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 ....

Monday, January 14, 2008

Worse than Death

Huddled next to his electric space heater, Dubious McGinty had been watching CNN and BBC America all day on the television he had garbage-picked after Christmas. It had been tough work getting it up the drawbridge and into the watchman's quarters, but it was three years younger and five inches wider than his last one, and he could actually read the ticker-tape news stories on the bottom of the screen. And now that Perry Winkle had brought him a satellite dish, he could see all kinds of programs he had not previously known existed! Still, as Winkle had warned him, more channels mostly meant more garbage. He was amazed at how many movies showed massive fireball explosions, crashing vehicles, and human victims under violent assault and screaming in terror. Just turning channels sometimes jolted enough of his post-traumatic stress disorder to give him the shakes, but sometimes he found nice stuff. Last night he was mesmerized by an African anthropological tale disguised as a Lindsay Lohan movie--he did like that ABC Family channel!--but today he had decided to be serious and watch these programs that all the Washington bigshots watched.

Why was Bush delivering $20 billion in arms to Saudi Arabia? Isn't that the country which spawned the 9/11 suicide bombers? Isn't that the country where women were treated worse than pigs? And why was Blackwater still getting away with all this crap in Iraq? They took their vehicles to the shop before the investigation concluded? Where were all the bullet holes from when they said they were under attack before they shot up all those civilians?

But the story that had gotten under his skin most was the statement by Adm. Mike Mullen that Guantanamo should be shut down. The reporters touring the prison with the Joint Chiefs Chairman, the discussion of how it had hurt the U.S. reputation worldwide, the fact that only four prisoners are facing any kind of trial after 600 were originally locked up there--it all seemed like a story about some other country, not his country, not the U.S.A. He twitched violently, recalling his imprisonment in Vietnam--where he thought they would never set him free. He would never, never, never forget how that felt--thinking he would die in that prison, listening to people always talking about him in a foreign language, being watched all the time, being beaten and tortured and having no idea why they just didn't kill him and get it over with. Some things are worse than death.

Dubious took a break to have a glass of brandy. He had a vague memory of somebody (a V.A. Hospital doctor?) telling him to lay off the liquor because it was hard on his pancreas, but he didn't take brandy very often. What is going on? He had a horribly unsettled feeling that things were getting buried even further in the darkness while Washington hotshots went around telling people that things were getting better.

A hop, skip, and a throw away, the Assistant Deputy Administrator for Anti-Fecklessness was listening to his girlfriend saying the exact same thing over the phone. "No, honey," he said to the speakerphone on his 36-year-old State Department bureaucrat desk. "It's not really up to us--the military controls Guantanamo." He looked down at Condoleezza Rice's memo concerning Mullen's statement. "I don't know what's going to happen next." Rice was sick and tired of the Administration talking out of both sides of its mouth. He knew what she wanted to do, and he knew she expected him to make it happen. "I've gotta go." He hung up on Eva Braun and turned back to the memo, acid churning in his stomach.

A couple of miles east, Atticus Hawk was reading a similar memo, acid churning in his stomach. He knew what it meant--don't let loose-talking G.I. Joe's undermine the six years of legal reasoning which formed the invisible fortress around Guantanamo. Four cases that might go to trial, hundreds transferred to hellhole prisons overseas, a few released, and the rest dead or waiting to die. He was startled by the phrase "9/11" in the third paragraph of the memo, and realized he had actually not thought about 9/11 in quite some time. "Did you hear the joke about the Ground Zero firefighters that had to go to Guantanamo to get health care for their burned-out lungs? Yeah, they claimed they qualified to be there because they had been picked up on a battle site where Americans had been harmed." He didn't know why he suddenly recalled hearing that from a mocking German seated near him in a restaurant in October. When did Germans start getting morally superior with us?

A mile north, Perry Winkle was at his Washington Post desk, working on another follow-up story on the four girls murdered in Southeast. He was still wondering if it had at least been fast, or whether they had been abused for some time. Dubious McGinty had not said much about it, other than, "Yeah, I heard the birds talking about that." What Winkle didn't hear Dubious mutter under his breath after Winkle had left was, "it's better for those girls now--some things are worse than death."


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