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 ....

Saturday, December 29, 2012

The Lion, the Snitch, and the Warthog.


The Lion

Charles Wu opened the outer door to his new butterfly room, maneuvered his daughter into the antechamber, closed the outer door, opened the inner door, and followed her awkward steps in.  Her eyes flew open wide as splashes of color darted and swirled through the air, flitting from one delectable flower to another.  Buffy Cordelia jumped up and down approvingly and moved a few steps further in, cooing in enthrallment.

"Sorry it's a little late, Delia, but I hope you like it!" said Wu, touching her on the head.

"Da da da da!" the baby gurgled, smiling at her father.  (He was uncertain if she was saying "dad" in English or "yes" in Russian, but, either way, it was good.)

 "Well, Delia, I think 2013 is going to be a good year!  You'll be walking like a champion by the time we visit gran in Hong Kong, China has new leadership, and I have the finest network of double agents in Washington."

"Da da da da!"

"Butterfly," Wu said, squatting down next to her to point out a blue one circling a trumpet honeysuckle blossom.  "Butterfly."

"Bu bu bu bu!"

Outside their warm and cozy home, Wu's next-door neighbor darted out in-between sleet strikes to post his For Sale By Owner sign.


The Snitch

Angela de la Paz looked sympathetically at her boyfriend, Major Roddy Bruce, who was scanning the decorations at Alero with an aghast look on his face.

"This is gaudier and louder than the Kangaroo Kamikaze in Melbourne," said the Aussie commando.

"It was his idea," Angela said, nodding at the temporal lobe epileptic heading towards their table.

"He desperately wants you to go Syria for him," said John Doe before he finished sitting down.

"I'm not doing any more Middle East missions," said Angela.

"You heard the lady," said Bruce,  "What else you got?"

Doe scooped up some salsa and munched nervously as the ghost of Henry Samuelson whispered in his ear.  "You don't understand the importance of this mission."

"Ow!" exclaimed Angela, suspicious that Ghost Henry was poking her shin under the table.  "Not my problem.  I want a mission in South America or Africa."

"Or Australia," said Major Bruce, who wouldn't mind somebody else paying for a charter jet that way.  (Angela looked at him in perplexity.)  (Doe munched some more and listened intently to Ghost Henry.)  "Ange, you really think that guy's talking to a ghost?"  (Angela nodded.)

"Egypt's in Africa," said Doe.

"No way," said Angela.

The waiter came and took their order.  (Doe tried to order a tequila sunrise, but Ghost Henry poked him and told him it was out of the question.  Doe listened for a couple more minutes to his invisible companion as Angela and Bruce exchanged bemused glances with each other.)  "What if," whispered Doe, leaning across the table, "he traded you information that you would actually want."

"I don't want any information," said Angela.

"Now hang on, love," said Bruce.  "No harm in hearing the man out.  Our food hasn't even come yet!"

"Did I tell you that Ghost Henry has a Ghost CIA in the Middle East?" asked Doe.  (Angela nodded.)  "And it's spread to other places.  Apparently, there are a lot of restless ghosts out there--and spies are the most restless of all."

"Guilty consciences," said Bruce (who had earlier been railing about the U.S. government's renewal of the FISA Amendments Act of 2008).

"Not for you," said Doe, looking at Angela, "because you like to do the right thing!  And there are some misogynistic killers at loose in India that not even Project R.O.D.H.A.M. has been able to track down."  (Angela tilted her head.)  "But ghosts know."

"You're talking about the men on the Delhi rape bus?" asked Angela.

"Oh, yeah," said Doe.  "He'll tell you how to find them if you do a mission for him in Syria."

"Egypt," said Angela.

(Doe consulted Ghost Henry for a couple more minutes, then pulled out his pen and notebook to write some addresses down for the operative.)

"Thanks," said Angela, who had no intention of keeping her end of the bargain.  "I think I can persuade the Heurich Society to charter me a plane for Pakistan--then I can hop over to India."

"Egypt first," said Doe.

"India first," said Angela.

"Don't you care about peace in the Middle East?  Everybody wants peace in the Middle East for the New Year!"

"And that's what you think Ghost Henry's mission is about?" laughed Angela.

With that, the bar's CD player switched to a song with a percussive beat that drilled straight into John Doe's temporal lobe, causing him to go into an epileptic trance.  He swayed hypnotically until the song was over, then came back to his senses and vomited in a nearby potted plant.


The Warthog

"Is the warthog here yet?" asked former Senator Evermore Breadman, looking up from his desk.  "Oh, it's you--I thought it was Cigemeier."

"Are you calling Congressman Boehner a warthog?!" protested Bridezilla.

"That's his Secret Service code name," lied Breadman.  "And I didn't call him 'Boner', which is what a lot of other people in this town call him!"

"Cigemeier is showing him where the men's room is," said Bridezilla, placing a tray of lemon squares on Breadman's desk and sitting down in a guest chair.

"Lemon squares?  Seems more like an oatmeal cookie kinda guy.  Or brownies with walnuts."

"Well, I think I know him better than you do," said Bridezilla, who had never before in her career at Prince and Prowling had an advantage over the former Senator.  "And lemon squares go better with your scotch," she added, nodding at his silver tray.

"Is he ready to rumble with the Tea Party in the House?"

"Ready as he's ever gonna be," said Bridezilla.

"We've got the ammo if he's got the willpower--you understand that, don't you?"

"I do, but you need to understand, he's still a man of principle," said Bridezilla.

"Of course he is," said the former Senator.  "All leaders are.  It's simply a matter of applying the right principle at the right time."  (Bridezilla reluctantly nodded.)  "I've also been approved to increase the year-end bonuses for you and Cigemeier if this works."

Not everything's about money, thought Bridezilla.  Then, as the next passing minute of silence felt like an hour, she thought, actually, this is all about money.

Congressman Boehner walked in smelling of office supply soap, shook hands with Breadman, picked up a lemon square, and sat down for the hundredth fiscal cliff meeting he had held in the past two months.  "Nasty weather we're having, isn't it?" he said, before taking a bite.  (Cigemeier was hanging up Boehner's coat and umbrella in the corner.)

"The weather can change here rapidly," said Breadman.

"Really?" asked Boehner.  "I heard that when I first moved down from Ohio, but I never noticed."

"Well, Mr. Speaker, you've come to the right place now because nothing in this town escapes my notice."

Outside his window, a one-eyed catbird arrived on a direct flight from the White House across the street, perched on the sill, and began to watch.

Monday, December 24, 2012

'Twas the Nightmare Before Christmas

"I need somebody to talk to," said Atticus Hawk.  "There were a stack of your business cards at--well, that's not important."

"A bar?" asked psychiatrist Ermann Esse.

"I don't drink very often--that's not actually my problem."

"What is actually your problem?"

"Your card says drug-free psychotherapy."

"That is correct."

"I failed my security clearance many months ago because I was on too many prescriptions."

"Yes, I have helped many people in your situation.  Are you out of work now?"

"No, I cleaned up and am back at Justice," said Hawk.

"The Justice Department?"  (The attorney nodded.)  "Did you go through some type of rehab?"

"No--well, I guess so.  It was gradual.  I met a woman who had, ummm, herbal supplements that she mixed herself.  I was able to pass the urine test on those."

"But they are no longer helping you?" asked Dr. Esse.

"She left town."

"Hmmm."  Dr. Esse made a note--he believed three other new clients had come to him for the same reason.  "Well, I do not use any herbs or drugs of any type.  This is raw therapy, confronting your deepest emotions.  Is that something you want to try?"

Hawk realized he was holding a couch pillow protectively over his own stomach.  He tried to put it back, but could not will himself to do so.  "The nightmares have come back."

"Hmmm," said Dr. Esse, flipping his pad to a fresh page.  "Tell me about the most recent one."

"I'm watching Kathryn Bigelow torturing the President of Pakistan to find out where Osama Bin Laden is.  It looks like Guantanamo, but there are sugar maples outside in full color, not palm trees.  The President of Pakistan starts screaming like a girl, and then I realize it IS a girl--it's that little girl Malala.  Bigelow rips one of Malala's ears off and demands to know where Bin Laden is.  Then Prince Harry runs in, shoots Bigelow, grabs Malala, and runs outside to put her in his rescue helicopter.  There are paparazzi trying to take photos of Malala's breasts because her shirt is in shreds and falling off.  Then my boss comes in and tells me I need to write the memo for Eric Holder justifying all this.  I am trying to stop Bigelow from bleeding to death with my bare hands, and my boss then says, 'And don't get any blood on the memo.'  Blood on the memo?!  Can you believe it?!  And then I woke up, except my heart kept pounding for another ten minutes because I knew I had to go to work to write a memo almost as bad."

After a few moments of silence, Dr. Esse realized Hawk was done.  "Well, Mr. Hawk, I have to ask you first of all, have you ever considered looking for a different job?"

"Have I mentioned I had a stress-induced heart attack?  And that was before my boss committed suicide."

"That is truly traumatic, Mr. Hawk."

"And now they're spying on me," added Hawk.  (Dr. Esse used to make a "paranoiac" notation when clients said this sort of thing, but he found since moving his practice to Washington that this was more likely to be true than not.)

"Maybe it's time to consider looking for a different job," said Liv Cigemeier's husband, several miles to the north.  His wife gave him a wry smile, then turned back to her home computer.  Frustrated, the Prince and Prowling partner walked back into the kitchen to resume cooking for the out-of-town guests already in transit.  "I'm just saying," he called out over his shoulder, "could anything else make you this miserable on Christmas Eve?"

Cigemeier refrained from answering the question and turned back to the emergency grant proposal her boss had assigned her to submit to the National Rifle Association:  "School Protection Pilot Program:  Kandahar Province, Afghanistan".  The sad truth was, she had worked on stupider projects than this at International Development Machine, but it made her wildly heartbroken to think that she was never going to work her way up to a position where she could actually be the one making choices and designing projects.

"And where's good ole Augustus?" called out her husband, referring to IDM's president, Augustus Bush.  "Back in the Caymans?"

"US. Virgin Islands," she called out, getting annoyed that he kept interrupting her.  (I don't interrupt him when he's working at home!)  "What's your P&P bonus going to be this year?" she called out, suddenly wondering if that's what he was trying to tell her--that they could afford for her to take some time off to look for her dream job.

"Enough for a house down payment this spring, if you get a raise," he called out.

Her heart sank, unreasonably.  Truth was, he earned five times as much as she did even before the bonus.  It was one thing to let him subsidize her when she was idealistic and wanted to save the world, but what had she really accomplished?  And why should he want to subsidize what she was doing--if this was it?  She stared at the computer screen for a moment, then turned off the computer to join her husband in the kitchen.  "I love you," she said, reaching with one hand for an apron and the other hand for his face.  He kissed her and stayed silent.

Back downtown, Bridezilla leaned way back on Dr. Ermann Esse's couch, exhausted from her extracurricular budget negotiations with John Boehner.  "The dream is always the same, Doctor.  There's something I need to figure out.  It's a little tricky, but I'm hopeful I'll figure it out.  And I know that once I figure it out, everything else in my life will make sense--EVERYTHING.  In each dream, the thing I have to figure out is different, but I always expect the same result:  that after I solve this, everything will fall into place and be how it should be."

"And do you ever figure it out?" asked the psychiatrist.

"Of course not!  If I did, I wouldn't be here," protested Bridezilla.

"Do you ever ask for help?"

"Sometimes there is somebody there that I think is going to help, but it never works out," replied Bridezilla.

"Is it always a man?"

"No!  Of course not!  One time I was asking my maid of honor for help because I couldn't get the bridesmaid dresses just right, and then she disappeared for three hours just before the wedding.  She showed up with these crazy black and white bridesmaid outfits that looked like zebra ballerinas on parade, and it was too late to change them!  So there they were, my bridesmaids, marching into the church like transvestites on Bravo, and all of a sudden, they all ripped the dresses off!  They were designed to be ripped off, quickly like show biz costumes, and underneath the hideous black and white dresses were beautiful dresses in coral pink chiffon.  Everybody in the church clapped, because it was very dramatic."

"So things worked out in that dream?"

"No!  What are you talking about?  People aren't supposed to clap for your bridesmaids at your wedding:  they're supposed to clap for you!"

"Hmmm....Do you have any other examples of this type of dream."

Bridezilla rolled over and curled up in the fetal position because thinking about some of those dreams was like dragging a rusty rake through the depth of her psyche.  "The worst are the ones where I haven't finished school yet, and I'm trying to figure out what to study:  because I know that if I just figure out the right thing to study, my whole life will fall into place.  But I don't--and I feel like I'm so close to figuring it out, and this enormous peace of mind is about to settle all over me, but then it doesn't."

"Sometimes people put too much reliance on their formal education.  There are many opportunities throughout life to keep learning what you need to move forward."

"Really?  Because I don't know anybody moving forward."

A couple miles to the south, Glenn Michael Beckmann was sleeping fitfully in his Southwest Plaza apartment after a late night of church-hopping.  (He and the Hunter-Gatherer Society had been doing armed patrols to make sure no mangers had been vandalized by godless Muslim communist types.)  He was dreaming that Wayne LaPierre had tapped Beckmann to lead the NRA's new program to train schools in armed defense.  First demonstration?  The elementary school Beckmann had attended in Oklahoma.  He's walking in with pistols holstered on both hips, another holstered to his right ankle, and three assault rifles slung over his shoulder.  Then his old principal sees him, and Beckmann reaches into his pocket to pull out the prepared speech written for him by the NRA, but the principal panics and throws a stapler at him, and Beckmann jumps to the side to avoid being hit, but it's NOT A STAPLER--IT'S A HAND GRENADE!  A young girl throws herself on the grenade and tells everybody else to run, but she's the little girl Beckmann had a crush on, so he tries to drag her off, but then she turns into Michelle Obama and bites him in the ankle.  He tries to shake her off his leg, but they both blow up.

"AAAARGH!"

Beckmann jumped out of bed and made a mad dash for the door, but it had five dead bolts on it, and he was wide awake before he got to the third one.  "Damned Obamas!" he cursed, stumbling into the kitchen for some eggnog to spike.

Back downtown, Ermann Esse's final patient of the day came in:  Didymus.  (Dr. Esse did not know that Didymus was the ghost of former Defense Secretary Robert McNamara.)  "There's a new sheriff in town, and he scares the bejesus out of me!" declared Didymus before he even sat down on the couch.  "His name is Henry, and he's got his own little army of CIA goons messing with the Middle East.  The place is BEYOND tinderbox!  The last thing we need is a rogue CIA agent--let alone a whole cadre of them!  I'm having nightmares every night!  I've tried to tell him what I learned from mistakes in Vietnam, but Henry doesn't want to listen!  How can I get through to him?!"

"Maybe you are not the right messenger:  maybe he needs to hear this message from somebody else?" suggested Dr. Esse.  (Dr. Esse did not understand that Henry was also a ghost--the ghost of CIA operative Henry Samuelson.)

"There's NO TIME, Doctor!  I'm getting desperate!"  Didymus looked around uneasily and leaned in to whisper to the psychiatrist.  "I think it's one of these Hitler choices:  if you have a chance to kill Hitler before the bloodbath, when you KNOW there's going to be a bloodbath, do you kill him?  It's like Victor Hugo said:  'during a wise man's whole life, his destiny holds his philosophy in a state of siege.'  Is it too late to reason with him, to explain calmly what I know he needs to know?  Do I turn myself against my own philosophy and become a monster to prevent an even worse monster?"

"I think, Didymus, that we need to take a step back here.  You have locked yourself into only two choices, but there are many, many more than that.  Now first, you must tell me, have you taken a concrete step to purchase a weapon or formulate a plan to harm this Henry person?"

"I'm the Secretary of Defense!  I've got every weapon known to man!"

Delusion getting stronger, jotted down Dr. Esse.

The door suddenly opened, and the cleaning lady started walking in, then apologized.  "I thought already gone," she said, turning around.

"We'll be finished at 1 p.m.," Dr. Esse said.

"We"? thought the cleaning lady to herself.  Who's "we"?

Outside Esse's window, an agitated catbird began imitating an ambulance siren.  Down in the bushes, the sparrows felt a damp chill settle around them, so they huddled and fluffed their feathers to ride out the storm.  And an infected duck took flight to return to Ardua of the Potomac, who was having an enjoyable nightmare of her own.
******************************

Next week:  The Lion, the Snitch, and the Warthog.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Control

"Don't say it again!" exclaimed Congressman Boehner.

"You have to consider it!" replied Bridezilla, dripping honey out of her mouth.

"That will never pass the Chamber!" asserted the Speaker of the House.

"It's the holidays!  And children have been murdered!" sniffed Bridezilla, whose sorority sister's niece's eulogy photo had already made the Facebook rounds.

"Don't you dare say the c-word!" protested Boehner.

"'Children?'"

"CONTROL!"

Bridezilla smoothed an imaginary wrinkle in her lap, then re-folded her hands.  She knew she only had a few more minutes at Mr. Henry's before the others arrived.  "Just a teeny-tiny bit of gun control in exchange for enormous entitlement cuts."

"NO!"

"Look, this would really be sticking it to liberals," she said, nodding at the typed paragraph he had already pushed back towards her.  "It would require mental health providers, prescribing doctors, and dispensing pharmacies to put crazy people on a DO-NOT-ARM list, just like the NO-FLY list."

"NO!  And that's sticking it to libertarians, not liberals!"

"And registered gun owners would have to be inspected to see who's living with them, and those people would have to go through the same background check as the gun purchasers."

"NO!"

"And gun shows would have to do the same background checks as brick and mortar gun shops."

"NO!"

"Right now it's easier in this country to get a gun than a dog!" said Bridezilla.  "My fiance gave me mine!"  (She didn't tell him she now kept the gun buried in a ficus tree since a distraught coworker at Prince and Prowling had grabbed the unloaded gun out of her desk, aimed it at his own head, and pulled the trigger.)

"The Constitution doesn't protect our rights to have dogs!" Boehner exclaimed.  (He was going to say something else, but wasn't sure which fiance she was referring to.)

"Sure it does!" retorted Bridezilla.  "Pursuit of happiness!  But the second amendment says 'well-regulated' militia, so it's OK to regulate it as long as you don't abridge it!"

"You're lecturing me on the 2nd amendment?!" asked Boehner, incredulously.

"Of course not!" said Bridezilla, sweetly.  "I am prepping you for the lobbying that's about to come your way."

"Ohhhhh," said Boehner, relieved.  "You're playing devil's advocate!  I get it."

Bridezilla clenched her skirt into a wrinkle.  How did this stubborn bone-head ever rise to the top of the heap?

A couple miles away, Atticus Hawk was holed away in his Justice Department office, trying to get through the heap of documents towering over his in-box.  His romantic connection to Basia Karbusky had not cost him another forfeiture of his security clearance, but it was obvious he was on some sort of unofficial damage-control watch.  Increasingly low-profile assignments were finding their way to the attorney's desk--and in huge numbers, as if somebody were trying to keep him very, very busy.  (Too busy for what?  Dating dangerous women?)  He had no doubt his phone and email accounts were all being monitored, and he didn't know whom he would have talked to about it all anyway.  (What about Bridezilla?)  He hadn't thought of her in a long time:  he knew his buddy Wince (her former fiance) had moved on a long time ago.  (She was always easy to talk to.)  He turned away from his to-do pile to work on the one thing nobody had yet asked him to do--but which he was the best-qualified to do (after the suicide of his former supervisor):  write a defensive memo concerning the Senate Intelligence Committee's report findings that CIA torture interrogations were ineffective.  (No they weren't!  His own nightmares about torture were enough to tell him that.)

Several miles to the north, Charles Wu had his own situation to get under control as he exited the taxi in front of Congressman Herrmark's house to pay an unexpected visit.  Other men might have been curious to see Herrmark's legendary Man Cave, but other men were not Chinese spies responsible for detaching a human trafficking victim from Herrmark's web.  Wu held an enormous Italian fruitcake in his left hand as he rang the bell with his right.  A minute later, a scowling Greek bodyguard opened the door and asked him what he wanted.  "Just a few minutes of the Congressman's time," said Wu, proffering the panettone.

"He's a busy man," said Costa, grabbing the cake.

"It's about two matters extremely important to him:  and they both involve, shall we say, mucked-up waters."

Costa narrowed his eyes and looked wildly around the front yard, then pulled Wu in.  "Who shall I say is calling?"

Wu ripped Costa's grip off his arm with far more force than the bodyguard had expected, prompting his twin, Nick, to step into the foyer, but Costa just handed Nick the fruitcake.

"Charles Wu, on behalf of former Senator Evermore Breadman."

Costa nodded to Nick to deliver the message to Congressman Herrmark, and Wu waited patiently in the foyer, with a smile on his mouth until being motioned to meet Herrmark in his ground floor study.

"I suppose this is about my hydrofracking rider?" asked Herrmark.

"There are rumors, Congressman," said Wu, settling comfortably into a brown leather chair and crossing his legs.  "The fiscal cliff has caused a flurry of shifting coalitions and back-door deals, and nobody can predict what's really going to end up in this sausage."  (Herrmark said nothing.)  "We know that Still Waters Run Deeper made a sizable campaign contribution to you this year, as well as providing you information--"

"So?"

"So?  That was a front organization for a group called the Heurich Society, and I'm not sure their interests correlate as closely with yours as you think they do."

"You-rich society?  Hmmm...never heard of it."

"It's a secret society--very few have," replied Wu.

"Well, all they asked me to do was take another stab at hydrofracking, which I am more than eager to do."

"The Heurich Society is secretly siphoning off the Ogallala aquifer for its own purposes."

"Well, I'll be damned!  I'll look into that," said Herrmark, who had no idea what the Ogallala aquifer is.

"That won't be necessary," said Wu.  "All you really need to know is that we all have dirty little secrets in our lives--some of them are polluted springs in our hometowns, some of them are people we kept under lock and key who, until now, have kept their stories out of the limelight."  Herrmark's face turned ashen, and he stood up unsteadily.  "This is not the right time for airing dirty laundry," continued Wu, "or exposing dirty waters.  We can't control everything:  sometimes we have to compromise in certain respects to protect other interests.  That is simply the way of the world."  Wu arose to leave, satisfied with the expression on Herrmark's face.  "Personally, I would have liked to see your rider succeed," said Wu sincerely.  "I hope next time the stars are in alignment."

With that, Wu showed himself out.   His mouth was dry, and he realized nobody had offered him a drink.  He pulled out his cellphone to call a taxi as he walked away from the house.  It would be nice to tell Breadman the matter was settled, but he didn't feel good about it.  It occurred to him that Breadman often got more out of their relationship than Wu did.  And was there really a good reason to kill the hydrofracking rider?  Breadman's clients had been up in arms about it, but they were idiots who couldn't see that the United States was on its way to losing its most precious natural resource:  clean, potable water.  And not everybody could afford a home water condensation system like Wu's.  I'm raising my daughter here, he thought.  This is her country.  He got into the taxi, wondering for the first time what his baby would think of his work when she got old enough to understand it--or would he hide it from her, like all those trolls at the Heurich Society?

Several miles to the west, the ghost of Henry Samuelson climbed aboard a CIA flight to Istanbul, desperate to get his ghost CIA deployed and engaged in the Middle East before Patriot Missiles started flying.  Damned Turks!  Everybody knows Americans only shed blood for oil in the Middle East!  We have got to get things under control!  He sneered at the living CIA people on the flight.  Amateurs!  

The mission chief shuddered, feeling Ghost Henry's phantasmal poke in his rib, then looked out the window at a flock of starlings watching the CIA plane take off.  The birds calmly turned their heads and watched the plane all the way down the runway, then flew off to report to Ardua of the Potomac.

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Yellow

Charles Wu looked at the 10th Street entrance to St. Patrick's, walked carefully up the stairs, pushed the heavy doors open, walked through to the sanctuary, then stopped at the holy water font.  He watched to see if it started bubbling ominously (as it always did in the horror movies), but nothing happened.  Guess I'm not too bad after all.  He dipped his forefinger into the water--because he never passed up an opportunity to increase his own power--then wiped the water onto his neck.  Nothing.  Guess I'm not good enough.  He made his way past the saints to find Slow Man in the front, near Mary, and sat quietly beside him.

"It's the only quiet place within a half-mile radius:  the only one," said Slow Man (dressed in his signature yellow).

"It's very inspiring," said Wu, who immediately regretted telling a lie in a church.  "I mean, it's lovely."

"Yes, it's lovely.  There are prettier churches, but this is the only quiet place within a half-mile radius," repeated Slow Man.

Wu was starting to wonder if this was code talk he was not familiar with.  "Everyone needs a quiet place sometimes," said Wu.

"Not the Borgias," said Slow Man.  "They were loud."  (Wu murmured agreeably.)  "My mother said we have Borgia blood."

"No doubt," said Wu, who was impatient to get home and had no idea what Slow Man was talking about.

"What is China going to do about Syria?" asked Slow Man suddenly.

Wu hesitated for a few moments.  "Their interest is aligned with Pakistan in this instance."

Slow Man laughed out loud, then bit his finger, embarrassed.  "This instance.  Well-put.  The moments pass so quickly for us, and so slowly for them."

"The Syrians?" asked Wu.

"Are you asking about 'us' or 'them'?"

"What have you got for me?" asked Wu, who was starting to think he preferred meeting at the karaoke club and being required to sing for his intelligence.  "I need to go," he added, tossing several gold krugerrands into Slow Man's lap.

"The Duchess of Cambridge's nurse was murdered," said Slow Man, not yet touching the krugerrands.  "It goes far deeper than anybody suspects."

"That is distressing news," said Wu.  (I should have known this source had a slender grasp on reality.)  'This changes everything."

"EVERY thing!" agreed Slow Man.  He then noticed that the yellow of the krugerrands did not match the yellow of his coat, so he began slipping them inside his shirt.  "They're cold," he remarked.

Wu was done.  "I'll let you know if China makes a move," he lied.  "Have a nice day."  He walked out to F Street and headed over to the holiday market to pick up more holiday items for the house:  it was going to be Delia's first Christmas!

Several miles to the north, Calico Johnson pulled a piece of yellow cloth out of his sock drawer and re-read the words (written in black marker) as he did every morning just after picking out his socks.  "I have to leave town--maybe for a long time.  Please take care of Mega Moo."  He put it back in the sock drawer, put on his socks and shoes, then headed down to the shed to get the loudly whining Mega Moo some more hay.  (He couldn't pile much up in the Home Depot backyard shed he was using as the cow's temporary barn.  The architect was coming out to Potomac Manors today to discuss plans to build a real barn, and it wouldn't be soon enough--especially since Mega Moo was refusing to go to pasture in the cold.)  "Yeah, yeah," Johnson said to the old girl, which is what he always said to her.  "Here you go."  He shoveled out the manure and fouled hay, then stole a quick glance at Basia Karbusky's spread, but it was still burned to the ground:  nothing had arisen from the ashes.

He then walked over to the garage where his horse had temporarily taken the place of his Ferrari, next to his SUV.  "Hey, Ninja," he said to the black beauty he had bought for the sole purpose of boarding her in Basia's barn and giving him an excuse to chat up the blond beauty from Wisconsin.  He let the clever Ninja find her own way out of the garage to the pasture, and did some more shoveling.  (After the new barn was built, he'd be able to hire somebody to stop by a couple times a day and help with the animals.)  He locked the garage door and headed slowly back inside.  He hadn't been home the day of the fire, and the flames had spread pretty far, but not as far as his place.  The arson investigators had questioned him intensely about the fire--and about the violent and deranged trespasser he had received a week earlier.  He knew he should have shown them the note he had found speared to Mega Moo's horn when he discovered her (and Ninja) tied to his backyard poplar tree with rope, but it was the last thing he had from Basia, and he didn't want to turn it over.  Someday she'll come back for you, Mega Moo, he thought to himself.  He never dared say it aloud--not to Mega Moo, not to himself.

Several miles to the east, Atticus Hawk was sitting in his home office, doodling on a Justice Department yellow legal pad, contemplating what had arisen from the ashes of Basia Karbusky's home.  The FBI had quickly discovered emails and phone calls between Hawk and Karbusky.  His first questioning had been without an attorney present, but he knew he would have to hire one if they asked for a second questioning.  The FBI had found chemical traces of a lot of peculiar compounds at her place, and though he was fairly certain his explanation of the "benign" herbarium and other factors had moved "terrorist bombs" to the bottom of the FBI list, meth lab was possibly at the top.  As for Hawk, he had truly not heard an electronic peep from her since her disappearance:  all he had was a handkerchief he had found under his car's wiper blade, with a note written in black marker:  "sorry, darling, but I have to go away".  He had already flushed all the drugs, minerals, herbs, and vitamin supplements he had ever gotten from her, and scoured down every surface in his apartment and office that he could.  Could I have been so blind?  He continued doodling symbols and abbreviated words on the yellow pad, trying to connect the dots.  Drug dealer?  Basia?!  She was more like a naturalist--almost a hippie!  She was the one that got him passing all the security clearance drug tests...but how?  He crumpled up another sheet and pushed it through his home shredder.  He again began sketching out factors that would suggest drug dealers had gone after her, then shredded that page, as well.  Terrorist?  Bombs?  He sketched out the arguments for that again and came up far short.  He stuffed another yellow page through the shredder, then emptied out the shredder into the sink and set the pages on fire.  He watched the pages shrivel and burn, thinking about the exquisitely effective arson job that had been done on Basia's place--by somebody considerate enough to move a cow and horse to the next door neighbor's home.  It had to be her--but why?

A few miles away, Angela de la Paz and Major Roddy Bruce left the Downtown Holiday Market with their purchases and stopped at St. Patrick's to light a candle for Angela's mother and grandmother.  Then they sat down in a pew near Mary.  Angela reopened the box and reexamined the golden yellow angel ornament Bruce had just given her.

"So...you kill...monsters?"  (Bruce was restarting the conversation they had already gone through four times since last weekend.)

"Yes," said Angela, patiently.

"But that...zombie...was different?"

"Yes," said Angela, patiently.

"You think Basia Karbusky was really neo-Nazi Barbara Hellmeister?"  (Angela nodded.)  "And she had something to do with the zombie?"  (Nod.)  "And when we drove out to Potomac Manors and saw the raging fire, we turned around and fled without dialing 911 because--?"

"Because we couldn't be found with a chopped-up zombie in the truck of Vazquez's car.  What if they didn't believe it was a zombie?"

"Fair enough," said Bruce, "but what if there was a life in danger there?"

"There wasn't," said Angela, patiently.

"And you know this because--?"

"The raven and the pink warblers."

"So the raven talks to Golden Fawn, and the pink warblers talk to you?"

"It's OK if you don't believe that," said Angela.

"No, no, I'm just trying to get my head around it," said Bruce.

"Very few people can see these things clearly," said Angela.  "And even then, not all the time."

This was usually the point where they would start talking about something completely different, until the Aussie commando began the line of questioning all over again, but Bruce was tired of it and ready to take a leap of faith.  "Alright, I guess if I stick with you, I'll see another monster eventually."

"You believe me?" asked Angela, turning to him with a hesitant smile.

"I believe in you," Bruce said.  "That's the best I can do right now."

"That's enough!" said Angela, beaming.

Back out on F Street, Charles Wu hailed a yellow taxi to take home the decorations and gifts he had just picked up after his rendezvous with Yellow Man.  The house had seemed quiet since the departure of his parents after Thanksgiving, and his daughter needed lots of shiny things to crawl after to burn up all the baby fat she had acquired while being coddled by his mother for a month.  (Irked that she had missed Buffy Cordelia's first months, Ha Ling had insisted on carrying her granddaughter in her arms constantly, and feeding her every two hours, so it was up to Wu to get Delia on a healthier track again.)  The spy had some misgivings that the inflatable reindeer and Santa Claus on his roof made the house look ridiculous--even though he had purchased and deployed them to blend in with the rest of the neighborhood--but he had no qualms about filling his house with a ton of holiday items if it got Delia cooing and crawling around in delight.

Out on the 14th Street bridge, Dubious McGinty watched his urine glistening yellow in the sunlight as it sprayed down on Ardua of the Potomac, but the sunlight was fleeting and the Vietnam Vet would soon feel blue again....He was thinking about zombies.

Sunday, December 02, 2012

What's in your head, in your head, zombie, zombie, zombie?

Glenn Michael Beckmann was blogging live from the weekly drum circle at Meridian Hill Park.

"Wham, wham, wham, wham!  Another week of Washington wussy-ness wafts a-way.

And victory is ours!  The Hunter-Gatherer Society struck a major blow for freedom-lovers everywhere this week when Society member "Bazooka Boy" attacked Mitt Romney for showing up at the White House to grovel for some type of dignified role in public life.  Death to collaborators!

Next up:  Comcast Kamikaze!  First this SOB company made Captain Picard lose his will to live in New York City.  Now they are terrorizing Washington with rolling bandwidth outages!  We know they are giving all the bandwidth to the secret socialist Islamist government goonies!  Join us in converging on Comcast headquarters to bring these Hitlers to justice!"

Angela de la Paz laughed in a sad way and leaned in closer against her boyfriend, Major Roddy Bruce, who was displaying Beckmann's live blog as it streamed onto his iPad.

"You sure that's him?" asked Bruce, nodding over to the militia man.  "His website photo looks more like Clint Eastwood!"

"I think that photo IS Clint Eastwood," she said with a sad smile, then gave him a kiss.

"And how long has he been under federal surveillance?" asked the commando from the Australian Embassy.

"The Heurich Society thinks the Feds are hoping to use him to get to bigger domestic terrorists," she said.

"What do you think of him?"

"I first started seeing him when I was a little girl--not very often, but he would always give me and anybody I was with really dirty looks."

"What a creep!"

"No, I mean, menacing looks.  I think he's probably killed somebody by now," she said.

"Crikey!  Let's get out of here before he sees you."  (Bruce knew Angela would win any fight with Beckmann, but he didn't want to see one.)

She eased him back down and said, "Beckmann doesn't recognize me anymore," but she didn't tell him about the plastic surgery the Heurich Society had arranged for her to look more ambiguously Latin American, not specifically Salvadoran.  She didn't like thinking about the fact that the face Bruce had fallen for was not her own.  "Beckmann's like all the other zombies---mindless, obsessed with killing, looking for any excuse to attack somebody.  Is he really the worst of America?"  They had both returned from Middle East deployments in the past week--deployments they had separately and together deviated from in large respects--and she had sworn she would never return to the Middle East.  "We've sent Navy Seals, we've sent actual marine mammals, we've sent CIA drones, we've sent actual CIA people, we propped up Saddam Hussein, we tore down Saddam Hussein.  Now we're expanding the Defense Intelligence Agency operations there.  And why?  Because of the damn oil!  Charles is right:  it was better under the Ottoman Empire."

"Who's Charles?" asked Bruce.

Angela smiled, amazed and yet pleased that this was his remark after her diatribe.

"He's a spy.  I used to think he works for China, but now I think he works for all sorts of people.  He keeps trying to lure me away from the Heurich Society.  He looks down on them because...."  She trailed off, not wanting to say aloud what she knew was true:  Heurich members mostly just wanted her to be their paid assassin...and she kept doing it because she was good at it.  "Anyway, I'm not that keen on Heurich, except Button Samuelson is in charge now, and I like that.  But I want to keep my options open."  (She wasn't ready to tell him about all those options--like joining Project R.O.D.H.A.M., or following directives that John Doe said he was getting from the ghost of Henry Samuelson.)

"How many options are you going to have if you refuse to go the Middle East?" asked Bruce.

She didn't answer, looking down at the website he had just pulled up of "Zombie" song lyrics from the Cranberries.

"It's the same old theme since nineteen-sixteen. 
In your head, in your head they're still fighting, 
With their tanks and their bombs, 
And their bombs and their guns. 
In your head, in your head, they are dying... "

"What happened in 1916?" asked Angela.

"Ireland's uprising against the British--that's what the Cranberries were singin' about.  But it was also the year Britain and France allied themselves with the Arabs against the Ottoman Empire."

"You see!  They keep changing sides!  It's idiotic," she said.

"That it is, but we gotta live in the world as it is now," said Bruce.

"Then we're all zombies."

A few miles to the south, Congressman John Boehner was ordering a third zombie cocktail at the Round Robin Bar.  He had tried budget negotiations drunk, sober, overfed, underfed, hopped up on spicy food, mellowed out on turkey and mashed potatoes, in public restaurants, in private homes, rowing on the Potomac, and walking on the Capital Crescent Trail.  He had even had secret meetings at belly dancing clubs, shooting ranges, church basements, and the lobby of the old Woodward and Lothrop building (with a transvestite playing the grand piano).  "I'm a reasonable guy," he whined to nobody in particular at the table.  "I'm flexible," he said.

"Being flexible about where to meet us physically is not the same as being flexible about where to meet us metaphysically," said the lobbyist working for an undisclosed coalition of blue dog Democrats.

"I'm the most powerful Republican in Washington!" declared Boehner, who was on the verge of slurring his words.  "Why do people forget that?"

"Nobody's forgotten that," said the lobbyist.

"I am THIRD in the line of succession!" he shouted, causing even diners outside their private room to hear him.  "If al Qaeda gets the Prez and the Vice-Prez, it's ME, ME, ME!  People FORGET that!"

"Nobody's forgotten that," said the lobbyist (who would rather go over the fiscal cliff than see Boehner in charge of the country's nuclear arsenal).

"People keep saying the same things OVER and OVER and OVER again--like zombies!  And nobody in this town can do MATH!"

"With all due respect, Mr. Speaker, you keep saying the same things as well.  We brought you a different proposal today."

"Bah, humbug!" said Boehner, looking around for somebody to get him another zombie cocktail and finding, instead, Bridezilla marching into the room in a spotless winter white coat and matching boots.

"I do apologize," she said, in her iciest, most sarcastic Virginia drawl, "but it appears my secretary was confused about what time this meeting was supposed to start."  She glared at the lobbyist, a member of Prince and Prowling's law firm rival--Lye, Cheit and Steele--then turned her back to him in a signal he was supposed to help her off with her coat.  "Now, then," she said, sitting down in the seat just vacated by the lobbyist to transfer Bridezilla's coat to the corner coat rack, "what's on special today?"

Back at Meridian Hill Park, Golden Fawn and her husband Marcos Vazquez were moving on after a half-hour of listening to the drum circle, when a shiver ran down Golden Fawn's spine.  "Something's wrong," she said, closing her eyes as a raven alit on her shoulder and began whispering in her ear.  "I need to go back for the girl."

"What girl?" asked Vazquez.

"The girl the Warrior told me about," she said, opening her eyes and turning back toward the drum circle.  "She's there somewhere."

Vazquez turned to follow her.  "What's going on?"

"I'm not sure," said Golden Fawn, who started to run after the raven, which had taken off and was flying in front of them.  A few moments later, they could see the raven land in front of Angela de la Paz--barely recognizable to Golden Fawn, who had not seen her in a very long time.  "Angela," she said breathlessly.  "I need you."

Angela looked up and saw pink warblers sitting on both of Golden Fawn's shoulders.  She stood up to go with them.

"What are you doing?" asked Bruce.  "Who is this?"  But the women had already begun running away from the crowd, and their men followed--out of the park, down 15th Street, onto a side street, then into an alley.  A silently screaming girl bolted past them, and then they saw her pursuer:  the man looked diseased, deranged, and...dismembered?  There was a stump where the man's right forearm should have been, with just a faint trickle of thick blood.  The man had faint trickles of blood all over his body, his eyes were popping out of their sockets, one of his ears was half-fallen off, and--

"Arrrrrrrrrrrrr!"

Golden Fawn screamed, and Vazquez jumped in front of his wife to protect her, but there was no need:  Angela was on top of the zombie with lighting speed, broke its neck, ripped its head off, pulled out her Portuguese dagger, carved open the torso's chest, ripped out the heart, hurled it on the ground, then poured a vial of acid on it.  When he was sure it was over, Bruce pulled his girlfriend away, then looked at Golden Fawn.  "What the bloody hell is going on?"

"Evil," said Golden Fawn, turning to Angela.  "Where have you been?"

A cellphone began ringing in the pocket of the dead zombie.  Angela squatted down to get it, and Bruce tried to stop her, but she held up her gloved hand as if this was all that mattered.  She looked at the name lighting up--Basia Karbusky--then answered it.  "He's not available right now.  Is there a message?"  ("We had an appointment this afternoon which he missed.  Is he alright?")  "No," Angela said, signaling to Major Bruce to trace the call, and he pulled an electronic gadget out of his inside pocket.  "Maybe you should visit him here."  ("Well, I'm waiting on other clients--I have to stay at my office.")  "I understand," said Angela, and Bruce signaled that he had the trace completed.  "I'll tell him you called."  With that she hung up.

"Why didn't you ask who it is?" asked Vazquez.

"It's Barbara Hellmeister," said Angela, "alias Basia Karbusky.  Button Samuelson inherited a file on her when Henry died."

"What does that mean?" asked Bruce.

"The file was cryptic."

"Encrypted?"

"No--cryptic.  Only a few comments.  I think her grandfather was an escaped Nazi scientist.  We need to go find her," said Angela, looking around at the zombie pieces.  "I have a trash bag in my backpack."

A watching flock of starlings took off from a backyard tree to go report to Ardua of the Potomac, but she was nonplussed.  "There will always be zombies in Washington," she laughed.  "Better to beware those who are still  NOT risen!"