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, November 30, 2008

Just Like That

And just like that, they were dead.

Dr. Devi Rajatala was in her drafty office at the National Arboretum.  She had cancelled the final Friendship Garden session of the fall because of the rain, but she had come to work anyway, trying to get her mind off the massacre in Mumbai which had taken her cousin, her uncle, and an old friend from college--a police officer, a waiter, and a businesswoman.  She had been on the phone to India a dozen times since Wednesday, and now she wanted peace and quiet.  She was compiling some temperature and rainfall statistics for a colleague in Arlington trying to figure out why none of the oak trees there had produced acorns this year.  The oak trees were in no obvious danger, it would seem, but the squirrels were starving.  It seemed absurd to be worried about squirrels, but this is what she did--she studied trees.  There were plenty of acorns here, and no reports of squirrels starving in the District.  Her mother had begged her not to fly back to India for the ceremonies--too dangerous.  She paused and looked out the window at the gray sky, which provided a sharper contrast to the partially barren tree limbs than a blue sky ever could.  What?  What could possess them?  She could almost understand the indiscriminate hatred of the rich, she could almost understand fanatically hateful religious indoctrination, but she could not understand how you start shooting everybody in sight--rich, poor, master, servant, man, woman--just because they were in some institution you hated.  She could not understand how you shoot children.  She could not understand how you attack a hospital.  She shivered from the draft and got up to put her overcoat on.  She jotted down a reminder to call facilities again about the needed insulation work.  Then she decided she would visit India in January or February--it had been too long.

And just like that, they were dead.

Charles Wu had just received confirmation that two Chinese agents and a British agent had been killed in Mumbai.  The desperate scramble to retrieve sensitive documents and incriminating papers had failed, and the next step would be sensitive negotiations to retrieve them out of official custody before unsuspecting relatives showed up to claim their loved ones' belongings.  Wu didn't know those agents very well, but he just assumed they all felt the same way he did--he could care less what people found after he was dead.  Still, there was always the possibility of being half-dead and then having to get interrogated, so it was best to keep cryptic notes and scant records.  He sipped a gin-and-tonic and looked out his window, recalling his one and only trip to Mumbai.  He couldn't stand anything in that city except the fine hotel he stayed in.  He glanced at his watch and decided to leave after he finished his drink.  He had already seen "JCVD" three times this week, but he had not complained about the suggestion of another rendezvous at the E Street Cinema.  The funny thing was, he could not remember why he had been interested in meeting this person in the first place.

And just like that, they were dead.

Two members of the Heurich Society in the wrong place at the wrong time--a luxury hotel in Mumbai.  Henry Samuelson had given them his recommendation for a modest 3-star hotel on a backstreet of Mumbai, but they had ignored his advice.  He sat glumly in the upstairs meeting room of the Brewmaster's Castle, his arms crossed tightly across his mustard-colored and mustard-stained sweater, his hair uncombed, his donut only half-eaten.  The Chairman had let the moment of silence stretch into about three minutes, and had then announced simply, "the Ming Dung plan will proceed as agreed upon--nothing has changed."  The Chair glanced at Condoleezza Rice, who had recently confirmed to the Society that she would like to remain an active member even though she was returning to Stanford to teach and would rarely be able to attend meetings.  They didn't do conference calls in the Heurich Society, and they did not put much down in writing, so it was unclear to anybody what shape her participation would take.  Samuelson's steely eyes watched the Chairman's glance at Rice and watched her nod grimly in response.  Samuelson picked up the rest of his donut, knowing that he would end up doing the heavy lifting on the Ming Dung plan.  He bit into it without tasting it at all.

And just like that, they were dead.  

Another 300 Africans dead--dogwalker Sebastian L'Arche was listening to a news Podcast as he took the day's charges on their mid-day excursion.  More people had just been violently killed in Nigeria than in India, but the mainstream media had barely reported it--no glamorous locale, no dramatic explosions, no innocent hostages, no courageous rescues, no commando counterattack.  Just another tedious report of "ethnic/religious" conflict in a land losing water, trees, and arable land--just another week of quiet desperation in Africa.  No strategic value to the U.S. --that's what he had always heard about Africa when he was in the army.  Translation:  nobody's going to stop Africans from killing each other.  There was a logic to it you could not really refute, on the surface.  But deep down, well, that was another story.  It was all connected--the strife, the multinational investments, the oil and mineral concessions, the unstable demography, the inflammation of extremism, the shifting sands of propped-up dictatorships.  L'Arche watched the dachsund and bulldog nip at each other in a pathetic fight for choice of pooping ground.  Sometimes it all made sense; sometimes it didn't.  But the new President had relatives in Africa--things would be different now, he told himself.

And just like that, they were dead.

Hundreds of river rats, dozens of infected ducks, a small flock of starlings, and a few catbirds had perished over the past two days since the Warrior had come to town.  The Beaver was nervously glancing around as he discussed this with Ardua of the Potomac, who was incensed at the corpses floating around her.  The Warrior did not believe in rehabilitation, the Warrior took no prisoners, and the Warrior was fearless.  Ardua scoffed at this--everybody was afraid of something.  From behind a barren Arlington oak tree, the Warrior watched the river through binoculars and plotted his next move.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Beauty and the Beast

It was another quiet evening at the Vice President's residence.  Dick Cheney and his lumbering heart were in bed for the night, and Lynn Cheney was in her sitting room listening to Frank Sinatra and thumbing threw the chambermaid's copy of Glamour magazine.  Suddenly she saw the photograph of Condoleezza Rice receiving a "Women of the Year" award and burst out laughing.  Rice was sporting a sassy new hairdo, a gladiator-like dress, and the biceps of a woman who spent more time pumping iron than paperwork.  She had been honored in part for persuading the United Nations to recognize rape as a weapon of war, but she looked like she was launching a serious campaign to win the male vote for National Football League Commissioner...either that or a spot on the next "Survivor".  Pathetic.  Lynn was trying to distract herself from the annoyance of yet another indictment against her husband:  Lynn was getting sick of it, but at least this time the national media had barely commented on another local jurisdiction's pretending to have the power to prosecute a sitting Vice President.  This one was out of Raymondville, Texas--some nonsense about prisoner mistreatment in privately run federal detention centers.  Nicole Kidman, Hillary Clinton, a child bride from Yemen?  What a bizarre magazine. 

"What is this?"  The Assistant Deputy Administrator for Anti-Fecklessness was again trying to propose to Eva Brown.  This time he had made her dinner himself, filled his apartment with candles, put on a smooth jazz CD--it was all going beautifully.  Did she find the ring?  He had hidden it in his shaving cream can so that it would be easy to retrieve after dinner, but then she had gone to the bathroom, and now he was panicking.  "What is this?"  He found her sitting next to his computer, where she had stopped to check her email.  She was looking at a State Department webpage he had left on the screen--it was Condoleezza Rice's speech at the Glamour awards.  "We've got pirates controlling the Somali coast, a major earthquake in Central America, Putin solidifying his control of Russia, the whole Congo erupting into war again, and the global economy in ruins--and she's making a speech about how much she loves Glamour magazine and still reads it?  And it's on the State Department website?!"  The Administrator started stammering, terrified that Eva would figure out he was the one who had written the speech.  "Honest to God!  Sometimes I wonder why you bother working there at all--it's useless!"

A few miles away, Charles Wu was leering over the online photographs from Glamour's "Women of the Year" awards, pausing extra long over Tyra Banks.  Even Jane Goodall doesn't look half bad.  The phone rang, the voice on the other side told him the potato pancakes were ready, and he called his Ethiopian taxi driver.  As he waited for the cab to arrive, he added Tyra and the bare-armed Secretary of State to his screen saver slide show.  A few minutes later, he was gathering intelligence on the Horn of Africa; then it was on his way to Cafe Mozart, where the 50-year-old Austrian guitar player was not what he seemed and someone was very interested in telling him what had not yet been reported about a certain Estonian's transmission of years of NATO intelligence to Russia.  Wu was feeling good:  it was a time of great uncertainty in the world, and he was helping people understand what was going on.  And making a ton of money doing it.  He nodded sympathetically as the taxi driver talked about the latest developments in the Sahel, schnitzel and beer on his mind.

Several miles to the west, Melinda was reading about Glamour's "Women of the Year" awards while three other residents of the Arlington group home for the mentally challenged were staring at a mysterious green screen on the television.  Melinda was trying to remember the year, but she couldn't.  She did remember the ceremony, though--the award, why she had won it, what she had worn, the other women there.  She could see it all vividly in her mind's eye, but she couldn't remember if it was last year or twenty years ago.  She looked at the wrinkles on her hands.  "I was a Glamour Woman of the Year," she said to nobody in particular, but they were all mesmerized by the green screen, believing it was transmitting secret messages directly into their brains.  Buckner walked in, unplugged the cable box, then plugged it back in--now the green screen was gone, and "Pretty Woman" was playing.  Buckner sat down next to Melinda because he thought she was pretty.

Not far to the east, Ardua was having another restless night, adjusting to the new mix of anti-depressants, sleeping pills, muscle relaxers, and hormone supplements that were being secreted into the river from upstream urinators.  Yes, the election had really changed everything, even the Potomac--or was it the economy?  As a demon, Ardua had little understanding of interest rates or unemployment, and was prone to be a little simplistic in her assessment of human society, but something in the water was making her feel hopeful, and relaxed, and...pretty.   She had a lot to be thankful for.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Lucky Charms

Golden Fawn was lying on her stomach, her head turned away from the technician and doctor positioning her bosom through the hole for the breast biopsy.  The procedure was apparently an entertaining one, because a prospective Resident was also in the room just to watch.  It was taking a long time, and she was thinking about Ardua until it came time for the anesthetic shot.  After that, she wasn't supposed to feel the vacuum needle going in, but she did.  The technician and doctor were vacuuming out the calcifications to see if they were malignant or benign.  On a whim, she told them to go ahead and vacuum out everything in there, so they kept vacuuming until her breast deflated like a punctured balloon.  Then a pink warbler alighted on the pillow to soothe her with song.  Goldie?  She was surprised they would call her that--only Marcos called her that.  Goldie?  Now they were stroking her hair, which seemed a little unprofessional.

Marcos Vasquez was sitting in the grocery store parking lot, debating whether to wake her up.  He had the list, but he didn't really like the idea of just leaving her dozing in the car.  She had been nodding off a lot since the biopsy, which was maybe a good distraction from wondering what the results would be tomorrow.  He decided to wait a little while to see if she woke up, but a slamming car door took care of that, and she sat up with a jolt.  He stroked her hair silently until he could see the lucidity returning to her dark eyes.

Sebastian L'Arche hadn't meant to slam the door, but for some reason Lucky Charm had decided to bolt, and L'Arche had only had a split second to shut the door on the unleashed Irish setter.  He looked at the normally well-behaved dog in puzzlement, but Lucky Charm's eyes were focused on Golden Fawn.  L'Arche headed into the store to pick up the bulk bags of dog food, cat food, and pet treats he would need for the pending wave of pet courier gigs as outgoing politicos and their staff members relinquished Congressional and Administration positions.  But Lucky Charm wasn't on that list:  Lucky's owner had just gone to prison in a plea deal about the D.C. property tax fraud ring, and Lucky was going to be L'Arche's first attempt at training a helping dog.  L'Arche had read up a lot on the subject, had watched some videos, and believed Lucky was a good candidate--tranquil, smart, quiet, a quick learner, and (usually!) well-behaved.  The only question was:  what was Lucky Charm born to do?  Lead the blind?  Assist the wheelchair-bound?  Sniff out epileptic attacks before they happen?  L'Arche was a pretty good dog whisperer, but neither Lucky nor L'Arche had yet made up their minds.

A few miles north, Angela de la Paz was carefully removing everything from the kitchen cabinets of her grandmother's Adams Morgan apartment in preparation for the building-wide roach spray tomorrow morning.  Since their windows were boarded up for some type of exterior work, they would be unable to ventilate the apartment; Angela didn't know what else to do except tell abuela to stay at the dialysis clinic all day on Monday, and if Ms. Samuelson (the property manager) didn't get the window opened by the end of the day, Angela would pry off the wooden boards herself.  Since Ms. Samuelson had taken over, the rent had gone up, the washer and dryers had disappeared from the basement for three weeks already (with no replacements), the hallway carpeting had disappeared for two weeks (with no replacement), the hallways had been painted a dreary industrial gray color, and nobody had repaired their radiator.  There were rumors that the building had been sold to a new owner, but many residents said that was illegal--the tenants would have been offered a right of first purchase.  They didn't have a lot of kitchenware, and very little food, so it didn't take that long to clear out the cabinets.  She didn't see any roaches, but everybody had to cooperate.  She pulled out the stack of paper bags and then gathered up all the trash, just as they had been instructed.  She was the only one in the entire building doing this, because half of the tenants had been unable to read the flyer, and the other half had ignored it.

A few miles to the west, Calico Johnson pulled his new Ferrari out of the garage, past the real estate demon living under his porch, and out onto his private access road parallel to the Potomac River.  He was on his way to pick up Chloe Cleavage to attend a real estate foreclosure auction in Takoma Park.  The girl was a shameless gold digger, and he didn't know why he even bothered trying to prod her into taking charge of her own financial future.  And so transparent!  She had asked him to pick her up outside the bistro, where she was "having brunch with friends", but he knew she would really just be coming out of the tanning salon.  She had recently been admiring his Rolex and dropping broad hints about jewelry for her upcoming birthday, but this had only prompted him to give a sapphire necklace to Button Samuelson, his Caljohn property manager and sometime girlfriend.  He had bought Chloe a new leather briefcase, even though he had never actually seen or heard of her taking work papers to and from Prince and Prowling.  He admired how hard Button worked, but he felt a rush of ego and superiority when he was with Chloe--not that he understood any of this on a conscious level.  The only thing he knew about himself on a conscious level was that he now had ten times as much real estate as he had owned six months ago, and this made him very happy.

Back at the grocery store, Golden Fawn was stocking up on organic breakfast cereal while Marcos had gone off in search of WD40.  A little old man asked her if the cereal in her hand had sugar in it, then began telling her about his diabetes and how he used to have a cereal with no sugar, but then they stopped selling it, and sometimes he can get some off the internet but only in bulk, and he didn't know how much longer he was going to live, so he didn't want to buy too much.  She was pawing through cereal shelves, desperate to find a cereal with no sugar, thinking surely that other diabetics must have some way of eating breakfast cereal, but he was still talking, and she couldn't find anything.  She turned back to him to concede defeat, but he was still talking, and now he was picking his nose, and she was really afraid to see what might happen next.  She wished him good luck finding cereal, and pushed the cart rapidly away, even though she was not supposed to be pushing the cart because it might make her puncture wound open up again.  She hated it when people were suffering and there was nothing she could do.  She felt the tears welling up, abandoned the cart, and walked off to find her soul mate.

Several miles to the west, Dubious McGinty was in the drawbridge watchman's quarters, reading articles about a new surge of Ku Klux Klan activity and death threats against Barak Obama, as Ardua lurked beneath the waters in the gathering winter.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Upside Down

The Heurich Society was having its post-election planning meeting.  It was a beautiful day outside, and more than a few members would have preferred being on a golf course, but here they were--holed up on the top floor of the Brewmaster's Castle, plotting their course.  Condoleezza Rice had missed almost half of their meetings the past year, but she suddenly seemed intent on seizing the helm, and nobody had any illusions why.  The current agenda item was the Middle East, and she was outlining her action plan for 2009.  Henry Samuelson was eating a crueller and tapping his right foot on the floor, impatiently awaiting his turn to speak.  He had only spent 15 years of his life in the Middle East (under five different names)--what was that compared to Rice's 15 months of weekend trips?!  Samuelson still believed that nobody but the CIA could handle the Middle East.  Three members believed that the new election would require them to abandon the Moon Township Plan and move in another direction altogether.  A couple members with particularly bad stock market portfolios were already advocating for the Grated Cheese plan to move forward, while several others less enamored with capitalism were advocating a modified Turkey Trot plan to steer the U.S. into the right kind of socialism.  The Chair was growing impatient, and took advantage of a lull in Rice's delivery to interrupt her.  "Do any of you understand the significance of this election?!"  This was very insulting to the members, and he knew it.  "We need some radically new ideas!  This is not business as usual for the Heurich Society."  A mousy man at the end of the table cleared his throat.  He had been waiting for just this moment for two days, ever since he had found that trampled memo on the floor of Lynnette Wong's herbal shop in Chinatown.  And so it was that Charles Wu clandestinely planted in the Heurich Society the seed for the Ming Dung plan.

A few miles south, post-election planning was also underway at Prince and Prowling.  Bridezilla was in her office clearing out her wedding-planning drawer.  "My job is more important than ever!", she said in a whiny voice, echoing the speech she had gotten last night from Wince when he had again postponed their wedding day.  "The Supreme Court is more important than ever!", she grumbled, at an even higher pitch, as she tossed out eight catalogs containing last season's wedding gown couture. "I will be drafting opinions that need to stand for hundreds of years!", she whined, as she tore up sample wedding invitations.  "This will be the biggest year of my life!", she screeched, as she crumpled up sample menus containing 2008's trendiest wine and dessert combinations.  Then she pulled off her wedding ring and hurled it to the bottom of the drawer.  First it was the District Court clerkship, then it was the Appeals Court clerkship, and now it's the stupid Supreme Court clerkship.  "I hate Justice Prissy Face!!"

It was a nickname she had given her fiance's boss after learning of his preference for chamomile tea and ladyfingers, but former Senator Evermore Breadman knew none of that when he heard her hollering as he passed her door.  They never should have let women into this profession.  He walked past his Wall of Me (already rearranged to feature more photographs of smiling Democrat handshakes and fewer photographs of Republican ones) and shut the door behind him.  He opened his briefcase and pulled out the notes he had jotted down the day before.  His clients were besieging him with questions, and he had assured all of them that there are always ways to make money--anytime, anywhere.  The truth was, though, that the next few months had more than an average amount of uncertainty.  He took a gulp of the Ming Dung herbal tea concoction he had picked up in Chinatown on the way, and re-read his notes from the phone conversation with Charles Wu.  The Beijing office of Prince and Prowling was doing well, and Wu had some excellent ideas for expanding Breadman's piece of that action.  He took another gulp, and his intestines quieted down.

A couple of blocks away, Laura Bush had already started packing up her office.  She couldn't deny it anymore, not even to herself:  she was happy.  Washington had been nothing like she had expected, she hardly ever saw her daughters anymore, her husband had become an old man--but in Texas, she would be in charge of her own life again.  She was looking through the pile of books she wanted to read (which had somehow gotten bigger and bigger over the past eight years, even though she had originally expected a lot of free time), and pulled out a couple to keep with her as the rest got boxed up.  She threw the Candace Gingrich lesbian autobiography in the trash, and set aside several others for charity.  Satisfied with her progress, she sat down to clean up the piles on her desk.  She paused over a few photos of herself and Sarah Palin, then tossed them in the garbage can.  Caribou Barbie.  It had taken a very long time, but she had finally realized that she was more like Hillary Rodham Clinton than anybody else in Washington.  Not that they would ever be friends.  But sometimes she wondered--really wondered--what it would be like to sit down with her, share a bottle of wine, and talk.   And the new one?  She really worried about the new one--worried that a lot of people in this town would always view her as ghetto.  People in this town like to label you--that helps limit your reach and your power, keeps you in a box.  With a sudden jerk of her head, she realized that she was now going to be in the same box as her mother-in-law..., and she did not want to share a bottle of wine and a chat with her.  There was only one person besides herself that knew what she really wanted to do after being First Lady, and that was Dr. Ermann Esse, and the shrink wasn't talking.

Out in the backyard, Regina and Ferguson were playing with Barney in the bright sunshine as their mother watched from a distance, a knitting project in her hands.  Clio hoped she could stay on as White House Butler for the new First Family, but this new cough worried her..., and her fatigue was not getting better.  "Reggie!  Fergie!"  They were taunting Barney, trying to get him to snap at them, the way he had bitten the reporter a few days earlier.  "You play nice!"  The twins rolled their eyes, and Fergie threw a ball for Barney to fetch.  Their mother had already warned them that there would be new kids in the White House come January, but the warning had not had the intended effect.  They weren't giving up one inch of their play territory, oh, no!  Those Obama girls would be entering their world!  Hovering above them, the White House ghosts didn't know what to think:  it was like the whole world had turned upside down.  A flock of starlings took flight, harkening to the call of Ardua of the Potomac--who had her own post-election plans on the march.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Horror

Condoleezza Rice had one eye on her Halloween costume preparations and one eye on her new cleaning woman, Cinderella Gomez.  Although the maid had come highly recommended by former Senator Evermore Breadman, Rice had her suspicions.  For one thing, although the irony of the name escaped her, Rice did suspect the name was false--even though Breadman had assured her that "Hispanics like quaint names".  For another thing, the maid was using "green" cleaning products, which to Rice appeared to be a scam to drag out the whole process by requiring more man-hours of scrubbing.  Then there was the fact that Pippin had immediately taken a liking to Cinderella, and Pippin hardly liked anybody.  Rice watched Cinderella polish the Danish crystal vase with tenderness, then turned back to her costume preparations.  It might be her final appearance at the United Nations of Horror luncheon at the Alarmastan Embassy, and she wanted to make a ferocious closing statement.

A few miles east, former Senator Evermore Breadman's clown costume was hanging on the back of his Prince and Prowling office door as he worked on some more regulatory drafts and Executive Orders for President Bush to sign in the next two months.  His wife had assured him that it was not a silly clown costume, but rather a scary clown costume--like the clown in that Stephen King movie she had expected him to remember--but sometimes he wondered if she was secretly out to get him.  It seemed very undignified for a Senator to dress up as a clown in front of a bunch of diplomats, but she had also assured him that it was important to show a sense of humor before the elections.  He took another gulp from the new herbal tea blend that Lynnette Wong had given him and subconsciously massaged his groaning intestines with the other hand as he looked over his red ink mark-ups on easing pollution discharge bans on mountaintop coal mining, abolishing the catch quota on the endangered Fortaleza flying clam, subsidizing the domestic assault rifle industry against imported Uzis, abolishing 75% of the administrative procedures for Equal Opportunity complaints inside the federal government, requiring states to accept nuclear and toxic waste in exchange for receiving community development block grants, suspending counter-terrorism import inspections for pre-approved importers, and weakening the Clean Water Act rules on agricultural animal waste run-off.  Breadman chased the somewhat bitter tea with a swallow of cherry-flavored bottled water as his personal air cleaner whirred pleasantly at his side.  He put the marked-up regulations in a large Prince and Prowling manila envelope, sealed it, and addressed it to Vice President Cheney in thick red magic marker.  He knew they would spawn plenty of lawsuits from disgruntled nonprofit watchdogs, but that would simply give him more kitchen cabinet business in the new year.  He put on his clown costume and headed out cheerfully to hand-deliver the envelope to the Old Executive Office Building on his way to United Nations of Horror.

Three floors below him, unlicensed contractors were removing an old asbestos-contaminated radiator from the sweatshop--not because of the asbestos but because of the roach infestation in and behind it.  They set the radiator aside and began sucking up the roaches in earnest with the special vacuum cleaner they had brought in just for the job.  Tiny particles of asbestos also flew towards the vacuum cleaner, and onto their clothing, and into their lungs.  (Their employer had forgotten to supply them with the protective clothing and face masks.)  After they felt they had sucked up enough, they tossed in an insecticide bomb, then quickly taped a thick plastic cover over the exposed ducts.  They then applied insecticide along the wall edges to catch any roaches that had escaped the other attacks.  Beneath the carpeting, thousands of roach eggs would still hatch in the next two weeks, and they would find ample crumbs and beverage spills to feed off of from the hundred contract attorneys packed in twelve hours/day, six days/week.  The contractors carried the radiator out, leaving a sizable trail of asbestos in the air from the sweatshop, to the hallway, to the elevator, and out through the lobby.  The new radiator would not be delivered until December, but the contract attorneys would generate enough body heat themselves in the tight space, and, statistically, only two of them would develop asbestosis, and only seventeen would develop roach-induced asthma.

A few blocks away, White House butler Clio was lying down on a blanket spread out in the warm sunshine of Lafayette Park.  Her occasional cough set her worrying that her childhood asthma had returned, but it was actually HIV-related pneumonia setting up shop in her lungs.  She started to fall asleep as her nearby twins darted around tossing the last crumbs of their picnic lunch to squirrels and ducks.  She could hear their voices (which was almost the same as watching them), and they knew better than to wander too far away.  But Regina and Ferguson did wander, gabbing energetically in their secret twin language to the catbirds, which expertly mimicked the sounds back at them to their great delight.  "Reggie....Fergie...."  They turned around to see who was calling them, but only saw a large raven perched on a bench.  They had an argument about whether to go talk to the raven, and finally agreed to go to to the raven for just a minute, but they couldn't understand what the raven was trying to tell them about their mother, so they skipped off again impatiently.  A church youth group from Georgia noticed Clio in the background of their photo shoot, and decided to put their remaining snacks into a paper bag for the wretch.  The minister's daughter wrote on the bag that Jesus saves, and then tiptoed up to Clio to place the bag where she would find it upon awakening.  The twins suddenly noticed the pack of teenagers surrounding their mother and ran over to see what they were doing, which panicked the teens into thinking the young hooligans would steal the food away from the homeless woman, but there was nothing they could do because the minister's wife was yelling at them that they were late getting back on the bus.  

Meanwhile, high above Lafayette Park, a large number of the Shackled had just left the White House--where an angry female ghost was constantly reminding the others that women had never even gotten to vote up until the day she died in 1908, and an angry male ghost was saying he had lived to 1953 and never gotten to vote either.  The Shackled had tried to calm the White House ghosts down and point out to them that women and minorities were voting in historic numbers this  year, but the Shackled weren't getting anywhere, and they had a lot of other ghosts to visit before Election Day.

Back at the Watergate, Cinderella was gone, the apartment was spotless, and Condoleezza Rice was finishing up the final touches on her costume under the pleased gaze of Ardua lurking in the river below.  A few minutes later, a startled Secret Service contingent was whisking a chainmail-covered Joan of Arc and her very real sword from the Watergate to the United Nations of Horror, where drunken diplomats were celebrating and mourning the closing act of the Dubyah years.  Also speeding towards the party at the Embassy of Alarmastan was a team of FBI human-trafficking investigators, whose raid had been prompted by an anonymous but credible tip that Chinese women were enslaved there.  Away from the din of the party, the Dragon King of the Eastern Sea (Charles Wu) was patiently watching the servant's entrance from an upstairs alcove window, sipping a Zombie through a straw inserted into his mask; he was wondering if human nature ever really changes.