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 ....

Saturday, January 19, 2008

National Secrets

Charles Wu walked into the researchers' entrance of the Library of Congress, passed through the metal detector, deposited his coat with an attendant who kindly let him keep his Burberry muffler, then ascended to the main reading room of the Jefferson Building. He approached the central circulation desk with a sly smile and asked the librarian for the National Book of Secrets. She had heard the joke before, but she liked the way he said it, so she smiled at him. "It could be a bit of a wait," she whispered conspiratorially, like a school girl in a play. "Is there something else I can help you with in the meantime?" Wu handed her a slip of paper with a number, being certain to brush her hand with his fingertips during the transfer. She took the note with a measured drop of her eyelashes, then plugged the numbers into the computer system. A minute later she turned back to him. "It will be one to two hours, darling," she said in a pouty voice. "I could give you a magazine." He squeezed her hand but declined the offer, telling her he would have no trouble passing the time. He walked a short distance away, choosing an uninhabited table with a good view of her. She continued looking at him until another librarian made fun of her; she blushed and turned away.

Wu smiled to himself about his unstoppable charm. He pulled out his new PDA from Hong Kong and began catching up on his text messages. "Monday lunch?" he wrote in reply to former Senator Evermore Breadman's request for a report on Wu's recent trip to China. "Lynnette Wong," he wrote in reply to a colleague's request for an herbalist referral. "Sunday night," he wrote in reply to the Belgian woman's inquiry about when she might see him again at a milonga. Then he hesitated: it was a message from his mother. He had called her every day since the second trip to Hong Kong--after the brief health scare she had suffered while he had been off in Beijing--but it no longer seemed enough for her. He would have to start emailing her multiple times per day. He sent her his love through the PDA, then looked again at the librarian, but he wasn't thinking about her: he was thinking about his mother's next-door neighbor and suddenly wishing he had gotten her pregnant so that his mother would at least have a grandchild there in Hong Kong. He never asked her why she hadn't found another man after his father--the cultural shame had been something Wu had learned of very early on. But now, so many years later, with me so far away, surely my mother could find another man if she wanted to? She's still beautiful.

A few miles east, former Senator Evermore Breadman pulled his SUV up to the Home Depot, and his three day laborers hopped out with less-than-hearty thanks. He had told them he needed men to help him clean his basement, but what he had meant was that he needed men to clean up the household chemical waste dump caused by his drunken date's accidental arson the night before. Normally his wife took care of all domestic needs, but he had to get this taken care of before she got back into town. The day laborers walked wearily to their hatchback parked at the far end of the parking lot, their lungs full of toxic mold, drywall dust, carpet fibers, bleach, paint stripper, wood shavings, amonia and polyurethene. He had paid them a total of $100 for the day, and Pop Tarts for lunch. Breadman felt the vibration and checked his Blackberry: lunch with Wu on Monday? He was hosting a Martin Luther King memorial luncheon on Monday, so that wouldn't work. He drummed his fingers on the dashboard, anxious to get Wu's input on the new China/India pact, the "new era of cooperation" and "vision statement" they had announced last week: China would back India's bid for a seat on the U.N. Security Council, India would back China's policies on Taiwan, and the two would develop a new trade agreement. He really didn't care about Russia's subsequent reminder to the world in general that it still had nuclear arms and would use them if necessary: Breadman just knew it was time to realign his clients' Asian investments.

Several miles west, the Heurich Society was being called to order to discuss the new China/India pact. "I told you Putin was dangerous!" shouted Henry Samuelson as soon as the meeting was called to order. He really meant the comment for Condoleezza Rice, but she was still galavanting around the Middle East, pretending that the State Department had something to do with Middle East policy when everybody knew it was all CIA. The meeting chair asked Samuelson to settle down, assuring him that Russia was just mouthing off. "Look," declared Samuelson, "Russia would do it, see? And China doesn't care! They could have a hundred million people die in a nuclear attack and still be able to invade Russia in a heartbeat!" The meeting chair refrained from saying 'so what', and assured Samuelson that they were fully prepared to deal with that scenario--what they needed to talk about today was Moon Township. Samuelson's gray visage grew another shade of pale, and he sat back in his chair.

Several miles south, Marcos Vasquez was carrying Golden Fawn down several flights of stairs as the Southwest Plaza fire alarms rang loudly in their ears. Her still compromised immune system had been down with the flu all week, and every time he took her out into the cold January air, he saw her grow another shade of pale. Two prank pulls and three real arsons since Christmas--things were out of control. As they entered the lobby, they saw the crazy old man who liked to drop his pants and pull fire alarms, but his pants were up today. Vasquez carried Golden Fawn close to the exit, but he was not taking her out in the cold unless he detected actual smoke or fire. He sat down on the floor with her in his lap. A cluster of people nearby were talking about the tenant association lawsuit. They whispered that the building had been turned into a public housing project, and the city was dumping mentally ill people into the building while the landlord was getting federal tax breaks for it--a real "win/win" situation. Vasquez and Golden Fawn exchanged puzzled glances: clearly a lot had happened here that they did not understand. Across the lobby, the crazy old man dropped his pants, then pulled them back up, then started pulling at his hair. A few minutes later, Vasquez and Golden Fawn heard some passers-by saying that an abused woman had pulled the fire alarm as she had fled her boyfriend's eruption of violence on the sixth floor.

Back at the Library of Congress, the librarian--suddenly feeling ten years younger--sauntered over to Charles Wu and handed him the book, being sure to brush his hand with her fingertips. "Just let me know if you need anything else," she cooed, and he thanked her with a wink. He turned to the sci-fi novel's 16th chapter, "Moon Township", and began reading.


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