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, November 21, 2010

The Sting

"Live from Prince George's County, this is Holly Gonightly." The cameraman stopped the camera feed and gave the reporter a thumb's up, but she asked him to play it back. He leaned back so that she could have a clear view of the small monitor as it played back her report on the unfolding corruption sting in P.G. County. He had worked with a bunch of reporters over the years, and he knew she was good--really good--and she had the diction and the face and the fashion sense to become an evening anchorwoman someday. But he also heard the whispers around the station: TFFT! (Too fat for television.) At 5'7" and 145 pounds, she looked like a perfectly normal, lovely woman when she walked down the street, but the camera adds ten pounds, which meant she was really thirty pounds overweight for television. She wore high heels, she dressed in black or vertical stripes, she used massive amounts of rouge to hollow out her cheekbones, she bleached her hair blond, and still the whispers persisted. She ran twenty miles a week and did weights and ate a nutritious diet, but it was the women who were smoking addicts and anorexics who got the most on-air time at her network. "I should have gotten this story before the Feds did," she said quietly. The cameraman reminded her that the investigation had been going on for years and involved a large number of people--nobody could expect a reporter to come up with a story like that. She looked him straight in the eye and said, "I will come up with a story like that! I will."

A few miles away, Atticus Hawk was pushing the grocery cart for fiancee Jai Alai when the question came out of nowhere, just after she grabbed the nutmeg for the sweet potato pie. First Jai Alai sent her son two aisles back to pick up peanut butter, then she said, "This book by President Bush--it talks about the CIA waterboarding and how he okayed it." ("Uhh-huh.") "Isn't there a Justice Department investigation of the CIA for illegal torture?" She was now perusing the pie crust options. ("Uhh-huh.") "So is he trying to say that he authorized the torture, so nothing the CIA did was illegal?" Hawk drummed his fingers rapidly on the grocery cart handle. Until now, she had always honored his request that she not ask about his work at Justice...but she was not actually asking him directly about his work because she should not (could not!?) have known that he was in charge of the Justice Department inquiry into CIA misconduct. She looked over her shopping list again, then finally looked him right in the eye, awaiting his answer.

Hawk cleared his throat. The carefully constructed, convoluted logic of the draft memo analyzing possible CIA misconduct had been months in the making when his boss had waved Bush's memoirs in Hawk's face and ordered him back to the drawing board. Now, instead of finding that the CIA did not intentionally violate any domestic or international laws against torture, the Justice Department's torture expert needed to find that the CIA did exactly what POTUS told them to do--or did he? Hawk was not entirely certain where his inquiry was supposed to go now, and he was deathly afraid of asking his boss. Jai Alai was holding the cart with two hands and staring at him, and Hawk realized the cart was not going anywhere. "Well, the Justice Department is doing a CIA inquiry, but you know I can't say anything about that."

"I didn't ask you to say anything about that," she said quietly. "I asked if Bush is trying to claim that since he authorized it, the waterboarding was legal."

"Bush..." he started slowly. "I don't know what Bush is trying to do. He could have said that while he was in the Oval Office and ended the public debate on it. He was still trying to pretend he's a compassionate conservative. And he didn't want the military turning against him." The words just came flying out of his mouth, after all this time: he had spent years of his life writing mind-boggling legal memos to justify Guantanamo and secret renditions and CIA black ops and torture, and here was Bush, just shouting like a 10-year-old on top of the monkey bars that he had been the decider.

"Didn't the Geneva Convention--"

"Well, that only applies to prisoners of war," interjected Hawk.

"Well, my cousin's nephew was captured by the Taliban in the Khyber Pass. Is he a prisoner of war protected by the Geneva Convention?"

"The Taliban doesn't honor the Geneva Convention."

"Does anybody?"

Jai Alai's son returned with the peanut butter, and the conversation ended.

Over at the National Arboretum, Dr. Devi Rajatala chewed on her peanut butter sandwich and read the lab report just faxed in from her biologist colleague at the University of Maryland: the bee was definitely a GMO--genetically modified organism. Dr. Rajatala's heart skipped a beat, and she glanced again at the swollen site of the bee sting on her left hand. At first she had thought bees active in November were clearly a sign of global warming, but now she had something else to worry about. She was just an arborist, and it was getting harder and harder to maintain a handle on what was going on around here. She picked up the phone to ask him where he thought the GMO had come from, but the man just laughed. "Your guess is as good as mine! Military research, USDA, a university lab." "Is this bee stronger? Will it prevent more honeybee colonies from collapsing?" "Your guess is as good as mine," the biologist said again. Dr. Rajatala looked out the window at Rani (the donkey) who was flicking her tail at flies that also should not be active in November. "Thanks," she said, and got off the phone because she needed to prepare for the arrival of the kids who would be volunteering in the Friendship Garden today.

Several miles away at the residence of Golden Fawn and Marcos Vazquez, District officials had completed their sting operation and were serving citations for the illegal renting of condominium units without inspections, rental business licenses, or income tax filings. The sting busted 75% of the owners, and amazed the Vazquez's, who suspected more and more that, even though Golden Fawn had detected no real estate demon in this building, buying their first home here might have been a mistake.

Meanwhile, Washington Post reporter Perry Winkle was treating his "pupils" to a pizza lunch after completing their most recent urban guerrilla field trip--an insider's look at the recent burglarization of the Chillum Post Office. Dozens of packages had been rifled through, and the items the thieves chose not to steal included: an inexpensive ladies Casio wristwatch, a teal cardigan sweater from jcp.com, brown suede boots from Newport News, a Love at First Sit "Nada Chair", a bin of Popcorn Factory treats, and the book "Guns, Germs and Steel". The items missing on the examined invoices included: an expensive Seiko watch, a champagne cardigan sweater from Anne Klein, black leather boots from Giorgio Armani, a "Biaxial Powermag" from Nikken, Lady Godiva chocolate truffles, and the book 'Curious George--the Complete Collection'. "These guys were good," the postal worker had told them, "really good. Except for "Curious George"--hard to imagine that has much street value." The kids were still discussing the field trip, and Winkle was observing them carefully, trying to decipher what their take-away was. (Their take-away last week from visiting the city morgue had been that morgue workers are the happiest people on Earth because they go home every day thankful to be alive. The kids never walked away with the lesson he expected of them.)

"What's next?" a young girl suddenly asked, turning to Winkle with an excited smile.

Winkle's eyes started sparkling, and he leaned across the table to draw them all in for his whisper: "Mystery Mountain!"

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