Charles Wu was jogging home from the health club in his slowly drying swim bodysuit, unwilling to change in front of strangers. Having prided himself all his life on a perfect body, he was horrified by the knife scar on his shoulder. It was still chilly outside, so he picked up the pace, suddenly beset with unpleasant memories of cold showers at boarding school in England. He had lost all mental clarity, and was constantly beset by unpleasant thoughts and memories now. But I'm still in good shape.
He accelerated even faster, pumping adrenaline to chase away the demons. My life is a mess.
It was a horrible, horrible thought, and something he hadn't felt since he was a teenager. The police investigation was over, Mia's death ruled a suicide, her body already flown back to her family in Asia, his mother picked up from Hong Kong on the way back after her insistence on coming to take care of granddaughter Delia, Wu's business affairs back in swing....
....He tripped on a buckling sidewalk, cursed it, and began running on the Cleveland Park grassy lawns. I never trip
. Cigemeier was asking a lot of questions about who Mia was, what was wrong with her, who was Angela, why did Angela say she wanted to give up her baby for adoption but insisted on breastfeeding and living with the boy, when was Angela actually going to give up the baby?
Wu tried to hurdle a small rhododendron, stumbled, and almost fell down. What is wrong with me?
Thoughts of Mia haunted him endlessly. He had been a fool to think he could train her to be a spy for him, a girl so broken. It's not my fault! I'm not the one that broke her!
And he knew he wasn't, and yet for the first time in his life, he felt he had failed
Several miles to the south, former Senator Evermore Breadman was hosting a special catered brunch at Prince and Prowling to celebrate the Supreme Court victory for their client, Shaun McCutcheon. "This is our time, and we cannot fail!" he cried, triumphantly. (McCutcheon and several of the attorneys present applauded enthusiastically.
) "Now some people think," continued Breadman, "that there may
be rich folks in this country who do not
welcome this victory against the Federal Election Commission because now
they no longer have a polite
way to say, sorry, I can't donate to your campaign because I've already reached my legally ordained contribution limit!" (Peals of laughter, with McCutcheon laughing hardest of all.
) "To this I say, if you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen!" (More laughter, and more applause.
) "There are
deserving political candidates out there, and the best
candidates will now get the financial support they deserve." (Applause.
Bridezilla sat at the far end of the conference room, discreetly busy with wedding planning on her Blackberry. (This Supreme Court ruling was wonderful, really
, but it could not
have come at a worse time for her
.) Her date and fiance', Buddy Lee Trickham, was a little appalled at the speech he was hearing, and even more appalled at this Georgia Brown dish masquerading as grits. "If my mother
saw these grits--"
"Buddy Lee!" Bridezilla whispered. "We've got bigger things to worry about!"
"Yeah, but if the Koch Brothers or Sheldon Adelson come down and start throwing millions of dollars around Mississippi elections," he whispered back, "those carpetbaggers'll be run out of town on a hogback!"
Bridezilla had already diverted about $40,000 of Koch and Adelson legal fees to paying for her wedding (because her exasperated father had declared he would only give her $5,000 for this wedding!
), and the Prince and Prowling partner was starting to have panic attacks that somebody was going to catch on. "Those are patriotic Americans!" she declared, by rote, without even lifting her head from the email she was reading from Laura Moreno--the beleaguered staff attorney tasked with finding a country music wedding band willing to use only banjos, with no fiddles. "If this ruling had been in place in 2012, they could have gotten Mitt Romney elected!" she added.
"I thought your law firm took clients from any
political party," Trickham said, suspiciously.
"Sure," said Bridezilla, pausing to clap because she heard other people clapping, "as long as the clients aren't directly against each other. Damn!"
"What is it?"
"Laura says there's been a cave-in!"
Several floors beneath them, Laura Moreno was, in fact, running away from a cave-in. She was (in-between planning Bridezilla's wedding) overseeing the creation of Prince and Prowling's state-of-the-art underground bunker review site (SOTA-BUNK, for short), and one of the recently dug tunnels had just caved in.
"I told you we couldn't dig past Pennsylvania Avenue!" cried the contractor. "We've got the White House bunkers crowding us on one side, and Dupont Down Under crowding us from the other!"
"How can Dupont Down Under possibly stretch this far?" asked Moreno.
"They don't, but they send out scouting parties constantly to attack anybody even remotely approaching their borders--kinda like what Russia does."
Moreno shook her head in amazement. She had thought becoming a staff attorney would bring stability and normalcy to her life, but things were just getting weirder and weirder. The recently renovated state-of-the-art review center a few floors up had already been deemed not secure enough, and now Prince and Prowling was paying former CIA contractors to build an underground review bunker which contract attorneys would not even be allowed to enter without shedding all clothing and personal effects in exchange for hospital-type scrubs and a keycard to enter the under-construction Situation Room. Internet-based databases and cloud storage would become things of the past, and Prince and Prowling would be the first law firm to take its clients' document reviews back
in time to using CD-rom's. But right now SOTA-BUNK was neither fit for mice nor men.
A few miles away, another building contractor was being wooed for a new project: the rebuilding of the Old Dominion Boat Club in Alexandria. Right now he was gliding past the future site, hosted by the Poseidon Auxiliary of the ODBC on one of their large sailboats. "I don't know," he was saying nervously. "I've heard rumors about this club."
"That's all behind us," said Ann Bishis.
"It was in litigation for decades
!" the contractor replied.
"That's all behind us," repeated Bishis.
"Some people say it's cursed
!" he whispered.
"I heard that, too
!" exclaimed Bishis's boyfriend, a D.C. coroner. (Bishis gave him a warning look, but he paid no heed.) "And some people think there's a man-eating demon in this river!" (Bishis kicked his ankle.)
"You heard that, too?" asked the contractor.
"Gentlemen!" protested the president of the Poseidon Auxiliary of the ODBC. "Come on! This is the 21st century! We're just talking about building a new boat club! It's not rocket science, and it's not the Twilight Zone!"
"Then what are those girls doing?" asked the contractor, pointing to the back of the boat, where some young, toga-wearing women were saying Greek prayers to Glaucos and Poseidon, while tossing parsley into the Potomac waters beneath them.
"It's just a traditional spring ritual," said Bishis, but the contractor was shivering in the cool breeze and insisted he had a bad feeling about it all.
Back on land, Angela de la Paz was one person who had no doubt there was a man-eating demon in the Potomac River. She was strolling slowly around the Tidal Basin, whispering to her papoosed baby son about Ardua and how he was stronger than that old demon. She gazed wistfully across the water at the Jefferson Memorial, a favorite spot she and Roddy had often jogged to. Next to her, arborist Devi Rajatala walked quietly, a lot on her mind. Several times Angela had ceased hearing her altogether, and when she would come back from these little blackouts, Angela would say something like, "I had to talk to my mom" or "I needed to visit Relisha". Angela was retreating more and more into the place she called the World of the Spirits, and it was unclear to Dr. Rajatala whether she was really prepared to give up her son.
"Dr. Raj," Angela said, "I told the Warrior about the IPCC report on climate change--what it said about coming agriculture problems, famine, drought, disease. He was very troubled, but he said the human race had survived the ice age, and it could survive this, too."
Dr. Rajatala looked at her in surprise, amazed that Angela was even aware the report had come out. "The human race will survive
," she said, "but that doesn't mean there won't be a lot of suffering."
"Like during the Middle Ages, with the bubonic plague?"
"Yes, times like that. Many will die."
"The Heurich Society expects a lot more war," said Angela.
"Expects it or wants it?" asked Dr. Rajatala. "Yes, there will be war, there will be refugees--there already are. Many of the wars happening right now can be blamed in large part on droughts. And droughts might tear apart the U.S., as well."
"Charles thinks," Angela began, and then she stopped. She hadn't really talked to her boss since saving his life and going on maternity leave the same day. He had visited with flowers and toys, of course, but they hadn't really talked...and she didn't know what he was thinking these days.
"You are a very special girl," said Dr. Rajatala, "I mean, woman, a very special woman, but right now, it's OK to just focus on the baby and get through this sad time."
"No," said Angela, kissing little Lucas. "Everything goes together--I have to see all the parts."
Not too far beneath the surface, Ardua of the Potomac eavesdropped intently, furious that Mia's breakdown and suicide had not paralyzed her arch-enemy. But there's much more I can do....
COMING UP: Spring Fever.