(In our last installment, Sluice Tundra, Private Eye, was pulled out of retirement by a mysterious woman and hired to find out who killed the Republican Party.)
I decided to start right at the top, with the chairman. I found him in his office, looking as nervous as a cat at the Westminster Dog Show.
“Thanks for seeing me, Mr. Prius,” I said.
His expression changed from anxious to annoyed.
“It’s Priebus,” he said. “Reince Priebus.”
“Right,” I said. “So tell me, Raunch …”
“Reince,” he corrected me.
“OK, Rinse. I was seeing if you knew anything about who might have killed your party.”
“Killed?” he said, sweat breaking on his brow. “It’s not dead.” He took out a hankie and wiped his face. “It’s fine. Everything’s going to be fine. Really.” His right eye started to twitch. “We’re going to unite behind the nominee. Mr. … Mr. …”
“Trump,” I said.
He visibly flinched. “Yeah. Him.”
I could tell I was getting nowhere with this guy. He was deeper in denial than a Sanders supporter looking at the delegate count. “You have a nice day, Mr. Peebles.”
He stopped shaking and looked at me with narrowed eyes. “Are you doing that on purpose, or are you just an idiot?” he said.
“You’ll never know,” I said.
Next, I decided to pay a visit to the governor. He was seated on the veranda at his palatial Massachusetts mansion. I was startled to see a short, balding guy standing behind him, running a comb through his perfect hair.
“William Kristol?” I said. “What are you doing here?”
Kristol gave me a contemptuous look and whispered something in the governor’s ear.
“Bill here is talking to me about running as a protest candidate,” the governor said.
“You know he’s always wrong, don’t you?” I said. “I mean, like, always.”
Kristol whispered again. “He says you’re one of the takers. The 47 percent. Why should I talk to you when you’ll never vote for me anyway?”
“Whatever,” I said. “If you want to run, all I can say is what another guy said to you last time.”
“Oh yeah? What’s that?”
“Please proceed, governor.”
“Get out!” he bellowed. I did.
Next, I headed down to Texas to talk to The Cowboy. I found him hard at work on his ranch, engaged in his favorite pastime: clearing brush.
“Wow,” I said. “I would have thought you’d have cleared away all the brush after this many years.”
“No problemo, amigo,” he said. “I have new brush trucked in every night.”
“Amazing. So, what do you know about who might have killed the Republican Party?”
He stopped clearing for a moment and eyed me suspiciously. “That sounds like the kind of traitoristical talk that risks emboldenating our enemies.”
“Remember, muchacho, you’re either with us or with the terrorists. Hey, would you like to see one of my paintings? I have a new self-portrait of me in the bathtub.”
“Um … thanks, but no thanks.”
I got out of there as quickly as I could. I felt like I was running out of options. I had one more visit to make.
Suddenly, everything clicked into place. I had the answer. I dialed the woman who’d hired me, who I knew only as “dollface,” “kitten” or “precious” — at least until now. I got her voice mail.
“Meet me at my old office,” I said. “I have the answer.”
She arrived just as I was pulling the dust covers off the furniture. “Take a seat, angel,” I said. “Or should I call you … Gov. Palin?”
She hesitated, then pulled the mask off, revealing the face of the half-term governor of Alaska. “Guess you think you’re pretty smart, doncha, big fella?” she sneered. “Well, smart don’t feed the bulldog there sonny, not in the real America where we’re gun-clingin’, Bible-slingin’…”
“Can it, sister,” I said. “I know you did it. But you didn’t do it alone.”
She looked confused. Maybe she always looked like that. “I didn’t?”
“No. All of you did. You pretended to be pushing low taxes and limited government, but all you were really selling was fear. Fear and resentment. Fear of Scary Brown People, and resentment of anyone you could convince people was getting something they weren’t. You also promised people things you couldn’t deliver. You were going to ‘deport all the illegals’ and repeal ‘every word of Obamacare.’ But you couldn’t. And after a while, someone came along who did fear and resentment better than anyone. You all created this monster, and now he’s going to eat your party alive while he takes it over a cliff.”
“Wow,” Palin said. “I thought I was bad about mixing metaphors.”
I got up and showed her to the door.
“I got a million of ’em, toots. Now scram.”
If I hurried, I could still make the Early Bird Special at the Retirement Home for Private Eyes.
Dusty Rhoades lives, writes and practices law in Carthage. His latest novel, “Ice Chest,” is available now.