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, August 26, 2012

Audits and Scrutinies

Atticus Hawk was sitting on the porch, reading the Republican Party platform on his laptop computer.  A couple weeks ago, this was the sort of thing that would have gotten his pulse racing and his temples throbbing, but today he could just smile and shake his head.  "I was a Young Republican once," he said to Basia Karbusky, who was sitting near him outside her Potomac Manors home.  "Of course, I'm not supposed to be overtly partisan, as a Justice Department attorney!" he said with a wink.

"You're not supposed to be young, either, but I think you're getting younger!" Karbusky said, looking up from her grandfather's journal of Nazi experiments and winking back at him.  She had never gotten involved with a client before, but he was handsome and handy around the barns, and she couldn't help but feel flattered when he declared he would rather spend his forced break from the Justice Department here with her than anywhere else.  He was somebody her grandfather would have liked very much:  intelligent, hard-working, patriotic...and blond, blue-eyed, square-jawed.  He never pestered her to find out what she was doing:  if she said it was a tight-security research project, he understood and accepted that.  But the things she did share with him, he found fascinating--such as the greenhouse and mineral sheds where she collected most of the raw materials she used to make her drug compounds.

"I feel younger!" Hawk agreed.  "I'm sleeping great, I have energy--you're my salvation!"  He leaned over and gave her a passionate kiss.

"Happy to help!" she replied, wondering how much of his improvement was from getting off the prescription medicines and onto her own prescription for him, and how much of the improvement was due simply to being on vacation from his job...or sleeping with her.  She kissed him again, scientifically concluding that it was probably all of these factors, and she could be content with that.

Several miles to the south, Henrietta Samuelson was not content.  "Reexamine going back to the gold standard?  Really?"  She was waving a copy of the Republican Party platform at the other members of the Heurich Society seated around the table.  "It's not even the most precious metal anymore!  Have those dinosaurs ever heard of platinum?"

"That won't go anywhere," protested a member to the right of her, almost adding "little girl" to the end of his declaration.

"Well, I should hope not!" Samuelson said. "It's bad enough we're spending more money in precious copper to produce a penny than that's worth!"

"Sometimes you have to compromise to get agreement on other principles," said another member, who was not nearly as civic-minded as that statement might suggest.

"I just expected better, after making it a priority for us!" asserted Samuelson, who had her suspicions that several members of the Heurich Society were not taking her seriously as their Chair--or carrying out their assigned tasks.  She briefly turned her back on them to look out the 3rd-story window of the Brewmaster's Castle, collected her thoughts, then wheeled around rapidly to see if anybody was making faces at her.  Your reflexes are pretty fast for a bunch of old men who eat crap and never work out, she thought, with a fake smile on her face.  "Well, time to move onto something else."  She passed out copies of a lab report on the Heurich Society's secret underwater reservoir tapping into the Ogallah aquifer.  "The Heurich Society created its own secret water reservoir in October of last year.  I have confirmed that it is now contaminated by hydrofracking in Oklahoma."

"That's impossible!" shouted a member to her left--mostly because he wanted it to be impossible, rather than had any authentic reason to assert its impossibility.

"Inconceivable!" echoed another member.

"The money we put into building our secret reservoir!" gasped a very elderly gentleman at the far side of the table.

"Well, that's what happens when you tell gas companies they can do whatever the hell they like, and they don't need to comply with the Clean Water Act!" averred Samuelson.  "Haven't any of you seen 'Gasland'?!  [Blank stares.]  What are we going to do about this?" she asked.

"Start a new reservoir in Canada?" said one member.

"You're missing the point!" declared Samuelson.   "Water is more important than gas!  We have got to stop the hydrofracking water pollution!  It is time to repeal Cheney's Halliburton loophole before there's no clean water left in this entire country!"

"There's plenty of clean water in Canada," said the member to her right.

"And some of the glaciers are melting, so there will be more," said another.

"Really, li--."  (The man almost said "little girl" again, but stopped himself in time.)  "Let's just create a reservoir in Canada and move onto more pressing business."

"We've got people in Canada--maybe she didn't know that," said another member.

Samuelson sat down in her chair, silent as the conversation got away from her.  Are they living on the same planet I'm living on?

"Are you living on the same planet I'm living on?" asked Sebastian L'Arche, as he and Becky Hartley walked past the Brewmaster's Castle with half a dozen dogs leashed and ready for Dupont Circle.

"That is really obnoxious!" protested Hartley, who was not succeeding in explaining any of her new Scientology beliefs to her dog-whispering partner.  "You know, we have a Mormon running for President, and the Vice-President candidates are both Catholics who don't even agree on what their Church stands for!  People believe all kinds of different things, and I'm trying to tell you that Scientology is making everything come together for me, and you're totally closed-minded about it!  You, of all people!"

"Why do you keep saying 'me, of all people?'"

"You talk to animals!" exclaimed Hartley.  "You do exorcisms!  You fight demons!  You know, not everybody would believe the stuff you tell me, but I do believe you!"

"You've seen evil incarnate, Becky!  I never asked you to believe in something you couldn't see!  Do you realize how crazy this Scientology stuff sounds?"

"Oh, so now I'm crazy?!"

 "I didn't say that!" protested L'Arche, though he had to admit to himself that he had come pretty close.

"I think you're just jealous because this has been so good for me, and because I'm spending so much time with Werner!" said Hartley.

"Werner?!  I'm not jealous of Werner!" declared L'Arche.

"You see evil everywhere, but when I tell you that I'm on the road to understanding it and eradicating it from my life, you won't listen to me!" said Hartley.

"Well, every time I ask you a tough question, you say you haven't gotten to that stage yet!" said L'Arche.

"You have to learn things in steps--Algebra I comes before Algebra II.  You know, if you would just try one auditing session with Werner--"

"Oh, no!  Forget it!"  At that, the two fell silent.

Half a mile away, Glenn Michael Beckmann was sitting on the steps of the Carnegie Institution, glaring silently at the Founding Church of Scientology across 16th Street, a laptop computer resting atop his thick legs.  He resumed typing a blog entry about the exceedingly argumentative second audit he had experienced the day before, and how they had refused to refund him his money.  "They don't even believe we're Americans!" he typed furiously.  "They believe everybody came from outer space--EVERYBODY!  I could understand it if they said eco-femi-nazis were from outer space, and Islamic terrorists, and Chinese people--but not AMERICANS!!!!!!"  He was very uncomfortable on the hard stairs, and longed to return to Southwest Plaza to finish typing the entry in his comfortable microfiber chair from Office Depot, but seeing the Scientology building up close was fueling the rage in his blog--and he was up to half a million readers now, so it was important to keep things raw and powerful.  "How DARE they call ME an anti-social suppressive personality type?!  As soon as their guard is down, the bombs are going in!!!!"  Then he realized that might tip his hand too much, so he backspaced over the last sentence about the bombs.  You'll never see me coming, you stuck-up intellectual FREAKS!  "Scientologists only care about RICH people and CELEBRITIES anyway," added Beckmann to his blog.

Twenty feet away, a young couple was arguing as they waited for the bus.  "You only care about rich people and celebrities!" said the woman.

"That is so not true!" protested the man.   "I can't help it if they are the ones that usually hire public relations firms, but that's not all I do!"

"I was taught there are three kinds of circles in your life," said the woman.  "The circle you draw around yourself, the circle you draw around your family, and the circle you draw around your community.  People who spend all their time in the first circle are egomaniacs--"

"--or shy," said the man, laughing.

"Funny, ha ha," said the woman.  "People who spend all their time in the second circle are still too limited.  You need to spend time in the third circle to gain a broader perspective on life.  People in this town have found a way to be in the larger circle while ignoring 95% of the people in it.  We don't even have circles anymore--we have gerrymandered life slices."

"Your metaphors are getting out of control, babe," the man said, shaking his head.  "And the bus is here."

The woman was wondering if it would be hypocritical to kick him out of her circle now.

In the back of the bus, Angela de la Paz looked out the window silently as she headed up to Adams Morgan to walk around her old neighborhood and see the old familiar places--she hated it when she got in these inexplicable sentimental moods, but it was better to just indulge in them and then move on.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Get Back to Work

Atticus Hawk drove slowly up to the Potomac Manors estate, double-checked his GPS, and proceeded up the driveway.  He parked the car, shut off the engine, and procrastinated.  Do I really want to do this?  The attorney was on mandatory vacation leave from the Justice Department after failing a random drug test.  Every drug I'm taking is a legal prescription--it's not like I belong in rehab!  He looked around nervously.  I will be exonerated on appeal--everybody said so.  The car was starting to feel stuffy now.  I didn't do anything wrong!  They can't take my security clearance away from me!  A loud moo made him jump, and he shook off his cold feet and got out of the car.  I just need something for the anxiety and the insomnia--that's all.  He could see the woman coming out of the house now to greet him.  If she's got something that cannot be detected in urine samples, it's the simplest solution for everybody.  Basia Karbusky stuck out her hand and welcomed him to her "farm", and something about her warm smile and the smell of sweet hay almost prompted him to ask if he could just stay out there on the farm until he could go back to work.

Several miles to the south, Ghost Dennis was hard at work whispering in the ear of President Obama's Chief of Staff.  "It is in the warbler's nature to sing in the sunshine, but an owl hoots at night."

"Huh?"  The Chief of Staff often had inspirational ideas pop into his head at this time of the evening, but they were usually a little more specific.

(Huh? thought Ghost Henry Samuelson, who was watching Ghost Dennis to learn how to get living people to hear him--since nobody but crazy Cedric has heard a word Samuelson's ghost has said.)

"Let me tell you about your secretary," whispered Ghost Dennis.  "Her husband's been out of work for two years.  They sold their television and their stereo.  They sleep on a broken bed.  They stopped using the dry cleaners."  (Not usually this specific, thought the Chief of Staff.)  "They cut their own hair.  They mend their umbrellas.  Their computer needs to be replaced.  Their printer is a joke.  They haven't bought any new clothing since 2010 except underwear.  She wears stained clothing to work, but you're too busy to notice."  (Really?)  "They eat potatoes every night because it's cheaper than bread.  Their bath towels are threadbare."  (WHAT is the point?! fumed the Chief of Staff, trying to focus "his" thoughts.)  "This is the disappearing middle class, right under your nose.  People working hard at professional jobs but sliding into poverty because Wall Street screwed up--"  (Oh, no, no, no, can't blame it on Wall Street!, said the Chief of Staff.)  Ghost Dennis sighed.  (And Ghost Henry smirked.)  "THIS IS WHY OBAMA NEEDS TO BE REELECTED!" hollered Ghost Dennis.  "NOW GET BACK TO WORK!"

A few miles to the north, Marcos Vazquez was helping his wife, Golden Fawn, make dinner.  "When are you getting back to work?" he asked.

"Ummm, tomorrow is Monday:  what do you mean?" she replied.

"I mean, back to work," he said.  "You haven't done anything about Ardua of the Potomac in a long time, and you seem to be obsessing on silly things."


Vazquez realized he had not broached this topic in an ideal fashion.  "Like with the desk chair, when the wheel fell off.  You ordered new wheels for it three times, and none of them fit right--"

"The third one is OK," she interrupted.

"It would have been faster and cheaper to buy a new chair," Vazquez said.

"The third wheel I got is working!" she protested.

"I just think you're putting too much energy into stuff like that," he said.  "You told me there's a horrible ghost at the CIA, but you haven't done anything about it.  I'm worried that you're giving up, but this stuff is still worrying you, and you're just trying to bury it."

Golden Fawn looked at him with a strange combination of awe, annoyance, and appreciation.  "You're right," she finally said.  "I don't know what to do.  I think I need to take a trip to visit my grandmother.  Why don't you come with me?"

"To the reservation?" asked Vazquez, who had not anticipated the conversation going in that direction.

"Unless my grandmother moved somewhere else and you forgot to tell me!" laughed Golden Fawn.

A few miles to the east, Sebastian L'Arche was walking into the D.C. jail to visit a fellow Iraq War veteran who had used his one phone call to phone L'Arche.  After he got through security and stated his business, he was told the prisoner could not be visited because he was on suicide watch.

"Come on, man!  I was his one phone call!" protested L'Arche.

"They have strict rules about suicide watch," said the guard.

"Like what?  Making the guy feel even more alienated by labeling him a problem, putting him in solitary, and not letting him see his friends?"

"Alright, smart ass, time to leave," said the guard.

"I'm his lawyer," lied L'Arche. 

"I thought you were his friend?"

"Some people have lawyers as friends," said L'Arche.

"Alright--five minutes only.  And no touching, and I can't leave you alone with him," said the guard.

A few minutes later, L'Arche was inside a cell that immediately sent his mind back to Abu Ghraib, but he shook it off.  "Dewey," he whispered, getting as close as he dared to before the guard interceded.  "I thought things were OK!  I thought you liked your new job and--"

"I'm innocent!" shouted Dewey.  "I didn't do it!  Don't send me back there!"

"Nobody's sending you back to Iraq, man!"

Dewey was rocking back and forth, hugging himself.  He had welts on his lips from biting them repeatedly.  "I didn't do it," he whispered.

Back at the White House, the ghost of Henry Samuelson floated outside through Lafayette Square, on his way back to Langley.  "This is nuts!" he said.  "It's time to get back to work!"

"You're absolutely right!" exclaimed John Doe, looking straight at Ghost Henry.  "I may be an autistic savant with amnesia and epileptic visions, but that's no excuse!"

"You can hear me?!" shouted Ghost Henry.

"There's no need to yell!  I'm not deaf!  What did you have in mind?"

"What?" asked Ghost Henry.

"You're the one from my vision!" exclaimed John Doe.  "You said it was time to get back to work:  what did you have in mind?"

This guy's gonna do whatever I tell him to do! thought Ghost Henry.  I'm haunting somebody!  Who is it?

Up in a nearby tree, a catbird began imitating the sound of a homeless man snoring on a bench, while a flock of starlings flew off to report to Ardua of the Potomac.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Game Changers

Henrietta ("Button") Samuelson looked out smugly on the faces of the Heurich Society.  "As you all know," she said, without bothering to open the meeting formally, "we succeeded in persuading Mitt Romney to select Paul Ryan as his running mate."  (Samuelson, the real estate agent, had rented an apartment to Ryan when he was first elected to Congress, and they had been friendly ever since.)  "I know there have been a lot of concerns here about Mitt's nomination, and I think we can all agree things are moving in a better direction now."  (The truth was, only one person in the Heurich Society had followed through on the directive to push Ryan to the top--the others had just pretended to go along with it.)  "Of course, our next step is shaping the acceptance speech--shaping what this campaign is really going to be about."  (This was getting over her head in some respects, unaccustomed as she was to dealing with more than local politicians, but her instincts were getting stronger every day.)  "Aren't you hungry?" she asked, looking in amazement at the still-full platter of bran muffins and sprouted-wheat scones.  (As if on cue, the butler re-entered the upper meeting room of the Brewmaster's Castle with a tray of freshly cut strawberries and melons from the Dupont Circle Farmer's Market, and these were met with a little more enthusiasm.)  "Alright:  next on the agenda, a report on the Middle East."

A few miles to the north, Angela de la Paz was boarding a Heurich Society charter flight back to the Middle East.  She felt a hard poke in the back of her neck and wheeled around, but there was nobody there.  She sat down gingerly in the middle row and put her bag on the floor.  The phantom pokings had been going on for two weeks now, and her spine was starting to bother her--as if something were always pushing it out of alignment.  As soon as her neck would get poked, the pain would move down to the spot in-between her shoulder blades; then she would feel a poke in-between her shoulder blades, and the pain would move down to her sacrum; then she would feel a poke in her sacrum, and the pain would return to her neck.  After battling Ardua of the Potomac, Eeteebsse, and their evil flunkies, there was not much that scared her, but she was starting to think a ghost was haunting her, and it really gave her the creeps.  She leaned back into the seat with determination:  nothing can poke me through the seat cushions.  Nonetheless, the ghost of Henry Samuelson was not deterred by things like seat cushions, so he poked her again.  She jumped out of her seat and turned around to see what was there, but nothing was there.

"Miss Ella?"

Angela jumped again, but it was only the flight attendant.

"The pilot's ready if you are.  Are you OK?"

"Yes," said Angela, sitting down and buckling her seatbelt.  "We can go."

Ghost Henry got off the plane in disgust.  He was getting stronger in his poltergeist skills, but still nobody could see him.  He had already taken two CIA flights to the Middle East, and he hadn't been able to get a single soul to hear a word he had said.  He watched in frustration as the plane took off for its futile mission--something he had been unable to warn Angela or his daughter about.  He took off to return to Langley and make another attempt at writing a report for limited electronic distribution.

A few miles to the east, military attaché Roddy Bruce was trying to stifle a yawn during the Middle East security briefing at the Australian Embassy.  They warned me this would happen.  He pretended to take notes, but the words were going in one ear and out the other.  If you succeed on the United Nations peacekeeper mission in East Timor, they're going to put you on anti-terrorism duty in Indonesia; if you do too good a job there, you'll be sucked into Afghanistan or the Middle East.  He reached for his coffee cup, but it was empty.  You just had to do your job, Roddy, but, nooooo, you had to go all commando and get hailed as a hero.  He got up to refill his coffee cup, even though he knew this was his third trip to the sidebar and it was not going to go unnoticed.  You'll be lucky to get even three months of paper-pushing and a trip to see New York City before you're sent on some secret agent mission to the bloody Middle East.  He returned to his seat and made another futile attempt at focusing on what was being said.  ("Son, you know how Gallipoli turned out for the Aussies," his father had warned him.  "Stay in the Pacific.")  He suddenly heard something that might need to go in his notes:  "she whose gaze must be avoided".  Who the hell is that?

A few blocks away, Becky Hartley was looking pretty good in a magenta sundress and white cowboy boots as she entered Homestead Park with Sebastian L'Arche.  "Who's that chick?" thought more than a few guys who were supposed to be focusing on their girlfriends or children, though Hartley was all business as she conducted a large number of dogs around to distract the people from L'Arche and the rat terrier Gipper's quest to scare up some rodents.  A half-hour later, they were across P Street, and the Gipper was sniffing his way into the Scientology Center.  "We have never had a rodent problem here," stated the gentleman leading them down into the basement.  "The Open House tour does not include the basement, but we don't want to take any chances.  Mice do not fit into our image whatsoever."

"Really?" said Hartley, and L'Arche kicked her gently in the ankle.

"A lot of people get rats after a full day of rain," said L'Arche.  "We're booked all day."

"I didn't say rats," the gentleman protested.  "It's mice."

L'Arche was fairly certain that mice could not be coexisting peacefully on the same street as all the rats that the Gipper had been gobbling up, but he saw no need to comment to that effect, and gave Becky a preemptive (but gentle) kick in the ankle to keep her mouth shut, as well.

Becky, however, was now distracted by a wall poster--which the gentleman hung back to explain to her as L'Arche and the Gipper headed into the room suspected of harboring rodents.  "Do y'all really believe that?  That the entire Bush clan was replaced by the Invasion of the Body Snatchers in the 1970s?"

"No, no!  That's just a joke!" the scientologist protested.

"My daddy used to say that all the time--he almost left Dallas when Bush became governor of Texas!" said Hartley.

"Actually, the body snatchers are a metaphor for omnipresent replacement of individual character with the groupthink of the prevailing paradigm," he replied.  "My name is Werner," he added.

"Warner, what about this one?" asked Hartley, moving to a wall poster in the next hallway with lyrics attributed to Steve Winwood:  When there's no one left to leave you, even you don't quite believe you, that's when nothing can deceive you.  "He wasn't a scientologist?! My mama used to sing that all the time!" 

"We think that was inspired by a scientologist who played drummer with him on a couple of sessions," said Werner.

An hour later, L'Arche found Hartley upstairs, signing up for the next stage in her introduction to scientology.  "Gipper ate six rats," L'Arche said.

"You mean mice?" asked Werner.

"No, I mean rats," said L'Arche.  "About 10 inches long.  Gipper won't be hungry again until tomorrow.  We'll have to bag the rest of them today."

Werner frowned and wrote out a check for L'Arche.  (He was frowning about the rats, not the money--Becky's check to the Church of Scientology was larger than their check to L'Arche.)

L'Arche yanked Hartley forcefully out into the sunshine.  "You need to cancel that check!  Don't let them brainwash you!"

"Why, Sebastian, I'm shocked!" protested Hartley.  "Do you really think I'm somebody that can be brainwashed?!"  She laughed, shook her head, and turned towards the truck.

Well, somebody brainwashed you into wearing leather boots when it's 85 degrees and humid outside, so, yeah, I do! he fumed, hurrying after her.  L'Arche had seen all kinds of "conversions" amongst the other soldiers in Iraq--Christian, Moslem, Satanist, Buddhist, Wiccan--but nobody had ever turned Scientologist.  It was whispered that just visiting a Scientology website could get a sargent demoted to private.  A Scientologist would never take orders from anybody except a fellow Scientologist--at least, that was the common reason assumed for the ostracism.

"I'm just curious," said Hartley, climbing behind the steering wheel.  "It's interesting stuff!  And I would think that you, of all people, would be more open-minded!"  L'Arche said nothing--just fastened his seatbelt and looked back at the bloated rat terrier in the bed of the truck.  "Ya think he's gonna barf?" asked Hartley, and L'Arche was relieved that her thoughts were still focused on the physical and the mundane.  He shook his head no, and they drove to their next appointment.  (No, thought L'Arche, I'm not open-minded:  evil exists in many forms, and I don't like any of them.)

Sunday, August 05, 2012

Olympic Fever

Out in Potomac Manors, Basia Karbusky was at her computer reviewing Olympic results, the comforting sound of Mega Moo drifting in from the eastern pasture of her estate.  Three more of her athlete-clients had won gold before she even woke up this morning, and she was very proud of the formula she had sold them this year.  She looked at the framed photo of herself with her grandfather, the family dairy farm aglow in Wisconsin sunlight behind them.  Karbusky wondered whether he would have approved of her supplying chemical compounds to people he would have called non-Aryans; she would have told him that competitive athletes made the best experimental guinea pigs, but, truth be told, she also needed the money.  She had a lot of political clients from Washington eager for a variety of mood-altering substances which could not be detected in security clearance drug tests; however, she had made more money in performance-enhancing sales in the past two months than the entire previous twelve when she was only selling to political appointees and military brass.  The truth was, she had made a lot of progress with the scientific journals she had inherited from her grandfather, but she was no closer to understanding--let alone achieving--his dreams. 

Several miles to the south, Charles Wu was "entertaining" junior (and rogue) operative Angela de la Paz in his backyard.  "Dreams don't always come true," Charles Wu said to Angela de la Paz.  "I wanted to compete in the Olympics, but it would have compromised my career."

"Which sport?" she asked, sitting stiffly in a garden seat while the spy observed his infant daughter splashing in her kiddie pool.

"That's not important--"

"I want to know," she said.  (She had abandoned patience as a virtue a long time ago.)

"I excelled in a lot of sports at university," the spy said, fondly recalling his days as a competitive athlete in England.  "But if I had competed for an Olympic spot, I would have ended up training in Beijing."

"Sounds like a good cover for spying for England," she retorted.

"A spy needs to travel and maintain a very flexible schedule," Wu said.

"Maybe you just didn't want to win a medal for Beijing," Angela said.  "Too bad there are no Olympics for people to just win medals for themselves."

Wu was now accustomed to her snarkiness:  it was her defense against the gray world of moral ambiguity she now inhabited.  He didn't really care what she said as long as she kept listening.  "Today I want to teach you about the Ottoman Empire."  (She rolled her eyes, and Wu was starting to wonder if Dr. Rajatala might be correct that Angela really needed to go to college.)  "It's not ancient history, Angela.  Empires exist for centuries by uniting large numbers of diverse people over large swaths of territory.  This has never been done peacefully, always by the sword--always by a tax collector brandishing a large sword.  If the empire dies, then the people run around like fire ants competing for territory.  There's always more blood shed after the empire dies:  the death of the Roman Empire, the death of the British Empire, the death of the Ottoman Empire.  You were a baby when the Bosnians descended into near-genocide after communist Yugoslavia fell apart."

"Well, the indigenous in the Americas suffered near-genocide during the expansion of the Spanish Empire, not afterwards," said Angela, indignantly.

Wu shook his head.  "That was primarily from disease, Angela."

"Well, what's your point, anyway?" asked Angela.

"You need to learn the laws of unintended consequences," said Wu.  "Whatever the Heurich Society was before Henrietta took charge, it certainly paid attention to that."

"You just think women aren't good enough to run the Heurich Society!" snapped Angela.

"You're so young, Angela," said Wu.  "I just want you to understand that there are a lot of forces in play.  I know you were in Syria last week."  (Angela looked up in shock.)  "The Sunni-Shiite war goes back a long, long, long way.  I can't tell you how many times the CIA screwed up in thinking it was smart enough to place bets on that one."

"Well some people think everything that's wrong with the Middle East, Pakistan, and Afghanistan is the fault of the British!" she retorted.

"If you remove the alpha dog, the hounds will fight violently amongst themselves for control.  Don't be so certain that you know how to pick a better alpha dog than the one that's already there."

Meanwhile, alpha dog Glenn Michael Beckmann was experimenting with doing his first live blog, after having read a few covering Olympic events.  However, he did not see any reason to confine his live blogging to a single event, so he was roaming around the city just randomly describing things as he saw them.  "Just got on an X2 bus," he said.  (He did not realize he was saying out loud everything he was typing on his laptop.)  "The war on body odor is losing badly here.   A really, really stinky guy just walked past--reeked of coffee breath, arm pit sweat, and new-shoe-hot-leather smell.  Kids at home:  never wear new leather shoes when the temperature is over 85 degrees!  Now we have a urine soaked fellow getting on at THIS bus stop--another homeless wretch.  Have you ever noticed how people wear masks in public places--expressionless masks so you can't identify them as commies or feminazis or serial creditors?"  (If Beckmann had looked up from his laptop, he would have noticed then that several passengers had dropped their expressionless masks and were now glaring viciously at him.)  "The beauty of the bus is that there are no rich snobs on it.  As Neil Diamond said, money talks, but it can't sing and dance, and it can't walk--and it can't take the bus.  I'm almost at McPherson Square now:  I'm going to kill a few ducks for lunch."  (Several riders gasped and groaned at this.)  "The Hunter-Gatherer Society didn't want to have any meetings in August--why does everybody think you can't have meetings in August in Washington?  It's WEAK, WEAK, WEAK.  When I was in Iraq, we fought the commmie Arab bastards when it was 110 degrees outside!"  (Beckmann had false memories of fighting in Iraq.)  "People in this town are too soft.  That's why nobody from Washington ever wins an Olympic medal."

"That's true," said the man who smelled like urine, and Beckmann looked up in shock.

A mile to the east, Roddy Bruce looked up from his beer in shock at the synchronized swimming being displayed on the bar's widescreen tv.  "Are you joking?!" shouted the military commando, recently posted as attaché to the Australian Embassy.  "Please tell me that's not the only bloody Olympic event on today!"  

A raven-haired beauty sat next to him at the bar.  "I love your accent!" she cooed. 

Bruce had heard rumors about how easy it was to pick up American women when you had an Aussie accent, but he had not put much credence in those rumors before.  "You should hear what I sound like in the bedroom," he whispered, with a leer.  (At that, the woman frowned, got up, and went away.)  No worries, he thought.  I'll figure 'em out eventually

A few miles to the south, a half-dozen boys were running races in an abandoned lot, pretending to be in the Olympics--ignoring the hot, sticky air in their Southeast slum, ignoring their asthma or ill-fitting shoes or hand-me down shorts, ignoring the depraved starlings chattering about them near the bushes, ignoring the cursed water coursing through their body tissues courtesy of Ardua of the Potomac.  For a half-hour or so, any dreamer can be glory-bound--even in a town like this.