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 ....

Friday, November 23, 2007

Magic Numbers

Former Senator Evermore Breadman escorted his out-of-town guests away from the champagne brunch spread in their Georgetown Four Seasons suite and into the waiting limousine. The three amigos bantered about football as they rode swiftly downtown to the Prince and Prowling building, where Laura Moreno stood outside the entrance befuddled that her keycard was not working. The building was in weekend security mode, even though the Prince and Prowling office was open, and Laura could not even enter the building. She grimaced at the cold wind and swiped it a couple more times before the Breadman trio arrived, exited their limousine, and approached the building. Breadman stopped expectantly, waiting for Laura to open the door for them, but she told him her card did not seem to be working. "Your brand new card's not working?" he asked, surprised. She told him she did not have a brand new card. "Hmmm," he replied. "They were distributed Monday through Wednesday. I think the old ones were deactivated on Thanksgiving." Overlooked by the Firm again, she meekly followed the power brokers into the lobby, signed in as one of Breadman's building guests (without his noticing), and quickly followed him to the elevator. The three amigos rode up in silence, stil feeling tingly from the champagne. Breadman vaguely recognized Moreno, but had no idea who she really was, and made no effort at introduction. The gentlemen let her exit the elevator first, but she hung back meekly, waiting for Breadman to let her into the suite for the first time ever. She entered the workroom and clocked herself in.

Several miles east, Sebastian L'Arche entered the Moultrie Courthouse for the arraignment of his cousin for car theft. He walked downstairs to Family Court and began hunting for the right courtroom. He walked past two chatting police officers and a few scattered civilians before finding the correct courtroom: it was Judge Sowell Lame's turf. L'Arche walked in quietly, looked around, saw his aunt and other cousin, and joined them. They whispered a few words to L'Arche, then fell silent. L'Arche was feeling guilty. He knew his 16-year-old cousin had been snatching bourbon shots every time the booze bottles were unattended on Thanksgiving, and L'Arche hadn't told his aunt. He knew James had wanted to hang with him last night, but L'Arche had left his aunt's house at 6 p.m. to meet up with his friends at the karaoke party in Columbia Heights. L'Arche nervously fingered his watch, a birthday gift from his aunt last spring. He had envied her, with her good job at the D.C. Office of Tax and Revenue. He had thought their family was doing pretty well, and his cousins would both be going to college instead of joining the army as he had done, and ending up with some dead-end job like pet courier. Nobody had said anything to him, but his aunt's house had looked different yesterday--less crystal on display, fewer china figurines, no fresh flowers. His aunt had hosted the family Thanksgiving dinner in a plain blue dress without one spec of jewelry on and without cracking a real smile the entire day. Could it be? Was it really possible she was in on millions of dollars of fraudulent tax refunds? L'Arche's cousin was going to be arraigned less than 24 hours after his late-night arrest for stealing a car worth about $3,000. Nobody knew if or when his aunt would be indicted as part of a white-collar conspiracy that might total over $30 million. L'Arche rubbed his temples, a little hung-over, wondering why he had not questioned his aunt's ability to purchase the large house in Hillcrest two years ago, buy the BMW last Christmas, and take her son and daughter on the African safari last summer. All this time, L'Arche had been worried that the whole family was looking down on his lifestyle. "I don't know what is happening to this family!" his aunt suddenly blurted out. L'Arche could see, hear, and almost smell the fear. What WAS happening to her family?

Back at Prince and Prowling, former Senator Evermore Breadman's guests were comfortably ensconced in his brown leather guest chairs. If Laura Moreno had been a regular reader of Fortune, Forbes, or Businessweek, she would have recognized them as the CEO and CFO of a major pharmaceutical company recently hit with an FDA drug recall. The CFO was informing Breadman that they had already made enough cash from that drug to have a $12 billion profit above and beyond the legal liability contingency fund already set aside, but they knew that a couple other drugs they had were demonstrating too many fatalities too early in their cycles, and they felt it was important to get another baby boomer remedy to market quickly. Breadman pulled out his FDA file and began telling him about his associates there and how Prince and Prowling's regulatory attorneys could assist in streamlining the FDA review process for the new drug. The CFO's champagne was starting to wear off, and one of his anxieties bubbled to the surface: "We don't want some Scott McClellan kind of person to act like he's on our side, then turn around and stab us in the back later." Breadman frowned, but assured them that none of his people ever turned--his people knew that hypocritical tell-all books only made one pile of money, but being a team player meant pile after pile after pile. The CFO arched his back, a little surprised at the crass answer; he looked sideways at the CEO, but the CEO semed to be staring out the east-facing window at a few starlings shimmering in the brilliant morning sunshine. "Buck?" the CFO called to the CEO, who turned back and told Evermore to fax the legal services contract to their Chief Counsel. The CEO rose abruptly, and asked if they could go for their White House tour now.

Back in the workroom, Laura Moreno had made a good start on the Jones case but was wondering how she would get back into the suite if she exited it to use the ladiesroom. She made a mental assessment of who she knew was out on vacation today, and could think of nobody left that she could borrow a key from. Didn't the paralegal-from-Hell keep guest cards in her office? But Laura could not get to that lair without a keycard. She emailed the witch about it, but got an out-of-office reply message. She groaned again. She summoned her nerve and marched down the hall to ask the former Senator to borrow his keycard, but his office was already vacated. She walked around the entire suite, and it became apparent that everyone in her suite was taking a paid vacation day except her--the person who did not get any. She propped open the suite door and went to the restroom--at least nobody was there to yell at her.

Back at Moultrie, James was finally being arraigned. Judge Sowell Lame could tell immediately from body language where the boy's family was sitting in the courtroom, and subconsciously dismissed the boy as another fatherless lost cause. The public defender told the judge that James had been picked up on circumstantial evidence only, and had not been the car thief. Sowell Lame was really irritated that he had gotten stuck with today's juvenile arraignments while the senior judges were off on their four-day holiday weekends. Sowell Lame set the bail at $20,000 and slammed his gavel. "WHAT?! This is a first-time juvenile arrest for a non-violent crime?!" The public defender was livid--the police officers had not even been asked to testify, and the judge did THAT?! Sowell Lame slammed the gavel again, harder, and called for the next case; he wanted to get home early...very early.

A few miles west, former Senator Evermore Breadman entered the East Wing of the White House as he always did, without showing ID to the guards, waved in by Clio, the butler. Clio had been waving in the President's special friends since long before 9/11, and nobody had ever questioned her authority to do so because she had never made a mistake. Nor did anybody question the presence of her twins on the foyer settee, quietly reading, because they were always well-behaved when she brought them to work. Fergie looked up at the CFO as he walked past, but the boy's smile only left the CFO cold. Reggie looked at her brother, then at the men walking past, smiling sweetly, but they passed her quickly. She looked back at her brother, and they exchanged words in their secret twin language--which always gave the security guards the creeps.

Back at Prince and Prowling, an exasperated Laura Moreno was in the office of the administrator-from-Hell, in a last-ditch effort to salvage her day. "OK," the a-f-H said, "you didn't get a new building card, and your computer username disappeared?" Laura repeated that her copy machine code had also stopped working. "Well, you can't have a copy machine code!" the a-f-H barked at her. Laura raised her hands in bewilderment. "What's the client going to say when they see copy charges from you? They don't even know who you are!" Laura, who was well-aware of that fact of life, pointed out that she had been using that copy machine code for over two years. "Well, that's WRONG! You need to use somebody else's code. Here's a guest pass until we can get a new building swipe card for you, but you need to pay $10 because that's not your correct swipe card anyway--you obviously lost yours and picked this up as a guest key, and you should not have done that. I'll call I.T. about the computer password." After declaring indignantly that she had used that swipe card for three years and had never lost it, Laura walked off with her new swipe card without handing over $10, leaving the a-f-H fuming. Laura began walking the halls of the litigation team until she found a Partner she knew. She told him what she was supposed to be doing on his case and why she couldn't do it. He wrote down a number on a post-it note, stuck it on top of a large pile of documents, and handed it to her, telling her she could use his code and get those documents photo-copied for him. An hour later, she handed him two piles, then picked up her bags, and left several hours earlier than she had intended to go to court to file her final (she hoped) pleadings in her pro bono case. As she reached the courthouse, Sebastian L'Arche was just walking out with his two cousins and his aunt, who had just paid the $20,000 bail with a stack of $500 bills she had pulled carefully out of her large leather handbag. L'Arche mumbled that he had to go do his lunch-time dogwalks, hugged his relatives, then headed off to the subway--declining the ride home in the BMW. His aunt gave the car key to James to drive them home and got on her cellphone to find a real defense lawyer for her son. After a couple of calls, she finally got a recommendation, dialed the number, and accidentally got the voicemail of former Senator Evermore Breadman, who would later delete repeated messages from the strange woman for days to come.


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