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, August 24, 2008

Parasites

Henry Samuelson was lying on the couch in Ermann Esse's office. He hated paying the inflated weekend rate, but lately he kept having nightmares the night before the Heurich Society meetings. He was telling Dr. Esse about the garage that was full of dead leaves--maybe years' worth of dead leaves. There was a shop vaccuum and also a leaf blower, but he decided that it would be too much work to check the filter or engine, and instead grabbed the custodian-sized push-broom hanging on the wall. He proceeded to push the leaves out of the garage while music played from a hidden radio turned on by someone else; he wasn't sure how the garage had filled up with leaves, but it really felt good to clean it out. He asked Dr. Esse what the dream meant. Dr. Esse suppressed his annoyance that Samuelson always asked this. "What do you think it means?" Samuelson told Dr. Esse he was worried about Russia and Vladimir Putin. "Hmmm," Dr. Esse replied encouragingly. Samuelson talked about Georgia, then about Poland, then about Russia's severance of communications with NATO. "Hmmm," nodded Dr. Esse again: though he secretly suspected the dream had nothing to do with Eurasian politics, it was important that Samuelson was able to voice his deep fears about global politics. "And what does the Society think should be done about Russia?" Dr. Esse did not believe that the Heurich Society actually existed, but it was important that Samuelson have a forum to express the arguments in his head. "So you're concerned the Moon Township Plan will spin out of control?" Dr. Esse did not believe in the Moon Township Plan either, but nothing was more fascinating than psychoanalyzing the delusional cloak-and-dagger crowd of Washington. How could these men be world dominators when they were afraid of their own dreams?

A few miles north, Samuelson's daughter Button was being interviewed for her first potential gig in building management. Real estate sales in Washington being as slow as they were, she had decided to get her license in property management, and here she was: "Henrietta Samuelson, President, Caljohn Management, LLC". How hard could it be? Her sometimes boyfriend Calico Johnson had put in the capital and offered her the job as soon as he found out about her new license. She had never even asked! Never asked him for anything! She was starting to think he was too good to be true. A few minutes into the interview, she began to sense the tension between the condo president, vice-president, and treasurer. (And she was not clear on why two other people were there who did not even own condos in the building.) Her eyes had taken in the piles of mulch and empty flower pots that stood in place of a front garden, the shabby and filthy lobby carpeting, the cracked stairs, the worn couches they were all seated at--and she was poring over the budget and paltry amount of reserves that the condo association had saved up. "No problem!" she declared brighly, immediately regretting the choice of words as sounding too young and unprofessional. "I have worked with more challenging budgets than this," she added, not explaining that she was referring to her own personal finances after she first came back from Africa. "We just have to prioritize--I mean, the condo association has to prioritize." She noticed that nothing was budgeted for plumbing even though they had spent about $5,000 annually for plumbing since 2004. "What is this income here?" she asked, pointing to page five. The Treasurer mumbled that it was a special assessment collection, and the Vice President echoed that it was the third in four years. "Hmmm," Button replied sympathetically. The president declared somewhat icily that long-term owners had not kept up the maintenance, and newer owners were getting socked with it now. "Well, it's always important to optimize the equity and share voice of each stakeholder, and the ratio of outlays to inputs must be adjusted to take into consideration the needs of both lessees and lesssors, not to mention vendees and vendors." The three board members had no idea what that sentence meant, but were too embarassed to ask, so they hired her because she sounded like she really knew a lot more than the previous two managers did. Button telephoned Johnson on the way to her car to tell him the good news, and he promised to bring over a bottle of champagne to celebrate the expansion of his real estate empire. She thought that was a little arrogant, considering she was doing all the work and he was just an investor, but something about him made her allow and even secretly admire his arrogance...his power.

Several miles to the south, "C. Coe Phant" was taking advantage of Condoleezza Rice's latest absence from the State Department--not to snoop through her locked and guarded office but to snoop through the cubicles of the underlings who were only allowed to take time off when she was away. It was amazing how much could be gleaned just from perusing the notations on their desk planners, the carbon-copy phone messages, the latest stack of folders "to be filed". He knew it was no coincidence that Russia was showing imperialistic resurgence at the very end of the term for the Russia specialist who, after all, was going to need something to do after the Secretary of State gig was up. He carefully emptied another shredder's contents into his duffel bag, replacing the purloined ones with others to defray the suspicion an empty shredder would incur. He had hacked his way into some pretty interesting emails, and he was sure that these shredders were holding some missing pieces to the puzzle. A few minutes later, he was waving to the last security guard on his way out the front entrance, a parade of international flags behind him, a portrait of the Bloodsucker to his right.

Across the Potomac River, a couple miles west, Cedric lay on a cartoon frog-covered beach towel on the backyard lawn behind the Arlington group home for the mentally ill. He had run through the sprinkler with Buckner and Melinda (just as he used to do when he was a kid in Indiana) and was now drying out in the sun. Something about his Thorazine and pantothenic acid supplements was combining with the sweet corn and watermelon he had eaten at lunch to make his skin throw off a scent that was wildly alluring to the garden slugs, and they slowly began creeping over his bare and still damp legs. He was dozing off under the warm blanket of the sun's rays, but his subconscious mind knew something was wrong. Leeches! He was being tortured with leeches. "I won't tell you!" he screamed at the Soviet interrogator, who looked like a cross between Stalin and Nuryev--but with an eye patch, sort of like a pirate. "I'll never tell!" The Soviet tossed a couple more leeches on his bare legs, but Cedric's arms were tied down, so he couldn't reach any of them. He knew from his training how to calculate the amount of blood withdrawn by each leech--and, hence, how long he had to live--but he had already lost count of the leeches. He had never expected to die this way, but he knew it was worth it--the Moon Township Plan would change the course of history, even if nobody ever knew that he had written it. He refused to translate one word of the encrypted plan that had fallen into their hands. "NEVER!!!!" The Soviet pirate put leeches on both of Cedric's ears, then one in his mouth, and he began screaming. A startled Melinda turned to see Cedric frantically ripping slugs off his legs, but when she brought over the hose to help out, he just screamed louder. The social worker, Hue Nguyen, rushed over to see what was wrong, and Melinda rejoined the others who were still lost in childhood memories. A catbird sitting in the oak tree began imitating the whirring pattern of the rotating sprinkler, and soon there was no other sound.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

In Danger

The kids were getting a little restless: they had dutifully picked up a hundred pounds of trash on Roosevelt Island and had seen a fair amount of wildlife, but they were starting to get antsy as they passed around the binoculars and the Washington Post "Metro" section. "I think I see it!" shouted Jai Alai's son, suddenly jumping to his feet and pointing to a girder on the drawbridge. Dr. Devi Rajatala put her binoculars to her eyes to see for herself. YES! There it was--the peregrine falcon featured in the newspaper article about local endangered species. The kids clamored for their turns with the limited number of binoculars, and lots of ooh's and ahh's ensued. The only one not looking was Angela de la Paz, who was still freaked out by the fact that Dr. Raj had not been able to see the pink warblers that Angela had pointed out to her twice this afternoon. Now Angela was staring at the pink dolphins leaping around in the Potomac River, which were obviously unnoticed by anybody else there. Dr. Raj made her way over to Angela to see if she wanted to take a look at the falcon, and Angela took the binoculars quietly. Dr. Raj had not heard Angela mention the pink warblers in a very long time, but her scientific mind reasoned that it was just a type of imaginary friend common in only children.

"OK--time to go!" Atticus Hawk was clapping his hands to get the children's attention even though only five minutes had passed since the falcon was espied. Dr. Rajatala was irritated to no measure, but since Jai Alai's boyfriend in his SUV had helped bring the kids from the Friendship Garden to the boathouse, and Jai and Atticus had helped canoe the kids over to the island, Dr. Raj was not really in a position to complain. Hawk had no idea this pleasant little outing (as proposed by Jai!) would turn into a propaganda lecture about endangered species and President Bush's recent proposed rulemaking to modify the enforcement of the Endangered Species Act, and it was all he could do to hold his tongue all afternoon about it, but they had seen the damned falcon and he was ready to go. He shepherded the children and bags of trash into the canoes and shoved off his own last, already trying to turn his thoughts to the mound of paperwork he had to face on Monday morning and obsessing about the fifteen Blackberry messages and voicemails he had already received about "innocent" Jumah al Dossari's Sunday editorial on his imprisonment at Guantanamo. He used to take pride in being the Justice Department's torture specialist, but it was getting more and more painful and less and less glorious.

Twenty feet below, Ardua was desperately trying to touch and revitalize Hawk, but the pink dolphins were flanking the canoes and it was impossible. Ardua knew the dolphins were protecting the girl, and Ardua was angry but could do little except order some starlings to stay with him. She also ordered a flock to follow the girl, but they agreed reluctantly and kept their distance from Angela and the pink warblers accompanying her away from the river. Up in the watchman's quarters of the drawbridge, Dubious McGinty had his own binoculars up as he followed the drama unfolding between Roosevelt Island and the shore. "Well, I'll be damned!" He had never seen the dolphins take to anybody the way they took to that girl. Even when they had saved Perry Winkle's life, it wasn't like this. He continued watching as the rented canoes were put up at the boathouse, the trash disposed, and the Friendship Garden kids herded into Hawk's SUV and Dr. Raj's hatchback. Starlings and pink warblers followed the cars as they left the parking lot and faded from McGinty's view. He put the binoculars down, glad that Ardua was pissed off, and glad that the peregrine had come back--she would gobble up some of those damned river rats multiplying in his bridge.

A couple of miles to the east, a river rat entering the Brewmaster Castle discovered only moments before its death that Han Li had brought in a couple of stray cats to the kitchen level. Li cooed approvingly to the cats amicably eating the rat as he made his way up to the top floor to serve refreshments to the Heurich Society. As he walked in, he could hear the disheveled one complaining again that the others were underestimating how dangerous Putin still was in Asia, and the big stiff one was again telling him not to worry. Then the disheveled one was saying that Musharraf's resignation was not going to help, and again the big stiff one was telling him not to worry. Those were really the only two that ever spoke in front of Li, so he never knew what the others would say until he played the tapes back later, but this time Li was agreeing with the disheveled one: Asia was unhinged. Li made his way back to his office to watch some more of the Olympics. Now that he had been in the U.S. so long, he could see that the U.S. was impotent about many things--like the Taliban, Burma, and North Korea. China was the most powerful player in Asia, as he had long been taught. Still, you could only be a world power by controlling your neighbors, right? He found another online article about the women's gymnastics team, wondering why a country so powerful would lie about a 14-year-old girl just to get a gold disc on a ribbon. Upstairs were men who were battling for much more, and he knew it...and it scared him. Sometimes he wondered how many men just like these were sitting around in secret meetings in Beijing--talking about Musharraf, talking about Georgia, talking about who would control the gas and oil fields of Asia and Asia Minor. Li looked down at his deformed thumb, the one that had broken and never healed right at the age of five when he was being trained for gymnastics. He had pleaded to be allowed to switch to diving, but the government had sent him home to his parents, who were deeply ashamed and disappointed for years until he finally landed the construction job that brought him to America to work on the Chinese embassy. He wiggled his thumb and thought about how different his life might have been. The cats rubbed his legs, and he smiled and threw them some catnip, which they gnawed at contentedly for half an hour until they smelled another rat intrusion.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Cuts Like a Knife

Dr. Khalid Mohammad checked the vital signs as Nurse Consuela Arroyo recited how the patient had fared in the last hour. The pulse was still much lower than Dr. Mohammad would have preferred, but the fact that he had made it through the night seemed a miracle--one he was not entirely certain had occurred without the intervention of Arroyo's prayers. It was the second beheading attempt in three days, though the police had requested that the ambulance and George Washington University Hospital E.R. logs be slightly altered so that the media would have no reason to report a copycat murderer on the loose. Just a stabber. Dr. Mohammad opened the man's eyelids and shone a light into each of the man's eyes, but he proffered no comment for Arroyo to add to the patient's chart. No point in speculating so early about brain damage. Dr. Mohammad stood motionless for a few minutes, still in disbelief that "John Doe" was back in intensive care--had been the victim of two random and brutal attacks within two years. The first had left him with frontal lobe epilepsy and a radically altered (but strangely happier) personality; Dr. Mohammad was loathe to imagine the effect of the second. "Doctor?" said Nurse Arroyo softly, baffled by his trance-like manner. Dr. Mohammad simply turned to look at her, nodded, and headed for the door, calling out almost as an afterthought to maintain the current treatment. Nurse Arroyo pulled out her rosary and stole a few more minutes out of her schedule to pray for him, convinced that the atheistic nurse's lack of prayer was the reason that the other victim lay partially decapitated downstairs in the morgue awaiting transfer to the Chief Medical Examiner's Office for an official homicide autopsy.

A couple of miles north, Sebastian L'Arche was sitting on a bench in Dupont Circle, four tethered dogs frollicking on the grass behind him and an old friend from Iraq seated on the edge of the seat beside him. L'Arche generally tried to spend time in the Circle at least a couple of times a week, but he rarely saw the vet come up from Dupont Down Under. It was quieter these days, with the bigwigs out of town for summer vacation and the return of college students still to come. The vet was scratching his head, sure there was something important he wanted to tell L'Arche--something about some weirdos he had met this week--but he couldn't remember what it was. "You could come stay with me for awhile." L'Arche said this every time, but the vet felt more comfortable with the Freaks below ground. "Just for one day?" L'Arche longed to get the guy bathed and into clean clothes--his stench was worse than that cat lady's house he had been paid to clean out on Tuesday. The vet didn't like to go anywhere without his machete, and he knew L'Arche wouldn't let him take it with him, so he nodded no again. "OK. I need to take Gipper to de-rat the Brewmaster Castle at one." L'Arche walked away as the vet bit his lip, uncertain whether he should tell L'Arche he had seen more Iraqis and it was dangerous out there...but L'Arche always told him it was just the vet's imagination. The vet walked over to the trash can and fished out a Washington Post to read about that anthrax guy.

"It was the ducks," Dubious McGinty explained to Perry Winkle as they sat at the base of the drawbridge dangling their feet in the cool Potomac water. Dubious was rather relaxed these days, knowing that Ardua was weak and hungry with so many of her apostates out of town for their August vacations. "The first beheading was at Urine Park--Dizzy told me about that one. The second one was next to the Canal, and I saw that one myself. This guy was talking to the ducks, telling them that an angel was coming to help them. Well, the sun had barely come up, and I think they were mad because he wasn't feeding them." Winkle put down his pen, already resigned to the fact that he would have to replay the cassette multiple times to understand all this. "Then this other guy walked up behind him, yelled something about Sadr City, grabbed the guy's hair with his left hand and took a swing at the guy's neck with his right hand. Well, the ducks--they didn't care; I mean, they're sick, right?" Winkle nodded. "The ducks are still thinking that food is supposed to be coming, they crowd closer until blood spurts out on one of them, then the guy with the knife lets go of the other guy and starts kicking the ducks with his feet. They all squawk and take off. Now the guy sees me, and he runs off in the other direction. So I went and tied my shirt around the guy's neck, but I didn't wanna be arrested for it, so when I saw some joggers comin', I just took off." Dizzy was finished, and felt he had given Winkle enough to write a Metro article. Since this matched most of the joggers' testimony in the police report, Winkle decided to accept Dizzy's account...but the duck part would go in the book he was writing on the side.

A few miles to the east, a lobbyist sat at the piano in the lower level of the Grand Hyatt, casting lily petals into the shimmering blue fountain water flowing around the little island under the piano. Every few minutes she put down the lilies and played the opening bars of "Fur Elise"; then she would stop playing and strew some more lily petals. This had been going on since she had exited the sports bar at 12:10, after downing three cosmopolitans. She was perspiring in the full-length black knit dress and absent-mindedly hiked up her skirt above her knees. She had started "Fur Elise" for the fourth time when she saw the security guards approaching her. She picked up the lilies and walked away in the opposite direction, forgetting she was on the island and promptly falling into the fountain. Instead of getting up, she just sat in the water, wishing the tears would come, wishing she could tell somebody that she had been with that married man when he got decapitated in Urine Park, but she had run away in horror and fear and shame, and there was nobody to tell now. She was glad before that she didn't love him, but now she wished she had. She didn't pay any attention to the words the security guards were saying to her, but she stood up unsteadily and allowed them to hoist her out of the clear blue water back to solid ground. She kicked off her high heels and started crying for herself.

A few blocks away, Lynnette Wong was in her little apartment replaying the video from the Opening Ceremonies in Beijing--the whole history of China compressed into an over-the-top production that somehow skipped the exact hundred years which had ruined her family's lives. She fast-forwarded through the thousand identical mechanical drummers which just reinforced for her how dispensable the individual Chinese man was to the regime. She got chills watching the soldiers inexplicably goose-stepping while carrying the Olympic flag. And the women! There were no women except for little girls and dancing fairy-like creatures. Even the female athletes marched into the stadium behind the male athletes! It made her sick. Female cheerleaders dressed up like something out of the Dallas Cowboys stadium. She switched her screen back to the chat group discussing the Chinese Taipei and Hong Kong teams, almost thankful that her father had not lived to see the mainland government host the Olympics. It wasn't even communist anymore--it was like a fascist dictatorship. The chat group suddenly veered onto the topic of the bizarre stabbing murder of an American tourist by a deranged Chinese man, and Lynnette wondered if that bothered President Bush more than all the Tibetan murders combined, more than all this Beijing residents forcibly evicted and left homeless to make space for the Olympic structures, more than the men and women in prison for criticizing the government for worshipping in an unapproved church. Sometimes she wondered how it was that people could look at China so differently, then she thought about Charles Wu--who had promised to bring her back some choice herbs for her shop when he returned from China. He loved China and hated it at the same time; sometimes she wondered which of the two was harder to live with.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Nothing Better to Do

"This has gone too far already. I don't know what I can do at this point." Former Senator Evermore Breadman spoke for a few more minutes over the phone, then told the lawyer from Chevron he would decide by tomorrow. "Amateurs," he muttered to himself. He shuffled through his papers again, looking at the highlighted passages from the articles and translated court documents the lawyer had sent him regarding Chevron's potential liability for a $16 billion Amazon clean-up in Ecuador. The John Negroponte meeting in the press, the U.S. Trade Representative on the record with a threat against Ecuador, the looming involvement of Barak Obama, and the anonymous banana republic statements to the media that sounded like something out of a 1905 editorial on not letting small countries stand in the way of large corporations.... Breadman was fairly certain this consulting gig would not pass a conflicts check at Prince and Prowling, but it was always an ego trip to be asked to clean up the messes left by lesser consultants. Outside his window, a catbird alit on the ledge and began making jackhammer noises. Breadman thought about the consulting fee and decided to dig in--he really had nothing better to do today.

A block away, President Bush was packing for his vacation in Texas, rejoicing that Congress had at last adjourned. Laura had already packed up all his East Wing necessities and picked out what books he would be reading; all he had to do was decide what notebooks and files to collect from the Oval Office. Nothing on the Middle East--need a vacation. "Oh, yeah," he said to himself, pulling out the file labeled China--Olympics. "Almost forgot about that." He passed over the Economy files but picked up the notebook on public land mineral leases--gotta take care of a few more people. He passed over the Climate Controversy files but picked up the notebook labeled Legacy. The buzzer on his desk rang a few seconds after the Secret Service agent at the exterior exit signalled the President's Detail that The Bloodsucker was on the way. "Dr. Rice?" he asked in puzzlement. He didn't remember summoning Condi to the White House. He put his papers into the burgundy briefcase with the monogram--the one Laura had given him at Christmas--and tidied up his desk for her arrival.

"Sir," Condoleezza Rice began. "I wanted to be clear about the intent of Vice President Cheney's communication on Pakistan." Bush sat down in his desk chair, dejected. "I know you're leaving town, but things are at a critical juncture. The reason we leaked the intelligence on who bombed the Indian embassy--"

Bush signalled her to be quiet. "Now, I thought everybody was in agreement on that?"

Rice nodded affirmatively. "Yes, sir: that's why I'm not clear on Vice President Cheney's directive." She couldn't believe she still had to make visits like this after all these years--that she actually had to show up in his office to remind him that she was the smartest one in the room.

"Alright," Bush sighed. He got up and walked over to the window where several starlings were perched outside on the ledge. "Go on." After a few minutes of listening, he said, "alright." He walked back to his desk to sign the memo she had already prepared on Presidential Seal stationery. Rice wished him an excellent vacation and strode out of the Oval Office, a smile almost escaping her lips. Bush pulled his Gameboy out of the lower drawer and shoved it into the briefcase. He headed out of the Oval Office, followed by the ghost that had hidden the file on Fannie Mae and Freddy Mac.

A few miles west, Charles Wu was eating a buttermilk biscuit at the Silver Diner in Arlington while his contact told him that the Chinese Embassy was just about complete and that the Chinese had shifted workers over to the renovation project on Porter Street. "Is it going to be a cultural center and embassy residences?" His contact smiled and asked what else it could be. Wu nodded amiably, understanding that this information was not for sale yet. "Who will be in Beijing?" This time Wu wrote down carefully coded notes as his contact recited useful contacts that would be circulating during the Olympic Games. Wu had hoped to get away with just visiting the equestrian events on Hong Kong and a few soccer matches in Shanghai, but he was getting more and more pressure to go to Beijing. The problem was, going to Beijing would mean almost non-stop work (what with the Prince and Prowling office opening and all the espionage available there), not to mention having to cut short his visit with his mother. On the other hand, he would never have another opportunity to see Beijing without a blanket of smog, and the prospect of thousands of finely toned female athletes was enticing (although this was almost a negative since he probably would not have much free time to chase after them). But what's the cover? This was really the biggest problem, because too much double-agent work in one city in a two-week period was a recipe for disaster. "I'll try to get up there for a couple of days," Wu told his contact, resolving to use the Prince and Prowling office opening as the cover. "Only tell these two." He pointed to a couple of people on the list, then slurped down the last of his strawberry milkshake. His contact nodded as Wu threw down a $20 on the table and left to meet another contact at the used record store going out of business.

A few miles to the east, a dozen more infected ducks fled the Potomac River and joined their refugee brethren in McPherson Square, where Dr. Ermann Esse was tossing out breadcrumbs as he waited to be paged for his appointment with Henry Samuelson and wondered at his own uneasiness.