Washington Horror Blog

SEMI-FICTIONAL CHRONICLE of the EVIL THAT INFECTS WASHINGTON, D.C. To read Prologue and Character Guide, please see www.washingtonhorrorblog.com, updated 6/6//2017. Follow Washington Water Woman on Twitter @HorrorDC ....

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Ghost in You

Charles Wu stared out the window of his rented jet at the Dulles tarmac, frustrated with the delayed arrival of the private pilot that would take him and his entourage across the Pacific for Chinese New Year and other important affairs.  Little Delia was laughingly following the steward around the roomy cabin, nanny Mia was wrapping gifts for her relatives in Southeast Asia, Liv Cigemeier was reading preparatory material for her first trip to the Philippines for Wu's International Development Machine initiative, Liv's husband was nervously working on a business contract he would be executing at Prince and Prowling's Beijing office, and Angela de la Paz was sound asleep.

Wu had been surprised that the very pregnant Angela had agreed to come on the trip, but she had insisted that the "spirit world" had given her a vision of a human trafficking ring she was meant to bust in Malaysia, and the spirit world had also assured her the baby would not be born until late March (right on time); she would get to work immediately on expanding his Pacific espionage operations as soon as the rescue vision had been fulfilled.  Wu had no quarrel with that mission, and, indeed, suspected it might be the same human trafficking ring that had sold Mia to Congressman Herrmark some years back, but he desperately wished he could first take Angela to see his mother in Hong Kong and get her opinion on this whole spectral phenomena and whether it was getting out of control.  Nonetheless, he had to face the fact that he had no legitimate explanation to give his mother about who this young pregnant woman was; he had obscured most of his life's activities from his mother, but lying to her face was an altogether different matter.  And what if she said something Angela didn't want to hear, anyway? There was no denying that Angela had developed out-of-body capabilities that had already allowed her to eavesdrop on anybody in D.C., in theory, but the intelligence she had been gathering for Wu was extremely haphazard and not always of any financial utility.  She couldn't help it, she had said, she had no control over where her out-of-body experiences took her!  The spirit world took her where it wanted to take her!  Wu had been trying to train her to meditate on specific targets before falling asleep, and her assignment before the current nap had been NSA nominee Michael Rogers, but he doubted that's where her mind had gone, since she was talking/singing a Psychedelic Furs song ("Ghost in You"!) in her sleep.

Downtown, a 2013 jazzy hip hop fusion remake of "Ghost in You" was the soundtrack of the moment at the winter lifestyle retreat Giuliana Sunstream was hosting at her trendy NoMa apartment.  The criminal attack on her holiday party had created quite an uptick in Twitter followers and devotees of her lifestyle blog, and the place was packed with almost 50 erstwhile trend-setters--including a writer for DCist, a dress designer from Georgetown, a cronut entrepreneur, a three-time drag-queen champion, a poodle hairstylist from Chevy Chase, three former Redskins cheerleaders, a Southwest houseboat exotic dancer (brothel) club owner, the wife of the Colombian ambassador, and two writers from Washington Post "Style".  (All paying $150 admission!)  On the balcony, several people were learning how to sculpt ice--and make designer snowballs!--from a professional artist.  In the bedroom, three models (a male, a female, and Sunstream's toy Maltese) were demonstrating how to stay sexy while still protecting sensitive winter skin with warm layers.  In the dining room, guests were sampling five kinds of winter soups and three kinds of fondue while enjoying a guided meditation on "winter spirit animals".  And in the living room, guests were learning how to make their own scented candles using pine tar and crushed candy canes.  Sunstream was desperately hoping this event would catapult her blog into true local fame, and leave rival blogger Glenn Michael Beckmann in the dust!

Meanwhile, Beckmann was meeting with a new client that Sunstream would have killed to meet, real estate tycoon Calico Johnson.  Johnson had, in fact, wanted to hire "Beckmann's Floral Cushions" to refurbish some lobby furniture in a hotel he was renovating downtown--not knowing that BFC was actually blog code for the real enterprise, "Beckmann's Bad Asses".

"So, when you say you're interested in early 20th century magnolia patterns," Beckmann said, "do you mean scatter shot or carpet bagging?"  (Beckmann was asking about bird shot and carpet bombing, because he thought Johnson was looking for armed guards to kill people stealing copper pipes from construction sites.)  (Beckmann's sole employee--a Salvadoran day laborer he had picked up in the Home Depot parking lot--had made the opposite mistake by bringing an assortment of floral pillows to his meeting with Judge Sowell Ame--who was looking for a bodyguard after recent death threats related to the record 143 eviction notices he had greenlighted in December.)

Over at the White House, John Podesta was struggling to finish his latest round of suggested edits for President Obama's State of the Union address, uncertain why he kept getting a headache every time he sat down at his desk.  The headache was because Ghost Dennis was frantically whispering louder and louder to get his talking points into the draft, while the preschooler ghosts--Regina and Ferguson--were shaking his chair just enough to make his eyes repeatedly lose focus on the computer screen.  Then Bo ran in to bark at the ghosts to go away, and Sunny followed Bo in and started howling like a wolf, and Podesta wondered, why did I agree to do this again?

Back at Giuliana Sunstream's NoMa apartment, the guests were all gone (except for the brothel owner's bedbugs currently exploring her $400 magnetic mattress pad), clothing and glitter were scattered all over the bedroom carpet, Vegas (the toy Maltese) was lapping up fondue on top of the dining room table, Sunstream was scraping hardened candle wax bits off her living room couch, and the soup and melted pine tar poured down the kitchen sink were congealing into a $300 plumbing emergency in her trap.  But she had 40 new Twitter followers!

Out on her balcony, insidious starlings began pecking away at the designer snowballs left behind, while determined sparrows encircled the "Snow Angel" ice sculpture for its protection.  A catbird made an attempt to chirp "Ghost in You", but only succeeded in sounding like a drunken yodeler.  Out in the river, Ardua of the Potomac played happily under the tiny icebergs brightening her world, while infected ducks fluffed their feathers and rethought their decision not to fly south for the winter.

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COMING UP:   Bridezilla sells the cursed Rolex, and Cigemeier learns something incriminating about Charles Wu's connection to Prince and Prowling's Beijing office.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Shivering

Where have I heard that before?  Perry Winkle was on his way back from Germantown to the Washington Post, to submit another "Metro" article on the Germantown double-murder.  "She was talking about world damnation," he replayed from the tape recording of his interview with the mother's neighbor.  Church?  Of course, but I haven't been to church in ages....No, I've heard it somewhere else, more recently....

The double murder was also being discussed several miles to the south, in the Brewmaster's Castle.  "She's started her 'world damnation' campaign, I'm telling you!" said an agitated member of the Navy SEALS.  "Killing little babies because she thinks they're possessed by Satan!"

"Angela didn't DO that!" retorted the Chair of the Heurich Society, Henrietta ("Button") Samuelson--who had agreed to fire the newly righteous Angela, but knew her incapable of something so heinous.

"She said it herself!" cried a Vice-President from Wells Fargo.

"She's using chi power," said Samuelson.  "She's NOT killing people."

"How do we know?" asked the SEAL.  "'Chi power' sounds pretty bogus to me."

"Because she's never been a stabber," replied a former CIA operative.  "Henry taught her better than that:  stabbing is messy and splatters DNA evidence on you."

Samuelson shuddered, suddenly wondering if she were really meant to be leading this group.

A block away, Laura Moreno was also shivering, making her way through the cold sunshine to the bank to deposit the Christmas check her father had re-sent after it was returned to sender because he had put her old address on the envelope.  She had been at her new place for years, had exchanged birthday cards with her mother, but somehow, for the second Christmas in a row, her father had sent the Christmas card to the wrong address.  She had become a faceless entity to him, less familiar even than the utility companies he accurately mailed a payment to once a month.  He had no idea how desperately she needed the money, even less idea how desperately she needed to have the more important things he never gave her.  She had done two foreign language projects in the past three weeks--something that paid far better than Prince and Prowling ever did, but which did not keep her working for long.  The future was an enormous ocean of murky cold currents, its contents and direction obscured from her view.

Over on Capitol Hill, the Holier Than Thou Caucus was having lunch at Hawk and Dove, discussing the evil of the omnibus spending bill shoved through the House of Representatives without adequate time for prayerful consideration.

"1,500 pages!" exclaimed the Congresswoman from Indiana.  "My staff barely had time to pray over the first 200 pages!"

"This is no way to spend 1.1 trillion dollars!" concurred the Congressman from Alabama.  "Where did the earmarks go?  To the devil!  These whispers I've heard about world damnation are getting very frightening!"

"I agree," said Congressman Herrmark, uncomfortably.  "Where is the money to clean up the drinking water contaminated by hydrofracking?  Poisoning the water we drink IS world damnation!"

"I don't think you're using that term properly," said the Congresswoman from Indiana, narrowing her eyes.

At another Capitol Hill restaurant nearby, economist Luciano Talaverdi was also expressing his concerns about the gargantuan omnibus spending bill.  "The retreat of quantitative easing to historically normalized levels, taking into account stagflation versus middle-class hemorrhaging and energy sector rebooting, makes anything other than a modified stimulus, step-ladder spending budget a significant risk to sustained fluidity in the capital markets."

Helen Yellen nodded politely and continued chewing her Art and Soul grits.  It wasn't the first time a date had just assumed she was a financial whiz kid like her second cousin, Janet Yellen, but she was astonished at the sheer number of bankers and Federal Reserve Board employees asking her out on dates since her relative had been sworn in as the new FRB Chair.  "I think it will all work out fine," she said.  She did think Talaverdi was the handsomest so far, and she loved his Italian accent.

Talaverdi, like others who had researched and stalked her before, had assumed by her LinkedIn profile that she was an investment banker for a wildly successful rock band, but what "Personal Assets Manager" actually meant in her case was that she kept their houses and cars clean and maintained while they were on the road--she was a professional housesitter.  (You would think after Talaverdi had made a similar mistake about White House employee Clio that this would not have happened to him again, but it did!)  "Do you really think it will all work out fine?" Talaverdi pressed, believing he was on the verge of getting insider information.

"With people like you taking care of us, I'm sure it will!" she replied.

Several miles to the west, Ghost Henry floated down to Roosevelt Island to spy on Angela de la Paz.  He was livid that she had abandoned his daughter, Button, to start working for Hong Kong spy Charles Wu.  I didn't give you all that training and plastic surgery to do his dirty work! he railed, poking her in the back, but she just winced and blamed it on the baby's kicking inside her.

"You OK?" asked Joey Bent Oak, bending over to pick up some brushwood.

"Yeah, it's just the baby kicking," said Angela.  "I think that's enough."  They turned around to go back to Golden Fawn and her husband, Marcos Vazquez.

"So your parents were messed up, too, huh?" asked Joey.

"It was very complicated," said Angela, who knew that Joey's parents were both reservation alcoholics.  "My dad was gone most of the time, my grandmother raised me, my mom came and went, but she's dead now."

"That's what I heard," said Joey.  "What about your baby?  Golden Fawn said the father died."  He looked at her inquisitively, challenging the veracity of the story.

"He did.  He was trying to rescue Australians from a violent mob in Egypt."  (That's what the Arab Spring did for me, she thought, but she didn't add that part.)

"You know that story about the kids murdered in Germantown?"  Angela nodded.  "Does Golden Fawn think I have an evil spirit inside me?  She's always burning things and doing ceremonies."

"No," Angela shook her head.  "She's trying to protect you.  She wants to cleanse the bitterness from your heart and protect you from the evil in this place."

"I don't believe in that mumbo jumbo," said Joey.

"That's OK--we all have different roles in the world."  Angela had been thinking of giving her baby to Golden Fawn and Marcos to raise, but now she thought they were going to have their hands full with this one.

Not far away, Golden Fawn was frowning, and asked her husband to try digging up one more spot.

"I think it's gone, babe," said Vazquez, who had helped her bury the bloody axe himself.  "Somebody found it."  He looked uneasily out at the water, knowing Ardua of the Potomac was lurking nearby.

Golden Fawn shook off her shivering and walked back to where she could smell the fire had already been started.

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COMING UP:   Giuliana Sunstream hosts a winter lifestyle retreat.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

The Vision Thing

"Tell me more about the visions," said Lynnette Wong, measuring out some ginseng for the herbal tea blend ordered by former Senator Evermore Breadman.

Angela de la Paz was visiting her in Wong's Chinatown herb shop.  "They're really strange.  I just suddenly get an image in my head of somebody that needs to be found or rescued.  I can see them perfectly, like I have a secret camera aimed right at them.  Then a voice pops into my head telling me exactly where they are."

"And you find them exactly where the voice tells you?"

"Yeah!  Last night I found this boy who had run away from home and then been kidnapped by a pedophile.  He was in a house in Riverdale, just like I pictured.  He was so happy to go home!"

"What did you do with the pedophile?"

"I cured him."

"You can't cure a pedophile!"

"I felt the power flow through me, and I could see it in his eyes--he won't do it again.  You know, a year ago, I would have beaten the crap out of him, and what would that have accomplished in the long run?  I think that's too much hickory bark."

Wong looked down in surprise at the ruined compound, then at the empty hickory bark jar in her hand, then back at Angela.  "I don't know about this vision thing."

"What do you mean?" asked Angela.  "It's amazing!"

"What if the voice tells you to kill the President, or a small child?"

"The voice isn't like that!"

"Well, what if it does?"

"It won't!  Look, this is what I really need your advice on:  should I go to work for Charles Wu?  I can't believe Henrietta fired me, after all I did for her!"

"It's for the best."

"Well, I have no income now.  The voice doesn't pay."

Several miles to the west, Bridezilla was also fretting about income.  Though pleased with the antique, inherited engagement ring Buddy Lee Trickham had given her, she was starting to worry that this might be the only item of real value she would ever receive from him.  Now Bridezilla earned an excellent salary as a junior partner at Prince and Prowling, but the work bored her to tears.  What she really wanted to do was run for political office some day, but first she wanted to stay at home with their future children (boy and girl) until second grade, and build a reputation with the PTA and local school board.  Then she would move on to City Council, State Senate, and so forth.  But her research on English professor salaries and Georgetown University salaries was not giving her any confidence she would ever be able to stay at home with their future children.  What if I have to keep working?  She felt faint, but the ringing phone startled her back into alertness.  She punched the speakerphone.

"Hey, darling!" exclaimed her fiancĂ©.  "Good news!  Professor Kincaid talked to his cousin who's married to the woman who's friends with an editor at "Garden and Gun" magazine!  They love your idea about the special bridal issue with women in wedding gowns and gun holsters, posing in wisteria- and honeysuckle-covered gazebos!"

"That's nice," said Bridezilla, flatly.

"I thought you'd be more excited?!"

"I am," she said, with undetectably less flatness.

"What's wrong?"

"I'm just thinking about your play and how much I'd like to see it turned into a Hollywood movie."  She started scratching under her cursed Rolex, then had a very disturbing thought about selling it.

"Honey, it hasn't even hit a first-tier theater yet!"

"I'm not sure we have time to wait for that."

"What's the hurry?"

"Never mind--I need to get back to work."  Bridezilla hung up and glared at the hideous witness binders she had to fill before tomorrow's deposition--since Laura Moreno and all the other contract attorneys were laid off.  Why do they need so many witnesses, anyway?!  She opened up her manual for using the document database program to page one.  Funny how our staff attorney suddenly got the flu right after we canned all those temps.

Several miles to the north, Chloe Cleavage and her fake flu were trying to enjoy a leisurely Sunday, but that smell had returned.  She marched out on her balcony and called over the wall, "I'm calling the cops!"

"It's just sage," replied Golden Fawn, who was trying to do another healing prayer with her young relative, Joey Bent Oak.

"Yesterday, you said it was lemon verbena!"

"It was!" retorted an exasperated Golden Fawn.  Then Joey started giggling.

"Well, laughter also heals!" said Golden Fawn's husband, Marcos Vazquez.  "Can we watch some football now?"

Back in Chinatown, Angela de la Paz walked to the rear of Bar Louie, where Charles Wu was waiting to buy her lunch.  "We could go someplace nicer," he said by way of a greeting.

"Roddy liked this place," she replied, and Wu nodded, taking another sip of his cheap gin and tonic.

"Lynnette's not sure I should go to work for you," said Angela, getting straight to the point.

"Lynnette's an idealist," the Hong Kong native said about the Taiwan native.  "I'm a realist, and at seven-month's pregnant, you need to be a realist, too."

"I have some money saved up--I could look around."  The two paused to give their food orders to the server.

"You have an unusual skill set," resumed Wu.  "I'm not sure anybody in the Heurich Society is going to give you a good reference, and they will definitely make sure no government agency picks you up.  My responsibilities are growing, and I can use a good spy."

"I'm not sure I can do what Apricot Lily and Camisole Silk do," she replied dryly.

"I'm talking about your skill set," said Wu.

"I don't really blend into a crowd right now."

"I know what you did with Solomon Kane; your powers of persuasion are truly stupefying.  I can pay you $20,000/month, half of it in cash."

"How many hours/week?  It can't interfere with my vision work."

"Your what?"

"When I get a vision of somebody that needs to be rescued, that comes first."  (Wu's jaw dropped--he had thought the toughest negotiation point would be maternity leave.)  "I've started getting visions now, and don't you dare make fun of them!"

Wu swallowed the rest of his drink.  He used to be jealous that Angela's chi exceeded his own enormous bounty, but that jealousy now abruptly came to an end.  "That is something I would never mock, nor impede--as long as your visions don't tell me what to do."

"And no assassinations."

"What if your vision tells you to--"

"My visions aren't like that!  You sound like Lynnette!"

Wu smiled and started to relax, thinking about Henry Samuelson rolling over in his grave.

Back at Prince and Prowling, a loud commotion outside drew Bridezilla to her office window.  She looked down at the Pennsylvania Avenue sidewalk to see one of the fired contract attorneys banging a drum.  As soon as he could see Bridezilla at the window, he held up a sign reading, "Prince and Prowling is evil!"  Then he held up another sign, which read, "Will do phony document reviews for food!"  Then he lit himself on fire.  The flock of starlings which had given him the idea laughed in glee, then flew off to report to Ardua of the Potomac.

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COMING UP:  Luciano Talaverdi sets his sights on Helen Yellen.

Sunday, January 05, 2014

New Beginnings

The Heurich Society emergency sub-committee was meeting furtively in a private room at Tony Cheng's in Chinatown to discuss recent disturbing developments.

"Why are we eating Mongolian food?" asked a hedge fund millionaire.  "This could be horse and cat meat, for all we know!"

"If you can't taste the difference, why do you care?" asked an FBI agent.

"Look, could we focus on what's important?" asked Dick Cheney, a former member of the Heurich Society trying to get back in.  "Angela de la Paz is exhibiting schizophrenic behavior, and Button Samuelson is acting like a lesbian."

"Don't you have a lesbian daughter?" asked an arms dealer.

"She's a Republican lesbian--that's different."  (Several heads nodded in agreement.)  "You people need stronger leadership--you need to bring me back in."  (He also believed that the Heurich Society should never have allowed any women in, but he would save that argument for a later day.)

"She's not schizophrenic," said the investment banker recently exorcised by Angela de la Paz.  ("You expect us to believe she pulled a demon out of your body?!")  "You all saw it happen!"  ("Hypnosis!")  "No, something was wrong with me!  And I feel different now.  I think she's right--there's world damnation out there, and maybe that's more important than--"

"Don't you dare say it!" screamed the arms dealer, who couldn't bear to hear the terms "money" or "power" maligned.

"I'm not a lesbian," said Samuelson, emerging from her hiding place under the table.  "And I agree that there's something wrong with Angela.  But he's not the one to fix it!" she added, pointing angrily at Cheney, her late father's arch-nemesis.  "Go back to the Wyoming rock you crawled out from under, you old dinosaur!"  (There were several gasps, because nobody had ever heard Samuelson being so forceful...and because Cheney had pulled out concealed handguns over less.)  "And stop calling me 'Button!'" she added, glaring at the men seated around the table.

A mile to the west, Laura Moreno (like Angela de la Paz) needed to find a new job.  After years of toiling in obscurity at Prince and Prowling, she had been summarily laid off with all the other contract attorneys on January 2nd.  After reading the D.C. Bar magazine's cover story on contract attorneys, she had visited their offices on January 3rd to find out from Daniel M. Mills how to get legal cases under his supervision.  She had encountered a line of contract attorneys stretched out the door of the D.C. Bar building and halfway around the block.  "Mills is on vacation," a D.C. Bar unpaid intern was shouting through a megaphone.  "We cannot hire you to work on cases under our supervision--that was a misquote!  If you are interested in doing pro bono work or registering for our next $300 CLE on how to become an ambulance-chaser, please remain in the line.  Otherwise, we suggest you move to North Dakota because they'll hire anybody there.  By the way, that's my plan, too, so please let me know if I can carpool with you to drive out there!"

"Occupy the D.C. Bar!" shouted the Braggart, with a competing megaphone.  "What do we want?"  ("Jobs!")  "When do we want them?"  ("Now!")  "Why should we pay dues to a professional organization that lets us be treated like tomato-pickers?  Do you really think borrowing another $20,000 to get an LLM from American University Law School is going to get you a job as something more than a temp?  Dream on!  It's time to Occupy the D.C. Bar!  OCCUPY!"  ("OCCUPY!")  "OCCUPY!"  ("OCCUPY!")

With that, the crowd rushed into the lobby of the D.C. Bar, where they were met by Blackwater security contractors and fifty gallons of pepper spray.

A couple of miles to the south, conspiracy theorist Glenn Michael Beckmann was also starting the New Year in need of a job.  For years, he had survived on Texas State Lottery payments, but he had received his last check in December.  He had then joined the chorus of other social advocacy groups asking for year-end donations from his blog followers, but the translation of that fundraising plea into his byzantine pseudo-lifestyle-blog code had been misinterpreted by his confused followers as "please send money to the president of the Monkey Poop Society".  After a cursory perusal of job ads online, he had encountered an intriguing story about fake Navy Seals, which led him to recall he had once worked for Blackwater in Iraq (this was true), which in turn led him to recall that the U.S. Marines had decorated him for "Most Courage Shown by a Temp in a War Zone" (this was not true).  And so Beckmann decided to build on his success with the Hunter-Gatherer Society to launch his own security firm, named "Beckmann's Bad Asses".  (In his fake lifestyle blog, this translated as "Beckmann's Floral Cushions".)  Then he asked his followers for client referrals.

Up at the White House, Luciano Talaverdi was picking up his date, Clio, whom he had found in a LinkedIn discussion group for White House employees.  Mistakenly believing her to be a major player in the Obama Administration (who could help the Italian economist advance his career--maybe even getting him out of the Federal Reserve Board and into the World Bank!), he had no idea she was the Butler.  For her part, it would be her first date since overcoming the psychological delusion that her children were alive and still living at the White House.  (It was a match not made in Heaven, but they can't all be.)

Out in the river, Ardua of the Potomac had finally succeeded in luring her rival, Chessie of the Chesapeake, up into the Tidal Basin--where Chessie was trapped and eaten by a Coalition of the Willing (featuring the Beaver, a hundred infected ducks, and a thousand river rats).  As her minions handed Ardua the Chessie heart to eat, the demon screeched in delight, knowing she was one step closer to becoming Ardua of the Atlantic!

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COMING UP:  
Hong Kong triple agent Charles Wu scoops up a fired Angela de la Paz.

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

The eagle has landed...lifelessly.

"This is a bald eagle feather," the Warrior said to Angela de la Paz.  "I picked it up after they were murdered in Maryland."

"Do you know who did it?"

The Warrior shook his head.  "Keep it in your medicine bag," he said, handing her a small pouch he had crafted from buckskin.  "It will lift your spirit."

"Make sure you keep it in the pouch," added Dr. Devi Rajatala, handing them both rakes to help her spread mulch in the Friendship Garden.  "It's illegal to kill a bald eagle, so if somebody sees that--"

"Nobody will see it," said Angela, who was suddenly thinking about the last time she was here at the National Arboretum with her mother.  "Nobody except my baby."

Several miles to the west, Washington Post "Metro" reporter Perry Winkle was in Adams Morgan, questioning patrons at District Nightclub about the knife fight which had put five people in the hospital the night before.

"I think it shows how much Adams Morgan has improved, man," said one patron (whose philosophy for treating New Year's Eve hangovers was to get drunk again as soon as the bars reopened).  "No guns!  Only knives!"

Winkle pretended to record the man's comments, then moved to the next table.  "Were you here last night?"

"It was zombies, man!" said another drunk.  "Wait, not zombies--the other thing."  He looked at his girlfriend for help.

"Possessed people, man," she said.  "Like Emily Rose or something!  Call the Exorcist!"

"What did they do that made you think that?" asked Winkle (who had, in fact, seen a zombie once before in D.C.).

"The eyes, man!" they both said to Winkle in unison.

"The eyes?"

"Yellow," whispered the woman.  "And they were ranting about river rats sent from somebody named Ardua."

Across the river in Arlington, Bridezilla was, herself, enduring a violent rant from former Senator Evermore Breadman--who had shown up unannounced at her apartment door while she and her fiance' were still recovering from their hangovers.  "Did you read this?!" shouted Breadman, shoving a magazine into her hand and marching in.

"I haven't read anything today," she replied.  (This was a lie, since she had already spent an hour reading Tweets about New York society parties and Chirlane McCray's pointy black witch hat.)  She looked down at the article already opened up for her--"Under Contract:  Temporary Attorneys Encounter No-Frills Assignments, Workspaces"--in Washington Lawyer.

"I know the Braggart was interviewed for this article--she took her revenge out on us!  How could the D.C. Bar publish anonymous comments?!  Son, what are you wearing?!"

Buddy Lee Trickham (who felt and acted most days as a Georgetown literature professor should) looked down sheepishly at the pink Lululemon sweatshirt he had slept in the night before, then silently took his coffee to the bedroom.

"Is Prince and Prowling mentioned in this article?" asked Bridezilla.

"No, but everybody will know it's us!"

"Surely they are talking about a number of law firms?"

"I'm telling you, this is going to get back to us!  Now our clients will know we are charging them four times as much as we are paying those temps, and think that we don't even give them enough toilet paper!  Is that an O.S.H.A. violation?"

"I don't think O.S.H.A. applies to law firms," replied Bridezilla, who had sunk down into the couch in a vain attempt to ease her headache.

"Of course it applies to law firms!"

"Everybody is using contract attorneys in D.C.--it's not like it was a secret."

"I want you and Cigemeier to get cracking on this right away.  Damage control!  And fire all the contract attorneys until this blows over.  Hell if we'll let them prove we don't give temps decent wages and working conditions!"

"What about Laura Moreno?  Should I lay her off, too?"

"What are you talking about?  She's not a temp!  She's been at Prince and Prowling for years and years."

"She's a temp," insisted Bridezilla.

"How is that possible?" asked Breadman.

"Are you saying that's an O.S.H.A. violation?"

"Of course not!" retorted Breadman, aghast at her ignorance.  "I'm talking about the other one."

Bridezilla wracked her aching head for other job-killer laws.  "E.P.A.?  Obamacare?"

Breadman--who used to write laws for a living--grabbed a fistful of chocolates from her French crystal Christmas candy dish, scowled at her silently, then stomped out.

Back in the city, Marcos Vazquez's mother, Teresa, was scowling at him as she got into the car for the ride to the airport.

"I don't understand why you won't let us put you in a hotel," he said.

"They should be in a hotel!" retorted his mother.  ("They" referred to Golden Fawn's grandmother and the little boy she had unexpectedly brought with her from the reservation.)  "You know I can't be in a hotel with my rheumatoid arthritis!"

"That doesn't make any sense!" said Vazquez, sliding behind the steering wheel.  "We might ending up adopting this boy!  Why can't you be happy for us?"

"He's not even Catholic!" exclaimed Teresa.

"I'm sure Golden Fawn will let me baptize him--IF we end up adopting him."

"You shouldn't get mixed up with her crazy, alcoholic relatives and their bastard children," said Teresa.  With that, the two sunk into silence.

Out in the river, Ardua of the Potomac swallowed some more Eagle feathers and plotted her next violent attack.

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COMING UP:  
Heurich Society and Charles Wu challenge Angela's campaign against world damnation.