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, August 26, 2007

Migrants

The monarch butterflies were midway between their trek from Canada to Mexico, and stopped to feed at the National Arboretum. They fluttered nonchalantly over the Asian collection, passed the azalea hill, and descended upon the Friendship Garden. Angela de la Paz smiled up at them, and Devi Rajatala smiled at the sight of Angela smiling. Even Jai Alai paused from her pruning to look at the shimmering wave of orange descending on the butterfly bushes. Jai called out to her kids to come see them. It was the third time she had brought them here on a Sunday. She told herself it was for their benefit because she could not face the truth that she liked having an excuse to get away from their father on the weekends. She watched her children's faces light up at the sight of the monarchs, even as her mind wandered back to her childhood on St. Lucia. She suddenly had a clear memory of being sent out to gather mangoes from the ground, and hearing the dull thuds of her mother's being beaten inside the house. She still couldn't eat mangoes. She looked over at Dr. Raj, trying to understand why she still hated that woman so much. Dr. Raj began talking to all the children about the great migration of the monarchs. Sometimes she thought about going back to India, but seeing the butterflies reminded her that some creatures naturally roamed further before they could find their way back home.

A few miles north, Charles Wu was inside the locked-down motel housing the imported Chinese laborers working on the new Chinese embassy. He was corrupting them with Dunkin Donuts and iced coffee before a Sunday morning soccer game got underway. He knew they were being electronically shielded from the full spectrum of internet, television, and radio transmissions that could misinform them, and it bothered him--blind loyalty was the shallowest of all, and the most likely to be turned. He didn't like seeing country yokels dragged over here and harnessed to the job like ploughhorses with blinders on--it was one of the things he disliked about China. The workers answered Wu's questions about their hometowns, and laughed at his Hong Kong accent as he told them about his. They thought he was a spy for China because he had loathed British rule over Hong Kong. About half of the time, this was true. He spoke to them contemptuously of his British father, and this contempt was also only half true. The workers were supposed to be sources for him, but he found himself liking them, and this was a problem.

Several miles west, Dr. Khalid Mohammad was sitting in the George Washington University Hospital cafeteria reading The Washington Post, wondering why a story about bird poop was on the front page. Starlings were beautiful birds--if people had nothing better to do than complain about bird poop, their lives were pretty good. He had now been in the U.S. over ten years, but still thumbed impatiently through newspapers and journals to get to the stories about the Middle East. Sometimes he had serious doubts that he would ever go back to Jordan. He paused and went back to the first page to read the starling story--he needed to start caring more about where he lived now. His pager buzzed, and he got up to return to the emergency room, where a stabbing victim was being unloaded from an ambulance.

A mile away, Sebastian L'Arche was embarking with Karl Rove's dogs on their long journey to Texas. Having been instructed to transport each dog in a separate cage, he knew they were attack dogs, and this was not going to be a pleasant trip. The dogs had barked non-stop until they reached the bridge across the Potomac, at which point they did the opposite of what most dogs did there, and fell silent. Sebastian glanced at his rear-view mirror and saw the dogs all lying down in crouch positions, fear glinting in their eyes. He accelerated over the bridge and exhaled deeply when he reached the Virginia side of the river. The dogs remained silent.

Deep in the Potomac, Ardua watched unhappily: she didn't want those dogs to leave. From the other side, a Pakistani taxi driver was heading from the airport across the river and into the city: he had big news for Charles Wu, whom he would be picking up from the motel in a couple of hours. He accelerated over the bridge, eager for the cash Wu would give him, wondering if his children would ever see his childhood home in Pakistan. Overhead, a few gulls lazily surveyed the damage of the night's storm as the Shackled convened for their Sunday prayer meeting, wondering if they would ever see Africa again..

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Purple Haze

The purple truck was parked again on G Street. Sebastian L'Arche stopped his bicycle for a minute to read what was painted garishly on the back.

I live in a world of fantasy so keep your reality away from me.
I see what I want
I want what I see
and that is all OKAY by me

He smiled and resumed cycling, on his way to do a pet-grooming house call in a downtown luxury apartment building. I play with their pets all day while they're at the office, and that is all OKAY by me. He was slowly building up his roster of D.C. and Maryland clients--trying to get out of the pet courier business and stay away from the Potomac River for good, after his old friend had been found dead there. At least he told himself that was the reason, trying to repress and forget the memories of so many animals' going berserk while crossing that river in his pet courier van. He stopped his bicycle again to let a motorcade go by, and caught his breath.

Karl Rove looked out his tinted limousine window, reading the odd message painted on the purple truck. He thought about jotting down the license plate to pass to the National Security Agency, but then the limo was already past the truck. He made a mental note to have some agents come back later, not realizing that the owner of this truck had already been under a fruitless wiretap surveillance for three years. On the seat across from him, former Senator Evermore Breadman was pretending to jot down notes on the lined legal pad inside his embossed leather portfolio while it was all he could do to contain his hissing intestines until they reached the private box at the Verizon Center. He was glad Rove was not prone to pointless chatter. Breadman tried to muster a smile, thinking about the matchmaking fee he might get out of this deal, but his belly was screaming at him, and he feared that Rove was just playing him to get a better counter-offer in Texas. The limo ride with face-to-face seating was supposed to be the excuse to stare a man in the eyes and get a read, but Breadman felt nauseous every time he tried to look up. His thoughts turned to Tony Snow. What kind of damned fool trumpets to the world that he's leaving public office because he wants more money? Breadman was not sure he could place a moron like that, who was only a talking head, after all. Or had the world changed so much that people could actually announce such a thing nowadays? His thoughts wandered back to the day he had announced he would not run for another Senate term, because he needed to devote more time to his family. That was ALWAYS the thing to say! The limo pulled up to the Verizon Center, and the two men silently gathered their accessories and waited for the driver to open their door.

A block away, Charles Wu was on his way back from Lynnette Wong's shop, where they had traded information on the new Chinese embassy under construction. Wu had been in it several times as an invited guest, but he knew the Ambassador would not show him much. Wong had made some herbal deliveries there, and had seen plenty herself, though she saw no importance in the questons Wu posed to her. At one point, she had commented quietly on how the construction workers were so isolated at the hotel camp, with no internet access or telephone lines, but Wu's professed sympathy had seemed a little too plastic to her. Wu frowned, coming to the reluctant conclusion that she was probably reading him better than he was reading her. How did she read him so well? He stopped for a moment at the sight of the purple truck and read the bizarre manifesto. He wondered if a country that let its mentally ill roam freely around really needed to be taken down from the outside? He kept walking, a bag of Chinese herbs in one hand, a Burberry umbrella in the other. He started thinking that the purple truck philosophy might actually apply to a lot of people he knew, though he did not include himself in the category.

A few minutes later, the driver of the purple truck came out of Cosi with a half-dozen Power Arctic Mochas to take to the afternoon meeting of the Heurich Society. He also had a cup of ice for Condoleezza Rice, who always mixed her own drinks. He drove the truck west, listening to a Sudanese-run radio station discussing the slaughter of Darfur refugees by Egyptian authorities at the Israeli border. World War III was well on its way. A flock of starlings flew above him, on their way to the Brewmaster's Castle before reporting back to Ardua of the Potomac.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Sicko

Charles Wu was heading into the E Street Cinema to see "Sicko"--not because he cared about health insurance policy issues, but because he enjoyed films which mocked the United States. It would also be a good place to scope out new pinko confidantes. Perry Winkle was also heading in to see "Sicko"--for him, it would be preparation for his upcoming piece on the health care crisis in Washington. Coming out from the film were Lynnette Wong and Laura Moreno. Moreno recognized Wu, but he had already forgotten her. She said goodbye to her friend and headed home to prepare for her upcoming lab samples ordered by the acupuncturist. Winkle recognized Wong, but he did not remember until hours later that it was because he had seen her near the Potomac the last time he had visited Dubious McGinty. Wong said goodbye to her friend and headed for the Metro to get to the river.

A couple miles south, at Southwest Plaza, Golden Fawn was reading the results of her latest insurance company appeal--rejected. They had not reimbursed her latest round of radiation and chemotherapy. The letter was full of inaccuracies. She wearily flipped to the attachment--a document dealing with somebody named Fawn Golden from New Jersey. Her credit cards were maxed out because they had mixed up her file with Fawn Golden from New Jersey. Golden Fawn put her head down and cried in frustration and fatigue. Marcos had said he would take her down to the river today, but she just couldn't face Ardua right now.

Over at the White House, Clio had snuck the twins into the East Wing swimming pool, taking advantage of the President's absence. Bridge was trying to teach them how to swim, but since they still didn't speak any recognizable English, he could never be sure if they understood what he was saying. Regina was sprawled on top of her kickboard, randomly windmilling her legs and arms like a malfunctioning wind-up toy. Ferguson was holding his kickboard in his hands and kicking his legs for maximum splash effect, repeatedly zooming away from Bridge, who would then have to chase him down and herd him back to the shallow end. Bridge gave Clio an imploring look. Clio raised her head from the lounge chair: "Reggie! Fergie! You mind Mr. Bridge now, or you'll both be back in the wading pool in the laundry room!" The twins consulted each other in their secret twin language, then settled down for a more serious swim lesson. Bridge liked it in here because there were no ghosts--they hated the smell of chlorine. Clio put her head back down. Her HIV had been misdiagnosed as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, and she was tired.

Over at George Washington University Hospital, Angela de la Paz's grandmother was talking to Dr. Khalid Mohammad about the possibility of getting a kidney transplant. Angela was the Spanish-English interpreter for abuela. Angela did not understand why, after two decades of dialysis, her grandmother was now being recommended for a kidney transplant. Dr. Mohammad was trying to explain advances in kidney transplant techniques and follow-up care, but his eyes did not match what his mouth was saying. Dr. Mohammad was worried that the Medical Director had put her on the list in the hopes that the surgery would kill her off and end the years of inadequate Medicaid payments on the woman's odds-defying marathon of dialysis treatments. Dr. Mohammad turned away to shufle some papers and buy time. If she had been properly treated twenty years ago, she would not have ended up on dialysis. Angela sat patiently, waiting for Dr. Mohammad to resume talking. Angela only had one kidney herself, but she wasn't thinking about that--she was still thinking about her brother.

Back home, Laura Moreno got out her instructions for preparing specimens for her lab work. The instructions were written in ten different languages, but the very first instruction referred to an item that she could not find in the bag. She searched and searched, and then switched to a different instruction sheet. She had three different kinds of vials, some with poisonous liquids already in them, but she was supposed to fill them all herself, at home, with no clinical assistance. When did people start preparing their own lab samples?! She got out a pen to write her information on the eight vials, then got down to the dirty work. One hour, half a bottle of Purell, one bathroom floor cleaning, and five hand-washings later, her vials were ready to be dropped at the lab. She wondered if people had to do this for themselves in Cuba, Canada, France and England.

Over at the Potomac, Lynnette Wong was returning to the river. She had recognized Charles Wu at the movie theater, but she had not been in a sociable mood. She had learned a lot from that movie--mostly, if she could keep Americans away from doctors, they were probably better off. She was hot by the time she got to the river, but she did not splash her face or put her feet in. She pulled out three vials of herbs, poured them onto a piece of burlap, mixed them together, then added a ruby amulet. She tied the burlap's four corners, then threw it into the Potomac. Ardua recoiled from the smell and began choking. Ardua summoned the Beaver to retrieve the object and get rid of it, but Wong was ready this time: she prayed to the four winds, then prayed to her father and her other ancestors to send a spirit to protect the amulet. When she opened her eyes, she saw a pink dolphin leaping out of the water. She was stunned, not having really believed she could summon a spirit. She started trembling when she recognized the dolphin as the type that used to swim in the Yangtze River until they all died off from pollution and over-fishing. Now she saw a few more leap into the air, then a few more, then still more. She sat down, doubting herself. A motorboat started approaching, and the pink dolphins merrily began bow-riding, but the people in the boat did not even notice. The Beaver did, though, turned around, and began swimming back to the Tidal Basin. Ardua was not amused.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Brothers in Arms

Charles Wu was playing chess with "C. Coe Phant" on a public table in Rosslyn's Gateway Park. From dead drops in frigid January to chess appointments in roasted August, Phant's penchant for park meeting places was really pissing Wu off. Wu squirted his water bottle down his shirt again to cool off. It had been a nerve-rattling week since he had played the tape with Condoleezza Rice's mention of "Heurich" right after he had been in the Heurich mansion. He asked Phant if Rice had any connection to Heurich. "The Heurich Society?!" exclaimed Phant. (He pronounced the name like "you're rich!".) "They've never had a woman in it before!" Wu wrinkled his brow in puzzlement--there were plenty of beautiful women there the day he went in. "I thought it had stopped operating years ago," Phant added, "after Robert MacNamara finally came clean about Vietnam." Wu turned up his hands imploringly for more information. "I don't know much about it--a top secret society my grandfather was in. He got disillusioned with it, but I don't know much more than that. I know Henry Kissinger was in it at one time because my grandfather really loathed Kissinger, but he never spilled a lot of other names. Where did you hear that the Bloodsucker is involved in it?" Wu lied and said it was one of his cabbie sources.

A couple miles east, on the other side of the Potomac, Condoleezza Rice was sitting in her red leather recliner, contemplating the clouds gathering west of the river. She finished off her watermelon/lemon/amaranth/vinegar/whey smoothie and stroked Pippin. It had been a nerve-rattling week since the Heurich Society decision. Billions of dollars of additional gifts to U.S. friends in the Middle East, and what did she have to show for it? She may as well have wrapped herself up in Cleopatra's rug for all the good it would do. "They're weak," she muttered into the listening device embedded in Pippin's flesh, hidden under a sheath of Persian fur. World War III was not lining up quite right, but there was still time. World War II had some last-minute switcharoos, after all. A red drop lingered on the corner of her lip as she looked out over the Potomac, where Ardua was welcoming her back from abroad. Rice smiled, already feeling better, and started humming a show tune to her cat.

A few miles to the east, Bridezilla was humming a show tune in her office at Prince and Prowling. She had already recorded enough billable hours for the year to assure a very long honeymoon trip, and she was in a good mood. She sent out a chirpy email to thank everybody that had helped her meet her production deadline. She included thank-yous for the five associates who had dropped what they were doing to fill out FeEx labels for her Thursday night, but forgot to include Laura Moreno, who had actually been doing nothing but working on Bridezilla's case for the past two months while Bridezilla had been surfing 389 bridal websites. The phone rang--it was Wince, he was going to have dinner with his buddy at the Justice Department to celebrate the wiretapping victory in Congress. Bridezilla shrugged: it would give her time to sample scented candles at home tonight--something that dinosaur Evermore Breadman had forbidden her from doing on his floor. She tidied up her desk, pausing momentarily over the firm's request for associates to take on more pro bono cases. Well, I have to focus on planning the wedding, I can't do everything while Wince is off lollygagging around with the guys all the time.

Several miles north, in Adams Morgan, Angela de la Paz lit a jasmine-scented candle next to her grandmother's bed. The candle was a hand-me-down gift from her teacher. Angela put the rosary in her grandmother's hand, then left the room to make dinner. She was thinking about the baby brother she just found out she had in Las Vegas. It was only a half-brother, but it just felt like BROTHER when she thought about him. She didn't even know if he had a name yet. She wanted to fly through the night like a bird, pick him up, and bring him back here. They didn't want him in Las Vegas, and she was too young to go get him, and abuela was too old. The doctor wanted to try a kidney transplant for abuela, but he said the surgery was risky. Angela wiped away the tears with the back of her hand, bit her lip and tried to concentrate on the vegetables she was chopping. She hadn't seen the pink warblers in days, but they stayed nearby her, keeping the starlings away. Upstairs, a catbird on a window ledge was mimicking the sound of a vaccuum cleaner as an angry man accidentally beat his two-year-old stepson to death.