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, June 24, 2012

D.C.: Village of the Dead

Cedric was sitting in the wading pool set up in the backyard of the Arlington group home for the mentally challenged.  He had not bothered changing into a swimsuit, and was, in fact, still in his pajamas, clutching a teddy bear to his chest.  "Aloysius," he whispered to the bear, "you can't trust anybody but me."  Melinda was taking up the other half of the kiddie pool, and the cleavage spilling out of her bubble gum pink swimsuit was unnerving Cedric.  "Especially Americans," Cedric whispered. 

"Why are you talking like that?" asked Melinda.  (Cedric ignored the question.)  "You sound like the Prince of Wales or Jude Law or something!"  (Cedric had been declaring himself an Englishman ever since he heard about Henry Samuelson's death.)  "And why are you calling your bear 'Aloysius'?  My bear was named 'Twinkle Toes'!"  (Cedric wrinkled his brow at such an absurd American name for a girl's teddy bear.)  "I miss her," Melinda said with a sigh.  "I wonder if Mommy still has Twinkle Toes.  Can I hold your bear?"

"Certainly not, you brazen Buccaneer!" exclaimed Cedric.  (Melinda did not understand any of those words, but she knew an insult when she heard it:  she splashed water at Cedric and Aloysius, then got up and left.)  "One of Button's female spies for the Heurich Society," Cedric whispered to his bear.  "Her father would be rolling over in his grave."

Not far away, Henry Samuelson was, in fact, rolling over in his grave--not because of any malfeasance on the part of his daughter, but because there was far too much left to be done on Earth.  He had protested vociferously and arrogantly about being sent to mingle with the riffraff in Purgatory, and the other inhabitants were already fed up with him.  They had taken a vote, put together a human pyramid large enough to elevate him high above the Village of the Dead's quicksand confinements, and hurled him out of the Kipling nightmare and back to Earth.  Samuelson took stock of the situation, extracted his spirit from the body buried in Arlington, and fled the cemetery.

Across the Potomac, another confused spirit was roaming far from the light--the ghost of Robert McNamara, again paying a visit to psychiatrist Ermann Esse.  "What does it mean when somebody says that the only thing we can truly own is our past?" asked the spirit.

"Aha!" shouted Dr. Esse, triumphantly.  "Well said, Didymus!"  (McNamara's ghost called himself "Didymus".)

"But what does it mean?" asked Didymus.

"How do you enter the future--a place where you have no possessions, no foothold, no fixed alliances?  Alone, always alone.  We are the sum of our past experiences.  We must master them, for if they master us, we are a prisoner of ourselves."

Didymus sat up from the couch.  "What?!"

(Oh, dear, I've lost him.)  "Take, for instance, the lie you told on April 4, 1971.  You told the truth in your book, but telling the truth about Vietnam so many years later is only part of the solution.  You can never own the truth of that day because the lie of that day still owns you."

"What?!"

"You must also take ownership of the lie," said Dr. Esse.  "That is the only way to move forward."

"But that's not fair!  I said I was sorry!  I don't want to live in the past anymore!  What about the drone strikes?  These things are happening now!"

"Being forgiven is only part of it," said Dr. Esse.  "Now I'm afraid our time is up, and we'll have to talk about the drone strikes later."  He ushered Didymus out into the waiting room, and the next patient watched curiously as Dr. Esse seemed to shake hands with the empty space before him.

Not far away, Atticus Hawk was staring at the empty space before him.  Drone strikes.  He looked back down at the memo from his Justice Department boss--a memo printed on a delicate paper that would disintegrate in room temperature after ten minutes.  I'm the torture expert!  Why do I have to shore up the drone strike arguments?  He stared again at the empty space before him.  It could be worse--at least I wasn't involved in that Fast and Furious fiasco.  He only had a few more minutes with his top secret memo, so he pushed himself to write down (in his own code) the salient points.  When he was finished, he reread the memo one more time, then watched it start breaking up before his eyes.  He folded up his notes, shoved them into his shirt pocket, wiped the dust off his desk, then decided to procrastinate his new task with a quick walk over to Ava Kahdo Green's office to see how she was doing with the Fast and Furious Fallout.  A few minutes later, he was hesitating near her office door, realizing he had never gone in there before--she had always come to his office.  He heard her heavy sigh and quickly moved forward.

A mile away, "Metro" reporter Perry Winkle quickly moved towards the Capitol Hill rowhouse where Ann Bishis was waiting for him.  It had not taken him much time with the Washington Post records and photo archives to verify that the people he had seen at the crime scene were Congressman Herrmark's staffers, and he was amazed she had agreed to an interview.  He rang the doorbell, and the canned sound of a barking Doberman pinscher recording cued up.  He heard a slight movement, waited for the peephole peek and door opening, then entered the basement apartment.  The smell of mint and parsley greeted him as she ushered him to the living room, where her twin cousins were seated on a couch.  "This is Costas and Nick," she said unemotionally, "Congressman Herrmark's bodyguards."  The three men nodded with no comment or handshake.

"You know why I'm here," said Winkle.  "I saw you on the Potomac a few weeks ago when I was following a...lead."  He hesitated.  "Then I saw a man decapitate somebody on your boat."  (Bishis flinched at the word "decapitate".)  "Then the corpse...I mean, the torso...well, I was not able to take a photo before our boats parted company.  It looked very strange.  Can you tell me what happened that day?"

"That was a our chief of staff," said Bishis.

"I know," said Winkle.  "I was following her that day--I had heard rumors about her on Capitol Hill."

"She was a zombie," continued Bishis, who had decided after an internet consultation with the Oracle at Delphi that the Post reporter would never try to publish this story.  "I mean, we didn't know for sure, but we suspected it.  We don't know who that guy was that came and killed her--it.  I honestly have no idea who that guy is."

Winkle looked at the burly Greek god-like twins and saw them both shaking their heads about the mysterious executioner.

"Why did you think she was a zombie?" asked Winkle.

"Oh, the usual," said Bishis, as if this sort of scenario happened in real life just as often as on television.  "Heavy perfume that seemed to be masking a peculiar body odor, too many layers of clothing, general creepiness."

"Ann is very attuned to admiralties," said Costas.

"You mean abnormalities," said Nick.

"Yes," said Costas.  "She's very spiritual."

Winkle strove to mask his skepticism on that count.  "You said these men are Herrmark's bodyguards.  Was he afraid she was a zombie?"

"Oh, no!" said Nick.

"He had no idea," said Costas.

"He has other enemies," said Nick.

"Who are his enemies?" asked Winkle.

"That's not what we agreed to talk about," said Bishis.

"But couldn't one of Herrmark's enemies have targeted his chief of staff?" asked Winkle.

All three just shook their heads, and Winkle let it drop. "O.K.  So let's get back to the day on the boat," said Winkle.

"We wanted to get her out in the sun and wind, to knock some layers of clothing off," said Bishis in a deceptively calm voice.  "To see her arms and legs exposed.  Her face was heavily made up, but we thought we could tell if we saw her arms or legs."

"And did you?"

"No, not before that guy came with the axe," said Bishis.  She looked as if she were going to say more, but then stopped.

"After the decapitation, what did you do with the body?" asked Winkle, still irked that his rented boat's captain had sped quickly away from the crime scene.

"The guys tossed it overboard," said Bishis coolly.  "Maggots were coming out of the neck.  It was utterly revolting.  There was nothing else to do."

"Did you call the police?" asked Winkle. (The twins burst out laughing.) 

"No," said Bishis, mirthlessly.  "Are you kidding?  We would have been arrested for murder, and it wasn't even human."

"But the police would have seen the state of the corpse," said Winkle.

"Are you kidding?" repeated Bishis.

A few minutes later, Winkle was back outside in the bright sunshine, feeling as if he didn't know any more than he had known going in--except that all three witnesses had seen exactly what he had seen.  However, they hadn't said anything about Ardua of the Potomac, there were no photos to back up the story, and it was all too surreal to try to get published. 

Sebastian L'Arche walked past Winkle with half a dozen dogs in tow, eager to be out of the mid-day heat that was pricking his skin today in a very unnatural way.  The dogs were unduly quiet, all sensing something in the air that wasn't supposed to be there.

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