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, January 29, 2012

Alfalfa and Diamonds, Blood and Coffee

Chloe Cleavage was pretending to do yoga on her living room rug so she wouldn't have to talk to boyfriend "Pierre", an OccupyDCer. She pulled a piece of lint off her $300 silk/cotton/spandex yoga pants, then elevated her legs. It was bad enough he had conned her into renting a tuxedo for him because he had a huge surprise event to take her to, and she had purchased a $1,500 dress in Georgetown for said event, but the humiliation! She had already posted a photo of them in their fancy attire on Facebook before they even left the apartment yesterday! When he told the taxi to take them to the Capital Hilton, she was wildly excited! Perhaps all his months of hobnobbing with the OccupyDC folks in McPherson Square had finally led to some VIP connections in this city! But NOOOOO! She lowered her legs and glared at him sitting at her desk surfing the internet on her computer. To arrive at the Capitol Hilton and realize it was surrounded by a mob of OccupyDC protesters! To be used as an eye candy accomplice in an embarrassing attempt to crash the Alfalfa Club's annual dinner! To have her boyfriend hold up a sign with the acronym O.B.A.M.A. spelling out "Obama's Bank of America's Main Accomplice"! God knows who might have seen her in the lobby--was former Senator Evermore Breadman a member? Then to be kicked back out into the swarm of protesting riffraff! She gave Pierre's back the finger, then went into a lotus position. What the hell am I going to do now? She knew the McPherson Square's encampment's days were numbered, and he might move all his stuff into her condo at any moment! How am I going to get you out of here? Pierre suddenly turned and winked at her, then got up from the desk and told her she looked really hot in the yoga pants. Maybe I'll give him one more week to sort his life out....

Down at the Capitol Hilton, Angela de la Paz was looking out the window at the 16th Street sidewalk, where there were few remaining indications of last night's hours of OccupyDC protesting. She wasn't sure what her next Heurich Society assignment was, and she felt anxious with nothing to do. She had wondered if Charles Wu would try to spend the night with her last night, but he hadn't. She went back to the couch and picked up the television remote control, but she didn't turn it on. The Alfalfa Club dinner tickets were courtesy of former Senator Evermore Breadman, who had told Wu his wife would have a heart attack if she had to enter the hotel through a police barricade. Wu had taken her to Georgetown to pick out any dress she wanted, and Angela had picked out an eye-catching magenta gown--which Wu had promptly accessorized with a diamond necklace and bracelets. A lot of people had given the 17-year-old girl interested stares, and she had attributed this to being the youngest guest there, perhaps, or the bling--still unaware at how exotically beautiful she had been rendered after the Heurich Society's paid plastic surgery to mold the young agent. Why did he take me? She knew Wu was trying to pry her away from the Heurich Society, but his approach varied considerably from week to week. Was last night all about getting me a handshake with the President of the United States? Is that supposed to impress me? But somehow it did. The Heurich Society wanted her to use aliases and flit from one secret destination to another. Her "finishing school" in Kansas had certainly included preparation for seducing foreign operatives, but she knew they wouldn't be happy to learn that Wu was parading her around a black tie event just blocks from the White House. She clicked on the television, then clicked it off again and continued staring at the blank screen, wondering why she had not heard any conversation last night about the rabid protesters outside the soiree.

Several miles to the west, Heurich Society Chair Henry Samuelson was at Dulles Airport attempting a few last-minute phone calls before his private flight to Guatemala. The ex-CIA operative was on a mission of his own to find out what he could do to stop ex-dictator Rios Montt from exposing too much inconvenient information now that he was slated to stand trial for genocide in Guatemala. Salvadoran-American Angela de la Paz was not remotely an option for this mission, nor did he want to share with anybody in Heurich what he was doing. And what am I doing? he kept wondering to himself. After he was dead, he didn't care what people in general found out about his CIA past, and at his age, that couldn't be many years off. Do I really care what my son and daughter think? He had left a carefully selected trove of documents and records for his daughter, Button, to receive after his death, hoping at that point she would have the maturity to understand the importance of his work...and safeguard it. But would she understand? He sipped coffee and replied to another text message from Guatemala. He wasn't even sure she would understand the legacy he had carefully crafted for his children--he really did not want any extraneous information coming to light that would complicate things unduly. His son was a longshot at best, secretly adopted away from a South American political prisoner, but somehow he had always harbored a feeling that his daughter was destined to be the heir of all his work. Almost three decades had passed since he was in Guatemala, and reconstructing this part of his legacy had not been on his to-do list. He pulled out the index card with the eight neatly written code names on it and was disappointed to realize he had still not memorized it, so it would have to stay in his pocket for now.

Back in Washington, Ghost Dennis flew away from the grim mood at McPherson Square and back to the White House, where he hoped to do some more whispering into President Obama's ear.

Monday, January 23, 2012

The Goblin Life

'You're the goblin," said Theresa to Larry.

"What are you talking about?! The goblin is obviously a woman," protested Larry.

"You have a girly voice," added Buckner.

"I do not!" protested Larry.

"I'm the pretty one," said Melinda.

"None of us are the goblin, you morons!" exclaimed Cedric. "And we're all the pretty girl!"

"How can we all be the same person?" asked Buckner.

"Because it's a story, and the goblin trapped us all in it by magic," said Cedric.

Dr. Leo Schwartz stepped back from the eavesdropping point and returned to Hue Nguyen's office in the Arlington group home for the mentally challenged.

"And this all started with a You Tube video?" the psychologist asked the social worker.

"Yes, doctor," sighed Hue Nguyen. "It's a short fantasy film posted by a budding director. Do you want to see it?" The psychologist nodded, and Nguyen loaded up "A Goblin's Tale", by Peter Dukes, on http://youtu.be/bsgzKpW5PdY .

After it concluded, Dr. Schwartz said, "Alright, the goblin traps the woman in a book or story or whatever. What's the big deal? They look at plenty of other kooky stuff on the internet. Some of them painted their faces blue for weeks after they saw 'Avatar'!"

"This is different," said Nguyen. "Freddy Ritchings has the same books on his bookshelf, we have the exact same couch in the living room, we have the exact same lamp in the dining room, we have a weird door like that to the closet under the stairs, and Melinda looks a lot like Tiffany Giardina. They are all suffering the same delusion right now!"

"That's clinically impossible," said Dr. Schwartz. (Nguyen looked at him dubiously.) "Not in general, but in this house, it's clinically impossible: Freddy and Cedric alone have egos way too strong to join in any group delusion--they would argue against it just to be contrary. And they were arguing about the details, so it's only a matter of time before the delusion collapses. C'mon--let's go see where they're at now."

The two returned to the hallway leading to the living room of the Arlington group home.

"The story is an allegory of purgatory and medieval glory!" shouted Freddy (AKA "Brother Divine" of the International Peace Movement). "Trapped by a goblin, we live under medicine that blinds us to everythin' we ever believed in. Reality does await beyond the gate because blessed fate is never late!"

"I say we set fire to the house!" exclaimed Cedric. "It's a fake house, and we're not really in it, so let's torch it, and then--."

"Ladies and gentlemen!" exclaimed Dr. Schwartz. "You're correct--you have all been trapped by the goblin, but I can get you out!" (Nguyen shook her head in disbelief.) He walked over to where Millie was curled up next to the radiator and pulled the enormous brown dog up by the collar. "This is your salvation! You have always known that Millie possesses magical powers. When she licks your face, you will be freed from the spell." Nobody moved, so he looked over to the social worker, who dutifully walked over to the dog, bent over, and submitted to a face-licking. Theresa and Larry then followed suit, followed by Buckner and Freddy, then finally Cedric. "Well-done, Millie!" said Dr. Schwartz, who led the group in a round of applause for the dog.

A few minutes later, Dr. Schwartz was out in his car, watching the film again on his iPad. Maybe they are stuck in somebody else's story? A parallel universe or....?

Inside the group home, Cedric watched Dr. Schwartz through his upstairs bedroom window, still thinking about burning down the house.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Against the Wall

For a histrionic bunch of people, the Heurich Society actually did not call a lot of emergency meetings, but they were having one today. "A motion to remove Herman Cain from chairmanship of the Heurich Society is on the table," said the vice-chair. "Do we have a second?" ("Seconded," came the disembodied voice of Condoleezza Rice from the speaker phone.) "Discussion," said the vice-chair. The discussion was fast and furious. ("What's there to discuss? He's doing a joint rally with Stephen Colbert in South Carolina today!" "So?" "So!? This guy has no clue about staying under the radar, not to mention priorities, not to mention--" "Some people do high-profile events to distract attention from their low-profile events." "He's wading into the SuperPAC debate, and doing so with Stephen Colbert, of all people. It's unacceptable!" "I say let him have his fun! We're trying to move in a new direction this year--let's see where his leadership takes us." "Where it takes us? Are you out of your mind? The guy's an egomaniacal publicity-hound!" "Cain or Colbert?" "Cain!")

Henry Samuelson abruptly stood up and threw a jelly doughnut against the wall. Discussion ceased as everybody watched the red jelly drip slowly down the wallpaper. ("Hello?" said Rice on the speakerphone. "Am I still connected?") "Yes!" barked Samuelson. "The only pertinent question is whether Herman Cain is the right person to lead Project Third Way! I was the one that nominated him, and I am man enough to admit I made a mistake. I should be the one leading The Third Way. I move to end debate and call the vote."

A few minutes later, Samuelson was walking out as the Heurich Society's new Chairman; he didn't notice that he accidentally brushed his coat sleeve in the red jelly on the wall.

A few miles to the east, Judge Sowell Lame was returning to his chamber, disappointed that another personal injury case was settled out of court mere minutes before trial. How am I ever gonna move up if I can't write any opinions? His law clerk answered the nonverbalized question by handing him a thick file with a pleading clipped to the top. "It's the river case, sir, your honor," said the clerk, a nervous fellow who was grateful to have gotten his clerkship renewed for a third year because he dreaded the idea of looking for a job during a recession. "Pleading from Goode Peepz law firm."

"Who?"

"An intervenor, your honor, sir," replied the law clerk.

"An intervenor?!"

"For the Poseidon Auxiliary of the Old Dominion Boat Club in Alexandria--they're completely separate from the Old Dominion Boat Club--and also for Friends of the Potomac Pelicans".

"Potomac Pelicans?!"

"It's quite interesting, actually, sir, your honor," stammered the law clerk. "A pair of brown pelicans ended up here after Hurricane Katrina, and they have a lot of fans. The Friends of the Potomac Pelicans are worried about their ability to nest."

"And the Poseidon Adventure?"

"Poseidon Auxiliary, sir. Greek maritime traditions, very interesting stuff, your honor, sir." (The clerk knew that Judge Sowell Lame hated complicated cases, and intervening parties had just made this case even more complicated.) "I think you can--"

"You think you know what I should do?!" barked the judge.

"No, sir, your honor," replied the law clerk, aware that his right eye had just begun twitching. "I was merely going to say I think you can read the new pleading before lunch--it's not very long, sir."

"Fine!" barked the judge, who knew his entire afternoon was free because of that stupid personal injury settlement. "Check these intervenors' citations and get me a memo by 3 p.m.!"

"Yes, sir!" replied the law clerk, and then he departed Judge Lame's chambers.

Goode Peepz Law Firm, Prince and Prowling, and Lye, Cheit and Steele: I hate you all, thought the judge, painfully aware these parties would never settle out of court in a million years and he was going to have to render a decision reconciling Maryland common law, Virginia common law, federal statutes, the U.S. Constitution, maritime law, and now, God forbid, the Endangered Species act and the maritime journeys of Odysseus and Jason the Argonaut? "Today it ends!" he declared out loud, now realizing if he procrastinated it any further, even more intervenors might come out of the woodwork. Why couldn't you remove this to federal court, like normal people?!

Not far away, Ann Bishis was placing cardamon and oregano leaves in the drawer with her spirit animals, two stuffed animals recently purchased from Friends of the Potomac Pelicans. She silently began a prayer to Hera, then abruptly shut the drawer when she saw Congressman Herrmark's chief of staff coming. The woman had a thick layer of pancake makeup which, Bishis believed, hid her decomposing flesh. She always wore kid gloves, too, claiming that they added elegance and class to any outfit, but Bishis knew the gloves were also hiding decomposing flesh. The chief of staff handed Bishis a file without a word and continued her circuit through the small outer office. (She rarely spoke a word, preferring to give all instructions by email--to avoid letting people hear her raspy voice, of course.) The heavy scent of the zombie's perfume lingered in the air, and Bishis bolted out into the corridor until it dissipated. (Hera protect me from the zombie!) Bishis had been trying to get her cousins, Herrmark's twin bodyguards, to talk to the Congressman about the new Chief of Staff, but they were not as convinced as Bishis that she was actually a zombie--they thought they should at least reserve judgment until summertime, when the Chief of Staff would have to ditch the turtlenecks and heavy tights and actually start showing some flesh. After all, she hadn't tried to eat anybody--that they knew of!, Bishis had pointed out.

A few miles to the west, former Senator Evermore Breadman was rushing back to his Prince and Prowling office after his lunchtime massage, tenser than before. There ought to be a law against your massage therapist's telling you about a co-worker's suicide during a massage session! How is that supposed to relax me? Why can't people just take happy pills? What's the world coming to when a Brazilian massage therapist kills himself over a gay lover spat? If a gay Brazilian massage therapist can't be happy, who can?! Breadman's troubled thoughts ceased at the sight of Charles Wu waiting patiently in his office.

"The pleading was filed this morning," Wu said, clutching Breadman's hand warmly. "And some money was made available in his morning personal injury case, so it settled out of court, freeing up his day. The clerk assured me that Judge Ame would look at the pleading today."

"Oh, Charles, forgive me, but you're so naive!" laughed Breadman. "This case has dragged on for 45 years! Nobody is a bigger fan of your work than I am, but please don't get that hopeful about it!" Nonetheless, Breadman pulled out some bourbon glasses and prepared to toast the event. "Still, setting up Friends of the Potomac Pelicans was brilliant, just brilliant! And getting the Potomac Auxiliary to hire Goode Peepz law firm--this was much better than my idea!" (He didn't remind Wu that his own idea had been to bribe the mediator, whereas these new intervenors knocked mediation entirely off the table!) "To justice!"

"To justice!" echoed Wu.

Back in Judge Ame's chambers, the river file was putting him to sleep (despite his clerk's cheery assessment of the newest pleading). "This is too hard," was what the quiet voice in his head was saying, but he was fairly adept at protecting his ego by reframing that as "poorly written pleadings". He put it aside to see what else was sitting on his desk, and quickly found a real gem: a family in Ledroit Park was suing a candle manufacturer for not putting an adequate warning label on their product about how leaving a lit candle unattended could burn down an entire house. The family sought $700,000 in compensatory damages for the house, and $7,000,000 for pain and suffering (though nobody was home at the time the house burned down). Wow: this could be the end of civilization as we know it. Nobody would be safe selling anything to anybody! I could make national headlines with this case! He examined the defense motion for summary judgment. Nobody would blame me for granting it, but what if this goes to trial? I'll be in the national news!

"Your honor, I finished the--"

"Find me a treatise on negligence!" Ame interrupted.

"Sir?" asked the perplexed law clerk.

"Negligence! A treatise on negligence!"

The law clerk stepped behind the judge's office and pulled a treatise from the third shelf. "Here you go, sir, your honor." The judge yanked it from the clerk's hand and motioned him to leave his chambers.

A couple miles away, Dubious McGinty was high above the Potomac River, shoring up insulation in the bridgeman's quarters. "You'd like nothing better than for me to come out here in the middle of the night to batten down the hatches, slip on some ice, and fall in--wouldn't you?--you evil bitch!" He gave an Italian salute to the demon living beneath him in the river, but Ardua of the Potomac just laughed and laughed.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Not Funny

Pain...ful...ly...slow.

Former Senator Evermore Breadman was trying to type an email, but something was wrong.

"Just wait a few minutes: your computer is probably installing automatic updates," said the disembodied voice on the speakerphone.

I...hate...weekend...tech...support.

Breadman watched the pinwheel of death spin again.

They can put a man on the moon, but they can't give us a computer system that works right.

"Well," said the disembodied voice, "they didn't have to put a man on the moon one billion times per hour."

Did I speak out loud? Now Breadman was unsure if the tech. support person had heard him, or if he had hallucinated the tech. support person's response.

"Fine," Breadman said, and hung up on tech. support. The pinwheel of death was still spinning, so he picked up his list of agitated clients he needed to return phone calls on: Romney's campaign director (can we get Gingrich on slander?), Gingrich's campaign advisor (Stephen Colbert just transferred his SuperPAC to Jon Stewart!), Speaker of the House John Boehner (we need to immediately shut down that recess appointment at Consumer Financial Protection Bureau!), and "Freddy Ali" (we need to talk!).

Breadman did not even know Freddy Ali was still alive, since they had barely spoken since Iran/Contra days; his lower intestines groaned in anxiety over what might be behind the Freddy Ali call. He picked up the phone to call Charles Wu instead. ("Evermore! Can it wait ten minutes? I can call you right back!") Evermore heard a click, then hung up the phone, stunned: Wu had never hung up on him before. Was that a baby crying?

A few miles to the north, Charles Wu was glaring at Mia. "Why did you answer my phone?"

"I was just handing it to you," she replied.

"You hit the Talk button!" Wu said.

"It was an accident!" Mia answered.

Delia increased the volume of her crying, so Mia carried the baby away from Wu and started singing her a lullaby. Wu was about to protest that Mia had strict instructions only to speak to the baby in Chinese or English, but something made him hold his tongue. He walked to the kitchen, opened a wine bottle, and started pouring it directly into his mouth. The sound of Delia's crying was The Most Horrible Sound he had ever heard in his life. It made his blood pressure shoot up, his veins throb on his forehead, his stomach churn, and his fingers clench. He was furious! But not at Delia, never at Delia. He turned to look at his baby--slowly quieting down, her eyes starting to close in surrender to Mia's lullaby. Mia got up slowly and walked Delia to the baby's room to put her in her crib. Wu left the wine bottle on the counter and walked over to sit on the recently vacated couch. He picked up his silk suit jacket, examined the spit-up all over it, then threw it on the floor.

"You need to pay me more money," Mia said when she returned. "And $50 bonus every time you yell at me."

Wu laughed out loud, pulled his wallet out, and handed her ten $50 bills. "Go out to lunch."

"Sometimes she only sleeps ten minutes," Mia warned.

"I'll give her some wine."

"Not funny!" Mia wagged her finger at him.

Wu laughed again. "Go! Go!" He watched Mia grab her coat and hat, then head out the door with one last wag of her finger, and he laughed again. I am so buggered. He knew he should call back Breadman, but he tiptoed into the baby's room to look at her sleeping. Delia was the most beautiful thing he had ever seen in his life, and he still wasn't sure if this was simply a fact or a reflection of his own egotism. She only cried when she was hungry or tired, but those minutes seemed like an eternity to him, and her minutes of serenity went by far too fast. I need to tell my parents. The thought kept returning to him. I am so buggered. He stole a glance at her chest to make sure her lungs were going up and down, then looked back at her face. Wu had already set up a $5 million trust fund for Buffy Cordelia Wu, but he did not have a clue what her future was. I can't do this with a baby. He had spent the past year rebuilding the foundations of his spy network, reestablishing ties of trust after the skittishness caused by Wikileaks, and cementing a working relationship with Secretary of State Clinton. The U.S. had troops in Australia and no troops in Iraq, and Wu had every hope that he could once again shift his focus away from the Middle East (too many male spies) and back to Asia (beautiful women spies!). And here was Mia, now working full-time for him: sure, he had to hide much of what he was doing from her, but she was no snoop, and the little tidbits he left out in plain view were designed to gradually entice her into the wonderful world of espionage. And Lynnette Wong could not protest at all because Mia was in Wu's company as a nanny!

Delia made a sound, and Wu quickly checked her pulse and breathing, but she was fine. This is nuts! This was not on his 2012 to-do list. I have to tell my parents: I'm their only living son, it's their only grandchild. He exhaled deeply, running through the entire sequence in his head again. They would insist on visiting immediately. They would want to know what Mia's true story was--his father would needle him about her being a young illegal immigrant, and his mother would not want Delia cared for by a south Asian. Not to mention how much more cramped the spy operations would be with both his parents visiting! And what if Ma refused to leave? How could she look at your face and then leave? And the questions they would ask about Delia's mother, whom Wu still could not remember at all! What if she returned to reclaim the baby? What if her relatives did? Wu could not be dragged through an American court under any circumstance--he'd have to give up custody. Which would be for the best, for everybody concerned, so there's no point in telling my parents. He gave the circus animal mobile a soft spin over Delia's face, then his phone started ringing, and he raced out of the baby's room.

Several miles to the east, Wu's other theoretical pupil--Angela de la Paz--was visiting The Warrior at the National Arboretum. He felt silly using cold winter nights as an excuse to sleep in arborist Devi Rajatala's office, but he was over 400 years old, and there were not a lot of places around Washington he could camp with a real fire. (People in campgrounds made him uncomfortable, and he didn't have modern camping gear.) Angela and the Warrior were out getting a little fresh air in the warmest hour of a frigid day, watching donkey Rani graze peacefully behind the Friendship Garden shed.

"You can take away a songbird's song, but that does not make it into a hawk," said The Warrior. Angela groaned inwardly, tired of his mythological imagery talks. "A songbird is not meant to fly great distances and hunt large prey."

"So I'm supposed to stay here and eat worms and birdseed?"

"They had no right to take away your song, Angela. That was your greatest power. You need to get it back," he said quietly.

"I didn't feel very powerful. I couldn't save Mami or Abuela!"

"But you did save them!" the Warrior protested.

Angela knew he was talking about their hearts or souls or something like that, but nobody who was over 400 years old had a right to be nonchalant about other people's deaths. Still, she could never be angry at him--at least he didn't try to exploit her talents for his own gain. She knew he wanted what was best for her, even if he had pie-in-the-sky ideas about what that was, not to mention no clue about the modern world. "I don't know how to kill Ardua of the Potomac!" she suddenly exclaimed. "I could barely control her spawn!"

"Ardua will never be defeated by weapons or brute strength, Angela. The pink dolphins, the pink warblers, and people like you--those are her mortal enemies."

"Could you be more specific?"

"It is not my task, Angela. I wish I knew all the answers. You were called to this. I am just a warrior."

Angela's cellphone buzzed with the message from Dr. Rajatala that lunch was ready, and they turned back towards her office. A singing pink warbler accompanied their path, but Angela neither saw nor heard it.

A few miles to the west, Ann Bishis and her twin cousins (Nick and Costas) were ice skating at the Sculpture Garden. "She gives me the creeps," said Bishis, complaining about Congressman Herrmark's new Chief of Staff. "She acts like a zombie."

"What's a zombie?" asked Nick before leaping into a double toe loop to impress a pretty girl nearby.

Bishis translated it into Greek.

"Walking dead?!" exclaimed Costas, winking at a redhead. "She's not so bad!"

"You're not around her as much as I am! I'm telling you, there's something wrong with her! And I think she trashed my spirit animal."

"Your pelican?" said Nick. "Come on! It was probably the cleaning lady."

"Why does everybody always blame the cleaning lady?! My mother is a cleaning lady."

"We know!" said Costas.

The three couldn't shake off any more cold, so they headed off to get hot chocolate and muffins, while sparrows huddled under the small bushes, watching for breadcrumbs to fall their way.

Saturday, January 07, 2012

Epiphany

Atticus Hawk finished reading the story on the guilty plea of former D.C. Councilmember Harry Thomas, Jr., sipped coffee from his Justice Department mug, and pondered the public glory which could be the career of a U.S. Attorney. A brazen thief of public monies intended to benefit children is heading to prison! Now that's something you can tell your relatives about at Christmas dinner! None of his relatives knew he was, incredibly enough, still the Justice Department's torture expert. All they knew was that he was one of those Washingtonians who only spoke of his job in extremely vague "national security" terms. Probably a third of federal employees no longer tell their relatives what they really do in the (shadow?) government (and God knows federal contractors are even more secretive), but sometimes Hawk felt incredibly alone. It was his legal analysis that led to another habeas corpus erosion slipped into the latest National Defense Authorization Act, as well as President Obama's tragically ironic signing statement, and it was not lost on Hawk that, were he ever to be branded an enemy of the state, he, himself, could now be tossed into prison with no legal redress. In his waking hours, this gave him no anxiety, but he could not deny he was having a lot of nightmares about waking up in secret prisons, accused of crimes against the American people. He never got a visitor at all, let alone a lawyer, and he was never told the names of the witnesses against him. The last couple of nights he had even dreamt that he had waken up in prison as a cockroach, and before he had a chance to call for a lawyer, he was stomped on by a laughing cellmate.

"You OK?" Hawk looked up with a start at Ava Kahdo Green, even though this had become her standard greeting to him. "I ordered too much lunch, so I thought you might want some." She handed him a smoothie, half a pizza, a sandwich, an apple, and a couple of brownies. He thanked her, embarrassed at how obvious his weight loss was becoming.

"I've been meaning to give you this," Hawk said, pulling an iPad out of his locked drawer. "It's a long story, but I ended up with an extra one I couldn't return."

She thanked him profusely, both of them comfortable enough with the obvious lies in their tentative relationship. Green asked what Hawk was working on, but he simply mumbled something about "access to justice". She nodded, wondering to herself why she always fell for the tall, dark, mysterious ones.

Several miles north, Megamoo was chewing cud and contemplating the tall, dark, mysterious one discussing her bovine narcolepsy with Megamoo's owner. "I really don't think you should bring her to the Three Kings circus," Sebastian L'Arche said.

"It's not a circus!" exclaimed Megamoo's owner. "It's Fiesta de los Reyes Magos--Hispanic Epiphany! The three wise men, and the shepherds, and the animals all coming to see baby Jesus!"

"At the GALA Theater, sure, but Megamoo can't handle the stress," L'Arche said. "Too many people, too many animals, automobile traffic--"

"Look," she said, "this cow is having problems out here where nobody bothers her! Maybe she needs more interaction!?"

Becky Hartley hand-fed some alfalfa to Megamoo and looked at L'Arche anxiously, wondering what he was going to say.

"What bothers your cow," L'Arche began slowly, "is that she senses things--things that can't be seen."

"Uh-huh," said Megamoo's owner, who had to admit that Megamoo was doing better since receiving visits from the animal whisperer, but was, by no means, cured of her bovine narcolepsy. "And what's the worst thing that could happen if I take her to Columbia Heights tomorrow? She gets nervous and falls asleep! So what?"

L'Arche hesitated for a moment. "She could sense something and tip over onto a smaller animal--or even a child."

"I'll be leading her by a rope!"

"You can't stop an 800-pound cow from tipping over if it's asleep!" exclaimed L'Arche.

"I can shoo others out of the way!"

"Ma'am," interjected Becky Hartley, who didn't want to see L'Arche lose their wealthiest client (and her possible influence among the horse-owning set of Potomac Manors, Maryland), "if you have your heart set on taking Megamoo to the parade, we can accompany you there." (L'Arche pinched her back shoulder blade, but Hartley continued.) "We can't guarantee she won't pass out, but we'll do our best."

A few minutes later, L'Arche was giving Hartley his sullen look as she revved up her truck to return to the city. "Look, we'll slip Megamoo one of my daddy's animal Xanax pills, and she'll be fine," said Hartley. "You know damned well there are demons all over the place, so it really doesn't matter where the cow is, does it?"

"Why does a grown woman need to take a cow to a children's parade?" protested L'Arche.

"It's her baby, Sebastian! Honestly, sometimes you can be pretty obtuse!"

"Me!? I've got Senator Lamebrain's rottweiler tomorrow, and you know I can't leave him at home because he'll attack every animal smaller than a beagle. And you've got that parrot wedding at 2 p.m.!"

"You can bring Fraulein Rottenmeyer to the parade with her muzzle on--and we'll give her a Xanax, too. And you don't need me at the parade--you can handle it," said Hartley.

"Since when do we dish out Xanax like breath mints?" asked L'Arche.

"Look, nobody has more respect for your abilities than I do," said Hartley, "but it's an ugly world out here. Not every animal is cut out to face those demons."

Back in D.C., television reporter Holly Gonightly (who was still TFFT--too fat for television) was drooling over an ice cream bar somebody was licking to celebrate the warm weather in McPherson Square. "This could be the last balmy day the OccupyDC protesters see for quite some time! How do you intend to make it through the winter here?" Gonightly shoved her microphone in a bearded radical's face while her cameraman yawned.

Nearby, Dizzy was just lifting his trumpet to his lips when he caught the sunlight reflecting off of Gonightly's cursed Rolex. He put down the trumpet and got up slowly. "I know you," he thought. He walked in-between the cameraman and the bearded radical. "That's a 1999 Rolex, ain't it? They don't make 'em like that anymore." Gonightly lowered the microphone, disbelieving that her long search for the rightful owner of the Rolex could possibly end with this disheveled street musician. "It's got an engraving on the back, don't it?" asked Dizzy, and Gonightly nodded, numb. The cameraman picked up the extra microphone and started narrating the drama as the Rolex was turned over to reveal the engraving that Dizzy had already quoted.

Gonightly handed the Rolex over to Dizzy, as her cameraman pantomimed for her to smile, and she finally regained her composure. "An astonishing epiphany at OccupyDC as I finally find the rightful owner of this Rolex--which I first brought to the attention of our viewers early last year!"

Rightful owner? Dizzy knew he wasn't the rightful owner, but the rightful owner--a fine saxophone player--was long dead. The cameraman asked Dizzy to play a song to celebrate, and Dizzy nervously complied, worried that nobody was going to throw money in his case now that he had a Rolex. But I can't give it up--that would be bad luck. He started in on "Blinded by the Light" on his trumpet, forgetting that the exact opposite was true: it was keeping the Rolex that was bad luck.

A few miles to the north, a surprised Charles Wu buzzed Apricot Lily and Camisole Silk into his apartment building. A minute later, the disguised spies entered his apartment with a baby carriage. "That's a good one!" he laughed. "What's in there?"

"A baby," said Lily, unwinding her layers.

"Funny!" said Wu.

"Your baby," said Silk.

"Hilarious!" said Wu, who always used custom-made condoms from the finest latex manufacturer in Hong Kong.

Lily pulled back the blanket, and two little eyes stared up at Wu.

"The mother nursed her for three months, so she can take formula now," said Silk. "There are a couple days' worth of supplies in this bag."

"Here's the birth certificate--U.S. citizen," said Lily, handing him an envelope.

Wu pulled out the birth certificate to see the mother's name. "I don't remember--"

"Of course you don't!" said Silk. "She said you can do a paternity test if you want. Anyway, she can't take care of the baby right now, so she wants you to."

"What do I know about taking care of babies?"

"Don't be a cliche, Charles!" exclaimed Lily.

"Seriously, I--"

"Bottle goes in the top end, stuff comes out the bottom end," said Silk. "Hold her when she cries. It's not rocket science!"

"We've gotta go," said Lily, and with that, they were out the door.

Wu looked down at his daughter, who was pushing down on her blanket and kicking off her socks. He picked up the birth certificate again. "Buffy Cordelia!? Really?" He looked at her dubiously. "Buffy? Cordelia?" She looked at him indifferently. "How about 'Delia'? I think I can live with 'Delia'." She gurgled. "What am I saying? I can't keep you! What the Hell--" He stopped himself, suddenly ashamed of swearing. He bent to take her out of the carriage, but then realized he had no plan for her after taking her out, so he left her in there and pulled up a chair.

Outside Wu's window, a confused catbird raced off to inform Ardua of the Potomac there was a new player in town--and she might have the power to tip Charles Wu over the edge.