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 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.

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