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, April 26, 2009

By the People...For the People

"It's the male trees."  Spring was in full bloom at the National Arboretum, and Dr. Devi Rajatala was explaining to the kids what spring hay fever was all about.  "The male trees are the ones that release pollen, and it flies through the air and gets into your noses, and that makes some people sneeze."  This was punctuated by a couple more sneezes as the kids tended to seedlings in the Friendship Garden.  "You probably sneeze more on the city streets because the government plants more male trees than female trees--they think the female trees are messier because the female trees drop seeds all over the place.  But birds can eat the seeds--birds cannot eat pollen."  A couple of twelve-year-old boys started getting suspicious that this was some type of feminist manifesto disguised as a tree talk.  Girls are better than boys, women are better than men, female trees are better than male trees.  "Things need to be in balance--remember that."  When Dr. Raj first started working with the kids, she never knew what to say to them; this year, she had a lot to say.

Several miles to the north, Liv Cigemeier was staring at the computer monitor in awe as her husband put the finishing touches on a FOIA request for her.  It was a long time since they had really worked on a project of any sort together, but neither one commented on that.  They smiled a lot--it felt good.  So many people had thought she had really scored by marrying a lawyer, but aside from the fact that he wrote their will and did their tax returns, mostly it just meant he came home late almost every night from Prince and Prowling.  When Attorney General Eric Holder had announced a month ago that the Ashcroft doctrine on defending federal agency refusals on FOIA requests was rescinded, the young associate had brought this to Liv's attention with the simple words "now you can find out".  What he was referring to was why the contract for International Development Machine to build and run ten new schools in Afghanistan had been abruptly cancelled in December...and whether the rumors were true that the Agency for International Development money had been transferred to an "emergency stabilization" project run by a Republican "democracy-building" agency.  He hit the print button, gave her a kiss, and said, "The people are taking back the government!"

"Why do people need to know everything I do?"  Mayor Fenty was in his h0me office shredding superfluous documents from his most recent trip abroad, his desk phone set to speaker mode.  "So what if I went to Beijing?  It wasn't taxpayer money!  So what if I went to Dubai?  It wasn't taxpayer money!"  That's the point, sir--people want to know who's paying for your trips.  "I've got money!  My wife has money!"  With all due respect sir, everybody knows you don't have that kind of money.  "I haven't broken any laws!"  Sir, the appearance of impropriety is just as dangerous as impropriety:  in public life, you are guilty until proven innocent.  "Stop calling me 'sir'!  I hate that."  Silence ensued.  Fenty loved being the people's mayor, loved showing up at events all over the city, loved hearing people clap for him, loved seeing women rush up to hug and kiss him.  Now he was frowning.  "Find out who these people are that keep asking these dumb questions!  They probably don't even live in the District!"  Sir, er, Mr. Mayor--  "Don't call me 'Mr. Mayor'!  Who am I--Ronald McDonald now?  Mayor McCheese?"  Umm, Adrian, a lot of people are starting to ask questions about the trips...and other things.  People think you've grown a little...arrogant."  "Arrogant?!"  Fenty stood up and glared at the speaker phone.  "I haven't done anything wrong!"  Then he ended the call.

A few miles to the south, Henry Samuelson was seated in the upstairs conference room of the Brewmaster's Castle, reporting to the Heurich Society on Operation Fenty.  As one of the more senior members of the society, Samuelson rarely met with absolute refusal to his proposals, but he knew there was not a lot of support for Operation Fenty.  His report was brief, and nobody asked any questions.  Irritated, he decided to go off-topic and add, "The Secretary of State is up to something."  Hillary?  "Yes!  Clinton!"  He told them a few pieces of intelligence on some mysterious activity which were just vague enough to assure a couple more members that Samuelson was really starting to lose his marbles.  Again, nobody asked any questions, and Samuelson sat down and returned to his doughnut.

Further south, Golden Fawn and Marcos Vasquez were compiling a list of possibly missing bank statements and other sensitive items after finding out that somebody had broken into the mailroom at Southwest Plaza.  The U.S. Postal Service had never bothered telling anybody in the building that the mailroom had been burglarized three times in early April, nor had the building management company felt an obligation to inform the tenants;  the whole thing had only been discovered by accident and publicized by the same tenant association which had filed the class action TOPA lawsuit.  "Somebody must have stolen the Easter basket my mom shipped from Puerto Rico," Vasquez said.  How much self-pity do you have to have before you steal other people's Easter presents, thought Golden Fawn.  "And my Visa statement didn't come--I better call them."  He walked over to his deskphone.  Golden Fawn had never lived anywhere with so many stupid problems--not even that reservation in Oklahoma.  After Vasquez finished the call, Golden Fawn said it was time to return to the parking garage to work on the real estate demon.  Vasquez let out a large sigh.  "Maybe this time it's just the stupid Postal Service and the stupid management company."  She raised his eyebrows at him.  "I know there's a demon there, but we can't blame it for everything," he said.  All the more reason to get rid of it--so we can deal with what's left, she thought to herself.  She told him he could sit this one out, but he shook his head.  "I'll go with you, but first you need to eat something."  He walked into her kitchen (which he knew better than his own) and started making her some lunch.

A couple of miles away, President Obama was on the phone with a Cabinet Secretary instructing him on a new policy to implement.  The Secretary, caught off guard, asked Obama who had suggested the new policy.  "A little bird told me!" the President joked, then hung up.  He jotted a note to himself about the phone call, then noticed a starling sitting on the sill outside his window.  He suddenly realized he could not remember where the policy idea had come from...but people were sending him ideas all the time, lots and lots and lots of ideas.  He got up to go outside for a smoke, and the starling flew off to report back to Ardua of the Potomac.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Dreams and Visions

Charles Wu exited the Brazilian Army Commission with a purchase order for former Senator Evermore Breadman's spyplane manufacturing client and pages of coded notes on current American activity in Latin America.  Russian military deals with Venezuela and Chinese investments in the Southern Cone had not gone unanswered by the CIA or the White House, and Wu was again expanding his geographic expertise far beyond the Hong Kong intrigue that had begun his career.  He walked up to the Steak 'n Egg Kitchen, sat down at the counter, ordered a malt waffle, re-read his notes on the "War on Drugs", and waited for "C. Coe Phant" to arrive from the Tenleytown Metro station.  "O globalista" was what the Brazilian intelligence officer had called Obama, but internationalism and naivete were not considered mutually exclusive by Latin America's ascending powerhouse.

Several miles to the east, Atticus Hawk was at his girlfriend's home seated on the edge of the couch, bouncing a small rubber ball repeatedly off the wooden paddle tethered to it.  For some reason this did not bother Jai Alai's son, whose eyes were glued to a baseball game on tv.  They had been dating a long time, and it was a rare thing for Alai to be able to spend a whole weekend with workaholic Hawk, but she could see the tension in his rapid wrist movements and the way he blankly stared at the paddle in front of him.  She got up wordlessly to check on dinner; she was thinking it was high time he started telling her about his job because those secrets were gonna kill him.  The secret he was thinking was "not off my hard drive, not off my hard drive, not off my hard drive", like a mantra to soothe himself.  He was thinking of the publicly released Bybee memo that had informed the CIA that the Justice Department would not call it illegal torture if the CIA interrogators were to water-board their detainees, or lock them in small chambers with insects, or inflict a whole litany of pain and fear during the course of the CIA's investigations.  Not from my files, not from my files, not from my files.  Finally, after all those years, the Justice Department's torture expert was glad that higher-ups had taken credit for all his research memos, and that the name "Atticus Hawk" had appeared on nothing released by the Obama Administration.  But the renditions, the renditions, the renditions.  He bounced the ball methodically, knowing that civil lawsuits would be a far different matter with low burdens of proof.  Spain may have decided not to prosecute, but there were rabid lawyers all over the place getting ready to pounce:  I know it.  His girlfriend handed him a cold beer as she returned from the kitchen; he took it in his left hand and continued paddling with his right.  Alai smiled at him for a moment, glad he was a good man who paddled a ball instead of children, hopeful her son would not suffer the fate her daughter had.

A few miles to the south, Henry Samuelson was also on the edge of a couch--Dr. Ermann Esse's couch.  The psychiatrist had never seen a patient who did not know how to relax on the couch, but Samuelson was lying close to the edge.  Dr. Esse was certain that Samuelson had a fear of being smothered by the cushions, but he was saving that for a discussion much later in treatment.  "It's the same dream, every night, and then I wake up, then I go back to sleep and dream it again."  Dr. Esse was not convinced this was an authentic childhood memory, but Samuelson insisted it was.  "It's my earliest memory.  My older brothers are climbing across a rickety rope bridge above a river.  Then they come back, then they dare me to do it.  I walk really close to the bridge, but it's so rickety--I'm just too scared to get on it.  The river's not even that wide, but it looks deep and fast, and I don't like the look of the bridge at all."  Dr. Esse asked if Samuelson had other memories of distrusting his older brothers.  "What do you mean?!"  Samuelson was angry.  "I didn't distrust them!  I just thought that bridge wasn't gonna last much longer--it was only a matter of time!"  Dr. Esse asked if Samuelson thought the youngest brother should be the one to determine that, or the older ones.  Samuelson's eyes narrowed:  he felt he was being tricked.  "I just wanna know why I'm dreaming about this now!  I'm not afraid of rope bridges anymore!  I once walked across a laundry line to get from one roof to another in Beirut.  I scaled a six-story building in Moscow using the drainpipe!"  Dr. Esse did not bat an eyelash--having heard these types of exclamations from all sorts of terrified patients lying on his downtown Washington shrink couch; Dr. Esse reminded him about the house-purchase trip to Kansas and asked Samuelson what he thought was the reason for the recurring bridge dream.  "I'm getting ready for anything!" declared Samuelson.  "I have no reason to be afraid!"  Dr. Esse--who refused to use psychiatric medicine--began pondering if it would be entirely unethical to try to hypnotize Samuelson after a couple of martinis.

Why did they get a water dog?  Sebastian L'Arche had not believed it when the friend of a friend of a client had called him up out of the blue to say the White House needed a dog whisperer.  L'Arche was an Iraqi veteran, and it was simply presumed that a security clearance would be no trouble for him.  Two psychiatric interviews later, L'Arche--notwithstanding his mental breakdown in Iraq--was seated on the floor of a White House rumpus room, staring into the troubled eyes of "Bo", the Obama's new puppy.  He knew the Kennedys (and the Obamas) had believed that the six-month-old Portuguese water dog had been thoroughly trained before placement with his new family, but L'Arche had seen this look before and knew what it was--Ardua.  In fact, it was more than Ardua.  Certainly Bo's sudden hatred of baths was because White House water came from the Potomac, but Bo had other issues.  "You can tell me," L'Arche whispered to Bo.  L'Arche had seen very little of the White House on the way in.  It had certainly not occurred to White House butler Clio that this man in surplus army fatigues and dirty sneakers was looking for a tour of 18th century furniture or 19th century artwork; L'Arche, for his part, had guessed he would be put in a basement or backyard area.  L'Arche had met no Obamas at all, though he had a feeling he was being watched on closed-circuit tv.  "You can tell me," L'Arche whispered again, even softer. Bo moved forward to nuzzle L'Arche, and L'Arche put his arms around him.  Then Bo whimpered into L'Arche's ear that he didn't like the White House ghosts.

Back in Tenleytown, C. Coe Phant finally sat down next to Charles Wu.  Phant ordered a Paul Bunyan, then whispered, "I've got an IN for you with Hillary."  Wu raised his eyebrows in genuine suspense.  "She's looking for help with Project RODHAM, and I told her I had a Chinese contact that might be able to help."  Wu didn't appreciate having his services volunteered for a mystery assignment, but he nodded encouragingly and asked what Project RODHAM was.  Phant re-checked their safe-to-talk perimeter.  "Reserve Officers Deployed to Hunt Armed Misogynists."  He drank some coffee and waited for that to sink in with Wu, who looked baffled, then he repeated it.  "Reserve Officers Deployed to Hunt Armed Misogynists."  Wu sipped his tea, then asked as diplomatically as he could if it was possible that Clinton was testing Phant with a red herring.  "Oh, no!  This project is well underway!  But we don't have everything we need."  Wu asked if they were looking for money for a clandestine mission.  "Oh, no!  This is no mission--this is an entire program!  And she's got several wealthy donors involved already, as well as the reserve officers--we're using the term "officers' loosely, of course.  They'll all have diplomatic passports, though that's no guarantee of safety in this day and age."  Wu sipped some more tea, now wondering if he was being tested with a red herring.  "We already have a small force in Mexico, a small force in Saudi Arabia, and large forces preparing to deploy in the Horn of Africa.  We're ready to deploy our largest force of all in Afghanistan."  Phant looked around again to check their speaking perimeter.  "She wants to base them in western China."

Wu knew that the Chinese border with Afghanistan was very small, and far from the horror zone of misogyny in southwestern Afghanistan, so he logically asked, "Why China?"  "Where else?" was Phant's reply.  (Phant thought it was obvious that Afghanistan had no other bordering countries appropriate for the program.)  "Even if I could get you a base, they'd still have to get into the country, go through the mountains, infiltrate Kandihar--and in case you haven't noticed, the Afghans are winning in those mountains."  Phant had been prepared for this argument and assured Wu that this force would enter completely undercover, would facially pass for ethnic Afghans or Pakistanis, would be traveling with their own "wives" undercover in burqas hiding AK47s and specialized weapons that Phant was not at liberty to divulge at the moment, and would be bringing a fanatical determination to kill armed misogynists.  "And by that you mean?"  Phant said that Clinton wanted the next You Tube video of men beating up an Afghan woman to end with all the men getting the living daylights beaten out of them.  "She's had it," Phant said quietly.  "She's decided diplomacy doesn't always work?" Wu asked.  Phant nodded and added that the forces would also set up an underground railroad to smuggle women refugees over the border to the safe haven in China.  "You want to smuggle oppressed women who are probably terrified of men into a country where so many female fetuses were aborted in the past twenty years that there are now 32 million more males than females under the age of twenty?  Look, some people think that Chinese men are going to start kidnapping women and locking them up!"  Phant shook his head "no" and pleaded with Wu.  "I know you love women.  I know you can make this happen."  "I don't even know anybody in western China!"  Phant shook his head "no" again.  "You know people who know people.  All we need is a base and no questions asked when we enter and exit the country."  Wu drummed his fingers on the countertop.  This was a moral crusade, and once you went down that road, God help you....But it also meant a big IN with Hillary--really big.  "I'll see what I can do."  To some, this would have sounded extremely noncommittal, but Phant smiled broadly and patted Wu on the back.  Outside the diner, a flock of starlings flew off to report back to Ardua.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Heartland

Button Samuelson was Tweeting as she waited outside the red brick church for her client.  If her father knew she was showing a client a house today, he would flip out, but he was visiting his sister for Easter--a trip that Button had begged off with vague comments about hay fever, sinus headaches, and a promise that they would have their own Easter dinner next week.  She had already had champagne brunch with Calico Johnson downtown, and her Easter was done.  She was a little surprised that three different clients wanted to look at homes today:  sometimes she forgot how many transplants lived here with no family and spent all their time networking instead of making friends.  She heard a swelling of music and knew the service was coming to a close.  She watched the beggars start lining up on the brick sidewalk waiting for Easter charity.

Damned Justice Prissy-face
.  Across the Potomac, Bridezilla was in a rather uncharitable mood despite her new Easter dress and the diamond cross necklace Wince had left in her Easter basket.  She knew her mother would be horrified at the sight of a diamond cross necklace, so Bridezilla was going to have to "forget" it in the rush to hit the road downstate.  No relaxing Easter weekend surrounded by blooming dogwood and redbud trees, walking the dogs through the countryside with her dad--no, just her going to church by herself, then packing the car with cupcakes and tulip bunches when Wince was finally done with his stupid Supreme Court memo for Justice Prissy Face.  The relatives would again be asking if they had set a date, and it would be unbearable.  She was getting dangerously close to 30, and in southern Virginia she could be engaged and an old maid at the same time.  She gave Wince a saccharin smile as he slid into the driver's seat for the long drive, brief Easter dinner, and long drive back.

A couple of miles away, Easter brunch was well underway at the Arlington group home for the mentally challenged.  About a dozen relatives had come to spend the day with the residents, and no catastrophes yet.  The key was to keep Buckner out of the kitchen, because he was the one constantly inventing new rules--like all dishes needed to be dried and put away, not left out to drip (because the dripping water attracted amoebas that invade your brain), and no food could be left on the counters (because the aliens would inject it with poison), and no beverages could be consumed unless they had first been frozen and then thawed out (he could not remember the reason for that, but somebody had told him to do that, and he was certain he remembered it was important).  Buckner was gamely employed in showing his nephews his skill at catching tossed jelly beans in his mouth, Melinda and Theresa were setting up a panorama using Peeps and a children's comic book as a guide, and Larry was calmly consuming a box of chocolate bunny ears (only ears) from his mother (who still had vivid memories of him perenially biting the ears off everybody else's bunnies).  Only Cedric was sitting apart, troubled by the news that the trustee had sold off his Kansas estate, and for far less than it was worth.  To the trustee, it was a simple old farmhouse full of junky furniture on a few remnant acres of salinated land:  he had never told the trustee about the secret underground bunker.  (At least, that's what he thought, but he had told the trustee about it and the trustee had not believed it.)  He needed help to get it back.  Condoleezza owes me a favor.  His resolute but twisted grin disturbed social worker Hue Nguyen as she walked towards him with a tray of lemonade cups.  He picked one up without moving his eyes, which were staring blankly into space--due west.

A couple miles south, an airport employee posted the ETA for a non-stop flight out of Kansas to National Airport.  In a few hours, Henry Samuelson would land with a deed to Cedric's old house in Kansas; Samuelson knew all about the bunker, and would be returning there soon to add some more provisions of his own.  

Not far from the airport, the Warrior paddled a canoe lazily on the river, but his thoughts were anything but.  He watched a pleasure craft speed past him (carrying Calico Johnson and his afternoon date, Chloe Cleavage), then a few kayaks with an extended family heading for an Easter picnic on sunny (but chilly) Roosevelt Island.  It was a beautiful spring day in Washington, but the Warrior knew the calm would not last for long.  Underneath him, the pink dolphins prepared to surface.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Mischief

Henry Samuelson sat on the roofdeck finishing the Washington Post article about North Korea's (Chinese-aided) missile launch.  He tapped his foot nervously, frustrated that the CIA's Asians-only policy had prevented his shot at The Reclusive Kingdom.  Damned Chinese.  Sometimes he felt he was the only one that truly recognized the Chinese threat.  They're too big to let fail.  He snickered at his own clever pun.  He folded up the newspaper and closed his eyes against the bright sunlight.  The Chinese get away with everything.  He had tailed Charles Wu diligently during the days leading up to and after the launch, but had gained nothing.  Wu went to see the cherry blossoms Friday afternoon, Wu went to some pinko/Hippie Eco Cafe at the University of the District of Columbia and played ping pong with a Ghanaian named Trevor, Wu attended a techno music event sponsored by the French embassy which required Samuelson to stuff very tight wads of toilet paper into his ears, Wu took a young French-Canadian woman home to her apartment then exited her apartment building at 1:30 am Saturday morning, Wu re-emerged from his own apartment building at 11 am Saturday morning to go jogging in Rock Creek Park and did not return to his apartment building until 4 pm (Samuelson knew he had screwed up that one), Wu went out Saturday evening to dine in Adams Morgan then went to a clandestine casino in Petworth, Wu returned to his apartment building at 1 am Sunday morning--and then Samuelson gave up for the timebeing.  Samuelson didn't know that Wu and "Trevor" had been talking in code for the entire ping pong match, nor that Wu had left a written message about the recently outed Chinese malware in a copy of Wealth of Nations on the lounge bookshelf, nor that Wu had picked up a written message about China's currency plans in an old dictionary on the lounge bookshelf, nor that Wu had met with C. Coe Phant during his long jog, nor that the clandestine casino's wagers were all in secrets rather than currency.  Samuelson had been suspicious about the "French-Canadian", but she actually was French-Canadian, and meant nothing to Wu.  Samuelson was starting to worry that the CIA might have been right to force him into retirement:  maybe he was losing his touch.

A few miles to the south, White House butler Clio had just put away the twins' Sunday church outfits, desperately hoping some goodness had seeped into them.  The pre-schoolers had spent the entire week trying to tempt the temporarily parentless Obama girls into all kinds of mischief--rolling cantaloupes down the bowling lanes, filling the swimming pool with sailboats crudely fashioned from old Bush stationery, stealing cookies from the kitchen, planting marijuana seeds in the new White House vegetable garden, and sneaking up on the roof to shoot rubber bands at the snipers.  It was this last act that had really made the shit hit the fan, and Clio had gotten the sternest warning ever about the behavior of Ferguson and Regina.  She still had her job and her home--thanks to the promise that had been made after the twins were born in the White House during a security lockdown--but they were really pushing it.  Since the twins did most of their talking in their secret twin language, the Obama girls had followed them around more out of curiosity than allegiance, but their grandmother was not pleased when she realized that she had been taken advantage of.  "Fergie, Reggie!"  Clio was determined to keep them away from the Obama girls the rest of the weekend to give their grandmother a respite.  "Let's go!"  The girls finished tying their shoes, and they set off to see the cherry blossoms.

A couple of blocks away, former Senator Evermore Breadman was on the phone with former Justice Department lawyer Jay S. Bybee discussing the criminal investigation of him underway in Spain.  "Look, it really doesn't matter as long as you stay out of Europe."  ("Stay out of Europe!?  The rest of my life?")  "Well, why would you want to go there anyway?  There are more terrorists there than here.  If you want to go away, visit Canada or Hawaii."  Breadman fingered his Prince and Prowling mug absent-mindedly, knowing he would never make money off of this consultation.  ("They always blame the politicos, but those staff attorneys did the real research on torture at Guantanamo!  We relied on them!")  Bybee was referring to Atticus Hawk's boss, but Breadman was yawning.  They hadn't been interested in his advice on Guantanamo then, and he didn't have much sympathy for them now.  "It could be worse--wait until the prosecutions and lawsuits start piling up for the kidnappings and wrongful deaths."  ("What?!  The renditions?!  That was the CIA--that had nothing to do with us!")  "That's what I'm saying--it could be worse.  This is just a little human rights group blowing off some steam.  It's of no consequence."  He finally got off the phone and swallowed down his now-cold herbal tea, but his possessed intestines continued their low-pitch groaning.

Not far away, Laura Moreno was in the workroom re-translating the gibberish that the Spanish-to-English translator software had converted the Puerto Rican uploads into.  Party A lusting to establish a charitable remainder trust....  Laura changed it to "wishing".  Party B agreeing to plow a trust account....  Laura changed it to "open".  Laura abruptly switched her computer screen as The Braggart walked in, not wanting to hear again how Skippy knew half a dozen foreign languages.  Laura had been at Prince and Prowling for years, and this was the first chance she had gotten to show them she had hidden talents.  Skippy sat down and pumped Purell into his hands from the bottle he had labeled in large letters "Skippy" and complained that nobody had told him about the new policy requiring contractors to request taxi vouchers on a daily basis, and that only security guards were now authorized to bring taxi vouchers to contractors, and how ridiculous this was, and how he had been forced to use cash for his taxi ride home on Saturday and get a receipt from the driver.  Skippy continued complaining about this for half an hour, all the while rubbing the Purell into his hands and doing nothing else until one of his nameless supervisors abruptly walked into the workroom to give Skippy instructions for his new batch.  Different people were constantly walking in to give Skippy instructions, and even Laura did not know the identities of most of them, but Skippy loved talking to anybody, so they were all the same to him.  "Did you do a double-check on that Riley batch?  What about the Roxwell batch?  I think we should review the production documents one more time for privilege."  To Laura's amazement, this was all spewing from Skippy's mouth, directed at the supervisor.  Laura snuck a peek at the supervisor from the corner of her eye and saw the supervisor's eyes narrowing, but the supervisor was not in the mood to engage and just grunted noncommittally before exiting.  Then Skippy began bragging about how his azaleas were the first on his block to bloom because Skippy knew the best fertilizer....

A few miles away, Golden Fawn was putting dirty clothes into a Southwest Plaza washing machine.  On her left was a bombmaker from Saudi Arabia who was developing a plan to launch a grenade at the Capitol from his balcony.  On her right was a child pornographer from Idaho living under a false identity.  They both gave her the creeps, though she did not know why--sometimes her fiance teased her that everybody gave her the creeps, but it was mostly a phenomenon in this building.  She finished up with her laundry and paused momentarily to see if anything good had been left on the book exchange shelves, but it was more vampire stories and murder mysteries...and what appeared to be two doggie sweaters covered in animal hair, a picnic basket, some wooden planks, hair conditioner, and an entire fish tank complete with a live fish and a container of fish food.  She was starting to wonder if this re-use initiative was a good idea.  She looked into the eyes of the beautiful little fish darting anxiously around its underwater castle and wondering why it could not get anywhere.  There were so few predator fish co-existing with Ardua in the Potomac that she briefly thought of taking this little one and setting it free in the river, but it would probably be overwhelmed by the current.  Maybe Rock Creek?  It was probably tropical and needed warm water.  She remembered her fiance's words about how she was not responsible for saving everyone and walked away from the fish's little world.  

A mile away, Marcos Vasquez was again doing Coast Guard tourist duty, making sure the cherry blossom tourists were safe.  He had scarcely seen Golden Fawn in days, but duty called.  It had been a long, long time since he had personally seen Ardua, but every undue ripple in the river still made him catch his breath:  he knew the demon was down but not out.