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 ....

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Out of Service

Former Senator Evermore Breadman was sitting in his office at Prince and Prowling, fingering a small package wrapped in gold foil and tied with a silver string. It was the Rolex that he had received from Charles Wu--the Rolex that looked a lot like the one given to Donald Rumsfeld not that long ago, the Rolex that Lynnette Wong had told him repeatedly to get rid of because it was "making him sick". Is that really possible? He had to admit that even taking it off his wrist and putting it in his pocket for the ride back from Chinatown last week seemed to have made a difference. He was thinking about giving it away this evening, but he was still reluctant--suffused with a mixture of guilt, apprehension, regret, and greed.

Laura Moreno passed Breadman's office and his Wall of Me on her way back to the workroom after the latest round of cuts in contract attorneys. The lawyer who had the audacity to take a nap in the official break room on her lunch hour had been cut, as was the lawyer who had been out sick two days last week. The attorney that had lied about being a "native speaker" was still there since he was providing "special services" to Chloe Cleavage after hours. He had also been granted a Prince and Prowling email address after six months on the job (about the same time as Laura), and would no longer have to be paged by Chloe five times a day. He was billing 60 hours/week, actually working about 30, and much happier with his job situation than Laura Moreno. Laura sat down to run the electronic search outlined for her by the junior partner, and pulled up 413 hits. She started scrolling through the documents, but most of them were emails about the sender's divorce, and they were ugly. She re-ran the search to exclude hits with the term "wife", and pulled up 199 hits. She again started scrolling through the documents, but most of them were still about the sender's divorce. She re-ran the search to exclude the four-letter word the sender was using to describe his wife, and pulled up 56 hits. She started scrolling through the documents--which were finally a set of work-related emails--and found what the junior partner wanted in hit 18. She sent the document to the printer, wondering if this person even understood that the government's investigation meant that all of this was being read by people like her.

A few miles east, Perry Winkle was eating pizza, drinking beer, and paging through the stack of photocopies he had just carried out of Moultrie Courthouse. Every few minutes, he stuck a flag on a page, then kept going. Somewhere into the fourth file, he pushed his pizza plate away, pulled some police records out of his bag, and began thumbing through them until he found a flagged page about an investigation of a gang of teenagers that had smashed in a woman's head with a brick just for the fun of it. He laid the page next to the court case he was looking at and read back and forth between the two. He then reached into his bag for the crime report records from the U.S. Attorney's office and thumbed through them until he found another flagged page, which he re-read. He then re-read the court record, including the public defender's successful effort to keep the juvenile record sealed. He pulled the pizza plate back towards himself and stared into space as he chewed. All the answers were out there, separated from each other by a legalistic maze of firewalls: the battered child, the father in prison, the new boyfriend, the next-door neighbor high on crack to celebrate his 18th birthday, the decrepit brick sidewalk, the Neighborhood Watch report, the mentally challenged aunt, the cousin just released from juvenile detention for the fourth time. These people's lives are an open book if you could actually gather the pages together. But who has time to do that? Winkle finished his pizza and replied affirmatively to the waiter's offer of another beer. Winkle was starting to wonder how long he would be on the Washington Post's "Metro" beat...and how many more people's personal lives he would be rummaging through...and whether anybody could have prevented those young kids from bashing that girl's head in with a brick. He closed up his files, hoping that his visit to Dubious McGinty tomorrow would be the one to get the crazy old man to crack and spill it all, everything Winkle needed for a Pulitzer Prize. The waiter warily handed the laughing reporter another glass of beer as Winkle's thoughts turned back to Ardua.

Several miles west, over at George Washington University Hospital, Dr. Khalid Mohammad was checking in on Jane Doe--their latest amnesiac patient. Like John Doe before her, Jane had lost her memory in a vicious attack near a Metro station. There was something extra sickening about removing fragments of brick embedded in the skull of a woman who had not even been robbed, and Dr. Mohammad was getting worn down from seeing such cases in the emergency room. He was quiet as he reviewed the nursing notations on her chart, but she woke up anyway and smiled at him. Like John Doe, Jane now had temporal lobe epilepsy. They had studied him for (what?) over a year? And they still knew no way to fix it, and nobody in the world did. She began telling him her dream about pink dolphins playing in the Potomac, and he made a note on the chart.

Back at Prince and Prowling, Breadman popped some pills and drank some more herbal tea. The foil-wrapped Rolex was sitting on his desk, next to a list of monograms and abbreviations representing possible recipients. The U.S. Attorney he was having dinner with tonight was too risky a choice after that "60 Minutes" episode. He crossed the initials off the list and put the Rolex back in his locked drawer, somewhat relieved that he did not have to part with it yet. Judge Sowell Ame? This was still an enticing possibility, but he had to learn more about Ame; he put an asterisk next to "J.S.A." The next line said "B.C.", for "Beijing, China". Charles Wu had already assured Breadman that the human rights talks scheduled for Condoleezza Rice's visit to Beijing this week were a joke, but it was more than a little alarming to learn that China's State Environmental Protection Administrator would require that companies publicly listed on the Beijing stock market make environmental disclosures. Why hasn't Wu returned my call? He had gotten the Rolex from Wu and could not seriously contemplate using Wu to find a target in China's EPA. Breadman clenched his fist, frustrated: his clients had a collective total of $23 billion invested in Chinese factories, and he didn't like the idea that China was changing the rules of the game. He exhaled deeply and crossed "B.C." off the list. I need to keep my faith in Wu. That left the Food and Drug Administration official or the clown at the Securities and Exchange Commission. He crossed off the SEC initials (are you insane?!), narrowing his list down to two: the FDA official or Judge Sowell Lame. He shoved the cryptic notes into his breast pocket and got up to leave work. Outside his window, a flock of starlings lifted off from the ledge to go report back to Ardua that the watch was out of service.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Boys and Their Toys

Button Samuelson was sitting in the Georgetown Saxby's with a hazelnut frappucino and a WIFI-fed laptop to keep her company while she waited for her client. She was doing the same thing she had been doing for three days: trolling the internet for stories related to the recent lawsuit by an Argentine woman against the parents that adopted her after she was stolen from a political prisoner thirty years earlier. Button's older brother had been born in Argentina during the same year of the Dirty War--during their father's second Foreign Service assignment... which she now knew was a CIA cover. Her brother bore no noticeable resemblance to anyone else in the family. Was he adopted? Button bit her lip. She wished her father had never told her their whole past was a lie. But surely he has a birth certificate? She had never had occasion to examine her brother's birth certificate, but he must have by now. She was torn between contacting her brother or going directly to her father. What are you going to say--'Did you torture and kill his real parents?'? "Henrietta Samuelson?" She snapped the laptop closed a little too violently as she stood up to greet her new client, who wanted her to sell his three-story townhome above the university. He was in no hurry, and wanted to get the highest possible price he could get in the current market. She assured him that the Georgetown market had not suffered any decline, even as she secretly rejoiced that his patience would allow her the time to refurbish, redecorate, and market as she saw fit. A hundred grand. She smiled at him, thinking of the commission goal she was setting for herself. Washington real estate was making her rich, and she liked it.

A few miles east, Henry Samuelson was attending his first session with psychiatrist Ermann Esse. Counseling of any type had not been an option for decades, and Samuelson could hardly contain his eagerness to start spilling: for the first time in his life, he could tell secrets, and there would be no repercussions. "What brings you here today, Mr. Samuelson?" Samuelson said he had been having disturbing dreams. "Tell me about your dreams." Samuelson hesitated, not sure which one to talk about first, then finally decided to talk about the one where the Loch Ness monster eats his son.

"It's a boy!" Not too far away, Momzilla had just returned to the International Development Machine with her ultrasound picture, and was taking the picture door-to-door, office-to-office, cubicle-to-cubicle. "It's a boy!" Liv Cigemeier had already heard this announcement half a dozen times, and now realized there was no way that Momzilla was going to help Liv meet the grant application deadline. She phoned over to Prince and Prowling to tell her husband she would be home late tonight, but got his voicemail. She turned back to the Better Bungalows Foundation application trying to figure out a way to convince them that Pakistan's recent election clearly signified growing democracy and stability, and this was the perfect time to start a bungalow-building pilot project there. Safe and affordable housing remains the-- "IT'S A BOY!" Momzilla was in Liv's face, flashing the ultrasound picture; Liv congratulated her, then started to ask Momzilla if she had finished the budget for the proposal, but Momzilla was already gone. Why am I doing this? There is no way this foundation is going to send volunteers to the mountains of Pakistan. She had tried to raise this concern with her boss, but had been shot down. We should be doing this pilot project in Haiti or Brazil or Bangladesh. Why was IDM always following the narrow lead of USAID on where to spend foreign aid? It was so political.

A few miles to the west, the Assistant Deputy Administrator for Anti-Fecklessness was reading a memo from "C. Coe Phant" on why the time was right to resume diplomatic relations with Castro-lite and set up some USAID programs in Cuba. What the--? He rolled his eyes and picked up the phone to tell his irritating coworker in bureaucratese what an idiot he was, and what the State Department's next move would be regarding Cuba. Phant took careful notes of the phone conversation from above his paygrade to pass to Charles Wu later this evening.

Several miles north, Charles Wu was on his computer, replaying the video of the U.S. spy satellite shot out of the sky. He knew some of his Chinese contacts thought it was a fake or that the missile had been launched for a very different reason than the one stated. Either way, the Chinese were not the only ones unhappy about it. Wu had his own theory, but no proof....Wu was still thinking about Moon Township.

A few miles west, Ardua was slumbering in the Potomac, but the foul weather to come would happily wake her soon enough.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Year of the Rat

The donut box was wet, but that did not stop the Heurich Society members from digging in--it was going to be a long meeting. Henry Samuelson proppped his tall umbrella in the corner, near the window that looked out on New Hampshire Avenue from the top floor of the Brewmaster's Castle. He sat down and looked at the cryptic agenda written in blue marker on the eraser board. A couple other members were already arguing about the order of the agenda items, but he was ignoring them as he sunk his teeth into the custard-filled eclair. "Where's the blood--" He caught himself in time. "Where's Rice?" Even that may have sounded a little disrespectful, he thought as soon as he had said it, but he was not impressed with her tenure as Secretary of State. The chair said she was busy, but he had a message from her about the intelligence on the Pakistani elections, and they were going to move that to the top of the agenda.

A few miles away, Charles Wu was sitting under an awning at an outdoor cafe, determined to get every degree of warmth out of this unseasonably warm day. He carefully removed the pearl cufflinks his mother had sent him for the Chinese New Year, and rolled up his sleeves. He was sipping a cold Hong Kong milk tea and thinking about the rainy season there. He already knew what the outcome of the Pakistani election would be, but he was not thinking about that: he was thinking about the memo passed to him by "C. Coe Phant" about the two recent Chinese espionage arrests. Mostly he was amazed that Phant was still in the game after the arrest of Bergersen at the Defense Department. Bergersen was not in Wu's game, and Wu did not know whose game he was in, but Wu disliked him immensely for making things difficult. There was no immediate danger to Wu, but Wu knew that he was going to have to work harder to plump up his cover and have a larger number of disclosable consulting clients if he wanted to stay under the radar. He finished his drink. He really disliked helping Americans do business in China--they liked going there to pay cheap wages and build factories with little or no pollution controls. He needed to start recruiting more Chinese clients. His eyes glazed over and lost focus as he stared unblinkingly into the warm drizzle, thinking about the mysteries of rain, the passage of water from one part of the globe to another, the passage of air, the passage of birds and insects and fish. Did the passage of military secrets matter in a country where the bees and bats were mysteriously dying off? A country without pollination cannot cultivate; a country that cannot cultivate cannot eat. A car door slam interrupted his reverie, but he decided to order another Hong Kong milk tea.

Several miles away, former Senator Evermore Breadman was in Lynnette Wong's shop, where she was refusing to give him the Hong Kong milk tea he was requesting. "You never listen to me! How will your stomach get better? Listen to me!" He was sick of drinking the foul-tasting herb teas and yogurt drinks, he was sick of the pills, he was sick of it all, and he told her he wasn't getting better. "You're still wearing that watch!" she chided him. He looked at her in astonishment. "I told you it was bad for you!" He fingered the Rolex with the cursed history only partially known to him. "Throw it in the trash!" He told her it was worth thousands of dollars. "You have spent thousands of dollars in my shop, but you don't listen to me!" He took it off his wrist to appease her, and put it in his pocket. She frowned at him, amazed that he could think her that stupid, but said nothing more about the Rolex. She handed him a new tea mixture for the migraine he had gotten the day that the House had voted 223-23 to hold White House Chief of Staff Josh Bolten and former White House lawyer Harriet Miers in contempt in its probe of the 2006 firings of U.S. attorneys. 223-23!!!! His head still throbbed every time he thought of it. He didn't know who was aggravating him more--the idiots in Congress or the idiots in the White House. They were always doing stupid things, then asking him to fix it after the fact. He paid his bill and left the shop, heading back to Prince and Prowling for his meeting with White House counsel.

Several miles west, Laura Moreno was sitting in the conference room getting lectured by Chloe Cleavage about abuse of breaks by contract attorneys. The lecture was actually for the benefit of the three contract attorneys across the table--the ones whose swipecard records had revealed they were actually leaving the building about seven times per day, but Laura had to be dragged into this meeting and given the same anonymous lecture directed at six innocent attorneys and three guilty ones. Laura was clenching her fist under the table, wondering why the guilty ones were not just fired--they only did half the work they were getting paid for. Laura wanted to go home and call her pro bono client to make sure she was doing OK after her release from the hospital. The lecture was finally over, and Laura headed back to the workroom. As she passed Bridezilla's office, she could hear a senior partner telling Bridezilla to wear her red dress for the court appearance tomorrow--because the judge liked Bridezilla's red dress. A few minutes later, Laura and Bridezilla were riding the elevator down together, thinking the same thing about Good Old Boys, but not discussing it with each other.

A few miles north, the Heurich Society meeting was drawing to a close with a discussion of Kosovo's declaration of independence. "It's a mistake!" railed Henry Samuelson. "It's just going to unite the Russian hard-liners!" There was a heated debate on the topic of the soft underbelly of Europe, how the Balkans would be the once and future flashpoint of the next world war. "I don't think we can pull off the Moon Township Plan--it's not going to work!" But Samuelson was in the minority in that view, and the majority voted to continue with the Moon Township Plan. Samuelson walked out of the Brewmaster's Castle, troubled, and wondering where the Bloodsucker was and what she was really doing. A river rat scurried across Samuelson's path as he headed to his car. From the kitchen window, Han Li looked out the window at the departing Society members, disturbed by the snatches of conversation he had overheard--he still did not understand much English, but something about those men made him very nervous.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Drip

Angela de la Paz was visiting her grandmother at George Washington University Hospital. Angela was veryhappy because abuela was feeling a lot better since the surgery, even though she still had some other problems that would keep her there a few more weeks, at least. Consuela Arroyo smiled at the girl as she adjusted the intravenous drip. "She talks about you all the time, Angela!" Angela smiled back at the nurse. She knew her cousin had tried to go to nursing school but could not get financial aid. She kept telling her cousin to come in and talk to the nurses here, but her cousin was working in a restaurant and said she was too busy. Angela asked the nurse what was in the drip, and Consuela told her all about it. "But your visits make her feel better than anything else!" The nurse left the girl alone with the patient; after all these years, it still amazed her how much faster patients recuperated if they were visited by loved ones.

A few miles away, a disgruntled male prostitute grabbed a coat rack and bashed it into the head of his client. Through the wall of the Southwest Plaza apartment, Golden Fawn and Marcos Vasquez both heard some loud thumps, followed by a door slam. Marcos told Golden Fawn to stay put as he ran out into the hallway just as the assailant was running into the stairwell; then Marcos saw Golden Fawn's neighbor stagger out of his apartment in a daze, blood pouring from his head. "Call 911!" he shouted to Golden Fawn as he approached the man and told him to lie down. "And grab some towels!" He had received a lot of first aid training as a Coast Guard officer, but this was the first time he actually feared picking up HIV from a bleeding injury victim. A moment later, Golden Fawn was handing Marcos towels as she explained the emergency to the 911 dispatcher, her eyes riveted to the drip of blood out of the man's head and onto the cockroach-colored carpeting.

Several miles north, Eva Brown was carrying packages into her Ward Park apartment building as a man followed closely behind. He followed her into the lobby, then punched her in the head, causing her to fall to the floor with a scream. He grabbed her packages and purse, then ran back out. She fumbled for the cellphone in her coat pocket and dialed her boyfriend, but the Assistant Deputy Administrator for Anti-Fecklessness was in a meeting at the State Department. She began to cry as the pain in her head began throbbing and blood starting dripping from the brow she had caught on the corner of the end table in her nice apartment building in a safe neighborhood.

"Would it be torture if somebody did it to you?" Sebastian L'Arche was at an Iraq veterans support group, and a former Marine sitting across the room was reading from a news article. "Well, DUH! That's what war IS! It's SUPPOSED to hurt!" the Marine veteran added. Another man raised his hand and said he had been captured for a couple of days in Iraq, and nobody tortured him. "That's 'cause you're a nobody, and they weren't trying to learn anything from you, dimwit!" The facilitator again reiterated the ground rules for support group participation. A woman who had served as a medic asked about the Geneva Convention, and another woman said it didn't apply to the CIA prisoners because they were not prisoners of war, and another man said that was a load of crap and the CIA was lying when they said they only waterboarded three prisoners and that the CIA was better-trained than the military in interrogation techniques, then the Marine veteran said, "Of course they're lying! They're the CIA! They do whatever the Hell they want, and they do it with fake names or no names, and nobody calls them baby-killers or posts their photos on the internet!" Then there was silence. The facilitator suggested they take a five-minute break for the cookies and sweet tea in the back of the room, but the Marine wasn't finished: "And those CIA twits, they had a fancy memo from the Justice Department so they can claim they thought what they were doing was legal at the time they were doing it, but those twits had prisoners all locked up safe and sound, those twits weren't being shot at and flamed at and bombed every %^&*(#@ day of the year while they were in Iraq! Dripping water on somebody's head is torture?! HA!" Silence. Sebastian L'Arche stood up and walked to the back of the room to get cookies and sweet tea, and other veterans followed. Kill or be killed. That's how most of the guys felt every day they were in Iraq. The odd thing was, L'Arche could no longer remember how he had felt in Iraq--he could see the memories like photos and movies in his mind, but the soundtrack was silent. He had poured his sweet tea sloppily, and it was dripping onto the concrete floor. He watched the drips and did not feel like talking tonight.

Many miles away, Charles Wu was reading through papers he had recently picked up from "C. Coe Phant". Wu was one of only a couple dozen people in the world who had actually learned about the CIA waterboarding early on, and the "results" it had yielded. Wu found torture distasteful. Somehow, passing military secrets did not translate in his mind to actual bloody carnage on the ground, but it disturbed him greatly to think that men could be so uncivilized to other men one-on-one. The Abu Ghraib photos, the Guantanamo treatment, the CIA secret prisons--it was all so disgusting...and unnecessary. Things like that made him happy to pass American secrets to the Chinese. A couple weeks earlier, he was passing Chinese secrets to the British, and he was happy to do that. The CD he was listening to finished, and, in the silence, Wu could suddenly hear the slow drip of his kitchen faucet. Chinese water torture. He smiled for a moment at the old joke...then frowned.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Buttons

Golden Fawn entered the Southwest Plaza lobby, where yet another gathering of police officers was occurring. She walked slowly through the throng to get to the far elevator, where a couple other residents were discussing the attack--which may or may not have been a parking garage mugging, a lobby assault, or a stairwell rape. While putting away groceries in her apartment, she called Marcos Vasquez's cellphone to see if he had gotten off of work yet. She told him what had happened, and he told her he had already heard about it on the scanner. As it turned out, all of those crimes had happened over the past 24 hours, since the new parking garage door opener was improperly installed with an emergency release button on the outside of the garage entrance. He told her not to worry--he would be home soon. She hung up the phone and started making dinner for him. She knew the conversation they would have--again--would go in circles: she should move out of this crazy building, he was still subject to reassignment or he would get a place with her, they could get a place together anyway, the management company was fixing the problems in the building, they should just hold out a little longer until they had more money saved up to get a condo or a townhouse, and so on, and so forth. They never talked about the big issues--his mother's coldness to her during her visit to Puerto Rico over Christmas, her grandmother's odd behavior over Thanksgiving, the fact that Marcos could no longer accompany her to the Ardua ceremonies because somebody had tipped him off that he was being watched. She stopped chopping mid-pepper and walked over to the fridge to look at a recent photo of the two she had put up there. She knew he loved her, but she also knew she was complicating his life. Maybe he was waiting for a reassignment back to Puerto Rico when he met me--maybe he put it on hold--maybe he is going to be forced to take a reassignment somewhere else and won't be near either me or his mother. Golden Fawn returned to the green pepper, sappy love songs playing in her head about how you should set people free if you really love them. I need to do what's best for him. This is how Ardua was now attacking Golden Fawn. A few blocks away, Marcos Vasquez was feeling happier as he approached Southwest Plaza with a bouquet of pink flowers because he adored Golden Fawn.

A blue BMW passed Vasquez in the opposite direction, carrying Chloe Cleavage and her realtor to the next townhouse she would be looking at. Henrietta "Button" Samuelson was already tired of this insipid client, whose $300,000 ceiling was very uninspiring to her commission-driven heart. Button had taken it upon herself to spark Chloe's imagination by showing her a Southwest townhome with a rentable basement apartment--sure, it was triple Chloe's stated ceiling, but Chloe could rent out the basement to cover half the mortgage, and her tax deduction would be far larger as well. Button suspected that Chloe wasn't really serious about house-hunting, but was just doing it because people told her it was the smart financial thing to do. Chloe had been eyeing the neighborhood suspiciously--Chloe believed there must be a luxurious $300,000 home hidden away somewhere in a far better neighborhood than this, just waiting for her to discover it. Ten minutes later, they were back in the car.

Twenty minutes later, Button dropped Chloe off at Prince and Prowling and headed north to meet her father for dinner. Button was the daughter of a career Peace Corps officer until three years ago, when he had retired and told her he had actually been a CIA officer all those years. Button didn't believe in anything anymore except making money. She had been in the Peace Corps, she had worked on Capitol Hill, she had done all those starry-eyed things and then decided it was all crap. Nobody could fix this town, let alone save the world. When Button was born, her mother had named her after Button's father reluctantly, knowing what a curse it would be for a modern girl to go through life with the name "Henrietta". When an old-fashioned acquaintance had declared the infant Henrietta as cute as a button, everybody was surprised to see Henry Samuelson start calling his namesake "Button". She had been ticked off at him for the past three years, but she was still his little "Button". She parked the car and braced herself for the dinner, which would be full of all the political rants he now felt free to vent openly to her. She didn't know who he was anymore. Her left eyelid began to twitch as she got out of the car.

Back at Prince and Prowling, Chloe Cleavage was touching up her make-up and billing an hour for the ten minutes of work-related emails she had answered before heading back out for her dinner date. Two floors up, Laura Moreno was struggling in the law library to find an explanation of how she could get her pro bono client's family back on food stamps while her client was in the hospital and unable to sign the paperwork. This makes no sense. She exhaled deeply again, wondering what the relevant bureaucrats looked like so she could fantasize about hitting their heads with a frying pan. They're more evil than that stupid judge who hasn't given me a hearing in 18 months. She gave up for the day, knowing that she needed to find somebody who actually had expertise on food stamps. I was only supposed to help with the Spanish interpretation for this client. Now I have the case from Hell. If her client died in the hospital, Laura would have to start all over again for the granddaughter. I am their only chance. She went back to her office to pack up for the day--six hours on the clock, three hours off but totally wasted because she accomplished nothing for her client. At home, all that was waiting for her was another job application from Hell, which would take up half of her Sunday listing every job she had held since high school, every school she had attended since elementary school, references for every job since college, and 10,000 other details that were somehow relevant to landing a three-month contract that might or might not even lead to permanent employment in a real job. She pressed her left finger against her twitching eyelid as she pressed her right finger against the elevator down button.