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, December 04, 2011

The Third Way Out

An ear-splitting scream reverberated through the Prince and Prowling penthouse suite: it was the unmistakable screech of Bridezilla, simultaneously high-pitched and nasal, with just a drop of old Virginia drawl. She had just discovered partner emeritus Wolfgang Prowling slumped over in his wheelchair, his head tilted awkwardly to the side, his glassy eyes staring at nothing. (Of course, her version of the "discovery" would later be called into question.) The Sunday workforce who heard the shriek, and the others who heard it through the grapevine, gradually gathered around the limp old man. Nobody checked his pulse, breathing, or heartbeat--let alone contemplated starting CPR. Laura Moreno had brought the defibrillator from the kitchen, but former Senator Evermore Breadman had demanded that nobody without proper training attempt to use it. By the time the ambulance arrived, Prowling's heart had been stopped for at least eleven minutes. As the workers tried to focus on reviving the man, they were (as they would later tell the investigators) distracted by wild accusations flying around them. "I saw him coming out of Senator Breadman's office, cursing about the Washington Post's expose on presidential pardons!" "Well, I saw him coming out of Cigemeier's office, cursing about how a man had to win a major trial before becoming partner in his day! He had a pile of folders in his lap that looked too heavy for him." "Well, I heard him in Bridezilla's office telling her that it was a mistake to make a woman a partner before her childbearing years were over. Then she offered him a slice of cheesecake, and he said, 'What are you trying to do--kill me?!' Then he rolled out of her office, his face all red!" "Well, I saw him leaving Laura's office, swearing about how they had a bunch of nancy pants, law review , law clerk twerps running the show while the only hard worker of the operation was holed away in a foul-smelling workroom that he couldn't even wheel his wheelchair into without running over mouse droppings or even an actual mouse! And then he reached down and used a file folder to scrape something off his right wheel, and he was panting." (When questioned by the investigators about how certain they were--as it seemed unlikely that EMTs could remember such specific comments in the middle of reviving a comatose patient--they replied that this happened every time somebody had a heart attack in a major law firm in D.C.)

A mile away, the Heurich Society had a few senior members of its own whose hearts were perilously close to coronary incidents as they heatedly debated world events. They were divided over Australia's decision to sell uranium to India, they were divided over the implications of Russia's elections, they were divided over how to address the U.K.'s violent exit from Iran, and they were divided over the three-eyed fish floating in a jar of formaldehyde in the center of the table. ("How do we really know it came from the Anacostia?" "It's larger than the three-eyed fish caught near the Argentine nuclear power plant." "We're lucky our source got a hold of it before the Washington Post did!" "We're going to have worse problems than three-eyed fish if Project Prometheus doesn't do more to mitigate climate change security problems!" "You mean like freeing climate change refugees from desert slave-traders?! Cause God knows that's on the top of my list!")

"GENTLEMEN!" It was Condoleezza Rice, hollering over the speaker phone. "When did anybody ever tell you this was supposed to be easy?! We have to fight for what we want! And if we're not getting it, we need new plans and new personnel."

"What are you proposing, er, suggesting?" asked the Heurich Society Chair, staring at the speaker phone as if it were a ticking time bomb.

"New leadership," Rice said in a softer voice.

"I agree," said Henry Samuelson, not bothering to look anybody in the eye as he continued to watch a small flock of starlings in the tree branches swaying outside the window of the Brewmaster's castle.

Silence ensued as the Chair looked around the table to see who was going to challenge him for leadership, but most eyes were fixed on the three-eyed fish at the center of the table.

"Herman Cain," said Condoleezza Rice over the speakerphone. ("WHAT?!") "He's already agreed to do it. He's green on foreign affairs, but a fresh perspective is what the Heurich Society needs to regain its original focus."

"That lamebrain doesn't even know the difference between Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan!" protested the Chair, who suspected Rice's relationship with Cain might be deeper than she was saying (though he would never say that out loud in a thousand years).

"Neither do we, anymore," said Samuelson, turning away from the window. "Maybe it's time for us to re-learn a few things. Maybe the world's been changing faster than we've been willing to admit. Every time I think it's time for me to sit down with my daughter, explain to her the facts of life--I mean, the world--and ask her to join me in my life's work, I have trouble summing up what I need to tell her. And that's because it keeps changing."

"Adapt or die!" exclaimed the Chair. "You have said this more than anybody!"

"But adapt willy nilly, carelessly, randomly--like a fish growing a third eye?! We don't need a third eye, gentlemen! We need a third way!" concluded Samuelson.

"What do you mean by that?" asked the Chair.

Samuelson wasn't sure what he meant by that, since the words had just flowed logically, one after another, out of his mouth, but he would let Herman Cain figure that out. "Project Third Way," said Samuelson. "I move that we immediately launch Project Third Way, to be led by Herman Cain."

"I second the motion," crackled the speakerphone.

Ten minutes later, the members were filing out of the conference room--most carefully wrapping up their doughnuts in napkins to eat later, since the sight of the fish had been nauseating. "You should take the fish home as a souvenir," remarked Samuelson with a smirk on his way out.

"Laugh now, old spook! We'll see who laughs last!" whispered the Chair.

A couple miles to the south, Dr. Khalid Mohammad came out of the George Washington University Hospital emergency room and looked in vain for former Senator Evermore Breadman until nurse Consuela Arroyo told him they had placed the Senator in an office so he wouldn't have to sit in the waiting area. Dr. Mohammad asked why, but Arroyo just shrugged. Dr. Mohammad entered the office to find Breadman in the middle of a phone call about the Republican primaries, but he hung up and turned attentively to the doctor. (Breadman's first thought was how the old coot would have demanded a WASP doctor if he could have.) Dr. Mohammad explained that there was nothing they could do, and Wolfgang Prowling had been pronounced dead on arrival.

"But why?" asked Breadman.

"We could not revive him--"

"No, I mean, why did he have the heart attack?"

"Well, sir, he was quite elderly. We could do an autopsy if you like, and I'm sure we would find some hardening of the arteries and--"

"No, I mean, did something trigger it?" asked Breadman.

"Well, a number of things might have--"

"Doctor," said Breadman quietly, "I thought I saw a wet stain on his crotch."

"Sometimes the elderly have bladder control problems, sir, or it could have happened during the heart attack," said Dr. Mohammad.

"He didn't smell like urine," said Breadman quietly. "Can you check?"

"You want me to test for semen?" asked Dr. Mohammad, who was tired of all the stupid requests he had gotten since CSI had first gone on the air. "Why?"

Breadman was not accustomed to dealing with people who did not accede to his requests. "I need to know!"

"Alright, sir," said Dr. Mohammad. "Now if you could assist the nurse in completing the next-of-kin information, I would be most grateful."

Back at Prince and Prowling, everybody else had gone home except Chloe Cleavage. "It wasn't my fault," she said to herself for the upteenth time, mindlessly rearranging binders and dusting her shelves with a wet rag. "The guy was always crabby! I was just trying to make him happy!" She knew the only reason she was still employed at Prince and Prowling was because she had sex scandal tapes of a few of her trysts, but this was different. For one thing, she wasn't totally sure he had welcomed her advances, since mostly all she heard was "hmmmphhh?!". And then the other thing was, now he was dead. "It wasn't my fault! They can't touch me! And even if they do, I'm rich now because I sold my eggs for a million dollars, and I have my condo, and everything will be fine. They all wanted him out of here anyway! They should be thanking me! Not that it was my fault, because it wasn't."

Out in the Potomac River, Ardua awoke from a beautiful dream she was having about Mayor Gray's Sustainability Initiative's falling prey to egotism, acrimony, red tape, and shattered dreams for dozens of city employees and hundreds of idealistic citizens. "I will sustain you, Washington," yawned the demon. "I need you alive!" And she laughed in the depths of the river, as the three-eyed bottom-feeders slowly spread north in search of new food.


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