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, 2008

The Million Dollar Question

Bridge opened the freezer door in the staff kitchen to get some ice. "What's that?" both twins asked in unison. Bridge closed the door quickly, telling them it was nothing. Regina and Ferguson looked at each other dubiously and sat down to drink their lemonade. Bridge had actually suspected the twins when he first heard about the "IM" peaches collected by the Secret Service along the White House fence, then he had suspected the ghosts, but after studying the purloined peach in his freezer for a couple weeks, he was resigning himself to the fact that it had probably just been another kooky protester. "Mommy's tired," Regina announced quietly. Their mother was tired often enough that it usually went without comment, but when Bridge was asked to babysit for an entire Sunday, he knew it was bad. He asked them what they thought was making her tired. They conversed quietly in their secret twin language, then Ferguson said to Bridge, "Not everybody likes her." Bridge took a slow swallow of lemonade without taking his eyes off the boy, who was fidgeting as he waited for Bridge's reply.

Bridge set the glass down slowly on the formica tabletop and shook his head in the negative. "Uh-uh. They can't make people tired; they can only make people crazy." He let this sink in for a moment, watching the twins exchange sidelong glances. "Now, crazy people might be making your mother tired, or even people acting crazy might be making your mother tired--but not them." Regina didn't like where this line of thought was leading and said she wanted to go outside to play. "Uh-uh," said Bridge. "It's too hot today. Now we're gonna have a long talk about them, and if you answer all my questions truthfully, maybe I'll sneak you back into the President's swimming pool." This made their eyes grow big because they had not been there in a long time, but the ghosts had explicitly warned them not to repeat anything to Bridge--who could always hear them but rarely understand them. "Now Reggie, Fergie, you'd better start by telling me about the ones that don't like your mother." Ferguson's lips trembled as he fought back sudden tears, and Regina dug her nails into the palms of her hands. Far off in another room, the undiagnosed HIV viruses were merrily attacking their mother's immune system as the pro-Clio and anti-Clio ghosts tried to whisper in her ear something that her sleeping mind could hear.

Up in Adams Morgan, Angela de la Paz was making tortillas for dinner as her grandmother dozed on the couch. Abuela had burnt herself at the stove last night, and Angela had decided it was time for her to take over in the kitchen. After the ingredients were all laid out, Angela washed her hands again for the whole duration of "Happy Birthday" sung in her head (as the attorney had taught her), turned the faucet off with her elbows (ditto), then dried her hands on a paper towel (as the attorney had also taught her)--then she sat down to knead the dough together. The worst of the hepatitis-A was over, and it wasn't the worst thing that had ever happened to Angela, but it had sure bothered that attorney. Angela smiled again, happy that her grandmother had won the court case--even though the attorney had explained that it was probably too late for it to help. It was just so rare that she felt like they were winning, and she and abuela had waited so very long for this. Angela glanced up at the sound of a new song coming from the pink warbler perched on the windowsill--things were going to get better.

Several miles south, Laura Moreno had just exited Prince and Prowling, where she had been using her Sunday afternoon to make up for the hours spent at the courthouse earlier in the week--the day when she had returned to the office to find herself included on a 1 p.m. Human Resources email to a dozen attorneys indicating that "your services are no longer required", followed by a 2:30 p.m. email asking why she had not yet turned in her key and badge, followed by Chloe Cleavage entering the workroom at 3:30 p.m. to exclaim, 'Oh, good, you're still here! They accidentally fired too many." This, naturally, had been followed by the dumping of a pile of documents on Laura's desk. Laura's nose wrinkled up as she walked past Urine Park in the 95-degree heat, then gave up and hailed a taxi. As the sound of Dizzy's trumpet faded in the background, Laura was still thinking about her pro bono case, knowing it was not really over...and thinking about her job, knowing she was just treading water.

A few miles to the east, Charles Wu got out of the taxi from the Prince and Prowling office, entered the Old Post Office Pavilion, and proceeded over to the elevator for the tower. He stopped at the bell level, and walked slowly around to the west side, where his contact was feigning interest in reading historical data about the bells. "It's about the FDA satellite office opening in Beijing," said Wu. His contact made no reply. "Prince and Prowling have decided to open an office in Beijing." His contact let out a low whistle. It would not be the first foreign law firm to open an office in Beijing, nor the last, but this was different, and he knew it. "I need to know about how the FDA is going to operate in Beijing." He hung his caned umbrella on the railing, then closed with some platitudes about how Beiiing did not need to worry about Al Gore's speech this week--because 'every bit of it' was not going to change. Wu walked slowly away, leaving behind the umbrella with $100,000 hidden neatly in its folds, knowing he would either get the answer he sought for Prince and Prowling or something else of equal value. Wu climbed the final staircase to the observation deck and looked out on the Capitol, pondering his upcoming meeting with the Englishman--who would be expecting an answer as to when China was going to stop lending money to the U.S. I wish I knew....That's the million dollar question.

About a mile away, Judge Sowell Ame was paying Dr. Ermann Esse the $300/hour Sunday appointment rate to tell him about the recurrent dream he was having about that family. "I'm shrunken, I'm in a pot on the stove, the grandmother is stirring some sliced peppers and tomatoes into the pot with me, then the oil hisses and burns the grandmother, then the girl grabs the pot and dumps it out the window into the Potomac River." Dr. Esse jotted down a few notes, then asked what comes next. "I start drowning, I can't breathe, but then something touches me and I'm happy--at least I think I'm happy--but I think it's a trick. Then I wake up. I never know if I'm going to live or die!"

"But nobody knows that," Dr. Esse said quietly. "That is not what you're really worried about--you're worried that somebody is tricking you. Who do you think is tricking you?" Judge Ame just stared at Dr. Esse, unable to answer. That's the question.


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