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 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.

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