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 27, 2011

World at War

Chloe Cleavage sipped her Starbucks cinnamon latte and made moon eyes at "Pierre", an Occupy DCer who still wouldn't tell her his real name even after three dates. Pierre stood for everything she was against, but most of what he said just went in one ear and out the other: she just loved the sound of his bedroom voice, and the scruffiness of his bed-head hair, and the deepness of his eyes, and the stubble on his face, and the way his butt looked in faded jeans. For his part, Pierre did so much talking that he really did not know much about Cleavage, but was operating with certain assumptions and presumptions that were enough. (He knew she worked at a powerful law firm, and if he could convert her, it would be a tremendous victory for the movement!) He was also hoping she would invite him to her apartment for a shower and sex (and his assumption and presumption in this particular detail was spot on). "The police are the co-opted blue-collar collaborators which ensure protection of the moneyed minority. That's why it was so important in Egypt to win them over." (This is what Cleavage heard: "police"..."money"..."Egypt", which made no sense, but she sighed anyway, and Pierre continued.)

At the next table over, a man complimented his metrosexual friend on his sweater, and the metrosexual replied, "I'm wearing it because it cost me $200."

"Do you like mine better?" asked Pierre, turning to the men at the other table. "I'll trade you right now. Straight barter: we both get something we want, no involvement of the capitalist leech system."

"Go ahead and take off your sweater," whispered Cleavage in encouragement (and anticipation), but the metrosexual and his friend got up without a word and took a table further away.

"Gay fascists," muttered Pierre, "totally co-opted, unaware how much the ruling class--just like the Nazis--loathes them."

"Mmmm," said Cleavage, who heard: "gay" and "Nazis", which made no sense, so she picked up her spoon and licked it provocatively.

Over at Prince and Prowling, contract attorney Laura Moreno was trying to cover for Chloe Cleavage, who was supposed to have arrived an hour earlier. Retired partner Wolfgang Prowling was trying to wrap up Operation Koch so that he could return to the retirement he had reluctantly left to get his namesake law firm's public relations practice back on track. He had wheelchaired himself into the workroom to check on Moreno's progress in reviewing and highlighting Stephen Colbert's Anonymous Shell Corporation filing papers. He rummaged through her desk things as she pulled up database images for Prowling to look at. "Is this your timesheet?" he demanded, gruffly. (She nodded.) "How can you put 8 hours for every day? That's preposterous!" ("That's a standard workday," she protested.) "Hmmmpphh! Nobody's gonna believe that! You need to put 7 hours one day, then 9 hours the next--that's the sort of thing a client wants to see! Of course, it should really be 10 hours one day, then 11 the next, but at least you came in today, which is more than I can say about that girl with the low-cut sweaters. Is this your name?" (Moreno nodded.) "What kind of name is that?" demanded Prowling, pointing at her surname on the timesheet. ("Sicilian," she said.) "Sicilian!? Hmmmpphh! You don't look Sicilian!" ("Well, my mother's side--") "I was there in World War Two! Hmmpphhh! Black hair--lots of black hair! They came from Phoenicia and Greece and Tunisia, you know." ("There were also some Norman invaders and--") "Black hair! All the black hairs are in the mafia or Al Qaeda. You don't look like that!" ("My great-grandfather, Wolfgang, was from Bavaria," she finally managed to blurt out.) "Wolfgang?! You don't say?! Hmmpphhh! You've got a real Axis Powers thing going here, don't you! Ha, ha, ha, ha! But even Hitler didn't want his people mixing with those Dagos!" (Moreno now regretted her feeble intent to win over Wolfgang Prowling, and drew his attention to what she had pulled up on the computer.)

Back in Occupy DC territory, Glenn Michael Beckmann and a couple of his Hunter-Gatherer Society lieutenants were doing some more reconnaissance. It had been slow going, since they were only inclined to go out to McPherson Square when the weather was warm. In addition, Beckmann's lieutenants found the pronouncements and instructions of HGS President, Sarah Palin, as passed along by Beckmann, a little vague and confusing. They had been plotting a large-scale massacre of Occupy DC for a few weeks now, but it was important both to make sure that no innocent bystanders were hurt when it happened and that the carnage delivered a clear message from HGS. Still, the lieutenants were starting to wonder if Beckmann was really speaking for Sarah Palin, because it just seemed that she would have wanted bold and decisive action by now.

"What about anthrax?" asked the first lieutenant. "That would be super easy, and make headlines all over the world."

"That's cowardly!" exclaimed the second lieutenant. "We're hunters, not poisoners!"

"Well, there are police there all the time! I'm not doing anything that's gonna get me arrested. It's got to be in secret," said the first lieutenant.

"Look!" exclaimed Beckmann. "President Palin wants more intel first! She's not totally sure that all these people are against hunting and gathering! If Wall Street collapses, we'd have a lot more hunting and gathering going on."

"But they're communists," protested the first lieutenant.

"Some are anarchists, some are other things," said Beckmann, whose foggy brain was having trouble remembering his last conversation with President Palin. "That's why we need to gather more intel!"

The second lieutenant sighed and suggested they take a break to go hunt some deer.

A couple miles to the west, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton was seated on the Albert Einstein sculpture, disguised in Georgetown University sweats, sunglasses, and a Hoya baseball cap. Charles Wu was seated next to her, assuring Clinton that Project R.O.D.H.A.M. had not been involved in feeding NATO the intelligence which had led to the air strike on two-dozen Pakistani soldiers.

"Was it Angela de la Paz?" asked Clinton.

"It appears so, though there is no direct proof or explanation," said Wu.

Clinton was silent for a couple of minutes. "I'm starting to wonder if this is a loose cannon we just can't afford to have out there."

"She's accomplished some things nobody else could," said Wu.

"I know, but she's too naive! It doesn't matter to her that Pakistan has the bomb," said Clinton. "It's like she's taking it one battle at a time, with no thought about the possibility of escalating to World War III."

"She's just a teenager," said Wu.

"Exactly!" said Clinton.

"I know I told you we can't recruit her into Project R.O.D.H.A.M., but let me try to meet with her myself--give her some extra education that the Heurich Society overlooked."

"Alright," said Clinton, getting up to go.

Wu watched the Secretary of State walk back towards C Street and wondered how on Earth he could come through for her now--after all, he was not entirely certain that World War III had not already begun. He suddenly noticed a flock of starlings watching him, and he kicked a pebble at them to make them disperse.

Not far away, Ardua of the Potomac waited impatiently for the starlings to come and report on the most enigmatic man in Washington--forever balanced on the cusp of good and evil.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

The Promised Land

The Poseidon Auxiliary of the Old Dominion Boat Club pushed off from the Alexandria dock for its Thanksgiving cruise. Ann Bishis and her Greek cousins huddled by themselves near the back, invoking their spirit animals and tossing laurel leaves into the Potomac River to pray to Hera, Glaucos and other gods for the welfare of Greece. They were glad for a break from working for Congressman Herrmark, who had become doubly morose with the decline of political perks and the loss of Mia. They had been surprised when he had said he was visiting his parents for Thanksgiving without taking his twin bodyguards, Nick and Costas, but the season's death threats were less focused now on hydrofracking and more focused on race and class. The twins were starting to worry he might start thinking he no longer needed bodyguards, though Bishis assured her cousins that their boss valued the twins for much more than that. (For instance, when they hand-delivered letters to federal agency chiefs or Cabinet Secretaries outlining how Congressman Herrmark thought certain programs should be allocating spending in his home state, the twins' bulging muscles, sneering smiles, and broken English always made an impression that petite Ann Bishis in an off-the-rack suit just could not.) "Well, we do have a lot to be thankful for this year," said Bishis, and her cousins nodded silently. "If more people would honor the gods, Greece would return to its glory days," she added, and her cousins nodded again. Then the three turned to look at the front of the boat, where most of the members were gathered with a Greek Orthodox priest who was leading them in a prayer of thanksgiving before their meal began. He felt the eyes of the heathens upon him, but he did not look up.

Another boat pushed off from the dock of the Old Dominion Boat Club--a yacht rented by Sense of Entitlement Anonymous (D.C. Chapter) for their own Thanksgiving cruise. (The yacht was actually owned by member Calico Johnson, but he saw no reason to tell them that or decline the payment they made to the LLC he used to own the yacht and manage its rentals.) Dick Cheney had already claimed the most comfortable seat on deck, unaware that nobody had been hired to take his drink order or bring food to him. Representative John Boehner saw his opportunity, piled up two plates of low-cholesterol food, balanced two beers under his arm, and headed over to sit next to the former Vice-President. (Cheney groaned when he saw what was happening.) Calico Johnson watched with annoyance as Luciano Talaverdi dropped a bottle of pinot grigio on the deck--both scratching it and staining it red. Judge Sowell Ame couldn't help but smile at attorney Bridezilla, whose latest privilege log had prompted the opposition to file a motion with phrases like "byzantine labyrinth", "insult to intelligence", "everything but the kitchen sink", and "gypsies, tramps and thieves". Bridezilla smiled back, consciously trying to reassert the feminine wiles she had misplaced after months of body-building and testosterone-laced supplements from her personal trainer; she loaded up her plate with nothing but yams because they were packed with estrogen, and sat down daintily next to Luciano Talaverdi, who (unfortunately for her) had no trouble seeing the hair stubble on her chin in the bright sunlight and, consequently, felt a little nauseous and had to look away.

"Now, I know that some of us are in the one percent, and some of us are not," said millionaire realtor Calico Johnson, raising his glass for the first toast, "but we ALL have much to be thankful for this year. We've made a lot of progress. For example, I know that Dick has stopped feeling entitled to be the go-to analyst on Republican debate performances, even though nobody knows better than he does that there are much more important traits to highlight than obvious stupidity. And I no longer feel entitled to live in my home in peace and tranquility, because my neighbor has a right to have a loudly mooing cow, and if I want the neighbor (and I do!), I need to accept the cow! Even Bridezilla has made progress because she no longer struggles with her sense of entitlement about becoming a partner at Prince and Prowling." ("That's because I am a partner now.") "Oh. Well, you did deserve it, so your sense of entitlement was correct! A toast for Bridezilla!" And they all raised their glasses to her--though most of them thought her pink eye shadow, yellow chiffon pantsuit with ruffles on the sleeves and ankles, and lace-covered spike-heeled boots looked like something more suited to a drag queen than a law partner. "Now I have a surprise for you: some new members!" And with that, he rang a bell, and a half-dozen young women emerged from below deck, smiling with excitement. "The newest members of Sense of Entitlement Anonymous!" proclaimed Johnson, who then led the group in applause--not telling them he had recruited the group from N.U.T.T.Y. (Nannies United to Take Y-chromosomes) because he knew they were desperate to marry rich, and he was doing them a favor by helping them expand their search beyond their immediate places of employment. Boehner blushed, Cheney's pacemaker sputtered, Ame adjusted his crotch, and Talaverdi stood up quickly to zoom in on the most attractive one.

High above the river, Dubious McGinty looked out on the boaters from his perch in the watchman's quarters of the 14th Street bridge. It was a sunny day, and there weren't going to be a lot more good boating days before spring. He could smell the river duck cooking on a spit over an open fire (sometimes he had to kill the ones possessed by evil), and Perry Winkle would be coming by soon with some rolls and a sweet potato pie. They had been planning their little Thanksgiving get-together for a few weeks, but McGinty knew the Washington Post "Metro" reporter would be glad for a chance to ask McGinty for his reaction to Congressional plans to fight the deficit by cutting veteran benefits--because "nobody understands better than Veterans" the need for sacrifice. "Yeah," mumbled McGinty, "we understand it just fine." He spit over the rail. "You keep your $600 billion for more tanks and airplanes and putting soldiers in Australia 'cause God knows we can't have a continent without U.S. soldiers, and after we're used up and don't die properly on a battlefield, we'll just die quietly back here." He spit again. "I blame you!" he screamed down at the demon chuckling under the Potomac. "It's evil, and they write their neat little letters on neat little Congressional stationery, and they talk about reducing the deficit, and they're just evil! Cause it ain't right." He opened his fly and urinated down on Ardua of the Potomac. "Us old-timers know how to take care of ourselves, but these young'uns commin' out of Iraq and Afghanistan, hell, what are they supposed to do?"

"That's not what you were supposed to do!" said Henry Samuelson to Angela de la Paz, who was also glaring at the demon in the river from her perch in a Georgetown restaurant. "You think we don't know you left Libya to go back to Egypt? We're not paying you to run around freeing prisoners from Bedouin tribes in the Sinai peninsula!"

"Well, I couldn't just sit in Libya guarding oil interests! It's boring and stupid!"

"Look, missy," said Samuelson, who knew what Project Cinderella was capable of, "if you want to do extra-curricular activities, you need to keep it a lot quieter! 'She-whose-gaze-must-be-avoided returns to Egypt, slaughters half a dozen Bedouin slave-drivers, castrates a dozen rapists, and guides 600 African refugees across the desert to the promised land flowing with milk and honey?!' We do not WANT that kind of publicity!"

"It's not like I'm in the Washington Post or something," replied Angela, pushing her food aimlessly around the plate.

"In certain circles you are front-page news--even if they don't know your name or have a photo of you! And in cahoots with Project R.O.D.H.A.M. no less! The Heurich Society is this close to cutting you off! I don't want that to happen," said Samuelson.

"Do they wanna kill me?" asked Angela, turning her gaze to Samuelson.

"Just go back to Libya, alright?" said Samuelson. "I'll double your pay."

"Cool," said Angela flatly, and she got up to leave. "Thanks for lunch." She walked out of the restaurant and down to the pier. "Was it pointless, Ardua?" she whispered.

Ardua of the Potomac shuddered and burrowed deep into the mud--away from the sunlight and away from the girl.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

We the People

Congressman John Boehner was lying on the couch in Dr. Ermann Esse's office. The faint sound of Occupy DC drummers in McPherson Square could still be detected above the soothing Peruvian flute music the psychiatrist was playing.

"Do you think we should do something about those communists?" asked the Speaker of the House.

"Hmmmm?"

"The Occupy DC mob," replied Boehner.

"Oh. Well, my lease is up in a couple of months, so I might move if I find it disturbs my clients." (Actually he found that the faint sound of drums made an excellent primal stimulus, prompting many of his patients to see deeper into their own psyches.)

"It's this personhood defeat in Mississippi, doctor. I'm having trouble reconciling it."

"Reconciling it with what?" asked Dr. Esse.

"Uh, well, corporations," said Boehner.

"I don't see the connection," said Dr. Esse.

"EXACTLY! Neither does the Supreme Court." (Dr. Esse arched his eyebrows.) "The Supreme Court ruled that corporations are persons, but a human fetus is not. In Mississippi, they tried to amend their state constitution to say that a human embryo is a person. In other states, they're trying to amend their constitutions to say that corporations are NOT persons. Right now, corporations in Mississippi are persons but human embryos are not. I'm supposed to be defending corporations, but this is bothering me."

"Hmmm," said Dr. Esse. "Well, first of all, the Supreme Court did not say corporations are persons: it was talking about people's collective rights to form a corporation and use it for free speech."

"C'mon, doctor! That's not the effect of Citizens United! Even Mitt Romney said corporations are people! If all the embryos in Mississippi form a corporation, do they get constitutional rights at that point?"

"Ummm--"

"NO! They don't!

"But the organizations formed to speak for the unborn have constitutional rights, just like any other corporation," said Dr. Esse.

"Sure, but they don't have enough money to speak LOUDLY, doctor! The Supreme Court said spending money in elections is the same as free speech, and the corporations have more money than anybody, so their speech is louder--louder than anything else being heard in Washington. I've got people asking me to speak up for (or against!) constitutional amendments defining personhood all over the country. PERSONHOOD! We're still defining personhood! OK, maybe the Founding Fathers got it wrong about the slaves, but how many redefinitions are we going to do on this? Who are we? Who are We-the-People?"

A few miles to the West, the Seekers meeting in Georgetown were also discussing We-the-People, more specifically, Occupy DC and Occupy Wall Street. The Jesuit said they were asking valid questions about society's values, but the Buddhist said spiritual enlightenment would never be found while fretting about ownership of physical objects, and that it was the duty of the Seekers to free mankind from all Earthly desires. The Methodist minister pointed out that there was nothing wrong with a desire to have food, a roof over your head, and health insurance. The Imam said the problem was not money but the spending of money on ungodly things. The Mormon missionary agreed it was the duty of the Seekers to teach their flocks how to reject ungodly things. The rabbi asked if anybody thought that the Occupy movement was an ungodly thing.

"All I know," said the Lutheran pastor, "is that I'm tired of leading a church that's all about hatch 'em, match 'em, dispatch 'em. There's got to be more for us to do!" Several members of the Seekers asked what he meant, and he clarified: "baptize them, marry them, eulogize and bury them. What happens in-between those days? That's where life happens, and we're missing out on most of it because we only see some of these people a few times in their lives."

"Are you saying we should be down there in McPherson Square?" asked the Baptist preacher.

"I've got a bunch of church ladies just dying to bring sandwiches and cookies down there," said the Episcopalian minister, "but the council is scared to death."

"They should be," said the Jesuit, "because your church ladies might end up listening instead of preaching."

"But we are supposed to be the teachers and guides," said the Imam.

"You have to know where people are at before you can guide them out of there," said the Buddhist.

"How do you know they're not right where they're supposed to be?" asked the Quaker.

Back at McPherson Square, Charles Wu was also where he was supposed to be--meeting the Condor for a discussion of OPEC. (Since every conversation in McPherson Square was about politics these days, theirs would not stand out for the eavesdroppers with the high-tech listening devices.) China wanted to understand how to navigate the turbulent politics of the Middle East, so the Condor was trying to explain to Wu why the Arab League had denounced Syria. "It's a small country allied with Iran. The Sunnis dominate the Arab League, but they are scared to denounce Iran because Iran might be both able and willing to nuke its Shiite neighbors. However, it is safe for the Arab League to denounce "little Iran", Syria. This scores the Arab League bonus points with Western allies: look at us, we are denouncing a tyrannical regime which is killing its political protesters! But does the Arab League denounce Bahrain for the same thing? No, because Bahrain is a majority-Shiite country led by a minority-Sunni government."

Wu held up his hand to signal the Condor to slow down. (He was trying to take notes in Chinese, but too many of the Condor's words had no Chinese equivalents.) "I read about Sunnis and Shiites 'til I'm blue in the face," said Wu, but that can't be what it's really about? Centuries later? They don't agree on jihad, they don't agree on Mahdi, they don't agree on Dajjal--but what does that really matter now?"

"It's about what group you're in, where the lines are drawn," said the condor. "You have been in America too long! You are starting to think that ideas and philosophies are important! In the Middle East, a lot of people can't even read at all, let alone spend time studying Islam. They are born in a group, and they defend their own group. OPEC tried to unite all the oil-producing countries, but the enmities can still be seen in the Arab League."

"So what do I tell Beijing?" asked Wu. "China has a strong policy about not criticizing other countries' domestic policies, but China's Middle East envoy has already said publicly that Syria needs to end the violence. China does NOT want to continue down this path of getting sucked into choosing sides."

"Then China can kiss the gas and oil goodbye," replied the Condor. "Nobody's neutral in the Middle East. China has its own interests in the Middle East now, and it can defend them or abandon them. I don't have any secrets that are going to help China--not today. There aren't a lot of secrets left, and with the Arab League's denouncing Syria, most of the cards are on the table now."

"You know, Beijing never even ASKS me for secrets about England anymore. This was a lot simpler back in Hong Kong," said Wu.

The Condor looked at his old friend in surprise. "America has changed you," said the Condor, but he didn't say how and Wu did not ask. As they exited the park silently, they could hear two partners from Goode Peepz Law, LLC, discussing whether to seize the Occupy DC zeitgeist by renaming themselves "We The People Law Firm". ("But what if we accidentally attract Tea Party fanatics?")

Back in the office of Dr. Ermann Esse, it was Bridezilla's turn on the shrink's couch. "Things just seem different now," said Bridezilla, who had weights strapped to her ankles and wrists so she could exercise during her therapy session. (Dr. Esse had drawn the line at allowing her personal trainer into the room, so he was in the waiting room outside.) "Like, I'm doing this privilege log for a client, and they want to priv everything." (Dr. Esse did not know what "priv" meant, but "everything" was something that many people in Washington seemed to want.) "The list of names is already 78 pages long! How crazy is that?!" ("Hmmm," said Dr. Esse, encouragingly.) "We're closing in on 2,000 names. The client only has 500 employees, but somehow we have 2,000 names on the privilege log! How crazy is that?!" ("Hmmm," repeated Dr. Esse, who was starting to see how crazy it was.) "And this is how I make a living? I was in the top 10% of my law class!" (Dr. Esse had actually heard those two sentences verbatim several times a year since he opened his office in downtown Washington.)

"And I'm starting to have weird dreams," said Bridezilla. (Dr. Esse perked up, hoping she would start telling him erotic dreams about her personal trainer, Armando.) "So I go to the Supreme Court to hear an oral argument, right? But it's not ready to start yet, so I ask if there's a cafe, because most courts and government buildings have a cafe, right? So I go down to the basement, and there's this place with a big neon sign, 'We The People'--but it's a BAR! I go in, and it's a lounge, and people are DRINKING! Sitting on bar stools and DRINKING! And there's a counter to place BETS on the cases the court is hearing! You can bet 80-1 odds that the Supreme Court will uphold Obamacare, or you can put down a trifecta bet involving how the bench will split, and who will write the decision, and how many concurrences and dissents will be written. And some of the Justices were in the bar drinking, too! I mean, Ruth Bader Ginsburg was giggling! And they had a karaoke jockey in the corner trying to get people to loosen up and sing, but almost everybody there was a lawyer, so it was pretty difficult. Then Ginsburg pointed at me and started chanting and clapping, 'Sing, sing, sing, sing!' And before I knew it, all these people had pushed me up to the stage, and they didn't even let me choose a song, and before I knew it, a Melissa Etheridge song started up, and I didn't want to sing a big lesbo song, so I tried to get off the stage, but Ginsburg said, 'You have to! You have facial hair!'" Bridezilla had been raising and lowering her ankles and wrists furiously, but abruptly stopped and exhaled deeply. "The truth is, I do have facial hair now! What if, you know, Armando gave me some kind of hormone in my supplements," she whispered. "Am I going to change?"

"Well," said Dr. Esse (who was thinking about how he had not expected to have doctor-patient conversations like this after he graduated in the top 10% of his class), "if he gave you something with testosterone to build up your muscles, yes, that would increase your facial hair." (Her muscle tone was spectacular, but he refrained from pointing out the obvious.)

"And urges," Bridezilla whispered. "Would it change my urges?"

"Did you feel urges about Ginsburg?"

"Of course not!" (Dr. Esse waited, hoping she would say more about her urges.) "I'm just speaking hypothetically!"

"Are you sure?" asked Dr. Esse eagerly. "You can tell me anything."

"Do you think I should stop the supplements?" asked Bridezilla, suddenly remembering the erotic dream she had had about Laura Moreno the night before. "How long does it take for the hormones to go back to normal?" She looked at her biceps and flexed them a couple of times. "This is unnatural, isn't it? What have I done?" She jumped up from the couch and took all the weights off. "This is why Armando never flirts with me! I look like a man, don't I?! This is terrible!" She threw the weights in Dr. Esse's wastepaper basket. "I'm going to stop the supplements. I mean, I just need Jennifer Anniston arms, right? Anything bigger than that means I'm a freak! What was I thinking?" With that she fled the psychiatrist's office and told a startled Armando, "We need to talk!"

Down at McPherson Square, the Occupy DC people were starting a chant about "We the People", and the starlings listened anxiously from the trees. A catbird imitated the "we" word over and over and over again, causing the crowd to get confused and lose its cohesion.

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Rearranging

Sebastian L'Arche was back at the White House because Bo's narcolepsy had returned. The White House butler, Clio, told L'Arche that the dog was rumored to be passing out every time he heard the word "election". And yesterday somebody swore that at the mention of President Obama's 3rd year anniversary since being elected, Bo had actually run around the room three times barking wildly, then passed out. "Canine narcolepsy is a tricky thing," said L'Arche, squatting down next to the Portuguese water dog.

"That's what he said last time," whispered Ferguson to his twin sister Regina. Clio gave the pre-schoolers a stern look, and they knew what that meant.

L'Arche began whispering into Bo's ear, and Bo responded with some face-licking. We have to have elections, whispered L'Arche. The alternative is dictatorship. Bo shook his head vigorously, then put his head between his paws. I know the rich can manipulate the elections, but they can't control everything. Bo buried his head under his paws, and his tail started twitching spasmodically. Everybody has to make compromises. There's still hope. Look at me! L'Arche pulled the paws off of Bo's eyes. He needs you to be strong. He needs you.

On the other side of Bo, Regina tugged at Ferguson's hands, which he was holding over his eyes, and whispered, "He needs you to be strong!"

"Reggie! Fergie!" Clio hissed at her children.

L'Arche stood up abruptly. "Bo's OK now, but he needs to get outside more. He spends too much time in here."

"Alright," said Clio, "I'll let them know."

"And they need to get out more, too," said L'Arche, pointing at the dastardly duo, who were now whispering (in their secret twin language) to the gnats fluttering around a ficus tree in the corner. "There are things happening here which they need less exposure to."

"Politics?" asked the butler. "They're never around that." She turned on the DustBuster she never went anywhere without and sucked the gnats out of the air.

"Other things," said L'Arche, who knew that the twins spent time talking to the White House ghosts. He pulled the kids away from the dog. "Every day I want you to do five nice things for your mother," he said. He pulled up fingers one-by-one on Regina's hand, then Ferguson's hand. "One-two-three-four-five. Five nice things. Every day." Then he patted each one on their heads, with little hope this might take for even a week.

Over in the West Wing, Golden Fawn had finally gotten into the White House. It had taken months, but through a friend of a friend of a friend of a friend, here she was--part of a group of Oklahoma Cherokee fundraisers getting a private tour. She knew they were not going to see President Obama, but that was not what she had come for. The tour guide--bored with describing the same pieces of furniture and dubious trivia over and over and over again--was asking them if their families had fared alright in the Oklahoma earthquakes overnight. Their voices faded into background noise as Golden Fawn clutched her medicine bag and chanted in her head. Gradually she started seeing them--not in front of her, but in her mind's eye. Spirits. She held her breath, waiting for them to speak, but they refused to speak to her, instead making menacing gestures at her with claw-like hands. She furtively took out the amber-encased cricket she had possessed since her grandmother, Tripping Girl, had placed it in Golden Fawn's medicine bag at age seven. A body can be trapped in the wrong place forever, Golden Fawn recited in her head, just as her grandmother had done. But the spirit can fly away. Fly away! A few of the ghosts were deeply moved by Golden Fawn's strong magic, and they departed instantly, but others lingered, shaking their fists at her. She tucked the amulet behind a sofa cushion, where its power would glow for three more days--until the twins found it and brought it back to their bedroom to join all the other magic talismans (good and evil) they had collected in the shoe boxes they kept under their beds.

A couple miles to the north, Charles Wu had an amber-encased cricket of his own in his pocket--a good luck charm his mother had recently mailed him from Hong Kong. He was sitting in the back of Musette, currently presiding over an empty private room he had rented for karaoke because his new contact--"Slow Man"--had insisted on it. (Slow Man would not share secrets with somebody unless they had bared their soul first.) Wu sipped his Shanghai Lily cocktail and paged through the song listings. A quarter-hour late, Slow Man finally entered the room. (He was small, thin, and dressed all in yellow, and Wu finally realized where the name had come from.) They shook hands, and Wu started to speak, but Slow Man threw his hand up. "You have to sing first," Slow Man said, sitting down on a bench. Wu returned to the song book, frantically trying to find a choice that would not make him look like a total fool. Slow Man took a sip of his Lemontini, then pulled a toy terrier out of his coat's inside pocket and put the dog in his lap. He smiled weirdly at Wu, who abruptly decided to do one of the Japanese songs because singing in bad Japanese would probably not be as embarrassing as bungling English rock and roll. The two spies stared silently at each other, waiting for the lyrical display to begin.

Back near the White House, Golden Fawn's group was now heading over to check out the Occupy DC tent people in McPherson Square. They found a big commotion near a blue tent, where social worker Hue Nguyen was trying to persuade Freddy Ritchings (AKA Brother Divine of the International Peace Movement) it was time to return to the Arlington group home for the mentally challenged. "Sister, sister, sister--I am no drifter! My place in space is apace with the human race!"

"Freddy, please, everybody misses you," said Nguyen. She had even brought house pet Millie to try to woo him back, and the enormous brown dog was dutifully licking Brother Divine's hand.

"History has been seized because many of us believed! The times they are a-changing, and the souls are rearranging!"

"If you're not there when Dr. Schwartz comes by on Monday, you know what that means!" (By then Ritchings would have been off his meds for three days, and the psychologist would probably have Ritchings sedated and taken away in an ambulance.)

"I'll be there to see the good doctor! I will not fail you, my dear proctor!"

"Will you at least take this?" asked Nguyen, handing Ritchings a small envelope with his pills.

"Of course I will, my heart be still!" said Ritchings, who emptied the pills into his hand and let Millie lick them up. "Together we heal! The wellness is real!" (Nguyen groaned and pulled at Millie's leash to get her home for a dose of ipecac.)

Sebastian L'Arche had also exited the White House and was milling around the Occupy DC crowd waiting for Becky Hartley to come by in her pickup truck for the trip to Potomac Manors, Maryland. "I can't wait to see this cow tipping over!" exclaimed Hartley, as L'Arche climbed in. "Bovine narcolepsy! The fun never ends!" She handed L'Arche her notebook so that he could read what she had written down from the phone call with Mega Moo's owner. "That's a really rich area, too," Hartley said. "You work your magic on the cow, and we might get referrals for a lot of rich people." L'Arche gave her a dejected look. "To raise money for the central mission! Don't worry, I never forget about the central mission!"

Ghost Dennis--who had recently floated out of the White House--caught this conversation from the pickup truck going by. The central mission. What's that? A couple of The Shackled then approached Ghost Dennis to explain the central mission. Maybe I should go back? Maybe I can help with the central mission? The Shackled told Ghost Dennis that the White House was a tough place to fight the good fight. I'm ready! exclaimed Ghost Dennis, and back he went. Change we can believe in....