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.

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