Washington Horror Blog

SEMI-FICTIONAL CHRONICLE of the EVIL THAT INFECTS WASHINGTON, D.C. To read Prologue and Character Guide, please see www.washingtonhorrorblog.com, updated 6/6//2017. Follow Washington Water Woman on Twitter @HorrorDC ....

Saturday, May 30, 2015

The Diary of Ghost Dennis

Ghost Dennis had been at the White House a very long time, having been murdered there during the waning days of the Nixon Administration.  (It had been made to look like an accident.)  He had seen Presidents come and go, staff members come and go, family members come and go, pets come and go.  Still, he was considered one of the newer kids on the block, what with all the slave ghosts from the first century of the United States.  Only the twins, Regina and Ferguson, were younger than he was.

He was the most political of the White House ghosts, having whispered in many Presidents' ears about the Equal Rights Amendment, relations with China, OPEC, detente, the AIDS epidemic, the CIA wars in Latin America, the Environmental Protection Agency, the recession, the police state, and many other issues of the day.  He had made peace with the Portuguese water dogs, having bonded with Bo and Sunny over their mutual fear of bobble heads, but he was still discontent and restless.  Life after death just wasn't any fun.  And then an amazing thing happened.  In his own words--

Well, I've heard a lot about "moving on" and "moving into the light", but I've never seen anybody do it--not even Reggie and Fergie, and they have the least emotional baggage of all!  It's true that a few of the older ghosts have disappeared over the years, but nobody can really be certain if this was because they crossed over or just because they hitched a ride out to go haunt someplace else.  After all, we can all fly out of the White House at any time.  It's just that something usually pulls us back!  

Well, yesterday I got the shock of my life!  I was floating around Lafayette Park, just thinking about the mammoth implications if the Patriot Act actually expires Sunday night (!!!!!!), when I suddenly heard somebody calling to me!  Except they were saying "Dad", instead of "Dennis".  But I knew immediately they were calling to me!  I floated down and saw identical triplets:  three middle-aged women sitting in a circle on the grass, holding hands.  And I knew instantly they were my daughters!  Helen had been pregnant when I died, and I never knew what happened to her, but suddenly I knew!  It all flooded into me!  Helen had moved to California and joined a hippie commune.  The girls had been born a few months after my death.  She had named them Calcium, Magnesium, and Sassafras because those were what the "healer" had told her to take for the health of the babies.  They now went by the names Cal, Maggie, and Sassy, and worked in San Francisco as reiki healers.  Upon the recent death of their mother, they received a letter telling them the truth about me--that I had not been a Hollywood actor she met hiking the John Muir Trail, that I had really been a Nixon staffer who died suddenly, that Helen's suspicions had been sharply rebuked, and that she had fled clear to the other coast because she feared for her own safety.  And so they came to DC to try to make a spiritual connection with me for the first time!

Of course, I never believed in nonsense like reiki, and it's not like they're psychics, but there they were, holding hands, closing their eyes, thinking of me in unison, and I connected with all of them!  My daughters!  It was a little creepy, and I'm saying that as a ghost, but I was pretty weirded out.  I didn't know what to do!  I shouted quite a bit, and that didn't work, and then I tried whispering in their ears, but that didn't work, so then I floated into the middle of their circle and just sat there listening for awhile.  But it was like listening to the radio!  I could hear them, but they couldn't hear me.  I learned everything:  where they went to school, their marriages, their kids, their hobbies, their dreams.

Well, it turns out, they have been harboring a dream for awhile of forming a reiki circle around President Obama!  And after their mother's death, and learning about me, they were sure this was the right time to come to Washington.  How can I help them?  Not that I think a reiki circle around Obama is going to accomplish anything, but they're my daughters, and I want them to be happy!  Of course, if people are paying them to do reiki circles, maybe there's something to it, after all?  I mean, I sure didn't believe in ghosts until I became one!  And what harm could it do?  

And then it hit me:  there is more to life than politics!  I could move in with my girls!  Well, okay, they're grown women now, and I have grandkids, but still!  Maybe I should take a break from the White House!  So I hung out with them all day, followed them to Busboys and Poets for dinner, followed them back to their hotel, hung out while they chatted.  But then they started getting undressed for bed, and I was like, whoa, I can't be here!  And then I realized that being a ghost is the same thing as being a spy!  Except there's not a lot of nudity in the West Wing (ha ha!), and I don't do that much lurking in the White House residence, but I had never really thought about it much before.  Yeah, it's true I was murdered there, so it's not really my fault I'm stuck there as a ghost, but maybe I should give people a little more privacy?

So I left the hotel room and headed back to the White House, and now I've got a lot of stuff to figure out.  And I'm not talking about the new trade agreement negotiations or the new attempt to roll back financial regulations!  What if my girls move into a bad neighborhood and get murdered?

And then I remembered about Helen's being dead.  Where is she?  Can I see her?  Maybe I don't have my priorities straight.  A man can only do so much for his country, and I've been at it longer than most!

But here I am, back in the White House.  I'm going out to check on my girls soon, but it felt really weird to be away from here.  Like hearing about Dennis Hastert's paying over a million dollars to hush up some homosexual affair from his pre-Congress days, and listening to the White House staffers gossip about it--the guy was Speaker of the House, two heart beats away from the Presidency!--and you have to be in the White House to really understand that kind of stuff.  (I mean, it could have beeb me, Ghost Dennis, with President Dennis!)  Politics:  this is all I've known for so long...but there's a world outside there, too.   

And then I had a really chilling thought: not all ghosts are political!  What if my girls end up haunted by vicious ghosts?  I need to be with them, to protect them!  But I've never abandoned an American President before!  Can I balance family and career?  I wasn't that good at is when I was married to Helen, and being a ghost isn't making it any easier!  

That's all for now.  Gotta meet up with the triplets at the Smithsonian!

COMING UP:  Political primaries and other things mad as a Junebug.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Rock the Boat

It was the first meeting of the Bicameral Anti-Zombie Caucus, except most of the people on Congressman Herrmark's yacht ("The Golden Goose") did not know it.  A few were colleagues from the Holier Than Thou Caucus, a few were Euchre buddies from the Midwest bloc, a couple were staffers alarmed by the behavior of Congressman Jacques Javert, a few were Congresswomen that were being under-utilized on their committees, and the final invitee was Senator Rand Paul.

"It's hotter than tarnation out here!" exclaimed Rep. X, wiping his brow again with the Hilton towel he had wrapped around his neck.

"It must be global warming!" laughed Rep. Y with a wink, tossing back another ice-cold American beer.

"Can I get your attention, please?" said Congressman Herrmark.  "I want everybody to have a good time today, but there is something very important that I want to talk to you all about."

"No, no, I can't hear another word about the Patriot Act!" groaned Rep. Y.  "My constituents all want it to expire, but those spooks keep telling me we desperately need it!  What's a man to do?"

Senator Rand Paul opened his mouth to speak, but Congressman Herrmark cut him off.  "There's a greater threat to this nation than terrorists or the police state."  (Several gasps were heard.)  "Ann, start passing around the photos."

Herrmark's Chief of Staff, Ann Bishis, began handing around photos of the zombies her small team had so far killed on Capitol Hill, complete with close-ups of the maggots crawling out of their skulls.  (Sometimes she missed the old days, when the wildest thing she did was charge money to let constituents have sex on Herrmark's desk.)

Rep. X promptly fainted, and efforts were made to revive him.  "I'm alright!  I'm alright!" he exclaimed toweling off the water they had just poured on his face.  "It's the doggone heat!" he insisted.

"These are zombies, my friends," intoned Congressman Herrmark.  "They are in both branches of Congress, and we don't yet know how many there are.  We have affirmatively identified both junior and senior staffers, and we suspect some Members of Congress are also zombies."  (More gasps.)  "I am ashamed to say that my former Chief of Staff was a zombie, and I did not even know it.  It's quite likely she ate my summer 2010 intern, who disappeared without a trace.  (More gasps as Herrmark crossed himself.)  "More importantly, she persuaded me to vote for a lot of bone-headed bills which, in hindsight, I suspect were written by the Zombie Caucus."

"The Zombie Caucus?!" exclaimed Rep. Y.

"Oh, yes," intoned Congressman Herrmark.  "It exists.  My current Chief of Staff and her late boyfriend discovered it meeting in a secret room behind the Congressional tunnels.  The zombies killed that young man, who saved Ann's life by pushing her away even as the demon hordes descended on him.  They also killed the brilliant dog who sniffed them out."

"This is absurd!" protested Rep. Z.  "You don't believe in global warming, but you believe in zombies?!"

"I have slaughtered them with my bare hands!" exclaimed Congressman Herrmark.  "And we strongly suspect that Congressman Boehner's Chief of Staff is a zombie:  that's why he brought a vote to repeal Obamacare 834 times.  Zombies like to prey on the weak, people who are not healthy enough to run away or fight back.  They also support all the National Rifle Association legislation, because guns can't kill zombies.  We need your help investigating more Congressional delegations.  We can't trust the FBI with this, and we can't let the other two branches of government know that Congress is harboring the equivalent of a domestic terrorist cell.  We have to take care of this quietly.  Ann and I have selected you all because we think you are the right people for the job."  He nodded to his Chief of Staff, who texted her cousins (Herrmark's twin bodyguards) to bring up the prisoner from below deck.  "I'm gonna show you something today you will never forget as long as you live."

Nick and Costas brought up the large Samsonite suitcase they had stuffed Senator James Inhofe's hog-tied Chief Counsel into, opened it up, and a wriggling Hefty bag spilled out.  Nick pinned the zombie down, and Costas cut its head off with an axe.  (Gasps and screams.)  Then they pulled the plastic off to show their audience the maggots rushing out of the zombie's cranium.

"This man will terrorize the U.S. Department of Interior no more," said Congressman Herrmark.  (A couple people threw up.)  "I know this is horrifying, but this is the ugly truth about Congress.  Some of our people have maggots for brains.  It's time to take back America's House!"

"I'm with you, damn it!" exclaimed Senator Rand Paul, and several others chimed in with their now enthusiastic support.

Then they cleaned up the deck and did a limbo contest, waving cheerfully at other boaters enjoying the first day of summer on the Potomac River.

Ten feet below them, the demon Ardua laughed at this puny attempt to clean up Congress, reached her tentacles up to the hull, and sent evil energy into the drunk Euchre player who had just urinated into her river.

A few miles away, Bridezilla was not minding so much not being out on the Potomac.  It is true she still resented Prince and Prowling's banning her from publicly campaigning with her fiancé, Wince, but it would have been a hot day on the fundraising cruise, and it's not as if she could have gotten away with wearing a bikini to an event like that!  And since SOTA-BUNK was still shuttered until it could re-open under court-mandated conditions, the law firm had hired a few project attorneys directly:  and the handsomest one was currently in her office asking for clarification on his foreign language document review.  And even though she knew he was really a temp, and would be laid off in a few months, he just did not seem as lowly as the contract attorneys usually seemed to her.  For one thing, he had traveled all over the world!  He spoke three foreign languages.  He had a Spanish haircut, a Brazilian muscle shirt, and Italian shoes!  And he was wearing French cologne.

"So this one didn't have any Spanish," Paul said.  "Just a Latin quote in the signature block, 'carpe diem.'"

"Tag it Other Foreign Language," said Bridezilla, resting her head in her right hand and staring dreamily into his eyes.

"Um, okay," replied Paul, pulling out another document.  "This one just has a standard email disclaimer written in both English and Portuguese."

"Tag it Other Foreign Language," said Bridezilla again, smiling.

"Um, okay," said Paul, pulling out another.  "This one was apparently flagged because it has the name of a French company:  see, those words are just the name of a company."

"Tag it Other Foreign Language," said Bridezilla again, still smiling.

"But it's just a name--like Prada or Hyundai.  It's not really a foreign language."

"We're not producing anything but English or Spanish," said Bridezilla, still smiling.

"But the email is in English--it just has the name of a French company.  It's like the name Chanel or Givenchy."

"I don't make the rules," shrugged Bridezilla.

"You are really withholding these documents from the other side?" asked Paul, disgusted and incredulous.

"It is what it is!" said Bridezilla, sweetly.  Now, if this had been a mere contract attorney emailing her from the State-of-the-Art Review Bunker, she would have recognized this as a provocation about her legal ethics, and she would have been furious!  But this was a fellow Prince and Prowling attorney, sitting in her office!  And he had cheekbones to die for!  (And Wince had been out campaigning a lot lately.)  "Do you want to have lunch with me at the Daily Grill?"

"Um, okay," said Paul, looking nervously at the engagement ring on her left hand.

Back on the Potomac, Charles Wu was giving his three-year-old daughter, Buffy Cordelia, her first sailing lesson.  She was brilliant as well as physically gifted, just like her father.  "Tack it!" he said, and she pursed her little lips in determination and pulled with all her might.  "Good job, Delia!"  He scooped up some more river water and splashed it on her face to cool her off.  She giggled and shook her wet hair at him.

Ten feet below them, Ardua of the Potomac glided closer.  She knew that the Hong Kong triple agent was perfectly balanced again between good and evil, and it annoyed her to no end.  His life force was massive, and Ardua could not afford to lose him to the light...and she sensed a lot of light from that little girl.

COMING UP:  The Diary of Ghost Dennis.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

The spy who came in from the cold.

Washington Water Woman had some unexpected events this weekend, but will return to blogging Memorial Day weekend.

For this week, I'll leave you with the only man sent to prison in connection with the CIA torture program:  the whistleblower....


COMING UP:  Congress gets a scary new caucus!

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Chief Justice John Roberts joins Sense of Entitlement Anonymous.

It was a former member of the FISA Court ("Martin") who told Chief Justice John Roberts about Sense of Entitlement Anonymous (D.C. Chapter), and today was his first meeting.

"The little people just don't understand how well-educated and wise we are!" said "Martin", as he introduced "John" to the other members.  "We have legal reasons for the things we say!  The ignorant masses think we should be using common sense or humanitarian impulses to make these important decisions, but we know better!"

Oh, here we go again, thought real estate mogul Calico Johnson, rolling his eyes at Federal Reserve Board economist Luciano Talaverdi Yellen.  Blah blah blah, law law law.

"This was a blow for judicial independence!" cried Roberts referring to the recently published (and quickly maligned) 5-4 Supreme Court case, Williams-Yulee v. Florida Bar.  "I ruled that states may 'prohibit judges and judicial candidates from personally soliciting funds for their campaigns.'  How can a judge rule impartially if one of the parties gave them money?!  But nooooooo, the lamestream media wants to pretend this is a double standard!"

"It is a double standard!" exclaimed Bridezilla.  "My fiancé is running for the Virginia legislature, and you're saying he's not supposed to have any dignity!  A judge should not [air quotes] provide any special consideration to his campaign donors [air quotes], but Wince is supposed to head to Richmond with automobile salesmen and real estate developers breathing down his neck, telling him how to vote on everything?!  It's disgusting!"  She turned for a moment to Calico Johnson.  "No offense."  Johnson gave her a saccharine smile.

"That's not what I said, young lady!" scolded the Chief Justice.

"I know the law just as well as you do," retorted Bridezilla, "and you judges think you're so high and mighty!  Well how do you think you got your job, anyway?  Because of George Bush's campaign donors, that's how!  We all know you're answering to them, so stop pretending you aren't!"

The Chief Justice turned red in the face and looked to today's host, Congressman John Boehner, for an intervention, but the Speaker of the House did not recognize changes in facial color.

Sowell Ame, a local judge, stood up to impress the Chief Justice by reciting from Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission:  “'It is well understood that a substantial and legitimate reason, if not the only reason, to cast a vote for, or to make a contribution to, one candidate over another is that the candidate will respond by producing those political outcomes the supporter favors.  Democracy is premised on responsiveness.'”

"Oh," responded Bridezilla, "so Wince is supposed to respond by repealing the sales tax on automobiles and houses, but not on diamond rings or cupcakes because he's not getting contributions from the diamond ring people or the cupcake people?"

"Yes, this is an important point!" interjected Luciano Talaverdi Yellen.  "The tax policy absolutely must be written with a view towards stimulating the desired sectors, inhibiting undesired behaviors, and maintaining fiscal stability without undue burden.  If taxes were written by campaign donors--"

"They are written by campaign donors already!" said "Lisa", a member of N.U.T.T.Y. (Nannies United to Take Y Chromosomes).  Everyone looked at her in surprise.  "What?  My boss works for the sugar people, and he wrote their tax subsidies."   Everyone continued to look at her in amazement.  "Sometimes we talk about public policy issues--it's not always about flirting."

Chief Justice Roberts shook his head in amazement, wondering if it was a mistake coming here.  He looked at Dick Cheney to see what the big guy would say, but Cheney was busy examining a specimen from Congressman Boehner's shot glass collection.  "Mr. Vice President, you understand the difference between judges and other government officials, don't you?"

Cheney looked up.  "Sure!  When the terrorists kill all our daughters and we run out of gasoline, you people will still be in your chambers and your silly robes, writing opinions by candlelight--until that next automatic deposit fails to land in your bank account, and then you'll be on the first yacht to Mexico while real patriots get out their guns and defend our liberty!"

"Damned straight!" cried Boehner, but then the point about the automatic deposit's not showing up in the bank account started gnawing away at him.  How can I protect my money?

"Can we talk about FISA now?" asked another former member of the FISA Court ("Claudia").  "There was a dangerous judicial ruling against NSA surveillance this week.  If this goes all the way to the Supreme Court--"

"La la la la la la!" started chanting Chief Justice Roberts, quickly putting his fingers in his ears.

"See, this is the problem!" exclaimed Bridezilla.

"He can't hear about a case that might come before the Supreme Court," said Judge Sowell Ame, gleefully lecturing the senior associate from (recently prosecuted) Prince and Prowling.

"Everything that happens in this country might go before the Supreme Court someday!  They pretend they're impartial, but they go on vacations with people and read biased news on the Internet and watch the films Netflix recommends to them, and somebody buys their underwear from somewhere!"  (Everybody looked at the Chief Justice, curious now as to who was buying what underwear for him, but he still had his fingers in his ears.)  "They're human!  Other human beings influence them all the time!  We pay their salaries, but who do they listen to?  You can't tell me that 'Will and Grace' had nothing to do with the Supreme Court's gay marriage ruling!"

"We do pay their salaries," nodded Calico Johnson.

"So they should listen to us!  They should listen to everybody who pays their salaries!"  She walked over to Roberts and forcibly pulled his fingers out of his ears.  "You're an American!"

"Yes," said the Chief Justice carefully, looking around.  (What just happened?)

"Can we talk about Mother's Day now?" asked nanny "Lisa".  "I'm the one taking care of the kids!  When do they celebrate me, huh?  They owe me everything!  They wouldn't even have a family without me!  But what happens?!  He asks me to go with the kids to buy the card and the gift and the flowers and the candy for her!  It's totally unfair!  He should be buying those things for me!"

"Well, maybe N.U.T.T.Y. needs to do more campaign donations so that Congress passes legislation to create Nanny's Day!" said Bridezilla, shooting a snarky look at the Chief Justice.

"No," said the economist to the nanny, "you need to ask for a salary raise."

Just then, Boehner's bodyguard came in to tell his boss a suspicious parcel had been left outside the front door, and Cheney looked at the bodyguard in disgust.  "Well, go shoot it!" exclaimed the former leader of the not-so-free world.

"Is he senile?" whispered the Chief Justice to "Martin".

"Just haunted, as are we all."

There were actually several ghosts in attendance at the meeting, in addition to the listening device planted by triple agent Charles Wu, but like most S.E.A. meetings, this one would have no consequences--except the temporary lightening of the soul that occurs when kindred spirits share their pain.

COMING UP:  Congress gets a scary new caucus!

Saturday, May 02, 2015

DC Fairy Tale Endings

Real estate season was peaking, with azalea bushes blooming all over town and every property looking like a fairy tale cottage.  Henrietta ("Button") Samuelson used to love this time of year...because she would make so much money.  But she was no longer a real estate agent; instead, she was devoted full-time to the Heurich Society (mission statement--"maximize wealth, power, and freedom").  Some days she wished her father had left all his personal files to her brother, and that he was the one burdened with decades of CIA and post-CIA clandestine activity legacies.  But some things, once known, cannot be un-known.  The Heurich Society was too dangerous to walk away from, and somehow she was the one tasked with reining in the dragon.  She sat down at a table outside James Hoban's to eat lunch before the Society meeting at the Brewmaster's Castle, and started rifling through her notebook as she waited for her ale.

The Operations Committee had requested that a new agent be trained under the Project Cinderella protocol, and Button had to come up with a good reason to veto them.  It was not just that Angela de la Paz was a poor orphan trained secretly by her late father (Henry Samuelson) out in Kansas.  It was not that Angela had received plastic surgery to change her Salvadoran features to be more generically Latin American.  It was not about the cringe-worthy fact that Angela had been trained to seduce secrets out of targets.  It was not even about the fact that Button still missed her friendship with Angela.

No, the problem was that Angela had become a more lethal agent than her father had ever anticipated.  This is why the Operations Committee wanted to get another one like her, but they still did not understand:  it was not her father's training protocol.  There had been a lot of arguing about whether Angela really had supernatural abilities or was just a lunatic, but Button had seen and read things nobody else in the Heurich Society had.  Angela was different.  Whatever had been done to Angela to make her different must never again be repeated:  Project Cinderella needed to be officially purged from the Heurich Society's book of secrets.

Button looked up in surprise as her old boss, real estate mogul Calico Johnson, sat down at her table.  "I never thought I would see you looking so leisurely on a Saturday afternoon in May!" Cal said to her, and she laughed.

"I do miss it a little, honestly," she said.

"What are you doing these days?  It says public policy consultant on your LinkedIn account."

"That's what I'm doing," she said, evasively.  "What ever happened with that property that went up in flames next to your mansion in Potomac Manors?"

"I bought it at tax auction," he said.  "Then I sold it for a nice profit, as well as my old place.  I'm at a different place now, ten miles away."

"What about that missing owner?"

"Basia is no longer on the FBI Most Wanted list, but I'm not sure why."

"Mega Moo?"

"I have Mega Moo and the horse, too.  I thought Basia would try to get in touch with me again someday, but it hasn't happened."

"Do you think she's dead?"

Johnson frowned.  He was a fairly shallow person, and his unrequited obsession with Basia Karbusky had sucked more life out of him than he was accustomed to losing.  "I don't think about it," he lied.  He had wasted too much of his life pondering her mysteries already, and preferred to focus his efforts on easy conquests--which Button had once been.  "Well, you're always welcome to come out and stay at the new place if you need to get out of the city!"  He placed his hand over hers and squeezed it in the old familiar way.  "We don't have to talk about real estate!"

"Thanks!" she said, wondering what she had ever seen in him.  Then she remembered:  money.

A few miles away, Barbara Hellmeister, fka Basia Karbusky, currently known as Barbie Bucephalus, was also the topic of conversation at the Justice Department--where Atticus Hawk was having his first tête-à-tête with new Attorney General Loretta Lynch.  "Look," Lynch had said, "I've been reviewing your file, and I'm gonna be straight with you.  I'm not a big fan of these torture memos, or the Guantanamo stuff, or, frankly, half of your portfolio, but I'm willing to move past that because I understand you were doing the assignments given to you."  (Hawk nodded rigidly, his intestines clenched into a rock by the half-bottle of Immodium he had downed before the meeting.)  "I can see you have an excellent legal mind, but I need to understand more about this relationship you had with the woman on the FBI Most Wanted list.  I don't normally pry into personal relationships, but you lost your security clearance for awhile, and--"

"She works for the CIA now!" he blurted out.  "I'm scared of her!"  He had never had a woman boss before, and was surprised to find himself looking to Lynch for maternal support.

The Attorney General's mouth gaped.  "You know where she is?!  Why didn't you report that to the FBI?!"

"She's not on the list anymore."

"Just because she's not on the Most Wanted list doesn't mean she's not on a list!"

"Well, I suppose."

"Are you sure she's working for the CIA?" asked Lynch.

"Well, that's what she told me.  She said she does prisoner interrogations in a bunker under the Washington Times building.  She's going by the name Barbie Bucephalus."

"Did she threaten you?" asked Lynch.  (Hawk shook his head no.)  "Why are you afraid of her?"

"I'm always so happy when I'm with her!  Then I have nightmares later.  She has some kind of control over me."

"When was your last drug test?"

"Last Wednesday.  That won't find anything:  she's an expert at designing drugs which elude federal drug tests."

The Attorney General sat back in her chair to ponder this news for a minute.  The guy was a hot mess, but he also seemed to be the first person to speak honestly to her since she had arrived.  "I'm going to move you into my suite," she said.  (Hawk gasped in surprise.)  "Write down these names and aliases, and I'll speak to the CIA director about her.  Stay at DOJ until it's taken care of--don't go out."

"We're supposed to go to the Kennedy Center tonight."

"Perfect!  The FBI can pick her up when you're supposed to pick her up.  I'll have them do that first, and call Brennan afterwards.  Or maybe I'll call the President and tell him the CIA was employing an FBI fugitive!  Ha!"  (Her eyes were really lighting up now.)

"Wow, I don't know what to say, General Lynch.  How can I thank you?"

"Write a memo on this by Monday morning," she said, handing him a pile from her credenza.  You can use that office next to Jack's."

Several miles away, Chloe Cleavage was not receiving a similarly startling boost up from the hot mess which was her life and legal career.  She sat on the couch, staring at the vacuum cleaner, trying to will herself to turn it on and push it through her condo, but she had not gone without a maid since selling her eggs for a million dollars.  I need to economize, she sternly told herself again, but her legs refused to launch her from the couch towards the vacuum cleaner.  She had tried unsuccessfully to blame everything on fellow staff attorney, Laura Moreno, but even Chloe's blackmail cache was not enough to keep Chloe safe from the wrath of Prince and Prowling's managing partner.  SOTA-Bunk would only be allowed to reopen after the law firm met the court-mandated conditions, and large fines would be paid to avoid criminal prosecutions by the IRS.  Chloe was on an unpaid suspension, uncertain if her incriminating sexual evidence against various P&P lawyers would be enough to save her job.  And Laura Moreno was on a paid vacation!  It was so unfair.

Somebody knocked on the door, and she got up to answer it.  She looked through the peephole and saw a balding man with un-hip glasses and Saturday stubble on his face.  His eyes were barely gray, barely alive.  "Who is it?"

"Stuart, your new neighbor."  She opened the door, and his gaze was immediately drawn to the v-neck t-shirt exposing a large portion of her chest.  "Um," he faltered, bringing his gaze back up to her eyes, "I just bought this place, and my vacuum got broken during the move.  Would you mind if I borrowed yours until my new one arrives?  I ordered a Dyson."

Chloe's mind was turning fast.  Only people with money would buy a Dyson.  On the other hand, how much money could he have if he didn't have a maid?  He was probably a government bureaucrat, or some sycophantic Congressional aid.  But who am I kidding? she thought to herself, and almost started crying.  Life is passing me by!  I'll never get richer.  I'll never date a movie star [like her cousin Chloris Cleavage regularly did].  I'll never like my job.  What do I have to live for?

"You can borrow it if you vacuum my condo first," she said.

"Um," Stuart said, wondering if he should knock on somebody else's door.

"Fine, if you vacuum my condo, you can also have sex with me."  (She really didn't want to vacuum her condo.)

"Wow," said Stuart, feeling his pulse start racing.  Nobody had ever seduced him before!  "Can I, uh, look at you in your underwear while I'm vacuuming your apartment?"

"Sure-I'll do a total striptease for you," Chloe said, opening the door wide for him to enter.  (She also had a camera in the bedroom, so if it did turn out he was rich, maybe she could blackmail him later.)

Several miles away, White House Butler Clio was having similarly pessimistic visions of her future.  Her HIV was not going to kill her, but she was sick and tired a lot.  She liked her job, but she was never going to be promoted to anything else.  But what was hardest of all was that she couldn't shake the visions of her dead twins.  She had been in therapy awhile with Dr. Ermann Esse, and it wasn't helping.  She had even gone to a different psychiatrist for awhile to get anti-psychotic medication, but none of those worked either--and the shrink was puzzled that she never had hallucinations about anything except the pre-schoolers.  Neither one had reported her as a security risk because they had separately concluded that she was not actually having organic hallucinations but was simply seeing Reggie and Fergie because she wanted to.

Grief is different for everybody, she told herself.  (She had several conflicting mantras that she would say during the day.)  I feel guilty about not disciplining them better, or they never would have been on the roof to begin with.  Everybody makes mistakes.  They're in a better place.  She was taking a long walk from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue down to the Potomac to be near the water.  It's a beautiful day:  enjoy it.

Up on the roof, the ghosts of Ferguson and Regina were watching their mother's figure recede in the distance.  They had been trying hard to stay out of her sight, but invariably ended up running into her several times a week.  Why can't we still talk to her, like we talk to you? they had asked gardener Bridge many times.  You shouldn't be talking to me, neither, he would say.  Get on to where you're going!  But they didn't understand--this was where they had always lived, and they could not imagine anyplace more fun and interesting than the White House!  And other ghosts live here, they would argue with Bridge, and he would just mutter to himself, Lord, don't I know it.

COMING UP:  Chief Justice John Roberts said what??!!