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 ....

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Ungoverned and Unguarded

Charles Wu was sitting outside Trader Joe's, eating a tortilla wrap and drinking warm wine straight from the bottle. The Condor was sitting next to him, discussing China's recent oil deals with Iran and Nigeria. Then the Condor asked Wu about the Canadian investigation of a computer virus attack on international journalists working in China in the days leading up to Thursday's anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic. Wu shrugged his shoulders ambiguously and ambivalently. A Foggy Bottom yuppie walked past them carrying two floral reusable grocery bags full of yuppy food for herself, her husband, and the mini yuppies trailing behind her. The Condor leaned towards Wu and pressed him on the topic. "What possible difference does it make?" replied Wu. "I can give you more accurate news out of China than Reuters can any day." The Condor did not look convinced, but the next point he made was that oil market decisions were being made on more sources of information than just Wu. Wu nodded cheerfully, but he was bored with oil--whose executives and cheerleaders were the most unimaginative breed of people inhabiting the planet. "The Chinese government doesn't care what outsiders think of it," Wu said, not exactly telling Condor something he didn't already know. "They need internal harmony." A George Washington University hippie walked by carrying two floral reusable grocery bags full of hippie food for himself and his wife, pausing to liberate the bandana-adorned hippie puppies tied to the bicycle stand. Wu was thinking about the announcement that the Yangtze paddlefish had gone extinct--the largest freshwater fish in the world--and the fact that you can't eat crude oil. It doesn't matter how many battles China will win--it will lose the war! The words of his Hong Kong mother floated out of the recesses of his mind: it was something she had said many times about the mainland government when he was little, and again when Taiwan did not renew its United Nations plea for national recognition this year. When the dragon's fire is gone, it will go back to sleep for another thousand years. That one was from Lynnette Wong, his Chinatown herbalist. Wu took a deep breath and handed the wine bottle to the Condor. A West End guppie walked by carrying a floral reusable grocery bag full of gourmet food in one hand and a yellow chrysanthemum plant in the other. "China knows what it is doing," Wu concluded softly, eager to convey some of that knowledge to his British contact but not to the Condor.

A few miles away, Liv Cigemeier was stealing a glimpse at the photo of baby Zeke she kept in her drawer at International Development Machine, wondering if he was OK. She had just spent two hours reading reports that the U.N. World Food Programme needed $6 billion to prevent a billion people from going hungry by the end of the year and the International Food Policy Research Institute was predicting that 25 million children would go malnourished if poor countries did not mitigate climate change effects on their food crops. But governance was what her boss wanted to discuss at their 4 p.m. meeting because governance was something IDM could get government contracts for. Governance. Rule of law. Institution building. Those weren't even buzzwords when she was in graduate school--it was all about sustainable development, gender issues, child and maternal health, housing, agroforestry, fair trade, biodiversity, clean energy. Now it was about teaching people how to rule the right way. Never mind if some of the people quickly figure out that votes can be bought, laws circumvented, institutions corrupted: governance is the great gift we will give them. Never mind if men are illiterate or women scared away from the polls--not our concern. Never mind if girls walk eight miles a day just to collect water, or boys walk ten miles a day just to collect fuelwood: not our problem. She pulled out the governance request for proposal and prepared for the meeting.

"Now why didn't I think of that, Cigemeier?" former Senator Evermore Breadman exclaimed to Liv's husband as he walked into Breadman's office at Prince and Prowling. Breadman was referring to a multinational deal to pay former Reaganista Robert McFarlane to advocate on behalf of the Sudanese government in Khartoum. "Brilliant!" Breadman added. "A National Security Advisor skirting the Sudanese sanctions!"

"McFarlane of Iran-Contra?" the young associate asked. Breadman frowned, and Cigemeier realized his mistake. "That's great!" Cigemeier tried to say enthusiastically, but he was fairly certain it sounded sarcastic to Breadman because the former Senator was still frowning.

"I need your help," Breadman said, changing the subject. "Bridezilla's gone all batty again since the new Supreme Court term began." (He was referring to Bridezilla's dismay that her fiance was neglecting her in favor of his clerkship.) "She's doing decent work for our energy clients, but her health care memos keep veering into bizarre speculations about how unmarried women can afford to have children." In his day, Breadman would have fired the woman years ago, but he had been told that Prince and Prowling did not fire women, ever. "I need you to rework these talking points in the long and the short versions of the PowerPoint." Cigemeier took the printout handed to him, then asked about electronic files. "Just do it from scratch." Breadman did not want Bridezilla to know. "And then I need you to sit in on my meeting with Charles Wu tomorrow about China's trade war." Cigemeier headed back to his office, paused to look at the photo of baby Zeke he kept hidden in his drawer, then turned to his computer.

Not far away, Dubious McGinty was sitting in his bridgeman's quarters reading another article on Obama's visit to the United Nations. "Now is the time!" the not-homeless man exclaimed more than once, in his best Obama voice imitation. "The future!" he added for good measure. The President was a real smarty-pants, which is why it baffled McGinty so much that Obama never said anything in his speeches about the threat from Ardua of the Potomac. A knock on the door heralded the approach of Washington Post "Metro" reporter Perry Winkle, who had come to warn McGinty that he had to temporarily vacate his perch on the 14th Street Bridge. "What's going on?! What is Ardua doing?!" McGinty ran out of his hexagonal tower to peer down at the river below him.

"It's not Ardua," said Winkle, who actually knew all about the demon haunting the war veteran's life. "It's the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities." McGinty looked at Winkle in utter bafflement. "The D.C. government commissioned a public arts project. They're going to install a revolving light and different reflecting panels in each window to create a kaleidoscope of colors beaming out of the tower."

"You think a bunch of colored lights is going to scare away Ardua?!"

"No, it's not about Ardua. They just want to fix up this place. They're going to fix and repair it and spruce it up so the 14th Street Bridge looks better to people entering Washington."

"Are they CRAZY? Why can't they see what's really at stake here?!"

"They just don't. I'm going to borrow my friend's truck on Sunday and come out here to pick up your stuff. You can crash with me until the workers are done here. We need to remove everything you have."

"I can't leave Ardua unguarded!"

Winkle knew he was going to say that. "Dubious, you can check on Ardua from some other bridge."

"They don't have towers like this!"

"I know." Winkle went back inside McGinty's abode and pulled out some sandwiches he had brought up, knowing he was in for a long conversation.

A hundred feet below them, Ardua seethed with irritation: she liked drab concrete and steel, and dreaded the arrival of rainbow colors above her. The pink dolphins who had escaped from the Yangtze River extinction were annoying enough! She reached up and whacked a few ducks, as a raven alit on McGinty's windowsill to tell him where to go.

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