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, March 29, 2009

The Dogs of War

Sebastian L'Arche pulled back on the leash, and the collie/shepherd mix dutifully stood still.  She looked up at him anxiously, but he was looking at the high school kids playing marching-band drums in the bank parking lot near Eastern Market.  Not bad.  The dog didn't particularly care for the drums, and L'Arche sensed her uneasiness and looked down at her.  She had mucous coming out of her eyes, and though this often happened with dogs for physical reasons, L'Arche knew she was crying again.  He squatted down and cupped her face in his hands and told her it would be alright.  He stood back up and resumed walking her from her master's apartment to her mistress's apartment.  L'Arche was getting more and more of these assignments for shuttling pets back and forth in joint custody agreements worked out by exes who could not bare to have any contact with each other:  four days there, three days here, four days there, three days here.  He knew some of the dogs were on Prozac, but he didn't know how to tell the owners that if they really loved their dogs, they would make a choice.  

A few blocks away, Charles Wu was carrying a Ming Dynasty vase he had purchased for five dollars (five dollars!) at Eastern Market.  He knew he could resell it and make a killing on the internet, but he had enough cash in his bank accounts and not enough art in his apartment, so he was going to keep it for now.  It looked as if he might be in D.C. a lot longer than originally intended:  his espionage career had taken somewhat of a turn since the Presidential election, but both his Chinese and British clients were still happy with his services.  He waved to the Ethiopian driver he had called, then climbed into the back seat.  "Where to, Mr. Wu?"  Wu said that depended on how much the driver knew about arms shipments into Somalia.  "What year?"  Wu told him to start in 1993.  The driver nodded and headed for the tunnel into Virginia:  it was going to be a long ride, and a huge tip.  Much to Wu's dismay, he was finding it was no longer enough to be an expert on China, or even on Asia:  to get a good grip on American intelligence, he had to dig deeper into the regions that on the surface appeared to be of no security concern to the U.S. but, nonetheless, were linked to everything else.  The 1993 Battle of Mogadishu was the first major ground combat that American troops had seen since withdrawal from Vietnam.  Why?  "Well, it wasn't just Ethiopian arms, you know?"  Wu nodded and told the driver he wanted the whole story.  "Mostly it was Ethiopia in 1993, but now it's mostly Iran sending arms into Somalia."  Wu nodded again.  The driver got goosebumps as he crossed the bridge over the Potomac.  "Serbia in the early years, Syria later, a lot got smuggled in from European manufacturers too."  Wu asked how Somali warlords paid for all of that.  "Well...."

Across the river, the Heurich Society was meeting again to discuss the current status of the Ming Dung Plan.  "What have we really accomplished in Africa?"  The question came from Henry Samuelson, was not on the agenda, and came out of the blue.  "I mean, my God!  Why did we ever go in there?  Didn't the Europeans do a bad enough job?  What did we think we could do?"   The other members weren't sure if he was talking about the CIA or the Heurich Society or something else.  "Hell.  Hell on Earth!  Generations of children growing up in permanent war zones--Rwanda, Sudan, Eritrea, Somalia.  Enough firepower in the Horn of Africa to gun through three World War Ones combined.  Why?"  The Chair tapped his foot silently on the carpet, uncertain what to say.  "Why?"  Samuelson's tone was quieter now.  He looked one more time around the table, then picked up a jelly donut and started chewing quietly.  "Why not drop some more A-bombs and get it over with."  This last part was almost a whisper.  After a minute of silence, the Chair asked the Society to begin discussion of the U.S. Treasury.

"What is a class-action TOPA?" Marcos Vasquez asked his neighbor in the laundry room.  The neighbor explained that the District had a Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act, and it had been violated in their Southwest Plaza building before City Council closed the loophole used by slimy real estate developers.  "Meaning?"  The neighbor explained that they should have been allowed to purchase their apartments as condominiums, but instead the owner secretly sold it to somebody else.  "Is that really worth filing a lawsuit?  I mean, the place has turned into a slum--a warzone sometimes!  This is the last place I wanna buy."  His neighbor explained that it was the new owner that turned it into a slum, and apartments like these had been selling for over $250,000, and the residents could have purchased theirs for under $200,000 and then taken control of the building.  "What is this lawsuit going to do?"  Vasquez's neighbor explained that it would all depend on the judge.

Several miles to the north, Judge Sowell Lame had brought a few filings home to read over the weekend because he had goofed off most of the week surfing www.armenianbrides.com.  Hot!  He had tried Thai before, and the Russians, and even the Colombians, but he had a good feeling now about the Armenians.  The Thai marriage and divorce had, admittedly, been a big pain in the neck, but he just really felt now was the time, and that Armenian girls were surely the way to go.  But what's this?  It was a pop-up for www.somalibrides.com.  Young.  Very young!  Exotic.  And I can probably get one without even a real marriage--the country doesn't even exist anymore!  In the corner of Lame's den, the house ghost hovered in silence, livid at the thought of another African slave coming to this place to die.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Resolve

The Assistant Deputy Administrator for Hope had been hoping that he would have more weekends to himself now that the Bloodsucker was no longer Secretary of State, but somehow he found himself spending another Sunday back in the office.  His assignment was to track Iranian reaction to President Obama's startling Persian New Year's greeting to the people of Iran.  Unfortunately, most of the reaction was inside the U.S.  "He's a secret Muslim" was again popping up all over the internet, even though the holiday was actually of Zoroastrian origin.  The Administrator wasn't sure if Obama could be a secret socialist and a secret Muslim at the same time, but that did not stop the Chuck Norris militiamen of the country from plotting to rise up...any day now.  Even more unfortunate was Israel's bizarre greeting to the people of Iran reminding them that their children could not eat enriched uranium.  It was no surprise to the Administrator that Iranians were saying, "This is more of the same--the U.S. in cahoots with Israel to weaken our resolve."  But nobody had asked him his opinion for dealing with Iran, so he was just here to compile the report...and continue to deal with a girlfriend who was constantly disappointed that he was not bringing peace to the world.

Not far from the State Department, Perry Winkle was on his own quest:  together with a few teachers he had befriended while covering the "Metro" beat for The Washington Post, Winkle was leading the first of what they were calling Urban Guerrilla Field Trips.  Today's theme was "The Homeless of Washington, D.C."  The permission slip the kids' parents had filled out was a little misleading, and none of the kids had expected to be wearing rock-climbing equipment and crawling along the side of a drawbridge over the Potomac.  "Don't look down!" Winkle shouted again to Angela de la Paz, who was mesmerized by the sight of the shimmering water below her.  It took a lot of effort, but they finally reached the walkway leading to the bridgeman's quarters.  The teachers let the kids pause to drink from their water bottles, munch on granola bars, and look down at the river while Winkle went about detaching their cables.  A few minutes later, they were knocking on a dilapidated door, then a smiling Dubious McGinty proudly ushered them in.  The group could barely all fit inside, with some sitting on piles of newspapers and tables, but when they were ready, Dubious started showing them his electricity, running water, satellite TV, and files.  Angela was jealous of his satellite TV, and didn't even think the guy counted as homeless, but her jealousy turned to pity then fear when he started showing them his files on Ardua of the Potomac.  His mission to destroy the demon living in the Potomac made several of the children roll their eyes in ennui, and others to squirm uncomfortably in the presence of a total loony, but Angela had chills running up and down her spine and thought there might be more to it.  

An hour later, they were all climbing back to the D.C. access ramp.  Winkle had shouted to Angela over and over again to stop looking down, but she was obsessed with spotting the demon.  Instead, she saw pink dolphins frolicking, but nobody else saw them, and then she was confused because she didn't want the man hunting dolphins, but then she thought maybe she was as crazy as he was--because pink warblers were one thing, but pink dolphins in the Potomac was nuts.  Inside Angela's guts, her hepatitis-scarred liver went into overdrive against the toxins assaulting her, and she sat down to rest.  She was due for her bi-monthly liver function test in a week, and it had been barely normal since last summer, but she wasn't thinking about that--she was still thinking about Ardua.

A couple of miles to the east, Laura Moreno was in the Prince and Prowling workroom putting in some weekend hours to make up for time out of the office on another fruitless interview for a "real" job.  "The Braggart" was there, too, and today's theme was how his Writ to the Supreme Court of the United States had been rejected on the very same day the Justices had ruled on the case of Bush v. Gore.  Apparently this story was somehow supposed to convey that the only reason Skippy didn't get a hearing was because the Supreme Court was busy choosing the next President of the United States, or perhaps this story was supposed to convey that Skippy had shared some sort of judicial tragedy in the same league as Al Gore's--but Gore had gone on to win a Nobel Peace Prize,  while Skippy was currently making a living stamping selected pages of tax return files as CONFIDENTIAL.  It didn't matter that Moreno had her music headphones on:  Skippy just kept on talking about himself, hour after hour after hour.  The Braggart didn't understand that he had neither a past nor a future at Prince and Prowling.

Down the hallway, former Senator Evermore Breadman was fielding yet another phone call from a frantic AIG refugee trying to figure out how they could keep their severance bonus without (a) getting it taxed to death or (b) getting assassinated in a drive-by-shooting.  He already had four of them lined up to move themselves and their money to the Cayman Islands, but this one said he was too patriotic to do it.  Breadman rolled his eyes and took another swallow of Maaolox.  How can I explain to this moron that it's every man for himself in hard times like this?  He absent-mindedly fiddled with his sapphire cufflinks (he always dressed to the nines, even on weekends) and wondered why people were so inflexible, and why they thought getting rich should be easy, and didn't want to make any sacrifices.  I'm here on a Sunday afternoon for my clients!  I'm always making sacrifices, he thought to himself as the man droned on about his son's need to stay in Connecticut near his elite ice skating coach, and his daughter's need to train in Pennsylvania so that she would peak at the right time to win Olympic gold in gymnastics.  If Breadman had told his wife and children they were all moving to the Cayman Islands, they would have obeyed him without a word!  (At least, that's what he thought.)  "Alright, give it some thought and call me back tomorrow."  Breadman hung up the phone without waiting for a goodbye, eager to write another multi-million-dollar contract for yet another client to snatch up a chunk of Stimulus money.

Back at the drawbridge, the Warrior crouched on the embankment of the Virginia side watching the kids taking off their rock-climbing gear.  He wasn't interested in the peculiarity of the entire enterprise:  what he was interested in was Ardua's palpable fear of the girl...and the sudden appearance of the pink dolphins.  This was the second girl/woman he had seen that had an effect on Ardua, and he knew the spirit animals were a great sign.  He had been fighting these battles for hundreds of years, but this one was different:  he was not going to be able to defeat this demon alone.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly


The man is pimped out.

Now, Dizzy knew that all sorts of people were using that term for all sorts of things, but this was the real deal.  He slowly lowered his trumpet to get a better look at the dude, who was poured into black leather pants so tightly that he had to walk like John Wayne just to make forward progress down the sidewalk.  His leather jacket must have been too tight, also, because he seemed to have difficulty twisting from left to right, even though he seemed to have an earnest desire to take in a full view of Lafayette Park.  Dizzy leaned back and spit in the grass.  He hated pimps, and had beaten up a couple of them before his sister had gotten off the crack and moved to Indianapolis.  I guess even pimps wanna come and be White House tourists, but what kind of fool wears all leather on a rainy day?

The "pimp" was actually an undercover FBI agent, one of several detailed to downtown Washington to investigate recent intelligence about clandestine use of double-strollers.  The pimp costume was his own idea, and it was fooling everybody.  He slowly eased down into a park bench to take a closer look at a thirty-something couple who had paused to listen as Dizzy resumed playing the trumpet.  The agent talked softly into his mouthpiece, which looked like a cellphone accessory but was actually a microphone for the tape recorder in his right jacket pocket.  "Navy blue, possibly Danish manufacturer, rear baby alert and waving hands, front toddler turned around and making faces at baby through clear plastic panel, back pouch bulging with unknown materials."  He paused for a moment to size up the erstwhile parents.  "Two adults of Southeast Asian heritage, smiling and bobbing heads to street trumpeter's music, do not fit terror profile, could be hiding heroin but no probable cause."  He watched the family in silence for a few minutes more until he saw another double stroller and got up to follow it.  "Side-by-side red, possibly Italian manufacturer, two rear pockets bulging with unknown materials."  He paused until he got a little closer.  "Identical twins asleep, young parents of Northern European descent, possibly natural conception, do not fit terror profile."  He sighed, having a sinking feeling in his gut that the Iranian-born FBI agent with the tourist souvenir stand was going to find the Golden Ticket in a double-stroller on Capitol Hill.  

A few miles away, Golden Fawn was upstairs in Marcos Vasquez's apartment at Southwest Plaza.  Rather than move in together, the fiances had decided it best to keep both apartments for now since they never knew which one was going to have a problem.  This week, it was the leak that had opened up above Golden Fawn's toilet, requiring her to use an umbrella whenever she had business to attend to.  They had talked about moving out of Southwest Plaza altogether and buying a condo in the buyer's market, but Golden Fawn felt strongly that they could not do it until she had destroyed the real estate demon living under the building.  Vasquez had tried to convince her that she was not responsible for everything, but her dedication was one of the things that he loved about her, so he had not tried that hard.  He brought her another cup of tea as she listened on headphones to some newly recorded oral histories of the Seminole which she had copied in her office at the National Museum of the American Indian.  She was listening to explanations of shamanistic rituals and writing down notes about new ceremonies to try.  If Vasquez had ever told his mother about all this, she would have given them the perfect ritual to kill the real estate demon, but she didn't know she could talk to her scientific Coast Guard son about things like that.  Vasquez sat down beside Golden Fawn with Scientific American and a cup of coffee.  

A strange thump on the balcony made them both jump up with a start.  Vasquez ran over to pull the curtain, and they saw a man with a noose around his neck hanging from the upstairs balcony.  Vasquez fumbled with the lock on the balcony door and told Golden Fawn to grab a large knife from the kitchen.  Vasquez finally got out onto the balcony and reached over the railing to grab the twisting body and pull it up.  "Cut the rope!" he shouted at Golden Fawn, but she hesitated, not certain she was strong enough to saw through a rope.  Vasquez held the body with one arm and rested it on the top of his railing, then grabbed the knife out of her hand to slice the rope.  A few moments later, the man was laid out on the floor receiving CPR from Vasquez while Golden Fawn was dialing 911.

A few miles to the north, Charles Wu was seated at the basement bar of DC Bread and Brew ordering another Asian Bang Bang while C. Coe Phant told Wu about his midlife crisis.  "I'm not sure what I'm doing anymore."  By this he meant that he was uncertain if he wanted to keep giving away State Department secrets now that a new Administration was in place.  "She's not so bad."  By this he meant that Hillary Clinton had not yet roiled him as Secretary of State.  "I don't think she's evil or anything."  Evil?  Wu contemplated the word.  Had Phant spied on Rice because he thought she was evil?  He took a sip of his cocktail, not finding this a concept he was familiar with addressing.  His mind drifted back to a philosophy course he had taken at Oxford, and the week that had been devoted to the debate whether evil existed. 

"Look, mate," Wu started.  "Everybody makes mistakes, and she's a rookie there--she will probably make more mistakes this year than in the rest of her term."  Wu didn't actually believe that empirically, but it seemed a strong argument.  "All I'm saying is, if you think she's making a mistake that other people might want to know about, or do something about, just let me know."  Wu was getting besieged on the Chinese side for intelligence about U.S. foreign policy, but it was evolving too rapidly, and fluctuating wildly between pragmatism and ideology.  

"Take North Korea, for instance."  Wu paused as the bartender walked past them to the two crabby women softball players at the end of the bar who thought they had been stood up for their blind double date because the two men at the bar were too good looking and the two men playing darts were too ugly.  (The two men playing darts thought they had been stood up because nobody told them their dates would arrive in softball uniforms.)  "North Korea is planning to do a launch.  South Korea has commented on it, Japan has commented on it, but what about the U.S.?  The Americans don't seem fully engaged, but I know they are, so they are obviously holding their cards close to the chest."  Phant pointed out that China was being even more circumspect.  "But that's because China--", and Wu proceeded to tell Phant a big secret about China without actually informing Phant that it was a secret.  Wu took a larger swallow, calculating in his mind how long it would take this news to trickle up to Clinton...and trigger a reaction that would trickle back to Wu.  Phant actually thought North Korea was a big bore, but he would look very clever on Monday when he quietly dropped the China news on the Assistant Deputy Administrator for Anti-Fecklessness--or, rather, on the renamed Assistant Deputy Administrator for Hope.  "If the Chinese don't know what the Americans are doing, the Chinese might make a mistake of their own, if you know what I mean."  Phant did not know what that meant, but he nodded anyway.  Wu smiled and winked at one of the softball players, but she knew he could not possibly be her blind date, so she ignored him.

A couple of miles away, Ardua was listening to the starling reports on the newest Obama nominees--the ones she would have to attack with something  stronger than tax evasion scandals.  Then a catbird started telling Ardua about the militia cells uniting behind Chuck Norris to rise up in force if the federal government let them down.  Nearby, the pink dolphins frolicked without concern:  they knew that The Rock and Jean-Claude Van Damme were on their side.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Nine Men Out

Atticus Hawk was back in the office.  He had taken off all of Saturday to be with Jai Alai outside in the warm sunshine, but today he had to deal with them--the nine legal opinions the new White House staff had decided to release.  This time it was not his boss who had asked him to come in:  on the contrary, this time Hawk had brought himself to the office in to make sure he had covered his ass adequately.  Hawk had a nagging feeling that his boss was going to throw him under the bus, which was absurd because he was at too low a level in the Justice Department to be of interest to anybody.  But how far was it going to go?  The ACLU had recently won a lawsuit, CIA secrets were being spilled, the media was reporting on things it had never been able to report on in 2001--but it was really no longer a surprise that the Bush White House had interpreted the Constitution a little differently, was it?  He reread a line attributed to John Yoo:  "First Amendment speech and press rights may also be subordinated to the overriding need to wage war successfully."  Hawk remembered writing the line after a fruitless search through Roget's Thesaurus to find a word that sounded better than "subordinated".  And those were just the early days:  what he had really spent most of his time on was the torture research.  He couldn't believe that some of the Guantanamo prisoners which had dominated his legal career might end up incarcerated on Virginia soil a scant few miles from his own apartment.  And it was then that the perception first reached the conscious level of his mind:  he was not afraid of those prisoners, he was not afraid that suicide bombers would attack their legal proceedings, he was not afraid that dangerous people would be released.  The fear that was giving him nightmares was the fear of losing his job...losing his career.  He would have no money, and then Jai Alai would find out why he had lost his job, and then she would find out what he really did for a living....Or maybe she would never ask, maybe she would just tell him to move in with her, and he would do it, and then he would have to explain to all his friends and family that had never met her exactly who she was and why he was moving in with her.  Then he would lose control of everything, and his life would go somewhere he could not envision, and he was afraid.

A few miles to the west, the members of the Arlington group home for the mentally challenged were taking the field for an impromptu softball game against a nearby church youth group.  Social worker Hue Nguyen had accepted the invitation without even consulting staff psychologist Leo Schwartz because the winter had given her extreme cabin fever and she was thrilled to have an outing in which there would be so many other people "chaperoning".  The youth group team was backed by a large contingent of friends and family to cheer them on, and this was something that Nguyen had not considered, but her charges did not seem fazed that only a few of their relatives had shown up for the game, and the crowd seemed happy to cheer for anybody that hit or caught a ball.  The only problem was Theresa, who insisted on playing the game like kickball and kept throwing the ball directly at runners--which was rather painful on occasion.  No amount of reasoning could get her to stop doing this because she actually believed the softball was an extraterrestrial crystal only disguised as a softball so that the crystal could force the pea-demons to be disrupted from the pea-brains.  It was an important mission, and the aliens had told her that she was the only one they could trust with it.  Nguyen decided that they had better move Theresa to catcher, but when Theresa started poking a batter's head with the ball instead of throwing the ball back to the pitcher, the youth group pastor decided to take things into his own hands--literally.  He marched up to Theresa, pulled the ball out of her hand, tossed it aside, placed both his hands on Theresa's head, and commanded the demon to release the woman.  The surprised demon (Taragoul) could no longer breathe, and fled Theresa back into the ether.  Within a few days, Dr. Schwartz would deem Theresa's schizophrenia fully controlled by medication, and instruct Nguyen to start the process of preparing Theresa for release; simultaneously, Larry's manic-depressive episodes would increase to a point where Dr. Schwartz began to suspect a multiple personality disorder, and the reason was that Taragoul had only floated in the ether for a couple of hours before settling into Larry when he was inconsolably depressed about striking out with the bases loaded.

A few miles to the east, the Prince and Prowling sweatshop again had a sufficient quantity of oxygen after the purge of nine attorneys.  One woman had been fired for taking a day off to attend to her child's appendicitis operation.  Two had been fired for resisting Chloe Cleavage's romantic advances.  Three women had been fired for being prettier than Chloe Cleavage.  One man had been fired for only billing fifty-five hours per week.  One ugly man had been fired for hitting on Chloe Cleavage.  Two others had been fired by accident, but since one of them had been out for a three-hour lunch at the time, he was able to be reinstated.  Today, Chloe announced that everybody was getting reassigned a different seat, so the remaining forty-one attorneys collected their belongings and played musical chairs for a half-hour in some type of drone-test to see how obedient they could be for no apparent reason whatsoever.  Half of the attorneys then spent an additional twenty minutes wiping down their new workstations with ammonia, bleach, or alcohol-based cleaners, successfully killing thousands of viruses and crumb-fed bacteria but simultaneously infusing the air with carcinogenic particulates that settled deep into their lungs.  In the end, Chloe had moved the remaining good-looking men to the front with the ugliest women, and the good-looking women to the back with the ugliest men--not that anybody understood that pattern except Laura Moreno, who had seen it a few times before.  The two men who spent their days looking at girly pictures online were still there, as were the four German reviewers who had conspired to take five times as much time as needed to code their documents because they did not want to be moved to English documents at the lower pay rate--in addition to the woman who did five crossword puzzles per day, the man who spent several hours per day shopping online, the three attorneys who spent most of their days on Facebook, and the five attorneys that were on their cellphones text-messaging all day long.

Laura quickly dropped off some new binders for Chloe, then exited the fume-filled sweatshop to return to the workroom and listen to more of Skippy's incessant bragging about his children--how he had home-schooled them, and they all attended ivy-league schools, and they adored him, and he was always giving them money because that's what parents are for, and how he would stand in line to get them concert tickets and take them to see their favorite bands over and over and over again, and how he had a special credit card just to buy them clothes and had wracked up over $20,000 on it last year, and the reasons he had given them all names from Greek mythology.  The funny thing was that The Braggart had laughingly told Laura he was "always the first fired" when these projects pared back, but here he still was.  Skippy took a big breath to resume talking the minute he saw Moreno step back into the workroom, and her heart sank.

A couple of miles away, nine members of the Heurich Society were eating donuts in the upstairs meeting room of the Brewmeister's Castle while Henry Samuelson was expounding on the damage done to the CIA by the media reports on a hundred torture tapes destroyed.  They had heard most of this before:  "In my day, we didn't videotape interrogations, for God's sake!  It's supposed to be a clandestine service!  And there are better ways to get information."  Samuelson's long-standing belief that the CIA controlled most of the power centers of the world was shaken, but he didn't like admitting it.  The meeting Chair tried to move the discussion to the next agenda item--Hillary Clinton's shake-up of NATO--but Samuelson said it was "unimportant" and pounded his fist on the table, causing more than a couple of donuts to shed some powdered sugar.  The Chair indicated more forcefully that they needed to move on to discuss NATO--indeed, that Condoleezza Rice would soon be joining them by conference call to discuss NATO and the restructuring of Afghanistan operations.  Samuelson settled back into his chair, annoyed; he was glad the Bloodsucker had moved back to California and the group was again a men's group.  He picked up his crueller and took a small bite, knowing he needed to make it last until Rice hung up.

Outside the open window, a catbird began choking on powdered sugar in the air and flew away.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Fuzzies and Pricklies

The Beaver was talking to Ardua about the stimulus plan and the looming federal deficit, but it was going over Ardua's head.  Ardua didn't understand economics or finance or priming the pump or fiscal policy--she only knew that humanity's abstract concept of "money" could drive them to do seriously evil acts.  "Money" made humans turn against each other like vicious barbarians--though often disguising their savagery with tailored suits, meticulous grooming, fineprint, and something they called "PowerPoint".  Ardua sighed and asked The Beaver to get to the point. The Beaver told Ardua that humans were losing hope; then he swam away to attempt another dam over at Roosevelt Island because he was never going to get a mate unless he succeeded in piling up those logs.  The Beaver hesitated for a moment as the Coast Guard helicopter passed overhead, then started chewing wood.

A mile away, the White House butler was feeling the calm before the storm.  The snow was coming, and she knew that Regina and Ferguson would want to be outside all day on Monday playing in it.  Clio was tired just thinking about it.  Always a handful, the twins had a new energy since meeting the Obama girls, and Clio was trying to tap into it in a character-building way.  She picked up a stack of children's books that the First Lady had given her, flipped through it, and chose something called The Original Warm Fuzzy Tale, by Claude Steiner.  "Reggie, Fergie!"  She summoned them away from the unmistakable sound of jumping up and down on their beds to the rhythm of the Jonas Brothers, and they reluctantly crawled up on each side of her on the couch.  The story was about a land where people gave each other Warm Fuzzies freely, and everybody was happy, until one day a witch told them a lie that there would be a shortage of Warm Fuzzies if people kept handing them out; so everybody started hoarding them, but hoarding them turned them into Cold Pricklies.  When Clio got to the end of the story, she thought it was the best story she had ever read and asked the twins what they thought of it.  They argued with each other in their secret twin language, and a White House ghost whispered to them that the story was a stupid story for babies, and the twins finally decided to tell their mother (in their limited pre-school English) that it was alright.  She wondered why they always had to consult one another before speaking to her.  She was starting to wonder if it was normal for a mother never to have any interaction with one twin at a time.  She pulled them both closer and picked up another book from the stack.

Several miles north, Calico Johnson glanced at his cursed Rolex, then sat down to count his receipts from the day before:  312 people times $195 equaled $60,840.  Ha!  He had just grossed over sixty grand doing a two-hour seminar on how to get rich by buying foreclosed properties.  Buy low and sell high!  (He couldn't believe people paid money to learn that.)  To give himself credit, he did compile for them a handy list of websites to find foreclosure listings (like HUD and the Veterans' Administration), and a few details about cash requirements, but mostly he was just giving them permission to overcome their nerves (or conscience!) and take advantage of the situation.  Take advantage of the situation!  He could almost hear his own voice booming out again in the auditorium of the foreclosed playhouse he had just purchased two months earlier.  Stocks and bonds and intellectual property were for other people--Calico believed in real estate.  A hundred feet below him, the real estate demon living under his porch rolled over lazily, growing fat with so little effort.

Several miles to the south, drag queen Gachita Imperial pulled his fur coat closer around him as he turned the P Street corner and headed to Apex to debut his new Paula Abdul medley act.  His dream of owning his own theater had imploded quietly a couple of months ago, and now he was back on the chain gang, so to speak.  He stopped, turned around, and doubled back to Soho Cafe for a quick lager before entering Apex.  (He didn't like to be seen drinking beer in the club--too unsophisticated for his image.)  He impulsively wolfed down a chocolate bobka, too--momentarily jettisoning his strict macrobiotic regimen.  He stared across the street at the Fireplace, the scene of many of his happiest and unhappiest memories.  ("Cold-Hearted Snake....")  He decided to go outside for a smoke, but then remembered he had quit.  He missed the guy from Iowa.  He got up and headed back out with only a momentary glimpse at the gray sky above before heading into the windowless world which was Apex.

A few miles to the east, Laura Moreno was hunkered down at Prince and Prowling, trying to get in some hours before the snow came and left her at home with an unpaid snowday.  The Braggart had come in for the same reason, though Skippy was one of those attorneys who felt he should be paid just for showing up.  Today The Braggart had already told Moreno (against her will) about how he spoke four foreign languages, had once been a college professor for three years ("they hated people from Texas" was apparently the explanation for why he did not get tenure there), and had once worked as a law firm associate for two years ("they refused to give me a good recommendation to other employers" was an apparent indication that he had not made partner track)--which begged the question, what are you doing here redacting social security numbers for a living?  Then Skippy launched into how unfair it was that he made no overtime pay the first week at Prince and Prowling because his agency ended the workweek on Saturday instead of Sunday (like the other agency staffing the project), and how he had asked Prince and Prowling to fix the pay differential, and had casually mentioned to Prince and Prowling a discrimination lawsuit he had filed against his previous law firm.  Skippy told Moreno, "I made law in the state of Maryland," and "I changed the way law firms do business".  Moreno had on her music headphones, but this was no deterrent to The Braggart, and her headphones were no match for Skippy's diarrhea of the mouth.  She re-read her document for the tenth time, hoping desperately to do something with it before the hour was up so Chloe Cleavage would actually believe that Moreno had come in on Sunday to work.

A couple of miles to the west, Dubious McGinty was doing some last-minute repairs to the bridgeman's quarters above the Potomac.  He had not seen a big snow in a long time, and he was worried his electrical line might go out.  Damned birds.  He always blamed the starlings for snow, figuring they were trying to force the ducks to fly south for the winter.  And he saw no ducks on the river right now--almost all of them had now fled Ardua to live shamelessly on city park handouts like pigeons.  The dignity is a dead thing.  He shut himself in, put away the duck tape, and sat down to eat some pizza slices he had found in a Georgetown garbage can in front of the glow of the TV.