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, June 29, 2013

The Revivalists

Cedric hugged his teddy bear closer, as his fellow residents of the Arlington group home for the mentally challenged continued peppering him with questions about his spy days.  "I always thought they didn't even believe me," the former dark ops man whispered to Aloysius (the bear).

"Are you a Bond villain?" asked Buckner.  "I didn't see you at the Spy Museum.  Is Edward Snowden a Bond villain?  I didn't see him at the Spy Museum."

"Did you invent Wikileaks, and who's Wiki?" asked Melinda.

"Are you really British, or American, or from outer space?" asked Larry.

"Did you work for the CIA or the NSA?" asked Theresa.

Millie, the big brown dog, sensed the others were ganging up on Cedric, so she wrapped herself around his legs to protect him.

"I worked for KLM!" wailed Cedric.

"That's an airline," said Buckner.

"I mean MLK," said Cedric.

"That's a library," said Larry.  "I used to live there."

"I mean LMK," said Cedric.  (Silent, puzzled looks.)  "We were the good guys," he added.

"Ah, yes!" said Brother Divine of the International Peace Movement (AKA Freddy Ritchings).  "Love Means Knowledge!  LMK!  I remember them well!  Tell me your name, and it's never the same!  Show me your heart when we're miles apart!  Give me your love, and it's what I'll dream of!"

(LMK was really the Lean Mean Killing-machine of the CIA, but Cedric had blocked that out of his mind since Henry Samuelson came back from the dead and haunted him.)

Several miles to the east, a rejuvenated and relaxed Charles Wu strode confidently into the law offices of Prince and Prowling.  The spy had gotten Edward Snowden safely out of Hong Kong and managed to increase the riff between Russia and the United States in the process!  His Hong Kong connections had made a lot of money, and Beijing was very happy with him.  And he was in England visiting his father with little Delia the whole time, dishing Chinese secrets to the grateful British!  True, the State Department was disappointed in him, but this was one scenario where he simply couldn't please everybody.  "Good day to you, sir!" he said, entering the private office of former Senator Evermore Breadman with a bottle of Scotch in his hand and the perfect words to get back into Breadman's graces:  "I have a business client in China prepared to walk into the Beijing offices of Prince and Prowling on Monday morning with a $30 million deal in the making--he just needs a little help from you on Capitol Hill!" 

Meanwhile on Capitol Hill, Congressman Herrmark was having lunch with other members of the newly formed Holier Than Thou Caucus.  Now Herrmark's constituents were generally years behind on current events, so it didn't really matter one way or another how he reacted to the Supreme Court's ruling on the Defense of Marriage Act, but he was desperate to find new allies on the Hill, and his Chief of Staff recommended this.  Getting photographed with these fellows at a preachy news conference was a small price to pay if it would win him support for a hydrofracking cleanup earmark.  He did not find the salmon mousse shaped into the sign of a cross on his plate particularly appetizing, but he was afraid to look away from it because Michelle Bachmann had those googly eyes that always seem to be looking at you.  "How come I've never met your wife?" asked Bachmann, and after an awkward silence, he feared perhaps she really was looking at him, and he lifted his gaze timidly, and now everybody was looking at him!

"She prefers to stay at home in the heartland," said Herrmark (who had the finest Congressional man cave in Washington).  "It's a sacrifice," he said, reciting the speech he knew from heart, "but we are both fighting to uphold the values we cherish, even if temporarily in separate arenas."  The man next to Herrmark patted him on the shoulder, leaving a greasy stain of bread crumbs and fish behind.  "Values like clean water," added Herrmark, going out on a limb.  "The hydrofracking has left our state too polluted to do river baptisms anymore, and the tent revivalists aren't even coming back this summer!" Several members nodded in confused sympathy, having been previously under the impression that Herrmark's pet project had something to do with an incendiary gutting of his parents' vacation home, but then they went back to their jiggling sea jello and waited for some more preaching about the gays.

A mile away, Sebastian L'Arche was enduring some more preaching about gays in order to watch an animal acupuncture demonstration at a Capitol Hill dog park.  (Pro-DOMA protesters believed that dog parks were a hotbed of gay rights activism, and so they were waving banners and chanting off to the side; however, their fear of puggles--unnatural mockeries of God's Creation--kept them at an annoying, but not overbearing, distance.)  "Isn't this cool?" asked L'Arche's occasional business partner, Becky Hartley.  "Maybe I could learn this?  Give up my pharmaceutical sales!"  The Dog Whisperer looked at her dubiously.  "Well, not every pet problem requires a trained exorcist!" she whispered.  "Sometimes they just have constipation or arthritis.  I knew this morning's half-moon was a good omen!  Didn't I tell you?!"

Several miles to the west, the State Department's Assistant Deputy Administrator for Hope was experiencing pains unrelated to constipation or arthritis:  he was being sabotaged by "C. Coe Phant", who had fed him phony intelligence claiming that a new, international Marxist movement was behind the street protests multiplying around the globe.  "The Neo-Marxians," wrote one fictitious CIA agent, "want to capitalize on (no pun intended) the growing unrest of the bourgeoisie and educate them that their future lies arm-in-arm with the proletariat.  The ruling capitalists are too shortsighted and greedy to appease the middle class with enough simple daily freedoms to make their lives worth living.  The downwardly mobile are therefore recruited by the Neo-Marxians, and it's class warfare without end--in Europe, Asia, Africa, and Latin America."  The A.D.A.f.H. wiped the sweat from his brow, and read three more (fake) intelligence briefs, all similar to the first.  As the unofficial Point Person for Blunt Pragmatism, he felt compelled to alert Secretary Kerry to the gravity of this intelligence; on the other hand, his job duties required an administration of hope.  Therefore, it behooved him to find a silver lining in this cloud before causing another earthquake in American foreign policy.  I wonder if Eva Brown knows anything about these Neo-Marxists?

Back on Capitol Hill, a smiling young hacker slid a manila envelope under the locked office door of the Speaker of the House, John Boehner, then walked nonchalantly away.  The message (written in child's script with a red crayon) on the envelope read:  "Nobody's phone records are private in this country--not even YOURS".

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Blighted

Former Senator Evermore Breadman hurried into his office at Prince and Prowling, two current Senators trailing close behind him.  He closed the door behind them and motioned for them to sit on the leather couch.  "I tell you, I don't know where Snowden is going!"

"Come on!" exclaimed the senior Senator from the state of ________.  "How many times have you told us Charles Wu is the golden link between Washington, Beijing, and Hong Kong!"

"And now he's out of town?!" exclaimed the junior Senator from the state of ________.  "Right when Snowden flies out of Hong Kong?!"

"Charles is in England, visiting his father," said Breadman.

"How do you know that?" asked the senior Senator.

"He sent me a postcard!" said Breadman.

"Come on!" exclaimed the junior Senator.

"Look," said Breadman, who was more nervous about Charles Wu than anybody, "Charles is a businessman!  What he cares about is finding mutually beneficial ways for people on both sides of the Pacific to make money.  He's not going to jeopardize that for the sake of this silly boy and his inane ideals about liberty!"

Several miles to the north, Calico Johnson was hosting another meeting of Sense of Entitlement Anonymous (D.C. Chapter).

"That silly boy and his inane ideals about liberty have ruined my life!" exclaimed a new member of S.E.A., a former judge on the FISA court.

"Tell me about it!" exclaimed another.  "My wife said my daughter-in-law won't allow me to see my grandchildren anymore!"

"They published all our photos!" another one whined, referring to Sunday's Washington Post.  "The man at the doughnut shop refused to serve me this morning!"

Mega Moo let out a thunderous call from the east pasture, momentarily stunning the FISA people.  "Have a mint julep!" said Johnson, bored with them.  "The mint came from my garden!"  He was desperate to show off his new Potomac Manors property, which was only ten miles away from his previous one and indistinguishable in features to most of the guests who had previously seen the other one.  (But there was a huge difference!  Mega Moo was happy here!)

"Thank you, Calico!" beamed Bridezilla, daintily taking a chilled glass.  "And may I say, it was good to see Mega Moo outside grazing on that lush, green pasture when I arrived!"  (Johnson grinned broadly.)

"The way I see it," said Judge Sowell Ame (jerk of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia), turning to the new members from FISA, "a judge who acts with dignity and justice has nothing to fear from public scrutiny."  (He was referring to gavel-thumping pronouncements in a public courtroom--not, of course, certain activities that might or might not be happening in private chambers before said rulings.)

"We're not afraid of public scrutiny!" hissed one of the FISA folks.  "But our hands are tied behind our backs!  It's not fair!  We can't talk about what we did!"

"Oh, stop your belly-aching!" exclaimed Dick Cheney.  "I've already told the American people everything they need to know about counter-terrorism activities in this country!  Anybody that questions what I've said is a traitor to our country!  Hold your heads high, and tell them that to their face!"

"My Indian guru tells me that water flows to the sea whether there is a fish in it or not," said Bridezilla.

"What?!" asked Mayor Vince Gray.

"Is your guru from northern India or southern India?" asked Luciano Talaverdi.  "That makes a difference because--"

"He's not from India, silly!" said Bridezilla.  "I think he's from North Dakota or Wyoming."

"What's his name?" asked Cheney, suspiciously.  "I know everybody from Wyoming."

"You mean he's a Native American?" asked John Boehner.  "That's what you have to say, or you'll get in trouble."

"He never calls himself anything like that," said Bridezilla.  "The point is, you have to think about the water flowing."

"What kind of point is that?" asked another of the FISA folks.  "What are you implying?"

"She's not implying anything!" protested Talaverdi.  "And you people are lucky!  If your photos had been published in Italy after what you did, the Mafia would have wiped you all out!"

"Is that a threat, you damned Wop?!" cried Cheney, rising to his feet and reaching for his handgun.

"Now, Dick, we don't have any quarrels with legal immigrants--remember?" said Boehner, yanking the old man back down to his seat.

"I can't take this anymore!" cried Johnson's girlfriend, a member of N.U.T.T.Y. (Nannies United to Take Y-Chromosomes).  "You're worse than the 'Ship of Fools'--I need to leave!"  (Johnson smiled indulgently at her hapless reference to their book club selection, but didn't try to stop her--he was growing tired of her hissy fits, which were obviously based in her ridiculous jealousy over Mega Moo.)

A few miles to the south, Liv Cigemeier pulled out some more blighted mint from her new backyard garden.  "I don't understand it," she said, turning to her husband, who was trimming bushes.  "The old stuff is fine, but everything I've planted since we moved here is dying.  I never had a black thumb before!"

"You don't have a black thumb!" he replied.  "It's just bad luck."

"That's what you said about the Oprah television specials, and the--"

"Honey!" he exclaimed, putting down the clippers.  "You're taking all this too hard!"

"Well, how am I supposed to take it when people tell me--"

"Forget them!  You're the most beautiful woman in the world!"  He knelt down and put his arms around her again, but he feared he was losing the battle to comfort her after Oprah's production company canceled the "Girl Hurl" (International Development Nerds) television specials because his wife was not sufficiently photogenic.

"'You can't fix a crooked face with makeup, and we don't have the special effects budget to make your face presentable!'" she repeated again, unable to shake it off.

"Those producers are full of shit!  That woman gets three hours in a makeup chair every time somebody takes a photo of her!  They canceled it for some other reason, which is undoubtedly a lack of commercial sponsors, and that's not your fault!"

"We're not getting any profit-sharing from it!  We don't have money to furnish the house, and my black thumb just wasted hundreds of dollars in the garden!"

"You're spiraling!" he said to his wife.  "Everything's gonna be fine!"

But it's not going to be fine, she thought.  I can't grow a baby, I can't grow plants, I can't do anything right anymore.  (Cigemeier continued holding his wife--who still didn't know that his law firm had lost $20,000 on the International Development Nerds art fundraiser they had held at Prince and Prowling.)

Over in their backyard shed, the real estate demon grinned in delight as he peered through the keyhole at the miserable couple--so weak and vulnerable and easily afflicted!  A catbird in the tree began imitating the sound of a riding lawnmower, and a family of millipedes crept closer to the basement, ready to launch their home invasion.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Primordial Ooze

Angela de la Paz lopped off another invasive vine and dropped it into the burn bag being held by her boyfriend, Major Roddy Bruce.  "Looks more primordial with the vines there," the Aussie said about the fern gully of a woodland they were walking through at the National Arboretum.

"Maybe primordial in China, but not here," she said.

"You really know this stuff well," Bruce said.  "You ever think about studying science, botany, something like that?"

She had finally gotten her GED after a lot of nagging from the elders in her life, but didn't expect her military attaché, of all people, to tell her to go to college.  "What's the point?  The world's going to Hell in a hand basket."  (This was a phrase she had picked up from Button Samuelson.)

"You still pissed about Syria?" he asked.

"Yeah, I'm still pissed!" she exclaimed.  "93,000 died in some [she made air quotes] 'conventional' way, and Obama stays on the sideline, but now he wants to go in because 150 died from a chemical attack?  That's a load of crap!  First of all, the CIA is probably how Assad got chemical weapons to begin with.  Secondly, those rebels are just as bloodthirsty--if not more so--than Assad.  Ya think they won't use any chemical weapons they find?  Third, it's a Sunni-Shiite proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran which started a millennium ago, and even Russia has the common sense to recognize that an arms escalation there could lead to World War III."

"So tell me how ya really feel," he said with a smile.

"It's not funny!  The CIA is lying about Syria because they always take Saudi Arabia's side because the Saudis have the damned oil, and Obama trusts the CIA too much!  And now a moderate has been elected in Iran, but will the CIA care?  No, because the Saudis still have the damned oil, even though the rulers of Arabia are disgusting, misogynistic pigs.  And I'm not defending Assad, but he's better than the damned Saudis!  If Assad had oil, the CIA would be kissing his ass."

"Well, if people with a good conscience won't get involved--"

"Don't guilt-trip me about it!" exclaimed Angela.  "I'm never going back to the Middle East!  It would take a hundred years' of assassinations to make a dent."

"Then stop thinking about it!" Bruce exclaimed.  "Let it be somebody else's problem!"

"Don't you get it?  America is spending all its money on these stupid foreign wars, trying to be policeman on every continent on the planet.  Every decision like that is our tax money, and then the sequester hurts the little people here at home.  And then they'll send over young soldiers like you, Roddy.  They've already sent you there once."  Her last words trailed off quietly.

"Look," Bruce said.  "My commando days are probably behind me now.  I'm behind a desk at the embassy most days.  And there won't be Aussie soldiers in that war, my love."

"What if it turns into World War III?" asked Angela, but he said nothing and just kissed her instead, hoping "she whose gaze must be avoided" would change her mind someday, and go back to the Middle East to take out some more of those bad guys.

Back in her National Arboretum office, Dr. Devi Rajatala finished cleaning up from the lunch with Angela and Roddy, then looked out the window with sadness as Mega Moo grazed [mowed] the grass outside for the last time.  Calico Johnson would be coming by this afternoon to pick his cow up and take her to their new home.  The geriatric bovine moved slowly and contentedly across the lawn, blissfully unaware she would soon lose the companionship of the National Arboretum's clever donkey, Rani.  Dr. Rajatala turned her gaze to Rani--just three feet away from Mega Moo, always three feet away from Mega Moo when they were feeding.  (At night, though, they slept side-by-side.)  Rani will get fat from eating all the grass herself, she thought, trying to maintain a scientific mind about the matter.  She had become an arborist because working with animals was too emotional.  "I've got work to do," she said aloud, trying to jolt herself out of her reverie.  A lot of damned work, since the sequestration killed our budget.  She looked at her task list and crossed off the one the young lovers had volunteered for.

Back in the forest primeval, the Warrior had just returned from the long pilgrimage he had made to fight Golden Fawn's breast cancer.  He had not even seen her yet, but he knew she was better.  It was Angela de la Paz he needed to find now, as he could sense the sickness in her spirit was growing.  He moved quickly through the trees until he was interrupted by the sound of a woman's high-pitched squealing.  He ran to see what was the matter and found Bridezilla screeching about the cellphone she had accidentally flung into a ravine while furiously trying to get a June bug out of her hair.  "You have to go after it!" she pleaded to her blind date, whose gaze was shifting uncomfortably back and forth between Bridezilla and the ravine.

"How am I gonna find it in there?"

"You just don't wanna get dirty!" she challenged him.

"Maybe we could look for it together," he replied, indignant that his manhood was being challenged in this absurd way.  Women always want equality until they don't!

The Warrior moved carefully down the ravine, easily detecting the crushed leaves that signaled the phone's landing place.  He retrieved the phone and climbed rapidly back up the ravine's other side to hand the phone to the astonished Bridezilla.  "Now that's a man!" she exclaimed in all sincerity.

"Fine!" her blind date exclaimed.  "Let the old man take you home!"

"Well, I bet he doesn't drive a red convertible sports car to compensate for his personal deficiencies!"

"Peace be with your spirit," said the Warrior, with no hope of having any such effect on the woman.

"Thank you!" sighed Bridezilla, melting into a mild southern drawl.  "I do need peace in my spirit!"

Hmm, thought the Warrior.  "Let me show you something," he said, cautiously.

"Yes, show me," sighed Bridezilla.  "I've been looking for a sign.  You're a guru, aren't you?  A medicine man?  I can pay you with this wampum," she added, pulling her pearl necklace off.

Hmm, thought the Warrior, she tossed off the boy and now the pearls.  Maybe she is ready to seek other things?  He put the wampum in his pocket with a wry smile and took her by the hand.

Further down the path, the ghost of Henry Samuelson was rushing along with John Doe, trying to catch up to Angela de la Paz.  "The election in Iran changes everything!" he exclaimed, and Doe nodded agreeably, distracted by the green lushness all around him, the sound of birds chirping in the trees, the smell of--  "And the U.S. sending arms through Turkey and Jordan?  If I've said it once, I've said it a thousand times:  you can't put the Ottoman Empire back together again!  I mean, what next?  Should we bring back the Tsar to Russia?"

"No," agreed Doe, who was comfortable with that point, at least.  (The amnesiac didn't remember anything about the Ottoman Empire except that the rock band, Franz Ferdinand, had something to do with it.)

"I mean, if we still had that Predator drone," said Ghost Henry, "I could end World War III myself, but this time, I'm really sure we'll convince her of what needs to be done."

Doe stopped to retie his shoe.  He didn't recall ever convincing Angela de la Paz to do anything for Ghost Henry or his Ghost CIA, but, then again, the brain-injured, temporal-lobe epileptic rarely remembered anything in his life. 

"There's a lot at stake here," said Ghost Henry, floating anxiously around Doe, who was tying his shoe as methodically as a 2nd-grader.  "Obama is in way over his head this time!  And the Heurich Society--I mean, I love Button, but she doesn't know what she's doing!" 

Doe stood up, nodding agreeably, though he had never heard Ghost Henry say a kind word about his daughter.  "What if it really turns into World War III?" asked Doe.

"It already is!" shouted Ghost Henry.  "My femme Nikita is the only one that can stop it now!"

Several miles away, Liv Cigemeier and her husband were moving into the house next door to Charles Wu.  Today they were all smiles, full of shiny, happy dreams...and so was the real estate demon living in the backyard shed.

*******************************************************
COMING UP:  demons who feed on the American Dream.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Plenty of work for everybody.

Charles Wu paced nervously as he spoke softly into his private satellite phone, trying to convince former Senator Evermore Breadman that he did not know where Edward Snowden was hiding in Hong Kong.  The fact is, triple agent Wu had never been detected in a lie in his entire life, but he was now in the impossible position of having to ding his own stellar reputation for knowing everybody who was anybody in Hong Kong.  "The truth is, Evermore, I have no doubt that I do have contacts in Hong Kong who know where he is, but they are undoubtedly holding out for the best offer--and it might not be money--in fact, it is probably not money they're after."  This was, in fact, half a truth, as he knew full well that Snowden was hiding out with Apricot Lily and Camisole Silk--who, for the timebeing, were being paid to protect him...but Wu wasn't the only operative from Hong Kong who had a complicated relationship between Beijing, Hong Kong, Washington, and London.  "As soon as I know anything helpful, I promise you, I will be in touch."  Wu got off the phone and released a huge sigh.  That last statement was also half a truth, since Wu had already decided that there was really no reason that any information about Snowden could be helpful to Breadman.  The real question was, will the Heurich Society send Angela de la Paz after him?  And if so, would it be a capture or kill mission?  He made up his mind to track down the girl.

Several miles to the south, former Senator Evermore Breadman hung up his private satellite phone in a huff.  Prince and Prowling had their own branch in Beijing, and Breadman had the cleverest businessman out of Hong Kong, and still, nothing!  And for the first time in a very long time, it suddenly occurred to Breadman that there might be something too big and powerful for him to get a piece of.  Am I really not as influential as I thought I was?  Is that young whipper-snapper going to have the last laugh?

Down the hall, Bridezilla didn't know anything about Edward Snowden because she had refused to follow any news stories about national security since her canceled wedding to Colonel Alexander Wolfbugler of the Defense Intelligence Agency.  (If he wanted to be married to his job, so be it!)  She was, in fact, currently tasked with handling pesky Washington Post "Metro" reporter, Perry Winkle, who was writing a lengthy piece on the recent flurry of academic articles and books exposing the glum fate of highly indebted law students working as day laborers for wealthy law firms.  "We value all the attorneys that work at Prince and Prowling," Bridezilla said, "whether they edited their school's law review, as I did, or whether they did not.  There is plenty of work for everybody willing to do it."

"Last year, said Winkle, "your firm billed over a million hours to Fortune 500 companies, but only provided 1,000 hours of pro bono service in the Washington community."

"But that's the beauty of the system!" Bridezilla said, in her sweetest Tidewater accent.  "Our contract attorneys are on hiatus so frequently that they have plenty of free time to work with those poor people with their sad little legal problems."

"But who will pay them?" asked Winkle.

"Bill Gates, Lady Gaga--people like that."

"Um, OK.  My sources tell me you have one contract attorney, Laura Moreno, who has been working here on a temporary basis since the Bush Administration.  She's never been paid for a holiday or a sick day--"

"Let me stop you right there," said Bridezilla.  "That girl never did law review.  She did moot court, for heaven's sake!  We're doing her a favor keeping her on."  She lowered her voice to a whisper.  "She'd be out on the street."

"Founding partner Wolfgang Prowling left her money in his will to start her own practice because, and I quote, 'she was the hardest-working lawyer at Prince and Prowling,' then his children contested the will--"

"The courts have spoken on that issue, sir."

"Do you think it makes sense for law students to borrow a hundred-thousand dollars to get a law degree these days?" asked Winkle.

"Certainly not!  If your parents can't afford to send you, then it's not meant to be!"

"If people stop going to law school, who will help law firms like Prince and Prowling serve their clients?  They say thousands of contract attorneys are working in D.C. firms every day."

"Oh, we'll just outsource the document reviews to India.  It's not rocket science, you know!" laughed Bridezilla.

"Isn't it true your cupcake company client fired you last week because a contract attorney coded 800 software license agreements as--"

"Goodness gracious, no!  I can't imagine where you heard that!" said Bridezilla, brushing her hair behind her ears.  "It had nothing to do with the contract attorney error, er, performance!  It was a disagreement about legal strategy--sometimes that happens."

"Well, thank you for your time," said Winkle, gulping down the remainder of his tea to get the bile washed back down his throat.

Downstairs in the workroom, Laura Moreno toiled on, despite eleven days of fever and uncooperative sinuses.  (Winkle had been unsuccessful in locating her for an interview because Prince and Prowling's human resources director had never heard of Moreno.)  She read her latest instruction note from Bridezilla--written, again, on a wedding gift thank-you note.  She got up to cough phlegm into the wastebasket, wondering when Bridezilla's next wedding would be.  Moreno had turned down three wedding proposals--all before she was 20 years old!  If only she had known then that she was peaking at 19 and it would be all downhill after that.  She used to attract Costa Rican poets, Brazilian environmentalists, Arab sheikhs--now it was drunken old men at American Bar Association conferences, trying to score a one-night stand every time a woman asked them for mentoring advice.  Finished (for now) with the phlegm, she headed over to the state-of-the-art review center to speak to Chloe Cleavage about the new database pull Bridezilla wanted.

Instead of Chloe Cleavage, she found the managing partner showing Cigemeier the latest sponsored art show hanging up on the walls.  "We get a tax deduction for sponsoring the art show," said the managing partner, "because all the proceeds will go to your wife's charity, International Development Nerds--minus a small administrative fee." 

"Administrative fee?" asked Cigemeier.

"Well, we have to kick out the contract attorneys on Friday night to host the art auction fundraiser, so we deduct the lost billables as an expense."

"Really?  Huh.  We don't even have any contract attorneys in here right now."

"Um, there's a few--around here somewhere." said the managing partner.  "We're very excited to be partnering with your wife's charity on this!  Personally, I'm really looking forward to meeting Bill Gates."

"Bill Gates isn't on their board."  ("What?!")  "No."

"Well, at least Lady Gaga is coming!" said the managing partner.  "I'm sure she'll spend big money--she's very excited about the Girl Hurl lobbying on Capitol Hill today!"

"That's actually Girls Up--a different campaign."  ("What?!")

"I think Girl Hurl will be lobbying next week," said Cigemeier, who suddenly noticed a green-looking Laura Moreno standing in the doorway.  "Can we help you?"

Several miles to the north, Charles Wu located Angela de la Paz in Meridian Hill Park, trying to walk across a tightrope set up for practice by erstwhile circus performers.  He watched her fall off it three times, then cleared his throat to gain her attention.  She walked sulkily over to him, and they sat down on a park bench.  "It's not fair," she said.  "I have no balance because my left ovary was replaced by a cyst."

"What?" asked a startled Wu.

"Never mind," said Angela, instantly regretting showing the spy any sign of weakness.

Wu breathed deeply, now certain the young girl was not heading off on any Heurich Society missions any time soon.  "Did you talk to Lynnette about it?" he asked.

"Yeah--she gave me some Chinese herbs."

"She knows what she's doing," said Wu.

"I still don't have any balance!"

"Give it some time," he said.  "You can't rebalance your chi overnight."

"You know where Snowden is, don't you?" asked Angela.  "I'm supposed to spy it out of you, but I really don't see the point."

"Exactly!" said Wu.  "There's no point, but you can tell the Heurich Society that I went to England to escape the pressure--that will cheer them up."

"Are you?"  she asked.

"Yes," Wu said, having just decided the matter.  "I'm going to England tomorrow.  In fact, I need to bring the baby by to see Lynnette before we go--why don't you come with me--we'll have some tea."

So Angela walked off with Wu, who could never mentor her to be what he wanted, but that was alright.

In the trees, a catbird began repeating the sounds of the Sunday drum circle, and a flock of starlings flew off to report on the spies to Ardua of the Potomac--who didn't need phone records to know what was going on.

Saturday, June 08, 2013

Who ya gonna call?

Bridezilla finished unpacking her suitcases--the one she had taken to Europe, as well as the second one she had purchased in Europe to accommodate all her souvenirs.  (Those Euro paupers had been desperate to sell anything!)  She was still fuming at the Dulles I.C.E. agent who had interrogated her and made her open her bags after she had claimed to have traveled to Europe on business.  (It was no business of his that she had taken the honeymoon trip by herself--and gotten on her laptop every night to bill hours and fill her loneliness!  Honestly--going to an airport these days was like volunteering to go to prison!)  She started the washing machine and sorted out her dirty clothes, quickly noticing the photo booth photos of her and Mamidou in a shirt pocket.  My gorgeous Algerian, she thought.  His twinkling hazel eyes, curly black hair, and mischievous dimples mocked her decision to treat Mamidou only as a fling.  Well, what were you supposed to do? she thought.  Tell 'em you'd marry him and bring him to America?  She stuck the photos in her pants pocket, wondering if her ex-fiance' at the Defense Intelligence Agency had ever eavesdropped on Mamidou...and heard him talking about her.  (In fact, Colonel Alexander Wolfbugler had...but didn't realize this fact since Mamidou referred to Bridezilla as "ma cherie".)

Her cellphone rang:  it was Laura Moreno.  She picked it up, eager to feel wanted (even if it was only as a partner at Prince and Prowling).  "What do you mean the client fired us?!" she squealed.  Moreno told her the client had flipped out upon discovering that P&P's contract attorneys had tagged 800 software licenses as "foreign language" instead of "non-responsive".  Bridezilla's nostrils flared, and her eyebrows flew up.  "Fire them all!" she hissed.  "We don't pay those losers $29/hour to pass the buck!"  Then  she remembered that Moreno had no authority.  "Never mind!  I'll be down there in two hours!"

Several miles to the east, Glenn Michael Beckmann--militia man, conspiracy theorist, blogger, and leader of the Hunter-Gatherer Society--was prepared never to hear his cellphone ring again.  "It ends here, today!" he shouted, whipping the small but enthusiastic crowd outside the Justice Department into a frenzy.  "Screw FISA!" ("Screw FISA!", the crowd echoed.)  "Screw NSA!"  ("Screw NSA!")  "Screw Obama!"  ("Screw Obama!")  ("Didn't Bush start this?")  ("Shut up!")  Beckmann dropped his cellphone on the ground, and enthusiastically began jumping up and down on it.  "Die, die, die, die!"  Several of his followers did the same, as Justice Department security guards discussed amongst themselves whether to allow this small rampage to continue or not.  "You!" hollered Beckmann, pointing at a fidgety woman who had not thrown down her phone.  "What are you waiting for?!"

"I don't have Verizon," she said, clutching her cellphone like a baby against her bosom.

"You fool!" cried Beckmann.  "They've got us ALL now!"

Too true, thought U.S. Attorney Atticus Hawk, as he walked past the protesters into the Justice Department.

Not far away, Angela de la Paz was holding hands with her boyfriend, Major Roddy Bruce, as they took in "One Million Bones" on the National Mall.

"I realize a genocide display is kind of a bummer," said the Aussie attache', "but it was your idea to come here, and you look super bummed out."

"Sorry," said Angela.  "I'm a little freaked out about this."  She handed Bruce a letter from her doctor.  "A cyst has completely replaced my left ovary!"

"Um," said Bruce, whose mind had ricocheted rapidly from unplanned fatherhood to ovarian mystery land.

"Well, is this normal?" asked Angela.  "Why doesn't the doctor say he needs to see me?"

"Um," said Bruce (who was still reading the report, in shock that his girlfriend had come to him about this, instead of her friend Lynnette Wong), "did you show this to Lynnette?"

"Not yet," said Angela.  "I just got it yesterday."

"Well," said Bruce, recovering his composure and stepping up as lean-on-me guy, "it's not cancer.  They don't care as long as it's not cancer."

"They don't care that my left ovary has been replaced?!"

"I guess not," said Bruce.  "It's not like a lung, is it?"  He immediately regretted the remark at the sight of her wincing.

"What if I want to have kids?" she asked.

"Well," said Bruce (who had heard the question as "we want to have kids"), "I mean, you can still have kids some day--with the other ovary, right?"

"Well, why did it happen?  What if the other one gets replaced?  How would you feel if one of your balls was replaced?"

Bruce shook his head, suddenly nauseous.  "I dunno.  Look:  the important thing is, it's not cancer, alright?  Why don't we go see Lynnette now--you'll feel better after you talk to her.  We'll figure it out--I promise!"  And suddenly he wanted to have kids with her!  He folded her into his arms, fighting the impulse to inspect his testicles.

A few miles to the west, Bridezilla was heading back into Prince and Prowling, heading straight for the state-of-the-art review center adorned by rotating art displays and staffed by sardined contract attorneys.  "WHO coded those software license agreements as 'foreign language'?!" she hollered, as she stormed into the large (and mostly empty) room.

Chloe Cleavage jumped up from the lap of the only contract attorney she had not yet put on "sabbatical", and he blurted out, "it was me."

"In his defense," said Cleavage, who had quickly moved five feet away from her paramour, "software piracy is the sleeper cell of the litigation world.  An intellectual property dispute can blow up out of nowhere, if you're not prepared!  We really should get all those software license agreements translated!"

"This was a racial discrimination class action against a cupcake company!" hissed Bridezilla.

"Exactly!" replied Cleavage.  "So what were they doing with software license agreements anyway?"

 "I don't know," said Bridezilla in a temporarily sweet-as-pie Virginia Tidewater accent, smiling before the screaming kill, "maybe 'cause EVERY DAMN COMPUTER IN THE COUNTRY HAS THEM, YOU IDIOTS!"

"The thing is," said a still-calm Cleavage (who had too much dirty blackmail on Prince and Prowling to ever get fired), "it's important--"

"SHUT UP!" hollered Bridezilla at Cleavage.  Then she turned to the man cowering in his chair and pulled out her smiling Tidewater accent again:  "Please log out for the day, sir.  Your agency will let you know when we have more documents for you to review."  She turned back to Cleavage:  "in my office in ten minutes, please."

Down in the Prince and Prowling parking garage, former Senator Evermore Breadman's phone was ringing--the magic phone Charles Wu had given him, which used a private satellite service and obscured anybody's attempt to read incoming or outgoing messages.  (Well, anybody but the owner of the private satellite service:  triple agent Charles Wu.)  "Yes," said Breadman, recognizing the voice of the most recent D.C. Councilmember to plead guilty to a felony, "I'm on top of it."  In the shadows, the river rats scurried off to report back to Ardua of the Potomac about her favorite law firm.

Sunday, June 02, 2013

The Good, the Bad, and the Spies

Triple Agent Charles Wu pulled out the coded message recently inserted in the Cafe Mozart shelf behind the pale paprika.  He tucked it up his sleeve in tandem with the motion of dropping a paprika into his little shopping cart, grabbed a potato pancake mix for good measure, then made his way to the register to pay for these items--along with half a dozen German games and toys he had purchased for his daughter.  Wu glanced again at his watch.  He would read the note in the men's room, flush it, get a beer in the bar, and still have time to finish reading the newspaper before the arrival of C. Coe Phant.

Not far away, Atticus Hawk settled into his long-vacant Justice Department office chair with a sigh.  Being brought back for last-minute legal consultations on Bradley Manning's court-martial trial at Ft. Meade was hardly his idea of a respite, but he was thrilled to death to have been recalled from Guantanamo for any reason.  Still, he was frustrated that the military wouldn't stand down after Manning pleaded guilty to enough for a twenty-year sentence.  Why go for the death penalty?  To deter whom, exactly?  All it would accomplish was to martyr Manning and win legions of adoring fans.  Every Sgt. Tom, Dick and Harry with explosive mood disorders would indulge their delusions of grandeur and moral superiority in spilling military intelligence to our enemies!  Hawk sighed deeply again.  Don't martyr him--it won't get you what you want.

A few miles to the west, Cedric sat down at the computer desk in the Arlington group home for the mentally challenged, propped Aloysius (his teddy bear) up on the desk to block the screen from Buckner and Belinda (sitting on the couch, watching television), and downloaded Sun-Maid's 100th Anniversary eBook (featuring "vibrant color photographs, fun facts, and more than 50 favorite recipes featuring raisins and dried fruits"), then scanned quickly through the pages.  As a CIA spy (or, rather, as a British spy, which is how Cedric currently misremembered his days of espionage), he had passed hundreds of coded messages in boxes of raisins all around the world, and he was terrified that his secrets would be betrayed somewhere in this eBook--for anybody who knew what they were looking for!  Next page, next page, next page--there!  Chocolate Shadow!  "Oh, God!" Cedric whispered to Aloysius.  "What will happen now?  They've spilled Chocolate Shadow!"  Aloysius just gave Cedric the LOOK, which only Aloysius could do:  it said, "stiff upper lip, old boy!", "this too shall pass!", and "God save the Queen!", all rolled into one.  "But this will surely come out at Bradley Manning's court-martial!" whispered Cedric.  "Chocolate was never meant to be mixed with dried fruit!  I'll be next!"  A loud "shush!" came from the couch (but without any turned heads), and Aloysius shifted his gaze ever so slightly (imperceptibly to anyone without Cedric's trained eye) to signal Cedric to continue reading--there might be more.

Back in Washington, the butler of the Brewmaster's Castle walked into the upper floor meeting room with candles lit atop the Chocolate Shadow he had made especially for this occasion--the first anniversary of Henrietta ("Button") Samuelson's tenure as Chair of the Heurich Society.  "This isn't a birthday!" whined the former chair.  "Why do we have to sing?!" 

"Nobody has to sing," said Samuelson, but not loudly enough to prevent Condoleezza Rice from breaking into song over the speaker phone; Samuelson blew out the candles without waiting for Rice to finish, and started dishing up the dessert.

"Speech!  Speech!" said Angela de la Paz, who had made a special appearance for this occasion.

"Thank you for all the support you've given me this past year," said Samuelson sarcastically.  "I know some thought I was a little young and didn't have the right experience [being a man, thought Angela de la Paz], but I think we've accomplished quite a lot this year!"  (Of course, Samuelson was including in her thoughts some of the secret missions Angela had gone on, outside the purview of the entire Society.)  "And I think The War on Error is going to be our most amazing project ever!"

Back at Cafe Mozart, C. Coe Phant sat down at Charles Wu's table.  "There are elements in the State Department that are not happy with Chuck Hagel throwing his weight around," said Phant, without bothering to greet Wu.  "Potato pancakes and a Diebels," he added quickly, to turn back the approaching server.  "P.P. Blu-Prag is in over his head--he can't run interference between Hagel and Kerry.  Blunt pragmatism is getting us nowhere.  Every gain we make at State gets reversed by Hagel the Heckler.  Does he really think calling out China on cyber-espionage is going to help?"  ("Well--")  "We haven't had anybody this undiplomatic at Defense since Rummy!  You gotta help us out!"  Phant paused as the server lay down the beer, then asked Wu, "you are on our side, aren't you?"

"Of course!" smiled Wu.  "Just tell me exactly what your goal with China is...."

Out in D.C.'s river, Ardua of the Potomac surveyed the local participants celebrating National Fishing and Boating Week 2013, eager to claim her next victim.

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COMING UP:  Bridezilla returns from her non-honeymoon in Europe and throws herself back into the fray at Prince and Prowling!