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, October 28, 2007

Bono

Angela de la Paz was happy that her grandmother was home from the hospital, but she was a little sad that her cousin had moved out. It was nice to have somebody older to look out for her at school and in the neighborhood, give her advice and clothes, bring in extra cash for groceries and shampoo. Angela didn't know why her cousin couldn't stay with them, but maybe her cousin wasn't used to having three people in a bed. For awhile, it felt as if somebody was taking care of her, but now Angela was back to being the one taking care of abuela. No more dance club, no more after-school homework sessions at her best friend's apartment, no more having a hot dinner waiting for her--now Angela had to come home straight from school, do the household chores, help her grandmother bathe and take medicine, make dinner, and do homework by herself while abuela dozed off early in the evening. Her cousin was talking about moving to Denver to find a half-sister, and it made Angela wonder about her baby brother she had still not met. She didn't understand why her family was scattered all over the place, and all she had was abuela. But abuela was special, and she was lucky to live with abuela. Abuela had taught her the most important things in life, and when they were together, Angela felt the string of life connecting her all the way back to their ancestors, and she knew how she fit into the world. Angela had finished her math homework without even realizing it. She looked out the kitchen window and listened to her pink warblers chirping for her. Her grandmother was taking an afternoon nap, so Angela put her headphones on and began dancing again.

Several miles south, Laura Moreno was skulking around the Prince and Prowling library, clandestinely gathering support for her pro bono client's case while nobody was around to bother her. Unable to reach her client for weeks, Laura had feared the woman dead until she finally came home from the hospital and telephoned Laura. After the case had been docketed for ten months, the new judge on the case--Judge Sowell Ame--had actually given them the greenlight to proceed. Laura was frantic to get ready for her first-ever court appearance. She finished the photocopies and returned to the workroom, which had begun smelling like a dead rodent again after the office building had switched from A/C to heat. At least you weren't in the hospital for six weeks. She did a little more reading, organized her notes, and at last packed up her files. She turned to look at the pile of Prince and Prowling work on her desk, debating whether to pick up a couple of hours of overtime pay. She looked at her notes on the folders--the notes that had prompted the paralegal-from-Hell to yell at her for putting unprofessional handwriting on the folders instead of putting post-it notes on the folders. But post-it notes fall off. (It's unprofessional!) She looked at the box full of the folders that the paralegal-from-Hell had wasted two hours relabeling instead of preparing the witness binder that Laura had told her the partners needed by noon on Friday. Nobody outside the law firm would ever see those files. Laura's handwriting was all over the boxes and folders filling the workroom shelves around her. Was the paralegal-from-Hell trying to erase all evidence that Laura had ever been here? Laura thought about the junior partner who had yelled at her on Wednesday for doing exactly what the senior partner had told her to do on Tuesday, and how the junior partner had never apologized even after the senior partner had set him straight. Laura thought about the look on Chloe Cleavage's face when the senior partner admitted it was true that he had told Laura to do that, but it would not happen again, and Chloe had not apologized either. Laura could still smell the dead rodent, so she picked up her bag to go home.

Former Senator Evermore Breadman was just about to knock on the suite door before he saw Laura heading to the door. She opened the door to let him enter, and he thanked her profusely, as he always did. He then forgot about her instantaneously as he always did, and wrinkled his nose at the foul smell coming from the workroom he passed on his way to the corner office. He walked to his desk, opened the bottom drawer, and pulled out his Chinese herb bags to add to his Starbucks. He gripped the desk with both hands for a moment, willed his abdominal pain to subside, then pulled out his note pad to read over some notes he had taken earlier in the week. He opened his locked filing cabinet, pulled out a file, and compared it to the notes on his note pad. He jotted down one more sentence on his note pad, then locked the file back in the cabinet. He telephoned Condoleezza Rice to give her the news.

A couple of miles west, Rice put down the phone and stared out at the Potomac for a minute. She finished off her acerola/broccoli/cinnamon/caraway smoothie and went in the bedroom to put on her burqa, pausing for a moment to dab away the red drops stuck in the crease of her lips. She grabbed her satchel and headed quickly downstairs to flag one of the taxis cruising by the Watergate. Soon they were on a bridge over the Potomac. Rice stared blankly out at the water, seeing nothing in front of her except the outstretched bloody hands that had been thrust in front of her face at the Congressional hearing on Wednesday. Ardua reached up to grab Rice, and Rice blinked from the jolt of energy. She pulled out her satchel to review some notes before their arrival in Arlington. Ten minutes later, the taxi driver found the address and pulled over to the curb. Rice handed him a fifty-dollar bill and asked him to wait for her.

Hue Nguyen answered the doorbell of the group home for the mentally challenged and stared dubiously at the burqa-clad woman, who asked to see Cedric. "No visitors without prior arrangements," the social worker said. Rice pulled out her Homeland Security Writ of Entry. "Hmmmm," Hue said, looking it over, still dubious. "OK, but I have to search your bag." Hue looked into Rice's bag, saw nothing amiss, ushered her to the front parlor, and then went to get Cedric before repulling his file to figure out if there was something about his past she didn't know.

Rice drew down the shades and pulled a note pad from her satchel. A few minutes later, Cedric walked in. Rice recognized the face from the photo and pulled down her burqa hood. Cedric showed no sign of recognition. "I levitated in front of the White House on Tuesday!" he announced to her brightly. He had seen the levitator on TV and now remembered it as his own stunt. "I was showing the White House that reality is not always what it seems!" Rice asked him to sit down. "I learned it in India, but don't ask me how to do it! I can't do in this house." He lowered his voice to a whisper: "Can't let the body snatchers see me do it, or they'll snatch me, too!" Rice nodded sympathetically, then asked him if he remembered his final year as a member of the Heurich Society. Cedric's eyes began blinking quickly, and a vein began throbbing in his forehead. "I don't know what you're talking about," he whispered, but she could tell he was lying. She told him how important it was for the public good, how vital it was for him to remember. "I don't think I remember that," he said quietly. She could see he was already softening and told him that his country needed him now more than ever. "Well...." His eyes were glistening now, and he was gripping his arm rests fiercely. She told him he could be a hero. "Well, maybe I remember a little."

Several miles east, Charles Wu was in a hotel room with his old friend from the Netherlands, who had just shown him how to levitate. "It's important to show people that reality is more than it seems." Charles nodded, feeling the rush of chi. "People can change the world if they really want to!" Charles nodded again, knowing he had, but probably not in the ways his goofy friend imagined. "Mankind is fundamentally good!" Charles nodded again, but he had stopped believing in the concept of "good" a long time ago.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Dragonfly Season

Dr. Devi Rajatala was catching up on her email before the Friendship Gardeners arrived at the National Arboretum. A couple of weeks earlier, she had emailed a biologist friend overseas about the odd dragonflies she had seen at Lafayette Park during the peace rally, and the friend had emailed her back a few articles about dragonfly behavior...and a 10/9/07 Washington Post article she had missed entitled "Dragonfly or Insect Spy? Scientists at Work on Robobugs." She read through the article, not certain whether to be bemused, alarmed, or insulted. Surely her friend did not think she could mistake robotic insects for live dragonflies? She read the article through twice, then sat back, no longer certain. She closed her email and walked outside to wait for the busload of kids. She breathed the clear autumn air and turned her face up to the sun. The butterflies and bees were gone, and the dragonflies were probably also gone for the season...or were they?

Several miles west, Marcos Vasquez was rowing Golden Fawn out to Roosevelt Island for a romantic afternoon of invoking curses on Ardua of the Potomac. Nobody in the world knew they did this except Dubious McGinty, Golden Fawn's grandmother, and possibly Perry Winkle--or so they thought. Marcos had expected Golden Fawn to feel exhausted after her first week of work back at the National Museum of the American Indian, but she was energized and happy, and more than ready to have another go at Ardua. He pulled the boat ashore, and they set up a daycamp complete with picnic lunch and mojo paraphernalia. The sunlight danced off her spiky black hair, and her skin seemed to be glowing for the first time in months. She looked up in surprise at some dragonflies buzzing a few feet away, but Marcos said it had been a warm autumn and they still had insects to eat. Some ducks glided by their beached canoe, then abruptly took to the air as they felt Ardua's growing agitation beneath the surface.

Thirty miles to the north, Dick Cheney was relaxing in his official Undisclosed Location, a bunker underneath a rural area of Maryland bordering the Potomac River. Lynne thought he was a workaholic, but nothing made him more relaxed then heading to his bunker on a Sunday afternoon--that or shooting birds. "We've made identification matches for 1,600 individuals, sir." The security official didn't tell the Vice President that this was only a 0.0000002 success rate since the launch of Operation St. George and the Dragonfly; nor did he inform the Vice President about the number of obviously false matches they had to weed out, including several dead celebrities. "We did pick up on forty-seven federal employees, including a Coast Guard officer from Puerto Rico. We're keeping an eye on him." Cheney smiled, licking his butter pecan ice cream cone; he got to cheat on his heart-healthy diet when Lynne wasn't around. "He has been spotted hanging around the Potomac even while off duty." Cheney paused, mid-lick. "He's aways with a woman, though, so it could be nothing." Cheney took another lick, then started thinking about eating potato chips and onion dip during the football game, since the War on Terror was perfectly under control.

Many miles south, Charles Wu walked his brand new Brooks Brothers suit into Dragonfly, took a table in the back, ordered a sake, and waited for his new contact to come in. Asia was turning upside down, and for the first time in a long time, he really needed some new contacts. Pakistan was becoming a wildcard, North Korea could only be reuniting with South Korea for one reason, the Myanmar government had derailed its tourism revenue by beating up monks, Russia was telling the U.S. to get out of its Iranian backyard, the India-U.S. nuclear agreement was already collapsing, and China was--

His new contact strolled up, sat down, ordered a sake, and pumped Charles Wu for information. After twenty minutes, Wu knew that he knew more than this guy did, but he might prove useful in the future. Wu politely excused himself and exited the lounge, but his contact lingered another hour until a woman came in, looked around, then walked to the back to sit down at his table. She was covered from head to toe like an Afghani woman under Taliban rule, but the man recognized her eyes gleaming out at him and smiled. He wasted no time, passing his sake glass to her to sip under her veil, then ordered more sake and a sushi platter. An hour later, he knew she was ready. He escorted her out the backway, through an alley, and up a staircase to a secluded roofdeck where a private karaoke party was underway. The sight of her burqa drew many a stare away from the spirited performance of "La Vida Loca" already underway, but Condoleezza Rice didn't mind--she hadn't done karaoke since college, and she was really in the mood now. She was very pissed off about Laura Bush's upcoming trip to the Middle East right after her own, thinking it absurd for a First Lady to go tell Arabs about breast cancer while Condi and George were preparing the region for World War III. Sometimes, Rice really wondered if the White House had the slightest clue about how to prioritize. You tell the world that Iran is leading us towards World War III, then you send your wife to talk to Arabs about breast cancer?! "Woooooo!!" Without realizing it, she had begun applauding for the close of "La Vida Loca". And she hated Putin, how easy it was for him to do what he wanted, shut the press up, put dissidents in jail! She downed the last of her sake and signed up for her turn at the microphone. The puzzled crowd grew silent as her turn finally arrived, and she strode confidently up to the microphone, still covered from head to toe. Four minutes later, the astonished crowd was on its feet applauding her performance of "We Will Rock You!" And she was just getting started!

On a ledge above Rice, a catbird pounced on a dragonfly, then choked to death trying to swallow it. The bird fell down to the rooftop, where a stoned woman clad in black leather stared at it in surprise, then turned back to the party.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Live and Let Die

Golden Fawn's circuit breaker was jammed again, and she wasn't strong enough to trip it. It was defective, like everything else at Southwest Plaza. After a two-hour wait, she finally heard the maintenance call knock on her door. It was the same guy who had come twice already. He pulled out a hammer and pliers and set to work trying to realign the defective switch. After a lot of effort and grunting, he flipped the circuit back on and pronounced it fixed. He packed up his tools to leave before she stopped him to ask about the flies. "Oh!" he said, looking up at the infestation of black flies buzzing above their heads in the kitchen. "They told me there's nothing we can do. There was a dead body in the unit below yours, and then the flies spread through the vents. They'll be gone before you know it." Golden Fawn shuddered as she closed the door behind him. She looked up at the flies, willing them to fly out the balcony door she had left open for hours already, but they wouldn't budge. She got out the stepladder, removed the battery from the smoke alarm, then set some newspapers on fire in her kitchen sink. When the smoke thickened and rose, the flies departed the kitchen and gradually found their way to the exit. When she was sure they were all gone, she watered down the fire, then went out on the balcony to await the smoke's dissipation, the screen door now tightly shut. She buttoned up her sweater against the afternoon's growing chill, feeling tired and wondering why she had told them she could return to work tomorrow. She ran her fingers through her stubbly hair, wondering what her downstairs neighbor had died from. She didn't even know him, and he had died a dozen feet away from her, visited by a throng of flies long before any human being found him. That never would have happened where she came from. This was an evil place. She needed to get back to fighting Ardua.

Several miles to the northeast, Dr. Devi Rajatala was shepherding out the last of the Friendship Gardeners. There was still no sign of Angela Paz. She frowned at the late-season swarm of black flies, but she knew a lot of things were out of balance because of the drought. The children simply wanted to water everything, and it was hard telling them that sometimes the water is more precious and you need to let the weaker plants die. She walked the garden one last time, enjoying a few minutes of peace and quiet. They had raked up most of the dead plants to add to the compost pile, and the garden was now a haphazard collection of half-dead bushes and fallow vegetable patches. The peach and plum trees looked terrible, but she was confident they would rebound in the spring. She stopped at the apple tree, one of the few specimens she had allowed to be watered all through August and September. All the children were going home with sacks of apples today, and probably would again for two more weekends. But what did they learn from that? That sometimes you have to let beautiful things die just to have something to eat? Weren't their lives hard enough without learning lessons like that?

Several miles west, Perry Winkle was doing a follow-up investigation in Dupont Circle. Something about the stabbing earlier in the week just didn't sit right with him, and he really didn't think it was just another tale of mentally ill people under the influence. He moved from chess game to chess game, bench to bench, but most people told him they hadn't been there at the time, hadn't seen anything. He looked down at his notes: only two interviews, both anonymous. He looked up to see a young athletic man sit down to take a rest from his roller-blading, a slew of dogs attached to him like octapus tentacles. The young man drank some water from a bottle attached to his waist, looking up as Winkle approached him. "I don't suppose you witnessed the stabbing here this week?"

"Who are you?" asked Sebastian L'Arche. Winkle handed him his reporter's calling card from The Washington Post. "Huh." L'Arche handed back the card. "Why you so interested in this stabbing?" Winkle said he just had a feeling there was a bigger story behind it. "Well, I knew the victim when we were in Iraq, but I didn't know he was living here until about a month ago." L'Arche swallowed some more water. "By here, I mean in Dupont Down Under." Winkle didn't know what that meant. "Man, you don't know about Dupont Down Under? You think there's a bunch of crazies in this park? This is just the tip of the iceberg, man. There are hundreds of people living down there. He told me about it a couple of times. Of course, he was probably exaggerating some of those stories--like that thing about 'The Beaver'. He said there's a bunch of Iraq war veterans down there, all labeled 'Prior Psychological Condition' so that the V.A. can avoid paying for their Post Traumatic Stress Disorder treatments." Winkle asked if he could turn on a tape recorder. "Sure! I've been to Iraq--what do I have to be afraid of now?! But I was afraid to go down there. I went down there with him once, but I didn't go all the way in--too claustrophobic, smelled like shit, rats all over the place, and paranoia just bouncing off the walls at you. That guy told me he only came up a couple of times a month, would go to St. Matthew's Cathedral and get a shower and some clean clothes, then head back down. I didn't even wanna know what they were doing for food or money. I gotta go." L'Arche stood up abruptly and started skating away, but Perry stopped him to get his name and phone number, then watched him skate away with the dogs who adored him--the animal whisperer of Southeast.

A couple miles east, Atticus Hawk was at the Department of Justice, trying to finish another memo on torture, except it wasn't on torture because "the U.S. does not torture". Recently he had begun telling people at parties that his law specialty was "torture", and this usually did not go over well. He glanced at the clock: he had to pick up his dog from the dogwalker in forty-five minutes. This was a memo-to-file in response to Jimmy Carter's allegations. He had done dozens of these for his boss, so that his boss could pull them out if he had to testify to a Congressional committee. Stupid Jimmy Carter. What does he know? Atticus had not been alive when Carter was President and truthfully did not actually know what Carter could possibly know. He reread the Carter statements one more time, then began tweaking his concluding argument. I am the torture expert! Not Jimmy Carter! Some day he would be published in major law journals and speak at conventions.

A couple of miles west, the Assistant Deputy Administrator for Anti-Fecklessness was also tweaking the concluding paragraph on a memo for his boss--a memo on Blackwater's operations in Iraq. The problem with Blackwater was that its people were too full of feck, operating with the philosophy that a good offense is the best defense. There was a momentary lull when the world's outraged people turned their focus to Myanmar, but the focus was already tilting back to Iraq. His boss was already heading to the Middle East, and she was sick to death of visiting the Middle East. And Condoleezza Rice was worried about those air force bases in Turkey and whether she would be able to convince the Turks that the U.S. State Department had no memory of having denounced the Armenian atrocities a century earlier. (Ancient history!) She always seemed in control, but sometimes, every now and then, the Assistant Deputy Administrator got the feeling that Rice was getting fed up and would rather be jetting off to Singapore or Paris. The thrill was gone.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Convention Center

Sebastian L'Arche jerked reflexively as Plastic Bag Man jumped out at him in the foyer outside the Green Festival. L'Arche was twitching all over and cursed loudly at the creature covered from head-to-toe in multi-colored plastic bags, but Plastic Bag Man did not notice because he had actually been jumping out at somebody else--somebody toting something in a plastic bag. Plastic Bag Man then pulled out a light-weight, collapsible, washable, nylon sack called "Chico Bag", which he and his associate were selling for $5. L'Arche resumed walking--he was only here to pick up more of the organic pet treats that his customers loved so much. You guys should be marketing to the Pentagon at $50 a pop.

The woman guilty of toting the plastic bag into the Green Festival was Lynnette Wong. She mumbled an explanation/apology to Plastic Bag Man, then continued into the festival. She had been using the CVS bag as her daily tote bag ever since getting punched in the head and mugged at 8:30 a.m. on Wednesday morning, a block from a police station. She would never carry a nice bag again, and Chico Bag looked like a nice bag. She involuntarily shuddered at the memory--the feel of the punch, the look in his eye, the way he didn't care that there were so many people around because he was a drug addict, the way the officers treated her and her head injury as a nuisance that morning after the Pakistani taxi driver helped her go to the police station. And she shuddered because she knew she was now on Ardua's hit list. She made her way over to Natural Body/Health to find new impulse buys for the shop because Americans liked to find something new every time they came in, even though the ancient ways still healed best.

Golden Fawn walked past Lynnette, flanked by Marcos Vasquez carrying a rolled-up rug for her. They made their way to the Organic Food Dining Area and took a seat near the live band performing. The food lines were long, and Vasquez told Golden Fawn to stay there while he went to get food. She pulled out some organizational brochures to read through while she waited--not that she needed any new causes to join. Marcos was thinking of joining Oceana, but she knew he hardly ever got to see the ocean anymore. He had a lot of vacation days saved up and wanted to take her to Puerto Rico before she went back to work. She was scared if she ran away from Ardua that she would be afraid to come back and face her again. But this is what life was about, right? Planning vacations with a boyfriend? Half of their dates had been rituals at the side of the Potomac. But that's why--she stopped and looked up. A young boy and girl were staring at her and whispering to each other, though they fell silent as soon as they realized that Golden Fawn saw them watching her. Their unnatural gaze unsettled her until a man stood up and told the children it was time to leave. Golden Fawn took a sip of water and rubbed the hair growing out under her bandana.

Bridge walked resolutely out of the Green Festival, the twins attached firmly to his left and right hands. He had only come to spend some time with his sister, a gardener from Baltimore, and she was too busy with her booth to grab a bite. She only grew plants native to the region and lectured him every time she saw him that the White House garden should be an example to the rest of the country, a showcase of indigenous flora. He always nodded politely. He let Reggie and Fergie grab a few more chocolate samples, then hustled them out. He knew they were peculiar, but the reactions of strangers seemed to be getting more pronounced. It was going to get to the point where even he wasn't going to feel comfortable taking them anywhere, but he knew the more time they spent in the White House, the worse it was for them. They rode the escalator down in silence, then crossed the hallway in front of the main entrance for the convention of the Association of the United States Army. A decorated colonel glanced down at the children flanking Bridge and felt a chill down the back of his neck. He turned to look back at them after their paths had crossed, and Fergie did the same: the steely blue eyes of the colonel locked with the glistening brown eyes of the boy for just a moment, but it was enough. Bridge and the twins continued on.

The colonel stopped in his tracks, paused for a moment, turned around a couple of times, then headed to the drinking fountain and bench outside the men's room. He had just gotten a new idea about Afghanistan....

An hour later, the colonel was still sitting there as Sebastian L'Arche traversed the hallways, laden with cat snacks and doggie treats. "Colonel?" It was his colonel; L'Arche hadn't seen him since leaving Iraq. He stopped to chat, knowing full well the colonel thought L'Arche was a nut job. The colonel was annoyed at having his reverie broken and barely acknowledged L'Arche before getting up to return to the convention meetings--where Charles Wu was disguised as a busboy and moving effortlessly through the brass, collecting trash and whispered comments. Wu was amazed at how little the U.S. military knew about what was really happening in Korea; on the other hand, the U.S. military knew a lot more about Burma than he had realized. Wu made himself trip and drop his tray to the floor so that he could linger a few minutes longer as the colonel began making some really unexpected comments about Afghanistan. Wu gathered the trash and headed back to the kitchen slowly, trying to deciper the U.S. military mind--which fretted so much about wolves at the door that it couldn't see the termites in the basement, even when they were being discussed in the convention upstairs.