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 6/6//2017. Follow Washington Water Woman on Twitter @HorrorDC ....

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Memorial Daze

Coast Guard Officer Marcos Vazquez was back on the Potomac doing tourism patrol. He had visited a few graves at Arlington Cemetery earlier in the week, on his day off--today and tomorrow were just work days for him. The sudden thunderstorm had already chased away the afternoon boating crowd, and it was just him and his partner waiting for the big concert to end so that they could prevent a terrorist attack on the cars that would soon be streaming across the river into Virginia. The Coast Guard boat was just emerging from under the drawbridge when a pile of magazines landed at Vazquez's feet. He looked up in time to see Dubious McGinty hoisting up another armful of trash to toss from his perch in the abandoned bridgeman's quarters. Their eyes locked. Dubious lowered his armful of trash, smiled at Vazquez, then squatted low and out of sight, hoping he wouldn't get in trouble. "That's the guy that tried to kill himself!" shouted Vazquez's partner. Vazquez didn't reply, and he didn't care about some biodegradable magazines' getting dumped in the Potomac because he knew how many bottles and cans Dubious collected from the riverbanks every week. Vazquez squatted down to look the pile of magazines. The one on the top was the old Vanity Fair issue that had showed all the Neocons posing in the Oval Office, smug and conceited before 9/11 had even happened. Vanity. Vazquez thumbed through it, looking at the schizophrenic notations that Dubious had drawn all over the article. "That guy is a major nut job!" Again, Vazquez did not reply. He was picturing the Vulcans all lined up for the magazine photo session while George Tenet was frantically trying to get their attention about the looming Osama threat. I guess it would require several more tell-all autiobiographies before the truth emerged fully. Fair.

Dubious McGinty was still cursing his bad luck. No! It was sloppiness! He was getting sloppy! He was lucky it was Vazquez's boat. The anxiety swelled up in his stomach again, and he started snapping his fingers nervously. He really, really, really wanted to throw this pile over: its evil had suddenly overwhelmed him, right after the thunderstorm, when the air was still ionized and everything seemed fresh and clean except the piles of evil thoughts in his cubbyhole. It all had to go! He stood up again. The Coast Guard boat was far away again. Dubious picked up another pile to throw into the river, then another, then another. He was tired of remembering. Memorial Day was the worst day of the year! He wanted to forget everything he knew, everything he thought about, everyone he thought about.

Several miles to the east, Devi Rajatala was wondering what Angela de la Paz was thinking about. She was driving Angela home from her afternoon working at the National Arboretum Friendship Garden. Dr. Raj did not usually drive anybody home, but the sudden thunderstorm had caused Angela to miss her bus, and the buses were very infrequent on Sundays. Angela was thinking that it would probably be really nice to go live with Dr. Raj. She probably had a nice house with nice things, and she was smart, so maybe she could help Angela's grandmother get better. Dr. Raj asked how things were at home. "Good," replied Angela. "Abuela got a walker, so that's helping." Angela could not remember a time when her grandmother was not on dialysis, but this walking trouble was a new thing and it scared her. With no more homework tutoring needed until fall, Dr. Rajatala did not really know what she could do to help Angela. Talking about plants and math and science was the easy part, but Dr. Rajatala did not know how to talk to Angela about all the other things somebody needed to be talking to this girl about. She tried to remember things her own mother had talked to her about at that age, but that was in India and probably irrelevant. "Thanks! Bye!" Angela was already getting out of the car. Angela had a lot of happy memories from the Friendship Garden and was looking forward to spending a lot of time there over the summer. Dr. Rajatala watched her walk up the sidewalk. She saw a little girl growing up too fast, and it made her sad. All her memories of Angela were sad.

Seeral miles south, Golden Fawn was in her apartment, on the phone with her own grandmother, trying to explain that her arm was numb because of the lymph nodes that had been removed, but it was no use. Her grandmother had told her the breast cancer was from Ardua of the Potomac, so every conversation they had about medical procedures and their repercussions always ended in the same pronouncement: I told you so. Holding the phone in her right hand, Golden Fawn was angrily moving her left arm, trying to will it into complete feeling, obedience, and range of motion. That city is making you forget who you are and what you must do. She had heard that one before, too. "I work at the National Museum of the American Indian! I think about who I am every day!" Maybe the problem is that it is now "work" for you to be who you are. Hmmm, this one was new. She was too tired to respond to this one. "OK, grandmother, I've gotta go. I love you!" She walked into the kitchen, pulled an ice cube from the freezer, and pushed it against the dead spot on her left arm, but felt nothing. She hurled the ice cube into the sink at a cockroach--she had dozens of them now thanks to the crappy cabinetry installation the management company had just done, leaving gaping passageways between every kitchen on the floor. She hated Washington. She put her hands to her mouth, realizing the thought she just had. It was the cancer talking. She tried to remember all the things she loved about Washington, and her job, but she was tired and decided to go to bed.

A few miles east, Sebastian L'Arche was lying in bed, staring at the ceiling, remembering his tour of Iraq. He didn't go to a parade, or a cemetery, or a concert, or a wreath-laying. He just let the messages rack up on his phone from his veteran buddies who all wanted to talk on days like this. He thought remembering was bad enough by himself, but sharing memories was the last thing he wanted to do. Let the dead bury the dead. But he wondered, were any of them scared the way he was, especially near the river? How could he be scared of a river after getting out of Iraq alive? He needed to stop avoiding that river and face it.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Hosed

The Assistant Deputy Administrator for Anti-Fecklessness took a gulp from his State Department mug. Several notes were spread across his desk where Condoleezza Rice had come in and shoved what he was working on aside. She had also left three Washington Post articles, neatly photocopied, highlighted in yellow, and annotated in red. The major annotation on the first article--"Assessments Made in 2003 Foretold Situation in Iraq"--read "make Pincus retract this or cut him off". The Administrator had no idea how to accomplish either of those options. The major annotation on the second article--"Terrorism Work to be Unaffected by Climate Review"--read "get this re-spun". Next to Rice's marginalia was an anonymous note left by C. Coe Phant in purple ink, which read "climate change expected to melt Pakistani mountain snow and drown Osama Bin Laden in new scenic waterfall". The Administrator involuntarily chortled, then looked up nervously, but nobody was there. (Who had written that?) The major annotation on the third article --"Bush Is 'the Worst in History' in Foreign Relations, Carter Says"--read "retaliate". The Administrator took another gulp of coffee and began drafting notes to retaliate against Carter. Somewhere in his head he heard his girlfriend's voice saying, "Don't you ever work on real issues there?", but he brushed it aside.

A few miles to the east, Atticus Hawk took a gulp from his Justice Department mug, spit back the lukewarm coffee, and reached for his water bottle. He had just returned from the Monica Goodling testimony at a House Judiciary Committee inquiry into the attorney firings, and his adrenaline was pumping. What a babe! If he were 10 years older, he would be all over that. (And why didn't he ever get hot co-workers?) And what a great talker! He logged online to see if the transcript had been posted yet. "Do you believe they were illegal or legal?" Scott asked. "I don't believe I intended to commit a crime," Goodling, a lawyer, answered. "Did you break the law? Is it against the law to take those considerations into account?" Scott said. "I believe I crossed the line, but I didn't mean to," she responded. What a foxy weasel! His cellphone chirped with a new cryptic text message from his boss, who liked to communicate in a code that no grand jury would ever be able to crack. Atticus cocked his head to the left. Something about disgorged? He cocked his head to the right. Disgruntled? Disingenuous? He called up law school roommate Wince from his cellphone to tell him about the babe with immunity. "Yeah, we're hosed," he agreed with Wince, "but hosings don't last as long as they used to in this town." Wince asked Atticus about the Washington Post articles saying John Ashcroft secretly campaigned to keept the Constitution out of the clutches of Rumsfeld and Cheney. Atticus hesitated. "Well, I was only working on Guantanamo at the time. I don't know how they were deciding where to draw the lines." But he had drafted enough of those memos to know that the line was drawn first, and the law was shoehorned inside it afterwards.

A few miles to the west, Dr. Khalid Mohammad was sitting in the cafeteria, rubbing his eyes while Nurse Consuela Arroyo reread the Washington Post articles on John Ashcroft's stay at George Washington University Hospital. "I heard what they were saying that night," she told him, "but I didn't really understand it." Dr. Mohammad remembered clearly the night that Arroyo had complained to him that Ashcroft's visitors wouldn't leave, even though she had told them three times that it was after hours. Dr. Mohammad had not dared to go in there, knowing that the private physician had prohibited any other MDs from entering unless it was an emergency. He had no idea that a conversation was going on that may have led to his cousin's violent rendition out of Europe into secret American custody for 15 months before he was finally released as a case of mistaken identity. "We have a few minutes left," Arroyo said. "Let's go over to the Circle." Arroyo was on a kick of getting Dr. Mohammad to make daily rounds at Washington Circle, talking to the homeless crazies and dispensing medicine samples. "Just give me a minute." She pulled out her stack of foil sheets and quickly packaged up leftovers from discarded cafeteria trays. "OK, let's go." He gulped the last of his coffee and followed her out into the bright sunshine.

A couple blocks away, a Persian kitten was taking a sunbath in a Watergate apartment window overlooking the Potomac, his emerald-studded collar glinting in the sunshine. "Pippin" had been a surprise gift from Charles Wu to Condoleezza Rice, along with the slow-release water and food containers that would keep the cat content during Rice's frequent travels. Rice really had no reason to refuse the gift, and though she barely noticed it at a conscious level, the kitten often jumped into her lap and coaxed caresses out of Rice during her evening contemplations. The fur was thick enough so that Rice never noticed the implanted listening device just under the left hind leg joint. Outside the window, a catbird alit to peer into the apartment, but Pippin hissed at it through the glass and it departed. From deep in the Potomac, Ardua looked up at the new player and frowned--she wanted Rice all to herself.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Happy Hour

President Bush was in his favorite White House place--the walkway from the West Wing to the East Wing. "Have a great weekend, Chloe!" he called out to White House butler Clio. He started thinking about a waitress named Chloe that used to serve him at that happy hour he used to attend during his MBA days. What was the name of that place? He could picture her face perfectly, and the hoop earrings, and the cheap margaritas. He loved those happy hours! That white tie dinner with the queen--now that was a pain in the ass. How the heck could anybody enjoy a stuffy thing like that? He had already ripped off his tie and was taking off his Brooks Brothers shirt. Sometimes on a Friday night he still thought about booze. "Laura?" he called, getting anxious about the weekend. He needed somebody to tell him what to do, keep him busy, that was the thing.

Clio kicked off her shoes and sank into her easy chair, relishing the short time left before the twins were dropped off. It was a good week for them--they got to meet the queen! That Bridge was amazing! He knew exactly when to stage their "accidental" incursion into the queen's garden tour. Clio picked up the photos the Security Office had given her. There were Reggie and Fergie springing out of their hiding place in the Rose Garden! There was Bridge chasing after them to "scold" them for interrupting the queen's tour. There was the queen looking at them in surprise! There was the queen bending over to receive the bouquet Reggie handed her. There was Reggie doing a curtsy for the queen! There was Fergie bowing to the President! It was too much, and Clio started giggling. Bridge told her that when the queen had asked who "these delightful children" were, President Bush had replied with a nervous laugh, "oh, they just came with the place!" The First Lady had turned beet red as the White House gardener quickly introduced Regina and Ferguson to the queen by name. Bridge told Clio he could hear the First Lady telling some unrecognizable version of the twins' story as he escorted Regina and Ferguson away from them and out of the garden. Clio looked at the last photo: the queen had craned her neck to get one last look at the twins. Something about the twins and their story had, in fact, unnerved the queen, and if the queen and president were at a happy hour drinking margaritas, they would probably have discovered that they had this in common.

Clio frowned, thinking about the First Lady's embarassment that the queen might be reminded that slave children used to be born in the White House. Clio knew her grandmother's passed-on stories about those days, and had not been happy when she went into labor during a White House security lockdown. Regina and Ferguson had been the first children born in the White House in 150 years! True, Clio had a first-rate doctor and a better clinic than she would have had otherwise, but it still bothered her. Of course, the unusual birth was the reason that they were all living here, though to this day she had no idea why the White House counsel had given her a signed agreement holding the White House harmless in exchange for granting them room and board privileges. She also had no idea that her children regularly talked to ghosts of their own relatives. Clio frowned more deeply, thinking about the day her husband had left her and "those weird kids" behind for good. Sometimes she was very happy, but she knew he was right--everything was weird since the day they were born.

Outside, a car approached the White House to drop off the twins. Up in his office at Prince and Prowling, former Senator Evermore Breadman glanced out his window, down to the street, where Fergie was looking up at him and caught his eye. "Senator?" Charles Wu followed Breadman's gaze out the window and caught a glimpse of the child before the car moved forward. Breadman turned back to Wu, apologized, and attempted to collect his thoughts when he caught sight of a very familiar-looking Rolex. "Where did you get that?" asked Breadman. Wu, surprised, pulled it off his wrist. "You wouldn't believe me if I told you! Here, take it!"

Breadman silently took the watch and turned it over to see if it had an inscription, but it didn't. Wu suddenly got nervous. What was this? A set-up for a bribe or a set-up for something else? He had gotten the bizarre inscription lasered off in Chinatown after he found the Rolex at the Jefferson Memorial. Had Condoleezza Rice recognized it, too? Is that why she had sent him to Breadman? Wu thought he had simply won her over with his usual combination of British and exotic charm, especially the part where he had told her he was a spy for the British. He loved telling people that! They never expected it, and it always left them completely disarmed. Breadman was still staring at the Rolex, which looked a lot like the Rolex that Cheney had given Rumsfeld as a goodbye present--lost for months. But it couldn't be! That was absurd. Breadman looked up at Wu nervously, suddenly realizing the awkward situation he had just put himself in. Wu gave him an enormous smile and put Breadman at ease. They both laughed. "Condi tells me you have been looking to give your clients some additional insight on Chinese business, Senator." Wu leaned back, crossed his legs, and folded his hands. "How can I help you?"

A few floors below them, Chloe Cleavage jumped up as Bridezilla entered the Prince and Prowling sweatshop. "How can I help you?" Laura Moreno looked up, rolled her eyes, then returned to work. Chloe went outside with Bridezilla, then returned 10 minutes later. "The associates are downsizing the project. Thanks for all your hard work! The following attorneys are being released." Chloe read off dozens of names. "We'll let you know when our next project starts!" A half-hour later, they were gone. Laura looked around at the ones who were left: there was the guy that watched You Tube videos all day long, there was the woman that spent five hours/day running her dominatrix website, there was the guy that liked to tell pornographic jokes that were not funny, there was the guy that sent text messages to his three girlfriends all day long, there was the woman that left the building for hours/day. Gone were some of the hardest workers of all. She looked quizzically at Chloe Cleavage, who responded with a shrug of her bare shoulders. The associate had simply fired the latest hired--the ones who had, in fact, been brought in precisely because the veterans were goofing off all day and not getting enough work done. The ones just fired had actually enabled Prince and Prowling to make its deadline.

Laura logged out and prepared to head home and put her hands on ice. She entered the elevator rubbing her hands, but stopped when she saw the very handsome Charles Wu. She smiled wanly, and he smiled back. He had been thinking it was a very prestigious law firm until he got a glimpse of this one with the unbrushed hair, Indian skirt, and bohemian shoes. (Laura had stopped wearing nice clothes after the sweatroom hit 88 degrees.) Charles held the door politely as she stepped out and thanked him. Charles knew that look: it was an "I hope opposites attract" look, but a Hippie was the last thing that could be of any use to him. He let her walk ahead as he contemplated his thank-you phone call to Condoleezza Rice. For a moment he thought he saw a pink bird fly over the law firm hippie's shoulder. He turned in the opposite direction, the direction the starlings were flying.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Fight the Power

Eva Brown was distracted, as usual. Another year of law school was over, and she was supposed to be celebrating with her boyfriend, the Assistant Deputy Administrator for Anti-Fecklessness at the State Department. They were in a row boat in the Tidal Basin: he was rowing, and she was sitting back with her face in the sun. She shivered, but it wasn't because of the cool breeze. Her boyfriend was droning on about something, but she was nervous and kept looking at the water, wondering if it was possible to capsize. "Sometimes I'm just not sure about all this," said Eva, not noticing that her boyfriend had just made a second attempt to propose marriage. "Sometimes I feel like I just don't get it--I mean, what are we doing here, really?" The Assistant Deputy Administrator took that as a "no" and started paddling back to the dock. Eva leaned forward and grabbed his hands. "We need to fight the power!" He stopped paddling and looked at her in bewilderment. "We need to take it to the next level!"

A Coast Guard helicopter passed over their heads for another aerial surveillance before the queen's arrival. Marcos Vazquez was staring intently at the water while the pilot flew the chopper northward above the Potomac River. The water was a beautiful color today under a bright blue sky, and a lot of boaters were out--nothing looked suspicious. They passed over Dubious McGinty's secret home in the drawbridge, then flew past Condoleeza's perch in the Watergate. Everything on the surface and the shoreline were calm. They turned around at Great Falls and headed back to base so that they could take out the launch for the aquatic surveillance.

Charles Wu saw the helicopter pass overhead as he strolled the Key Bridge into Georgetown. He knew what it was doing--wasting more taxpayer money on physical surveillance, ignoring 90% of the terrorist chatter because there were still too few Arabic speakers in the U.S. government to make heads or tails of it. Charles had his English chatter sources in Mumbai, Hong Kong, Mogadishu, and Dubai: nothing would catch him by surprise. He stopped for a minute to look down at the crew team setting out on the Potomac River. His mind wandered back to his year at Oxford University, which seemed decades ago. He had always been too English for Hong Kong, but then it turned out he was too Chinese for England. Thinking about the queen visiting just irked him--people actually bowing to royalty in the 21st century! He loathed privilege. A cool breeze picked up, and he buttoned the jacket of his $1,500 silk suit tailored in London. He shivered and turned back to his path. A hundred feet below him, Ardua looked up at his greed and confusion and worried that he might be more trouble than he was worth. She was undecided about how to use the Chinese-British double-agent, and she told the starlings to keep shadowing him.

One of the Shackled was also shadowing Charles Wu, who had recently been turning up in all sorts of unexpected places. The thing about Wu was that everybody believed exactly what he told them--it was his great gift. Someday he was going to do a lot of damage with that trust, or a lot of good. In a city where most people looked to dogs and cats for true friendship, the master spy was developing an astonishingly large circle of friends.

A couple of miles away, Condoleezza Rice was grumpily unpacking from another pointless trip to the Middle East. She didn't know it yet, but she was about to meet Charles Wu at the White House State Dinner for Queen Elizabeth, and it was going to be an interesting week. In the distance, Dubious McGinty was glaring at her through his binoculars. He put them down and spit into the river. He was ticked off about what she had said about soldiers last week--this time, she had gone too far. "It's understandable," he chanted in a girly sing-song voice. "They're seeing their friends get hurt." He suddenly screamed so loudly that the ducks passing below the drawbridge pulled up and took to the air. "You understand nothing!!!!" A nesting sparrow couple popped out of their cubbyhole to see if Dubious was alright. "Sorry--go back to your eggs." Dubious went inside to watch TV and stop thinking about war.