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, October 28, 2012

Toppled Over

Dr. Devi Rajatala watched with guarded happiness as Angela de la Paz battened down the hatches on some tool sheds at the eastern edge of the National Arboretum--or, rather, directed her boyfriend, Major Roddy Bruce, on what to do.  It made Dr. Rajatala a little nervous that he was several years older than the 18-year-old, but he was a military man with impeccably polite manners and an Australian type of chivalry she had seen as a youngster watching tourists in India.  She heard them laughing (again), undeterred by the ugly gray skies, chilly air, or impending hurricane.  He could be good for her.

Angela looked up and smiled at Dr. Raj.

"She's spying on us again!" joked Bruce, good-naturedly.

"She needs to know if you can hammer straight," replied Angela before kissing him again.

"You didn't tell me that meeting her would be like meeting a parent," he said, instantly regretting it when a cloud came over Angela's eyes.  "I'm an idiot," he added.

"No, no," said Angela, reaching for more nails.

"You told me how important she is to you when I met her yesterday--I get it.  I just meant, well--"

"She's scrutinizing you, which she is," said Angela, recovering.  "She is very maternal about me, and I am grateful for that."

"Even when she drags you to Girard Street for early voting, and you spend three hours of that gorgeous Saturday in linewaiting to vote!" he joked, winking at her.

"Well, some of us have to do our part for democracy while you foreigners are off playing footy!"

"Hey, I brought you a snack at halftime!"

"I know," said Angela.  "That's when Dr. Raj started liking you."

"I thought it was when I accidentally bumped into that little guy."

"Councilmember Jim Graham?   Yeah, but it would have been better if he had toppled over."

"Like this shed, if we don't finish up."

On the other end of town, Charles Wu was also battening down the hatches, terrified that Hurricane Sandy would destroy his baby's dream house.

"I really don't think it will be so bad," said his mother, carrying Buffy Cordelia in her arms and standing beside the ladder her ex-husband was holding as Wu worked on a second-floor window.  "You were never afraid of typhoons in Hong Kong," added Ha Ling Wu.

"I didn't have a baby then," he replied.

"You were a baby then," joked his father, Charles Wilkinson Montgomery.

"This is nuts," said Wu.

"Yes, that is what I'm saying," said his mother.

"Let's just drive to Tennessee and wait out the storm there," said Wu.

His parents exchanged glances but said nothing.  Delia, on the other hand. gurgled with excitement.

Down in Southeast, Sebastian L'Arche was making his own preparations for Hurricane Sandy:  dogs in the basement, cats on the ground floor, exotic pets upstairs.  "Yes, Congressman," said Becky Hartley, jotting down the notes from another phone call.  "We've got room."    She hung up and turned to the dog whisperer:  "He says the maid won't deal with his neurotic schnauzer during the storm, and he and his wife will be out of town campaigning."  L'Arche simply nodded, since they hadn't yet hit their numerical limit.  "We're making a ton of money," said Hartley, jotting down some more notes about the schnauzer.  "But it's a good thing my daddy sent us a box of doggie Prozac--I mean, you can only be on one floor at a time."  He looked over at her, and she flashed him a weak smile.  After a couple of days of silence, she had returned to being a non-stop chatterbox, though she never referred directly to how her father's men from Dallas had forcibly cult-deprogrammed her from the Church of Scientology.  "Y'know--my office'll probably close for some of the hurricane, anyway, so I can be here helping you out."

"I'm counting on it," said L'Arche.  (He wasn't actually counting on it, but it would be nice.)

"What do you think the hurricane will do to...you know...?"

"The ghosts of Washington?" asked L'Arche.

"Oh, I think the ghosts are fine--but, you know...the demons."

L'Arche hadn't been sure she would still believe in demons anymore--now that she had stopped believing in Thetans and whatnot.  He had no idea what she believed about anything.  "Well," he said, looking earnestly at her--but she was staring at her spiral pad and rolling the pen around in her fingers.  "They'll be jealous of it, I suppose."

Hartley looked up and smiled at him--a little stronger this time.

Over in Southwest, Ghost Henry was, indeed, uninterested in the looming hurricane.  "Wake up!" he shouted at John Doe, who had just had a frontal lobe epileptic seizure and toppled over in his living room.  "Wake up!"

After ten minutes, John Doe dutifully woke up, but remained disoriented for another ten minutes as an impatient Ghost Henry paced phantasmagorically.  Then John Doe tried telling Ghost Henry about his autistic shaman vision, and Ghost Henry lost all patience.  "You're not autistic!" he shouted.

"You can't shout at an autistic shaman!" protested John Doe.

"You're an epileptic--that's all!" retorted Ghost Henry.  "Your right brain can't communicate properly with your left brain--it's just synapses and electrons!"

"There are three types of learning," said John Doe.  "Visual, word, or pattern.  Autistics are stuck at the extreme end of one mode."  (Ghost Henry rolled his vaporous eyes.)  "Mine is visual:  I see visions."

"Here's a vision for you:  Hamas repressing Syrian refugees until they explode out of the refugee camps and start slaughtering civilians in Lebanon and Israel!"

"You said there are no more civilians in the Middle East," replied John Doe.

"Well, there are still a few people with no guns, and they're gonna die soon if you don't help me with the CIA!"

"Maybe you should just go there yourself--you can meet up with the ghosts of the people who have already died.  There's a lot, right?  You could set up a ghost CIA, maybe.  Just ghosts.  Ghosts and autistic shamans."

The ghost of Henry Samuelson stopped to ponder this for a few moments.  "Only people with unfinished business come back as ghosts," said Ghost Henry.  (Actually, he had been kicked out of Purgatory by the people who couldn't stand him--and so rapidly that he never got training on how to communicate to average human beings as a ghost.)  "It would be hard to control them."

"That's where the autistic shamans come in," said John Doe, who still had unshaken faith in his recent vision.

On the other side of the river, Bridezilla's faith was shaken:  her faith in Mitt Romney.  "Mal," she said tearfully to Mal Evelynt, her bigshot Republican operative of a boyfriend, "he's NOT a Christian!"

"Yes, he is!" protested Evelynt, who really did not have time for this, and was stabbing his IHOP pancake stack with a vengeance.

"I went to church with my parents this morning, and the pastor explained to us that Mornonism is a CULT!"

"It isn't!  How can you be so prejudiced?" asked Evelynt (who believed in the need to put the white back in the White House).

"I was baptized in that church!  I've known that pastor my whole life!" moaned Bridezilla, who was pushing her hash browns aimlessly around the plate.  "The Mormons think," said Bridezilla, lowering her voice to a whisper, "that Indians are the Lost Tribe of Israel...and JESUS never ascended--he came to America!"

"You say potato, Glove says po-tah-to."

Bridezilla put down her silverware altogether, horrified.  "My parents have never voted for a Democrat their entire lives, but our pastor says it's our Christian duty!  It's Obama who's the Christian!"

"Look," cried Evelynt, "Nixon was a goddam Quaker, and he bombed Cambodia!  Your political ad is hitting the airwaves TONIGHT!  You and your beautiful blond hair glistening in the Virginia sunlight, standing in front of the American flag--"

"You didn't even let me talk in that ad!" protested Bridezilla.

"I told you, you're too nasal--not nasal, twangy," he quickly corrected himself.

"You have to PULL that ad, Mal!" cried Bridezilla.  "My parents'll think I'm goin' straight to Hell for endorsing a PAGAN!"

Evelynt stood up, threw a twenty dollar bill down on the table, and stomped off without another word, leaving nearby diners to shake their heads in pity at the pretty thing trembling in the booth.

Back in Washington, Ghost Dennis was sulking in the White House attic, anxious about the huge number of things Mitt Romney said he would do on Day One of his Presidency.  "It's not enough time!" fretted Ghost Dennis.  "How can I whisper in his ear quickly enough if he's gonna rush in here like a house on fire?"

A few of the Shackled had gathered to console Ghost Dennis, but they had to admit, things could change pretty rapidly if Obama left the White House.  "But we've seen worse," the Shackled reminded him.

"But I haven't," replied Ghost Dennis.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Echoes of Saints and Sinners


"GO, GO, GO, GO!"

The scene echoed in Sebastian L'Arche's mind over and over again.  It was like the cornering of that vicious pit bull two weeks ago, or the entrapment of that hissing cobra the month before.  And last night he dreamt again of Iraq for the first time in a very long time, except this time it was Becky Hartley that got chased into an Abu Ghraib cell and stunned to the ground. It was not supposed to go down like that, but they had told him they knew what they were doing.  L'Arche sighed as the Congressman's rat terrier signaled to him that the Laughing Man Tavern was now de-ratted, and the animal whisperer left to take The Gipper home and wait for the phone call.

Not far from the rescued kitchen, Major Roddy Bruce was having brunch with Angela de la Paz.

"RUN, RUN!"

The scene echoed in Bruce's mind over and over again.  It was like a scene from "Aeon Flux," the way Angela had pulverized the Columbia Heights muggers and sent them running for their lives last night.  He had almost said something stupid, like "what's a nice girl like you doing in a dark alley like this?", but he had caught himself in time.  Then he had recognized her as the beautiful young woman he often saw during his runs in Meridian Hill Park.  "Well, that was really something!" he had finally said to her, as she examined him suspiciously.  "You deserve a beer after that."  Another stupid thing to say, but he was too flustered to think of something better and American women seemed to love his Aussie accent no matter what he said.

"No, I'm tired," had been her quick reply last night, but she had counter-offered to meet him for brunch today, and here they were.  She had no idea why he had suggested this place, but his familiarity with it suggested he was a regular.  Still, she was watching him constantly, and his eyes never strayed to any of the televised sporting events--he couldn't take his eyes off her.  He talked incessantly--cheerfully--and the words flowed rapidly over her without leaving many echoes.  She had paid a lot of attention to his job description (military attaché to the Australian embassy), less to his school day stories from Brisbane, a little to his family tales, and more to his Asian travel tales.  Her Kansas spy training had taught her that people who prattle on and on are nervous.  If he were a mark, she would seduce him and glean his secrets.  (That's the sort of thing Charles Wu would want her to do.)  But somehow she spent more time kicking people's asses.  And she didn't need to seduce Roddy because...he liked her.

"What about you?" the major finally proffered, exhausted from trying to make himself fascinating.

"I'm a spy," she said, and Major Bruce burst out laughing.  (Wu had told her it was the best line because then people would consider it a joke and never suspect it.)  She smiled at him, genuinely.

"No, come on!  Really!" said Bruce, who thought she looked too young to be anybody's spy.

"I just came back from Libya," she said, and he burst out laughing again.

"Alright, I get it," Bruce said.  "Playing it close to the vest, don't feel like talking about yourself."  (He was now thinking she might be an undercover cop.)  Can you tell me at least one thing?"

"What's that?" she asked.

"What's your idea of a perfect Sunday afternoon in Washington?"

Nobody had ever asked her this before, and Angela de la Paz...liked it.

Several miles to the north, Charles Wu was still keeping his espionage close to the vest, but his mother was wearing him down.  She had never shown excessive curiosity about his life as a "businessman" before, but now that she had a granddaughter in the mix, she was excessively inquisitive about his current state of affairs, future prospects, and ultimate plans for where to raise Buffy Cordelia.  And he was astute enough at the art of lying to know that she was doing a dreadful job of pretending to believe his vague lies and half-truths.  His father, on the other hand, remained the consummate conflict-avoider, and strenuously strove to change the topic whenever Wu seemed resistant to his mother's line of questioning--whether about the whereabouts of Delia's mother, the details of Wu's business affairs, or his plans for educating and raising the girl.  Wu adored his daughter with every fiber of his being, and he was exasperated that this fact was not enough to satisfy her grandmother.

"Look, son," said Charles Wilkinson Montgomery when they had a moment alone, "it's clear you're spending a fortune on this child.  Your mother just wants to be sure that you're putting aside money for the future."

"Really?" asked Wu.  "I think she thinks I'm spoiling Delia."

"Well, can you blame her?" replied his father.

"She's just a baby!" protested Wu.  "It's not like she snaps her fingers and gets everything she wants--she's never asked for anything!'

"Why don't you offer to take Delia to Hong Kong for the New Year?  Maybe every New Year?  And if you'd like to bring her to England for a month in the summer, I would be thrilled, but I understand your work keeps you busy."

At that point, Ha Ling reentered the room with her freshly diapered granddaughter cooing in her arms, and a determined look on her face.

Several miles to the south, Bridezilla adjusted the pink "princess" keychain one more time, closed the gift box, wrapped it in gold foil paper, and tied it off with a magenta ribbon.  Then she wrote out the gift tag ("To my darling Mal, with love") and sighed deeply, thinking about how happy he would be to receive a key to her apartment.  She put the gift in her bag, picked up the case binders, and locked her Prince and Prowling office behind her.  She did feel a little twinge of guilt asking Laura Moreno to finish them, but the law firm was paying Moreno overtime, and she could always quit if she didn't want the work.  Also, they had brought back that other contract attorney to help out for a couple of weeks....

Not far away, Moreno was trying to read the email Bridezilla had just sent about the case binders, but the other contract attorney was prattling on again about her upcoming charity work in Haiti.  (On Friday, she had spent the entire day selecting paint colors, wood flooring, and shutters for the Capitol Hill rowhouse she was renovating to flip in the spring--except for the one hour she had spent setting up a website on Kickstarter to invite people to contribute money to her dream of giving up contract attorney work to flip houses full time and use the profits for charity work in Haiti.  On Thursday, she had spent most of the day on the phone with plumbers and electricians, except for the two hours she had spent writing in her blog about recently meeting Richard Gere and the Dalai Lama because she was a very active Buddhist.  Moreno had never met a Buddhist who ate so much meat, but, then again, Moreno was no expert on Buddhism.)   "Here you go!" said Bridezilla cheerfully, sailing into the stinky workroom with the binders to hand to Moreno.  (The other contract attorney tried to close the Home Depot webpage so rapidly that she accidentally clicked on the command to expand the photo view of the Martha Stewart mauve window treatment.)

"Thanks," said Moreno, grateful that Bridezilla never paused to chat.

Over on Capitol Hill, Sebastian L'Arche had just finished persuading a Persian cat to stop urinating on its owner's Persian rugs when he got the phone call:  the deprogramming was finished.  He stuck the client's check in his pocket and hurried out to flag a cab on Pennsylvania Avenue.  Dr. Hartley had told L'Arche it was a bit rough, but the cult deprogramming had worked and Becky was no longer a Scientologist.  She was asleep in the Capital Hilton suite the Dallas veterinarian had rented for the weekend, but L'Arche wanted to see her anyway.  "You did the right thing, calling me, young man," Dr. Hartley had said over the phone, but it was hard to believe that having three large men grab her off a Hilton couch, gag her, carry her to an adjacent bedroom, and spend 20 hours persuading her that she had been brainwashed into joining and giving money to the Church of Scientology was the "right thing".  The deprogrammers had used the kind of force and restraint that L'Arche was loathe to use on any but the most violent and dangerous of animals...but he had known he was losing Becky, and had not known how to get her back by himself.

Two miles away, Dubious McGinty was up in his perch on the 14th Street Bridge, shaking his fist at Ardua of the Potomac.  "Seven more saints!" he boasted.  "The Pope's named seven more saints!"

Ardua just laughed and ordered a flock of starlings to go out and do her bidding  "None of those saints are from this town," she cackled.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

The Diary of Bridezilla's Political Romance

It's hard not to think about Bucky and "Shear Madness" on Sundays, but he took the breakup well and said we could always be friends.  He also promised to sing at my wedding, though I think my father would complain that he's gay because he's very show biz.  (And Daddy doesn't understand bisexuality.)  And if I marry Mal, it would have to be a Republican singer, of course, and that usually means country-western, and I do NOT want a hillbilly wedding, that's for sure.  (How can I wear Vera Wang to a hillbilly wedding?!  Of course, Vera Wang is not the top designer anymore, and I would probably need to buy something a little more traditional--like Kate Middleton's gown!)

Cigemeier caught me looking at bridal magazines in my office again and asked me if Bucky had popped the question!  You should have seen the look of surprise when I told him I was now dating an important Republican super pac strategist and publicist!  (And he's the third person that said, "Malevolent?"  And I had to repeat "Mal Evelynt," and he was still looking at me funny, and I had to say, "Mal-colm-E-ve-lynt"!  I always have to say it like that.)

It IS true I have been SLIGHTLY neglectful of my duties as a partner at Prince and Prowling, but how often does a girl fall in love AND play a crucial role in a national presidential election??!!  I'm raising money, attending fancy parties, writing political ads--well, contributing--it's a group process.  And one of my contributions found its way to MISTER PAUL RYAN!  Yep, that was me that said:  every time somebody complains that Mitt Romney is not a car person or doesn't care about the automobile industry, tell that story about how he gave money to the people who had a car accident.  (Some people said, "that makes no sense," and I said, "it's about CAR PEOPLE, duh.")

My dream is to do a voice-over on a SuperPac television ad, but Mal said, "Sweetheart, I love you, but your voice is just a little too nasal for prime time!"  ME NASAL?  I'm from the SOUTH!  I won a Junior Miss Pageant in Virginia!  I tried to explain to Mal that it's a TWANG, but he said, "Whatever it is, it's too much for prime time--not unless you can convert it to something a little throatier, like a Georgia accent."  WHAT??!!  You want me talking like Jimmy Carter in a political ad?!  Needless to say, we could not reach agreement on that one.

But every cloud has a silver lining!!!!  He said he's working on a political ad that I can appear in as an ACTRESS!!!!!  (Well, non-speaking role, but STILL!)  He said Sarah Palin had the sexy librarian fantasy look, but I had something better--sexy southern lawyer beauty pageant kind of thing.  He totally gets me!

So, I was telling Cigemeier about all this (well, not that last bit), and he asked, "Are you even INTERESTED in being a lawyer?"  Why do people keep saying that to me!?  Who does he think he is, anyway--the next named partner at Prince and Prowling?  Prince, Prowling, and Cigemeier?  Ha!  Like that's gonna happen.  So I had to spell out to him how important free speech is in influencing elections, and every lawyer should care about elections.  Then he has the nerve to try debating the issues with me!  ME!  Hello, I'm a major Republican player now!  And then, GET THIS:  he's become a conspiracy nut!  Cigemeier said he thinks the CIA killed our ambassador in Libya, and that's why Clinton and Obama don't know what the hell happened there!  I told him that was ridiculous--why couldn't he just admit the Democrats are incompetent?  So he asked, do you think the people guarding the embassy were Democrats?  I didn't say THAT!  Geez!  This is why it's pointless to discuss politics with Democrats--they will never admit when they've made a mistake.  

(Like Mitt Romney admitted he made a mistake when he said that thing about 47% of the people!  Of course, the inside joke is that the mistake was, he meant to say 49%!)

But we don't do much joking around, because it's serious--not like those people that did a zombie march on Washington because Dish TV isn't carrying some television channel with a zombie show on it.  (GET A LIFE, PEOPLE!  HONESTLY!)  And now some fools are planning a Million Muppet March to defend PBS because people in rural areas need it, and stupid reasons like that.  (Pay for your damned satellite dish, and GET A LIFE!)  We've got nuclear submarines colliding with Navy cruisers off the coast of VIRGINIA!  We've got serious crap going on, and this election is CRUCIAL!  Of course, when I see Cigemeier tomorrow, he'll probably say they collided on purpose to make Obama look bad, or somebody's trying to use nuclear submarines to overthrow the government (like on "Last Resort").

But I am grateful to Cigemeier for ONE thing--he did warn me that Senator Breadman will hit the roof if my partisan activity becomes too noticeable.  BREADMAN takes money from Republican clients ALL the time, but he also takes money from Democrats.  SOME of us have principles!  But I would do anything for Mal and Romney!  Well, I won't talk like Jimmy Carter, but I will do anything ELSE!  I LOVE THEM!!!!!

***************
Next weekend, Washington Water Woman will take back her blog!  (Coming up:  Becky Hartley will leave the Church of Scientology, Angela de la Paz will meet her first love, Buffy Cordelia will meet her Chinese grandmother, and the CIA will continue to--CENSORED.) 

Sunday, October 07, 2012

Those are not Arabs, and this is not spring.

"Mayor Vincent Gray fires Christophe Tulou a month before the retirement of Potomac Riverkeeper Ed Merrifield:  just a coincidence, or is a new reign of terror about to descend on our local waterways?  Cut."  Television reporter Holly Gonightly looked into her cameraman's digital display to review her performance.  "Too sensationalistic?" she quizzed.

"Considering you haven't yet found any connection--"

"I will!" declared the TFFT Gonightly.

"It's sort of a theory looking for facts," said the cameraman, talking rather well for somebody who had just popped another low-fat mini-muffin into his mouth (the dieting Gonightly could not stand them).  "Still, the forbidding skies over the bridge make it a really good shot, if we use it."

"We'll use it!"

A few miles to the north, millionaire real estate mogul Calico Johnson was hosting another meeting of Sense of Entitlement Anonymous (D.C. Chapter) at his Potomac Manors estate.  "More mimosas?" he asked, walking the tray around the room.  (He had previously discussed with the group whether he was entitled to a maid, and they had all agreed he was rich enough but felt his privacy issues were too problematic.)  Johnson sat down and stifled a yawn as Mayor Vincent Gray made his case for admission into S.E.A.

"Everybody's whining about Christophe Tulou's getting fired!  'Poor Christophe Tulou!  Boo hoo!'  What about George Hawkins at D.C. Water, huh?  That man cares about the Potomac River as much as anybody--and he's the water guy, right?  Shouldn't DDOE be deferring to D.C. Water on river pollution issues?  And everybody's supposed to be deferring to me, right?  I'm the mayor!  People just like Tulou because he has a classy French name, and George's name sounds like a bird of prey."

A few people mumbled some "uh-huh's" and "uh-hum's", but their eyes were glazing over from the descent into municipal government inter-bureaucratic squabble stories.

"Why don't you just appoint Christophe Tulou head of Potomac Riverkeeper, since that other guy is retiring?" asked Bridezilla.

"That's a non-profit!" exclaimed Mayor Gray.  "I can't appoint the next Potomac Riverkeeper!"

"If you had the right connections, you could," said Congressman John Boehner.  (Dick Cheney nodded in agreement.)

"Look," said a visibly nervous Judge Sowell Ame.  "You people are talking about forces you don't understand--dark, dark forces."  He was thinking of the Potomac River in general, and also recalling the scary circumstances in which he had been bribed to settle the decades-old river lawsuit in favor of Friends of the Potomac Pelicans.  (FOPP was just an intervenor, but he preferred to remember it as the victor, rather than Prince and Prowling's scary corporate client.)  "You try to mess with people who want to do things to that river, you're gonna regret it."

"Enough!" screamed Federal Reserve Board economist Luciano Talaverdi, throwing his champagne glass down on the teak parquet floor, where it shattered into a hundred pieces and scratched the wood's finish.  "He's the Mayor!  He's entitled to fire anybody he wants to fire--even an outstanding protector of the environment!  Just because a private word of displeasure would have been a far more rational way to handle it--and would have avoided alienating another 10,000 citizens against the Gray Administration--doesn't mean the Mayor was not entitled to fire him!  I say we vote him in and move onto more important topics--like how the news media does not know how to properly report unemployment statistics!"  (Audible groaning.)

"I second the motion," said Bridezilla, who suddenly thought Talaverdi was looking pretty hot.

An ungodly scream assaulted the S.E.A. meeting without warning and prevented a formal vote on Mayor Gray's admission.  Calico Johnson grabbed his cellphone to call his neighbor and ran out of his house in the direction of the scream.  Oh, my God!  She's not answering!  He jumped over the fence in a deft move his legs had not executed since college, winced in pain as his heel landed on a rock, then resumed running.  "Basia!" he hollered, just as a second horrific scream erupted from her house.  "Basia!"  He was running full-throttle towards her back door when Basia Karbusky emerged from the kitchen with a strange implement in her hand.

"It's OK, Cal!" she said.  "Sorry about the screaming!  My boyfriend is such a baby!"

"What?!" gasped Johnson, coming to a halt on her stairs.  She has a boyfriend and she's torturing him? (He wasn't sure which part of that revelation was the most upsetting.)

"I had to remove wax from his ears--it was impacted.  He was as deaf as an old man!" she laughed.  The sheepish Atticus Hawk [no relation to bird of prey George Hawkins] now emerged from the back door, having splashed cold water on his face and averted the fainting spell he had come dangerously close to.  "There--all better now, sweetheart?" she asked playfully.  "This is my neighbor, Cal."

A few miles to the south, Charles Wu was making an awkward introduction of his own.  "Dad, this is Mia, my nanny."

"Yes, we met on Skype last week," replied Charles Wilkinson Montgomery, ironically.

"Hello, Mr. Montgomery," said Mia, shaking his extended hand.  Wu had withheld her last paycheck as punishment for telling Wu's parents about the secret grandchild, and had lectured her vehemently about trust, but Lynnette Wong had reminded her that recurring bouts of mistrust were probably to Mia's advantage since they delayed any pressure on his part to pull her into the spy business.  "Isn't Delia wonderful?"

"Yes!" he replied, turning to smile at his granddaughter in her spinning seat.  Buffy Cordelia smiled back at her grandfather and bounced up and down in joy at the arrival of Mia.  "I couldn't be more delighted!"  (In truth, he was still hurt and resentful about his own son's failure to report the birth of the girl, but had no justification for voicing such feelings since he, himself, had kept a huge family secret from his own son for over two decades.)

Wu watched silently as Mia put up her coat and umbrella, then headed off with Wu's father to play with Delia.   With Delia here, Wu knew he could sneak off and do at least a couple hours' worth of work, but this would amount to little more than advising his contacts he would soon be in radio silence for an undetermined amount of time.  He would invent some cover story for this which did not include the imminent arrival of his mother from Hong Kong--an arrival that would not resemble the polite and fond approach of his British father.  At least I have mega bonus points racked up with Clinton right now for averting a diplomatic disaster at the U.N.--because God knows when I'll be back in the game again.

A couple miles to the south, Henrietta Samuelson dimmed the lights as the Brewmaster Castle's butler brought the birthday cake into the upper-floor meeting room and the birthday song began.  Even with the handicap of the crackling speakerphone and three-thousand miles of distance, Condoleezza Rice's voice was honeyed and rich compared to the raspy old voices of most members of the Heurich Society.  Angela de la Paz was now 18, though everybody in the room (including Angela) thought it a bit absurd to highlight this point after all the girl had already done.  Still, "Button" Samuelson was in charge now, and she liked birthday parties--plus she knew Angela had been a bit down in the dumps since the thwarting of her attempt to assassinate the President of Iran in New York.  Angela blew out the candles and opened the group birthday card as Samuelson began slicing the cake.  Nobody had signed their real names to the card--which was, instead, full of notes like "you're old enough to vote now, ha ha!" and "wouldn't the Army love to recruit you?!"  Angela opened the group gift--which was a platinum Swiss army knife encrusted with 18 industrial-strength diamonds in the shape of a star--and wondered if Charles Wu bought his spies perfume and jewelry.

A mile away, the Assistant Deputy Administrator for Hope was monitoring cables from Panicstan in his State Department office.  "Panicstani fighter believed among casualties killed by Turkish artillery," said one.  "Syrian refugees picked up for questioning by Panicstani military police," said another.  The last one he read before heading to the vending machine was more poetic:  "Those are not Arabs, and this is not spring."

Out in the river, Ardua of the Potomac crawled lazily through the muck, listening to the cries of her victims and the shouts of her apostates--sounds only a few creatures in Washington could truly distinguish.