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, March 10, 2008

At Risk

She was walking down the State Department corridor in the heels that made the clicking sound she really liked. She could still sense grains of Middle East sand deep in her sinuses, and it made her keep wriggling her nose. Condoleezza Rice was glad she was back; the Assistant Deputy Administrator for Anti-Fecklessness, less so. President Bush had vetoed the water-boarding block from Congress on Saturday, and, as usual, the White House was bumbling the spin: she needed him to lift the State Department to the moral high ground.

A mile away, Charles Wu entered Overtime Cafe at the precise minute planned, reached into the beverage fridge, and grabbed the jump drive placed carefully behind the Diet Dr. Pepper two minutes earlier. He also grabbed the Diet Dr. Pepper. He slipped the jump drive into his back pocket in the same maneuver he used to pull out his wallet, paid for the drink, and headed back outside. He hadn't seen Sebastian L'Arche coming out of the pantry (after Gipper's de-ratting session) just in time for L'Arche to see Wu retrieve and slip the jump drive into his back pocket. L'Arche thought the object looked a tad small to be a drug drop, but he decided it was none of his business. He ordered a couple of omelets for himself and Gipper, then sat down in the corner and pulled out his pocket calendar to ponder the rest of his day.

A few miles away, Button Samuelson was checking her pocket calendar and sipping her second Diet Coke at Hawk and Dove as she waited for the Congressional staffer to meet with her about his desire to purchase a rowhouse in Capitol Hill. These people were all the same--they thought somewhere tucked amidst the astronomically priced houses would be a forgotten one in their price range that "just needed a little work". Unless this woman was a Chief of Staff, it would never happen, and even some of them didn't make enough money--or they told her they were prepared to pay in cash, which was another issue altogether. She pulled out her clipping from the Sunday Washington Post and began re-reading the article about D.C. landlords neglecting rental units until they have enough tenants moved out of the building to convert the building to condo without tenant consent under the law. She had placed several of her clients in a couple of the newly condo-fied buildings discussed in the article...and some of these clients were the same ones leaving her whiny--or even hostile--emails and voice mails about their escalating adjustable rate mortgages or their inability to re-sell the properties they had purchased with interest-only mortgages three years earlier "at her suggestion". I can't help it if they don't understand risk. She put the article back in her bag, drummed her fingers on the table, pulled the clipping back out of her bag, and crumpled it into a wad which she wrapped in a napkin for good measure.

A mile to the west, Atticus Hawk was also crumpling a newspaper article and tossing it into the trash; it would have been the sixth article to be indirectly incorporated (rebutted) in this memo since he had begun it in February, but he had now decided it was already covered. Is this ready? He still didn't like the subject line of the memo: "The judicial integrity of Military Tribunals at Guantanamo" He was still unsure that defending them before they even began was a good idea, but too many reports were coming out saying that the detainee procedures would all be rigged for conviction. He paged down to the section where the memo addressed the "whistleblowing" allegations of Col. Morris Davis (former chief prosecutor for Guantanamo's military commissions)--the only critic who had been addressed by name in the memo. You bastard. He paged all the way down to the conclusion, sat back for a few minutes, then sent it to the printer. He reached for his Department of Justice coffee mug to occupy the next few minutes, but it was cold, and he was jittery enough. He stood up, cracked his back, cracked his knuckles, exhaled deeply, then pulled the memo out of the printer to deliver to his boss.

Several miles east, Dr. Devi Rajatala was re-reading the memo emailed to her this morning by the biologist consultant from North Carolina State University; the title was "Genetic Mutations and Developmental Anomalies: A Time Series Analysis of Data Gathered from the National Arboretum 2005-2007". Worm mutations rose 30%, bee population dropped 80%, transgendered tadpoles rose 18%, frog population dropped 53%...on and on. She looked at the detailed chart on bird species in the Arboretum, then flipped to the even larger chart on insects. Her email in-box chimed, and she saw that another colleague had just emailed her an Associated Press story on pharmaceutical traces rising in watersheds around the country. Six pharmaceuticals found in Potomac watershed.... She was surprised it was only six. She finished reading the article, then reached for the memo from her boss explaining Bush's plan to cut as much as $2,000,000 from the National Arboretum's miniscule budget of $4.9 million; her boss's memo was also asking for recommendations on budget cuts. Two billion dollars per week for the Iraq War, but he has to slash our miniscule budget. For what? She did the math. 16.8 hours of additional war in Iraq: that's what we will get in exchange for jeopardizing every program we run, if not neglecting the entire ecosystem. She wondered if the Friendship Garden program would survive at all. If the youth can't come here, the staff is slashed, and the fauna are falling apart, it will just be a bunch of trees...unhealthy trees, maybe. She had never felt more discouraged.

Back at the State Department, Rice was taking a phone call from Henry Samuelson. "I told you not to call me here," she admonished him, though she knew he was vexed that she had not returned his phone call on Sunday. "I need to take care of some things here before I deal with that." She assured him she would call him back by Tuesday. Outside her window, some young pigeon doves watched her carefully.

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