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, December 07, 2008

The Syndrome

Dubious McGinty was huddled in the warmth of the drawbridge watchman's quarters, drinking a third Irish coffee.  He was reading the 452-page federal report that Perry Winkle had brought him about Gulf War Syndrome.  Turns out it's real!  He harrumphed to himself and took another swallow.  Eighteen years after the Line in the Sand, the Congressionally mandated report was released with little fanfare or commentary.  Winkle wanted to do a follow-up report--interview Gulf War Syndrome sufferers in  the D.C. metropolitan area--but The Washington Post wasn't interested.  McGinty could barely remember the Gulf War, but he sometimes talked to other veterans and heard about these things.  Aren't they still in Iraq?  He had been too embarrassed to tell Winkle he was confused about it.  Sometimes he was even startled to realize he had left Vietnam over thirty years ago:  it still seemed like just a couple of years had gone by.  Winkle had left to go work on another story about inauguration preparations, something else McGinty was having trouble wrapping his brain around every time he saw a photo of Obama.  No cure for Gulf War Syndrome.  He closed the report, wondering why Winkle had brought it to him.

A mile to the east, Golden Fawn was huddled under a Cherokee blanket, reading a newspaper near the space heater.  Marcos Vasquez's apartment still had heat, but his now had mold growing all over the bathroom and closet walls, so he was huddled in her apartment, too.  Her biopsy had been OK, but now she felt like her bosom was a volcano, and the only question was when the cancer would erupt again.  Her grandmother was begging her to leave Washington and come home, but home now felt like wherever Marcos was....And she loved her job at the National Museum of the American Indian....And then there was her responsibility to fight Ardua....And she had not yet figured out what to do about the real estate demon living at Southwest Plaza.  

Vasquez glanced over to see what she was reading--another article about the backlog of housing inspections at the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs.  He had already read it--how a bunch of uncertified inspectors were fired and had not been replaced yet.  He didn't understand how you had to have certified inspectors to see that heat was not working, or black mold was covering the walls, or an elevator had been broken for five  years.  The sex discrimination suit brought against his office had been settled out of court, and although he was angry that his name would forever be in that pile-up of innocent defendants, it was over, and his career at the Coast Guard was safe.  Or was it?  He still had these lingering suspicions that he was being spied on, though he had never found any hard proof--just enough to wonder if it was fair to ask Golden Fawn to become a Coast Guard wife.  But what would he do if he left the Coast Guard to stay here in Washington?  But enough was enough.  They had to get out of this building.  Would she move in with him if they went somewhere else?  His mother wouldn't approve.  Her grandmother wouldn't approve.  And he did want to marry her.  She looked up to see him gazing at her, and she smiled.  Ardua's mind games were starting to weaken against them, and the balance was shifting in their favor.

A few miles east, Sebastian L'Arche was on his computer trading emails with the anonymous veteran at howtobreakaterrorist@gmail.com.  Lucky Charm gave a little whimper to remind L'Arche that they had not had a proper walk yet today, but L'Arche was waiting for the biting wind to calm down, and only paused to scratch the Irish setter's head.  The anonymous former interrogator had claimed that his methods without torture had actually produced more results in Iraq, and had also claimed that foreign fighters had gone to Iraq for jihad precisely because of prisoner abuses at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo.  L'Arche couldn't believe that that there were still people who believed otherwise--or who claimed to believe otherwise; L'Arche was dismayed that this argument still needed to be made.  He glanced over at the abandoned doberman pinscher in the cage, remembering the caged Iraqis--always the last resort.  L'Arche got up to let him out for a supervised playdate with Lucky Charm, then walked over to the corner where an exhausted mother was suckling her mutt litter on a used dog bed he had received from one of his dogwalking clients.  The puppies would be the perfect weaning age to give them to the Obama girls after they moved into the White House.  He was going to scrutinize their personalities carefully to see if there were any suitable, and if there were, he would see if some of his politician clients could arrange a puppy meet-and-greet.  Not here in this dilapidated Southeast rowhouse, of course--somewhere else.  L'Arche decided the doberman was doing well socially, so he leashed the two dogs and headed out to start picking up his mid-day charges as a catbird settled into the windowsill to look intently at the litter of puppies.

"I already made my extra bonus," Bridezilla was crowing.  "I don't even have to bill another hour the rest of the year!"  She was announcing this over the phone to Wince, who had happened to call just after Laura Moreno had entered her office with the binders Bridezilla had requested. "We could take a really long Christmas vacation!"  Wince was patiently reminding her that he could not take any more time than his Supreme Court Justice was taking.  "Oh, Justice Prissy Face can do without you for a few extra days!  We can go skiing in Europe!"  Laura sat down in the guest chair, the three heavy binders perched in her lap, then regretted it as soon as Bridezilla reacted with a facial expression that suggested fear of leprosy or lice.  "We could elope!"  Bridezilla was as surprised as anybody to hear those three words come out of her mouth, and instantly regretted them, but Wince--who was not actually at his office but was, instead, watching a football game on Atticus Hawk's muted tv, was scarcely listening to her and did not register the last three words.  "Fine!"  Bridezilla slammed down the phone after getting the let's-talk-about-it-later comment.  "Is that the binders?"  Laura stood up to place them on Bridezilla's desk and explain the tabbing system, then made a quick exit.  She was on her way back to the Prince and Prowling workroom when Chloe Cleavage accosted her in the hallway.

"Did you take those binders out of my office?!"  Laura explained that Bridezilla had requested them.  "I don't care if Moses requested them!  You can't go into my office without permission!"  Well, if you had returned the binders to the workroom, I wouldn't have to.  "Don't do it again!"  The woman was positively livid.  Does she have marijuana growing in there?  What is her deal?  Laura walked dejectedly back to the workroom, knowing she would be receiving no bonus, knowing all her overtime pay could scarcely keep pace with her mounting medical bills--physical therapy, supplements, drugs, wrist gloves, ice packs, heat packs, vitamins, minerals, special sugars and salts.  But half a million people had lost their jobs in November, so she knew she had to be thankful.  (Ardua's favorite law firm had counter-cyclical strengths...and an attorney underclass to do the work and not cut into the profit margin.)

A couple miles to the west, Ardua was drinking in the chilled Potomac waters and the report from former Senator Evermore Breadman (via her spy network) on vulnerabilities in the incoming Presidential Administration.  There would be much work to do, but the sudden arrival of the Warrior--followed by the reappearance of the pink dolphins and the deaths of so many apostates--had inspired her to double her efforts.  She sensed the Secretary of Treasury passing above her on the Teddy Roosevelt bridge and reached up to give him a preternatural whack.

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