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, July 27, 2014

Home, Sweet Home

It had taken awhile, but Giuliana Sunstream, was finally feeling settled back into her own life after losing the cursed Rolex, falling out of the Glenn Michael Beckmann love curse, returning to live in her NoMa condo, and doubling her lifestyle blog hits over a summer of intense writing and staged events.  She had several new commercial sponsors, and was more optimistic than ever that she really would be the next Martha Stewart--but younger, hipper, and prettier!

"Vegas!" she called to her toy Maltese, posing under the balcony dog shade Sunstream had crafted out of a Salvation Army bedsheet stretched smartly over a tee-pee made of re-purposed tomato cages.  (She had posted her balcony tomato photos one day before the branches had all bent and broke last week.)  "Smile!"

A few miles to the west, Glenn Michael Beckmann was not smiling.  First of all, he was not over Sunstream!  And it ticked him off that her lifestyle blog had almost caught up to his own fake lifestyle blog in popularity.  (Sometimes he would forget that his lifestyle blog was actually a conspiracy blog written in code to avoid federal detection.)  He was exhausted from the constant orders he had to fill for "Beckmann's Floral Cushions"--the fake name in his blog for his security firm, Beckmann's Bad Asses.  And he was still dealing with the aftermath of that unfortunate mass wedding shooting committed by a Beckmann's Bad Asses client in April--an event which had gained him as many clients as it had lost him, and gave him nightmares about when the cops would break down his door and haul him in for questioning.

And now this!  Beckmann was standing outside the Old Post Office Pavilion, alternating between taking notes from casing the joint, and shaking his fist and muttering that he would never allow Donald Trump to turn this federal architectural treasure into a den of casino thieves and hotel harlots financed by Saudi petro dollars!  The appearance of Trump on Wednesday for the ground-breaking ceremony had reinvigorated Beckmann's determination to thwart the New Jersey mafia from bringing their dirty money to destroy the beloved viewing bell tower in which he had once kissed politician Christine O'Donnell!  [That memory was actually a figment of his imagination.]  He would never allow that Russian Trump to take away such a wonderful public monument and then charge $400/night for the privilege of walking through the post office door!  No, he would rather blow it up!

One man who would give anything to stop things from blowing up was Dr. Khalid Mohammad, who had recently returned to George Washington University Hospital after more than a year on sabbatical to treat Syrian war refugees in his native Jordan.  "I just couldn't do it anymore," he told Nurse Consuela Arroyo, over coffee in the cafeteria.  "I know when you're a doctor that you just treat patients, and you can't stop all the reasons for war, but I just couldn't do it anymore.  Nothing is getting better.  After ISIS declared the caliphate, I realized just how dangerous it has gotten.  I decided I needed to come back here, start working again, and then bring all the relatives I can to the U.S.  I cannot believe that just a few hundred miles from where I grew up, there are men who believe female genital mutilation will make their society into what God wants!  They are the sickest, most depraved men on Earth, full of hatred and violence-induced psychoses.  They think everything will be better if they can turn time back 1,000 years--this is how ignorant they are.  But they love their modern weapons!  And somewhere safe, the sociopaths that sold them all those weapons are going to retire comfortably--those international arms dealers, scum of the Earth."

Nurse Arroyo was amazed at how quietly Dr. Mohammad uttered these words, as if he barely had the strength to utter them but was determined to force them out of his mouth.

"And now I cannot get them out of Jordan fast enough!" he continued.  "Israel and Palestine blowing each other up again.  The Lebanese are a divided people, and Jordan is like the last breath of sanity and peace in the whole region--it will be completely overrun by refugees, and then the refugees in Jordan will become completely militarized.  Here," he said, gesturing around him, "there is violence, and I will sew up bullet wounds, and maybe it will even get worse every year, but living here, at least the women in my family--"  With that, his voice choked up, and he could say no more.

"Don't give up hope," said Nurse Arroyo, a very religious woman.  "The Philippines saw a lot of violence and oppression, but things did get better there."

Dr. Mohammad smiled in thanks.  He had missed her, even if her words were utterly useless.

A few miles to the west, Marcos Vazquez's words felt utterly useless to him--his wife had made up her mind.  "I just don't know," he started again.

"It's such a beautiful house!" Golden Fawn beamed, as their adopted son Joey Bent Oak wandered around the weedy backyard.  "It's a great neighborhood, with good schools, and we can spruce it up, and it will be great!"

Vazquez could not argue about upper Georgetown's being a great neighborhood, but he was having a lot of trouble accepting that their finances were so constrained that their best option for buying a house was to buy a haunted one.  He looked up at the kitchen window, where realtor Button Samuelson quickly jumped out of view, and he shivered, wondering if he would actually start seeing ghosts.

"It's been on the market a long time," Golden Fawn said again, though they both knew this was because of the murders which had taken place here.  "The price is too good to pass up."

"Are you sure?  I mean, I know you have some abilities, but taking on this kind of evil--"

"I think that girl can help us--Angela de la Paz."

"Do you know how to find her?" asked Vazquez.

"I think she'll find us, after we move in."

And so they walked back into the three-story row house and told their realtor they wanted to make an offer to the bank which owned the property.  Vazquez thought he heard somebody laugh and watched Joey's eyes dart to the corner, and then he shivered.  And suddenly he longed for a clap of thunder, and bolt of lightning, and a deluge of rain to assure him that even this place was under Heaven, after all.

A few miles to the north, in Cleveland Park, Angela de la Paz, was, in fact, having a vision about the house in Georgetown.

"More peas?" asked Mrs. Prudence Higgety-Cheshire, whose meals cooked for adults were not much more exciting than what the nanny cooked for her toddler charge, Buffy Cordelia Wu.  Angela didn't hear her, and Charles Wu recognized the look on Angela's face.

"She's having a vision," he said to his governess.

"Really?!" Mrs. H-C exclaimed.  Much to everybody's surprise, the shocking ninja-like attempted robbery the week before, followed by the revelation that her deceased husband had been a British spy the entire time they were married, followed by the revelation that Wu was also a British agent, had neither given her a nervous breakdown nor sent her packing back home to her grown children in England.  "I've been longing to see this!" she whispered, thinking it better to quiet her voice.  "A psychic with mystical powers--it's utterly magnificent!"

Wu nodded pleasantly.  He had not actually told his governess that he also worked for the Americans and Chinese, as he still believed the less she knew, the better.  In some ways, his life was a little simpler now that she knew he was a spy, to be sure.  On the other hand, it was obvious that Prickly and The Third (British agents Nigel Blackthorne and Richard Mollington) had not told him everything about her late husband, and he would have to proceed with the worry that they were constantly doing surveillance on his house--or that thugs might show up again at a time when Angela was not in town.  He was thinking about firing Mrs. H-C, but he could scarcely stand the thought of little Delia's losing another nanny.

Angela was now gazing from Wu's backyard deck to the shed in the yard of the Cigemeier house next door.  "That was a piece of cake," she said, thinking about the real estate demon she had detected and banished there the first day she had moved in with the Cigemeier's.  "This will be different."

"What will be different, my dear?" asked Mrs. H-C, grasping Angela's hand in hers.

"I won't stay in the hotel much longer," Angela said, turning back to Wu and the governess.  "I know where I need to go live now."

Next door, the pink warblers now living in the shed came out to sing their encouragement to Angela.

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COMING UP:  A visit with Reggie and Fergie at the White House.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

The Butterfly

Triple agent Charles Wu was having a challenging week.  His handlers in Beijing wanted him to take over the corporate espionage that a thousand of its best hackers had publicly failed to accomplish against algae biofuel trailblazer Algenol, while his British and American contacts were pressing him for information about the hackers.  "Perhaps those hackers' time would be better spent running computer models on biochemistry experiments," Wu had offered the Chinese.  "Clumsy amateurs," he had assured the British and Americans.  But none of his clients were happy about it, and Wu, uncharacteristically, was waxing sentimental about his less complicated days in Hong Kong.

He found his tiny daughter, Buffy Cordelia, in the butterfly room with her governess, Mrs. Prudence Higgety-Cheshire.

"Ah, Mr. Wu!  I dare say, my children are incredulous when I tell them that you have your very own butterfly room in this house!" she said, as she checked on the cocoon cabinet.  "They know how keen I am on them."

"Let me take a photo of you with Delia!" exclaimed Wu, fishing his phone out of his pocket.  "You can post it on that Facebook account they set up for you."

"Oh, I don't know how to do any of that," she replied, turning to see what Delia was giggling about.  "She has two blue morphos in her hand!"

"Quickly!" exclaimed Wu.  "Get behind her!"  Mrs. H-C obligingly squatted down with her charge, unaware what a dangerous thing she had just done.

Down in Dupont Circle, Henrietta ("Button") Samuelson was, in contrast, quite aware of the dangerous thing the Heurich Society had just done.

"I'm canceling the Black Sea Chimera project," she said.

"Well, that's probably wise," said a relieved Navy admiral.  "Costs for submarines can quickly spiral out of control."

"Money is not the problem," replied Samuelson.  "The downing of that Malaysian airplane in Ukraine was horrific.  I'm canceling the entire Black Sea Revolution project."

"But we had nothing to do with that!" protested a former CIA agent.  "Did we?"  He looked at the speaker phone to see what Condoleezza Rice would say, but she was holding her tongue.

"All the agents need to get out of there," said Samuelson.

"But we've invested so much in this," said the international arms dealer.  "Accidental civilian casualties are a part of any war."

"It wasn't an accident!  If there's one thing my father taught me, it's don't fight a war you can't control."  ("Huh?"  "That doesn't even make any sense!")  "Well, it was something like that.  Innocent people are dying because of that civil war, and we don't have a good enough reason to be a part of it anymore."

"Has anybody ever told you that you might be in the wrong business?" asked the investment banker.

"She's a realtor," Rice crackled over the speaker phone.  "But we know how important her father's legacy is to her."

"We're re-writing our mission statement," said Samuelson angrily.

"I didn't know we had one," whispered the arms dealer.

"We need to sharpen our focus--this obsession with controlling everything happening in the world is unrealistic, unproductive, and uninspiring."

"Well, we're all looking forward to hearing your realistic, productive, and inspiring new mission statement," said Rice (who was, actually, quite surprised that Samuelson had not yet walked away from the Heurich Society).

"I want everybody to write down the five goals that are most important to them, and I will synthesize them and get back to you."

"Can I write down keeping the Black Sea Revolution project?"

"No!"

Meanwhile, Mrs. H-C's photos in the butterfly room had gone live on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.  It would not be until the next day that her grown children in England noticed, but two people stateside noticed immediately.

One was Cedric, a former CIA agent living in the Arlington group home for the mentally challenged.  "Dear God!" he exclaimed, leaning in to inspect the photo more carefully.  "It can't be!"  And with that, Cedric finally remembered that he was never a British spy, and that he had actually been an American spy, and that this was the reason he had been following (the normally boring) Mrs. Higgety-Cheshire on social media.  "The butterfly!"  He ran upstairs to retrieve his gear, realized he didn't have any gear, grabbed his wallet and the extra shoe laces he kept in the sock drawer, ran back downstairs, ran back upstairs, grabbed his teddy bear (Aloysius), raced back downstairs, then ran outside.

"What?!" exclaimed social worker Hue Nguyen.  "Was that Cedric running out the door?"

"He seemed upset about something on Facebook," said Melinda.  "It's just a photo of a lady and a little kid with some butterflies."

Mrs. Higgety-Cheshire's (normally boring) social media accounts had also just tripped an alert at the British embassy.  "Dear God!" exclaimed special agent Nigel Blackthorne (code name "Prickly").  "It's in the widow's necklace!"

"What are you talking about, mate?" asked special agent Richard Mollington (code name "The Third").

"Her husband always said it was a butterfly and just flew away!  He hid it in that bloody butterfly necklace she's wearing!  Look!"

The Third followed Prickly's gaze to the Facebook photo.  "Well, that doesn't seem bloody likely!  And a lot of ladies wear insect jewelry--God only knows why."

"I'm going over there."

"What--now?"

"Yes, now!" exclaimed Prickly.  "Who knows how many others might have seen this?"

"Alright," said The Third, draining his beer glass.  "We need to phone Paul--"

"There's no time!" said Prickly, packing up his gear.

"Look!" shouted The Third.  "You can't just knock on her door and rip the necklace off!  She'll want to know why!  We have to plan something subtle!  And what if you're wrong?  Then how are we going to do surveillance on her later?  She'll find out her husband was a bloody spy!  And we need to fill out that form--"

"Oh, bloody Hell!"

And so the race was on!  Former CIA agent Cedric ran all the way to the Arlington Metro station only to discover it would be a 25-minute (Sunday schedule!) wait for the next train into the city, and then the transfer to the red line to Cleveland Park, and then running to the house.  "No, damn it!" he shouted, racing back out of the Metro station to get a taxi.

And back at the British embassy, Prickly and The Third had woken up their boss, Paul, in London, who was nonplussed.  "I'm sure about it!" declared Prickly over the closed circuit video conference connection.  "I feel it in my bones!"

"Like that terrorist you [air quotes] felt in your bones last September, who turned out to be a blind Indonesian poet rehearsing for a play?"

"That was different," said Prickly (who had no actual recollection of that incident, as he had been quite drunk at the time).  "And what if Wu figures out what it is?  He'll know we lied to him about--"

"Wu knows nothing!" exclaimed Paul.  "He's never been involved in those operations!  He has no idea her husband was a spy, and he must never know!"

Back in Cleveland Park, Charles Wu was tucking his delightful daughter into bed, while Mrs. H-C was cozying up with a cup of chamomile and a murder mystery novel in her bedroom armchair.  "Come and sit out on the porch with me," called Wu through her door.  "It's a beautiful evening!"  The surprised and annoyed Mrs. H-C put down her book and tea cup, and exited her bedroom to join him.  She was, in fact, quite surprised that he had spent most of the weekend at home, after the obvious level of debauchery he had been enjoying the previous couple of weeks.  "Oh, wait--I have to take this," said Wu, looking at his ringing phone.  "I'll be out in a minute."

Mrs. H-C took the baby monitor from his outstretched hand and went out on the porch alone.  She lit the citronella candle to ward off the mosquitoes, then settled down to listen to the fading bird chirps in the bushes.  Cedric was also in the bushes, and decided now was the time to make his move--when suddenly, a different spy emerged from the side bushes.  "Give me the necklace!" a woman shouted, running up the porch stairs with a gun in her hand.  "Now!"

"Don't do it!" shouted Cedric, throwing his shoelaces around the woman's neck to choke her.

The governess screamed and got up to run back into the house, but collided with Wu, who was just stepping out.  "What the--?"

Then Prickly and The Third ran around from the other side of the house.  "Everybody down on the ground!  Drop your weapons!"

The governess was the first to hit the deck, with Wu barely able to stop her half-fainting fall.  The British spies separated Cedric from his mysterious adversary, then instructed Mrs. H-C to hand them her necklace, which she rushed to do.

The Third leaned over to pick up the necklace while Prickly continued monitoring the other two--until he was knocked unconscious by Angela de la Paz, who had suddenly materialized out of the shadows.  "I'll take that," she said, grabbing the necklace with her telekinetic power, and then flinging it into the curbside sewer.  "And that," she said, telekinetically removing The Third's gun and knocking him unconscious with it.

"You need to go home," she said gently to Cedric, pulling him up from the ground.  "Here's your teddy bear.  Your taxi is still waiting around the corner."  Cedric walked off quickly, while the mysterious female spy ran off in the other direction.

On the porch, Wu had gotten the governess back into the porch seat, where she stared in amazement back and forth between the unconscious men and Angela.  "I thought you were just a babysitter!"

"Did you miss me?" asked Angela, smiling at Wu.

"Very much!" said Wu.

"I just got back into town from Texas, when I had this vision in the taxi cab."

"I don't understand any of this," said the governess, starting to cry.

"Your husband was a spy," said Angela.  "Believe me--everybody's better off with that butterfly in the sewer.  Why don't I take you inside for a cup of tea?  Charles, do you mind getting my bag?  It's around the side.  These two are British agents--you can go through their pockets before they wake up, if you like, or I can tell you about them later."

Wu looked around to see if all this commotion had attracted any attention from his neighbors, then casually walked around the side of the house to find Angela's bag.  He saw Felix Cigemeier peering out of the window next door, waved cheerily, and returned to his unconscious houseguests on the porch.  "You've ruined my English nanny," he complained.

*********************************************************
COMING UP:  Golden Fawn finds a (haunted) house for her family.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

House of Lards

"Congressman Herrmark, there are only about a dozen working days left for this Congress," said Ann Bishis, his Chief of Staff.  "I think we just need to accept that it's unlikely we'll get anything passed.  I propose--"

"You can't be serious?!" exclaimed Congressman Herrmark.

"Well, there might be more than that, but we can't count on it," said Bishis.  "I propose--"

"That can't possibly be right!"

"I propose we focus hard on constituent services for the next two months--get those voters in a good mood for your reelection."

"But what about all our campaign contributors?  Are we still getting money from Still Waters Run Deeper?"

"Yes, but--"

"And that billionaire with the casino boats?"

"Yes, Congressman, but we still have to get some votes."

"I thought we got votes through television commercials?"

"Well, it's more challenging this year, since Congress has passed so little legislation," said Bishis.  "We can't really run a campaign ad touting the great new name for the post office in Dewaynesville, or denouncing an Ambassador's murder in Benghazi, or celebrating the repeatedly failed attempts to repeal Obamacare.  Maybe we could do more for the veterans in our district, and film a TV ad around them?"

"I didn't know there was anything we could do for veterans?" replied Congressman Herrmark, genuinely baffled.  "The V.A. is just screwed up, right?  It's not my fault."

"We get letters from veterans all the time--we can contact the V.A. on their behalf."

"Huh!" said Congressman Herrmark.

"In fact, the staff has done that several times in the past, but I think it would be good for you to get more involved now."

"Huh!" said Congressman Herrmark.  "Don't I have to do some fundraisers?"

"We have a lot of SuperPAC money already--we really need to focus on voters now."

"Huh!" repeated Congressman Herrmark.  "So you don't think we'll get another chance at an appropriations rider in the--"

"Nope."

"Huh!  Well, they didn't mention this in the Holier Than Thou Caucus.  We spent most of the last meeting preparing that statement about the Supreme Court ruling on religious freedom."

"Huh?" said Bishis.

Meanwhile, a few miles from Capitol Hill, a very harried John Boehner was regretting his decision to host a meeting of Sense of Entitlement Anonymous (D.C. Chapter) in his Man Cave.  "You've got to be kidding!"  The Speaker of the House exclaimed to realtor Calico Johnson.  "You think you're having a bad summer, because house sales are flat?  I'm running out of time, and I've got hundreds of Congressmen whining for amendments and riders and earmarks--"

"I though Congress didn't do earmarks anymore," said a former member of the FISA court.

"Wow, you FISA people really are out of touch with the American people!" said Judge Sowell Ame.

"And the damned spying!" said Boehner.  "Everybody and his uncle in Congress want to pass legislation about the NSA!  And you think they can agree on it?  Of course not!  And now I don't have a Majority Whip to get them in line!"

"What about that new guy from California?" asked Mayor Vince Gray.  "Well, I suppose it doesn't matter--Obama can still veto."

"Ha, ha!  Funny, Vince!" said Judge Sowell Ame.  "When was the last time you even got a bill past the Senate?" he said to Boehner.

"What about this immigration thing?" asked a member from N.U.T.T.Y. (Nannies United To Take Y-chromosomes).  "Congress needs to drive back this immigration surge!  It's going to depress our wages."

Italian economist Luciano Talaverdi narrowed his eyes in outrage.  "I suppose you would prefer it if these unfortunate adolescents were kidnapped, raped, and enslaved in Mexico, instead of making it across the border?"

"Oh, lighten up, Luciano!" exclaimed Calico Johnson.  "She was only talking about nanny wages."

"And how am I supposed to fix that, too?" wailed the Speaker of the House.  "Legislate that the Green Berets start patrolling the Texas border, and mow down these Spics with machine guns?  'Cause once they're across the border, we gotta give 'em humanitarian treatment, and it's pissing everybody off!"

"The climate change people say that's exactly what we'll have to, or we will see a flood of climate change refugees coming in," said Bridezilla, who was met with stunned silence.  "I mean, I'm just saying--it would be awkward for all of us.  They need to stay in their own climate, and we should stay in ours.  A wall would be better, of course--nobody wants to see anybody mowed down by machine guns."

"You think the Berlin Wall kept the East Germans safely and peacefully in East Germany?" asked Talaverdi (Bridezilla's former beau).  "Climate change is real--Congress should be ashamed of itself for doing nothing about it."

"Now see here!" protested Boehner.  "You've got a lot of nerve!  You fools at the Federal Reserve want the public sector to fix everything!"

"I'd just like to see Congress fix one thing," laughed Dick Cheney.  "When I was in Congress--"

"Oh, spare us!" said several members of SEA in unison.

Meanwhile, Congressman Jacques Javert was having dinner at Acadiana with some oil company executives from his home state of Louisiana.  (He did this almost every Sunday night.)

"Jacques, we're a little concerned about the current donor cycle."

"Hm?" mouthed Javert, with several shrimp in his mouth.

"You don't seem to be doing an adequate job of keeping up appearances."

"Hm?" mouthed Javert again, before gulping down some bourbon.

"We've been very careful with the SuperPac's, but this Petro Pig character has managed to publish exactly how much money we've donated to your reelection campaign."

"Is that so?" asked Javert.

"Are your people being careful?  Do you think you might have leaks in your staff?"

Javert burped loudly, picked up his napkin from his lap, carefully wiped his mouth, and replaced the napkin.  He smoothed his poplin shirt over his bulging belly, then began nervously fingering his Rolex--the cursed Rolex he had picked up during the chaos of that unfortunate wedding shooting in May.

"Petro Pig Tweeted that Louisiana is not a state, Congressman, but, rather, a colony of the petroleum industry.  We can't afford to keep funding your campaign if you cannot keep the information under control.  When we see exact dollar amounts linked to us, it's problematic for both you and our company."

Congressman Javert contemplated this for a few more minutes, and began scratching under the (cursed) Rolex.  "Well," he said at last, "nobody's gonna call me a lackey of Big Oil!"  And with that, he pulled his pearl-handled revolver out of his ankle holster and shot all three of them rapidly under the table.  He calmly replaced the gun, dropped several fifty-dollar bills on the table, and walked out of the noisy restaurant.  (It would be another 10 minutes before the busy waiter returned to the table, found the money, and noticed the men were all slumped over.)

Under the Capitol Dome, restless river rats raced deeper into the tunnels, and millipedes multiplied exponentially...because they had so much to feed on.

*****************************************************************
COMING UP:  The butterfly.

Sunday, July 06, 2014

Chimera

Angela de la Paz found The Warrior at Hain's Point, as she knew she would--and as he knew she would.  She sat down beside him on the grass, where he was seated with a pile of half-made bows.

"Pigeon feathers," he said.  "How my father would laugh if he knew I was making arrows with pigeon feathers!"  (But The Warrior did not laugh, thinking about the father who had walked the Earth hundreds of years before.)

"You could probably make a lot of money selling them on the Internet," said Angela.  (The Warrior said nothing, knowing she was still a teenager and sometimes said silly things without thinking them through.)  "I need to ask you about something I saw in the Dreamtime."

"I know," he said.

"Were you there?" she asked.

"The raven told me," he said.  "You saw the Chimera."

"Is that what it's called?"

"Yes."

"But how can an evil monster be in the Dreamtime?  I thought the Dreamtime was only for our spirits."

"It is a human spirit," said The Warrior.  "A lost soul full of confusion and rage."

"Can it hurt people?"

"Only through fear," he said.  "It traps other lost souls in its aura of terror."

"How can I stop it?"

The Warrior inhaled deeply.  "You are not strong enough yet."

"But I've accomplished so much!"

"I know, young one--be patient."

"I think the Chimera is blocking me from seeing Mia."

"This you can overcome," he said, handing her a small medicine bag.  "I made this for you.  When you see the Chimera, open it, and you will know what to do."

Several miles to the north, Henrietta Samuelson was spoiling the Heurich Society's post-4th of July barbecue with a Chimera of her own.  She walked into the host's backyard with--instead of the cherry pie she had promised--a file from her late father's CIA records.  "Why didn't you tell me about Project Chimera?!" she demanded, waving her father's file in the face of a former CIA operative.  "You sent me to Crimea without a warning!"

"I thought you had read all your father's files already!" he retorted without contrition.

"Well, I didn't know how many of them were written in code!  I thought this was a file about a CIA submarine in the Black Sea!"

"Well, there was supposed to be a submarine, and its name was going to be The Chimera, but our budget was cut, so we had to improvise with local hires."

"I could have gotten killed!  You sent me into a trap!  It was a miracle I got out alive!"  (It was, in fact, a miracle, since the only reason she had gotten out of Crimea safely was that her late father had sent in Ghost CIA operatives.)

"That's not true!" protested a retired three-star general.  "You had a sound plan going in, but you panicked at the first sign of trouble.  This will improve with experience."

"Yes, Button, it was really about your panic," said the Heurich Society's investment banker.  "Do you want a hot dog or a hamburger?"

"You people are unbelievable!" exclaimed Samuelson.  "This entire Black Sea Revolution project is way too dangerous!  People are getting killed just so you can mess up the European Union, destabilize Turkey, and get neo-Cons back in power in the White House?"

"Actually, I always thought Dr. Rice was a little too idealistic about the White House, but it would be nice to get more neo-Cons back in charge of the CIA," said a former NSA director.

"Why?" asked the former CIA operative.  "We're not the ones acting like the East German secret police," he added, an obvious dig at the NSA's latest black eye from the Washington Post.

"Well, if you people still had any intelligence agents left with intelligence, we wouldn't have to be picking up so much slack in the spy game!"

"You son of a bitch!"  And with that, fists were flying, potato salad was spraying, dogs were barking, and grills were toppling.

"Am I missing something?" crackled Condoleezza Rice over her Skype connection, but the laptop streaming her was now facing a large hydrangea bush, so nobody saw or heard her.

Then Henrietta (Button) Samuelson let out an ear-piercing, sustained scream until all went quiet again.  "No more secrets!" shouted the Chair of the Heurich Society.  "If you want us to take on a mission, you need to brief me fully!  The next person that withholds vital information from me will be expelled!"

"Can she do that?" whispered the investment banker.

"Yes!" shouted Samuelson, wheeling around to glare at him, but her sudden twirl had dislodged spilled potato salad from her dress, which somewhat weakened the dramatic tone of the moment.

"And our next project is Project Chimera!" she said.  "We are going to put a submarine into the Black Sea for ourselves!"  She looked down at the dogs eating up all the meat on the ground.  "Do we need to order pizza?"

A mile to the east, Charles Wu had endured three hours of disco brunch at Level One waiting for Yellow Man to introduce him to a friend, and it was quite late when they finally showed up.

"Sorry, dude," said the young goateed man with the Geek Squad t-shirt, sticking out his hand to Wu.  "I had an emergency call over on Capitol Hill."

"It's true," said Yellow Man, helping himself to Wu's pretzel bites.  "You wouldn't believe how often Chimera gets these kind of calls, hee hee!"

Chimera finished downing Wu's water glass, then asked for a Dos Equis at the first sign of the waitress.  "Congressman naughty pants!" whispered Chimera.  "Looked at a few porn videos on his laptop, and the next thing he knew, the computer was all screwed up.  Didn't want to have to call his chief of staff about it!"

"So Chimera went in and got rid of that nasty Ukranian virus," said the Yellow Man, nodding.

"Ukranian?"

"Oh, it has nothing to do with the current crisis--at least, I don't think so.  It's been around awhile," said the Chimera.

"So he replaced it with a good old American virus," whispered Yellow Man gleefully.

"A spybot worm, would be a more accurate description."  (Yellow Man rolled his eyes.)  "Anyway," continued Chimera, "my little critter runs an algorithm which constantly clears out cookies and other memory-suckers, so their computers run better, and they keep referring me to their friends on the Hill."

"And?" said Yellow Man, gesticulating to encourage Chimera to get to the juicy part of the story.

"And my critter enables me to remotely access their laptops and pull up a mirror image on my own computer.  But I'm bored with these Congressmen!  They hardly ever have anything interesting:  most of their files are speeches, and most of their emails are thank-you notes to millionaires for campaign contributions.  I'm looking to get some referrals at the State Department or the White House or the Pentagon.  Yellow Man got me a few, and he said you might be interested as well."

"Would I get the mirror, too?" asked Wu.

"Of course!" said Chimera.  "But I do have some rules.  The first is you have to tell me why you want to spy on somebody.  I mean, I'm not the frickin' NSA!  I've got principles, and I'm only gonna spy on jerks!  Or people hiding war crimes--stuff like that."

Wu preferred to deal with people who were happy to do a job for cash, but the allure of being able to send Chimera in to help people with their computer problems was too much to resist.  "Alright," said Wu.  "The next time a bad person tells me they're having a computer problem, I'm sure we'll be able to come to an understanding."

Back in Cleveland Park, Angela de la Paz had arrived at Charles Wu's house to relieve Delia's governess, Mrs. Prudence Higgety-Cheshire, from duty so that she could go out to supper with a friend she had met at the British Embassy's 4th of July party.  "She's still asleep," said Mrs. H-C, shaking her head disapprovingly.  "I had to take her to a birthday party at 2 p.m., so her nap is terribly late.  Why do parents schedule a birthday party at 2 p.m.?  It's utterly appalling!"  (Angela smiled sympathetically.)  "Her supper is in the saucepan already--you just need to bring it to a boil when she wakes up."  (Angela nodded enthusiastically.) "Ta ta!"

Angela walked upstairs to look at Buffy Cordelia, whom she found still sound asleep in her crib.  She settled into the rocking chair, and pulled out the medicine bag to examine it.  What?  She opened it wider.  It's empty!  She shook it out over the rug, but nothing came out.  Whatever.  She closed her eyes, impatient to find the Chimera again.  She quickly entered the Dreamtime and began calling out for Mia, Delia's first nanny, who had committed suicide.  "Mia!"  She stopped for a few minutes to embrace her mother and abuela, but they could see she was in a hurry and let her continue.  "Mia!"  She increased her concentration, pulled all her chi together, and blocked every other thought from her mind.  "MIA!"

The Chimera reared up out of nowhere, and Angela jumped back in surprise, then quickly refocused her energy.  "You can't have her!  She doesn't belong to you!  We love her!"  The Chimera roared at her with such fury and intensity that Angela thought she would go deaf.  "MIA!"  The Chimera roared again, and Angela took another step back.  Then she remembered the Medicine Bag, and opened it to see if there might be something in it after all.

"Young one," said the old woman now standing before Angela.

"Who are you?" asked Angela.

"I am my son's mother," she said.  Angela looked at the woman's gray braids and deerskin tunic, and knew who she was.

"What should we do?" asked Angela.

"The nanny will come when she hears Delia call her name."

Angela inhaled deeply and looked nervously over at the Chimera trying to hear their whispered conversation.  "It's too dangerous for Delia."

"Delia needs to see Mia more than anybody else does," said the Warrior's mother.

Angela inhaled deeply again, then summoned Delia from her sleeping place until the child was nestled in her arms.  "We need to find Mia," Angela whispered to her.

"Mia!" repeated little Delia, looking around excitedly.

The Chimera roared in fury, and little Delia buried her head in Angela's bosom to cry.  Then Mia came for her.

"Delia!"  Delia turned at the sound of her late nanny's voice, and stretched out her little arms to be picked up.

Mia held Delia tightly for a long time before looking up at Angela.  "Thank you!"  Angela embraced them both for what seemed a very, very long time, until finally her arms were empty.  She looked up and saw Mia walking away.  "Thank you!"  Then she was gone--as well as everybody else.

Angela opened her eyes.  Little Delia was sitting up in her crib, looking intently at Angela, who went to pick her up without saying a word.  She returned to the rocking chair to hold Delia for a few minutes.  Do you even remember your mother, baby?  Is our love enough for you?  Delia took her head out of Angela's bosom and looked up at her babysitter.  "Are you hungry, sweet pea?"  Delia smiled sweetly, and the two went downstairs.

A couple hours later, Angela went next door to nurse her infant son, Lucas, for the last time.  She told the Cigemeier's she knew it was time to go.  She packed her sparse belongings, said goodbye to Liv and Felix, then walked out the door.  She knew she could see Lucas whenever she wanted to in the Dreamtime, but she wanted him to start his life now with his adoptive parents.

Outside, a flock of starlings flew in circles above her until she gave them one last menacing look before climbing into a taxi for the airport.  The starlings quickly flew off to report to Ardua of the Potomac all they had seen.

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COMING UP:  OMG, Congress is running out of 2014 working days?!