Obama should both be locked up in Guantanamo!"

"Um, okay," said the boat owner, starting the engine.  "Do you want some beer?"

"Sure!" smiled Beckmann, lowering his gun.  "Do you have cigars?  Are you a smuggler?"

"Yeah!" said the boat owner, with new hope.  (I'll give him some of those marijuana stoogies, and radio the Coast Guard after he starts seeing mermaids on the Chesapeake!)

Further up the river, Coast Guard officer Marcos Vazquez was out on patrol.  No matter how cold it got, there would always be a lot of people drawn to the river for New Year's Eve--including his wife, Golden Fawn, whom he had left on Roosevelt Island to teach Joey Bent Oak the Ancient ceremony for weakening the power of the great demon, Ardua of the Potomac.  He could see the smoke rising from their fire, and it comforted him a little, but he knew that the things Golden Fawn did could not slow the demon down much.  The Warrior was on the island with them, too.  He had told them it was everybody's job to weaken the Beast, but he believed the Prophecy that Angela de la Paz would be the one to slay it.  Ardua had once almost drowned Vazquez, and had put amoebas in his brain, but the love of Golden Fawn kept him tied to this place.  

"Over there," he pointed to his crew.  Another paddle-boarder had tipped over.  "Why won't they wear god-damned life vests!?" he exclaimed.  "There should be a law!"  The paddle-boarder's girlfriend extended her paddle for the boy to grab hold of, and then she toppled over as well.  "Idiots!" he muttered, as his crew positioned the boat near the boards.  They threw over life rings, but it didn't work, so Vazquez's deputy stripped to his wet suit and jumped in to unite the rapidly chilling swimmers with the life rings.  Please let it be enough, he prayed, and it was:  the Coast Guard crew got the shivering couple onto their vessel.  "People drown in this river every year!" Vazquez scolded.  "The tides are treacherous, and you can't swim when it's this cold!"  (And there's a demon.)  He steered them to towels and an electric heater.  

"Hey, can we get our boards out of the water?" asked the girl.

"You can go to the Coast Guard salvage office next week and see what's washed up," replied Vazquez.  "But we won't give you the boards unless you show us you've purchased life vests."

"Jeez, lighten up, man!" protested her boyfriend.

"You're lucky to be alive, moron!"  Vazquez walked away briskly, leaving his crew to tend to the couple.  He was already scanning the river again with his binoculars.  Where are you?  Ardua had been in too much pain from Golden Fawn's incantation to grab anybody, and the demon was limping down to the Tidal Basin to try to recover her strength.  (But this was a town full of evil energy, and it would not take long.)  In the meantime, the Beaver catered to her every whim, while the river rats and infected ducks swam off to do her bidding.

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COMING UP:  Wince, Justice Prissy Face, and the Tarantula.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Endangered

Happy Anniversary, Endangered Species Act!

The ESA turned 41 yesterday, and may not live to see 42 if the Koch Brothers get their way with the next Congress.  Today, there are more Siberian tigers living in Texas (in captivity) than in Asia.  Is that the kind of world we want?  Stand up for the ESA!

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And stay tuned for a longer blog entry from Washington Water Woman later this week....