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, June 29, 2008

Scared

BLAM, BLAM, BLAM, BLAM!

Bridezilla lifted up her safety goggles to see how she had done. "Well," Wince said, "looks like you hit the femoral artery and the right lung--that's great!" She had really hit the knee cap and the right clavicle--and plenty of air around the McLean firing range's silhouette target number nine--but he was playing it up a bit. She had thought they would be driving to the Outer Banks for the start of their 12-day vacation by now, but Wince wanted her to be ready to take her new fuschia-colored handgun into the city the first day she would be back at work. She put the goggles back on and again began aiming for the heart and abdomen--stupid handgun laws messing up my vacation, like I can even take this into Prince and Prowling, should have been on honeymoon by now but no it's always something else delaying everything, stupid pink gun how sissy is that like it's gonna scare anybody, why doesn't he buy me romantic presents anymore, I can't stand being here one more minute, stupid bullets. She took a deep breath and pulled up her goggles again. "Well," said Wince, "I think you're getting the hang of it! You hit the neck five times!" Actually she had hit next to the neck five times, and that was after aiming at the heart (not the head), but the last time he had asked her if she needed to see an eye doctor, she had chewed his head off, and he was too scared to bring that up again.

Far across the Potomac, it was the fifth time in two days--another complete stranger walking up to Sebastian L'Arche to ask him how to get hold of a handgun...fast. Maybe it was the rottweiler in his current dog-walking rotation, or maybe it was the camouflage tank top, or maybe being black in Southeast was simply enough. He just shook his head and walked on. Everybody he had ever known in this town with a clandestine weapon had seen it stolen, confiscated as police evidence after a child got hold of it, or fired at themselves by an acquaintance or disgruntled lover. He didn't see how any of that would change after the Supreme Court ruling...and he'd seen enough guns in Iraq to last a lifetime. Well, at least they would still be well regulated, right? That's what the Constitution says, right? He looked around at the other people in the small Capitol Hill dog park, trying to imagine them all packing heat. He thought about how his grandmother's life would have been different with a handgun in her nightstand, but he didn't think that burglary would have turned out any better...probably worse. The criminals were already bringing guns in from Virginia, so all this meant was that law-abiding citizens would be paying for guns that had about a 5% chance of ever protecting them from crime--and about a 95% chance of being used negligently, abusively, suicidally, or invertedly after being stolen. Well, at least those vets making the AK47s advertised on telephone poles will be happy.

On the other side of the Capitol, Atticus Hawk was spending another Sunday afternoon hunkered down at his desk with yet another Constitutional challenge laid out before him. "...speedy and public trial...confronted with the witnesses against him...assistance of counsel." Yes, this was all in the Sixth Amendment, but so was--he looked to the right at a photocopy of the Sixth Amendment and circled "criminal prosecutions" and "of the State and district". The Justice Department had suffered a bit of tongue-wagging from the Supreme Court regarding Guantanamo, but there was no chance those Justices were coming after his detainees in Afghanistan. Foreign soil, baby! Enemy combatant on foreign soil! He was hopped up on Red Bull, having stayed up too late the night before with Jai Alai. Jawed Ahmad can kiss my ass! Up yours, Robert Hurst, stinkin' Canadian! He turned to his computer to retrieve the latest version of his apologetics memo and look up the most recent Justice Department filings on Bagram's U.S. military prison, dissipating the screen saver image of the American bald eagle.

A couple of blocks away, Charles Wu was sitting in the back row of the National Archives auditorium, taking in the twenty-minute propaganda film for how great it was that Americans had access to their country's records. He was whispering to the Briton sitting next to him about the Chinese-American deal that had recently been struck with nuclear North Korea. The Briton wanted to know if North Korea was still hiding another cache. "What do you think?!" said Wu, with an intent sidelong glance. The Briton then asked why now. "Why not?" said Wu. "China looks like a peace-loving major player on the world scene right before the Olympics, Rice gets to play the master diplomat in Asia after repeated failures in the Middle East, a little attention diverted from the real killing zones in Asia." The Briton pressed him about the American angle. "Rice doesn't give a shit," whispered Wu. "The bloodsucker isn't scared of North Korea: it's only a bait-and-switch for the press and the nuclear disarmament fanatics. There's no way China will let that lunatic fire a bottle rocket at China's best customer and largest debtor, let alone a nuclear warhead. It's about money and control, like it always is." The Briton scribbled a couple of cryptic notes on his hand. Wu knew it was actually more complex than that, but until he had a clearer picture, that was the best he could do. The Briton nodded and left the theater while the inventor of the Rollerblade was extolling the benefits of patent searches.

Wu lingered to watch a Japanese woman explain how the government had made amends for imprisoning Japanese-Americans in the 1940s, then a mousy researcher explained how she had discovered the documents proving that Swiss banks had received deposits from Jews later killed in the Holocaust. Wu shook his head, wondering at the "courage" of a nation that somehow made historical documents available decades (or centuries) after they first had them, then bragged about what an open and honest democracy it had going here. The real documents about this North Korea deal will probably not be deposited here for fifty years--if ever. Wu got up and headed over to see the Magna Carta on his way out. A moment later, Henry Samuelson followed Wu out--a digital camera and handgun casually hidden in the metal-negating folds of his CIA-designed cargo pockets.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

The Outlook

Calico Johnson was sitting on an upholstered wicker loveseat on the third-floor bedroom balcony of his Potomac Manors mansion, reviewing his portfolio with an occasional glance up at his lovely Maryland-side view of Great Falls of the Potomac. He had acquired a dozen more properties at the Washington Convention Center foreclosure auction the first week of June, and he was almost giddy with excitement thinking about the gathering snowball of his buy-low and sell-high endeavors. Some fifty bankruptcies and near-bankruptcies had fueled his real estate purchases for two years now, and he was now a certified mogul. (He smiled smugly to himself, certain that if anybody were to write about him in a newspaper or magazine, he would undoubtedly be called a "real estate mogul".) And when the day came to sell--! He took a deep breath, his heart aflutter at the thought of the PROFITS that were his destiny. His cellphone rang, and it was Button Samuelson telling him that nobody was attending her McLean open house and begging him to bring her some food and a bottle of wine to alleviate the boredom. He agreed cheerfully enough, although it would mean breaking his date with Chloe Cleavage. Button was usually too busy on the weekends, toiling in the trenches of the real estate war as she was, and it was nice to have Chloe on the weekends, but Johnson was a shrewd man and knew that Chloe was a lazy gold digger looking for early retirement and would move on soon enough when she realized he wasn't going to give her a life of leisure. Button wasn't as attractive, but she was a hard worker who expected less. It was nice to date women that expected less! He didn't even have to bring her expensive wine or expensive food, which Chloe would have expected--he could just grab a bottle from his cellar and drive through some fast food restaurant on the way. He checked the time on his Rolex and pondered whether to call Chloe now or break the date at the last minute. Maybe I just won't call her at all. He smiled impishly to himself. Maybe she'll start working harder. He paused a moment to admire the Rolex, recently received from an investment banker that had decided he wanted a different color watch altogether. He slipped his feet into the Gucci loafers and departed the balcony. A few minutes later, his red Ferrari peeled out of the garage under the watchful gaze of a large pair of yellow eyes under the porch.

Several miles to the southeast, Condoleezza Rice was arriving at the Brewmeister's Castle for a meeting of the Heurich Society. The Chair pulled her aside for a private word to warn her that some of the members had expressed doubts about her resolve, given her lack of meeting attendance and her recent public addresses on things like women's rights and Zimbabwe. She nodded and told him she understood--understood that she was the smartest one in the room, and they couldn't stand the fact she was a woman. Henry Samuelson nodded at her with the fake CIA smile he had been taught years ago to trigger pupil dilation and put the other person at ease, but since she wasn't in the habit of looking into people's eyes, the effect was lost on her--though she did notice he had cat hairs and food stains on his shirt. She took the empty seat next to the Chair and pushed the box of Dunkin' Donuts further down the table. When the clock tolled one, the Chair called the meeting to order and indicated that the first item on the agenda would be Rice's report on the oil summit in Saudi Arabia. At the other end of the table, Samuelson was clenching and unclenching his fists under the table, still incredulous that the rest of the group really thought the Moon Township Plan could succeed.

A threat to continued economic development--that had been the purported theme of the Saudi Arabian oil summit, but "Condor" was at Charles Wu's ear explaining softly how "economic development" was going to be rationed out...and by whom. The usual suspects were involved, of course--OPEC, the CIA, the Russians, the Chinese, the Trilateral Society--but there were some surprises as well. Wu listened carefully, nonchalantly tossing bread crumbs to the ducks paddling in the Pershing Park Pond, as Condor pretended to be engrossed in a crossword puzzle laid out on the stone table before him. Wu asked quietly if the Heurich Society had been at the summit. "Funny you should mention that!", chuckled Condor. He provided a few more comments on the summit, then asked Wu about the removal of oil subsidies inside China. Wu lied and said he had not yet gotten intelligence on it, but he knew what it meant. Their talk drifted to the Olympic torch relay through Tibet, and Wu obliged Condor with some inside information on that. Wu finished distributing the bread crumbs and headed off to meet with former Senator Evermore Breadman about the Maryland state legislature's trade war with China.

Back at Potomac Manors, the real estate demon living under Calico Johnson's porch was eating newspaper out of the recycling bin. She knew the Rolex had been a gift from Cheney to Rumsfeld, been lost in Georgetown, gotten washed into the Potomac, been passed through Ardua's digestive tract, gotten retrieved by the beaver, been found by Charles Wu, gotten delivered to former Senator Evermore Breadman, and had gone through a couple more owners with various "allergic" reactions to it--and now it was here...and Calico had no problem with it! The demon was growing stronger every day, and knew that soon she would be the strongest real estate demon in the Washington metropolitan area. She sighed contentedly and swallowed down the "Outlook" section.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Pow

Jai Alai laid out the blanket on the grass as her son raced over to splash in the fountain at Lafayette Park. She took out the sweet tea and picnic lunch she had brought downtown and waited for Atticus Hawk to show up. She was really beginning to think he was a major, major big shot--not only did he have to work most weekends on top secret matters he could never tell her about, but today he had told her he would be in meetings all day at the White House. She had told him sweetly that they would come downtown anyway, and even if he had only a few minutes to come out and see them, that would be alright. Unlike the massive Mother's Day family reunion, a Father's Day celebration with her family just did not appeal to her--all those sympathetic whispers about the absentee father of her son, all the unspoken words about the beating death of her daughter--she couldn't face it. She was quite content to spend hours here reading a magazine or playing chess with her boy (who had just learned from Atticus how to play it the evening before)--a few minutes with a good man were better than days (or months!) with a bad one.

A half a mile away, Hawk was actually in the Old Executive Office Building because the Vice President had made the decision to by-pass the Oval Office today after little progress had been made there the day before. Hawk and his boss (code-named "Itchy and Scratchy") were again explaining--for perhaps the tenth or eleventh time since June 12th-the meaning of the Supreme Court ruling that the Administration could not deny the Guantanamo Bay detainees court access. Cheney asked again, "Are you sure?" Hawk repeated to Cheney his statement of confidence that the Administration would be able to pass the buck on this one to the next Administration. "They can't testify...ever," Cheney added, as if the point were not implicit in the number of meetings the Justice Department's torture experts had attended since Thursday. Hawk rubbed his eyes, not even noticing that somewhere in the course of the last couple of years he had stopped feeling nervous around Cheney. He was exhausted and thinking about the text message he had gotten promising chilled sweet tea, buttermilk biscuits, fresh strawberry cobbler--he took another sip of his tepid coffee, revisited the partially eaten danish he had pushed away hours ago, and hoped his boss would start talking. However, the silence persisted. The White House attorneys cleared their throats, sipped water, and pretended to take notes on their legal pads as Cheney's staff whispered to each other behind Cheney's back. Hawk's boss was glaring at him with that "find a brilliant solution now!" look, but Hawk was avoiding the eye contact. They had done everything they could, written everything they could, said everything they could. It wasn't Hawk's fault that the military had done such a crappy job of keeping Guantanamo under wraps; it wasn't Hawk's fault that the military had already been stupid enough to release prisoners they had tortured. What the hell did they want now? A legal memo authorizing the military to summarily execute the prisoners in the name of National Security? Hell, they could accidentally blow up the whole place without Justice Department counsel, couldn't they? Cheney stood up and told them to reconvene in one hour, then headed back to his office where former Senator Evermore Breadman was waiting with a belly full of ulcerative colitis, a mouth full of Chinese herbal chewing gum, and a file full of contingency plans. Breadman didn't like doing these kinds of unpaid gigs--especially for Cheney--but they were part of the broader program, and he knew nobody could do it better.

Back at Lafayette Park, Clio was relieved that the special White House meetings had been moved to the Vice President's office--not that she was in the habit of celebrating Father's Day, but it was just too nice of a day to be doing overtime. She was sitting on a blanket near the fountain trying to read a book, but the dull headache that had started four days earlier just would not leave her be. She put it down and watched the twins refilling their water guns for another mini-war, but this time, Ferguson turned his gun on an older boy nearby instead of his sister Regina. The boy calmly walked away, but Ferguson followed him and kept shooting--despite the admonitions from his sister to stop. The boy finally turned around and planted his foot swiftly into Ferguson's gut, knocking him flat on his back and triggering both mothers to jump up and come over. "Fergie!" Clio looked apologetically at the other mother as she pulled her son up by the elbow. "I am so sorry!" Jai Alai was surprised to be receiving an apology instead of giving one, but nodded sweetly and also pulled her son away by the elbow. "Reggie! Put those water guns away and read your book!" Regina didn't like getting punished because of Ferguson, so she squirted him in the eyes before surrendering the guns. Some nearby crows took a dip in the fountain, returned to chirp some more in the tree branches above, and shook the water off their feathers to land on the twins below--who looked up in surprise, then smiled mischievously at the crows.

A few minutes later, Hawk joined Jai Alai and her son for a quick picnic. He was chagrined to see the boy hand-feeding perfectly good biscuits to a couple of squirrels, but the thump of his satchel on the ground scared the crows away as he high-fived the boy and kissed the woman. He wolfed down some food, then lay down to wait for his cellphone alarm to go off. Another set of bathing crows took to the trees and shook water out over Hawk and Jai Alai, causing Hawk to jump up, swearing about the "damned birds" that had just "peed" on him. He looked up angrily at the birds, then announced they would have to move the blanket, then grabbed a napkin to wipe his face off, then grabbed another to wipe her face off, then announced he really needed to be getting back anyway. It was all over far too quickly, and Jai Alai pursed her lips to retain the feel of the kiss as long as she could. Up in the trees, the Shackled hovered near the crows and watched in frustration as the torture specialist went back in.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Fleeting

Liv Cigemeier bobbed her key fob and opened the office building door so that her husband could carry in the ficus tree destined for her cubicle. He had never been to International Development Machine before, and she was suddenly feeling a little embarassed about how shabby and cramped he would find it. Her office was less than a mile away from his swank offices at Prince and Prowling, but hers was a hundred years older than his and a thousand times less capitalized. She had been to a few receptions in his building, but nothing ever happened in hers. They rode up in the small elevator and got out on the fourth floor, where she again bobbed her fob, and they continued on their way until she showed him where to set down the ficus tree in her 10x6 cubicle. He looked around obligingly after she said, "This is it!" He had actually expected something even smaller and shabbier, but he didn't tell her that. He did, however, ask about the strawberry smell. "Momzilla must have left her fan on." Liv walked over to Momzilla's empty cube and turned off the oscillating fan draped with an artificially scented air freshener normally found in taxi cabs. "She claims her pregnancy is giving her extreme sensitivity to offensive odors, but that stupid strawberry thing is what makes me sick." Her husband had heard plenty about Momzilla and should have known better than to ask Liv why a pregnant woman would choose to blast artificial chemicals at herself instead of bringing in a decent air cleaner, but he asked anyway. "Why does she do anything?", Liv replied. "Why does she drink a latte every two hours and still act like she's too exhausted to do any work? Is all the caffeine being hogged by the baby?" Liv was irritable with PMS, and her husband knew it, so he dropped the subject; what he didn't know was that every month Liv got another reminder that they hadn't had a baby yet, or how much she wanted one. He changed the subject to the colorful posters and maps on her walls, asking about the conferences and programs they came from. Then she showed him into the meeting room, where materials were laid out on the large conference table in a semi-organized state signifying the launch of their newest contract--microenterprise loans in Afghanistan. He doubted that egg-laying hens, dairy cows, or carpentry training would pull a lot of people out of the poppy business (or the Taliban, for that matter), but he nodded encouragingly. He loved her for her optimism and had no idea how fleeting it really was.

Several miles north, Charles Wu was eavesdropping on Condoleezza Rice's Watergate apartment. He thought he had heard some interesting conversation for a minute, but now it was a Pink Floyd song. When I was a child I caught a fleeting glimpse...out of the corner of my eye. I turned to look but it was gone. I cannot put my finger on it now: the child is grown, the dream is gone. I-I-I have become comfortably numb. He frowned in irritation. The music faded as Pippin leapt down from the entertainment center because he thought Rice was putting out food for him in the kitchen, but she was just squatting on the kitchen floor picking at a stubborn piece of dried smoothie stuck to the tile. Wu listened to several clattering noises as Rice made herself a pineapple/vinegar/pea/hemp/cherry smoothie and muttered something about the Heurich Society and the scarcity of stevia imports. Then she said something about the price of oil and laughed as she hand-fed Pippin some leftover knish. A minute later, Wu heard the fade-in of Pink Floyd again, then silence, then Andrea Bocelli started singing. Wu pulled off his headphones and left the device to continue recording. He picked up the telephone to check with his contacts inside the Hong Kong government on the state of the resurgent bird flu in the market there, and they assured him it was under control. He knew his mother would never leave Hong Kong unless it was piled up with corpses...either that or he would have to provide her some motivation in the way of a grandchild. He drummed his fingers on the table, thinking about women he had recently dated, but he knew she would hate all of them. Maybe I could adopt a kid from the mainland that looked enough like me to fool her.... Then he realized what he was saying to himself--that he was thinking of trying to get her to come to the U.S.! It was absurd. He had only planned to be here a few years, then back to Hong Kong. She would never agree to go to mainland China. Would she go with him if he returned to England? This, of course, got him back to thinking about his father, and then he could not stop the absurd image of the three of them reunited in England. He got up to poor himself some scotch and shake off this line of thought...and start thinking about money again.

A few miles south, Laura Moreno was dragging in her groceries, drenched in sweat. She put away the perishables, then rifled through the mail. Superior Court?! She opened up the envelope and was amazed to see that her pro bono case had finally been docketed for a hearing! How long had it been? She read to the bottom and saw a name she didn't recognize--"Judge Sowell Ame". What happened to the other guy? Is that why this took so long? Is he gone? She sat down at the computer to type a letter to her client, pausing for a moment to rub at her painful tendonitis. She had performed 500 mouse clicks and 300 keystrokes the day before, and yet she was the one that got yelled at for too many non-billable hours (two hours/week!)--not Chloe Cleavage with her three documents-per-hour-coding rate and her six hours of goofing off billed straight to the client, nor Bridezilla with her twenty wedding-planning phone calls per day and the manicure/pedicure spa visit she had been given after her recent trial ended (in defeat for Prince and Prowling's client!). She took a deep breath and tried to tell herself that it was all worth it if she could occasionally be a lawyer that actually accomplished something worthwhile in this world. She closed her eyes trying to muster the enthusiasm and ambition she had once known, but the vision was fleeting. She opened her eyes and began to type up the letter, already starting to worry about whether her client would be able to stay out of the hospital long enough to make it to the July hearing.

A couple of miles to the west, Dubious McGinty was worried, too. He was sitting on the banks of the Potomac, dangling his hot feet into the water. He wasn't worried about Ardua biting him--no, he'd cram his leg down her throat if he had the chance. He was worried because somebody had said hello to him the day before, and he couldn't remember who it was. The man had said they had grown up together and told Dubious all kinds of things about their childhood, but Dubious couldn't remember any of it. He could scarcely remember a thing before Vietnam or after it. He was starting to worry that Ardua had already snatched some of his brain, and there was no way he could get it back. He leaned over to splash water on his perspiring face, wondering what the rest of his life had been and where it had gone.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Zoology

Regina and Ferguson were twirling in the cooling mister near the Great Ape House while their mother finished her drink on the bench. Clio had suffered a difficult week as White House Butler, and she had made up her mind by Wednesday that they were going to spend as much of this weekend as possible away from the White House. If she never had to hear the name "Scott McClellan" again--. She jumped up and shouted at the twins, "Reggie! Fergie! Get over here!" That was for knocking over the Japanese twins, though somebody who was not familiar with Reggie and Fergie probably would have considered it an innocent accident caused by exuberant water dancing. "Alright! We're looking at the gorillas, and then we're going home!" She tossed her drink and grabbed them both by the hand. As they entered the house, she paused to read the instructions about approaching the apes backwards and not looking at them directly in the eyes because they were shy. I don't remember getting those instructions when I was a girl. She wearily released their tugging hands and sat down on the bench knowing full well that they would push their way through the crowd of children to get to the glass no matter what she told them. Five seconds later, the twins were indeed at the front of the crowd staring through the glass at the gorillas, and one second after that, the gorillas were screeching at the top of their lungs and running through the enclosure into the next room--where they proceeded to run back and forth from wall to wall screaming hysterically. Soon the orangatans at the nearby Think Tank joined in the screaming and running around, followed in quick succession by the howler monkeys in the Small Mammal House and the lemurs on Lemur Island. Then waves of children started screaming and running out of the Great Ape House, followed by their distressed parents, until only Ferguson and Regina were left--still staring at the gorillas--and Clio. Clio shook off her shock and called them to come away from the glass. She took their hands and led them outside, where the primate cacophony followed them until they got to the zebras--which continued grazing without so much as a glance up. Clio looked down at the twins, who were not looking at the zebras but were looking up at her in pain because she was holding their hands so tightly. She let go without a word, let them look at the placid zebras for several minutes, then told them it was time to go.

At the other end of the zoo, the Assistant Deputy Administrator for Anti-Fecklessness was still waffling about where to propose to his girlfriend, Eva Brown. The lion and tiger behavior had not seemed very romantic, the otters were adorable but surrounded by a crowd, the bald eagle was just not majestic enough in its cage, he didn't really think hippos would work, reptiles were certainly out of the question....He was beginning to regret not having proposed near the birds (in spite of Eva's tirade about Hillary Clinton and sexism, which had somehow erupted after viewing the lilac-breasted holler) because now his choices seemed down to wallabies, wolves, or the Amazon. When they approached the Mexican wolves, Eva launched into a lecture about how they would no longer be able to migrate across the Rio Grande, so he deferred until the Amazon. As they penetrated deeper into the artificial jungle, he could feel the reality of the outside world slipping away. The moist heat enveloped him, as did the bird calls, the lush greenery, the butterflies, the fish...."It'll all be gone, you know." Eva's voice brought him back. "My kids will never be able to see the Amazon rainforest." My kids? Why didn't she say "our kids"? This, of course, was the part that bothered him because he was accustomed to tuning out those kinds of statements from Eva--after all, she was still young and naive and in school. But my kids? That was not encouraging. He left the ring in his pocket and started thinking about the Monday morning meeting on China.

Over by the Giant Pandas, from a vantage point with no view of a bear and safely away from the crowd, Charles Wu was softly discussing China with his contact. The cat was already out of the bag on the local government corruption involved in the shoddy schoolhouse construction in the earthquake region, but the awareness or complicity of the national government was still in question. After a little more prodding, Wu finally got enough information to pass something of interest along to the British--whom he had probably been neglecting as of late. Then his contact asked Wu about the impact of the Scott McClellan book, and Wu shrugged. "Too little, too late--I think that's how the Americans would put it." The contact was perplexed, and asked why it wasn't enough to impeach the President. "Because the Democrats decided to go for the low-hanging fruit instead." His contact continued to look puzzled, but Wu just shook his head, amazed himself at the apparent self-destruction of the Democratic Party even as Bush's approval ratings were at an historic low...and wondering if the Democrats would even miss the lowest hanging branches of all. Out of the corner of his eye, Wu saw that a panda had wandered into their line of view, but it quickly sat down and started chewing bamboo again--which brought a crowd of people rushing over to Wu's spot even though the panda was still doing the exact same thing.