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 ....

Saturday, June 25, 2011

The Diary of Dupont Down Under


They came from the south--from somewhere between the White House and the Mayflower. Some say they fell through a hole somewhere on Connecticut Avenue. Others say they assaulted sewer workers who were blocking traffic with their orange cones set up around a manhole cover on K Street. Some say they swam through the Dupont Circle fountain seeking its source. Others say they followed Alice through the looking glass.

But we know the truth: they came for the Rolex.

Some will say that cannot be true because the Hunter-Gatherer Society does not care about things like that.

But we know the truth.

It started with our Fearless Leader. He has protected us from the double-crossing Beaver, the exploding gas lines, the encroaching federal underground bunkers, the real estate bribes, the millipedes, the river rats, and even the great Civil War of 2010 when our military veterans argued about the Surge in Afghanistan.

But he could not protect us from HER.

Holly Gonightly is her name. Everyone knows she's TFFT (too fat for televison), but, still, she's beautiful like a Renoir painting, and her voice is strong and soft at the same time (like purple velvet), and she's smart as a whip, and she loves poking her television camera anywhere there's an important story....

And so last weekend she met Fearless Leader when he was gleaning at the Farmers Market, because his clothes were raggedy and his hair was raggedy and his fingernails were raggedy, and yet a shiny Rolex was gleaming from his left wrist as he held open his bag and tossed in sprouted potatoes, wilted lettuce, and mushy peaches. And so she pulled her camera woman off the transvestite juggling seven heirloom tomatoes while riding a unicycle and asked our Fearless Leader who he is.

The answer is rumored to have taken up 45 minutes of tape, but she was dissatisfied, so Holly Gonightly asked him straight-up, "But you have a Rolex?" And our Fearless Leader did not know it! Because it was just a watch he had found on the ground. She told him he might be able to sell it for ten-thousand dollars and then rent an apartment for himself so he would not have to live underground, or she could run a television story in which he offers to return it to its rightful owner and he would be famous. But Fearless Leader said he would have to consult his brothers and sisters in Dupont Down Under, so she set off to follow him.

But HE was following HER.

We learned later he is Glenn Michael Beckmann, leader of the Hunter-Gatherer Society. Some say he was following her because he thought she was spying on him and he wanted to turn the tables on her. Others say he was following her because her pheromones were so powerful. Some say he was only at the farmer's market to buy home-made soap (because Freemasons and hippies controlled Unilever, Johnson & Johnson, and Procter & Gamble).

But we know the truth: he saw the Rolex thirty seconds before Fearless Leader did, and so Glenn Michael Beckmann would not rest until he took rightful possession of it.

So down they came into our world--Fearless Leader, camera woman, Holly Gonightly, and Glenn Michael Beckmann. Holly Gonightly was struggling to scribble notes on her Lois Lane steno pad in the dim lighting while the camera woman wrinkled her nose at the peculiar smells of our home under the streets. Fearless Leader set about distributing food, saying nothing about the reporter or the camera woman or the enormous watch glistening on his wrist. "Never sell yourself with less enthusiasm than you would sell a used car," Fearless Leader said, as he handed out a blueberry muffin he had found in the dirt. "A flower in a Dupont Circle garden could be a towering bush in El Yunque rainforest--don't be more impatient than the impatiens." (Fearless Leader was handing out some Belgian endive now, and nobody was tempted to jump to the front of the line for THAT.) "Save one for Silverado," Fearless Leader said, as he passed out some carrots. (He was talking about a National Park Service police horse.) "When everybody is labeled an enemy combatant, the Earth will stand still and the alien invasion will begin," Fearless Leader said to a Goth waif from New Jersey because he knew she only felt happy when thinking about alien invasions. "Only pink warblers can sing the song I sang," Fearless Leader said to the last person in line for food.

For several minutes, we ate in silence (except for the humming of the Goth waif), and the camera woman panned back and forth across the throng a few times. Gonightly was just opening her mouth to speak when Fearless Leader abruptly thrust his wrist up in the air and shouted, "Behold, the mighty Rolex!" (A young man in a Wahoo t-shirt immediately jumped up and declared it was his Rolex that he had lost the week before, but everybody shouted him down as a known liar.) "We have no use for The Man's ticking time pieces in Dupont Down Under," said Fearless Leader, and many people nodded and shouted amens. He pointed to Holly Gonightly and said, "This woman tells me I can sell it for ten-thousand dollars, or I can appear on television and say I would like to return it to its rightful owner." (The man in the Wahoo t-shirt tried to jump up again, but the former Marine next to him yanked the fellow back down.) "Everyone close your eyes, and we will take a vote."

But then the Goth waif stood up and pointed at Holly Gonightly. "Let's give it to her," the Goth waif said, because Gonightly reminded her of a favorite aunt--the only person in her family that ever loved her.

"Alright," agreed Fearless Leader with a shrug. He immediately took it off and handed it to Holly Gonightly, who looked in bewilderment at her camera woman, and the camera woman pointed to Gonightly's wrist, so Gonightly put the Rolex on.

"A tremendous act of generosity from the citizens here," she began. "Tomorrow I will begin the search for the true owner of this watch, who will, I am certain, want to reward these honest people." She looked over at Fearless Leader for a moment, then back at the camera. "This is Holly Gonightly, reporting from Dupont Down Under." The camera woman turned off the camera and whispered to Gonightly that they needed to go now, so they thanked us and left.

Then Glenn Michael Beckmann emerged from the darkness to spew hatred at us. "That was MY Rolex!" he screamed. Somebody asked why he didn't say so earlier. "You will ALL pay for this!" he screamed. Then he left.

The next day, he returned with dozens of armed men and told us they were taking over. "We are the Hunter-Gatherer Society!" he shouted at us. "We have existed from the beginning and will exist to the end. Nobody can stop our right to hunt and gather!"

"That's cool," said the Goth waif.

"Go and gather for us--NOW!" screamed Beckmann.

The former Marine had already pulled out a knife to attack Beckmann with, but Fearless Leader motioned for him to put it away. And so we went out to gather food for the Hunter-Gatherer Society, and when we came back, we found our things shoved into a side tunnel and were told slaves were not allowed anywhere else in the tunnels. Fearless Leader encouraged us to be patient, and, indeed, after a few hours the Hunter-Gatherer Society left after Beckmann grew tired of their complaints about the smell and the claustrophobia and the darkness and the creepy-crawlies. And so we rejoiced, but the next day they came back. Like lions marking their territory, they now return every day to roar and frighten us. We do not know what they want, but the Goth waif suggested we look up Beckmann's blog, so that's what we will do. "We have survived worse," says Fearless Leader, and it is true.


***************
NEXT WEEK: Some new members join Sense of Entitlement Anonymous.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

As the World Turns

Speaker of the House John Boehner was lying on his psychiatrist's couch sucking on a grape lollipop a few hours after playing golf with President Obama and Vice President Biden. (Dr. Ermann Esse had a variety of sucking objects available for his smoking clients.) Boehner was in a snit about President Obama's refusal to seek a war powers authorization from Congress about Libya. Boehner pulled the sucker out of his mouth, made air quotation marks, and said in a sing-song voice: "It's a NATO action!" He took another grape suck. "The U.S. is merely in a support role!" He took another grape suck. "I mean, who does he think he is?"

"Do you think he is trying to exercise more power than President Bush did?" asked Dr. Esse.

"That's not the point!" shouted Boehner. (He was this close to giving up bipartisanship forever!)

"What is the point?" asked Dr. Esse?

"Whose side are your on?!" demanded Boehner.

Dr. Esse tapped on his own skull. "I'm on the side of your subconscious, trying to bring his voice to the surface. Let's try some more hypnosis." Boehner shoved the lollipop back in his mouth and thought about trying something else.

A couple miles to the west, the Assistant Deputy Administrator for Hope was in his State Department office, sucking on a grape lollipop and typing up another round of summaries on communications coming in from Libya, Egypt, and Syria. "Human shields", he kept typing, over and over again. "Refugees", he typed over and over again. "Rape as a weapon of war," he typed again. Then he paused. Unidentified amphibious creature seen pulling Libyan soldiers under in the Great Manmade River. Confirmed by three different sources. Satellite images inconclusive. He shuffled papers; he bounced around computer screens; he tried a few phone calls, but nobody was picking up.

Suddenly "C. Coe Phant" was in his doorway. "What's up?" he asked in his usual snarky way while simultaneously tossing the Deputy Administrator a candy bar.

"Have you heard anything about the Great Manmade River in Libya?" asked the Deputy Administrator.

"What about it?" asked C. Coe Phant, while the Deputy Administrator scrutinized his face and found nothing to suggest he was part of any conspiracy orchestrated to get the Deputy Administrator to make a fool of himself in his memo to the Secretary of State.

"Nothing," the Deputy Administrator replied.

C. Coe Phant returned to his own office to finish his report on Project R.O.D.H.A.M.'s new operation in Libya, and their plan for recruiting Angela de la Paz--who was rumored to be in Libya and hanging out around the Great Manmade River. (He wasn't worried about the Deputy Administrator's inquiry--surely just something about a body count there.) Phant was obsessed with the girl, and had gone as far as to ask Secretary Clinton to have a chance to recruit Angela de la Paz personally, but Secretary Clinton had laughed in his face. Phant was tired of being a desk jockey and wondered how he could graduate to Charles Wu's life.

A few miles to the north, Charles Wu was dunking his head into a sink full of ice water--once...twice...thrice.... He kept his eyes closed, exhaled deeply, inhaled deeply, and dunked his head three more times. Refreshed, he returned to his intelligence reports. Frankly, he was sick to death of Middle East intelligence and wanted to go back to reporting on Asia, but everybody wanted Middle East intelligence these days--including top clients the U.K. (desperate to win a war they had lost a long, long time ago) and China (which despised the "hordes of camel-riding illiterates" who drove up petroleum prices and jeopardized its advancement). Wu had C. Coe Phant reporting from the State Department, the Condor reporting on OPEC, Ethiopian taxi drivers reporting on Egyptian unrest, Che Flaco and Che Gordo reporting on Venezuela's attempts to wrest Saudi Arabia away from U.S. influence, and the Heurich Society's influence in controlling the flow of petro dollars from the sheikhs/despots and back to the U.S. For one thing, too many male spies! He hadn't seen Apricot Lily or Camisole Silk in months! It was extremely difficult to use women operatives in the Middle East, and without women, it just wasn't much fun for him! He couldn't fool around with the woman in Project R.O.D.H.A.M.--they were untouchable, for professional reasons. He stared out the window. I need a vacation. He resolved to talk to the Secretary of State about returning to the Chinese border of Afghanistan to check on the telecommunications shadow networks that Wikileaks and the New York Times had come dangerously close to outing.

Not far away, Congressman Herrmark was relaxing in his man cave while Mia (of the Marianas Islands) stared listlessly out the second floor window, "enjoying" a couple hours by herself. Her English had gotten good enough now to read the newspapers a bit and understand television programs. She was starting to understand more about the huge world out there, and the more she understood about it, the more she felt trapped like a bird in a cage. It was true that human rights groups had gotten many of the factories shut down in the Marianas Islands and there was not much work left for girls like her, and her life here was better than it had been, but Mia did not understand why he had taken her passport to lock it up in a "safe place" unknown to her, or why he had given her shots for things like measles which she knew most people got at a doctor's office. And the more English she learned, and the more she tried to talk to his bodyguards, the more uncomfortable they got around her, and so they were avoiding her. Congressman Herrmark had brought her a toy poodle last week, but it stupidly fell through the banister from the top of the front hall stairs and broke its own neck on the marble floor of the foyer, but he blamed Mia and said he would not get her another pet. Mia thought she made him happy, but what if she didn't? Outside her window, a raven tried to whisper something to her, but all the windows were locked with a key because, the Congressman said, he was a sleepwalker--but she had never seen him sleepwalk. And she never slept a wink when he was home--only when he was gone. (She was nervous all the time.) She pressed her nose against the window and stared deeply into the eyes of the raven and wondered about the future.

Over in Silver Spring, Liv Cigemeier's husband was surfing the internet for a few minutes while his wife finished getting ready for the barbecue they would be attending. "Hey," he called out, "this says a new Director was named at International Development Machine. Have you ever heard of this guy?" He shouted out the name to her, and then heard a gasp.

Back in Washington, the river rats scurried away from the the chaos of the Georgetown water main reconstruction project and back into the bosom of Ardua of the Potomac--well, some to her bosom, others to her stomach.

******************

NEXT WEEK: Lost and found with the cursed Rolex.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Four Weddings and a Funeral

"OK, look--look at this one!"

The man nudged his new husband away from his French toast to look at another photo from the Capitol Pride parade.

"We were there! Why did she email us 48 photos of the parade?"

"It's her wedding present to us!" The two had gotten married at Augustana Lutheran Church a few hours before the parade, and then marched with the Augustana contingent in it. "Look at this one!"

His husband's French toast was getting cold. "Please tell me that's not really her wedding present! People think because it's a gay wedding they don't have to give us real presents?" He looked up from his patio table at the festive litter all over 17th Street and shook his head.

"It's not about presents! It's about equality!"

"Can I finish my French toast now?"

A Trio's waiter stopped by to offer them more coffee and found two sulking men still wearing their rainbow beads, one trying to talk the other into canceling the honeymoon trip to Cancun and taking a whirlwind tour of Morocco and Tunisia.

A few miles to the east, a slightly happier couple was celebrating their wedding by digging into a wild boar liver casserole and wagging their tails. "This is the cutest thing ever!" sighed Becky Hartley. It was her idea to set up the pet wedding website and ordain herself a minister, but Sebastian L'Arche was still unsure about all this. "Eight-hundred dollars!" she whispered again to L'Arche, "and all we had to pay for was some gourmet pet food, flowers, and an inflatable pagoda!" The dogs' owners had, indeed, forked over $800 for the wedding ceremony, in addition to the $500 it had cost them to get a lacy wedding dress made for Mitzi and a silk suit and top hat made for Fritzi. ("It's a business investment!” the gung-ho owner had said to her dubious husband. “Their bulldog puppies are gonna make us a fortune after their wedding video goes viral on You Tube!")

"I'm just not sure this is actually GOOD for the animals," L'Arche finally got up the nerve to say.

"Look," said Hartley, "it doesn't hurt 'em neither. We need to move into higher-paying gigs to free up more of your time for the important work. You're overloaded with dogwalking and taking care of pets that don't have any problems. You've got a gift, and we need to free up your time to work on that gift."

The wedding photographer (who had volunteered his services to make a name for himself as a pet wedding photographer) lay flat on his stomach to get a few good shots of Fritzi's moneymaker--which was gonna make the photographer a hefty bundle of cash on the side when he Tweeted them as “Anthony Dog Weiner”.

"Spending a lot of time with animals is what keeps me tuned in," L'Arche said to Hartley.

"Look," Hartley said, "my dad makes $200,000/year prescribing doggie Prozac in Dallas. There's a world of hurt out there. (She had not yet brought herself to use the word "demon" since recently becoming aware.) “I think you can spend 40 hours/week, hell, 60 hours/week with animals, but let's get you focused on the animals that need it the most. I'll keep this on the side so it doesn't embarrass you, but I want you to spend more time doing what matters--even if the people can't pay you. We need to take this to the next level."

L'Arche petted Congressman Flipbird’s ostrich (“Spike”) and decided to give this some thought.

Back in Northwest, Charles Wu was attending a wedding at the Universalist National Memorial Church with his herb shop “business partner” Lynnette Wong, who had felt the American pressure not to show up at a wedding without a “date”. They were reading the program in silence while Bach music wafted over them softly from a nearby harpist. The bride was the daughter of a Swedenborgian father and Jewish mother; the groom was the son of a Moony couple who had converted to Rastafarianism when he was seven and then to Mormonism when he was eleven. “The divine is infinite possibility!” was the caption of the wedding program. (The bridge and groom had met at a screening of the documentary “Quantum Activist”.) “Only the new can open us up to the possible,” said the program. “Simply be. When you are ready to do, the door opens and it is time to do. After the door closes, it is again time to be. Do-be-do-be-do!” Wong glanced at Wu to see what he made of this program, but his expression had reverted to the inscrutability only temporarily displaced by real emotion during the tragic sojourn of his family members in Washington. She read further: “The particle joins the wave and cannot exist apart from the wave. Neither can the wave exist without the sum of the particles. So is the life in the particle or the wave? The answer is…life is everywhere.”

“It’s good to believe in something,” Wong said, partially believing her own statement and partially wanting to bait Wu.

“Hmmm,” Wu said politely, nodding his head, remembering his first Kung Fu teacher in Hong Kong and how his mother had torn to pieces every philosophical statement Wu had brought from his teacher to her.

A gong suddenly boomed at the rear of the church, and everyone turned to see the couple—dressed in matching yellow robes—enter the sanctuary. They paused briefly, beaming at the assembly. A young boy and girl dressed in matching lavender robes stepped in front of them and started dancing down the aisles, shaking tambourines along the way, and the happy couple followed in their footsteps.

Outside the Universalist National Memorial Church, Bridezilla sat in her car alone. She was reading the program from her wedding yesterday--the wedding that didn’t happen, the Christian-Hindu celebration of love and commitment that didn’t happen. Her back seat was so full of orchids and lilies that the scent was sickeningly intoxicating. She was fairly certain that her super-rich fiancé (that is, ex-fiancé) did not begrudge the $300,000 he had spent for the ceremony, and she had heard that he decided to take his little brother to the Seychelles island he had rented after Bridezilla learned that’s where Will and Kate honeymooned, and he really liked the dream house he had purchased and would just live in it without her—but she worried that maybe she had caused dear Jay…humiliation. He was better off without her, surely, but-- She saw a red dot of an insect crawling across the corner of the program, screamed, rolled down her car window, and tossed the program into the street. Then she took all the remaining programs sitting on the passenger seat and tossed them out into the street. Then she grabbed the DustBuster and vacuumed the passenger seat and her own clothing. Then she grabbed the Lysol and sprayed it all over the passenger seat and her own clothing. Then she closed her eyes while the fumes subsided. The house was too big, he could never have kept it clean enough for her, she would have gotten sick with some horrible sick-house illness and ended up an invalid, he would have exhausted his millions and millions of dollars on a string of doctors that could not save her from her frail constitution and its inability to fight off the eight billion microbes living inside it. Plus he wasn’t that keen on her genitalia hygiene requirements, and he probably would have started protesting them eventually. She coughed, then the phone rang again—it was her mother, who was still worried about a conversation she had overheard that Jay’s relatives from India were going to plot their daughter’s death. Ignore call, she pressed. She looked at the engagement ring—which she had switched to her other hand after Jay insisted she keep it. Then for the first time in a long time, she noticed she was hungry, so she decided to drive to I-Hop and get blueberry pancakes. At least I didn’t leave him standing at the altar, she consoled herself, having phoned him an hour before the ceremony. And I phoned him! It wasn’t a text message. I did the right thing.

Over in Dupont Circle, the middle floor of the Heurich Castle was holding a private funeral for a former CIA operative known affectionately as Ruby for the thirty years’ of clandestine photos she had taken in the Middle East with her lipstick cameras. (She would wear a scarf when she had to, but she wouldn’t be caught dead without lipstick on—though some always thought she would be caught dead with the lipstick camera.) Henry Samuelson had already paid his respects and was surveying the controlled crowd which, to his supreme annoyance, included loony Cedric from the Arlington group home for the mentally challenged. Cedric was under the supervision of Millie the dog because social worker Hue Nguyen had refused to put on a blindfold and was therefore consigned to wait in the car. “Is Obama coming?” Cedric kept asking everybody, refusing to believe that Obama would remain at Camp David rather than attend the private service. “Didn’t you invite Obama?” Cedric asked the grieving widower, and two men made a menacing move towards Cedric, prompting Millie to nudge Cedric back to the hot food buffet. (Samuelson wasn’t sure if Cedric wanted to meet President Obama or kill him—the lack of certainty on such a fundamental point was only one of the many reasons he should not have been allowed to attend. Then there was the rumor of Cedric’s secret affair with Ruby in Abu Dhabi—which was an untrue rumor and only troubling because Cedric was the one who had started it.) “Hey, how ya doin?” Cedric asked George Tenet, who mumbled something with a mouth full of crab dip, then sidled off. Cedric turned to NSA Director, General Keith Alexander. “Too bad about Thomas Drake,” Cedric said. (The NSA Director nodded.) “He was the one that installed my line to the Secret Government, and it’s been ripped up. How do I get that fixed?” General Alexander choked on his baba ganoush, and the same two men again made a menacing move towards Cedric, but Millie nudged Cedric safely over to the beverage table. “Hi, Condi!” Cedric said with delight when he spotted Condoleezza Rice helping herself to more shiraz, and she smiled mischievously at him. “Hey, you’ve got a drop of—“ Rice took a napkin to dab the wine on her lips, but she missed one red drop rolling down her chin. (“Blood sucker,” thought Cedric, suddenly remembering a nickname he had once heard for her, and uncharacteristically having the good sense not to say it out loud.) “Hey, can you help me get plugged back into the Secret Government?” Rice nodded seductively, and winked at Henry Samuelson watching from across the room. “Cool! Ruby’s been sending me messages from the Great Beyond, and if any of them are important, I’ll be sure to let you know!” Samuelson’s eyes narrowed and he frowned menacingly at Rice, but she was feeling no pain. “Ruby was one of the good guys,” Cedric whispered to Millie. “I miss her.”

Outside, a flock of sparrows searched in vain for a view of the private service, but all the windows were heavily curtained off. Only Charles Wu’s bugs hidden in the sterno cans were recording the spy conversations and transmitting them outside the Brewmaster’s Castle. One raven kept vigil in a nearby gingko tree, and would remain there until nightfall.

Sunday, June 05, 2011

Super Bugs

Glenn Michael Beckmann was rallying his people in Meridian Hill Park: ""We are the Hunter-Gatherer Society. We have existed from the beginning and will exist to the end. Nobody can stop our right to hunt and gather!" The men cheered. (Women were not allowed to cheer because their high-pitched voices would distort the manliness of the cheering, so the two women there clapped.) Beckmann had been riding high ever since he pulled off the top-secret meeting with their president, Sarah Palin, after her visit to Mount Vernon and before her visit to the National Archives. "Stand tall!" Beckman screamed, and the men cheered again, and the women clapped. "Today we answer the call of a brother in distress." Beckmann pointed to a skinny man with orange hair, a goatee, and overalls. "Milton has alerted us to an evil, foreign invader terrorizing this neighborhood." Beckmann signaled to Holly Gonightly (undercover reporter) to start passing out the weapons. "This is how we will kill the enemy!" The men said nothing, silently examining the sponge mops in perplexity. "MILLIPEDES!" screamed Beckmann, and Milton cheered. Beckmann looked around at the men, who seemed a bit disappointed. "We will hunt them down where they sleep and beat them to death--every last one of them!" The men mustered a little bit of cheering at the word "death", but still looked a bit dejected. "Then we will hunt down the pugs and the chihuahuas and the toy boxers and the miniature poodles!" The men cheered wildly, harboring a deep hatred of the little yappy dogs who were taking over Dupont, Logan, and now Meridian Hill. Gonightly turned to the other woman to see her reaction, but she was looking at the ground. (She had been hoping they would hunt pigeons today.)

A couples miles to the south, Portuguese water dog Bo was also hunting millipedes. "Go, Bo, go!" hollered the twin pre-schoolers, Ferguson and Regina, who were carrying sponge mops to beat the millipedes to death each time Bo discovered one of their secret lairs. The Secret Service followed from a distance, unwilling to let Bo go completely nuts but fascinated at his ability to ferret out the sleeping creatures who, when they came out at night, were capable of giving Sasha, Malia, President Obama, and even the toughest Secret Service officers a massive case of the creeps. (Some were saying that the President of Yemen had been driven out by a stash of millipedes secreted into his bed chamber by revolutionaries.) "Ha, take that!" shouted Regina, as she beat a couple of millipedes to death, then watched their severed limbs continue to twitch electrically. "You're dead, sucker!" echoed Ferguson, as he pinned one against the wall with his sponge mop. Now Bo was tearing through the yellow room and knocking over chairs, but he found nothing and headed towards the West Wing as the Secret Service agents scrambled to straighten up after him. Then Bo paused in the hallway, gave a few sniffs, and proceeded to dig his claws into the carpeting to tear it up. The twins squealed in delight at the sight of a hundred millipedes, and began whacking them to death as Bo barked triumphantly.

"Fergie! Reggie!"

The twins froze at the sound of their mother's voice, and the Secret Service agents looked up in embarrassment at the White House butler, Clio. "Ummm--"

"You ripped up the RUG?!"

"Look, Mommy!" said Ferguson, pointing to a writhing mass of half-dead millipedes, and his mother shivered.

"Why don't we let the men handle it," said Clio, taking the sponge mops from her children and handing them to the agents. "It's THEIR job to keep us safe."

Bo whimpered as the twins were hustled briskly back to the East Wing, knowing that there were many, many things the agents could not keep them safe from.

A couple miles away, Henry Samuelson (who had been up half the night hunting down millipedes) yawned and thumbed through his papers as he waited for the Heurich Society Chairman to move to the next item on the agenda. "Project Cinderella," the Chairman said at last, and Samuelson perked up. "We have unconfirmed reports that she is responsible for forcing the President of Yemen out." Samuelson smiled but said nothing. "She's a loose cannon!" shouted the Chairman, pounding his fist on the table, which resulted in a couple of donuts flying out of their box. "We did not authorize that," the Chairman said in a quieter but more menacing tone, looking straight at Samuelson.

"Angela knows what she's doing," said Samuelson with a smirk.

"Well, maybe WE should also know what she's doing!" said the Chairman.

"She knocked out a dozen military officers in Egypt last week, then slipped into Yemen for two days, and now she's back in Egypt," said Samuelson.

"Tell us something we don't already know!" said the Chairman.

"What do you want me to tell you?" asked Samuelson. "She's a force of nature, she's a killing machine, she moves like the wind--she's everything she was trained to be!"

"Except obedient!" said the Chairman.

"She is making snap decisions in life-or-death conditions, navigating the most hostile situations imaginable, and doing it as a woman surrounded by men who hate women! The Egyptians call her 'she whose gaze must be avoided'! And in Yemen--"

"And you think Yemen or Egypt will be more pro-woman now?" snarled the Chairman.

"Arab countries are growing weaker by the day! Isn't that what we want? We can't control the oil unless they're weak."

Then the speakerphone crackled, indicating that Condoleezza Rice was weighing in from California, and Samuelson rolled his eyes preemptively. "There's a difference between weak and feckless, gentlemen." (You're just jealous, thought Samuelson, who actually had no idea that Angela de la Paz had brought the young but powerful demon Eeteesbsse to the Middle East to do her bidding.)

A mile north, Charles Wu also had Middle East oil on his mind as he entered the Mi Tierra Market and sat down next to the Condor underneath the Unity Park peace statue and bit into a pupusa. He put down his newspaper for a minute, took another bite, then picked up his newspaper again with the report glued under the fold. "I'm not totally sure that it IS going to rain," said Wu quietly a few minutes later.

"Yes," said a Salvadoran sitting on the other side of Wu. (The Salvadoran was neither certain of what Wu had said nor of whom Wu had said it to, but did not want to be impolite.)

"It's true we've had a lot of rain warnings this week without a whole lot of rain," said the Condor before taking another bite of his chalupa.

"She loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah," Wu sang softly. (This prompted the Salvadoran to get up and walk over to a different bench.)

"Yeah, man," said the Condor.

Wu finished his pupusa leisurely, then said, "the pupusa is still four dollars. What about the chalupa?"

"It's definitely going up," said the Condor. "Next week we might want to switch to tacos."

"Alright, next week I'm buying!" said Wu; then he got up abruptly to leave because he knew the Condor had gotten really paranoid the last few weeks. (Wu was also eager to talk to Hillary Clinton about Project R.O.D.H.A.M. and the possibility that Angela de la Paz would defect.)

A couple miles to the west, Bridezilla was doing another wedding dress fitting. "These tacos are delicious!" her fiance called out tantalizingly from the other side of the room divider, hoping this would be the magic aroma after he had already failed to tempt her with Thai, Italian, French, or Chinese food earlier in the week. Jay knew the dressmaker was taking in the dress again because the e:coli epidemic in Germany had frightened Bridezilla so much that she was refusing to eat anything but brown rice mixed with Ensure and microwaved on high for three minutes. "I ate this yesterday, too!" Jay called out, which was a lie, but he was desperate to get her eating again. (It didn't matter: Bridezilla was convinced that Jay had super immunities from growing up in India, and that her immune system was sheltered and frail.) The dressmaker secretly tucked in three inches of elastic in the back of the dress waist because she simply could not fit Bridezilla in for any more fittings--this dress would have to be prepared to rise or fall on its own. "I love you!" added Jay, who added that habitually when he didn't know what else to say, but his fiance remained silent, overcome with nausea at the smell of the chile peppers.

On the other side of the river, Millie was tearing up the rug in the downstairs hallway of the Arlington group home for the mentally challenged until she found the hidden lair of sleeping millipedes. "Oh, you're good!" said Larry, cheering her on, but Melinda had to stifle her gag reflex as the big brown dog started cheerfully slurping them up.

Brother Divine of the International Peace Movement was impressed. "The dog is a hog on the ant log of shame! She slew and chew and strew the evil enemy! The fallen are callin', but the good is understood!" (This made Melinda feel better, and she smiled at Freddy.)

The three walked off to find some breath mints for Millie, and Cedric quietly crept into the hallway on his hands and knees. The damage is done. Millie had chewed through the last remaining cable he had secretly linking him to the Secret Government Command Center. What am I going to do?

Out in the river, Ardua of the Potomac laughed at the postcard Eeteesbsse had sent her from Yemen, picked up another hundred pounds of millipedes from the river bank and crammed them into the sewer system.

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Next week: Bridezilla's wedding!