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, November 24, 2013

The Ghosts of Thanksgiving Past

The Shackled were floating over Georgetown Waterfront Park, immune to the icy wind blasts making mere mortals shiver below them and bend over in agony as they scurried on to their next destination.  It had been two centuries since Ardua of the Potomac had claimed the lives of the Shackled before they were to be hauled onto the docks and auctioned off to the genteel farmers and merchants of the growing metropolitan region.  But Ardua was still killing the weakest and most vulnerable, while seeking to enslave the stronger and more dangerous.  The Shackled had been preparing their Thanksgiving 2013 vision for a long time--each ghost with his or her own list of key human beings to visit with dire warnings about where their lives were heading if they did not learn from their past and reclaim their future.  It was always hard to get the living to notice them, but the Shackled believed that the mortals were more susceptible to feeling ethereal disturbances, seeing changing auras, and hearing otherworldly voices during the magical times known as "the holidays".  The leader of the Shackled gave them final words of encouragement and a blessing, and they spread quickly to the four winds.

"Do you think anybody's coming?" asked Melinda, recently switched to a new drug which eliminated many of the symptoms that had brought her to the Arlington group home for the mentally challenged...by knocking out half her brain function.

"I thought your sister was coming to get you for Thanksgiving?" countered a resentful Buckner, who was cutting and pasting celebrity headshots from magazines onto the pilgrim costumes which Theresa had made from colored construction paper and maple leaves.

"I have a sister?"

"I'm your sister," said Theresa, whose real sister had committed suicide as a teenager.

"No, you are housemates and friends," said social worker Hue Nguyen, walking in from the kitchen.  She stopped to look over Larry's shoulder to see if he had found another unblocked porn site on the house computer.  (He was, in fact, reading Giuliana Sunstream's NOMA lifestyle blog, because some of her recent selfies involved tight sweaters.)  "Is that a dog?" asked Nguyen, looking at a photo of a mysterious turkey-like creature.

"That's Vegas, her Maltese toy," said Larry.  "She dressed it up as the White House dog dressed up as a turkey."

"Sunny or Bo?" asked Theresa, eyeing Millie, the enormous brown dog slowly inching away from her and her glue gun.

"Sunny and Bo, sitting in a tree," said Freddy Ritchings (AKA Brother Divine of the International Peace Movement), "k-i-s-s-i-n-g."

"That's incest," said Larry, who knew too much about the subject.

"No, it's not," said Nguyen.  "Those dogs were adopted as pets.  Who wants to help me decorate the pie before Dr. Schwartz arrives?"

"I need to get on the computer!" shouted Cedric.  "This is not Thanksgiving!  I can prove it!"

"We're having turkey today with Dr. Schwartz because many of us will be visiting family on Thursday.  Today is a time to give thanks for all the good things in our life here, including Dr. Schwartz."

"He's a Swedenborgian!" shouted Cedric.  "I can prove it!  C'mon--it's my turn!"  (Cedric had recently formed a theory that Dr. Schwartz was responsible for bringing Henry Samuelson back from the grave.)  "The Swedenborgians made a deal with Iran!  The entire balance of power has shifted away from the Saudis now!"

"Well, that's a bit dramatic," said Buckner, and Theresa nodded, rolling her eyes.

"We had Swedish cookies," said Melinda, closing her eyes.  "Scooter Libby was there."  (This was true.)

"The Swedish are not selfish," said Brother Divine.  "The cookies are not Wookies.  Scooter went to jail because the CIA secret did fail!"

"See, he knows what I'm talking about!" exclaimed Cedric.

"Cedric, why don't we start with you?" said Nguyen.  "I can think of at least one thing you have to be thankful for--can you?"  (Nguyen was tapping her wrist, in reference to the watch Cedric was sporting on his left arm.)  "Didn't somebody send you a birthday gift recently?"

"The Bloodsucker sent it to me!" wailed Cedric (referring to Condoleezza Rice--who had, in fact, sent it to him).  "It's not a gift--it's a bug, and she listens to me all the time to see if Ghost Henry is talking to me!"  (This was half true.)

"It's so shiny," said Melinda, "like...like...like--"

"Shiny and whiny, the sardines were briny!" said Brother Divine.  "Salty and malty, the crackers were paltry!  Happy and snappy, our parents were crappy!  Drunk as a skunk, they made Thanksgiving stunk!"

"Alright," said the social worker, "I'll go first.  I'm thankful for the baby panda that we got to visit at the zoo this week."

The room was silent as the mentally challenged reflected on the momentous event and tried to understand how it was a blessing in their lives.

"I am the Ghost of Thanksgiving Past!" intoned a member of the Shackled, floating into the room, but nobody looked up at her except Millie.  Are you looking for Congressman Barton next door? whispered Millie.

"I am the Ghost of Thanksgiving Past!" intoned another member of the Shackled, floating into Congressman John Boehner's bedroom.

"Packing for a flight," said the Speaker of the House, who was drunk as a skunk.  "In a big hurry--limo on the way."

"You can see me?" cried the delighted ghost.

"Yessiree!  Can you go in the john and pack my razor?"

"Do you remember when your grandmother had the stroke and--"

"Seriously, guy, in a big hurry.  Can't wait to get back to Ohio!"  (The ghost sensed sarcasm, possibly despair, in the Speaker's voice.)  "Pretty sure my nephew's bringin' a boy toy and tellin' us he's gay!"

"I am the Ghost of Thanksgiving Past!" intoned another member of the Shackled, floating into the car of Henrietta ("Button") Samuelson, who changed the radio station in confusion.  Her open house was finished, and the realtor (and Chair of the Heurich Society!) was on her way to Solomon Kane's apartment, where a pregnant and oddly domestic Angela de la Paz had already begun a week's worth of cooking, shopping, and decorating.  "You must not listen to your father--he is an angry and dangerous ghost!  I want you to think back to when your mother was alive."  Button shivered and looked around for the source of the voice, certain someone in the Heurich Society had planted a tape recording in the car to make her think she was going crazy.  "You were ten years old, and it was the first time--"  Button jumped out of the car, locked it up, and hailed a taxi.

"I am the Ghost of Thanksgiving Past!" intoned another member of the Shackled, floating into the home study of Charles Wu, who looked up in surprise.

"Don't you think I'm a little new to this country to be haunted by the Ghost of Thanksgiving Past?" queried an amused Wu.

"You can see me?" asked the excited ghost.

"My mother taught me all about ghosts in Hong Kong," said Wu.  "You're the first one I've seen since I was a child."

"That means your heart is open to the invisible world," nodded the enthusiastic ghost.

"I've been working on my chi," said Wu.  "Nobody ever had more chi than I did, until Angela de la Paz."

"You are jealous of her chi?  You are wasting your own chi on a dangerous path."

"Me?!  Have you seen the stunts she's been pulling for the Heurich Society?!"

"Her chi strengthens her to fight demons--she is the chosen one!"

"Are we talking about the same person?"

"Yes--there is much you still do not understand."

"I am the Ghost of Thanksgiving Past!" intoned another member of the Shackled, floating into the attic of the White House East Wing.  Ghost Dennis looked up in surprise.  "You are failing the President of the United States!"

"This is not an easy task!" retorted Ghost Dennis.  "First of all, I can barely find a minute alone with him to whisper in his ear!  Lately all I've got is his time in the shower, and then he starts singin' Beatles songs or the latest Lady Gaga hit Malia's been walking around singin' so he can't hear what I'm sayin'!"

"Do you remember your first Thanksgiving with President Obama?"


"I'm here to remind you what's important--there is too much at stake!"

"I know, I know," sighed Ghost Dennis.

"And do something about those kids!"  (Ghost Dennis looked in the corner at the ghosts of Regina and Ferguson, who had been listening carefully the whole time.)  "They need to grow up--you gonna let them make mischief like three-year-olds forever?"

Out in the Potomac, Ardua waited alone for the Shackled to return from their Grand Mission, the frigid water keeping away even her most loyal rats and birds.  Like most Americans, she had a love-hate relationship with the holidays, and knew the next five weeks could bring peace and love...or something else more to her liking.

COMING UP:  Why Glenn Michael Beckmann will not be becoming a mall Santa.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Garbage in, garbage out.

"Keep your eyes open!" hollered the George Washington U. Hospital nurse, and a groggy Bridezilla tried hard to comply.  "You should be awake by now!"  The orderlies wheeling her from surgery to recovery completed their task and deposited Bridezilla on a recovery bed.  "Stage 1 is over!  You're in Stage 2 now!  Keep those eyes open!"  The screaming nurse tossed a packet of crackers and two juice cups on Bridezilla's lap, mere inches from the hernia incision scar.  "You have to eat, drink, and pee before we can discharge you!"  With that, she was gone, and Bridezilla tried hard to remember how she had ended up here.

A few miles to the east, Becky Hartley--pharmaceutical saleswoman and animal acupuncturist--was patiently explaining to Giuliana Sunstream why her dog "Vegas" should not be given any juice.  "Your dog was diagnosed with canine diabetes:  no sugar!"

"But it's a juice fast," replied Sunstream, who had abandoned her dream of being a Hollywood actress and was now attempting a career as a "NOMA" (H Street Corridor) lifestyle guru.  (She had tried to establish herself in Georgetown, Cleveland Park, Chinatown, and Southwest first--NOMA was really her final shot.)

"Juice fasts are dumb for everybody--especially dogs!" retorted Hartley

"Vegas only needs to lose two pounds--the juice fast should have worked already!" protested Sunstream.

"Look," said Hartley, "just because it's only two pounds doesn't mean it's easy.  Her little toy body could have seams of fat throughout her organs."

"That's disgusting!"

"Why were you sharing your Kashi breakfast cereal with her?"

"You read my blog!" cried Sunstream, jubilantly.

"We Google our clients before we make our first visit."  (She exchanged a glance with Sebastian L'Arche.)  "You can't feed your dog breakfast cereal!"

"But Kashi has no high-fructose corn syrup!" protested Sunstream.

"It has two other kinds of sugar!" scolded Hartley.

The women stopped arguing when they realized L'Arche was doing his animal whisper.  After a few minutes, L'Arche put the toy down.  "She's overeating because you eat ten times a day and feed her every time."

"But I'm just eating micro meals!  Actually, they're called--"

"She's a Maltese!" interjected Hartley.  "You can't feed her ten times a day!  You need to start counting calories!"

"When you have your micro meal, give her a bone to gnaw on, or a squeaky to play with," said L'Arche.  "And Becky will do a little acupuncture to kickstart her metabolism."  (This was mostly bunk, but they found they got more referrals when she did it.  Still, sometimes L'Arche was disappointed not to find a real demon to contend with.)

Back at GWU Hospital, Bridezilla had recovered her wits enough to call her boyfriend, Professor Buddy Lee Trickham, with her estimated departure time.  (When did abdominal surgery become an outpatient procedure!?)  However, in her confusion, she dialed the number for her other suitor, Luciano Talaverdi, instead.  The Italian economist--who was at a special luncheon in which Janet Yellen was thanking all the Federal Reserve Board staff who had helped her prepare for the U.S. Senate hearing--was horrified to discover his intended had just been operated on.  "I'm on my way!" he assured her.

Meanwhile, Trickham was out in a hospital waiting area trying to read The Southern Review, while a phony reporter asked visitors questions about how much Obamacare was destroying their loved ones' care.  (The "reporter" actually worked for Congressman John Boehner, Speaker of the House.)  "Excuse me," interjected the exasperated professor (who had brought his girlfriend here after she had herniated herself carrying too many witness binders at Prince and Prowling), "Obamacare is not in effect yet.  Nobody has Obamacare insurance right now.  Why don't you leave us alone, young man?"

"Wake up and smell the rosacea!" cried the fake reporter.

"You are making sound and fury signifying nothing," retorted Trickham.  (He found it was a reply that worked in almost every Washington social confrontation he had ever endured.)

The "reporter" muttered under his breath and moved to the far end of the room.

A mile to the east, the Dog Whisperer arrived for his scheduled visit to the White House.  "Welcome back, Dr. L'Arche."  (Sebastian L'Arche wasn't a doctor, but Becky Hartley squeezed his arm to silence him.)  "Sunny is having fits every time she hears the word 'Obamacare.'"  The group descended to the basement for the secret session, and Bo ran up to greet his old friends.

"How you doin', Bo?"  Bo told L'Arche he was hanging in there, then introduced Sunny.  "Now let's see what we can do about this."

Back at GWU, the screaming nurse had returned to check on Bridezilla, who told her she was nauseous.  "Well, that's because you had two juice cups!" hollered the nurse.

"Don't you holler at her!" exclaimed Professor Trickham, elbowing his way past Talaverdi into the room.

"You can't be in here!" yelled the nurse.

"She called me to come get her, you @#$%^&*!" exclaimed Talaverdi, calling the nurse a bad word in Italian, and rushing around to the other side of Bridezilla's bed.

"That's a lie!" said Trickham.

"Then why am I here?" retorted Talaverdi.

"I'm nauseous," said Bridezilla.

"What you need is a long vacation in Italy, just like we planned," said Talaverdi.

"Is that true?" asked Trickham.

"I'm not sure," said Bridezilla.

"Well, you need to decide!" said Talaverdi.

"Take the Italian!" shouted the nurse.  "Go to Italy!"

"What's so great about Italy?" countered another nurse, who had stopped by to see what the commotion was about.

"What do you mean, what's so great about Italy?"

"This one's a professor," said another nurse.  "I saw it on her form."

"I want to marry you!" exclaimed Professor Trickham.  "Don't go to Italy with him!"

"But I want to marry you more!" countered Talaverdi.

"Too late!" exclaimed the pro-professor nurse.  "The professor asked first!"

"That doesn't matter!" shouted the screaming nurse.

With that, Bridezilla vomited to the left.  Now, she had always been a person who vomited to the left, but since Talaverdi happened to be standing to her left, he took this as a "no", and gracefully bowed out.  (Although the "gracefully" part evaporated out in the hallway as he raced to the men's room to clean up his Italian leather jacket.)

Out in the river, Ardua of the Potomac celebrated the political demise of William P. White, D.C. Insurance Commissioner, for choosing Obamacare over Obama, and sent more river rats to the GWU Hospital to make sure patients there simply got sicker and sicker.

COMING UP:  The ghost of Thanksgiving Past....

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Water Demons

Conspiracy theorist and militiaman Glenn Michael Beckmann was attempting to live-blog from the bridgeman's quarters of the 14th Street Bridge, but it wasn't going well.  (His laptop was still in the bag.)

"Who sent you?!" demanded Dubious McGinty.

"I heard there was a Vietnam veteran living up here," replied Beckmann.

"Who sent you?!" repeated McGinty.

"It's Veterans' Day tomorrow," stated Beckmann.

"Why you avoiding the question?" demanded McGinty.

(Beckmann was avoiding the question because he could not remember the answer.)  "How long have you been living here?"

"I'm not answering any of your stupid questions, white boy!"

"My great, great grand-mother was a Cherokee," declared Beckmann angrily.

"Oh, I've heard that one before," said McGinty, rolling his eyes.

"I'm a Veteran, too."

"Wearing those dumb-ass army fatigues don't make you a veteran."

"I fought in Iraq," said Beckmann.  (This was a figment of his imagination.)

"Which Mr. George did you do that for?"

"There were weapons of mass destruction."

"You just sat in one of them video arcades shooting off drone rockets, didn't you?"

"I can kill people with my bare hands and teeth!" shouted Beckmann.

"Well, I'd like to see you try that," laughed McGinty.

"Have you heard of the Hunter-Gatherer Society?  Nobody's deadlier than we are!  Sarah Palin is our President, and we'll kill ourselves before we surrender to Obamacare."

"Son, you're just plain crazy!"

"I'm not the one living in a bridge like a troll!"

"Trolls live under bridges!  I'm on the top!  Now get outta here before I throw you overboard and let Ardua eat you!"

"Who's Ardua?"

Up in Cleveland Park, Charles Wu was taking advantage of another water demon:  Typhoon Haiyan.  Now most multimillionaires would simply write a check to the Red Cross and not give the 15,000 dead another thought, but Wu was a brilliant man who saw multiple opportunities in the Philippines relief drive.  First, of course, was winning more brownie points with Mia, whom he was still hoping would spy for him one day.  Second, naturally, was taking advantage of the Glenn Defense Marine Asia bribery probe he had put in motion, and the intelligence gap it left in the U.S. Navy with two Admirals now in dry dock.  Third was, inevitably, making money.

Fourth was the most complex of all:  putting his neighbor, Liv Cigemeier, back to work at International Development Machine.  She had been a fantastic babysitter, now that Mia was taking classes and could no longer be a full-time nanny, but the Liv issue had become complex.  Liv adored little Delia, and might very well be in love with Wu, but what was more important was that Liv's husband was obviously unhappy with the situation.  Could be jealousy, could be feelings of inadequacy that he had not fathered a child of his own, could be the loss of professional respect for his own wife--whatever the reason, Wu perceived that Liv's husband was not comfortable with things the way they were.  (Why else would he keep insisting that Liv bring Delia to their own house next door to babysit?)  If Augustus Bush, President of International Development Machine, agreed to Wu's proposal, Wu would provide a $1,000,000 (tax-deductible!) grant to IDM that Liv would administer for Philippines reconstruction.  Liv would go into IDM only twice a week, doing the rest of the work from her home office or Wu's.  She'd be able to continue watching Delia quite a bit, while using her considerable education to administer an excellent program for the Philippines.  Wu, in turn, would have an impeccable cover for expanding his network to fill the intelligence vacuum in Malaysia and beyond.  It was a brilliant plan!

Several miles away, Augustus Bush was mulling over the Charles Wu proposal.  Now Bush, a member of the U.S. Virgin Islands branch of the Bush clan, was not the cleanest knife in the drawer, but he sensed something untoward in this proposal.  Why was Wu proposing that Liv Cigemeier work from home?  Had he already negotiated that with her?  Was it her idea?  Or was there some kind of illicit affair there which would taint the name of International Development Machine?  Bush had been brought in precisely to salvage IDM's reputation--and business--and he didn't want anything to jeopardize his success, least of all that ungrateful woman who had taken Girl Hurl to competitor International Development Nerds!  Still, $1,000,000 was nothing to sneeze at:  even if IDM was only able to pocket 25% of it, it might serve to leverage more donations and contracts with the U.S. Agency for International Development.  He closed his eyes to visualize the cascade of events which might follow this deal.  Do I really care if they're having an affair?

Back in Cleveland Park, two people actually having an affair--Ann Bishis and John Constantine--were having lunch at Alero.  "This is the loudest Mexican restaurant I have ever seen!" declared Bishis (Chief of Staff to Congressman Herrmark).

"I can hear you just fine," replied Constantine (a D.C. coroner).

"No, I mean the wall diarrhea--there's crap hanging in every square inch!"

"Oh, the decorations?  Yeah, when you have to spend most of your days in 55-degree stainless steel boxes, you crave a lot of color."

"This could cause epileptic seizures!" said Bishis, laughing at her own joke.

"You really have some peculiar medical notions," replied Constantine, who was normally a very jolly guy, but somewhat subdued of late.

"Is something bothering you?' asked Bishis.  (Dating a coroner with a wicked sense of humor was one thing, but dating a coroner who was a sourpuss was unacceptable.)

"Can I tell you a secret?" he said, leaning in.  (She nodded.)  "It's about people who drown in the Potomac."  (Bishis now regretted her nod.)  "When I did my first drowning autopsy in D.C., there were signs that the victim drowned faster than usual--like the way a toddler can drown quickly in just a couple inches of water."  (Bishis nodded her head, horrified, and started thinking about breaking up with him--just the other day a cute guy from the Log Cabin Republicans had been flirting with her while lobbying the Holier Than Thou Caucus on the Senate's gay rights bill, and--)  "My boss said that was because of the tide, and told me to put 'TIDE' at the end of the report.  Well, I've done that dozens of times now, and yesterday I found out accidentally what 'TIDE' really stands for."  ("What?")  (Constantine looked around carefully, then leaned in to whisper.)  "Timing is demon effect."  ("Huh?")  Constantine raised his voice slightly:  "My boss thinks there's a man-killing demon living in the Potomac."  With that, Bishis burst into laughter, mistakenly relieved that his wicked sense of humor had returned.

Out in the river, Ardua of the Potomac was still laughing at the apoplectic fit Glenn Michael Beckmann had left Dubious McGinty in.

COMING UP:  Janet Yellen yellin'.

Monday, November 04, 2013

Taking Care of Business

The Braggart had returned to Prince and Prowling.

"Google me!" she said, marching into the workroom sometimes known as Laura Moreno's office.  ("Um, OK.")  "Which image do you like better?  I've been trying to get rid of the image on the left because it's too sexy."  (Moreno was still hung up on the fact that the first entry was from Wikipedia.)  "I spent a year in China, and I'm fluent in Mandarin now.  I get $80/hour now."

"Is that enough to cover the expenses of being in China for a year?"

The Braggart just laughed.  "Oh, my boyfriend was paying for everything!"  (Actually, Goode Peepz law firm had paid her to go to Hong Kong for a three-week project after she had used a Chinese busboy to cheat on the Alta language test; then she picked up a rich businessman while over there.)  "I guess I'll sit over here."

"Are they bringing a computer for you?" asked Moreno.

"No," said the Braggart, "I said I only use iPads now.  That coat looks terrible."  (Moreno looked over in embarrassment at the coat the Braggart had stood up to examine.)  "This repair job is terrible, and it hasn't been dry-cleaned."

"Well, I did steam it--"

"Yeah, I keep seeing this all over town:  contract attorneys are trying to steam their own coats in the shower.  Let me see your teeth."  She marched over to Moreno and forcibly pried her mouth open.  "You need to floss if you're not going to the dentist--the tartar builds up, and that leads to gingivitis and root canals."  (Moreno covered her mouth with her hand.)  "And what is going on with your hair?  Are you cutting it yourself?"  The Braggart burst out laughing without waiting for an answer, and started running her fingers through Moreno's hair.  "This is hilarious!  And if you're going to wear stained suits, at least put a decorative pin over the stain.  You should keep a fashion scarf on hand at all times to cover up problems."

"Nobody sees me much here--I don't think it matters."

"Of course it matters!  You're not gonna find a man looking like a ragamuffin!  Your career is in the toilet.  Do you really think things are gonna get better without finding a rich man?  You need to up your game."

"I was thinking of taking another CLE--"

"Don't play that stupid game!  That's just a racket to make money for the D.C. Bar, which doesn't give a shit about contract attorneys.  Nobody's gonna hire us after doing this a few years.  Apply your brainpower to winning a sugar daddy."

"Don't you think I'm a little old for that strategy?" said Moreno, a wee bit wistful.

"It's called plastic surgery, honey.  I mean, Kris Jenner is a grandmother, you know?!"

At that moment, the Braggart heard Cigemeier calling her name and went out in the hallway to find him.

At that same moment, Liv Cigemeier was returning to Charles Wu's house after taking Buffy Cordelia on a playdate at a nearby Cleveland Park playground.  "Did you have a nice time, sweetie pie?" asked Wu in Chinese, picking his daughter up for a cuddle, and Delia gurgled something in reply.

"Your friend from the British embassy was there," said Cigemeier.  "She gave me a small baby quilt that she said you had left at their residence."

"Oh, yes!" said Wu.  "That's right!  Where is it?"

"A bird pooped on it, so I tossed it in the washing machine with a few other things."

A strange look passed over Wu's face, but Cigemeier was preparing Delia's snack and didn't notice.  When she turned around, Delia had been dropped into her high chair, and Wu was gone--racing to the washing machine to retrieve the quilt which, no doubt, had spy memos and 300,000 in British pound notes sewn into the lining.

Back at Prince and Prowling, Bridezilla was in the ladies room, going through her positions on the ballet barre she had put up in the handicapped stall.  "First, second, third, fourth, fifth.  Thanksgiving with a bunch of rednecks in Mississippi, or a week in Italy with a Federal Reserve economist and his mother?  Fourth, fifth.  Buddy Lee Trickham's redneck family might actually have better food than Luciano Talaverdi's mother!"  She stopped talking out loud when somebody else came in, then resumed after the other woman was gone.  "Developpe'.  Or three kinds of Jello and a turkey deep-fryer on the front lawn.  Arabesque.  How can I ask him?!  It would sound like I care more about the menu than meeting his used car salesman father, his fortune teller mother, his social worker sister, and his illegitimate Elvis Presley cousins from Tupelo.  Plie'.  Italian beef, Chianti, touring the artwork of Rome and Florence with a hot-blooded romantic--that's not Thanksgiving at all!  Attitude gauche.  If I stick with Buddy Lee, I could be Mrs. Professor Trickham by New Year's!  Attitude droite.  If I turn him down for Thanksgiving, we'll be finished!  Do I really want to take that risk on a foreigner?  Luciano's mother would want me to convert to Catholicism, and my parents would disown me!  Pas de chat.  But Mississippi!  Buddy Lee worked so hard to get out of Mississippi--why does he want to go back there at all?!"  She stopped at the sound of another woman entering the ladies room, and scratched absent-mindedly at the rash under the cursed Rolex which Talaverdi had given her.

Over at the State Department, the Assistant Deputy Administrator for Hope (formerly known as the "Point Person for Blunt Pragmatism") was the happiest he'd been in years.  Obamacare and the government Shutdown had so dominated the news cycle that Congress barely cared anymore what the State Department was doing!  Between the Sequester and the Shutdown, he had managed to eliminate several of his liaison activities, and no longer had to deal with Chuck Hagel's office at all!  No more taunts of "P.P. Blu-Prag", or "who's your daddy?", or "if you like Chuck Hagel so much, why don't you gay-marry him?!"  Things were getting back to normal now:  the State Department was kissing up to the Saudis, the Defense Department was providing arms to Egypt, and the CIA gnostics were secretly killing all the Arabs they wanted to.  Sure, there would never be Middle East peace in his lifetime, but that wasn't John Kerry's fault.  He just wished he could get over Eva Brown.

Then the phone rang, and it was Brown, asking him what the State Department had done to support women drivers in Saudi Arabia last week.  "Um--"  ("You didn't do anything, did you?!")  "Well--"  ("Don't give me any of that pragmatism crap!")  "I wasn't going to!  I never do pragmatism anymore!"  ("You never do anything anymore!  We may as well abolish the State Department, and just let the CIA handle everything!")  "I'll do something about the driving--I promise!"  ("What?") "I'll set up a back channel.  Why don't we have lunch and talk about--"  [CLICK]  He pulled out his notepad and wrote down "back channel", "Saudis", "women driving", and a sketch of a carrot in place of whatever he would (he hoped) come up with.  If the CIA ever takes out Assad, I sure hope the Saudis give us credit for it! 

Back at Prince and Prowling, Moreno had just gotten another paper cut from hand-redacting another box of shell corporation tax returns, while the Braggart seated behind her was painting her nails, headphones plugged into an iPad playing videos related to the Chinese case she was hired for.  Every now and then, the Braggart would put her nail polish bottle down, pick up a pen, and carefully jot down a couple of notes.  After she was done with her nails, she would use her iPhone to check her Facebook page, do some Tweets, update her Tumblr, and edit her Wikipedia page.  Sometimes she had to rewind the Chinese video, but Cigemeier was only expecting her to look at a couple videos a day--she could easily drag this project out for two months.  Moreno opened an email from the managing partner telling her they were cutting her salary a dollar/hour to keep things in line with "market rates".

Out in the river, Ardua of the Potomac raised her yellow eyes above the water's surface and peaked at the gleaming Institute of Peace, now fully compromised by an infestation of river rats.  Some things were just too easy.