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 ....

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Run Deeper

Economist Luciano Talaverdi hadn't written a book report since he was in the seventh grade, back in Italy.  That book was on the "The Little Prince", by Antoine de Saint-Exupery, and the report featured words like "bellissimo" and "preziosissimo".  Now the book was "Bull by the Horns", by Sheila Bair, and his report featured words like "hideous monster" and "evil queen".  He sipped more coffee from his Federal Reserve Board mug and asked himself what mark his seventh grade teacher would have given him for this report.  Well, he couldn't read English, anyway.  He checked the time on his cursed Rolex again, then glanced at the list of FRB tasks he was supposed to be working on instead of this book review, then picked up the book again.  Homeowners!  She worships them like golden idols.  And they're not home-owners, anyway!  They are home-borrowers!  He typed up something resembling those thoughts.  She talks like Tim Geithner is a mafia boss!  "He made them an offer they could not refuse!"  Talaverdi gave an Italian salute to the book, then adjusted the cursed Rolex because it had slid a quarter-inch down his wrist.  Hmmm....Maybe I shouldn't write anything about Geithner--maybe I should just write about the Fed.  He frowned and sipped more coffee.  But how can you defend the Fed without defending Geithner?  He went back to page one of his book report and started rewriting.  It's not like I think the Fed is perfect, but Sheila is wrong, wrong, wrong!"

Several miles to the east, Ann Bishis was enjoying a quiet morning in the offices of Congressman Herrmark--who was back home campaigning for reelection.  She was enjoying her interim status as Chief of Staff because now she actually got letters and emails addressed directly to "Ann Bishis, Chief of Staff".  Wrong, wrong, wrong!  And since they were directly addressed to her, she could directly trash them if she wanted to.  Don't care, not interested, waste of time, when pigs fly--.  She looked up at the receptionist standing in her doorway.  "What?"

"There's a potential campaign donor here who wants to talk to you about hydrofracking."

"Congressman Herrmark is not going to support hydrofracking no matter how much money he has to offer," replied Bishis.

"It's a she, and she wants to donate money because of his opposition to hydrofracking," said the receptionist.

"Really?!  Well, send her in!"

A moment later, Henrietta Samuelson walked into Congressman Herrmark's inner sanctum.  She had Heurich Society money, but introduced herself as the president of a new SuperPac called Still Waters Run Deeper.  "It's time for Congressman Herrmark to step up his game," Samuelson said.

"Actually, it's campaign season--"

"Actually," interrupted Samuelson, "campaign season is the perfect time for the Congressman to talk about some confidential information we have about water polluters in his home state--including the hydrofracking company responsible for blowing up his parents' vacation home."

"How did you get that information?" asked Bishis (who couldn't help herself because there was still a lawyer inside of her).

"We cannot reveal our sources, but trust me, there will be no retaliation for using this information."

With that, Samuelson handed over a file for Bishis to peruse, and it was time for Bishis to earn her raise.  But Bishis hadn't forgotten the first rule Congressman Herrmark had taught her about working on the Hill:  "Never trust anybody who says 'trust me.'"

Several miles to the north, Mia was violating Charles Wu's trust by calling Wu's father in England--on Skype, with baby Delia sitting in Mia's lap.  "Charles is out of town right now," she said, without mentioning his whereabouts at the United Nations session in New York.  "I am his nanny, and this is your granddaughter."  She saw Charles Wilkinson Montgomery's eyes bug out of his head.  "Her name is Buffy Cordelia.  The mother chose that name, but Charles just calls her 'Delia.'  Isn't she lovely?"

"Why didn't he tell me?" asked Montgomery.  "Does his mother know?"

"He hasn't told her yet--he didn't want her to move in here.  Maybe you can help him figure this out?"

Several miles to the south, the State Department's Assistant Deputy Administrator for Hope also needed to figure some things out--in particular, why he was getting Project R.O.D.H.A.M. telexes warning that a rogue operator was out to assassinate the Iranian President in New York City.  First of all, shouldn't Project R.O.D.H.A.M. be supporting that?  Second of all, who warned Project R.O.D.H.A.M.?  And, like the ninety other telexes he had gotten since Monday, these needed to be repackaged into some kind of briefing for the Pentagon--unless they were too sensitive for the Pentagon, in which case they needed to be drastically rewritten for the Pentagon.  Why don't I ever get to go to New York? he fumed, resentful that no matter how hard he worked, he never got to go anywhere.

Not far away, former Senator Evermore Breadman was out for a post-lunch stroll because he had recently concluded the same thing:  no matter how hard he worked, he never got to go anywhere.  He approached the Lincoln Memorial reflecting pool, eager to see up close the botched renovation job.  Two years and $34 million, and it's a cesspool covered in algae!  Breadman laughed to himself.  Still waters run fetid in this town!  Oh, Congress, can you ever stop wasting taxpayer money!  Breadman smiled as a dozen ducks flew in for a landing and started chowing down.

What Breadman didn't know was that Ardua of the Potomac had sent the poisoned ducks, and they were the ones fouling the waters.  Out in the river, she swatted away the pesky pink dolphins and plotted her next move.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Dark Side of the Moon

"Look," said Augustus Bush, "the simple fact is that we hired you for consultations about new initiatives for International Development Machine.  Now we find you were stealing your ideas from an Australian mining heiress!"

"That's not true!" protested the Bo-oz 5G consultant, Fen Do Ping.  "Gina Rinehart may have stolen the idea from us!  We are exploring legal options."

"You're going to sue her for lauding $2/day wages in Africa?" asked Liv Cigemeier.

"Our plan for setting up call centers in refugee camps is intellectual property," stated the consultant.  "If she's only talking about mining, that's one thing, but if she's talking about wages in general--"

"Poppycock!" said Bush.  (Every now and then his Cayman Islands accent popped out.)  "We can't wait around for some lawsuit that's going to drag on for years!  We've already put in the proposal to USAID!"

"Yes, I understand, President Bush," said the consultant to the president of IDM.  "We've come up with something to push it to the next level--something the U.S. government can do but an Australian mining heiress cannot."

"I'm listening," said Bush, chewing on sugar cane.

"Refugee mining camps on the moon!" said the consultant.  (Stunned silence.)  "They're refugees, nobody wants to take in refugees anymore, we send them to the moon to mine rare minerals for the U.S. government."

"And you think you can do this for $2 per day per refugee?" asked Cigemeier, who felt as if she had dropped into a parallel universe.  (Will I still have my husband in the parallel universe?  Will we be able to have a baby?)

"Well, naturally there would be significant non-personnel costs involved, but using foreign refugees instead of American citizens trained to be astronauts makes the mining enterprise not only solvent but lucrative."  The consultant asked for somebody to dim the lights, and he queued up his PowerPoint presentation.  "Remember," Fen Do Ping said, with a deliberate infusion of additional Chinese accent, "if the U.S. doesn't do this, China will!"

A few miles away, former Senator Evermore Breadman marched into the Prince and Prowling partner's office.  "Cigemeier," he said, tossing a file on the desk, "I need you to set up some more Delaware shell corporations.  Glove needs more foreign contributions ASAP."

"Who's Glove?" asked Cigemeier, unaware of Breadman's nickname for Mitt Romney.

"Funny," said Breadman, not smiling.  "Two Israelis, four Swiss bankers, two Mexicans, and a Mormon in France--one of Glove's converts."I want these corporations funded tomorrow and contributing to the SuperPacs by Saturday.

"Well, I--"

"Let me know when the corporations are up," said Breadman, exiting before Cigemeier could say another word.

Cigemeier (who had yet to feel he was in partnership with Breadman) opened the file and started reading the names of the shells to be incorporated:  Tutti Frutti Mutti, Wuzzup Your Honor, Delicate Pink Glow Rose, Moon Goon Tune....

A few miles to the east, attorney Atticus Hawk walked back into the Justice Department, smiled at the security guard, swiped his reactivated ID card, and began the return journey to his office.  After a month of procedural haggling and additional lab tests, it was now proven that his random drug test flag had been a false positive based on the interaction of various prescription drugs.  For good measure, Hawk had also peed into some additional cups to show his boss that he was not going to trigger any more drug flags of any sort--because it was imperative that his boss know that Hawk would never again have to be yanked from a case for a month.  When Hawk finally unlocked his office, he found several memos had been slid under his door--as well as an issue of "High Times".  Ha ha, real funny, guys!  He sat down at his desk, tossed the magazine in the recycling bin, dropped the memos into his in-box, opened his briefcase, and pulled out two framed photos:  one of girlfriend Basia Karbusky standing next to Mega Moo (her cow), and the other a photo of him and Karbusky sitting on the porch with a full moon rising behind them.  Oh, I miss you! he thought, but the drug-test-proof chemicals which the neo-Nazi scientist had given him assured he would retain a calm, warm feeling even now--back in the city, far from the Potomac Manors haven he had enjoyed for a month.  I'm back! he exulted inwardly, unafraid to return to the torture memos (and tortured research) that had led to his nervous breakdown and heart attack.  I'm back!

A couple miles away, Ann Bishis hung up her framed print of Vincent Van Gogh's "Starry Starry Night" and immediately noticed a scratch on the glass just above the moon.  Oh, well--if I stay, I'll replace it.  She sat down at her new desk in her new office and began rearranging the objects in front of her.  I have three months to turn this interim position into a permanent one.  She took a deep breath, pulled the pelican and Glaucos figurines from her bag, and placed them in the center drawer just above her lap.  Watch over me.  Bishis had been functioning as Congressman Herrmark's chief of staff since the former one went missing in May, but she had not gotten a raise or a new title until today.  He would have made it official sooner if I had told him she was dead!  She pulled out her iPad and got to work, pushing the thoughts of the decapitated zombie out of her mind.  He IS going to win reelection, and next year he will keep me as chief of staff!

Several miles to the west, Federal Reserve Board economist Luciano Talaverdi was also fretting with ambition.  He scratched the irritated skin under his (cursed) Rolex and resumed typing his latest warning memo to Ben Bernanke about the long-term effects of quantitative easing.  Talaverdi had been taken aside more than once with a reminder that the Fed was also tasked with maximizing employment, but he was becoming more and more entrenched in his stark viewpoints.  "We are approaching the dark side of the moon," typed Talaverdi.  "Nobody knows what we will find there."  He reread his last paragraph, pondering whether he was incorrect about the dark side of the moon, but he liked it too much as a metaphor to let it go.  "We need to stay where things are bright and clear," he added--though, in truth, his soul was bright and clear because of a cold sheet of ice covering it up.

Out in the river, Ardua of the Potomac rejoiced over the coming autumn equinox and the growing darkness Washington would come to know.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Autumn Migrations Begin

Charles Wu looked on in satisfaction as another Monarch butterfly alit on the purple butterfly bush next to his infant daughter.  Twenty different flowering bushes had been planted in the past week to attract the migrating insects, and Buffy Cordelia was delighted.  "Bu bu bu bu bu!" she gurgled, bouncing up and down in her Italian designer spinning seat as the Monarch--and several other types of butterflies--flitted about her.

"Delia's so happy!" cooed Mia.

Wu smiled at the scene, happy for his baby but concerned that Mia was becoming too soft to be much of a spy for him.  He hit play again on the spy recording from Yemen and frowned.  Then he saw Mia's lips moving and hit the stop button again.

"It's too bad we can't have a butterfly room indoors all winter, like at the museum!" said Mia.

"I already hired somebody," Wu said.  "They'll start in November."

Mia looked back at Delia, who was in danger of becoming the most spoiled child in Washington--and that was saying a lot.  Maybe I should tell her grandparents, she thought.

Several miles to the south, the Secretary of State was preparing for her afternoon meeting with Charles Wu.  The embassy attacks across the Arab world had left her reeling, and she was desperate for additional intelligence.  Project R.O.D.H.A.M. had succeeded at holding many wolves at bay, but the program was far too small to cope with this.  There was still disagreement about whether the Libyan attack was a pre-planned 9/11 event or a reaction to the anti-Muslim movie, but the copycats were decidedly focused on the film.  Predator drones taking out Islamist leaders all over the place, R.O.D.H.A.M. operatives assassinating militants right and left, and these people go ballistic over a movie?  Hillary Clinton sank back in her chair, closed her eyes, and pondered her legacy.  We can't win this war...but we can't retreat.

"We can't retreat!" said John Doe to Angela de la Paz, who was sitting near the waterfall in Meridian Hill Park and contemplating the strange man with a mixture of irritation and amusement.  Ghost Henry whispered the next lines into John Doe's ear.  "You have to let the Sunnis and the Shiites go to civil war:  they either kill each other or they kill us!  The choice is clear!"  The ghost of Henry Samuelson whispered another line into John Doe's ear, but Doe frowned.  "I don't think so."

"You don't think what?" asked Angela de la Paz.

Just say it! hollered Ghost Henry.

"I told you not to yell at me!" protested Doe.

"I'm not yelling!" retorted Angela.

"I don't agree with that!" exclaimed Doe.

This time Angela said nothing, as it was now clear that Doe was looking over his shoulder and talking to himself, not to her.

What do you know about Arabs?! exclaimed Ghost Henry.  I am revealing the Prophecy--you can't argue with it!

"That's an abomination, and I won't take any part in it!" declared Doe.  "I have standards!"

Angela stood up to walk away, regretting ever agreeing to meet with the mysterious stranger from the telephone call, when a desperate Ghost Henry ran over and started poking her.

"Hey!" hollered Angela, glaring at Doe.

"I didn't do it!" said Doe.  "It's Henry!"

You weren't supposed to tell her that! cried the ghost of Henry Samuelson.  Not yet!

"What do you mean?!" asked Angela, looking around wild-eyed.  (It had been a long time since the secret agent was scared of anything.)  "Henry Samuelson?!"

John Doe and Ghost Henry both stood silently, not yet ready for the next move.

"G'day!" exclaimed Major Roddy Bruce, running swiftly past them, up the stairs.  Well, that was a pretty sheila! he thought.  I should jog here more often!  (He didn't know he had just run past the "She whose gaze must be avoided" from the military briefing.)

"I'm here for the briefing," said Bridezilla, in Arlington, several miles to the west.  "I'm looking for Mal Evelynt."

"Malevolent?" asked the Romney campaign receptionist, puzzled.

"MAL-COLM E-VE-LYNT," enunciated Bridezilla, annoyed.

"Oh!  Third room on the left," the man said, pointing.

Bridezilla walked towards the room, determined to follow Bucky's advice about asserting her creative ideas for new campaign ads in Virginia.  I'm not just a SuperPac fundraiser! she chanted in her head.  I'm not just a SuperPac fundraiser!  She walked into the conference room where a lone man was pinning storyboards to the wall.   He was tall, dark, and handsome, with piercing blue eyes that ripped through her heart the moment he turned to look at her.

"Hi!" she said, in a soft Virginia drawl, not unlike the way she used to talk many years ago when she had won the Junior Miss pageant.

"Hi!" he said, in a soft Virginia drawl, not unlike the way he used to talk when he first started selling credit default swaps on Wall Street.

Back in the city, contract attorney Laura Moreno was doing partner Bridezilla's bidding in a stuffy workroom at Prince and Prowling.  The other contract attorney--the latest temp--had been complaining about the lack of air conditioning for three hours.

"You know," Moreno finally said, exasperated, "I thought you were desperate for more hours.  I thought you would be happy we asked you to come in!"

"Happy?!" he exclaimed.  "Go home, come in, go home, come in!  I would have been happy to get more than 10 hours of work when the ventilation system was on during normal business hours, instead of trying to make it up on Saturday, unable to breathe!  And why does the photocopy room smell like a wet dog was sleeping on the floor?!  And somebody stole my lunch from the fridge, and since it wasn't you, it has to be that Senator guy because nobody else is here!"

Moreno sighed, knowing he was entirely justified in his complaints...but...but.... "Well, it's not my fault," she finally said.

"I know, I know," he said.  "I apologize.  I don't know how you've put up with this place for years!"

By losing every shred of human dignity I once had, Moreno thought.  By telling myself I'm lucky to be one of the ones they keep telling to come back.  But am I?

"I can't wait to find another gig," her coworker added.  This woman's gonna die in here, he thought.

She almost died here, thought Sebastian L'Arche, surveying the Lake Barcroft site where a rabid beaver had attacked an 83-year-old-woman.  The dog whisperer had dealt with a lot of possessed animals over the years since he had returned from Iraq with the "gift", but this story had unduly unsettled him.  He noted the migrating warblers feasting on ragweed--too much ragweed.  "Climate change is a boon to ragweed," he remarked to his partner, Becky Hartley, but she just jotted down some notes without saying anything.  "I know that beaver had more than rabies, but I'm not sensing anything specific here, and neither is the dog."  The last time he had tried to talk about demons with Hartley, she had blathered on about Thetans, aliens, and suppressive personality types.  He had also overheard her arguing bitterly with her father on the phone about the evils of his prescribing doggie Prozac in his Dallas veterinary practice.  In some ways she was correct that he had no right to tell her he knew more about the mysteries of the world than she did; on the other hand, she had changed so radically that he was certain Scientology really was a cult.  "The Gipper is looking across the lake.  I guess we'd better walk all the way around it."

"OK," said Hartley, who had said little else since picking him up in her truck for the morning gigs.

L'Arche exchanged looks with the Gipper, then the two followed in her footsteps.

On the other side of the lake, a flock of starlings saw the Gipper approaching and took flight.  They headed back to the Potomac--where Ardua lay in the muck contemplating the day she would become Ardua of the Atlantic and see riots and massacres in her own name.

Sunday, September 09, 2012

Messing with the Rest

Clio leaned back in the patio chair, her head woozy, her throat scratchy, her temples throbbing.  The White House butler closed her eyes and let the refreshing breeze blow over her face, and she felt good for a fleeting moment before another chill overtook her:  hot, cold, hot, cold.  The voices of her twin pre-schoolers receded into the distance as they helped the gardener bag the piles of fallen twigs to get a headstart on the week.  It was still only HIV, they kept telling her--not AIDS.  But things are not good, she knew.  She fell into a feverish sleep, jerking occasionally at the sound of voices--Bridge, Reggie, Fergie, other (stranger) voices. 

"I'm glad summer is over," said Regina.  "Sasha and Malia will be around more!"

"Yep, and they'll have plenty of homework to do," cautioned Bridge.

Ferguson whispered to Regina in their secret twin language, and they giggled about how Ghost Dennis liked to help Malia with her homework.

"You need to stop talking like that!" said the gardener.  (He knew the secret language either meant they were talking about ghosts or plotting mischief.)  "I've told you before you have to speak English if you wanna be around me!"

"We were just talking about Chunky Monkey's diet," lied Ferguson.

"Don't call Bo 'Chunky Monkey'!  How would you like it if somebody called you that, Fergie?"

"But we're not fat!" protested Regina.

"You have a fat head, dontcha?  But I don't go callin' you 'Fathead'!"

"My head is not fat!" protested Regina.

"I'm talkin' 'bout on the inside!  Y'all think you're so clever, but you can't even figure out how to help your mom!  And I'm tired of naggin' 'bout it."  He frequently helped out Clio with her official duties as well as her parenting duties, and it exasperated him to see how lazy and naughty the twins could be--even though he knew it was not entirely their fault.

"We're quiet when she's sleeping," said Ferguson, in all seriousness.

And that's more and more, ain't it, thought Bridge, but he held his tongue.  "Reggie!  Get that mouse out of your pocket!"  The little girl tossed it back on the grass, and Bridge whacked it with the back of his rake.

"It was already dead," said Regina.

"What?!  Go wash your hands!  Don't you know we gotta go pick up vegetables now?  Gonna be a heap of tomatoes down from the storm."  The twins both ran off to wash their hands as Bridge tossed the dead mouse into the last bag.  Y'all got each other to play with--why y'all gotta be messin' with the rest?

Several miles to the north, Marcos Vazquez nearly popped the tomatoes out of his bag as he rushed to close the condo door before their neighbor got in his face.  ("Don't mess with me!" Libra screamed.  "I'm warning you!")  His wife was visibly shaking in front of him.

"I can't keep doing this!" Golden Fawn said.

"You're the one that didn't want to counter-sue!" said Vazquez.

"Well, we need to get a restraining order on her!" she replied.

"Just sit down," Vazquez said, setting aside the grocery bags and steering his wife to a chair. 

"Libra's lost her mind!" said Golden Fawn.

"So you've changed your tune now?" asked Vazquez, trying not to sound as if he were saying "told you so".

"I thought she was just going through a jilted lover thing, but I think she's really nuts!"  It was one week since they had returned from their trip and been served with a lawsuit by the neighbor across the hall, alleging she was the real owner of their condo.  "Maybe he did promise Libra the condo, but she's just nuts!"

"It doesn't matter whether the former owner promised it or not," said Vazquez, repeating what their attorney had told them four days ago. 

"I know that!" said Golden Fawn, exasperated.  (At first she had felt sorry for Libra--who had claimed a ten-year relationship with their condo's seller, and a promise from him that he would give her the condo after he bought his house.  The lawsuit alleged that he had told her he was just going to rent it out for awhile until his cash-flow position stabilized in 2012, and then transfer the deed to her, and she did not know until August that her new neighbors were buyers, not tenants.)  "She actually expected us to move out immediately after she filed the lawsuit!  She's trying to terrorize us to death!"

Vazquez looked into his wife's eyes with extreme concern.  The trip to see her grandmother on the reservation had restored Golden Fawn's spirit, replenished her medicine bag, and psyched her up to launch a new attack on Ardua of the Potomac, as well as Ghost Henry at the CIA--but now there were dark circles under eyes, a twitch in her right eyelid, and bruises on her thighs and arms because she kept distractedly walking into furniture.  "Look," he said, "a restraining order would be useless--she lives right across the hallway!  We just need to rent the place out and go live somewhere else until we get the lawsuit dismissed."

"That could take two years!" exclaimed Golden Fawn.  "You heard what the attorney said."

"Well, what other choice do we have?" asked Vazquez.  "It's not like we can sell it--the title has a lien on it now!"  He looked at his wife looking around the condo, and could actually see her eyes' saying goodbye to their home.  "I will fix this!" he promised, with no clue how.

Back in Southwest Plaza (where Marcos Vazquez and Golden Fawn used to live), Ghost Henry was furious with John Doe.  "Are you f-ing kidding me?!" shouted the ghost.  "The first lawsuit you file after years of brain injury recovery is this asinine lawsuit by a jilted lover!  Nobody promises condos to a lover!  Who does that?!  The guy won't even testify for you!"

"This is about justice!" said John Doe.  (He had paid up his D.C. Bar fees and filed the lawsuit with the name on his D.C. Bar license card, but he still preferred to go by John Doe since he still could not remember anything of his life before his head got bashed in with baseball bats.)

"There are bigger fish to fry in this town!" screamed Ghost Henry.

"There's no screaming at autistic savant shamans!" scolded John Doe, petulantly.  "And you're upsetting Lucky Charm!"  (In fact, the helping dog had not stopped growling since Ghost Henry had arrived, and now he was also baring his teeth.)

Ghost Henry did the ephemeral equivalent of taking a deep breath.  He had already had to abort all his plans for Glenn Michael Beckmann and his weapon arsenal after discovering that Beckmann was under federal surveillance.  Neither his daughter nor Angela de la Paz could hear a word he said.  All he had was nemesis Cedric in Arlington Loonyville and this joker with the massive Dead Zone and bizarre sense of social justice.  "Alright!" said Ghost Henry, throwing his wispy arms into the air.  "I can see you feel very strongly about this case.  Maybe you're even in love with the client--"

"No, I'm not!" protested John Doe, who had found in his photo albums a two-year period in the 1990s in which he had been involved with a very hot woman.  "Libra's not my type!"

"You choose women based on their Zodiac sign?!" asked Ghost Henry.

"No, her name is Libra," replied John Doe.

Hippie white trash, thought Ghost Henry.  "I'll come back in a couple weeks when you have more free time, alright?"

"Well, I didn't say I have no time for the prophecy," said John Doe.

"Alright--one week, then," said Ghost Henry, and then he flew out the balcony door, over the D.C. Triathlon stragglers, over Ardua of the Potomac, and back to CIA headquarters in Langley--a careful catbird following him from a distance the entire way.

Sunday, September 02, 2012

The Weapon of Choice

"One, two, cha cha cha; one, two, cha cha cha; one, two, cha cha cha."

Bridezilla again lost track while spinning and stepped the wrong way.

"Close your eyes and feel how my hands are leading you," said her boyfriend, Bucky.

"That just makes me dizzier!" pouted Bridezilla, who let go of his hand and sat down in the corner of the Kennedy Center dressing room.  "I told you:  it's a hopeless case!  I've had dance lessons since I was a little girl, and I never get past the basic steps."

"Yes, you know the basic steps of a dozen dances, but have mastered none of them," agreed Bucky.  "Though your tango is pretty good."

"Not everybody can dance as well as you can," Bridezilla said, as Bucky began to put his "Shear Madness" make-up on.  "You'll just have to accept it!" she said, smilingly.

"So how is campaigning going?" he asked. 

"Pretty good," she said.  (It was Bucky who had convinced her she was wasting her talents at Prince and Prowling and needed to do something bigger, maybe political.)  "I raised over $200,000 this week."

"I asked about the 'campaigning,'" Bucky said.  (And it was not campaigning for Mitt Romney that he had been talking about when encouraging her to do something bigger.)  "Have you gone door-to-door?  Written letters to the editor?  Speeches?"

"Oh, Bucky!  You can't be that naive!" Bridezilla said, sipping her water bottle.  "The fastest way to rise in the Republican Party is through fundraising!  It's not like somebody is going to suddenly notice me in January and appoint me Secretary of State!"  She had made some friends in the Virginia delegation to the Tampa convention, and was, in fact, hoping to get more involved in television ad production, but she did not want to get Bucky's hopes up.

"I still don't know how you can deal with that Republic Party platform!" Bucky said, reaching for the rouge.

She knew some of his friends in theater had gay marriages, and she was tired of this topic.  "We have to balance the views of libertarians with religious conservatives," she said for the upteenth time.  (What she didn't say was that she was not on the libertarian side of the issue, as she knew he believed.  Bucky had been good for her in many ways, and had certainly brought out a spark in her that had been missing for a long time, but she knew their values would never be in alignment.  Also, she was tired of dating a guy that constantly wanted to borrow her clothes.)

"You should have gone out of town this weekend, even if I couldn't!" said Bucky, always playing the cavalier (and often doing so by changing the subject).

"I would have missed you too much!" said Bridezilla, and it was true...though it was also true that she would probably not miss him much if she found somebody new.

Out on the river, Congressman Herrmark was sailing past the Kennedy Center.  "You should have gone out of town this weekend," said Ann Bishis to her boss, as her cousins (his twin bodyguards) manned the sails.  "We'll be lucky to get in another hour before the rain hits."

"A little rain never hurt anybody," he said.  He had been clinging emotionally to Bishis ever since the unexplained disappearance of his chief of staff and the harrowing missing person investigation that had made him feel hounded like a criminal. 

"Sure," said Bishis, who had held an umbrella over his head many, many, many times.  (The truth was, when he had asked what she was doing this weekend, she had hoped the reply "sailing" would deter him from tagging along.)  "But lightning is a different story," she added.  (Herrmark made no reply.)  "What about Margaret Hooper Itchareeny?" Bishis said, throwing out another useless name for him to consider for his next chief of staff.  (Bishis half-hoped for the position herself--a position that would be rewarding but also extremely challenging.)

"Hmmm...yes, perhaps," said Herrmark looking at a huge turtle gliding by.  "They grow really old, you know."

"The Itchareeny's?" asked Bishis.

Herrmark laughed out loud, maybe a little too loud.  "No, those tortoises!" he said, pointing her to the water.  "There's a lot to be said for growing a hard shell and plodding along without a lot of drama."

"Hmmm...yes," said Bishis, rolling her eyes at Costas and Nick.

Several miles away, Charles Wu was also rolling his eyes as he traversed a body of water--a pool of urine in the Woodner lobby.  He looked around for someone to complain to, but it was pointless.  He held his breath, wondering if he had grown soft since growing up near the docks of Hong Kong.  After seeing an out-of-order sign on one of the elevators, he decided it might be safer to take the stairs in a building like this--then found himself dodging discarded syringes and  condoms on his way up to the fourth floor.  Never again!  I don't care how valuable this source might be--he needs to get his ass out of here and meet me in a respectable establishment!  Wu emerged on the 4th floor hallway in time to see a mouse run past him.  I'm burning my clothes when I get home, and the shoes.  He stopped to ask a slumped woman in a wheelchair if she needed assistance, and she promptly started screaming, spitting, and flailing at him.  The spy hurried past her, in search of his new contact, desperately hoping the apartment would--for the love of God--smell good.

Several miles to the south, Southwest Plaza had its own real estate demon to contend with.  After a never-ending series of plagues over the course of many years, the apartment building's current means of oppression was an explosion of spiders.  Up in his apartment, Glenn Michael Beckmann had his windows wide open, and was running around screaming at the spiders, "Go outside!  Go outside!  There are no flies in here for you to catch!  Go outside!  I swear, I will kill you all!"

"Settle down, Glenn!" said Ghost Henry (F.K.A. Henry Samuelson), floating in through an open window.  "They can't hurt you!"

"AAAAAAAAAH!" screamed Beckmann, who did not know that Ghost Henry had shown up at the suggestion of his neighbor, John Doe. 

"Just get the vacuum and suck 'em up!" hollered Ghost Henry, who had recently discovered that it was very easy to communicate with people if their brains actually had activity in the Dead Zone.  "Be a man!  I'd do it myself if my arms still worked.  Good grief!  You should have seen the spiders we had in Syria!"

Beckmann fumbled for the hose attachment, sure it was some type of revenge from the Scientologists.  "What do you want?!" he screamed at Ghost Henry, then turned on the vacuum cleaner, making it impossible for Ghost Henry to reply.  Several minutes later, an exhausted Beckmann sat down on the couch, surveying a satisfactory lack of spiders and an unsatisfactory presence of ghost.  "What do you want?" he repeated.

"I want what every ghost wants," said Ghost Henry.  "To fix the things I ran out of time for in my life."

"I don't believe in Scientology!" exclaimed Beckmann, reaching for the machete he kept under the couch cushion, then brandishing it at Ghost Henry.

"Excellent!" squealed Ghost Henry.  "John told me you had a lot of weapons."

"John?!  You mean John Doe?!  How does he know about my weapons?!  I saw him speaking in tongues!  Is he the Messiah or the anti-Messiah?!"

"Neither, my good fellow!  But I do hope to make something of him," added ghost Henry.  "Now, let's talk about you...and your weapons."

A couple miles to the north, Angela de la Paz met Dr. Devi Rajatala near the ticket counter of the Gallery Place movie theater.  She's still trying to turn me into a normal person, thought Angela, who had spent the past two weeks freeing child soldiers in Mali, blowing up arms dealers in Sudan, and executing female slave traffickers in Thailand.  It's not like she can just ask me about my work!  What kind of weapons did you use, Angela?  Do you pick your own targets, or is the Heurich Society choosing all these missions?  Angela had no interest in the movie selected by Dr. Raj, but she liked Dr. Raj, and it was as good a thing as any to do on a rainy Sunday in Washington.  If her grandmother were still alive, she'd be in church.

"You look good, Angela!" said Dr. Rajatala, though she immediately felt bad about saying so since Angela's face was in many respects a creation of Heurich-paid plastic surgery.

"So do you!" said Angela, who meant it.  After so many years with a sickly grandmother, she still found it odd that people used such a statement as a greeting, but there were worse ways to greet somebody.  Now Dr. Raj was hugging her, and that was alright, too.  Most of her human interactions these days involved killing.  Charles Wu had recently said to her, "you take in people like scenery now--like they don't have a past or a future."  And it was true--people were becoming like trees or rocks to her, and most of them were for ignoring, and the others were for knocking out of the way.  And it wasn't as if Angela did not know this was affecting her in a profound way; it was just that Angela did not see any other path ahead of her now.  She thought of something she saw scrawled on a ladies room wall in Pakistan:  "I existed because I dreamed, but now I dream no more." Angela knew nothing would make Dr. Raj happier than hearing Angela open up about stuff like that on her mind, but she couldn't do it.

Back on the Potomac, Dubious McGinty stood in the moist breeze staring down at Ardua of the Potomac from his perch on the 14th Street Bridge.  The Vietnam War veteran was growing older and losing faith that he would defeat the demon someday.  "I existed because I dreamed, but now I dream no more," he repeated for the upteenth time after hearing it in "Neverwas".  "If I dream no more, then what?"

"I can give you a new dream!" shouted Ardua, laughingly.  McGinty undid his fly and urinated down on her.