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, June 28, 2009

In the Heart

In the heart of old Georgetown, Charles Wu climbed the old wooden staircase to the balcony of Holy Trinity Catholic Church.  He knew that the balcony had originally been the segregated province of freed slaves, but now it was the refuge of mass latecomers and those like Wu who had their own reasons for choosing it over the airy rows of sunlit pews below.  He walked quietly into the third row and found page 300 in the third hymnal from the left.  He discreetly pulled the note out to read it, stared at the Mary statue in the distance for awhile, then jotted a few words on the note and returned it to where he had found it.  Now he would have to sit through the entire mass to make sure that nobody else picked up this hymnal before the church emptied out.  He never picked drop sites like this himself, and felt that only the most ideologically driven spies made their work more important by surrounding it with incense and organ music.  He looked out in surprise as a bunch of guitar players assembled near the altar, and a young man took a seat at the piano for the pre-mass rehearsal.  Hmmm.

Too many things were getting in the way of the Ming Dung plan, he thought.  Kenyan and Ethiopian armies were massing on the borders of Somalia, and the question was, was this going to be an old-fashioned invade, divide and conquer?  Not according to the Eritrean taxi driver who had spent two hours last week explaining to Wu the "revenge culture" of Somalia.  Still, the visible world was more focused on Iran, even as the invisible arms merchants continued to funnel weapons into the Horn of Africa.  The short attention span of Americans never ceased to amaze Wu, who only saw a little irony in today's Washington Post opinion peace by Laura Bush imploring the world not to forget about Burma.  He nodded and smiled as a single woman sat down at the end of the pew in front of him.  Hmmm.

Several miles to the east, Angela de la Paz was gloomy as she sat in the mulch, picking tomatoes and scanning the leaves for pests and fungi.  She was sitting at a distance from most of the Friendship Gardeners, lost in thought, barely aware she was at the National Arboretum.  Dr. Devi Rajatala knew that Angela was no longer living with her grandmother but knew nothing else.  She scooped up a mildly protesting cat and walked over to Angela with it.  She sat down in the mulch with the tabby in her lap.  "We got him to keep rodents under control," she said.  "He was trained by an amazing animal handler in Southeast:  he won't go after live birds or the fish in the coi pond--only rodents, and only those near the garden and building."  Angela looked over at the cat with no visible glimmer of curiosity, or appreciation of his beautiful orange coat, or desire to pet him.  The cat looked at the girl politely, not having been trained for this situation, and decided to extend a paw.  "I hardly give him any cat food at all--he prefers to eat the rats."  Angela stared at the paw, imagining a half-eaten rat clutched in its grip.  "Isn't it beautiful?"  Angela looked at Dr. Raj and didn't know what she was supposed to say.

Many miles away, Laura Moreno was staring out her kitchen window at the police car that had reappeared in the alley for another mysterious stake-out, but she was barely aware of it.  The family she had spent over two years doing pro bono work for had fallen apart.  The grandmother was sick, the cousin had vanished, and the girl had been placed in a foster home to be safe from the uncle--or at least this is what Laura had been told over the phone by the mysterious woman who had answered Laura's call.  Laura had known there was some friction with the uncle, but it was all crashing down on her now.  I failed her.  How many times had Laura given the girl her calling card with the phone number and email address?  How many times had she called the girl to check on her and the grandmother?  How many times had she told the girl she could come live with Laura if she couldn't live with her grandmother anymore?  I should have turned him into the police.  But Laura had no concrete accusation to make against the uncle--just the understanding that he helped out financially and caused no trouble when he wasn't drinking.  I failed her.  Even now, Laura could not be certain what had happened, and tried not to fear the worse.  Why didn't she call me?

Over on Capitol Hill, Perry Winkle finally had time to sit down at his computer to watch the video replay of Thursday's D.C. Council hearing on the bill to ban the flushing of pharmaceuticals in the District.  Dubious McGinty was always interested in river policies, but even Winkle was surprised to learn that the homeless man had testified at the Health Committee hearing.  Winkle lingered for a minute on each successive witness (and their predictable testimony) until he found McGinty's testimony about two hours into the tape.  "She needs more drugs, not less!"  Winkle grimaced at the opening statement, the bewildered look on Marion Barry's face, the annoyed head-tilting of Tommy Wells, and the eyes-rolling-into-the-back-of-his-head-I'm-going-to-stare-at-the-ceiling-now reaction of Chairman David Catania.  "Uppers, downers, nicotine, sleeping pills, birth control pills, pain killers--all these drugs are keeping Ardua weak and confused, unbalanced, constantly seeking equilibrium.  If you take those drugs out of the water, she'll only grow stronger!"  Barry asked McGinty to explain who "Ardua" was, and Catania slammed his gavel down and warned Barry not to speak out of turn.  Then Barry and Catania argued like 10-year-olds on a playground as McGinty kept testifying.  "Who's Ardua??!!  Don't you folks know anything?  I've known about her since I came back from 'Nam!  She would have destroyed the whole world by now if it weren't for people flushing all their hormones and allergy medicines down the toilet!  Don't stop!"  Wells (who had arrived late) scratched his head and decided to leave early.  The well-paid lobbyists for the drug manufacturers and drugstores stared at McGinty, transfixed, while some of the more radical environmentalists took down notes and wondered if this was code for something.  "You don't want Ardua going cold turkey--it's gonna be a bloodbath!" McGinty concluded, well before his three minutes were up.  The witness next to him waited politely to be called on.

Back at Holy Trinity, the Eucharistic ministers arrived in the balcony to distribute communion, and the congregants looked around in a panic, extremely anxious to get their communion but uncertain what the traffic pattern up here was.  Wu (who had done this drill before) gestured and whispered to the first two rows where to go, and the rest followed like sheep.  Wu, who had flashily dropped a hundred-dollar bill in the collection plate a few minutes earlier, was disappointed to see how many pretty girls rushed out of the church right after communion.  (The short attention span of Americans never ceased to amaze him.)  He waited with the rest for the announcements, final blessing, and recessional hymn, then meditated in his own transcendental-lite sort of way until the balcony was cleared out and his message was safe for the pick-up.  A couple of the Shackled watched him as he descended the stairs--the ghosts had never before seen a soul so perfectly balanced between good and evil, with no signs of tipping one way or the other.  

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