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, November 30, 2008

Just Like That

And just like that, they were dead.

Dr. Devi Rajatala was in her drafty office at the National Arboretum.  She had cancelled the final Friendship Garden session of the fall because of the rain, but she had come to work anyway, trying to get her mind off the massacre in Mumbai which had taken her cousin, her uncle, and an old friend from college--a police officer, a waiter, and a businesswoman.  She had been on the phone to India a dozen times since Wednesday, and now she wanted peace and quiet.  She was compiling some temperature and rainfall statistics for a colleague in Arlington trying to figure out why none of the oak trees there had produced acorns this year.  The oak trees were in no obvious danger, it would seem, but the squirrels were starving.  It seemed absurd to be worried about squirrels, but this is what she did--she studied trees.  There were plenty of acorns here, and no reports of squirrels starving in the District.  Her mother had begged her not to fly back to India for the ceremonies--too dangerous.  She paused and looked out the window at the gray sky, which provided a sharper contrast to the partially barren tree limbs than a blue sky ever could.  What?  What could possess them?  She could almost understand the indiscriminate hatred of the rich, she could almost understand fanatically hateful religious indoctrination, but she could not understand how you start shooting everybody in sight--rich, poor, master, servant, man, woman--just because they were in some institution you hated.  She could not understand how you shoot children.  She could not understand how you attack a hospital.  She shivered from the draft and got up to put her overcoat on.  She jotted down a reminder to call facilities again about the needed insulation work.  Then she decided she would visit India in January or February--it had been too long.

And just like that, they were dead.

Charles Wu had just received confirmation that two Chinese agents and a British agent had been killed in Mumbai.  The desperate scramble to retrieve sensitive documents and incriminating papers had failed, and the next step would be sensitive negotiations to retrieve them out of official custody before unsuspecting relatives showed up to claim their loved ones' belongings.  Wu didn't know those agents very well, but he just assumed they all felt the same way he did--he could care less what people found after he was dead.  Still, there was always the possibility of being half-dead and then having to get interrogated, so it was best to keep cryptic notes and scant records.  He sipped a gin-and-tonic and looked out his window, recalling his one and only trip to Mumbai.  He couldn't stand anything in that city except the fine hotel he stayed in.  He glanced at his watch and decided to leave after he finished his drink.  He had already seen "JCVD" three times this week, but he had not complained about the suggestion of another rendezvous at the E Street Cinema.  The funny thing was, he could not remember why he had been interested in meeting this person in the first place.

And just like that, they were dead.

Two members of the Heurich Society in the wrong place at the wrong time--a luxury hotel in Mumbai.  Henry Samuelson had given them his recommendation for a modest 3-star hotel on a backstreet of Mumbai, but they had ignored his advice.  He sat glumly in the upstairs meeting room of the Brewmaster's Castle, his arms crossed tightly across his mustard-colored and mustard-stained sweater, his hair uncombed, his donut only half-eaten.  The Chairman had let the moment of silence stretch into about three minutes, and had then announced simply, "the Ming Dung plan will proceed as agreed upon--nothing has changed."  The Chair glanced at Condoleezza Rice, who had recently confirmed to the Society that she would like to remain an active member even though she was returning to Stanford to teach and would rarely be able to attend meetings.  They didn't do conference calls in the Heurich Society, and they did not put much down in writing, so it was unclear to anybody what shape her participation would take.  Samuelson's steely eyes watched the Chairman's glance at Rice and watched her nod grimly in response.  Samuelson picked up the rest of his donut, knowing that he would end up doing the heavy lifting on the Ming Dung plan.  He bit into it without tasting it at all.

And just like that, they were dead.  

Another 300 Africans dead--dogwalker Sebastian L'Arche was listening to a news Podcast as he took the day's charges on their mid-day excursion.  More people had just been violently killed in Nigeria than in India, but the mainstream media had barely reported it--no glamorous locale, no dramatic explosions, no innocent hostages, no courageous rescues, no commando counterattack.  Just another tedious report of "ethnic/religious" conflict in a land losing water, trees, and arable land--just another week of quiet desperation in Africa.  No strategic value to the U.S. --that's what he had always heard about Africa when he was in the army.  Translation:  nobody's going to stop Africans from killing each other.  There was a logic to it you could not really refute, on the surface.  But deep down, well, that was another story.  It was all connected--the strife, the multinational investments, the oil and mineral concessions, the unstable demography, the inflammation of extremism, the shifting sands of propped-up dictatorships.  L'Arche watched the dachsund and bulldog nip at each other in a pathetic fight for choice of pooping ground.  Sometimes it all made sense; sometimes it didn't.  But the new President had relatives in Africa--things would be different now, he told himself.

And just like that, they were dead.

Hundreds of river rats, dozens of infected ducks, a small flock of starlings, and a few catbirds had perished over the past two days since the Warrior had come to town.  The Beaver was nervously glancing around as he discussed this with Ardua of the Potomac, who was incensed at the corpses floating around her.  The Warrior did not believe in rehabilitation, the Warrior took no prisoners, and the Warrior was fearless.  Ardua scoffed at this--everybody was afraid of something.  From behind a barren Arlington oak tree, the Warrior watched the river through binoculars and plotted his next move.


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