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 ....

Sunday, May 25, 2008

The Task That Lay Ahead

Dubious McGinty was watching Rolling Thunder from a perch atop the drawbridge. Every year it amazed him to think he had lived another year to see it again. He liked watching it from a distance, and could never understand how military veterans could tolerate the loud noise of motorcycles...but maybe they had never lived through the kind of combat Dubious had seen in Vietnam. A distant creaking noise signalled him that somebody was making his way up, and a minute later he heard Perry Winkle calling out to him. They exchanged a few words and sat down to drink beer and eat subs. Winkle had given up on the idea of writing about Dubious for The Washington Post, but he was still writing about Dubious...maybe for a book someday. He wanted to take Dubious to Arlington Cemetery tomorrow to visit graves, but Dubious said he had to keep a close watch on Ardua. Winkle promised Dubious he would lay wreathes at the tombstones (he already had the platoon list from Dubious), then asked Dubious how Ardua was doing. Dubious shook his head. "That Chinese lady comes out sometimes and throws things in the water, and that shakes up Ardua pretty good, but only for awhile. Same thing with that Indian princess and her chanting. It never lasts." Winkle asked about the pink dolphins. "They're still there, and she don't like 'em. They keep helping the birds run away." He was talking about the ducks, gulls and terns that were fleeing from the Potomac to the city parks in increasingly large numbers (they almost outnumbered the pigeons in McPherson Square now). They waddled around eating crumbs, but the mallards did not know where to lay their eggs and the seabirds were weak from not eating fish. "I mean, they ain't fighters--that's what we need down here." He was referring to the birds again. "If those dolphins get busy, maybe in a few years...." He meant, if they multiply; Dubious had run out of ideas for fighting Ardua.

A few miles to the east, Laura Moreno was doing a rare Sunday at Prince and Prowling, desperate not to be replaced by an attorney from the new batch of temps hired for the latest surge in the sweatshop. She pulled her gloves off and massaged her aching hands as she made her way to the conference room upstairs for a project meeting with Chloe Cleavage and the Paralegal-from-Hell. Two-dozen bleary-eyed lawyers approaching 80 hours for the week shuffled in; some had to sit on the floor because PFH had not bothered finding a large enough conference room. "Somebody's been stealing spoons from the 5th floor kitchen." Laura looked up in surprise at PFH, who had just uttered this declaration. "We know it's somebody in this group, so y'all need to return the spoons by 9 a.m. tomorrow, or there's gonna be a major problem." Laura looked at Chloe, but Chloe was texting on her Blackberry. "That's it." PFH turned around on her spike heels and left the room. Chloe stopped clicking mid-sentence and asked if anybody had any questions about the project, but nobody said a word, and that was the end of the meeting. Chloe walked out, and the attorneys looked around at each other for a few seconds, then shuffled back to the sweatshop...all except--it seemed somebody was missing, but Laura could not figure out whom until she paused to look out the conference room window at the bright sunny day she had sacrificed to the Almighty Dollar and saw the one named Lisa walking out to the curb carrying a box and a bag. Lisa turned back one more time to look at the security guard who had escorted her out of Prince and Prowling, but Laura could not see the expression on the guard's face. Later she would find out that PFH had discovered Lisa was homeless and sleeping in the gym locker room in the basement. (Her stuff had been searched for the missing spoons to no avail--because the spoons had been accidentally thrown in the garbage after the ice cream happy hour thrown for the new summer associates on Friday.) Laura walked uneasily back to her workroom, popped some pain killers, pulled her gloves on, and got back to work.

Several miles north, Charles Wu pulled his gloves back on and got back to work ripping up Chinese wisteria and Chinese honeysuckle in Rock Creek Park. He was extremely good at spotting Chinese things out of place--a skill that was now proving useful as he tried to impress the female target who had invited him along on this invasive-species-removal outing. It felt good to rip living things out of the forest, and his speed and acumen were, in fact, impressing her. However, he was scarcely thinking about her, thinking instead about the earthquake aftershock in China. He had already seen and learned more than he had wanted to about the victims there, and yet his clients continued to ask for more intel on the situation, and he distrusted all their motives for asking. He was sick of thinking about death, and resented people who forced him to do so. He caught sight of her looking at him--admiring his sweaty physique, no doubt--and winked at her, then frowned after she looked away.

A couple of miles to the east, Angela de la Paz waved to her grandmother through the window of their Adams Morgan apartment. Angela was outside planting some cuttings that Dr. Raj had given her from the National Arboretum. They had not asked permission from the landlord, but she figured he would never notice them anyway. On a tree branch above, a pair of pink warblers were singing to her; soon, she would be old enough and ready for the task that lay ahead.

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