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 ....

Monday, December 28, 2009

Washington Kaleidoscope

Henry Samuelson was slowly walking past the train departure gates at Union Station, eyeing dark-skinned men of a certain age as potential terrorists. It was something he did to pass the time when Charles Wu was out of town, the Heurich Society was not meeting, his daughter was too busy for him, and he really had nothing more important to do. (He had tried to warn the Transportation Security Administration about underwear bombers before, but, as usual, nobody took his warnings seriously until they actually caught one red-handed--so to speak, ahem). Samuelson was brooding about Project Eliminati again. Condoleezza Rice said that President Obama was playing straight into the Heurich Society's hands when he issued the Executive Order extending diplomatic privileges to Interpol, but Samuelson thought the paranoid bloggers had a legitimate concern about foreigners arresting Americans willy nilly, unrestrained by the laws that restrained the Federal Bureau of Investigation and local police officers. True, many Interpol agents were working for the Heurich Society, but not all of them. True, also, that Interpol agents had no authority to make arrests overseas, and could only be seconded to local law enforcement, but if they were not actually going to be doing anything in the U.S., why the need to grant diplomatic privileges? In any case, Project Eliminati was supposed to be about Interpol and U.N. peacekeeping forces overseas, and he didn't like Rice's nonchalant attitude about the possible role of Interpol agents inside the U.S. Samuelson stopped in his tracks and stared at a 20-something mocha-skinned man with a suspicious scarf who was shifting uncomfortably in his waiting area chair: diarrhea or underwear bomb? The man took another swig from his bottle of liquid antacid, but anything could be in that bottle; Samuelson raced off to find a bomb-sniffing dog.

Across the Potomac, Sebastian L'Arche was introducing the enormous brown dog to the Arlington Group Home for the Mentally Challenged.

"Can it sniff bombs?" asked Cedric. L'Arche shook his head.

"Can it sniff drugs?" asked Melinda. (Boy, I hope not, thought social worker Hue Nguyen, who had an entire pharmacy under lock and key in her office.) L'Arche shook his head.

"Does it have a chip implant?" asked Cedric. L'Arche shook his head--nobody had traced the dog since she ran away to him.

Brother Divine bent over to stare at the dog's soulful brown eyes. "This is a tortured soul," he murmured. L'Arche nodded. "She has suffered for the sins of others." (Nguyen frowned but said nothing.) "We shall call her, 'Star of Nazareth'." L'Arche thought the name ridiculous, though not as ridiculous as the name her last owners had given her: "Two Mules".

Nguyen--who was not going to allow anybody to call this animal "Star of Nazareth"--reminded the residents that no decision had been made yet on keeping the dog. "Look how big she is--she's as big as a pony! She's going to cost a fortune to feed."

Cedric pulled a wad of money out of his crotch, peeled off five hundred-dollar bills, and proffered them to the social worker. "Her name shall be 'Millie'," he said (after a guileless character in "Our Man in Havana"). The dog wagged her tail in agreement, and the social worker pulled a tissue out of her pocket to grab the money. Through the rainbow-reflecting plastic bead curtains separating the living room from the dining room, a kneeling Theresa stared at the magical brown pony and knew it was meant to be.

Over on the Potomac, Dubious McGinty was staring at the magical kaleidoscope lighting installation as Perry Winkle was hauling the last load of McGinty's belongings back into the renovated bridgeman's quarters of the 14th Street bridge. Glass panes had replaced the plywood, a fresh coat of white paint covered all the walls, and a new layer of concrete covered the floor. Winkle plugged in an electric heater. "Do you want some help unpacking?" McGinty shook his head, transfixed by the multi-colored colossus hanging above them.

After a couple of minutes, he turned to Winkle and asked if this was the reason he had to vacate the bridgeman's quarters for two months. The Washington Post reporter nodded. "There's some damned fools in this town," McGinty muttered, but he sat down and continued staring at the kaleidoscope. "Don't seem to bother Ardua none," he added, disappointed. A couple hundred feet below him, Ardua was, indeed, unbothered by the kaleidoscope, but she was displeased at the return of McGinty.

"Well, I need to head to work," Winkle said at last. The reporter--who had let McGinty stay in his apartment for two months--heard a faint thank-you, then headed out to climb his way down from the bridge tower.

Over in Southwest, Calico Johnson was staring out a penthouse window at the kaleidoscope lights playing in the tower of the 14th Street bridge. He thought for a moment he saw a man climbing around, but then decided it must have been a large bird. "We should have priced this higher," he said to Button Samuelson. "This view is fantastic." He turned to see her putting the finishing touch on the floral arrangement next to the stack of real estate open house brochures on the small dining room table. Button looked up at her boss (and occasional lover) with a mixture of admiration and repulsion at his audacious greed--he had already flipped a dozen properties since he purchased three-hundred at the D.C. property tax sale auction a month ago. He scratched his wrist under his bewitched Rolex, leaned over to give her a kiss, scratched his wrist again, then turned to go as a petal fell off a carnation and fluttered down to the immaculately staged table sitting atop the area rug hiding the water damage in the floor.

Back at Union Station, a disappointed Henry Samuelson watched the bomb-sniffing dog pass up the suspicious character and saunter away without a care in the world.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Joy to the World, Goddammit!

"Joy to the World, Goddammit!"

Bridezilla jumped like a startled doe into her fiance's arms, and they both turned to look back at the homeless trumpeter scowling at them. (Dizzy was cold and cranky and fed up with Lafayette Park visitors who did not toss money into his basket.) "Come on, pookie," the former Marine said as he led Bridezilla further into the snowy wonderland for additional photo opportunities. (She was already working on the slide show that would be playing in an endless loop at their wedding reception in the spring.) "We gotta finish up--I got things to do." Her fiance was almost as much of a workaholic as her ex Wince had been, but the difference was that Wince was always away while clerking for his important judges on their important cases, whereas her new fellow took her along on his Weapons 'R Us business whenever she was not barred by pressing Prince and Prowling matters (which she found increasingly easy to neglect) or her own lack of security clearances (which he found increasingly easy to neglect). "Gotta make sure that shipment to Kenya is ready, hon!" (It didn't matter to him whether the arms were going for legitimate national defense purposes or tribal warfare--he wasn't responsible for pulling any triggers, and the more those fools wiped out each other, the fewer people would be around as recruitment fodder for Al Qaeda.) They headed off briskly to get some shots of the Christmas tree on the other side of the White House.

A couple miles away, two hundred feet below Second Story Books, the Freaks living in Dupont Down Under were equally unamused. "Merry F-ing Christmas!"

"Look, I'm just the messenger," Sebastian L'Arche pleaded.

"Hark, the Hairy Fascists Sing!"

"Look!" L'Arche had a soft spot for the denizens of this sad home (some of whom were war veterans like him), but they were really ticking him off. "You knew you couldn't squat here forever! The real estate title dispute is over, and the city's going to take bids on developing this place." He was fairly certain that the supposedly interested bidders had never actually been down here to smell the ever-present odors of urine and liquor. "You need to start thinking about what you're gonna do."

"O, Come All Ye Moneygrubbing Tyrants!"

Even the Gipper (L'Arche wouldn't dream of going into Dupont Down Under without the rat terrier) was getting irritated with the shrill voices. "I brought some information for you." L'Arche started pulling out information sheets on homeless shelters, V.A. hospitals, soup kitchens, and city outreach workers. "Don't wait until the last minute."

"O, Little Town of Washington, How Much You Steal and Lie!"

A couple hundred feet above them, Calico Johnson was lunching with Button Samuelson at Scion and discussing his plan to bid on Dupont Down Under. "Who the hell's gonna wanna go down there to look at paintings?! An art gallery? That's the stupidest idea I can possibly imagine. Sure, let's go underground to buy art! What is this? Phantom of the Opera?" He stabbed his food fiercely with his fork. "Goth nightclub--it will be HUGE! People will be flocking here from all over the East Coast. Can you imagine the free press we'll get?! Chic vampire cult congregates beneath the most powerful city in the world! I LOVE it!"

"You don't really mean vampires, do you?"

"You know, Button, sometimes I worry about your lack of imagination."

Several miles to the north, Charles Wu was whistling along to "Jingle Bell Rock" on the radio as he closed his suitcase. He imagined it, he designed it, he paid for it, and now it was here: five-hundred listening devices implanted into the most high-end, designer PDAs imported from Hong Kong this holiday season. The richest, most powerful men on Earth were going to be getting these as gifts this month, and he had computer programs recording every word spoken, heard, and typed into those PDAs. A few of the PDAs given as Hanukkah gifts had already been activated in the U.S., as well as a few transported to London, Dubai, and Riyadh. A couple more days, and most of the five-hundred would probably be online. True, most of them would end up in the hands of boring millionaires with nothing interesting to say, but he only needed a few diamonds to make the entire mining operation worthwhile. He shut his curtains and grabbed his coat. With the factory that made them already burned to the ground in a (not-too-suspicious, well-executed) fire, and the phony company set up to run the factory already out of business, the listening devices were virtually untraceable. It's gonna be a great year! He locked the door behind him and headed for a plane back to Hong Kong, visions of gigantic dollar signs dancing in the spy's head and knocking down any lingering 2009 memories of warfare and misery.

Across the Potomac River, Christmas spirit was swelling at the Arlington Group Home for the Mentally Challenged. Actually, it was not that theologically close to Christmas, but new resident Brother Divine (AKA Freddy Ritchings) was firing up the others with his charismatic sermons on the International Peace Movement. Claiming to be the illegitimate grandson of Father Divine and Edna Rose Ritchings--or more accurately, claiming to be descended from a line of divine conceptions which the secular modern world was incapable of comprehending--his lectures on truth, divinity, equality, and abundance held many residents enthralled. "Our God is in our land! Evergreen, never black! Give me your best hand! Purity of brainwaves you will never lack!"

"Look, if I have to live in a cult, I'm gonna pick one with more drugs and sex!" Cedric was complaining again to social worker Hue Nguyen that Brother Divine needed to be kicked out. Nguyen, a devout Catholic, had her own objections to Brother Divine's constant pronouncements, but she could not deny that he had lifted a lot of spirits. "They're all being brainwashed! I should know! I used to do it for a living!" Nguyen had no reason to doubt that statement, and had often suspected he might have no real mental defect of his own other than having fallen pray to some elaborate brainwashing himself (she often heard him muttering about some Heurich Society in his sleep). "I've had it with the Twelve Bonkers Days of Christmas!" Cedric exclaimed, then went off to shred another chocolate Santa, mix it with saline solution, and inhale it to protect his nostrils from breathing heretical airs.

Back in Washington, Dizzy finished another rendition of "Angels We Have Heard On High", put down his trumpet, and took another swig from the wine bottle hidden in his large potato chip bag. A catbird started imitating the notes, and Dizzy leapt to his feet and shook his trumpet at the bird in fury. "Joy to the World, ya goddam demon!" A White House Secret Service officer on patrol scarcely gave them a passing glance--if he had, he would have seen the possessed bird knocked out of the tree by an invisible hand. The mad catbird flew out of the snow straight back at the Shackled hovering in the tree branches, then thought better of it, changed course, and flew away. "That's what I'm talkin' about," whispered Dizzy. He saw more people approaching, and lifted the trumpet back to his lips to spread holiday cheer.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Snowed In

The large brown dog as big as a pony had finally run away to Sebastian L'Arche. She was currently curled up next to his fireplace in a relieved doze, feeling the warmth slowly radiating into her arthritic joints. She had tolerated carrying the boy around as a cowboy on Halloween (even when he kicked her with his very real spurs); she had coped with being locked in a basement closet for five days at Thanksgiving with a bucket of water, a bucket of food, and several layers of newspaper to pee and poop on; she had even coped with the boy's practicing television wrestling moves on her two or three times a week. However, while pulling a sled back and forth from the convenience store the day before for every neighbor on the block (her mistress was making $20/trip on that), the pain and cold had settled into her joints in a way she had never known before. When they had let her out to pee this morning, she had pretended to get lost in a snowbank, then tunneled out the other side and followed her instincts to L'Arche's house in Southeast Washington. She was old and tired, but L'Arche--glancing for a moment away from www.planetwashington.com--knew she had run to him because she was not ready to die.

Several miles to the west, former Senator Evermore Breadman emerged from the Prince and Prowling Partner and Associate Spa, freshly showered and groomed, after being forced to spend the night on his office leather couch. He had been on teleconferences all day Saturday about the Senate health care negotiations, so focused on his work he had barely noticed the snow swirling outside his panoramic window, but it was simply too difficult after having spent the previous two days focused on scuttling the Copenhagen Conference of Parties. He walked down the Prince and Prowling hallway, not at all self-conscious about his blue silk robe and imported Japanese slippers--partially because he didn't think anybody else was there and partially because he was deep in thought as to whether he needed to scale back his clientele. He walked past his Wall of Me to find Chloe Cleavage (who had also spent the night on his couch) spreading out a feast of food purloined from secret stashes all over the law firm. This he did not expect. He smiled wanly, wondering how to get rid of her. She had brought up the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Washington Post like a golden retriever, simply exuding loyalty and warmth. Good heavens, what if she wants to do it again? My Viagra's at home! She was thrilled to not have gotten stuck at that creepy Southwest Plaza during the blizzard, and cheerily told him to sit down at his desk to eat. Breadman's herculean efforts to protect insurance company profits and oil company revenues began dissipating from his conscious mind and settling into his acidic gut.

Not far away, Laura Moreno was back in the workroom packing up her things after an extremely uncomfortable night sleeping on the reception area sofa. She had tried to sleep on the carpet of her workroom with her coat as a blanket and a pile of bagged napkins as a pillow, but it just freaked her out too much to be lying next to the enormous blood stain nobody had removed after the emergency medical technicians had taken out the would-be suicide last week. (She had brought in a couple different stain removal products herself, to no avail, and her pleas to get the carpeting replaced had fallen on deaf ears.) She had spent all of Saturday fixing the lousy foreign language translations done by phony language experts (paid a lot more than she was) who managed to take innocuous phrases like "accepted by the organization's system" and proclaim them proof of illegal activity, while simultaneously failing to recognize the smoking guns they were actually greenlighting for production. The attorney-client privilege review had taken six hours alone, and even though she had been told she had to come in on Saturday, and couldn't possibly be allowed to leave until everything was QC'ed, Prince and Prowling wasn't paying a dime for her getting trapped here for sixteen hours overnight. A few minutes later, she squinted at the gleaming snowbanks as she headed out into unfamiliar daylight, reminding herself to be thankful she still had a job.

A block away, Malia and Sasha were merrily making snow angels and snowmen on the White House lawn, laughing at the always entertaining twins Ferguson and Regina--who were currently singing a Lady GAGA duet as they took turns launching themselves from the swingset into a large bank of snow. But now something was wrong: Ferguson could not be seen, and Regina was calling out to her brother, trying to find him under the large piles of snow. "Fergie!" The twins' mother raced over to find her son, and Malia and Sasha ran over to help dig him out. Bo paced back and forth, uncertain what to do. Finally they saw his purple snowsuit, but when they pulled it out empty, Clio screamed in terror. Then they heard laughter and turned to see the snowsuit-less boy jumping up and down in glee at his prank. "Fergie!" A furious Clio then turned to look at Regina, who was stifling her own laughter. "Reggie!" Clio threw the snowsuit at the toddlers and ordered them inside. She turned to the Obama girls, tried to apologize, mumbled, and then left.

Inside the White House, a puzzled President Obama (who had seen Ferguson the whole time and did not know what the commotion was about) turned from the window back to Rahm Emmanuel. An absolutely historic week had come and gone, and the magnitude and novelty of its events and milestones were eclipsed by a couple feet of snow. The Washington Post health care story implied the reporters thought the public would care more about how Senators had traveled through the blizzard to cast their health care votes than how they had actually voted. The Copenhagen agreement on global warming could not compete with an historic blizzard when it came to weather stories. And the Nobel Peace Prize was something nearly everybody seemed eager to forget. "We've got to get 2010 right," President Obama said quietly, and Emmanuel assured him they would, even though their team was still only half-appointed.

A few miles to the south, Angela de la Paz smiled out the window at the pink warbler who had alit on the snow-covered windowsill. Though the sparrows and pigeon doves were happily pecking at the breadcrumbs spread out by Dr. Devi Rajatala, the pink warbler was simply singing. Angela knew by now that Dr. Raj could not see the pink warbler, and the Warrior had told her not to worry about that--she did not need to explain everything to people who did not understand. She had been living here at the National Arboretum ever since the weather had gotten too severe for The Warrior to keep her hidden in Rock Creek Park. Dr. Raj understood the fears about the bad foster family and why she couldn't go back to her grandmother's apartment, but this couldn't go on forever. "Come and have some lunch," she called to the girl, who dutifully reported to the work table that had been cleared of tree bark samples and spread with hot microwaved meals and beverages. "You need to finish your homework after lunch. I'll have to hide you away tomorrow if school is closed." Dr. Rajatala could not believe words like that were coming out of her own mouth. First she had taken in the clandestine donkey, and now this. Angela asked where she would hide on Monday, and Dr. Rajatala told her she was still thinking about it--but probably the geothermal-powered greenhouse. I wish I could take you home to Maryland. She didn't know a lot about United States laws, but she was fairly certain from television that you never wanted to take minors across state boundaries.

Outside, a hawk circled slowly above the snow-draped woods as the forest creatures slowly emerged to feed once again.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Five Things

"How will this affect Project R.O.D.H.A.M.?"

"You tell me!"

Spy Charles Wu was sipping chai in the basement corner of the Gallery Place Teaism, discussing the new Afghanistan plan with "C. Coe Phant".

"You need to get me more details from the Pentagon," Wu responded.

"No can do," said Phant quietly. He leaned in closer. "M.S. doesn't want to change anything--she wants you to keep things moving." (Phant sometimes said "M.S." for "Madame Secretary".)

"If the troops are surging, it's going to be pretty hard for Project R.O.D.H.A.M. to avoid bumping into them," said Wu.

"Why do you say that like you DON'T want more troops?"

"If the troops can pull it off, that's brilliant, but maybe Project R.O.D.H.A.M. should lie low for awhile."

"What are you so worried about?!"

That my operatives will be hauled in and expose me.... "It just doesn't make sense for us to be where the troops are: if I could follow their deployments, we could operate more effectively."

Phant stifled his laughter, but not his grin. "What you're talking about is Top Level Security Clearance! I don't even have that! You'd have to talk to M.S." Wu nodded, drummed his fingers on the table, and said nothing.

A few miles to the west, Henry Samuelson was shaking off his umbrella in the foyer of the Brewmaster's Castle. He loved hard cold rain because it made it easier to spy on people--they were so focused on staying dry that they would scarcely look around their surroundings at all. Still, he was an old man with rheumatism now, and it wasn't easy. Han Li took Samuelson's umbrella and coat, then proffered a velvet smoking jacket. (Dick Cheney had sent over a dozen of the red robes as an early Christmas present to the Heurich Society, but there was still nobody making a motion for him to re-join.) A few minutes later, Samuelson entered the meeting room, grabbed a custard-filled doughnut and cup of coffee, and sat down to rant about Afghanistan, Copenhagen, the Nobel Peace Prize, and Tiger Woods.

A couple miles to the east, Button Samuelson was seeing her father's psychiatrist alone. "He did that exercise you suggested," she said to Dr. Ermann Esse. She handed him the list Henry Samuelson had written of five things he liked about his daughter, and Dr. Esse began to read. You are strongly principled, and you are true to your principles even when they cost you friends or opportunities. He looked up at her, said nothing, then continued to read silently until the end. Button, some of these admirable traits have not always served you well but you do deserve credit and recognition for them. Love, Dad. He took a sip of coffee and re-read the letter.

"Well," he said at last, "he did write some very positive things in here."

"And a bunch of negative things! It KILLS him to say anything nice about me!"

"He said 'you are a really good person': that's a very strong statement."

"A good person who's an idiot! That's what he said!"

"That's not what he said."

"Oh, cut the crap, would you!?" Dr. Esse's eyes grew wide in surprise. "He had an opportunity to say what he liked about me, and he could not do it without adding a bunch of things he disliked about me! He is deliberately sabotaging our relationship! Any fool can see that!"

Dr. Esse cleared his throat and waited a few moments to see if she was done. Her arms were folded across her chest, and she turned her gaze away from him to the window. "You're right," he said. "But what you call 'sabotage' does not actually mean he does not want and value his relationship with you."

"It means he wants and values a relationship with me in which he gets to continue telling me I'm not good enough, that's what it means." Dr. Esse cocked his head, wondering how she had ended up selling real estate--she would have been quite a shrink.

A couple miles to the south, Laura Moreno was in her Prince and Prowling workroom, organizing the documents left behind after the sweatshop had closed at 5 p.m. on Saturday. The first wave of lay-offs had occurred Thursday, and the second on Friday, and in the meantime, she herself had been on and off the cut list half a dozen times until the confusion was finally laid to rest and she was told she would not be laid off on Saturday. With the axe hanging over so many heads for days, more than a few of the temporary attorneys had flipped out--setting off an explosion in the microwave, toilet-papering the fanciest office they could find (former Senator Evermore Breadman's), wiping feces on suite doors, and (and this is why Laura Moreno had to come in on a Sunday) sabotaging the evidence. So far she had removed over 200 Viagra emails from the "Hot" folder, and over 100 penile enlargement emails from the "Privileged" folder, while she kept telling herself how lucky she was to still be working. Suddenly one of the laid-off reviewers came into her workroom, and she immediately recognized him as the one who had not turned in his keycard. He pulled out a knife, and she screamed, but he turned the knife around and stabbed himself in the chest. "I don't blame you," he whispered, crumpling to the floor. "It's the economy."

Deep in the Potomac, Ardua smiled at the darkness and cold rain blanketing Washington.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

To Be Continued

Washington Water Woman is half-drowned in the Potomac right now, but expects to return next week!

Stay tuned!