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 ....

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Hot and Cold

Business was slow in Chinatown because of the weather, so Lynnette Wong and her protege, Mia, were packing up hot cups of herbal tea to pass out in McPherson Square. Mia had chosen all the herbs herself--something for the pancreas, something for the intestines, something for the lungs, something for chi and general circulation, and cinnamon for flavor--and Wong had nodded approvingly at the choices. Mia was very good at reading English now, and had been reading many stories about Occupy Wall Street and Occupy DC. She had even read that Occupy was happening in her home country. It was her idea to close the store this afternoon when it was clear that foot traffic outside the herb shop was next-to-nothing. Wong had suggested going to a movie at Gallery Place, but Mia had asked if they could do something for the protesters first, so here they were, bundling up with rain ponchos and heading out with 100 cups of herbal tea. It was co-owner Charles Wu's idea to sell hot tea in carry-out cups, and even if he would not have approved of giving out that much free product, maybe he would be pleased that the shop's logo would be on major display in the K Street corridor.

A few miles to the west, the Heurich Society was also talking about Occupy DC, but their idea for free handouts in McPherson Square involved cyanide-laced brownies. Though half of the members were fairly certain that this suggestion was a joke, for the benefit of the other half, the chair stressed that the protesters were small fry and not worth any effort. "Peaceful protests are a dime a dozen in this town. We've got bigger issues to deal with." "Project Cinderella" had been redeployed to Libya to safeguard the Heurich Society's petroleum interests there, but they were worried that Angela de la Paz could not be counted on to do their bidding. ("You promised us a lethal Angelina Jolie type, and instead we've got a goddam feminist out there, always complaining about somebody's rights being trampled somewhere. It's irritating!") Henry Samuelson assured the others that their assassin would deliver what they needed in Libya, but everybody needed a hobby, and her hobby was no big deal. ("No big deal? She's supposed to be infiltrating Project R.O.D.H.A.M., but she's become their patron saint!") Samuelson clenched his teeth and told them they were all being ridiculous--Project Cinderella was doing just fine, but that was more than he could say about Project Occupy. And with that he had shot a glaring look at the Project Occupy Subcommittee chair, who did not yet have his action plan ready. "Yes," said the Heurich Society chairman, clearing his throat. "Perhaps we need to put more people on the Project Occupy Subcommittee?" Samuelson rolled his eyes in disgust, resolving to work on the problem himself--like he did when he was in the CIA; he picked up another doughnut and listened to the cold rain rattle the old windows of the Brewmaster's castle.

Back to the east, Atticus Hawk was also chewing on a doughnut and pondering the wisdom of giving institutional cover to policies that were better left to one-man operations, the way the CIA did it. Here he was at his Justice Department desk with another weekend ruined by another blabbermouth from Guantanamo. This time it was Brandon Neely, a former military police officer--not only was he blabbing to CNN and other reporters about detainee abuse, he was claiming to have visited former prisoners now living in London! And it was Hawk who was supposed to build the case for indicting Neely on the grounds that he had violated his Guantanamo non-disclosure agreement. How am I supposed to argue simultaneously that what Neely described never actually happened at Guantanamo, while also arguing he should be indicted for telling what actually happened at Guantanamo? He had already asked his boss this, but his boss had simply said, "Hawk, that's why we pay you the big bucks," and then snorted at his own joke and exited Hawk's office. He logged onto Facebook to see how many other Guantanamo alumni had friended Brandon Neely. Maybe we can throw you into a Guantanamo cell, Brandon Neely.

Over in McPherson Square, Perry Winkle had brought along some teenagers on another Urban Guerrilla Field Trip. Washington Post "Metro" reporter Winkle had already written three articles about Occupy DC, but today's article would be about the teenagers' interactions with the protesters. He was amazed that seven teens had actually shown up in this horrific weather, but they were truly inspired by his promise that today was the day to find the true-blue, hard-core protesters who were there for the long haul. "Let's start here," Winkle said, pointing to a known Iraqi War veteran's tent. "Why don't you ask him some questions." The veteran came out with a rain poncho on and asked where the camera was. "This is just a print story, sir," said Winkle, as the teens struggled to hold their steno pads under their umbrellas. The veteran sighed, and nodded for the kids to start.

On the opposite corner of McPherson Square, television reporter Holly Gonightly had already interviewed five people--all duly rewarded with croissants and hot cups of Au Bon Pain soup paid for from her expense account. Gonightly was wearing a bright magenta rain poncho that photographed well in the gray light; it also hid the curves that made her a little Too Fat For Television, so she was confident she would have a lot of air time tonight with her impressive reporting on impressive people in the impressive sleet. Then she spotted Lynnette Wong arrive with Mia, the mysterious young girl found having a heat stroke outside Congressman Herrmark's house. "C'mon!" she signaled her shivering cameraman as she headed towards the two and caught them by surprise. "I see you're handing out beverages," said Gonightly, as Mia looked up in surprise and Wong looked up in annoyance. "These are from your herb shop in Chinatown," Gonightly said, signaling the cameraman to do a close-up on the cup logo. "What are you handing out for the protesters here, and what made you decide to come down and do it?"

"Just hot tea," said Wong, ignoring the second part of the question.

"You're not from here, are you?" asked Gonightly.

"Taiwan," said Wong, without another word.

"And you?" asked Gonightly, approaching Mia.

"China," said Mia. (This was the lie that Charles Wu had created for her, but she was cold and uncomfortable and did not feel like testing her lying face right now, so that was all she said.)

"Mainland China?" asked Gonightly, and Mia nodded. "But you're from Taiwan?" asked Gonightly, turning again to Wong. "How did you two meet?"

"In Chinatown," said Wong, and this was not a lie, and this was all she offered.

"And what made you decide to bring this tea for the protesters today?"

"We should help each other," said Mia, in surprisingly good English and a more relaxed manner. She was not as skinny and nervous as the first time Gonightly had seen her, and she was now looking at the reporter with calm and poise.

Gonightly turned back to the camera. "People should help each other! That's the word from Occupy DC today. This is Holly Gonightly reporting from McPherson Square."

Above the trees, the White House ghosts chatted in confusion with The Shackled, nobody certain what was really happening with these people or their souls--nobody except the pink warblers, which sang loudly to scare away the starlings and catbirds.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

The Other River

Atticus Hawk pushed his kayak out from the dock of Bladensburg Waterfront Park. It was cloudy and chilly, but he was probably only going to get in a few more weekends before winter really set in, so he was glad it was not raining. The Anacostia was a filthy little river, and everybody knew it, but it was peaceful, and if you flipped your kayak, the water was only about five feet deep. He would see egrets, herons, mallards, flocks of gulls, and turtle nuclear families (mother/father/baby on a log). And the trees were nice. And there were no power boats or cruise ships or yachts. (And boating on the Potomac also seemed dangerous in some other way he could never quite put his finger on.) It was tiresome to be reminded by the Anacostia Watershed Society that donations would help pay for more wetlands restoration, but coming here was now a habit, so he let the Combined Federal Campaign take $10/month out of his Justice Department paycheck. As he rounded the first bend, he was surprised to see two brown pelicans near the shore. Hmmm, maybe the wetlands restoration is really working.

"Oh, God!" It was a human head in the water, which was bad enough, but then it turned around with its dead eyes staring right at Hawk, who screamed loudly. Then a hand came out of the water and waved at him, and Hawk screamed again.

"Please stop screaming," said Charles Wu in a smooth, British, Hong Kong accent that did not sound like a dead zombie. (Wu was over six feet tall, so the water came up to his neck--that's why only his head was visible.)

"You scared the hell out of me!" protested Hawk.

"Yes, I'm sorry about that! I'm doing underwater power-walking: it aerobicizes every muscle in the body."

"Buddy, this river is full of decades of toxic pollution--you shouldn't be in it!" exclaimed Hawk.

"Oh, I am fortunate enough to possess an unusually vibrant immune system," answered Wu. (And astronomical levels of chi.) "And the wet suit keeps out most of it. You know, you can get really close to the wildlife like this!" (Hawk just shook his head in amazement.) "It is getting colder, though. I'll probably try some paddle surfing in November."

"Okey-dokey," said Hawk, who politely waved goodbye and paddled ahead. ("Whack job.") Soon Hawk was paddling past the small pier of the National Arboretum, where three row boats and a canoe were tethered. A small group of people all dressed in white were conducting a ceremony. (The presider was Becky Hartley, who put on pet weddings to raise money for Sebastian L'Arche's animal-whispering and demon-fighting services.) At the center of the group was a pair of pot-bellied pigs; one was in a white tuxedo, and the other had a white veil stretching from her head to her pigtail. ("Whack jobs.") Then Hawk noticed television reporter Holly Gonightly standing twenty feet to the left, talking to the camera. ("That girl does good stories, but she is too-fat-for-television.")

Hawk paddled on, his mind now completely forgetting everything that stressed him out about being the Justice Department's torture expert. He paddled past Kingman Island, where five canoes had been pulled up onto the swampy shore. He could (barely) see several men in green camouflage outfits walking in single file down the center of the narrow island. (It was the Hunter-Gather Society.) Hawk saw the leader throw up his arms to halt his followers. (It was Glenn Michael Beckmann.) Then the leader motioned his followers to fan out to his right and left. Hawk stopped paddling when he saw them all raise rifles to their shoulders. (They were bb guns.) Hawk tried to figure out what they were aiming at, and then he saw it: the osprey nesting platform built by the schoolchildren. ("Oh, my God! There's an osprey there!") (It wasn't actually an osprey, but Hawk knew it was an osprey nesting platform built by schoolchildren, and he was too far away to see what it really was.) Then an arrow came out of nowhere and whizzed past the huge bird, which bolted the nest and flew away. (It was The Warrior who had shot the warning arrow to scare away the bald eagle.) The Hunter-Gatherer society cursed loudly and turned to see who had shot the arrow from nearby Heritage Island, but all they could see was marsh. (The Warrior was lying flat on his stomach now.) The leader signalled his followers to cross the inlet and search Heritage Island for the interloper, but none of them wanted to get wet. As Hawk saw them turning around to head back to their canoes, he realized he better make himself scarce. (He didn't even have his cellphone with him, let alone a weapon!)

Hawk paddled quickly forward, trying to get to the Anacostia Park Boat Ramp where there might be other people. (He didn't know the Hunter-Gatherer Society was only using bb guns today.) His heart was pounding until he saw a group of people putting in two large canoes. ("Good, strength in numbers.") He thought about asking if any of them had a cellphone, but then he wasn't really sure you could call 911 about men hunting on Kingman Island. ("Is it even illegal?") He decided to let the matter drop, since the bird had gotten away and the hunters were not going after the mystery guy. He smiled and waved at the group now in their canoes--all women! ("Now it's my lucky day!") But he found something about the group strange. For one thing, they all had the exact same color hair, except for two older women with white hair: it was a natural auburn color, and they all had it exactly the same. And none of them waved back--in fact they all seemed to be deliberately turning their faces away from him so he could not see them at all. ("What the --? They're not Muslims with face veils on! They're not Amish. They can't even look at me?") He gave up and paddled quickly past them. ("Whack jobs.") Then it occurred to him that they might be mates for that bunch of hunters back on Kingman Island.

But that's not what they were at all. The two white-haired women whispered reassuringly to their younger selves, and they relaxed as the man's kayak receded. It was always a little nerve-wracking when they all went out together as one group, but sometimes they just really wanted to do something together. The eldest was 70, and she was the original. Every ten years on her birthday, she woke up with a new clone in her bed, and that clone never again aged. The first clone was still ten years old, the second clone was still twenty years old, and so on. They were all the same and yet different. The older ones could understand anybody younger, but the younger ones were still in awe of the older ones. Their mother blamed it all on "Ardua of the Potomac", but she had never given a real explanation of it--not even on her death bed at 99. All she had ever told them was to stick with the Anacostia River, no matter what people said about it, and stay away from the Potomac.

But Ardua of the Potomac was a grand old demon now, and she could stretch her tentacles into the Anacostia whenever she felt like it. (Of course, that wasn't very often because to her it was scarcely more than a stream or creek, and going that way was just going further from the humanity she liked to feed on in Washington!)

Back at the osprey nesting platform, the bald eagle had returned, and she was going to be there awhile.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Survival of the Fittest

Wolfgang Prowling, the 98-year-old retired partner of Prince and Prowling, entered the office building in his $25,000 motorized wheelchair after flying up from Florida in a Koch Industries private jet. He was accompanied by Chloe Cleavage, who was trying to control the stomach heaves and surging vomit caused by the sight of centimeters of hair sticking out of the man's nostrils. She swiped her fob at the elevator control panel and pressed the button for the penthouse floor. She was fairly certain that a man who smelled like baby wipes was not going to be able to take charge of Operation Koch, but after The Washington Post published a full-page article calling for the Justice Department to investigate Koch Industries under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, the Koch brothers had howled for Prince and Prowling to restore the status quo ante. (However, half of Prince and Prowling's clients were under FCPA investigation at any given time, so Cleavage suspected this was more about Iran.) She led Prowling towards the office of former Senator Evermore Breadman, where they found him out in the hallway rearranging the photos on his Wall of Me to replace the president of Bank of America with the president of Suntrust. (It seemed he was out here changing his photos nearly every day now.) "BREADMAN!" hollered the retired partner, with a lot more force than Cleavage had thought possible. (And she had never heard anybody call Breadman anything but "Senator" before.) She whispered to Breadman she would be in the war room, and the two men disappeared into Breadman's office. The last thing she heard was: "You told them NOBODY would ever know about Iran! The goddam article said the Koch brothers were doing business with the AXIS OF EVIL!"

Cleavage ran down the hallway as fast as she could, but she had to stop well short of the ladies room and vomit into a wastepaper basket. (How could anybody let hair grow out of his nose like that?! Doesn't he have private nurses to take care of things like that?!) She fled to the ladies room to wipe her face and hit the mouthwash, finally making it back to the war room a quarter hour later, where Bridezilla (dressed in bicycle pants and a Gatorade sweatshirt) was mapping out the lobbying strategy for Operation Koch. (Bridezilla's personal trainer, Armando, was at the end of the table, measuring out creatine and ribose powder for his client's mid-day smoothie. He nodded politely, trying to hide his disdain of Cleavage and her new push-up bra; he had added two inches to Bridezilla's bust through pectoral muscle development!) On the other side of the table, Laura Moreno sat uncomfortably in between Bridezilla and Prince and Prowling's most sullen young partner, Cigemeier. (It was rare for Moreno to be tapped for political or public relations projects, but Cigemeier had found out she could read three foreign languages, so they were going to need her.) Cleavage sat down next to Armando, admiring his clear, flared nostrils...among other things.

Not far away, the Camelot Society was seated at the Federal Reserve round table for a war council of their own. Out in the streets, liberals were calling for Timothy Geithner's head, while conservatives were calling for Ben Bernanke's. The news reporting was actually revealing--much to FRB's surprise--that the Occupy Wall Street mob was actually a well-educated bunch of people with well-articulated grievances. Smoke and mirrors weren't working anymore, nor were bread and circuses. Gross wealth disparity in the country was one statistical fact that even climate science deniers could not find a way to dispute. People were asking why money couldn't be delivered directly to the people who needed it, rather than the banks, and it was getting harder for politicians to give them a satisfactory answer. Luciano Talaverdi knew two of his own relatives had been arrested in violent protests in Rome, and a deep sense of dread had settled all over him. "Everything this data predicted has come true," said Obi Wan woman, opening the meeting with a reference to the Project Eliminati data they had been fed by Charles Wu a year ago. "Congress is paralyzed and will remain so for at least another year. Our country needs us. We can't let it down."

A few miles to the north, the Heurich Society was also sensing that business as usual was vaporizing. World population was approaching seven billion, and very few of them were content. Henry Samuelson chewed his chocolate glazed doughnut in silence, waiting for the others to finish reading his report on the secret underground reservoir built beneath his house in Kansas, which had already diverted and captured ten percent of the dwindling Ogallah aquifer waters--which they all knew would be worth more than petroleum before the century was out, perhaps before the decade was out. "But how can we sell it?" asked the Chair.

"Sell it?!" exclaimed Samuelson. "We're going to need it for ourselves, for our offspring!"

"He's right," said Condoleezza Rice in a crackling voice over the speaker phone. (It was extremely rare for Rice and Samuelson to agree on anything, and this generated a sense of deep anxiety in the room.) "If the ship of state can no longer be steered, we need to build our own lifeboat. And it's not about sustainability," she said, taking a backhand swipe at the initiatives launched by Mayor Gray and other mayors around the country. "It's about survival of the fittest."

Several miles to the south, Glenn Michael Beckmann was also putting together some survival supplies. His Enemies had infiltrated the management of Southwest Plaza, which had spray-painted his bathtub in a covert operation poorly disguised as "bathtub reglazing". He had an orange warning page of things he was NOT supposed to do in his bathtub--for the NEXT 90 DAYS!--as well as instructions for how he was supposed to clean it. Chemical fumes were making his eyes burn, despite having the air conditioning running and the windows wide open. And he knew EXACTLY whom to blame! When his backpack was ready, he sat down for a few more minutes to explain on his blog what had happened: he had clicked on one of the "encountered an error, had to shut down the program, do you wish to send an error report?" messages, and it had obviously gone straight to the National Security Agency! Now they knew where he lived and were trying to poison him to death and make it look like an accident! He published his latest blog entry, shut down the computer, and fled the gas chamber into the brilliant sunshine outside. Maybe I should camp out with the Occupy DC people? However, the first stop on his agenda was to check out the agitators gathered for the Martin Luther King memorial dedication.

Over at the MLK memorial dedication, Sebastian L'Arche watched from a distance as President Obama spoke about civil rights. He pictured the words like cartoon captions written in white clouds that floated over the crowd, then disappeared on the horizon. He had seen those clouds before, heard those words before--but only a few would actually fall down and take root. The dogs on his leashes growled softly at the unseen demon crouching low in the river, Ardua of the Potomac, and he squatted down to pet them and whisper that everything was going to be OK.

Sunday, October 09, 2011

The Diary of Washington Water Woman

When there's just a little peanut butter left in the jar, you can pour some milk in and close the jar and shake it up, and it's like a peanut butter milkshake. Tonight I added a little cereal and called it dinner. This is because my brain has collapsed after a miserable workweek and overly busy weekend. I have only enough synapses still firing to call my niece and wish her a happy birthday, and then my to-do list will finally be complete and I can go to bed. Then next weekend I can return to writing about Washington horrors instead of just living them.

Until then, ponder the horror which is the members of a certain political party in the U.S. Senate who are trying to kill the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau by refusing to vote on President Obama's nominee:


Sunday, October 02, 2011


It was cold and damp in Dupont Down Under as Fearless Leader passed out lunch scraps to his flock of freaks. "Thank you, Lord, for the relentless, cleansing rains which washed away the last of the Hunter-Gatherer Society remnants from our humble abode." (He didn't thank the Lord specifically for the increased number of rats, millipedes, worms, and mildew spores, but everybody understood that these were their defense against the likes of the Hunter-Gatherer Society and other invaders.) "And now our guest speaker."

"Ahem," said John Doe, a former corporate attorney with brain-damage-induced amnesia and epilepsy, who now believed (incorrectly) he was an autistic mystic shaman. "Ahem." The sewerage and sewage smells were overpowering, and he feared they would trigger an epileptic attack...though maybe that would work to his advantage. "Seven-hundred of our brethren have been arrested by The Pigs in New York City because they stood up to The Man." (Applause.) "We have seen Occupy Wall Street. We have seen Occupy San Francisco. We have seen Occupy Los Angeles. We have seen Occupy Boston" (He decided not to mention Occupy Albuquerque and the other silly little satellites.) "Now, we have begun Occupy DC!" ("We have?") "YES!" (Applause.) "The Lamestream Media may not be on top of it, but hundreds of brave souls braved the cold and the rain to bravely make a brave stand in McPherson Square against the K Street mafia pimps in bed with Wall Street drug dealers." (Applause.) "Are you ready to join us?" (Silence.) John Doe looked to Fearless Leader for assistance.

"The thing is, John, we have plenty of cold and damp down here. When we take a break, it's usually for something warm and dry...like a library or a Denny's." ("Denny's? When did we go to Denny's? Where's Denny's?")

"Don't you understand!" pleaded John Doe. "Class warfare has finally begun! Greek civilization is fighting back the German threat! Obama is seeking the Buffett rule! There are five Facebook pages devoted to assasination plots for the Supreme Court justices! Wall Street is scared! Politicians are scared! This is our moment to take back K Street for The People!" ("K Street has a Burger King.") "This is not about food!" (Silence.)

"Everything is about food, John," said Fearless Leader.

John Doe sighed. "OK, I'll buy lunch at Burger King for everybody who comes." ("Hooray!") He started making his way to the exit, no longer caring how many of these smelly subterranean leeches followed him out, when his temporal lobe cross-fired, short-circuited, and flipped out. He fell into a trance--tugging at his ears, rolling his eyes, and moaning about K Street and the leeches. Fearless Leader stared in awe at the mystic prophet and vowed to himself to rally the freaks behind him.

A hundred feet above them, Holly Gonightly waited patiently with her camera crew to see if John Doe would emerge like a Pied Piper from Dupont Down Under with a trail of people (or rats) following him in a march over to McPherson Square. She shivered in the damp cold, dreaming of the day she could lose enough weight to give up street reporting and become a news anchor, no longer TFFT (too fat for television). She looked at her Rolex and smiled a little because she had posted several stories about looking for its true owner but nobody had claimed it yet. She caressed it gently, oblivious to her cameraman's using the zoom lens to capture the moment--oblvious that he had a web-based reality series with thousands of followers secretly watching her obsession with the Rolex on a daily basis. "Oh, this crappy cold! What the hell is wrong with the weather?!" She looked at her cameraman, who had already turned the camera back to the Dupont Down Under entrance. She sipped more hot coffee from her thermos and dreamed of the spot on the dresser where she would put the Pulitzer prize, right next to the velvet-lined box she kept the Rolex in.

Already at McPherson Square was Henry Samuelson, taking a few more photos of the evil communist agitators before heading to his Heurich Society meeting. He was dreading the meeting because there was going to be a huge argument with Condoleezza Rice about whether or not to move Project Cinderella to Saudi Arabia to take advantage of the sudden decree that women could vote and run for office. (Personally, he didn't see how it made the slightest difference, since their brothers and fathers and husbands could still refuse to let them leave the house, but Angela de la Paz wanted badly to go, so the Heurich Society needed to figure out how to leverage the opportunity to advance the goals of Project Prometheus inside Saudi Arabia.) He put his camera away and trudged off, his combination umbrella and tranquilizer gun keeping him dry. Those Saudis won't know what hit them when "she whose gaze must be avoided" (because anybody who sees her unveiled dies) hits the petroleum kingdom of vipers.

On K Street, former Senator Evermore Breadman pulled his car over for a moment to take a look at the OccupyDC protesters in McPherson Square. He tapped his fingers nervously on the steering wheel, not because it looked like a big deal but because these groups were sprouting up all over the country and his clients were calling him in alarm from all over the country. Then there was satirist Stephen Colbert, who had audaciously set up a Delaware 501(c)(4) corporation called "Anonymous Shell Corporation" so he could imitate and lampoon the Karl Rove shell corporation set up to channel anonymous millionaire donations into the American Crossroads Super-PAC. Breadman's phone was ringing off the hook, with everybody from the Koch brothers to Rex W. Tillerson asking if the "damned comedian" was going to succeed in blowing the lid off of Delaware's dirty little secret. (“So I can get money for my (c)(4), use that for political purposes, and nobody knows anything about it until six months after the election?” Colbert asked on his TV program. “Yes,” Colbert's attorney said. “And even then they won’t know who your donors are.” “That’s my kind of campaign finance restrictions!” Colbert said, before asking his attorney how this was different from money laundering. “It’s hard to say,” replied the attorney.) Breadman had watched the clip a dozen times and still had no clue what to do about it, if anything, but his clients didn't seem very thrilled with his "it'll blow over" speech, and a few had hinted they might seek advice from rival law firm Lye, Cheit, and Steele. Breadman pulled away from the curb and headed to his office at Prince and Prowling to do what they paid him the big bucks to do.

The named partners from Goode Peepz law firm pulled over to the curb just vacated by former Senator Evermore Breadman to take a better look at OccupyDC. The partners were discussing whether this fledgling little band of wannabe revolutionaries might be just the ticket they were looking for to catapult their public interest law firm into the forefront of justice (and into the news). Advantages? Nobody else had claimed them yet, and their constituency was probably the constituency Goode Peepz wanted. Disadvantages? The group looked penniless, for starters. Also, it had not yet announced the decisions of its first general assembly, so God knew what they were going to stand for. After ten minutes, Goode and Peepz agreed that they could always drop them as clients if need be, and it was time to strike while the iron was hot.

Up in the trees of McPherson Square, rival flocks of sparrows and starlings were huddling for warmth, not yet having grown their winter feathers. A catbird tried to imitate the protesters' "this is what democracy looks like!" chant, but it came out as a sing-song garble. Cooing pigeon doves and hungry ducks waddled around the grass, scrounging up bits of bagel and pizza crusts. A sole raven watched from atop the mounted horse statue--it isn't enough. The White House ghosts got bored and flew back to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue to wreak more havoc there.