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, March 30, 2013

Near a Rocky Creek

The Warrior  walked pensively along the water's edge, following the stream through the heart of Rock Creek Park.  Since moving to this region, he had quietly used his bow to take about half a dozen deer per year.  Even that was too much meat and hide for him to cure serendipitously in a land with so many white settlers, and yet not enough to keep the herd thinned and in balance with the environment.  From time to time, he would see the Hunter-Gatherer Society make a raid on the deer, but the Society was loud and clumsy, and would invariably scare the deer off and then have to settle for a mass murder of squirrels to sate their blood lust.  This week the National Park Service had brought in "sharpshooters" to kill dozens of deer:  this was apparently their perverted idea of efficient land management, and who was to say which tribe would suffer more lasting psychological damage from it, the deer or their human neighbors?  The political protests had failed, the courts had ruled, and the sharpshooters were in charge this week.  The Warrior stopped to inspect an oak sapling several feet above the creek's high water mark.  Nature was far, far more out of balance here than the white man's land managers knew, but they were not entirely to blame:  the legends said this place had never been in balance since the Year of the Starling, and the Warrior believed it.  It was not in balance when he first visited the Delaware over a hundred years ago, and it was far worse now.  He crouched down low to look for fresh mushrooms and small plants, then watched for signs of insect activity in the cold sod.  He stood up and continued on, fearful that a cold spring would abruptly jump to summer in the space of a moon.

Two-hundred feet away, a couple of teenagers were watching the Warrior through their binoculars (mistakenly believing he was unaware of their presence).  Washington Post "Metro" reporter Perry Winkle was leading the youth on another Urban Guerrilla Field Trip--this time to inspect the aftermath of the NPS deer hunt in Rock Creek Park.  "Who is that guy?" they were whispering, as Winkle came up behind them and trained his binoculars in the same direction.

"That's the Warrior," Winkle said.  "That's what we call him, but I've never gotten close to him."

"He looks like an Indian or something."

"He is," said Winkle.

"How do you know?  Maybe he's just some crazy vet from the war in Afghanistan, hiding out here, living off the land."

"Come on," said Winkle, pulling the growing crowd of oglers in the other direction.  "We're here to look for signs of deer life."

"Well, it's boring--there isn't any."

"Well, if you had come out at 4 a.m., like I told you--"

"Funny!"

"--you would have seen live deer.  Instead, you get to look for chewed up branches and deer poop.  Come on."

The teens grumbled but smiled; it was nice to have an excuse to run around the woods without having to admit they liked the fresh air and the beauty of spring.

Further from the creek, up on the trail, Angela de la Paz was running a reluctant fourth mile with her boyfriend, Major Roddy Bruce.  The Aussie commando liked to push her endurance training, even though she kept telling him her operations were generally about lightning strikes and mad skills.  She slowed to a walk, gasping for air and blaming the jet leg from Asia.  "Wimp!" Bruce teased her, running circles around her for a couple of minutes for emphasis, and then stopping to grab a kiss.  He still didn't know her body was more of a plastic surgeon's creation than a naturally healthy specimen, and that her mad skills flowed more from her latent supernatural gift than the Heurich Society training she had received in Kansas.

"I did a great service to my country this week--I should be on vacation!" she whined.

"Yeah, you did!  Nailed that ghost bastard's bloody ghost drone!  Now the CIA and the ghost CIA are gonna be afraid of you!"  He gave her another kiss.  "When are you gonna tell me how you did it?"

Angela sat down on a large rock and bent over to massage her calves.  "It was actually really horrible," she said, straightening back up.  "You see," she started, but faltered.  Bruce sat down beside her and gave her an arm to lean her back on.  Angela looked at the ground.  She had never told him about taking the baby demon Eeteebsse to execute misogynistic killers in the Middle East, or trapping Eeteebsse in a Himalayan glacier because she was growing too big to control.  "I used an ally to help me do it."

"Wu?"  (She shook her head.)  "Project R.O.D.H.A.M.?"  (She shook her head again, and he waited.)

"You know, I told you about Ardua of the Potomac."  (Bruce nodded, his eyes growing wide with the imagining of a river demon being airlifted to Kazakhstan.)  "Well, she had a baby."  (His eyes grew wider.)  "I took her to the Middle East and Afghanistan and Pakistan, long before I met you.  I was using evil to fight evil.  I'm not sure how you'd feel about that."  (She paused, but he just sighed and said nothing.)  "She was still growing, and it was getting harder to control her, so I trapped her in a Himalayan glacier...until this week."   (He took a deep breath.)  "I let her out because there were ghosts and evil magic guarding that drone, and I didn't know how to deal with that."  (Another deep breath.)  "But I didn't let her kill any humans this time.  And I forced her higher into the glacier so she won't thaw out this summer."

Bruce stood up to walk around for a couple of minutes.  "It was you!" he finally said, looking into her face.  "You were the one everybody was talkin' about!  'She whose gaze must be avoided!'"  (She nodded, acknowledging the nickname she had first earned in Egypt.)  "You were a one-woman killing machine!"

"I was executing mass murderers," she said quietly.

"Judge, jury, and executioner," he replied.

"There was no other judge or jury for those people, and they would have kept killing!"

"I'm not defending them!" he protested.  She sighed and looked down at the ground, then Bruce sat back down beside her and put his arm around her.  "You were awfully young to be takin' on the Taliban and the like on your own."

"I wasn't on my own," said Angela.  "I had the Heurich Society and Eeteebsse.  But I stopped going there because it's hopeless.  There are too many men there that hate women--they're just going to keep enslaving them, maiming them, raping them, killing them.  I would have had to kill a hundred-thousand men, and maybe even then it wouldn't have stopped.  And I just...."  Her words trailed off as she started to shake.

Bruce pulled her close, amazed that his girlfriend was both the strongest and most fragile woman he had ever known.   They sat in silence for several minutes.  "You controlled that baby demon," he finally said.  "You've dealt with ghosts, you see birds and dolphins that are invisible to the rest of us, you have all these supernatural things I don't understand:  you might have figured out how to defeat that black magic in Kazakhstan on your own."  (She turned to look into his face.)  "Maybe this whole 'Femme Nikita' thing they trained you for just got everything confused.  Maybe you don't like the Heurich Society telling you what to do because deep down you're supposed to be listening to somebody else."

"You don't even go to church," Angela said.

"I know!" Bruce said.  "Maybe tomorrow we should go."

"If I start thinking God is telling me who to kill, that means I'm a psychopath!"

"Is that what you're afraid of?  If you listen to God, you're scared to find out what He'll say?  Maybe He'll tell you to take up pottery!"

"Since when do you listen to God?" she protested, sidestepping the joke.

"Since I found out demons are real, and they're competing for my girlfriend's attention!"

She smiled and shook her head (he always reeled her back in the end), and they got up to walk back out of Rock Creek Park.  She decided to wait until another day to tell him that she had met with Charles Wu in western China after delivering the rogue Predator drone to Project R.O.D.H.A.M., and he had offered her a million dollars to assassinate the President of North Korea.

A half mile away, Golden Fawn descended unsteadily into Rock Creek Park, leaning heavily on her husband, Marcos Vazquez.  He was surprised that she was so weak after only a few days of chemotherapy and he feared the recurrence of the breast cancer was taking a heavy psychological toll on her.  He had never seen her so desperate to connect to nature, even if it might mean huddling in a winter's coat just to listen to a babbling brook.  She was already talking about quitting the chemotherapy, and saying if using evil to fight evil didn't work last time, why should she expect it to work this time?  He barely had enough emotional influence over her to get her to do the chemotherapy, and he was afraid she would not continue it much longer.  He wanted to believe that there were ways for light to triumph over darkness, but he wasn't really sure that cancer was evil--not in the way she believed it was evil, not in the way she believed it was an attack from demonic forces and a wholly unnatural way to die.  He hated it when the word "die" even crept into his thoughts, and he leaned over to kiss his wife.  At last they were at the creek's edge, and she sat down to gaze into the flowing water.

From a distance, the Warrior noted Golden Fawn's arrival.  A raven alit on a boulder in front of him to tell the Warrior about the tumor, then the raven flew off.  The Warrior looked around in desperation, knowing there was no medicine he could gather for her in this anemic place.  Then he made his way over to lay hands on her and tell her he would make a pilgrimage on her behalf.

Under his passing footstep, a nascent spring rock cress bounced back up, born again and ready to bloom.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

In a foggy bottom.

Nurse Consuela Arroyo sat alone in the George Washington University Hospital cafeteria, taking a break.  Another battered child, another gunshot victim, another drunk driver--these were the things she emailed to Dr. Khalid Mohammad because he wanted to know what he was missing while on sabbatical to treat refugees in Jordan.  Her emails sounded the same...every day.  His emails sounded worse...every day...until today.  Dr. Mohammad was excited about President Obama's visit to his home country, and had gotten to meet with him in a non-publicized summit on the situation of Syrian refugees in Jordan.  President Obama was speaking up for refugees, and promoting peace!  President Obama had even gotten Israel to apologize to Turkey over its commando raid on a Turkish relief ship in 2010!  Nurse Arroyo wasn't sure why Dr. Mohammad was so encouraged by these things, which would all be quickly forgotten.  Then again, people in the Middle East jealously guarded their memories a lot longer than people in the United States.

Then again...President Obama (with Secretary of State John Kerry) was talking peace in Jordan, but he was also giving Jordan bomber airplanes.  "Talk softly and carry a big stick" had long ago given way to "talk sternly and hand out big sticks to allies".  Nobody knew this better than the Assistant Deputy Administrator for Hope at the State Department--whose new nickname in Foggy Bottom was "P.P. Blu-Prag", which was short for "Point Person for Blunt Pragmatism".  He had been responding since Thursday to formal complaints from U.S. Senators, foreign diplomats, and quite a number of private citizens that Obama and Kerry were too hard on Israel...or too soft on Israel...or too soft on Jordan...or too hard on Syria...or too soft on Syria...or too soft on Turkey....(The list went on and on.)  Then there was this nutjob Glenn Michael Beckmann, who had threatened to nuke Obama and Kerry while they were in Jordan:  the Secret Service had assured P.P. Blu-Prag that Beckmann had been under surveillance since the summer of 2012 and did not pose an imminent threat, but men were locked up at Guantanamo for less, so why was this guy still out there!? 

Beckmann was, indeed, still out there, and closer to the State Department than P.P. Blu-Prag would have liked (had the Secret Service deigned to share that information with P.P. Blu-Prag):   the homicidal conspiracy theorist and militiaman was blogging on his laptop at a Foggy Bottom Starbucks.  "My allies in Israel were prevented by Australian spies from raining nuclear fire on Obama and Kerry in Jordan, but we WILL ultimately prevail!" blogged Beckmann.  "And a new Christian Israel will rise from the ashes after we wipe out all the terrorists of the Levantine!  My allies are already exploring new neutron bomb technology, and our day will come!"  Beckmann then loosened the belt on his camouflage pants and walked up to the counter to order another slice of cinnamon coffeecake.  (It reminded him--mistakenly--of his mother.)

"What does he mean, 'Australian spies'?" asked Angela de la Paz, leaning her head on Major Roddy Bruce's shoulder to read Beckmann's blog on her boyfriend's laptop.

"Beats me," laughed the Aussie commando, reaching for his Froggy Bottom Pub beer.  "I wasn't on that mission!" he added, turning to give her a kiss before imbibing.

"Yes, you were," said Charles Wu, unexpectedly sitting down at their table.

"What are you doing here?" asked Angela, uneasy the spy was spying on her.

"Whadya mean I was on that mission?!" asked Bruce.

"The Israelis have your doppelganger working as a Mossad agent," said Wu quietly, sliding over an envelope with photographs he had obtained from Yellow Man after last night's mandatory karaoke.

"Jesus Christ!" exclaimed Bruce, peaking into the envelope.  "That looks like my cousin Denny!  They said he was eaten by a shark!"

"And Beckmann does have associates in Israel, but they have no nukes, and they're loonier than he is."

"Well, I don't want my doppelganger working as a Mossad agent!" protested Bruce.

"I wouldn't either, but as long as you don't go to the places he likes to go to, I'm sure you'll be fine."

"Gee, thanks!" said Bruce.  "By the way, who the Hell are you?"

"I told you about him," said Angela.  "It's Charles Wu."

"I need your help," said Wu, turning to Angela.  "There's a rogue CIA drone that's killed two-dozen unauthorized targets in the past week.  Project R.O.D.H.A.M. has located its secret airbase in Kazakhstan, but they haven't been able to penetrate the defenses."

"So tell the CIA to send another Predator drone to destroy it!  I'm not going back there!"

"They can't bomb an airbase in Kazakhstan.  They need somebody who can get in there and neutralize it quietly," said Wu.  (Angela shook her head "no".)  "Maybe you'll change your mind after reading who's been targeted in the past week."  He passed her a folded sheet of paper, which she opened and read.

"Oh, my God!  It's him!" she exclaimed.

"Who?" asked the two men in unison.

"Him!" she repeated, giving Bruce a knowing look and showing him the list.

"Bloody Hell!" Bruce said.

"You know whose hit list this is?" asked Wu.

"You wouldn't believe me if I told you," said Angela.

"Try me."

She shook her head--Wu would never believe that the ghost of Henry Samuelson was running around, let alone that he was controlling a CIA drone.  "Alright, I'll go."

"Babe!" protested Bruce.

"I'm the only one who can do this," she said, stroking Bruce's face.  "You know that."  She turned to a pleased, but mystified Wu.  "I'll leave tonight."

A few blocks away, economist Luciano Talaverdi was more concerned--as usual--with liquidity bombs.  "We can't let Cyprus fall," Obi Wan Woman was saying, as she brushed her hair after their latest romp on the Round Table in the Federal Reserve Board research library.

"I think we should," said the Italian, who despised all things Greek.  "Those people are still using an abacus to count money!"

"Funny!" said Obi Wan Woman, who often mistook his rantings for humor.  "When the Russians say 'no', that's usually when you say 'yes'!"  She was helping him straighten his tie in preparation for the imminent meeting of the Camelot Society.

"Sometimes I think you think money grows on trees," said Talaverdi, scratching under his cursed Rolex.

"Oh, it's more plentiful than that, tiger."

Back at George Washington University Hospital, Golden Fawn walked slowly out to the radiology waiting room to tell her husband that the tumor had returned to her breast.  The doctor was not going to wait for a biopsy to confirm malignancy, and had directed Golden Fawn to schedule surgery as soon as possible.  Her legs stopped moving as soon as she saw Marcos Vazquez lift his gaze to meet hers.  He dropped the magazine he was reading and stood up slowly.  They looked at each other in silence for a long time.

Out in the river, Ardua of the Potomac jeered the tourists walking around a chilly and flowerless Tidal Basin to mark the start of the Cherry Blossom Festival.  Spring was considerably messed up this year, and as many things were dying as being reborn.  The demon yawned and waited for her next opportunity for evil--which, in this town, would probably come along in about ten minutes, just like a bus.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Desperados, desparecidos, and droneros.


Congressman Herrmark was in a hurry to finish up at the office so he could go see the St. Patrick's Day Parade.  It was his idea to have an emergency budget revision meeting after learning that the Sequester had cut his office budget by 8.2%, but he had expected Chief of Staff Ann Bishis to get through this a lot quicker.

"You can't cut my subscription to Ebony!  They've been very good to me!"

"Congressman, they published one photo of you in five terms," said Bishis.

"It was a really good photo--and racially diverse!"

"Just because you and Gayle King were both at a hospital fundraiser on a Lake Michigan yacht is not a good reason to keep subscribing to Ebony."  She gave him her stubborn look, and he caved.

"What is this?" he protested, pointing at row 47 on the spreadsheet.  "Purchasing a water filter and giving up bottled water?  You know that hydrofracking is destroying the drinking water in this country!"

"Bottled water comes from the same places--just filtered.  We can do our own filtering:  it's more economical, and it saves plastic."

"I get a lot of money from the plastic people!"

"The plastics association?  They weren't that generous in the last campaign.  We got a lot more from Still Waters Run Deeper."

"Oh, yeah.  Hmmmm.  Maybe they can sponsor our bottled water?  Each bottle label can say 'Still Waters Run Deeper.'"

"They made a campaign contribution.   They're not NASCAR sponsors."

Sometimes Congressman Herrmark suspected that Bishis was being what the kids would call "snarky", but he had a tremendous fear of appearing humorless in front of his young staff, so when he was in doubt about the comical value of a staffer's statement, he just changed the subject.  "Is this nickel and diming really gonna work?"

"Well, I think we will have to leave the legislative correspondent position unfilled, and spread those responsibilities around," said Bishis.

"Do you think people will be willing to do the extra work?"

"Probably not.  We'll have to do more form letters and robo-signing."

"Maybe the twins can help out?  Their English is a lot better."

"You pay them out of personal funds!" exclaimed Bishis, suddenly panicking about the job security of her cousins from Greece.  "And they need to stay focused on your security!"  (They were his personal bodyguards.)

"Well," said Congressman Herrmark, "sometimes nut jobs write me letters!  Put 'em on it!"  (The truth was, the repeated blackmail about Mia had kept him from advocating against hydrofracking for a long time, so the death threats from the natural gas industry had stopped.)

"OK," said Bishis, anxiously.  "That's what we'll do."

Not far away, another strained negotiation was going on--this one, between Henrietta ("Button") Samuelson and her brother.  "You seriously want to go see a movie about the Anacostia River?" she asked.

"You're in real estate!" her brother exclaimed.  "Don't you care about the rivers in this town?"

"The Potomac is fine, and the Anacostia is filthy--everybody knows that."

"They're both filthy, and they could both be clean if more people cared!"

"Look, I'm perfectly willing to go to the Environmental Film Festival, but can we at least pick something a little...prettier?  Ooh!  How about this Alaska film?"

"So, as long as we still have pretty rivers a million miles away in Alaska, that's good enough for you?"

Button abruptly changed the subject.  "So, you happy about the new Pope?"  (Button had recently instituted a pro-Argentina policy at the Heurich Society, and their first operation had been using their influence in the College of Cardinals to get Pope Francis elected out of Argentina.)

"What do you mean?" asked her brother.

"He's from Argentina!" Button exclaimed.  "Land of your ancestors!"  ("Ancestors" was the euphemism Button had come up with to gloss over their newly learned truth that he had been stolen from an Argentine political prisoner and adopted out to Button's parents.)

"Well, his ancestors were Italian, and my ancestors were Spanish.  And he wasn't exactly on the same side as my parents during the Dirty War!"

"But he's poor and rides the bus!"

"So do half the people in Washington!  It's hardly a qualification to be Pope!"

"Well, I think it's exciting!"  (She decided not to tell him about her grand effort with the Papacy, and to look for some other pro-Argentina enterprise to win back his affection.)

Meanwhile, the ghost of Henry Samuelson (their deceased father and former Chair of the Heurich Society), was back at CIA headquarters, poring over surveillance information.  Ghost Henry's Ghost CIA had scored a major victory in Afghanistan:  capture of a drone bomber!  The drone was currently on the ground in a shady airport in Kazakhstan--guarded by some scary ghosts and a cooperative local man who had neutralized the remote control function from the living CIA.  Whom to bomb first?!  Ghost Henry had not been this giddy since...well, since dying.  He continued poring through the surveillance information, but most of it involved targets that the living CIA was probably going to bomb anyway.  Ghost Henry wanted a target they would never have the balls to go after!  Julian Assange in the Ecuadoran Embassy in London?  Hee hee hee!  Hamid Karzai?  Oh, too sweet!  Donald Trump?  Now that was the kind of hit the Pentagon should give out a drone pilot medal for!  (Turning the old Post Office Pavilion into a luxury hotel for his pimping, gambling friends was an affront to every patriotic Washingtonian.)  No, the first target of the Ghost CIA-piloted drone would be....

Also reviewing CIA drones at this hour was the Assistant Deputy Administrator for Hope at the State Department--except now everybody was calling him "P.P. Blu-Prag", which sounded like "pee-pee blue fag" but which was actually short for "Point Person for Blunt Pragmatism".  (Not that this was on his name plate or anything--it was C. Coe Phant who had started it!)  He had duties now like "read this policy briefing from Secretary of Defense Hagel and translate it into State Department English".  He had read the current briefing five times, and it was as careful and vague as they come, but if you read carefully between the lines, one could possibly, slightly, infer that U.S. troops were trying to track down a CIA drone bomber missing in Afghanistan--either that or Hamid Karzai had failed to show up on League Night and the American team had forfeited the bowling match.  (P.P. Blu-Prag had started a Pentagon-State bilingual dictionary for himself, all written on small index cards that he moved in and out of the State Department in his lunch bag, but it would take awhile to master all this.)  Hmmm, he thought.  What if somebody got word to the remaining Project R.O.D.H.A.M. operatives in Tajikstan to be on the lookout for the drone?  Last week, the A.D.A.f.H. had finally brought in ex-girlfriend Eva Brown to tell Secretary of State Kerry all about Project R.O.D.H.A.M., but Kerry’s reaction was to kill the project ("how can I justify this in our Sequestered budget?!"), put A.D.A.f.H. on Chuck Hagel liaison duty, and get things moving in a more pragmatic direction.  If Project R.O.D.H.A.M. could ride to the rescue on this, how awesome would that be?!  He would be a hero--more importantly, his ex-girlfriend would be really, really happy with him.

Back at the St. Patrick's Day Parade, Glenn Michael Beckmann weaved slowly through the crowd looking for his target, but a giant inflatable panda bear wearing a green hat distracted him....Then some dancing children, and their music....Then the drums....After awhile he could not remember whom he was supposed to kill today, so he fingered his loaded guns nervously, worried his enemy would sneak up on him at any minute.  On a nearby tree branch, a catbird screeched car alarm sounds until an aggravated Beckmann threw a big stick at her.  A flock of starlings took over the vacated tree branch, and Beckmann briefly thought about pulling his guns on them, but something about their kaleidoscope wings and cold eyes froze him where he stood.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

The Art of Living

"It's just yoga!" exclaimed Angela de la Paz. 

"It feels like a cult," said her boyfriend, Roddy Bruce, before drinking some more water from his Australian army canteen.

"You were laughing more than anybody!" exclaimed Angela, looking around at the other people taking a break from the class.

"I was laughing at all these blokes, not with 'em!  They were pretending to push rogue, out-of-control lawn mowers around the room, for Christ sake!"

"So were you!" laughed Angela.  (She was actually surprised her Aussie commando had agreed to come to Art of Living for laughing yoga this morning.)

"Well, what does that have to do with the wisdom of Sri Sri?"

Angela leaned over to give him a kiss.  "Look," she said, "Dr. Raj is a scientist.  She only invited me to come to work on my breathing and stress response."

"Are you sure she knows what you do for a living?"  Major Bruce winked at her before Devi Rajatala returned from her trip to the bathroom with her National Arboretum coworker, Jai Alai.

"How do you feel?" asked Dr. Rajatala.

"Well, it beats going to church!" said Major Bruce.

Dr. Rajatala frowned.  "This is not a substitute for spirituality.  This is just yoga."

Angela gave Major Bruce her I-told-you-so face and smiled. 

The teacher called for them to prepare for the next segment.  "Close your eyes and go back to your happy place."  (Jai Alai frowned because she had no happy place.)  "Breathe in....Breathe out....Breathe in....Breathe out."  (Jai Alai gasped for air--she always panicked when people reminded her that breath was something that could be stopped.)  "So what?  Let it be!"  (Jai Alai's pulse quickened as she remembered the funeral of her little girl and all the people saying, "She's in God's hands now--just let it be.")  "Let your cares float away."  (Her son was now old enough to ask questions about his little sister's death...and the man in prison for it.)  "Stretch your hands up, then down, and up, now laugh!"  (Jai Alai forced a fake grin and blinked back the tears.)

A few miles to the south, Henrietta (Button) Samuelson was strolling downtown with the brother she now knew to be not her flesh and blood but a child stolen from a political prisoner during Argentina's Dirty War.  In some ways, that journey of discovery had drawn them closer; in other ways, not so much.

"WTF?" he said, pausing at a restaurant window.

"What?!" she protested.  "Now what did I say?"

"Take a chill pill, Button!  I'm talking about that sign."  (He pointed to a large sign in the window that said, "WTF".)

"Oh," she replied.  "Woodward Table something...food or something."

"WTF?!  Seriously, who would put that in their restaurant window?!  Are they complete idiots?"  (Then her brother pointed out that the "WTF" was actually in more than one window.)  "Is Washington so far out of touch with reality that people here don't know what 'WTF' stands for?"

"Maybe the owner was being ironic," said Button, who admittedly never understood irony because everybody used the term to describe different things.

"Ironic?"  (He laughed out loud.)  "This whole town is one big 'WTF' generator to the rest of us, so, yeah, I guess it's ironic."

"So is that your reaction to what I'm doing by following in Dad's footsteps?"

"He's not my dad."

(Button let that one go.)  "You told me I was wasting my life in real estate.  I'm trying to make a difference now."

"You don't trust half the people in the Heurich Society, you don't have files on their past activities, you use operatives hired by strangers in foreign countries--"

"I'm very careful about what I approve!"

"Are you?"

"Look, it was my operative that got you the info from Clinica de Moron!  She's the reason you found your relatives in Argentina!"

"And I'm grateful for that, but how many other truths do you really think you'll find?  That organization is about controlling history, not illuminating it."

They walked on in silence, their post-lunch conversation strained as far as it could go.

A few miles to the west, a teenaged girl--shaken to the core over a cyber-bullying campaign launched against her over the weekend--stood unsteadily on the bridgeman's deck of the 14th Street Bridge and looked down at the mesmerizing eddies of the Potomac River.  A pink dolphin tried to grab her attention but the demon voice of Ardua called her in another direction.  She climbed over the railing, then jumped.  Dubious McGinty heard the loud splash and raced out of his makeshift home to look down at the water, but he could not understand what had happened.

Over in Alexandria, another cyber-bully joined in the fray, tearing apart the girl online and spreading additional lies about her...all because she has possessed the audacity to post a Facebook question about....Actually, nobody remembered what her original posting had been, but they knew it was necessary to punish her to death.

Back in the river, the pink dolphin nosed the girl gently over to the shore, but she would never step foot in the real world again.

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Snow-Flakes and Snow-Questers


Calico Johnson angrily tossed more hay into the corner of the basement where Mega Moo had been since angrily protesting the snowstorm at 3 a.m.  "The snow wasn't even affecting you!" the real estate mogul scolded the cow.  "You have a state-of-the-art heated barn, for God's sake!"  He then shoveled her manure into a pile.  "Ninja doesn't complain--and she's a thoroughbred!  You're lucky to share a barn with her!"  What Johnson didn't know was that Mega Moo's bovine narcolepsy had recurred, and the reason the cow screamed in the wee hours of the morning was that she had fallen asleep suddenly, toppled over, and gotten stepped on by the horse in the darkness.  "I'm talking to a cow," he said, retreating to the stairs.  His feelings for Mega Moo's previous owner (his former Potomac Manors neighbor) were fading proportionally with his growing annoyance.  "I need to bring that cow whisperer out here again."

Several miles to the west, the residents of the Arlington group home for the mentally challenged were also a little bleary eyed from a 3 a.m. awakening; in their case, the screaming culprit had been Cedric.  "He couldn't help it," said Theresa, dealing the cards for another hand of Oh, Hell!  "It's the nanotechnology hidden in the snowflakes." 

"There's no such thing!" retorted Buckner, looking around to see if he had been dealt as many cards as everybody else.  "And I'm getting tired of his phony James Bond accent, acting like he's some important international spy!"

"I think it was Aloysius that made him scream," said Melinda.  "That teddy bear is creepy:  its eyes follow you everywhere!"  (She sometimes gave Aloysius a good thrashing when Cedric was in the bathroom.)

"It's the snow angels," said Larry.  "They're really devils!"

"Don't say that!" wailed Theresa, laying down two cards in confusion.

"The snow
is the afterglow
of the world
after it was hurled
from ethos
to pathos," said Freddy Ritchings (AKA Brother Divine of the International Peace Movement). 

"When the world is white
we inherit the night,
and the dark hour's screams
become today's best dreams."

"That makes no sense," said Larry.

"And 'snow devils' does?" sneered Buckner, tossing down his cards.  "This is a sissy game!  I think we should wrestle, like Don Rumsfeld told us to!  Let's go wrestle in the snow!"

"His op-ed didn't say anything about wrestling in the snow," said Larry.

"You have to read op-eds between the lines," said Melinda.  "That's how the secret government communicates."

On the other side of the room, Cedric continued to stare out the window at the falling snow--Aloysius gripped tightly in his arms, Millie curled up at his feet.  Social worker Hue Nguyen was seated at the other end of the couch, sipping tea and sharing meaningful looks with the enormous brown dog (Millie) about how to proceed.  "So what you're saying is that Ghost Henry brought the snowstorm--"

"The snowquester," interrupted Cedric.

"--brought the snowquester in order to create a state of emergency, override the budget cuts, and trigger a martial law declaration from the CIA."

"That's what he said," nodded Cedric.

"That's what the ghost told you?"  (Nod.)  "But we haven't had a state of emergency, or a declaration of martial law--"

"It's just beginning!  The snow is still falling!  We're doomed!"

"Cedric, why did Ghost Henry tell you about his plan?"

"He told me I was either with him or against him," whispered Cedric.  Then he whispered something inaudible into the ear of Aloysius, and he held Aloysius up to his ear to listen to the teddy bear's reply.  "I want to go against him, but Aloysius says we have no choice!  Henry will kill us if we don't help him!"

"Help him with what?"

"Why, taking over the CIA, of course!  He has a ghost CIA, and he wants to take over the living CIA."

"OK."  Nguyen finished her tea.  "Well, I think we should set up a Skype chat between you and Dr. Schwartz--"

"No!  The NSA monitors all the Skype chats!  They'll call out a predator drone on us!"

"Nobody's gonna bomb our little house in Arlington."

"That's what Osama bin Laden thought!"

Back in Maryland, Liv Cigemeier was dutifully Tweeting about International Development Machine's "Girl Hurl" campaign.  "This really sucks," she said for the fifth time to her husband.  "I'm sure nobody else is working from home!"

"I am!" the Prince and Prowling partner replied (for only the third time).

"I know you are, honey!  I mean, from IDM.  And I don't get paid any extra."

Her husband stole a long look at her--face glowing, hair still unbrushed, faint smile on her lips.  The truth was that the "Girl Hurl" campaign was a runaway success:  the Facebook likes, the blog hits, the reTweets.  His wife had become a thought leader in her field....Not that he was worried about her become conceited or anything.

"Huffington just reTweeted me--ME!  Can you believe it?!"

He could certainly believe it, but what he wouldn't have believed had he been told was that Arianna Huffington would be reading Liv's Tweets all day today...and then recommending her for a job at IDM's chief rival, "International Poverty Nerds".

Several miles to the south, Glenn Michael Beckmann (along with a real estate demon) was holed up in his Southwest Plaza apartment, live-blogging about the snowquester.  "Global warming is a lie!"  He looked back a couple of paragraphs and realized he had already said that.  He stopped to look at the Washington Post online opinion pieces--it was important to read between the lines to see what the secret government was saying--and frowned.  He took another spoonful of oatmeal cooked in whiskey and was just about to resume typing when a raven slammed against his balcony door.  He jumped up to take a look and saw a smear of blood down the glass to where the raven lay twitching.  A flock of starlings suddenly alit and started eating the raven alive:  it was the most exciting thing Beckmann had seen since witnessing that car plunge into the icy Potomac River a week ago.  He scrambled to find his video camera and set up a live video feed on his blog.  "Nature in all its wild glory!" he narrated, then he realized he sounded like a freakin' tree hugger.  "Survival of the fittest!"  One of the starlings looked up at him, eyes glowing red against a swirl of snow, and Beckmann felt chills.  "Death comes to the archbishop!" exulted Beckmann, misremembering a story he had read a long time ago, as a boy.  He abruptly turned off the camera, signed off his blog, got dressed, and grabbed several weapons to go hunting.  The real estate demon watched the starlings for a few more minutes, then headed down to the laundry room to rattle some more bones.

Sunday, March 03, 2013

The Tweeting of Ardua


Washington Water Woman has ventured into the world of Twitter, where she will gallantly struggle against evil in 140 characters or less! 

You can follow Washington Water Woman on Twitter @HorrorDC  ....

Friday, March 01, 2013

The Sequester Linings Playbook


"It's really not such a big deal," said Bridezilla, sipping her amaretto green tea espresso with a hint of vanilla.

"NOT SUCH A BIG DEAL!" bellowed former Senator Evermore Breadman.  "The sequester was never supposed to HAPPEN!"  He was glaring at her as if she and her friendship with Congressman John Boehner were chiefly to blame.  (But this just made her more radiant.)

"Maybe we should--" began Prince and Prowling's managing partner.

"NO!" exclaimed Breadman.

"What about--" began another Prince and Prowling partner.

"NO!" exclaimed Breadman.  "You're all going to listen to ME now!  When I was in Congress--CIGEMEIER!"  (Cigemeier looked up sheepishly from his smartphone.)  "Are we BORING you?!"

"I thought Pakistan had sent nuclear bombs into India, but I guess it was a hoax," said the young partner.  (He was actually reading his wife's latest "Girl Hurl" Tweet, but this was one of the pre-planned excuses he always kept ready during partner meetings.)  "I agree with John."  (There were three partners named "John", and this usually worked, but none of them had actually spoken yet.)

Contract attorney Laura Moreno then entered the room with a tray of bread slices and placed it in the center of the conference room.  "She dropped the lunchmeat tray, and it spilled all over the carpeting."  (Moreno was talking about the 50-year-old employee from El Salvador who had run off crying.)  "She's afraid to come in."  (The managing partner grabbed a piece of rye bread and started chewing on it.)  "There's the tray with the mayonnaise and mustard and pickles," she said, nodding at a nervous secretary entering the room.  "I'll go get the dessert tray."

"It's like Lent for everybody," said Cigemeier.

"No, it's a perfect example of what is wrong with federal tax and spend habits in this country," declared Bridezilla.  "All this automatic bread and mustard and pickles, but where's the meat?  Neglected and dropped, that's where!  Man cannot live on bread alone!"

"But," said the managing partner, dramatically waving his half-eaten slice of rye in the air, "isn't the sequester protecting the meat while forcing the government to get rid of the mustard and pickles?"

"Pickles are good for the immune system," said John #1, who plucked a pickle from the tray and stuck it in his mouth for emphasis.

"And we still have dessert!" said John #2, eyeing Moreno's second entrance into the conference room.

Breadman leapt to his feet.  "Have you all gone MAD?!  This is Prince and Prowling!  Since when do we have to do-it-yourself cold sandwiches at a catered luncheon?!"  (He glared at the managing partner.)  "We are the BEST in Washington!  We have standards!  We eat HOT lunches!"

"That is exactly why Washington is in trouble," said Bridezilla (who was now planning to eat two blondies and a mini pecan pie for lunch).  "Pretending things are necessary which are not necessary."  (She knew her boyfriend's important job at the Defense Intelligence Agency was safe from sequester--because everybody doing important things would still be paid.)

"I have two-dozen clients with federal contracts on hold right now, and guess what?" exclaimed Breadman.  "They don't want to pay my bills for lobbying the past three weeks because it was [air quotation marks] USELESS!  I have been working the Hill a long, long, long time, gentlemen, and I have NEVER been called USELESS before!"

The senior partner who happened to be a woman stood up, vigorously grabbed a brownie , and exited the conference room without a word.

"You said 'gentlemen' again," said the managing partner to Breadman.

"SHUT UP!" yelled Breadman.

A couple miles to the east, Atticus Hawk was examining his carryout bag for the elusive pickle when his boss came into his Justice Department office.  "We got you back on security clearance work in the nick of time, Atticus!  You might have been furloughed."

"I heard Obama is going to fudge the Executive signing."

"Don't they all?"  He dropped a thin file on Hawk's desk.  "We have a Kerry-Hagel issue you need to take a look at."

"Already?"

"It takes time for them to work their way through all the top secret memos and get on the same page.  They're in disagreement over what this one means."  (He was pointing at a page of hand-written notes Hawk was already perusing--notes from a phone conversation.)  "I need you to consolidate a few things, pull 'em together."

"Sounds good," said Hawk, who had a bad feeling about it.

"I have a bad feeling about this," said Obi Wan Woman to Luciano Talaverdi, a few miles to the east.  "Congress doesn't really understand the spending cuts.  Each Congressman only knows their own committees and their own districts.  None of them are seeing the big picture--and they don't trust the people who do."

The Italian economist stopped sniffing the acceptability of his mustard and looked out the window of the Federal Reserve Board cafeteria on another gray winter day in Washington.  "This government is so different than what I grew up with," he said.  (Obi Wan Woman stifled a yawn.)  "If we were in Italy, the government would have folded and new elections would have been called."

"We just had an election," said Obi Wan Woman.

"But you have three branches of government here.  They can just block each other:  it will never work."

"What do you mean, 'it will never work?'"

"Your democracy," said Talaverdi.  "The most important decisions are being made by the Supreme Court and by Administration officials behind closed doors in secret memos.  They spy on anybody they want to, they use drones to kill anybody they want to, they have a Soviet-style trial going on in Guantanamo right now that most Americans are completely unaware of because these idiot reporters are more interested in whether the White House threatened Bob Woodward."

"I don't understand what you're saying!" exclaimed Obi Wan Woman.

"You think you Americans are immune?  You are sliding into dictatorship!  The most powerful people in Washington are going to hold onto the money they have, and the rest will continue to get weaker.  Unemployment will rise, crime will rise, the middle class will demand financial stability, and the government will get more authoritarian."

"So you think Obama is a fascist now?!  Do you have any idea how ridiculous you sound?"

"Not him, no, but that's the direction things are going.  If Congress cannot agree to do anything, the people's power is gone."

She shook her head, knowing he was always gloomy when the sun wasn't shining.  "I'm gonna go get you some frozen yogurt," she said.

Over at the White House, twin pre-schoolers were poking reluctantly at their (non-frozen) yogurt.  "It's good for your immune system," said their mother, the White House butler.

"Are you gonna lose your job?" asked Regina.

"Reggie!  Why on Earth would you ask that!?"

"Bridge said the squatter is coming," said Ferguson.

"The sequester, Fergie," said Clio.  "It won't affect me."

"Why not?" asked Regina.

"Bridge is worried about his job--he said it's just gardening," added Ferguson.

"Well, it's just a drop in the bucket--won't make no difference to the budget, and what would tourists say if the garden went to pot?"

"He said everybody's gotta cut somethin'," said Regina.

"What'll happen if they cut you, mama?" asked Ferguson.

The HIV-positive butler sighed, thinking about how rested she would feel after getting away from this stressful place.  She rubbed her eyes, and the twins took advantage of the lull in watchfulness to flick their yogurt onto the wall (which was the same color as the yogurt), but they weren't fast enough.  "Reggie!  Fergie!  You clean that up this instant!"

Ghost Dennis shook his heads at the brats and flew back to the West Wing.  He had so many things to talk to President Obama about, but it was getting harder and harder to catch him alone.  Before he could make it out of the East Wing, a delegation from The Shackled interrupted him.

"Leave it alone," they said in unison.  "The time has come for change."

"Not like this!" exclaimed Ghost Dennis.

A couple miles to the north, construction workers were sprawled over the roof of Harris Teeter, making repairs and arguing about the sequester.

"This country has never been run on the up and up," said the graduate school dropout, crouching down to take a closer look.  "It was built on stolen land, then money borrowed from France and never paid back, then slave labor, then child labor, then cheap immigrant labor, then money borrowed from China and never paid back."

"Yeah, you got it all figured out, Einstein," laughed the foreman.

"All I'm saying is, why do people say this is a rich country?  This country has been cheating from the start!  And it's still cheating--we've got slavery again, for God's sake!"

"Well, at least you're getting paid, Einstein," said the foreman, who suddenly slipped and started sliding down the roof.

"Boss!"

But it was too late:  the safety rope snapped where the rats had gnawed on it in the night (the spot accidentally smeared with mayonnaise). The foreman plunged to the ground, breaking his back and both legs.  The furloughs in the Social Security Disability office would soon create a backlog so large that he would not see disability payments until 2015; his scream thus announced the first real pain felt by the sequester.

Out in the river, Ardua of the Potomac floated serenely, fascinated by the slow-motion disintegration of the so-called republic.