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, November 25, 2012

Dimmer and dimmer.

The light went off again punctually, seven minutes after the last time it went off.  Atticus Hawk spun 360 degrees in his Justice Department chair, the motion sensor picked him up, and the overhead light went back on again.  His girlfriend thought it was hilarious that the FBI knew how to set up clandestine spy operations all over the country but could not master the technical specifications of a standard energy-saving lighting system.  ("I don't work for the FBI," he had said.  "I work with attorneys."  "Sure you do!" Basia had said, because she knew all her clients lied to her or stayed mum about the exact nature of their work, and he was her client before they started dating.)  He had brought in a desk lamp this morning, but the bulb had already burnt out.  Because the Justice Department's incompetence interrupted his work every seven minutes, he rebelled by goofing off every seven minutes.  (Not much of a rebellion since he was, in fact, working on a Sunday, but still....)  This time, he opened up an email from Basia which was forwarding FBI knock-knock jokes--

* "Knock-knock!"
* "Who's there?"
* "FBI."
* "FBI who?"
* "We don't have to answer your damned questions!"

* "Knock-knock!"
* "Who's there?"
* [silence]
* "I've got a gun in here!"
* [door blown open with dynamite]

Are these supposed to be funny?  Hawk frowned, uncertain whether he had lost his sense of humor or Basia didn't have any.  She was an unusual woman, to be sure, but she did make him laugh occasionally.  It also unnerved him that she kept joking about his being involved in reading the email diary of Paula Broadwell's sexcapades, because the idea of treating David Petraeus like that was atrocious.  He was only involved in reading Jill Kelly's emails with the other general, and only the small portion that the FBI wanted legal backup on.  He turned back to his computer to type a few more sentences justifying the investigation leader's interpretation of Eric Holder's protocol regarding national security considerations to be weighed  in reading personal communications between civilians and military officers with high-level security clearances.  Most of the footnotes cited internal Justice Department memoranda and Attorney General letters to the President of the United States, so Hawk had to be careful not to use circular reasoning.  (He also couldn't cite actual facts.)  He painstakingly drafted two more sentences, then the overhead light went off again.

Several miles to the west, Basia Karbusky was trying to persuade Mega Moo to head into the north pasture, but the old cow was reluctant.  "You're getting soft, Mega Moo!" she teased her pet.  "It was a lot colder in Wisconsin!"  Mega Moo bellowed ferociously at this insult, even though it was true:  on cold days she preferred staying in the barn and having hay brought to her.  "Are you going to make me buy hay all winter?  You'll get horribly fat--and bored!"  Mega Moo bellowed again, but walked on to the north pasture, deciding she would reserve her rebellions for temperatures below 40--but it was barely 40 today!  Karbusky did a small repair job on the pasture fence, then went back to her lab to finish the drug batches she was selling in this afternoon's appointments:  one new customer from the White House and three repeat customers from the State Department (read "CIA").  Her morning appointment was a no-show, and she was starting to worry about this pattern.  Her clients were always satisfied for about a year:  got the mood-altering effects they needed, passed all their drug tests, kept their security clearances, and passed her name to friends and colleagues.  Then after about a year, some of them would suddenly be no-shows.  She would call and email (circumspectly) with no reply, then after a few weeks do some internet sleuthing and discover they had gone missing.  If they were sick or dead because of her drugs, Karbusky would probably have been traced, so the only logical explanation was they had gone off the pills and had some sort of reaction.  But why were they disappearing?  She put on her lab coat, rechecked her Nazi grandfather's notebook, consulted her own notes, then got to work.  This is it, she thought.  If one more client goes missing, I am going to have to move on--but where will I go?  Life had been good here--her booming business, her large spread in Potomac Manors, her devoted boyfriend.  She reminded herself that her grandfather had probably moved a dozen times before settling on the farm in Wisconsin, but this did not comfort her.

As it turned out, Karbusky's theory was wildly incorrect.  In fact, her morning no-show had shown up, but he was very disoriented and ended up on Calico Johnson's Potomac Manors estate next door.  He broke down Johnson's back door, triggered the house alarm, tripped on a throw rug, stumbled into the family room, screamed at a terrified Johnson near the fireplace, then ran out through the front door.  Johnson never even had a chance to swing the fireplace shovel at him--which seemed more disappointing upon later reflection than it had at the time.  Johnson was also disappointed (embarrassed) that he couldn't come up with a good description of the man--he just kept telling the police that the guy was clumsy and filthy!

Back near Capitol Hill, a different crime scene was under investigation.  "Oh, come in Detective!"  Sebastian L'Arche took a sideways look at Becky Hartley--who had recently, uninvitedly, begun adding "Pet Detective" to her advertisements of the Dog Whisperer's services, then walked into the surprisingly grungy home of a Pennsylvania Congressman.  "Please excuse the mess," said the Congressman, giving a dirty look to his wife, who smiled plastically at the Pet Detective and his lovely assistant.  "So this is what happened," the Congressman began.  "We stayed in town for Thanksgiving to do some entertaining--well, really, it was a farewell party for some of our friends from the Romney campaign--"  (His wife coughed suspiciously.)  "ANYway," the Congressman said, "people found out we were staying in town, and then we ended up pet-sitting a bunch of dogs.  They'll all be picked up tonight or tomorrow, but before they go, we want to know who's responsible--so we never have them in our home again."

"Responsible for what?" asked L'Arche.

"Oh, didn't she tell you?"

"We came straight from another case," lied Hartley.

"SOMEbody opened the fridge and ate ALL the leftovers while we were at CHURCH this morning!  We came home to find a mess of plates and Tupperware all over the kitchen floor.  WHAT is wrong with people?  It's no wonder we're going over the Fiscal Cliff, if Congressmen don't even know how to raise their DOGS with discipline!"

"I could NOT agree more," said Hartley.  "My father's a veterinarian in Dallas, and--"

"The kitchen's this way," interrupted the Congressman's wife, who had kicked off her church shoes earlier and was shuffling around in Land's End fuzzy slippers.  The four walked to the back of the row house, where half a dozen dogs were lying on the floor, leashed tightly together and chewing on toys.  "The leftovers were fine for three days, then suddenly THIS!"  (She pointed to the mess on the floor.)  "So we tied them up."

"Are you going to match saliva?" asked the Congressman.

"No," began the Dog Whisperer.

"Yes," interrupted Hartley.  "Detective L'Arche will examine their teeth, take saliva samples, and compare them to the saliva found on the plates."  (L'Arche looked at her in amazement.)  "Now, you realize one or two might have been instigators, but once the food was out, they all naturally would have eaten some.  The question is, which ones ate the largest shares?  Detective L'Arche will also examine their bellies."

L'Arche asked for some Baggies to take saliva samples, and started working on the dogs one-by-one, whispering to them as he went along.  They all confirmed it was Senator Malarkey's standard poodle that had opened the fridge and pulled all the food out, but L'Arche would save this piece of information for his final report--understanding Hartley's judgment call that these were not people who would actually pay for him to whisper to the dogs and then identify a culprit.  He did say, based on the feel of the belly, it was probably Malarkey's poodle, but they would confirm by comparing the saliva samples taken from the dishes on the floor.

After they got to Hartley's pickup truck, she joked that he was always blaming it on poodles.

"It was a classic poodle power grab!" said L'Arche.  "They always have something to prove because the others make fun of the ribbons in their hair."

Several miles to the west, Bridezilla was Skyping with an old sorority sister living in California.  Are you wearing CUDDLE DUDS?! the woman exclaimed.  Is it because of cramps?

"I don't have cramps!" exclaimed Bridezilla.

"You're letting yourself go," said her sorority sister.

"I'm not going anywhere until dinner tonight!  What possible difference does it make?"

"So I don't count for anything?" protested her sorority sister.

"Look, if you want to leave your church dress and pearls on all day, that's your choice," said Bridezilla, "but I have a lot of work to do before I meet with John again."

"Boehner?!  You're having dinner with Boehner tonight?"

"Yes--and some of my friends on the Hill," said Bridezilla.  "We'll be looking over some more budget proposals."

"What are you going to wear?  It's already three!  You need to start getting ready!"

"It doesn't take that long to get ready!" protested Bridezilla.

"You need to curl your hair and do a facial scrub, and then--"

"Thanks a lot!"

"I'm only trying to help!" said the sorority sister.

"They're more interested in my social circle's influence on the Hill," replied Bridezilla.

"If there are men at the party, believe me, they'll spend just as much time thinking about your cleavage."

"Too bad I don't have any," said Bridezilla.

"That's why you need to curl your hair and do a facial scrub!"

Bridezilla finally extricated herself from the conversation and thought about her last meeting with Boehner--who had been instrumental in lifting her out of the doldrums caused by her most recent breakup.  He had told her, "a true gentleman will treat you as a woman first, then a princess, then a goddess, then a woman again."  She had been pondering this a lot lately, wondering if she had broken off all her relationships at the fourth stage.

"That's it!" she cried aloud.  "That's how we have to make Obama feel!"

And out in the river, Ardua of the Potomac was feeling pretty good herself....

Friday, November 16, 2012

Quicksand

Angela de la Paz was anxiously pushing french fries around her plate during her last lunch with Major Roddy Bruce before his deployment.  They were both heading to the Middle East, but since neither of them could say that, they didn't know.

"If you're a military attaché to the Australian Embassy, why are you going on a mission?" she asked him.

"I've been getting a lot of U.S. and NATO security briefings during my time here," he said.  "Now they have a mission for me."

"When will you be back, Roddy?"

"Dunno," Bruce said.  "Don't worry, Angela!  I'm good at what I do."

"I'm heading to Israel," she said impulsively.

"WHAT?!  I thought you were still in training!"  (She had told him she was training with the FBI.)

"I finished training a long time ago," she said.  "I started really young."

"What the hell are you talkin' about?"

"I don't work for the FBI.  I work for a...."  She hesitated and ate some french fries to procrastinate.

"You're only 18!" he exclaimed.

"I've been going on missions for a couple years already."

"Goin' on missions!  For who?"  (She wanted to say "I can't tell you," but she couldn't think of any good reason not to tell him, so she went back to pushing her french fries around.)  "Look, I know there are a lot of secrets in this town, and there are things I'm not supposed to tell either, but you're only 18, Angela!  What the Hell?!"

"You think I'm making this up?" she asked.

"No, of course not!  Crikey, the first time I saw you, you were taking out muggers in a Columbia Heights alley like Buffy the Bloody Vampire Slayer!  You're CIA?" he whispered.

"My mentor was retired from the CIA.  He was in this organization of powerful people with money who like to push their own buttons."

"Was?"

"He's dead now."  (She wanted to tell him that Henry Samuelson may have come back as a ghost, but she wasn't entirely sure about that yet. )  "His daughter is in charge, but I don't think she has much support.  They're always arguing about what our missions should be.  This mission to Israel is stupid.  Half the time I just take the jet ride and then do whatever I want after I get there.  Other people have tried to recruit me.  It's confusing, Roddy."

"Well, that's an understatement," said Bruce.  "Jesus Christ.  You're only 18!"

"Will you stop saying that?!  I'm not a baby!" said Angela.

"I know, but...crikey.  If you're going on missions, you should at least have more faith in the people you're working for."

"That's why I mostly work for myself," she said.

"I'm going to Israel, too," Bruce said impulsively.  He had been dreading for a long time being sent on a Middle East mission, and now he was experiencing a flood of confusing emotions about finding out she was flying into the combat zone herself.  Mostly, he was no longer thinking about the danger to himself:  he wanted to protect her.  "Petraeus is out, the CIA is screwed up, Israel is shelling Syria, Hamas just shot a rocket at Jerusalem:  the shit is hitting the holy land fan right now, and it's a bloody mess."  He picked up both her hands in his.  "We can meet when we're over there, alright?  Don't do anything until you talk to me--please."

It's gonna be crowded when we get there, she thought to herself.

You have no idea, thought the ghost of Henry Samuelson, who had been observing this lunch date with great interest.  He flitted back to the table where John Doe was eating his lunch.

"Well?" said John Doe, looking up.

"I told you not to talk to me in public!" scolded Ghost Henry.  "People will think you're crazy."

"I'm an autistic shaman mystic--it's OK for people to see me talking to--"

"Shut up!  Shut up and listen!"  Ghost Henry had recently returned from the Middle East after his semi-successful attempt at creating a ghost CIA, a week before the ouster of David Petraeus.  "This Benghazi thing has the State Department hog-tied, the CIA is persona non grata, we need to proceed with caution.  I don't like my girl hooking up with this Aussie commando!"

"You want to have a ghostmance with her?  Ew!"

"Of course not, and shut up!  She's apt to go rogue at any moment!  Most of the time, it's harmless--well, I mean, plenty of people end up harmed, but the overall effect is harmless."  (John Doe nodded agreeably because he was eating pie.)  "There are too many variables in motion right now.  I need you to talk to her after the Crocodile Hunter scrams."

A couple miles to the west, Charles Wu was whisked into a limo with Hillary Clinton for a quick update on Project R.O.D.H.A.M.'s current operations in the Middle East.  "Madam Secretary, we have a dozen agents out of Egypt and into Israel."  (She quoted a Biblical passage, and he nodded without comprehension.)  "With all due respect, I want to be certain I understand your goals there:  this would represent an enormous shift in their mission."

"Temporary, I hope, Charles," sighed Clinton.  "Israel just mobilized 75,000 troops, and all bets are off right now."  (This time he nodded with full comprehension.)  "I'm counting on you for intelligence."  (He nodded again.)  "What about the girl?"

"My source says she's flying to Israel tonight.  Silk and Lily will try to make contact tomorrow."

"What's the Heurich Society want her to do?"

"She won't do it--she'll change her mind as soon as she takes in the lay of the land, as she usually does. But there is another complication."  (Clinton raised an eyebrow.)  "She's been seeing an Australian military attaché."

"And?"

"Well...."  He chuckled, unable to articulate the point in a serious tone.  "She seems rather...happy."

"Happy?!"

"We might not see the rage machine we usually see," said Wu.

Clinton burst out laughing.  "Charles, you have a lot left to learn about women!"

"No doubt, Madam Secretary."

A few blocks away, Dr. Khalid Mohammed was in the George Washington University emergency room, stitching up the first official holiday casualty of the season--a girl who had not reacted well to her boyfriend's move to dump her, and had gotten slammed through a window to end the argument.  He finished the suture, checked the girl's vital signs, then left her in the capable hands of nurse Consuela Arroyo.  After verifying that the admissions area was quiet for the moment, he went to a quiet place to check his cellphone for news out of Jordan:  nothing...yet.  He read the emails from his family, then flipped through a few more news feeds.  The U.S. was slated to send a huge shipment of military aircraft to Jordan--planes that had, alas, not even been built yet.  (Things were deteriorating more rapidly than anyone had imagined.)  He closed his eyes, visualizing his cousin's description of the refugee camps in Jordan and the current situation on the West Bank.  Since the beginning of the year, three Syrian doctors he knew had left the U.S. for Turkey to treat Syrian refugees and rebel fighters, and he wondered if (when?) he would end up back in Jordan.  He mended (or tried to mend) dying people everyday:  would there really be a reason for him to go?

Out in the river, Ardua of the Potomac was thinking about never letting a good crisis go to waste--and dispatched another family of infected ducks to McLean to quack at the spooked spooks.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

I didn't know what I was getting into!

Bridezilla was hosting for the first time a meeting of Sense of Entitlement Anonymous (D.C. Chapter) in her Arlington apartment.  It had been a long week, and she needed some support.  She was serving hot toddies (her mother's recipe, not too strong), tea sandwiches from the caterer, orange slices covered in coconut flakes, and red velvet cake (her mother's recipe, not the fast food cupcakes).  Her apartment was dazzling--freshly scrubbed by a Salvadoran maid after Bridezilla had cleared out debris from all her failed relationships into three piles:  trash, Goodwill, keep.  (Actually, the maid had taken home the "trash" and the Goodwill piles, and secretly trashed some of the things Bridezilla thought she was keeping--but that's neither here nor there.)  Bridezilla was ready to move on, but she was struggling with the guilt of turning on Mitt Romney because her family pastor said he was not a Christian.

"It's like you're leaning on something, and suddenly it turns into a pile of sand," she said.

Calico Johnson (who thought her futon couch felt like a pile of sand--wet, hard sand) nodded in agreement.  "My neighbor has a boyfriend!" he pouted.  "I can't remember the last time somebody rejected me," added the millionaire real estate mogul.

"First of all," said Dick Cheney (who had already dribbled a bit of hot toddy on his tie), "you never asked her out!  Secondly, there was a GODDAM ELECTION THIS WEEK!  Nobody wants to hear about your love life!"

"Now, Dick," cooed Bridezilla (who was not only well aware of her duties as a Virginia hostess but alarmed at the idea that the group might somehow ban romance discussions), "we are all here to discuss whatever is bothering us.  And sometimes when we are struggling professionally or politically, we look to our relationships for support, and if that support is not there, we've lost doubly."

"Tell me about it!" exclaimed Congressman John Boehner.  "I'm Speaker of the House, I'm the last line in the sand, I'm now the most powerful Republican in Washington, and all I hear about it is how Ohio voted for Obama!  Where are all the complaints about Florida, huh?  Those people are a disgrace!  The Republicans there blocked early voting, then can't even manage to get the ballots counted for Romney!"

"It doesn't matter," said Federal Reserve Board economist Luciano Talaverdi.  "Florida was not--"

"THAT''S NOT THE POINT!" exclaimed Boehner.  "Florida is a disgrace!  I don't want to hear any more complaints about Ohio--at least my home state can count!"

"Yes, John, this is what is important!" agreed Talaverdi.  "The fiscal cliff is approaching!  Thank God you can count."

Bridezilla flushed and smiled, remembering her prior success in cajoling Republican contacts on the Hill into a budget compromise.  "I might be able to help with that," she said.  "I wrote a parody song about it."  She stood up, her posture posed as perfectly as the day she won the Junior Miss competition.

'Bama, you come knockin' on the Congress door, same old lie you used to use before.
I said, "yeah."  Well, what am I supposed to do?
I didn't know what I was getting into!
So you had a little trouble in town.
You're not keepin' the deficit down.
Stop draggin' my, stop draggin' my, stop draggin' my taxes around!

"That's lovely," said Talaverdi, who actually thought it was atrocious but she was lovely.  (Bridezilla sat down with a smile.)

"Tom Petty's from Florida," whined Boehner.

"You need to keep the earmarks out of the budget!" growled Cheney at Boehner.

"I think," said one of the delegates from N.UT.T.Y. (Nannies United To Take Y-chromosomes), "Obama should appoint Romney as Secretary of Commerce:  then Romney can prove he's a job-creator!"

"You mean Secretary of Labor," said the other N.U.T.T.Y. delegate.

"No, I don't!" replied the first N.U.T.T.Y. delegate.

"It's important for Congress and employers to take the lead from the FRB," said Talaverdi (who was scratching the rash under his cursed Rolex).

"Can we talk about David Petraeus now?" asked the second N.U.T.T.Y. delegate.

"Talk about a sense of entitlement!" exclaimed Cheney.

"Do you think he'll marry the other woman?" asked the first N.U.T.T.Y. delegate.  (This is what they lived for.)

"I don't think so," said Talaverdi (who perfectly understood the economic soundness of their viewpoint).

Over in McLean, the ghost of Henry Samuelson was putzing around CIA headquarters, feeling a little guilty about the recent fallout from the dissemination of his own viewpoint.  I just wanted to shake you up, David! he whined.  I don't know how it leaked to the FBI!  You know the last thing I would do is tell the FBI anything!  Ghost Henry stopped to read a computer screen over the shoulder of an agent.  Every time I try to whisper in somebody's ear, things never turn out right!  (The agent at the computer shivered and scratched his ear.)  Believe me, if I had known you would end up resigning, I would have engineered this before the election!  Ghost Henry shuffled on, his world turned upside down yet again. Still...kinda nice to see Obama get bad news straight out of the gate!

Out on the Potomac, Golden Fawn unzipped her jacket as they beached their kayak on Roosevelt Island.  She had told her husband, Marcos Vazquez, that the resignation of David Petraeus was undoubtedly the work of Henry Samuelson's ghost, and she was worried about the rest of the Osage prophecy channeled by John Doe at the Kite Festival.  "How can you even know whether the resignation of Petraeus is a good thing or a bad thing?" asked Vazquez.  "I mean, really?  Do we even know what he was responsible for, or what the new guy will be responsible for?"

Golden Fawn walked past their usual spot, deeper into the woods.  "There's something here," she said. Hurricane Sandy had uprooted a tree and caused a minor displacement next to it, and Golden Fawn began kicking dirt away.

"I see it," said Vazquez, kneeling down to pull.  Then he stopped.  "It's an axe," he said.

Golden Fawn pondered this for a few moments.  "Put it back," she said.  "I think it was buried here for a good reason."

The two re-buried the zombie-killing axe of Glenn Michael Beckmann (ripped from the clutches of Ardua of the Potomac by Angela de la Paz), and went back to their usual spot to light an incense fire against the evil that never rests in the city of hope and fear.

Sunday, November 04, 2012

The Few, the Proud, the Ambivalent

Former Senator Evermore Breadman, ready to wrap up another campaign season, walked briskly past his Wall of Me and into his Prince and Prowling office.  "God, this was great!" he exulted to himself, pulling another folder of receipts out of his briefcase to be delivered to his secretary for reimbursement. Then he sat down at his computer to do the final tally of billed hours and fees he had racked up in his sundry campaign activities--such as setting up Delaware shell corporations for foreigners who wanted to spend money on U.S. elections--lawfully anonymous, under Citizens United.  He hummed Beethoven's "Ode to Joy" as he posted the final entries in his summary Excel spreadsheet, then waited a moment for the calculations.  "Sixty-three million dollars!!" he shouted.  Over 30 million from foreigners, 7 million from Republican candidates, 1 million from Democrat candidates, half a million from the Libertarian whack job, 5 million from Indian tribes, and almost 20 million from PACs and SuperPacs.  This is spectacular!  It had been awhile since he had done his final reelection run for the U.S. Senate, but he still remembered the ambivalent feeling he had experienced raising all that money and not being able to keep any of it.  This is way better!  (True, like many Washingtonians, he didn't actually have a lot of passionate hobbies to follow with his money, so apart from a sports car, expensively furnished home, expensively furnished wife, education for the kids, and occasional vacations, the rest just piled up in brokerage accounts.  But he still enjoyed it!)  He jotted down a couple of brainstorms for expensive Christmas gifts to get his loyal wife, followed by question marks--he would go over the list later with his secretary.  He briefly thought about how his wife might be grateful for him to spend some money establishing his disappointing adult son in some sort of a business, but the quick churning of his lower intestines dissuaded him from this line of thinking.  Still there was one more unpleasant task to attend to--punishment for Bridezilla.  He reached into his bottom drawer to grab a handful of herbal potions from Lynnette Wong's Chinatown shop, poured them into his now lukewarm Starbucks latte, drank it down, and got up to pay her a visit.  (He didn't know if it would make her cry, and he sure didn't want to end up with a blubbering Bridezilla in his own office.)

Down the hall, Bridezilla was all alone in her partner office:  no more campaign strategizing with Mal Evelynt, no more between-matinees smoochies with Bucky at the Kennedy Center, no more expensive shopping trips with--.  She stopped herself with a sigh, as it was too painful to realize how many years of her life she had wasted on all the ones who were not the one.  Mal was furious with her that she had decided to vote for Obama (for being the actual Christian) in Virginia, but her decision had come too late to prevent the political ad that aired with her smiling face in it last week:  her natural blond locks, blue eyes, clear skin, and dazzling (but mute) smile had not only resonated well with focus groups, but the Republican pollsters did detect a marginal bump in Romney's ratings among Virginia's ambivalent voters after its airing.  But she was no longer anywhere that would get her a pat on the back for that, and her parents wouldn't speak to her for days until their pastor assured them that their daughter had ways of atoning for appearing in an ad worshipping a false idol (Mormon messiah).  And it had been a nightmare all week waiting for Breadman to follow up on his ominous email reminding all partners, associates, and staff attorneys that they were only allowed to advise candidates--never to make personal partisan endorsements of any kind.  She had put her nose to the grindstone and billed seventy hours of hard-core legal work since Monday, unsure if he would even notice.  (At one point, somebody must have noticed she was too harried to eat, because mystery offerings of cold or hot food started appearing on her desk--but she still didn't know who that was.  It was not even a secret admirer--but, rather, a secret pitier!  An admirer would have left expensive chocolates--not baby carrots and a mug of steaming oatmeal, plain flavor!)  She heard heavy footsteps and looked up to see the Senator in her doorway.  He walked in without a word, shut the door behind him, and sat down in her guest chair.

"Well," he said, "my sources tell me you appeared in a Mitt PAC television ad in Virginia thirty-seven times during the last seven days."

"Senator--"

"A Mitt PAC which this very law firm incorporated and rendered legal services to."

"Senator--"

"Legal services are not the same as political endorsements.  Legal services can be rendered to anybody willing to pay, and regardless of which political parties are in office or running for office."

"Senator--"

"Stop interrupting me!  You think I don't know what you're gonna say?!  I know all about it!  Cigemeier told me to go easy on you because your boyfriend talked you into it!  That's all fine and dandy, and I know as well as anybody that sometimes you gotta do things you don't wanna do because of a relationship, but you're a partner in this law firm now, and you need to understand this is the most important relationship in your life!  We butter your bread, we make the bed you lie in, and we--"  (He paused, losing his metaphorical line of thought.)

"Yes, sir, I deeply regret that I did not seek your advice on this matter, as I clearly did not comprehend the firm's rules on political--"

"That's the point I'm getting to here.  Now that this election cycle is drawing to a close, I want to see the Prince and Prowling rules rewritten for the government practices group.  Lobbying, SuperPacs, Citizens United--I've pioneered new billables on the cutting edge of Supreme Court opinions, and I want you to synthesize what I've done the past two years and rewrite the rules."  (Bridezilla stared at him dumbfounded.)  "Aw, c'mon, it won't be that hard!  I'm going to share files with you, send you emails and memos--we can't afford to have anybody make any mistakes.  The sky's the limit for how much money this firm can make if Citizens United is not overturned--but we gotta do it right."  (Bridezilla nodded agreeably.)  "And you can support any candidate you like--you just gotta be smart about it, and not do anything that's going to drive other paying clients away from us!"  (Bridezilla nodded again.)  "I'm glad we had this chat--I feel better!"

Not far away, Laura Moreno was not feeling better:  even with an extra hour on the clock this morning, she was arriving at the Prince and Prowling workroom much later than intended after being roped into helping an old law school friend work on a Virginia voter registration hotline for three hours.  It now appeared that thousands of potential voters who had been registered door-to-door had fallen victim to a scam in which their voter registrations were simply trashed.  If the fate of Virginia's electoral votes hinged on frantic volunteers' trying to clean up that level of disenfranchisement, what hope was there for a fair election in Virginia?  She sat down at the table and looked over the latest piles of work from Bridezilla--who was, rumor had it, between boyfriends and on another billable tear--and sighed.  More crap work, she thought to herself.  I spent three years in law school and passed the Bar, but nobody will pay me to do a single hour of meaningful work in this world--just crap.  She made a mental estimate of work time required this afternoon and whether she would have the stamina to do a couple more hours of volunteer work at the end of the day.  Damned undecided voters!  Is it really that hard, Virginia?  Can't you pay the slightest attention to even a couple things--Supreme Court nominees, maybe, or the ending of a war?!

A few miles to the south, Glenn Michael Beckmann was also fed up with Virginia's undecided voters.  "Is it really that hard, Virginia?" he ranted in his wildly popular blog.  "One candidate believes in guns, freedom, and babies, and the other candidate believes in vegetable gardens, tyranny, and a society of old farts' eating the young.  Do you want your own doctor, or a doctor that Michelle Obama picks out for you who's gonna tell you you're too fat and don't deserve to live?  We are the hunter-gatherers, and nobody can infringe our right to hunt and gather!  Do you want a President who reads namby-pamby books handed to him by Latin American dictators, or a President who keeps an extra copy of the Bible by his nightstand with a special place torn out to hide a Magnum 57?  Mormons for Magnums!  Magnums for everybody!"  He stopped to down another 5-Hour Energy Drink.  "You think the job in Iraq is unfinished?  Of COURSE it's unfinished!  That's why they're killing women and children in Syria!  We have to go back and drain the swamp!  Bomb Baghdad, that's what I say!  And Damascus!  Liberal elites live in cities--they should all be bombed!"  He paused for a moment, sensing something problematic, and reread his last couple of lines.  Hmmm....Well, technically I live in Washington, D.C., and that's a liberal elite city...but not a big one.  "Join me as I live-blog across Northern Virginia starting at 8 a.m. Monday morning and not quitting until that Communist Nazi Secret Muslim is voted out of office for good!  I'll be live-tweeting my locations so you can look for my motorcycle and side car mounted with a veteran-made AK47 as I ride around bullhorning the undecideds into voting for freedom!  And bring your bows and arrows--we'll be hunting our own food along the way--there are deer all over the place."

Over in Virginia, Dick Cheney was quickly on the phone with the Secret Service as soon as Beckmann had posted his latest blog rant.  "Did you see this?"  ("Sir, as you know, Beckmann has been under federal surveillance for several months now.")  "But did you see this?  You can't just monitor him--you need to arrest him!  He can't run around scaring undecided voters with an AK47 and his lunatic bow-and-arrow friends!  Every vote in Virginia matters!"  ("Sir, as you know, we cannot comment on specific case activity.")  "Don't tell me what the rules are, you young whipper snapper!  Freedom is on the line!  If we lose Virginia because of the lunatic fringe--"  ("Sir, he's not even the only fringe group agitating in Virginia right now--we will have appropriate resources deployed.  I can say no more.")

Cheney slammed the phone down just as his wife walked in with his afternoon heart medicine.  "I will lock you in a room with no phones, Dick, I will!"  He waved dismissively at her.  "You think I won't?!  You're not having another heart attack because of this election!"

"It's that goddam lunatic Beckmann again!  I'm blogging intelligent reasons for Virginia's ambivalent morons to vote for Romney, and he's got thirty times as many people following his psycho blog!"

"People like that don't count, Dick!  You've been watching too many zombie shows.  Now eat your jello and watch some football."  She unplugged his computer mouse, swiveled his chair towards the television on the wall, and handed him the remote.  "I'll check on you in an hour."

Back in Washington, the White House butler was walking restlessly around the East Wing, uncertain where her twin pre-schoolers had gone during her nap.  After checking all the upper rooms, she finally found them in the basement, putting peanut butter on rat traps.  "Fergie!  Reggie!  What do you think you're doing!?  That's not your job--don't be messing with those--those are dangerous!"  The twins quickly and quietly consulted each other in their secret twin language.

"Mommy, Hurricane Sandy didn't flood away the rats, like it did in the New York subways, so we're helping," said Ferguson.

"It's time to kill everything bad in our house," said Regina.

"What do you mean, everything?  What else is bad?"  But the twins said nothing more, overwhelmed by the cacophony of ambivalent ghost voices arguing in the corners about that very subject.