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, June 24, 2012

D.C.: Village of the Dead

Cedric was sitting in the wading pool set up in the backyard of the Arlington group home for the mentally challenged.  He had not bothered changing into a swimsuit, and was, in fact, still in his pajamas, clutching a teddy bear to his chest.  "Aloysius," he whispered to the bear, "you can't trust anybody but me."  Melinda was taking up the other half of the kiddie pool, and the cleavage spilling out of her bubble gum pink swimsuit was unnerving Cedric.  "Especially Americans," Cedric whispered. 

"Why are you talking like that?" asked Melinda.  (Cedric ignored the question.)  "You sound like the Prince of Wales or Jude Law or something!"  (Cedric had been declaring himself an Englishman ever since he heard about Henry Samuelson's death.)  "And why are you calling your bear 'Aloysius'?  My bear was named 'Twinkle Toes'!"  (Cedric wrinkled his brow at such an absurd American name for a girl's teddy bear.)  "I miss her," Melinda said with a sigh.  "I wonder if Mommy still has Twinkle Toes.  Can I hold your bear?"

"Certainly not, you brazen Buccaneer!" exclaimed Cedric.  (Melinda did not understand any of those words, but she knew an insult when she heard it:  she splashed water at Cedric and Aloysius, then got up and left.)  "One of Button's female spies for the Heurich Society," Cedric whispered to his bear.  "Her father would be rolling over in his grave."

Not far away, Henry Samuelson was, in fact, rolling over in his grave--not because of any malfeasance on the part of his daughter, but because there was far too much left to be done on Earth.  He had protested vociferously and arrogantly about being sent to mingle with the riffraff in Purgatory, and the other inhabitants were already fed up with him.  They had taken a vote, put together a human pyramid large enough to elevate him high above the Village of the Dead's quicksand confinements, and hurled him out of the Kipling nightmare and back to Earth.  Samuelson took stock of the situation, extracted his spirit from the body buried in Arlington, and fled the cemetery.

Across the Potomac, another confused spirit was roaming far from the light--the ghost of Robert McNamara, again paying a visit to psychiatrist Ermann Esse.  "What does it mean when somebody says that the only thing we can truly own is our past?" asked the spirit.

"Aha!" shouted Dr. Esse, triumphantly.  "Well said, Didymus!"  (McNamara's ghost called himself "Didymus".)

"But what does it mean?" asked Didymus.

"How do you enter the future--a place where you have no possessions, no foothold, no fixed alliances?  Alone, always alone.  We are the sum of our past experiences.  We must master them, for if they master us, we are a prisoner of ourselves."

Didymus sat up from the couch.  "What?!"

(Oh, dear, I've lost him.)  "Take, for instance, the lie you told on April 4, 1971.  You told the truth in your book, but telling the truth about Vietnam so many years later is only part of the solution.  You can never own the truth of that day because the lie of that day still owns you."


"You must also take ownership of the lie," said Dr. Esse.  "That is the only way to move forward."

"But that's not fair!  I said I was sorry!  I don't want to live in the past anymore!  What about the drone strikes?  These things are happening now!"

"Being forgiven is only part of it," said Dr. Esse.  "Now I'm afraid our time is up, and we'll have to talk about the drone strikes later."  He ushered Didymus out into the waiting room, and the next patient watched curiously as Dr. Esse seemed to shake hands with the empty space before him.

Not far away, Atticus Hawk was staring at the empty space before him.  Drone strikes.  He looked back down at the memo from his Justice Department boss--a memo printed on a delicate paper that would disintegrate in room temperature after ten minutes.  I'm the torture expert!  Why do I have to shore up the drone strike arguments?  He stared again at the empty space before him.  It could be worse--at least I wasn't involved in that Fast and Furious fiasco.  He only had a few more minutes with his top secret memo, so he pushed himself to write down (in his own code) the salient points.  When he was finished, he reread the memo one more time, then watched it start breaking up before his eyes.  He folded up his notes, shoved them into his shirt pocket, wiped the dust off his desk, then decided to procrastinate his new task with a quick walk over to Ava Kahdo Green's office to see how she was doing with the Fast and Furious Fallout.  A few minutes later, he was hesitating near her office door, realizing he had never gone in there before--she had always come to his office.  He heard her heavy sigh and quickly moved forward.

A mile away, "Metro" reporter Perry Winkle quickly moved towards the Capitol Hill rowhouse where Ann Bishis was waiting for him.  It had not taken him much time with the Washington Post records and photo archives to verify that the people he had seen at the crime scene were Congressman Herrmark's staffers, and he was amazed she had agreed to an interview.  He rang the doorbell, and the canned sound of a barking Doberman pinscher recording cued up.  He heard a slight movement, waited for the peephole peek and door opening, then entered the basement apartment.  The smell of mint and parsley greeted him as she ushered him to the living room, where her twin cousins were seated on a couch.  "This is Costas and Nick," she said unemotionally, "Congressman Herrmark's bodyguards."  The three men nodded with no comment or handshake.

"You know why I'm here," said Winkle.  "I saw you on the Potomac a few weeks ago when I was following a...lead."  He hesitated.  "Then I saw a man decapitate somebody on your boat."  (Bishis flinched at the word "decapitate".)  "Then the corpse...I mean, the torso...well, I was not able to take a photo before our boats parted company.  It looked very strange.  Can you tell me what happened that day?"

"That was a our chief of staff," said Bishis.

"I know," said Winkle.  "I was following her that day--I had heard rumors about her on Capitol Hill."

"She was a zombie," continued Bishis, who had decided after an internet consultation with the Oracle at Delphi that the Post reporter would never try to publish this story.  "I mean, we didn't know for sure, but we suspected it.  We don't know who that guy was that came and killed her--it.  I honestly have no idea who that guy is."

Winkle looked at the burly Greek god-like twins and saw them both shaking their heads about the mysterious executioner.

"Why did you think she was a zombie?" asked Winkle.

"Oh, the usual," said Bishis, as if this sort of scenario happened in real life just as often as on television.  "Heavy perfume that seemed to be masking a peculiar body odor, too many layers of clothing, general creepiness."

"Ann is very attuned to admiralties," said Costas.

"You mean abnormalities," said Nick.

"Yes," said Costas.  "She's very spiritual."

Winkle strove to mask his skepticism on that count.  "You said these men are Herrmark's bodyguards.  Was he afraid she was a zombie?"

"Oh, no!" said Nick.

"He had no idea," said Costas.

"He has other enemies," said Nick.

"Who are his enemies?" asked Winkle.

"That's not what we agreed to talk about," said Bishis.

"But couldn't one of Herrmark's enemies have targeted his chief of staff?" asked Winkle.

All three just shook their heads, and Winkle let it drop. "O.K.  So let's get back to the day on the boat," said Winkle.

"We wanted to get her out in the sun and wind, to knock some layers of clothing off," said Bishis in a deceptively calm voice.  "To see her arms and legs exposed.  Her face was heavily made up, but we thought we could tell if we saw her arms or legs."

"And did you?"

"No, not before that guy came with the axe," said Bishis.  She looked as if she were going to say more, but then stopped.

"After the decapitation, what did you do with the body?" asked Winkle, still irked that his rented boat's captain had sped quickly away from the crime scene.

"The guys tossed it overboard," said Bishis coolly.  "Maggots were coming out of the neck.  It was utterly revolting.  There was nothing else to do."

"Did you call the police?" asked Winkle. (The twins burst out laughing.) 

"No," said Bishis, mirthlessly.  "Are you kidding?  We would have been arrested for murder, and it wasn't even human."

"But the police would have seen the state of the corpse," said Winkle.

"Are you kidding?" repeated Bishis.

A few minutes later, Winkle was back outside in the bright sunshine, feeling as if he didn't know any more than he had known going in--except that all three witnesses had seen exactly what he had seen.  However, they hadn't said anything about Ardua of the Potomac, there were no photos to back up the story, and it was all too surreal to try to get published. 

Sebastian L'Arche walked past Winkle with half a dozen dogs in tow, eager to be out of the mid-day heat that was pricking his skin today in a very unnatural way.  The dogs were unduly quiet, all sensing something in the air that wasn't supposed to be there.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

If you can speak, you can shout.

Ghost Dennis was in an attic room of the White House East Wing, arguing with some of the other White House ghosts.

"One minute, he's going all Rambo, dropping drone missiles God-knows-where, killing whomever he wants to kill, and the next minute he's hosting a gay rights tea party!  What kind of President is this, anyway?"

"Well, you made him do the drone strikes!"

"It wasn't me!  I've been trying to talk him into bombing Syria."

"Who made him do the gay rights tea party?"

"It wasn't me!"

"Who talked him into that immigration executive order?!  Was it you, Matilda?"

There were a few of The Shackled visiting, and one of them asked the White House ghosts to be silent.  "You need to stop squabbling!  Your time to pass into the light is long gone, and if you're going to hang around here, you need to use your power for good--and you can accomplish a lot more if you work together!"

"Us?!" said Ghost Dennis.  "It's all about Citizens United now.  How can we speak louder than corporate donations?"

Across the street, former Senator Evermore Breadman had a thornier problem:  how many corporate donations could he supervise without cannibalizing his clients' influence?  It wasn't conflict of interest, per se, but in a world where political candidates had begun creating their own cable television networks, the din of competing voices could become much louder than even he had anticipated.  Then he heard actual voices, shouting and becoming louder, and got up to look outside his Prince and Prowling window. Down on the sidewalk, Glenn Michael Beckmann was in a shouting match with a gay couple who had taken umbrage with his t-shirt's depiction of a gay rainbow's being torn apart by lightning bolts hurled down by an angry god figure in the sky.  Of course, Breadman could not make out any of the shouted words, and judged their importance by the posture of the White House guards looking on from across the street.  Ehhh.  He returned to his desk.

A few miles to the west, the Seekers meeting was also focused on gay rights counter-attacks, particularly the most recent bomb exploded by the Vatican--the missile aimed at U.S. nuns.

"I always liked nuns," said the Rabbi.  "I wish we could have nuns!"

"Yes, we are also lucky to have nuns," said the Buddhist monk.

"You only have nuns because they aren't allowed to be priests," said the Southern Methodist minister to the Jesuit.

"You wouldn't have anybody if the Southern Baptists allowed more drinking!" retorted the Jesuit.

"Gentlemen!" said the Quaker, a woman.  "We are here to seek the truth!  There is no point in coming here if you are just going to repeat stock phrases like wind-up dolls."

The Muslim imam did not know what a wind-up doll was, but he didn't like the sound of it.  "We do not have nuns, either.  Your nuns are social workers, nurses, teachers, activists.  This is all well and good, but should they not also follow their Holy Father?"

"Their Holy Father in Heaven or their Holy Father in Rome?" asked the Hindu.

"God speaks through his prophets," said the Muslim imam.

"But a prophet can also be a woman," said the Quaker.

A few miles to the north, Charles Wu was sipping a gin and tonic in his backyard and also thinking about the potential power of certain females--more specifically, the names listed on the notepad balanced on his knee.  He glanced over again at baby Delia sitting in her little splash pool under the watchful eyes of Mia, and, as if a psychic bond joined her to her father, she immediately looked up to meet his gaze, smile, and giggle at him.  When she had resumed her splashing, he looked down again at the list--which now had six of the fifteen names crossed out.  Why don't I know anybody suitable to be a fake wife?  The spy was annoyed that his superior intellect was incapable of rising to the simple task he had set for himself:  host a Washington dinner party.  The spy operations at his apartment/office were too delicate to compromise, and based on what he had read in the Washington Post magazine article about Washington dinner parties, renting a room in a restaurant was really not the same thing at all as having important people come into your own home and rub elbows with other important people:  you needed simultaneously to show off through material possessions your wealth and exquisite good taste, as well as your charming spouse.  Even if he threw a dinner party as a single man, how could he hide all the Delia influences in this house?  It was impossible.  But selecting someone to pretend to be his wife did not just involve casting a woman with a plausible genetic resemblance to Delia, but a woman who could play the exact role he wanted her to play--and he had not been to enough Washington dinner parties to be certain how he wanted to script it.  He crossed two more names off the list and looked over at Delia again--who promptly looked up and smiled at him.  When she had returned to splashing, he crumpled up the list and gave up on the idea of hosting his own Washington dinner party--it was clearly a line he could not cross.  Have I reached the limits of how far my influence can extend in this place?

A couple miles to the south, "Metro" reporter Perry Winkle was working hard at his Washington Post desk, refusing to be distracted by another beautiful day in June.  A disturbing and yet insightful dream had awoken him with a fresh belief that there was a way he could weave together the bits and pieces of stories he had been piling up for years--that and the latest byline by Woodward and Bernstein, which had prompted two dozen other reporters to make unexpected visits to the office this weekend.  "I'm an energy voter."  "I'm a person who takes money from oil companies to say I'm an energy voter."  Seven-million French letters of denunciation against Jews sent to Vichy officials during World War II'; French immigrants to Washington after the war.  Anonymous Shell Corporation.  A Washingtonian's self-identity is always aspiration, not reality.  Luciano Talaverdi's letter to the editor rejected by the Washington Post:  "The End of Hyperbole".  When you're coasting, the arrow on the cartoon goes backwards:  symbolism of the Toyota Prius.  "Shear Madness".  Winkle sighed and rearranged the note cards on his desk again and again, trying to get them into a pattern that, well, looked like a pattern.  It made sense when I woke up--the dream I was having--it was all coming together.  It was no use:  the only thing that could bring all these little stories together was Ardua of the Potomac, and he still didn't have the balls to write about her.  He gathered his notecards together and returned them to the Ziploc bag he kept them in--like precious evidence gathered at the scene of the crime.  He knew what he had to do:  track down the other witnesses to the zombie beheading.  They have to be somewhere in this town.

A few miles away, pigeons pecked for pizza crumbs amongst the cigarette butts leftover from a festive night on U Street, as another new Washingtonian made her way to Teaching for Social Change to find some books that would change her life.  From a scraggly tree branch above her, a catbird defecated on the young woman's shoulder, then began an imitation of a funk fusion song it had heard the night before.

Saturday, June 09, 2012


"So this is the Heurich Society," said Button Samuelson, looking around the room as she took her seat in the upper room of the Brewmaster's Castle.  "I didn't see any of you at the funeral."  ("Well, we--")  "Oh, I understand," she said.  "You can't be publicly associated with one another."  She picked up a doughnut, examined it closely, then put it back down.  "And I really did appreciate all the flowers with the anonymous gift tags--very touching.  So here's the deal:  my father knew that my brother was not the right person to follow in his footsteps, so here I am."  ("This has never been--")  "Oh, I know, children don't inherit their parent's place in the Heurich Society, it's not like that at all.  And, anyway, I was adopted!  Probably from an unwilling political prisoner in South America, but that's neither here nor there."  She paused to pick up the doughnut again and take a bite of it, then she looked around the room while she chewed.  "And you haven't been big on admitting women, have you?"  She looked at the speaker phone, but Condoleezza Rice said nothing.  "Still, my father left me a lot of...information, shall we say, and I've shared that with some other people as insurance, shall we say.  Oh, and Project Cinderella?  Angela also thinks I should replace my dad as Chair of the Heurich Society."  She took another bite of the doughnut and waited.

"We've never had a member so young before," said one of the members.

"Is there any particular goal you have?" asked another member.

Then the speakerphone crackled.  "I move to make Henrietta Samuelson Chair of the Heurich Society," said Condoleezza Rice, who believed the young woman could be easily manipulated, blackmail or not. 

And a few minutes later, it was so.

A couple miles away, Angela de la Paz was sitting with Charles Wu in his office (former apartment), listening remotely to the closing minutes of the Heurich Society meeting.  "You did it!" said the spy.  "So what are you and Henrietta planning?"

"Wouldn't you like to know?!" said Angela, with a Mona Lisa smile.

"You don't have the foggiest idea, do you?" asked Wu, with a mystifying smile of his own.

"Dr. Rajatala keeps telling me I should finish my education and go to college, but what's the point?  Samuelson left his daughter an entire storage shed full of documentation of all these CIA operations he did, and the spy files he had on other people and organizations.  Why study history, or anything else, if people are changing everything in secret?"

"It's just one man's secrets, Angela.  Nobody has enough power to change everything.  And even if the Heurich Society does everything you want it to do--"

"I don't think you understand--he wasn't just one man.  The CIA--"

"I understand," said Wu.  "You think I don't?!  I deal with the Chinese Communist Party on a weekly basis!  Everybody wants to rule the world.  Look at what Woodward and Bernstein are now saying about Richard Nixon!"

"Who?"  (Wu just shook his head, uncertain whether the teenager was saying 'who' to Woodward, Bernstein, Nixon, or all three.)  "So what do you want?" asked Angela.  "And if you die tomorrow, what's Delia going to find in your storage boxes?"

Wu gave her a wry smile and got up to make himself a drink, trying to picture a time when Button Samuelson was a baby smiling up at Henry.

A few miles to the south, former Senator Evermore Breadman was trying to picture Kwame Brown surrounded by smiling children.  "I need to provide a legacy for my children!" Brown was whining over the speaker phone. 

Why do they always come to me too late? "Look," said Breadman, drawing hangman trees on his legal pad, "you're still a young man with a lot of supporters.  You'll be out of prison in no time, do some community service--look at Jack Abramoff!  He's been on the talk show circuit promoting his book!  Martha Stewart--the American public has a very short memory.  You can get through this!"

Several miles to the north, Basia Karbusky was looking at pictures of her parents in an old photo album.  She wasn't smiling in any of them.  She flipped the pages back and forth.  The photos with her smiling were always when she was with her grandfather.  Her parents still didn't know.  She put the photo album back on the shelf and turned back to the diary she had inherited from her grandfather--the diary of Nazi experiments.  From out in the pasture, the comforting bellows of Mega Moo wafted into her Potomac Manors home from time to time--the only sound that penetrated her concentrated focus.

Out in the Potomac, Ardua groaned under the oppression of a beautiful day in June, and took comfort that not everybody in Washington was outside worshipping the sun.

Sunday, June 03, 2012

The Diary of Angela de la Paz

I can't believe he died, just like that!  Henry Samuelson!  He was so old, but he seemed like one of those guys that would never die.  And old men are supposed to die in the winter!  Who dies on a beautiful day in May, the kind of day that makes everybody glad to be alive?  And how could I tell his daughter that I hated him when she said his last words were about me?!  On his deathbed??!!  She tells me it's from a Steely Dan song:

"I'm gonna take Cinderella down to Mexico--
She said, 'oh, no, Guadalajara won't do!'"

She wanted me to tell her what he was talking about, and she was looking at me like I was his lover or something!!!!  He's old enough to be my grandfather--was.  I told her I would explain after the funeral.  What am I going to tell her??????????????

(Washington Water Woman is covering for Cinderella on the Mexico operation, but hopes to write a longer blog post next weekend.)

R.I.P., Mr. ___--your secrets are safe with me.