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, October 29, 2011

Hot and Cold

Business was slow in Chinatown because of the weather, so Lynnette Wong and her protege, Mia, were packing up hot cups of herbal tea to pass out in McPherson Square. Mia had chosen all the herbs herself--something for the pancreas, something for the intestines, something for the lungs, something for chi and general circulation, and cinnamon for flavor--and Wong had nodded approvingly at the choices. Mia was very good at reading English now, and had been reading many stories about Occupy Wall Street and Occupy DC. She had even read that Occupy was happening in her home country. It was her idea to close the store this afternoon when it was clear that foot traffic outside the herb shop was next-to-nothing. Wong had suggested going to a movie at Gallery Place, but Mia had asked if they could do something for the protesters first, so here they were, bundling up with rain ponchos and heading out with 100 cups of herbal tea. It was co-owner Charles Wu's idea to sell hot tea in carry-out cups, and even if he would not have approved of giving out that much free product, maybe he would be pleased that the shop's logo would be on major display in the K Street corridor.

A few miles to the west, the Heurich Society was also talking about Occupy DC, but their idea for free handouts in McPherson Square involved cyanide-laced brownies. Though half of the members were fairly certain that this suggestion was a joke, for the benefit of the other half, the chair stressed that the protesters were small fry and not worth any effort. "Peaceful protests are a dime a dozen in this town. We've got bigger issues to deal with." "Project Cinderella" had been redeployed to Libya to safeguard the Heurich Society's petroleum interests there, but they were worried that Angela de la Paz could not be counted on to do their bidding. ("You promised us a lethal Angelina Jolie type, and instead we've got a goddam feminist out there, always complaining about somebody's rights being trampled somewhere. It's irritating!") Henry Samuelson assured the others that their assassin would deliver what they needed in Libya, but everybody needed a hobby, and her hobby was no big deal. ("No big deal? She's supposed to be infiltrating Project R.O.D.H.A.M., but she's become their patron saint!") Samuelson clenched his teeth and told them they were all being ridiculous--Project Cinderella was doing just fine, but that was more than he could say about Project Occupy. And with that he had shot a glaring look at the Project Occupy Subcommittee chair, who did not yet have his action plan ready. "Yes," said the Heurich Society chairman, clearing his throat. "Perhaps we need to put more people on the Project Occupy Subcommittee?" Samuelson rolled his eyes in disgust, resolving to work on the problem himself--like he did when he was in the CIA; he picked up another doughnut and listened to the cold rain rattle the old windows of the Brewmaster's castle.

Back to the east, Atticus Hawk was also chewing on a doughnut and pondering the wisdom of giving institutional cover to policies that were better left to one-man operations, the way the CIA did it. Here he was at his Justice Department desk with another weekend ruined by another blabbermouth from Guantanamo. This time it was Brandon Neely, a former military police officer--not only was he blabbing to CNN and other reporters about detainee abuse, he was claiming to have visited former prisoners now living in London! And it was Hawk who was supposed to build the case for indicting Neely on the grounds that he had violated his Guantanamo non-disclosure agreement. How am I supposed to argue simultaneously that what Neely described never actually happened at Guantanamo, while also arguing he should be indicted for telling what actually happened at Guantanamo? He had already asked his boss this, but his boss had simply said, "Hawk, that's why we pay you the big bucks," and then snorted at his own joke and exited Hawk's office. He logged onto Facebook to see how many other Guantanamo alumni had friended Brandon Neely. Maybe we can throw you into a Guantanamo cell, Brandon Neely.

Over in McPherson Square, Perry Winkle had brought along some teenagers on another Urban Guerrilla Field Trip. Washington Post "Metro" reporter Winkle had already written three articles about Occupy DC, but today's article would be about the teenagers' interactions with the protesters. He was amazed that seven teens had actually shown up in this horrific weather, but they were truly inspired by his promise that today was the day to find the true-blue, hard-core protesters who were there for the long haul. "Let's start here," Winkle said, pointing to a known Iraqi War veteran's tent. "Why don't you ask him some questions." The veteran came out with a rain poncho on and asked where the camera was. "This is just a print story, sir," said Winkle, as the teens struggled to hold their steno pads under their umbrellas. The veteran sighed, and nodded for the kids to start.

On the opposite corner of McPherson Square, television reporter Holly Gonightly had already interviewed five people--all duly rewarded with croissants and hot cups of Au Bon Pain soup paid for from her expense account. Gonightly was wearing a bright magenta rain poncho that photographed well in the gray light; it also hid the curves that made her a little Too Fat For Television, so she was confident she would have a lot of air time tonight with her impressive reporting on impressive people in the impressive sleet. Then she spotted Lynnette Wong arrive with Mia, the mysterious young girl found having a heat stroke outside Congressman Herrmark's house. "C'mon!" she signaled her shivering cameraman as she headed towards the two and caught them by surprise. "I see you're handing out beverages," said Gonightly, as Mia looked up in surprise and Wong looked up in annoyance. "These are from your herb shop in Chinatown," Gonightly said, signaling the cameraman to do a close-up on the cup logo. "What are you handing out for the protesters here, and what made you decide to come down and do it?"

"Just hot tea," said Wong, ignoring the second part of the question.

"You're not from here, are you?" asked Gonightly.

"Taiwan," said Wong, without another word.

"And you?" asked Gonightly, approaching Mia.

"China," said Mia. (This was the lie that Charles Wu had created for her, but she was cold and uncomfortable and did not feel like testing her lying face right now, so that was all she said.)

"Mainland China?" asked Gonightly, and Mia nodded. "But you're from Taiwan?" asked Gonightly, turning again to Wong. "How did you two meet?"

"In Chinatown," said Wong, and this was not a lie, and this was all she offered.

"And what made you decide to bring this tea for the protesters today?"

"We should help each other," said Mia, in surprisingly good English and a more relaxed manner. She was not as skinny and nervous as the first time Gonightly had seen her, and she was now looking at the reporter with calm and poise.

Gonightly turned back to the camera. "People should help each other! That's the word from Occupy DC today. This is Holly Gonightly reporting from McPherson Square."

Above the trees, the White House ghosts chatted in confusion with The Shackled, nobody certain what was really happening with these people or their souls--nobody except the pink warblers, which sang loudly to scare away the starlings and catbirds.

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