"Just what is this all about?" he demanded fiercely, painfully aware of all the photos that had already been taken. There wasn't any press aboard; the cruise was for staff only. But though everyone was ostensibly loyally intent on protecting the administration from unnecessary scandal, it was hard to keep a story like this from getting out. I myself could think of five people I planned to regale immediately with this sordid tale. It wasn't often that one attended an office function and got entertained by a scantily clad exhibitionist inked with dancing fantasy creatures. It would be selfish to keep this to myself. "I'm a gift from the Exterminators," the stripper answered. "They say congratulations for making it this far. They didn't think you had it in you." I watched Harry's jawline stiffen. When he got angry, which was distressingly often, he looked like he'd had steel cheek implants. I'd met few people more ripe for a hernia. "Thank you, that will be all," he ground out through clenched teeth.
Harry and a couple Secret Service agents ushered the woman through the still-stunned crowd toward the caterers' station. The hushed silence that had accompanied her performance exploded into the sounds of a hundred and seventy-five people talking at once. The Exterminators were a very disgruntled band of former officials from the previous administration. Most of them had stayed in D.C. to form an opposition think tank, and nothing seemed to please them more than perpetrating juvenile pranks while they worked very seriously to sabotage every policy change we tried to make. They hadn't named their think tank the Exterminators. That particular moniker derived from one of the many vindictive stunts they'd pulled on their way out of the West Wing, which they had vandalized to the best of their abilities in a rage against their ouster. In addition to rigging booby traps and carving their initials into various pieces of furniture, they had also taken the time to enact a much more elaborate and dastardly scheme.
They'd ordered cases of frozen feeder mice -- available on the Internet to pet owners in need of food for raptors and reptiles -- and, in an impressive labor of hate, had carefully sewn several hundred of these tiny frozen mice into the hems of all the heavy West Wing drapes.
We'd noticed an unpleasant odor a few days after we'd moved in, but couldn't be positive that wasn't the way the place always smelled. But as the frozen feeder mice had thawed in their thick fabric tombs, the smell had intensified rapidly. In a little over a week, it had become unbearably wretched, rendering the West Wing virtually uninhabitable.
It had been difficult to locate the precise source, since the horrific stench had seemed to emanate from the very walls around us. The maintenance crew had finally discovered the tiny rotting rodent corpses after their fourth thorough search. That very day, a case of champagne had been delivered to the West Wing with a note that read: "To wash down the smell. Enjoy yourselves while you last, because we'll be rid of you before you know it. Love and kisses, the Exterminators." And thus, an annoying nickname had been born.
Even after the discovery and removal of the mice carcasses, the gut-gripping stink had lingered for nearly two months, despite all efforts to eradicate it. To their obnoxious delight, the Exterminators had inflicted a parting gift that had kept on giving.