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, February 28, 2010

Taking a Gamble

"No, really--forget it!" Charles Wu was on his cellphone in the back of a taxi, trying to assure his Russian colleague he did not need to pay the lost bets on the Olympics. "Nyet!" Wu had been just a little tipsy when he made the bets, and was now more than a little fearful he would end up on some Russian mafia black lists for betting against ice skater Evgeni Plushenko. "Forget it!" (Now the Russian was seeking double-or-nothing on the Canada-U.S. gold medal hockey match.) Wu rolled his eyes as they passed the construction site for the U.S. Institute for Peace--whether this was because of the phone conversation or his ironic take on the sign was hard to say. "Alright! Alright! Double-or nothing!" The Russian was betting on Canada, and Wu just wanted it to be over--he had safer ways to make money. He put away his cellphone as they drove past the grandiose but seldom-used Constitution-side entrance and turned up 20th Street to the visitors' entrance at the Federal Reserve Board. Wu exited the taxi and flashed his passport to the suspicious FRB police officer, who didn't like the looks of him and picked up the visitor printout to see if Wu was really on the list. Disappointed, the officer waved Wu past the first line of defense, thinking he was one of those Chinese embassy big shots that liked to lord it over their American borrowers. Wu handed over his passport at the second line of defense, and a few minutes later sailed through the metal detector, retrieved his bright yellow "Escort Required" visitor badge, and passed to the chilly waiting room for his escort to pick him up. Outside, parked in a black sedan across the street, Henry Samuelson had followed Wu down here, then watched incredulously as Wu had been ushered into the palatial home of America's guardians of CAPITAL [though perhaps not "capitalism"], and was now dialing furiously to reach the member of the Heurich Society who served on the Fed's Board of Governors to alert him to this threat and gain access. The number you have reached is not in service. "What the @#$%!?" Samuelson glared at the phone in disbelief.

"What the @#$%!?" Social worker Hue Nguyen rarely used profanity on her job at the Arlington group home for the mentally challenged, but she could not believe what she was seeing in her spot inspection of Buckner's bedroom after an anonymous tip. Buckner--who had heard the loud exclamation while washing his hands in the bathroom down the hall--came hurtling out of the bathroom doorway, wet soapsuds dripping all over the mauve hallway carpeting. Nguyen was now pointing speechlessly into the bedroom with one hand and lifting her other hand questioningly, her gaze turned in shock at Buckner.

"You had no right!" exclaimed Buckner, even though he knew she did have a right. Nguyen backed away from the doorway, slightly nauseous. "It's not what you think!" he exclaimed. He knew he could be evicted from the group home and was starting to cry. "I just wanted to audition for 'Hoarders'!" ("It's a television show," Melinda said softly to Nguyen, after creeping up behind her.) All three turned their gazes toward the bedroom--buried in mountains of clothing, cans, bottles, pizza boxes, dog hair, newspapers, moldy apple cores, hundreds of de-papered toilet paper and paper towel cardboard cores, three buckets of saved "snow" (now putrid smelling water), and hundreds of items lifted from neighborhood garbage cans and curbs in the past four months--including a broken tricycle, a fish tank with only three glass walls, a pile of rusty toasters and fans, an old feline scratching post, a snow shovel detached from its handle, a deflated basketball, a one-wheeled skateboard, and a dozen pairs of old shoes, "I'm gonna take the apple seeds and plant them, like Johnny Appleseed," Buckner added softly. Nguyen looked silently at Buckner, then headed down to her office to think this one through. Millie (the dog) looked around in perplexity--people here were always getting upset about things completely unknown to her. She licked Buckner's hand in encouragement.

Back in downtown Washington, former Senator Evermore Breadman was reviewing the transcript of the February 26th Senate Judiciary Committee hearing chaired by Patrick Leahy to question Office of Professional Responsibility lawyers on their five-year investigation of the conduct of former Justice Department attorneys John Yoo and Patrick Philbin in giving the Bush Administration memos to justify torture. Five years of investigation to say "poor judgment", but "not professional misconduct": and now Senator Leahy wants to keep investigating!? Breadman's feet were soaking in a detoxification stew specially prepared for him in Lynnette Wong's Chinatown herb shop, and the smell was giving him a headache, so he reached in his drawer for the headache pills she had given him. “Focusing on whether these lawyers failed to meet legal ethics standards misses the fundamental point,” Breadman read from Leahy's statement. “The real concern is that lawyers who were supposed to be giving independent advice regarding the rule of law and what it prohibits were instead focused on excusing what the Bush-Cheney administration wanted to do.” Whatever. He downed his Five-Hour Energy Drink. ("Whatever"? Am I talking like Chloe Cleavage now?!) What he could not say "whatever" to was the fact that Leahy, the New York Times, and several advocacy organizations were all calling for an investigation of Yoo's and Philbin's missing emails: Breadman might be getting on in years, but he did know enough about modern technology to know that there was no way to lose emails forever unless servers, routers, and every personal computer connected to them were electrocuted or incinerated--something the Justice Department had reminded Prince and Prowling's clients of numerous times!) Breadman glanced at the clock, realizing that the West Coast-based Yoo was surely up by now and would be pestering him soon with a phone call. Why did these ideologues take credit for these memos anyway?! If they had given Atticus Hawk the credit he deserved, there would have been a low-level attorney fired at the Justice Department, and that would have been the end of it!

Back at the Federal Reserve Board, the Italian economist was finishing up Wu's tour of precious pantings, Greek sculpture, currency displays, marble hallways, wood-paneled elevators, and gleaming golden bathroom doors. They were sipping hot coffee from the man's personal cappuccino machine while taking in the panoramic view of the Mall on the (chilly) wrap-around balcony. "We are sitting pretty here, no?" asked the Italian. Wu nodded, but the Chinese triple agent couldn't disagree more. An Australian cookaburra alit on a table and cocked her head inquisitively at the two men, tired and perplexed since her accidental escape from the National Zoo and subsequent flight from a ravenous hawk. High above them, a raven watched with unease at the trio--who were all out of place there.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Weather Forecast: Flurries With a Chance of Justice

Washington Water Woman is on a special assignment, but will return to "Washington Horror Blog" as soon as possible.

In the meantime, she wanted to let her regular readers know that Justice Department attorney Atticus Hawk has completed the first stage of his assignment regarding possible criminal charges for CIA torturers, and has dodged the first (rather enormous) bullet:

Associated Press -- "DOJ: No misconduct for Bush interrogation lawyers", by Matt Apuzzo, 02.20.10, 12:08 AM EST


(But Hawk's story is far from over!)

Thursday, February 11, 2010

A Lead Role in a Cage

Your sweeter necklace will have the loving ground.

Ours produced maddening, widening, pointed coloring that flipped.

Coldly snowing, the dude ranch roughest light spilled and passed.

Social worker Hue Nguyen was reading over Melinda's shoulder again. Nguyen was growing increasingly concerned about Melinda's non-stop "channeling" (as Melinda put it)--not because of the nonsensical nature of the musings (after all, Snowpocalypse was giving everybody cabin fever), but rather because Melinda was writing every word using a Q-tip dipped in ketchup. A pile of ketchup-inscribed newspapers were already at her feet, and still she continued. Melinda's biggest fan was that instigator Brother Divine of the International Peace Movement, who had been working tirelessly to turn the Arlington Group Home for the Mentally Challenged into his own private cult for months. Dr. Leo Schwartz had assured Nguyen that it was both common and therapeutic for psychiatric patients to write in blood-like substances, but Dr. Schwartz was not with them day in and day out (and had not made a single visit in a whole week now). Then there was Cedric to worry about: he had rigged up a discarded TV antenna to his birding binoculars and was constantly surveilling the snow drifts for spies that might be tunneling into their house. He went from window to window in a clockwise circuit, first on the top floor, then on the ground floor, with no regard for whether the window was in a private bedroom, occupied bathroom, or the social worker's office. He repeated his circuit at the top of every hour, and had been doing so for 48 hours except for the five hours each night that Nguyen had been able to force him to sleep by drugging his evening glass of carrot juice. Brother Divine had twisted four metal hangers together to resemble a shepherd's crook and was standing sentinel in a brown velour bathrobe, the big brown dog Millie seated at his feet. Nguyen patted the dog on the head and returned to her office to jot down some notes.

Back in Washington, Charles Wu was packing up his suitcase to check out of the Hotel Monaco--where he had been holed up since Tuesday afternoon, unwilling to be trapped by bad weather in his apartment building. He had rushed back from the Caribbean to Washington to discuss the plan for launching Project R.O.D.H.A.M. - Turkey, only to find all his State Department meetings cancelled and another blizzard bearing down on the region. Despite paying for boxes and boxes of wine to flow, there had been a decided lack of debauchery and altogether too much staring-across-the-room from odd barfly Henry Samuelson, who had just happened to have the same idea of holing up at Hotel Monaco. Wu could swear that he had sent one whole box of wine bottle-by-bottle just to Samuelson's table, and still the man had never passed out or gotten up to return to his room and sleep. (Samuelson was adept at sipping drinks slowly and sticking bottles into his large briefcase.) Wu had enjoyed his one tryst, but, still, it had hardly been worth leaving home for two days. He left the maid a hundred-dollar bill under the soap dish, turned out the lights, and left.

Over in upper Georgetown, Judge Sowell Lame was finding it increasingly difficult to avoid working on the stack of papers he had brought home to examine while snowed in. He had taken the snowblower out multiple times already (had cleared the sidewalks on his entire block, in fact), baked up the wheat germ muffin mix his niece had given him for Christmas (odd girl), cleaned his furnace, caught up on "Damages" and law journals (the former with diligent attention, the latter not so much), endured a tedious two hours playing chess with his next door neighbor, fell asleep watching "The French Connection" (did not even hear the infamous "you can't trust a nigger" line), discovered three new online dating sites, and spent several hours in the A&E "Hoarders" chat room. He sat down at his desk and opened up his briefcase. You cannot seriously return to court without having written at least three orders. (Goodness knows he had sent his clerks home with a pile of assignments.) It's either this or accept that divorcee's invitation to lunch, and you know she's going to try to get you into the hot tub again, and if you go twice, forget it. He picked up the first file. What on Earth? He was incredulous that the Old Dominion Boat Club case had found its way back to him. There was a one-page memo from his senior law clerk attached; he scanned quickly down to the last sentence hoping to read "dismiss on the basis of ________" but instead found a recommendation to set another oral hearing. [Groan.] Lame turned the file over and picked up the next one: Southwest Plaza Tenants Association v. --. [Groan.] Not them again. He scanned the memo from his junior law clerk down to the last sentence: "dismiss on the basis of lack of standing". Hmmm. Seems a little late in the game for the defendants to be making that motion. He returned to the top of the page and started reading the memo from the start, a smile slowly spreading across his face. I like this law clerk. He swiveled his chair and fired up his home computer to type up the holding that the court had decided sua sponte to dismiss for lack of proof that the plaintiffs really represented a tenant association. After two years in litigation, the defendants will be as surprised as the plaintiffs to read this one! Hovering in the corner, his house ghosts giggled at this banal exercise of evil against unseen victims, and Lame felt a sudden shiver run down his spine.

Back at Hotel Monaco, his junior law clerk was checking out at the front desk, where he was irritated to discover that the hotel clerk did not have change for his five-hundred dollar bill. If I can't launder bribe money at a hotel on M Street, then where can I? Wu (who had checked out with a credit card using his room television service) stifled a chuckle at the young amateur as he walked past to request a taxi over to Prince and Prowling, where former Senator Evermore Breadman was already back in his office.

Over at Prince and Prowling, Breadman was reveling in freedom after 48 hours trapped in a suburban house with his wife. He was so giddy with relief that he almost did not mind having to work on a second stage of damage control for former and again current client televangelist Pat Robertson--recently fingered by the former Liberian president and war crimes defendant Charles Taylor for being granted a gold mine concession in exchange for lobbying the Bush Administration on Taylor's behalf. Sadly, critics, investigative journalists, bloggers and other pests were refusing to buy their initial attempt at damage control: "This concession was granted by the Liberian government to promote economic activity and alleviate the suffering of the people of Liberia following a terrible civil war....Freedom Gold accomplished this by employing some 200 Liberians in addition to providing humanitarian efforts, including free medical care and installation of clean water wells for area residents." You would think people would be more inclined to believe Taylor is lying--not my client! He was looking forward to Wu's visit; Wu had become like the son he never had. (Breadman actually had two sons, but one had joined the Marines and died in the first invasion of Iraq, while the other was wasting his medical career serving in Doctors Without Borders, so Wu was really like the son he never had.)

A few floors down, Laura Moreno (who had trudged through two miles of snow to get to the office because she would only get paid for showing up, since she was not allowed to telecommute like every other attorney at Prince and Prowling) was preparing the Sweat Shop for the next wave of contract attorneys being rounded up to make up for days of lost billable hours. She found a Pink Floyd CD that had fallen down behind a pile of discarded instruction manuals, wiped the dust off on her pants, and stuck it into a CD player. She continued her toil, pausing only at "Did you trade a walk-on part in the war for a lead role in a cage?" If she had turned around, she would have seen a curious first year associate peeking in from the hallway, viewing her like an exhibit at a museum for a few moments before rushing off to score brownie points with former Senator Evermore Breadman.

Nearby, the denizens of Urine Park (home of the yellowest snow in the city) were trying to get back to normal, even though nobody in Washington had any idea what "normal" was, and even the thickest blanket of snow could not purify this town. A flock of sparrows sang half-heartedly from the bushes, uncertain where to look for food next but ever hopeful. High in a tree branch, a catbird began imitating the menacing sound of a snow plow, and the branch swayed from the vibration of his booming voice; someday when he had more practice, he hoped to imitate the voice of Ardua herself.

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Snow Scenes

The Assistant Deputy Administrator for Hope was in the Secretary of State's office, looking out the window at the endless snowstorm that had marooned him here for the weekend. He was sipping instant soup he had purchased from a vending machine, picturing his girlfriend out playing in the snow with her adopted daughter. He had heard the incredulity in Eva Brown's voice when he had told her he had too much work to do and would have to spend the weekend here, but it was the truth. He turned away from the window and wandered around the large office, admiring the photos hanging on the walls and enjoying the unusual tranquility of the space. Then his cellphone rang, and he turned his cricked spine and stiff legs back in the direction of his windowless office. "Yes, Madam Secretary. I did locate Charles Wu: he's in the Caribbean flying supplies from Bahamas Methodist Habitat into Haiti....Hmmm?...Yes, he's piloting an A36 Bonanza....No, I didn't know he could fly planes....Well, we didn't have much time to chat--he's very busy, back and forth between Florida, the Bahamas, Haiti....Actually he said it was your husband who got him hooked up with the Methodists." (In truth, Charles Wu had found the amount of "hooking up" with the Methodist ladies to be exceedingly disappointing, but he could not pass up an opportunity to escape a Washington blizzard and score points with the Clintons at the same time.) The Administrator assured Secretary Clinton that Wu would meet with them as soon as he returned to Washington, then got off the phone and sat back down at his desk to work on launch plans for Project R.O.D.H.A.M. - Turkey. He glanced up at the photo that Secretary Clinton had given him of the hole where the 16-year-old girl had been buried alive by her own father for talking to boys, and the word Clinton had scrawled across the top: "ENOUGH". It was time to bring the wrath of Project R.O.D.H.A.M. into Turkey. If only Eva and I could work on this together.

Several miles away in Maryland, Justice Department attorney Atticus Hawk was doing his third pass at shoveling snow outside his girlfriend's house, dreaming about flying to the Bahamas...or Montserrat...or Aruba. Jai Alai's son was "helping", which mostly meant he was carrying a tiny shovel in his hand as he ran around gleefully in the winter wonderland. We could have been in Florida by now...or further south. Hawk had chickened out of asking Jai Alai to elope and run away from Washington. Then he had chickened out of meeting with the U.S. Attorney to spill what he knew about Justice Department tampering in the investigation of alleged CIA crimes during terrorist interrogations during the Bush Administration (in a bid to get him and his girlfriend into the Witness Protection Program). He caught a glimpse of Jai Alai waving from the living room window before she turned back to the hot lunch she was cooking for her "boys". I need to do right by her. "Atticus!" He turned to the boy's call and caught a snowball in the face, dropped his shovel, and chased down the laughing boy--forgetting for the moment (but only a moment) his past as the Justice Department's torture specialist.

Over in Silver Spring, Liv Cigemeier's husband was also out in the snow--not because he needed to shovel outside their apartment building, but because his wife was craving potato chips and onion dip. He trudged cheerfully through the mounds of snow quickly soaking his blue jeans, a smile on his face despite repeated failures at store after store: Liv was pregnant! (And the sad memories of baby Zeke were fading into the distance.)

Back in Washington, Lynnette Wong walked outside her Chinatown herb shop to make another pass at clearing her sidewalk. She was determined to stay open: every sale she made brought her closer to her goal of being able to buy back control of her store from Charles Wu. (Not that he had done anything REMOTELY intrusive, or even demanded a penny back in profit. She knew he was doing this as some sort of a tax scheme or worse.) She looked up and down the block, saw half a dozen pedestrians at most, shivered and went back inside. She straightened up the makeshift table and chairs where she had served prepared tea for two separate couples out for romantic strolls this morning. (No danger of being busted for lack of restaurant license today!) She had also sold three plastic crate lids as sleds to a bunch of hockey fans who had spent the night at the Verizon Center after being unable to head back out to Fairfax County after the game last night. Who am I kidding? She returned to her stool behind the counter. I'm never going to be able to buy him back out. Then a man walked in looking for something to help his wife's migraine, and she briefly remembered why she was in the business, after all.

Over on R Street NE, Angela de la Paz and her mother were making a snowman at the CarbonfreeDC community snowball fight. Angela was proud of her mother--who had gotten only one answer wrong on her written test last week to become a U.S. Census Bureau worker. It had taken awhile for Angela's long missing mother to put together adequate identity papers just to sit for the exam, but when she finally did, it was alright! Angela was amazed to hear that the room had been full of people of all ages and backgrounds, some that even looked like doctors and lawyers! Two of the test-takers had already failed the test once, and had been frantically doing practice questions right up until the moment the timed test began. Angela was crossing her fingers that her mother could get this job--which required no job history, only a good criminal record. The Warrior and abuela and Dr. Raj were all cautioning her not to put too much hope in her mother's ability to take care of herself, let alone set up a real home for Angela, but Angela could not help but feel hopeful on a day like this. The whole city was bathed in the thickest, whitest blanket of snow she had ever seen! All these people had come to this place, just to throw snowballs and play like children with complete strangers. People they didn't even know had handed out hot chocolate and snacks. It was the first time in a long time that Angela felt there was more good in the city than bad.

Over at the White House, the White House ghosts were feeling it, too; hope. But they knew it would fade quickly; the ghosts had been around a long time and knew that the living had weaker principles and stronger fears every year. They were hovering near the Rahm Emanuel wannabe, who was drafting a memo regarding Sarah Palin's recent call for Emanuel to be fired for using the word "retarded". "Citizens with Down's Syndrome are a joyful and integral component of the fabric making up our society. It is Sarah Palin herself who is completely retarded in that her intellectual and political formation are arrested at the level of a six-year-old." The wannabe smiled to himself, and the ghosts nodded in approval: vicious.

Out in the back yard, the Secret Service paced in chilly irritation, children and boogeymen on their minds. Sasha and Malia were working on their snow woman in near silence--all the birds huddled out of sight under the bushes, no helicopters in the sky, nothing but the occasional bark of a dog and giggle of a preschooler to tell them that Reggie and Fergie were throwing snowballs at Bo nearby.

Over in the Potomac, Ardua knew it was an historic day for the humans--who measured their lives by strange things like snow drifts--but Ardua wanted to make history in her own way.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Silence of the Ducks

"Alright, here's the budget statement. Any questions? Good. The next page shows the fee increase. Alright, we have a quorum and will do the election now."

Charles Wu raised his hand to ask about the budget statement. (This was supposed to be a meeting for condo owners only, but it was a large building, so nobody actually knew he was not a condo owner. Besides, he was thinking about buying....)

(Troublemaker?) "We're already past that on the agenda," said Samuelson.

Wu chuckled in his deep-throated way that the ladies loved. "Surely you have a minute to explain this $6,000 roof repair that was not covered under the roof warranty?" (Wu was constantly amazed that Americans had so much trouble keeping water out of their buildings--the Chinese had been doing it for 3,000 years.)

Samuelson was not disarmed by Wu's exotic good looks (half Chinese? Polynesian?), his command of the Queen's English (British upper crust?), or his finely tailored suit (Hugo Boss? Giorgio Armani?): it was that she was sure she had seen him somewhere peculiar outside this building, but she couldn't put her finger on it. She was also in a hurry to finish the meeting quickly to get home before the snow. (Not to mention her boss's constant admonition that condo association meetings must never be hijacked by owners.) "I don't remember. I don't have that with me." A couple condo owners asked the board members about the roof repairs, but they also said they didn't remember.

"Why are there no rules and regulations promulgated for this building?" It was Wu again: he was fed up with people's petty complaints against him ("he practices rappelling up and down from his balcony every Saturday", "he does tai chi on the roof in ballet tights", "nobody would have that many young women coming and going unless he was running a call girl service"), and was constantly arguing with Caljohn Management that he could not be in violation of any rule that wasn't promulgated.

Several owners then started arguing about the relative merits of having or not having rules and regulations. "Who's gonna enforce them?" the vice-president of the board said. (She didn't live in the building and could care less.) Another owner reminded her that two people had been working on draft rules and regulations for a year. "That wasn't a priority for us this year," the vice-president replied. ("I KNOW it wasn't a priority for YOU!")

Voices were rising, and now people were asking about delayed repairs that were promised a long time ago--including the lobby stairs which had been discussed at last year's annual meeting, and remained unrepaired in plain view of the assembly. "Those are all good questions!" interjected Samuelson, who was getting desperate. "The new board will work on those questions immediately." ("What new board?") "The board members are all running for reelection. Is anybody else interested in running? Alright, then there's no need to count votes. That concludes--"

"Excuse me!" said Wu, who was finding this a hilarious example of so-called American democracy in action. "I think that gentleman has some interesting ideas." (He pointed to a fidgety man wearing tan corduroys and an olive sweater.) "Perhaps he would like to run?" Wu smiled encouragingly at the timid fellow.

"Well," said the secretary of the board. "I don't need to stay on the board. I got married last year (applause from the people who did not know this was her fourth marriage), and I won't be here more than another year, so if somebody else wants to run, that's fine! But let's move things along because my heroic husband is heading to Haiti tomorrow, and I want to have se--I mean, I want to spend some time with him this evening!"


A couple of people were mumbling, and one looked like she was going to raise her hand, but Samuelson had seen enough. "Alright, the current board is reelected. Meeting adjourned." Then Wu winked at her, and she dropped her clipboard.

Golden Fawn Vazquez (who had stumbled upon the meeting by accident after her realtor showed her a unit in the building) looked around in amazement. She had thought she might find some good condo possibilities before her (truly heroic) Coast Guard officer returned from Haiti, but she was starting to think maybe she and her husband should look for a house instead. A shiver ran down her spine. Could this building have a real estate demon, too?

Several miles away, Dizzy put away his trumpet for the evening and contemplated the snowstorm menacing Lafayette Park. Can't go to the Shelter. Hate the shelter. Some do-gooders were near the Polack's statue, handing out sandwiches and cups of soup, but the vittles came with a sermon about seeking shelter tonight. Dizzy closed his eyes, stretched out his hands, and commanded his magic carpet to arrive. A minute later, he opened his eyes, but only saw ducks pecking at crumbs in the grass. "It's your fault!" he screamed. The ducks said nothing, because they knew it was true.