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 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.

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