Dial “B” for Birther
He said his name was The Donald. I should have known the foof spelled trouble when he walked into my office and started blathering about the President’s birth certificate.
I stubbed out my Lucky Strike and glanced up at him, taking in the $12,000 Armani suit, the bloated, orange face, lapis lazuli eyes as blue as the pool at Mar-a-lago. I half expected a little Ivanka to go swimming across them, one to the other, with a tiny Trump in hot pursuit. And of course that brass-blond thing on top of his skull he called his hair, all combed forward in a crazy swoop, held in place with enough hairspray to blow a hole in ten ozones. It reminded me of cotton candy. Or maybe a dead marmot.
“That thing on your head,” I said, splashing a shot of bourbon into a Styrofoam cup. “Has it had its shots?”
He didn’t like that. A tiny, bubbling pool of spittle the color of edelweiss appeared at the corner of his mouth, and he leaned forward in his chair. “You’re fired,” he said, lifting his chin defiantly.
I raised the Styrofoam cup to my lips. “You can’t fire me. You haven’t hired me yet.”
He pursed his lips, eyeing me across the desk like a proctologist studying a polyp. “That’s true,” he said. “You’re a smart person. I need a smart person like you, Stain. That is your name, isn’t it? Samuel Stain, Private Eye?”
“That’s what it says on the door,” I said, nodding at the flaking sign on the frosted glass window, right above the bullet hole. Souvenir from an old client. I really should have got that fixed.
He pulled an airline ticket out of his pocket and dropped it on my desk. “How’d you like to spend a week in Hawaii, Stain, all expenses paid? Plus a bonus of a thousand dollars. I'm going to give you so many dollars you won't believe it. You're going to tell me to stop giving you dollars, you're going to have so many.”
The bourbon came shooting out of my mouth like Old Faithful and splashed down on his expensive silk shirt. It had been yellow when he sat down. Now there was a dark brown stain spreading across the front, with little flecks of green.
“The dry cleaning comes out of your bill,” he said.
“Okay, Trump. Tell me what I need to know."
Turned out he’d been peddling his story for the past few weeks on every talk show in the country. The one about the President not being born in this country. Nobody believed it, except for the wing-nuts. I shouldn’t have either. But when someone waves an all-expenses paid trip to paradise in your face, you don't say no. Not to The Donald, anyway. Maybe that’s why I didn’t throw the foof out of my office. Or maybe it was the picture I had in my head. The one of a pale, tired sap, broke and going nowhere, lying on a sun-splashed Waikiki beach next to a gorgeous bottle blonde. She was wearing a little green bikini with pink polka dots on it, like in the song, only hers held a pair of gun turrets the size of the ones on those sunken battleships at the bottom of Pearl Harbor. I kept listening.
"I want Obama's birth certificate," he said. "The long form. I sent two investigators from New Jersey to Hawaii to look at it -- fairly useless human beings. That was a month ago. And they called me on the phone and said they could not believe what they're finding. Unbelievable. Yuge conspiracy. Bigly. So bigly, you wouldn't believe it. Then suddenly, a week ago, the phone calls stopped. I tried calling them. No luck. So I called the hotel where I had them staying. The Trump International, of course.
“It’s yooge. A beautiful 38-story property, located just steps away from Waikiki’s famous white sand beaches.” He sounded like a bad TV commercial. “With gorgeous views of the Pacific, Diamond Head, the Honolulu skyline, and the magnificent Ko’olau Mountains. It’s opulent. The best. Everything I do is the best, Stain.”
I stared at him, at the soft, almost imperceptible tan-lines around his eyes, those blue-as-the-Blue Lagoon-eyes that pulled me in, like the sparkling cerulean waters of the Pacific.
I took a long drag off the Lucky Strike and blew smoke rings at him across the desk. “Opulent,” I said. “Huh. So did you find out what happened to the Jersey boys or what?”
He shook his head, but his hair didn’t move. “No, Stain. I didn’t. The girl I spoke with at the hotel said they'd checked out. Beautiful girl, Phyllis, I think her name was, fantastic bosom on this girl, you wouldn't believe it." He reached out, as if tuning an invisible radio with his tiny, pink hands. "She said they’d checked out. No idea where they went. She wasn't paying attention, probably because she was bleeding from her wherever. I’ve checked up with their associates in Jersey. Nobody’s heard a thing from them. They've disappeared, Stain.”
“And you want me to go find them,” I said.
“That’s right,” said The Donald. “I could send Donald Junior and Eric, but they're in Africa, hunting the last known white rhino. So I need you, Stain. I want you to find out what they dug up about Obama. I want to know it all, Stain.”
I looked down at the airline ticket on my desk. I hadn’t had a vacation since I was ten. My old man took me to Coney Island for the afternoon. I ate three elephant’s ears and threw up on the Tilt o’ Whirl. Some vacation. I grabbed the ticket.
Trump grinned wolfishly, and thrust his left wrist at me, revealing a garish, white gold and diamond-encrusted watch from his Trump Signature Collection. I could tell by the word TRUMP emblazoned in gold letters across the white face, just below 12 o'clock.
"This is going to be a very dangerous and mysterious case. Let's synchronize watches," he said. "It's exactly two a.m."
I let out a small chuckle. "That's not right. Your watch has stopped." I showed him the time on my cheap Timex. "It's 9:30."
He frowned, his sparkling blue eyes narrowing to hooded slits in his pumpkin-colored face. "Wrong. It's working very nicely. So nicely you wouldn't believe it. It's just displaying an alternative time, Stain. Synchronize to two a.m. Go ahead. Synchronize, Stain."
He stared at me until I changed my watch to two o'clock.
On his way out, Trump stopped at the door and spoke at me over his shoulder. “One more thing, Stain. I don’t just want the birth certificate now. I need more.”
My eyes widened. “More proof than a birth certificate? Like what?”
He turned toward me, blue eyes gazing down from his pumpkin-colored face. “I want the placenta,” he said. Then he went out, closing the door behind him. His shadow paused on the other side as he turned toward the frosted glass. I saw his lips move through the bullet hole in the window. They said, “Get me the President’s placenta, Stain, or you’re fired.”
The Big Brainwash
A few hours after Trump left my office I was sitting in the middle seat on a Hawaiian Air jet, my laptop in front of me on the little fold-down table. I took a stack of DVDs out of the manila envelope Trump had sent over, along with the note: “I recorded these myself, Stain. There's fifteen hours here from FOX News. Background on Obama’s birth certificate. The whole bigly conspiracy. I want you to watch these on the plane. All of them, or you’re fired. I want you to hit the ground running when you land. I want to nail this guy.”
Fifteen hours of Fox News? I'd rather be groped by Trump's tiny, delicately manicured fingers, but I needed this job. I needed it bad. So I put a disk in the dingus, and I watched. God help me, I watched them all.
A dozen bourbons later we touched down in Honolulu. I staggered off the plane and onto the tarmac with the sun beating down hard, the air as hot and heavy as Limbaugh’s breath. My head felt like the King Kamehamehas – all five of them – had taken turns sitting on it. It was five o’clock in the afternoon and I was drunk, but not on bourbon. I was looped up on Fox.
All the nuttiness, all the lies, fifteen hours worth, had been pounded into my skull. My brain was spinning like Bill O’Reilly on crack. A parade of wingnuts marching to some crazy, mixed-up tune only they could hear. Sean Hannity, Steve Doocy, Britt Hume, Karl Rove…. After an hour I filled up the airsick bag. But they kept on coming, as relentless as the tides. Ann Coulter. Dick Morris. Bill Kristol. Breitbart and Alex Jones, peddling their crazy, teabagger conspiracies. Obama’s a muslim. A socialist, a communist, a nazi. He’s the antichrist. He wants to redistribute our wealth. He should have gone into Libya. He needs to get out of Libya. He and Hillary are running a child sex ring from the back rooms of a pizzeria in Washington. We need to lower taxes on the rich so they can create jobs. Supply-side economics, trickling down to the rest of us. Benghazi. It just kept on coming, like rain in the tropics. It was a typhoon of batshit, an endless downpour of drivel, and it soaked me to the bone. But then somewhere over the great Midwest – Iowa, maybe – a funny thing happened. The batshit turned to guano, and, like any good fertilizer, it fed nutrients into the parched, gray soil of my braincrops. Something was happening to my think tank. It was all starting to make sense. The drivel was seeping in, saturating my mind with a new truth. I could feel it easing into my bloodstream, filling me with warmth. My worries lifted like helium balloons at a little rich girl’s birthday. Bozo the clown was there, with his giant feet, honking his big, red nose. It was all so … easy. For the first time, everything became clear. A dark veil had lifted. All those things I’d spent my life niggling over, global warming, the poor and the downtrodden, world peace, freedom of choice, minority rights, worker’s rights, all of it, slipping away, like traitors in the night to join the enemies of America, freedom and the marketplace. For the first time, I had someone to blame. For everything. The illegals and the unions. Old people on medicare and social security. Refugees. Feminists. Environmentalists. Gays. Liberals. Hippies. Planned Parenthood. Acorn! It was like Ayn Rand wrote. They were parasites, sucking the lifeblood out of honest, hard-working Americans like me.
And of course, there was the Big Kahuna, the reason I was here. The birther conspiracy. Orly Taitz in her ridiculous wig, but speaking the truth. Obama was born in Kenya, of that there was no denying. If he wasn’t, where was the birth certificate? What were they hiding with this phony baloney certificate of live birth? It was up to me to find out. The placenta. I had to get the placenta.
Reeling, I made my way up the tarmac. A hula girl in a grass skirt came wiggling towards me, hips shaking. She was holding a flowery wreath in her hands. She came at me, lifting the noose. She was trying to strangle me with it. I grabbed her arm, twisting it behind her back. “Hold it right there, Tokyo Rose. What are you, an illegal? You don’t look American to me. What are you trying to do to me with that thing?”
She cried out in pain, her double mocha brown eyes suddenly big with fear. “You’re hurting me!" she squealed. "It’s just a lei. A traditional Hawaiian greeting…”
I sneered, hissed in her ear. “Nice try, senorita. A lei. Ha! Buncha fruity colored flowers. It looks gay to me. Are you trying to make me gay?” I pushed her away. “Take a hike, kewpie doll. Save it for the NAMBLA parade! Go peddle your commie filth somewhere else.”
A couple of half-naked hula boys came at me, brown, SPAM-fed muscles rippling in the sun. Bad hombres. They were nothing to me. The dark-skinned minions of the liberal nanny state. I laid them out on the tarmac. They could sleep it off. Maybe I’d knocked some sense into them. Then again, maybe not. They were wearing skirts, after all. They’d probably wake up, head down to the courthouse and get married. Hawaii was one of those states. Like Vermont. I shuddered, heading for the rental car lot.
The Coconut Always Rings Twice
Trump had booked me into the fancy-pants Waikiki wikiup that bore his name, the Trump International. It was where he’d put the two tough guys from Jersey, too, the ones he’d sent out here four weeks ago to dig up the dirt on Obama’s birth certificate. The Jersey boys had strung him along for a month, collecting some of that famous Trump cash, called twice a day to blow smoke up his pants about all the dynamite stuff they were dredging up on Obama and his big secret. Until one day they’d just stopped calling. Dropped off the face of the earth. They were most likely back in Jersey, laying low and bragging about how they put one over on The Donald. But Trump was sure something had happened to them, and that Obama’s socialist minions had something to do with that something. He’d hired me to find out what, and to bring back the President’s placenta. It was the only proof he’d accept that Obama was really born in the U.S.A.
I dropped my bags off at the Trump International and drove my rental heap over to the Department of Health. It was an avocado colored bunker off of Ala Moana Boulevard. It didn’t look like much, but I didn't let that throw me. This was the dump where the biggest long con ever pulled had been put over. We – the American people -- were the suckers.
My shoes made loud clicks as I crossed the deserted lobby to the only person in the place, a little Hawaiian princess sitting behind a waist-high counter, filing her nails. Her nametag read “Lulu.”
“You know what I’m here for,” I said. “Show me the Obama file.”
Lulu stopped sharpening her claws and looked up at me, her eyes burning like a pair of hot coals in a lava bed. She handed me a laminated sheet with several views of the President’s Certification of Live Birth. They clearly showed the raised seal and document border, and a picture of the signature stamp on the certificate.
I tossed the piece of junk back in her lap. “Pshhh. The COLB. Doesn’t mean diddly squat. Any Barack, Hussein and Harry can get one of these for 10 bucks and a bag of Limbaugh Leapers in Times Square. I’m here for the big enchilada. The placenta.”
Lulu’s lava-hot eyes turned cold. “Placenta? What are you, nuts? There’s no placenta here.”
I scowled. I didn’t like being spoken to that way by someone who wasn’t a real American. Like The Donald, I have a good relationship with the blacks. But the Hawaiians? We weren’t exactly getting off on the right foot. “Okay,” I said, “then show me the Birth Certificate. The long-form.”
Lulu shook her head. “I’m sorry, sir, but the state Department of Health no longer issues copies of paper birth certificates. The department only issues certifications of live births, and that is the official birth certificate issued by the state of Hawaii. Legally and lingually, a COLB is a birth certificate. It’s a copy of an official record of a person’s date and place of birth and parentage. It’s what every American brings to the DMV to get a driver’s license, or to the Justice of the Peace to get married, or any other purpose for which a birth certificate is required.”
She had me there. “Okay, but this is just a copy. I want to see the original.”
Lulu rolled her eyes. “Sorry. Privacy laws bar us from disclosing an individual’s birth documentation without the person’s consent. That’s per the State Attorney General, David Louie.”
“Right,” I said. “So why won’t Barry Hussein Secretmuslim O’Bummer give his consent, huh? Answer me that, Lulu. If that is your real name. What’s he hiding?”
“He can’t,” said Lulu. “It’s a Department of Health record and it can’t be released to anybody. Mr. Obama can come here and inspect the document himself, but that’s it.”
I’d had enough of her liberal mumbo jumbo. I leaned over the counter and grabbed her by her Polynesian armpits, hauled her over the counter and shook her like a rag doll.
“I want the truth!” I yelled. “Where’s the signature? And don’t give me that crap about it’s on the back because that’s just a stamp.”
“It’s on the back,” she said.
I slapped her hard across her cheek. “I said I want the truth!”
“It’s a stamp,” she said, not looking away.
This time I gave her the left, whacking her other cheek. “I said I want the truth!” I yelled again.
She was whimpering now, her voice a trilling songbird in distress. “It’s on the back.”
“It’s a stamp.”
“It’s a stamp on the back,” she blubbered.
I backhanded her and threw her against a glass bookcase. There was a lot of commotion, crashing and breaking of glass. Books and binders filled with documents fell all around her, piling up on the floor. State regulations, no doubt, designed to bar the flow of free enterprise and make life harder for business. Would the liberals never learn? It just hurt the economy -- made it harder for the job creators to hire. In the end they were just hurting themselves. She looked up at me, hot lava eyes filled with molten hate.
“The stamp is a signature. Understand? Or is it too difficult for you? In combination with the raised seal, it carries the weight of an original signature. Surely, as a billionaire businessman, your boss, Mr. Trump, must be aware of this. Or does he sign all your checks by hand, Mr. Stain? Why don’t you go back to the Hotel Trump International and ask them.”
What? I staggered back, my mouth agape. She knew my name. Knew it all, that Trump had sent me, where I was staying, everything. This conspiracy went deep. Deeper than anyone realized. Even The Donald.
Two of the half-naked hula boys came out of the shadows behind me and grabbed my arms. They were big, like sumo wrestlers, grass skirts covering their tropical climes. I struggled, but I was a chihuahua going up against a couple of giant apes.
Lulu stood, wiping blood from her lip, and smiled, but it wasn’t a Kamanawanaleiya smile. It was the kind of smile her people had given Captain Cook, right before they stabbed him in the back about 57 times, dragged his body into the jungle and cooked it, ate his heart, chopped off his hands and filled them with salt, then scattered his bones around the island. The burning magma in Lulu’s eyes danced. “Good bye, Mister Stain,” she said. “I hope you enjoy your … vacation.”
She exploded into high-pitched, tittering laughter, so high it was almost beyond a human’s ability to hear, like the sound dolphins blow out of their nasal airsacs when they’re excited. Then just like that she stopped, and I heard one of the hula boys grunt behind me, just before something hard hit me on the back of the head. I went down like a cliff diver at Kaanapali Beach, but I didn’t stick the landing. I ended up on my back, looking up through a cloud of pain. One of the hula boys was holding a coconut. There was a thin white line running down the middle, where the coconut split when it hit my skull. Cool, white liquid dribbled out of the crack and landed on my forehead, drip, drip, drip. Milk and honey trickling down on me from the upper two percent. It was Reaganomics at work. Soon, like the economy of the 1980s, I would be back on my feet. There was just one problem: like Reagan in “King’s Row,” I couldn’t feel my feet.
“Where’s the rest of me?” I said, doing my best Gipper impression. “Mommy?”
It was bedtime for Bonzo. One of the apes leaned down and conked me again with the coconut, squishing it into my face. The numbness washed over me like high tide rolling over the shore, the roaring surf drowning out all sight and sound, except for Lulu’s voice. It was the last thing I heard before the waves crashed over me.
She said: “Take the haole a-hole to the volcano, like the others.”
And then the swell picked me up and carried me off, washing me out to sea.
Lava Means Never Having To Wear Your Sari
The roar of the surf became the drone of engines as I came to lying face down on a cold metal floor, vibration shaking my bones. Wind whipped my clothes and hair and bit the back of my neck. Groaning, I raised my head.
I was in an empty cargo bay, in a propeller plane that seemed to be missing a door. Outside the doorway there was nothing but air, whooshing by. If I craned my neck just a little, I could see the ocean, blue and distant, blurring by a couple of thousand feet below.
Behind me sat the two hula boys who’d conked me with a coconut at the Department of Health. They were sitting in a pair of fold-down seats, watching me quietly through dark, placid eyes. I remembered Lulu’s voice, just before I slipped under. “Take the haole a-hole to the volcano,” she’d said. “Like the others.”
That’s when it hit me. They were going to throw me out of the plane into a volcano. I was about to become Magma, P.I. I’d stuck my nose where no noses should go, asked one too many questions about the President’s birth certificate, and I was going to pay for it, head-first into molten lava, unless I did something, quick.
Moaning, I staggered to my feet, then, steadying myself, I ran for the cockpit door, grabbed the handle, and yanked. Nothing. The door was locked tight as W’s flight suit on the deck of the Abraham Lincoln. I looked over my shoulder. Funny. The hula boys hadn’t moved. They just sat there, watching me and smiling.
“Relax, haole,” said Kong #1, his voice rising above the sound of the propellers. “We’ll be landing soon.”
“Landing? Landing where?”
“Molokai,” he said, his smile growing wider.
I felt the hairs rise on the back of my neck. “Molokai? Isn’t that a leper colony?”
Kong #2’s eyes lit up. “Kalaupapa,” he said. “Father Damien.”
So that was their game! Ask too many questions about Obama’s birth certificate and you end up a leper. And not just figuratively, like David Frum or Peggy Noonan, but a real, honest-to-goodness skin-falling-off leper, like that Scottish king in Braveheart. Sweet mother of Ben Hur! I sank down onto the cold floor of the plane, my back against the cockpit door. In a few minutes we would land, and I’d be face to face with the noseless ones. Was this the end of Stain?
A few minutes later we touched down. As the plane taxied down the airstrip, the hula boys tromped over and lifted me by the armpits, carrying me to the open doorway. The plane probably wasn’t going much more than 20 miles an hour when they threw me out. I bounced along the runway a few times and came to rest in front of a big black Packard, the kind you’d see in an old Bogart movie. Two pugs got out, picked me up and threw me in the back seat like a sack of pineapples.
The Packard started up with a roar and got rolling as I peeled myself off the old man’s lap. He didn’t look like much, but at least his nose hadn’t fallen off yet.
“Allow me to introduce myself, Mr. Stain,” he said. “I’m Neil Abercrombie, Governor of the great state of Hawaii.”
He didn’t look like a governor, with that scruffy white beard in need of a trim. “Must be tough, for a politician,” I said. “Being a leper and all.”
The governor’s eyes glinted behind wire-framed specs. “You’re a little behind the times. We haven’t had a leper colony on Molokai in decades.”
“Oh? Then why did your hula goons bring me here?”
“Let me be blunt, Mr. Stain. We know you’re working for Donald Trump. You’re the third investigator he’s sent to Hawaii to find President Obama’s birth certificate.”
“It’s worse than that,” I said. “Now he wants the placenta.”
“I see,” said the Governor. He looked out the window, gazing at the lush vegetation whirring past. “Trump’s an idiot, Mr. Stain. But, yeah, he’s right.” He turned back to me, his cheeks dimpling as he smiled. “The President wasn’t really born in Hawaii.”
He was smug about it. Too smug.
“No, really. See, when Obama’s mother, Stanley Ann Dunham, a poor white girl living in Honolulu and attending the University of Hawaii, married a foreign student from Kenya in February, 1961, on Maui, she was already three months pregnant. Despite the fact that, as Mr. Trump himself puts it, ‘everyone wanted to become a United States citizen,’ she chose to fly all the way to Africa and have the baby there instead. Even though she somehow knew then that 50 years later he would become the first African-American President of the United States, and, in order to do so, would have to be an American citizen. So, with the help of her parents, a scheming World War II vet and his conniving bride, the homemaker who’d worked at Boeing during the war, she developed a cunning plan. First they bribed doctors, nurses and officials at the Kapi'olani Maternity & Gynecological Hospital in Honolulu, convincing the hospital to send a bogus birth announcement to the Hawaii state Department of Health, which, in turn, issued a counterfeit certificate of live birth. Next they bribed the editors of two separate Honolulu newspapers, The Honolulu Advertiser and the Star-Bulletin, to run identical phony birth announcements stating that the future President was, indeed, born in Honolulu. Not content to stop there, they bribed many friends of Ms. Dunham’s in Hawaii, including yours truly, and still more friends in the state of Washington, where she visited with little Barack one month after his birth, convincing us all to attest to their dastardly lie. It all worked beautifully, and would have continued to do so, if it weren’t for that meddling billionaire, Donald Trump. Congratulations, Mr. Stain. You got us. Too bad you won’t live to tell anyone.”
I stared at him, my mouth hanging open in disbelief. “The President’s mother was named Stanley?”
He nodded, smiling, then turned and looked out the window as the big Packard wheeled off the main road and turned down a lazy, palm-lined drive. In the distance, a brightly-lit sign flashed the words, “The Volcano House” in blazing neon.
The Governor turned back to me, patting my knee consolingly. “You do understand why we can’t let you leave the island, Mr. Stain. There’s simply too much at stake.”
We were approaching the front of a sprawling, plantation-style hotel. Leaning over me, the Governor unlatched the door.
“Goodbye, Mr. Stain,” he said. “I hope you enjoy your stay.” The car was still moving when he pushed me out.
I did my impression of a bowling ball again, rolling down the driveway. When I finally came to rest, I was looking up at a pair of long, bony, white gams that rose above me like tall stalks of sugar cane, disappearing into an orange sarong. I got to my feet and took in the rest of her. She looked vaguely familiar, and all wrong somehow, like Michael Dukakis driving a tank. A big yellow sunflower sprouted out of her long, blond hair. Her eyes were laughing sapphires in the leathery, crinkled map of her face. She had the sinewy, hard-scrabble shoulders of a champion bowler, and breasts the size of passion fruits beneath a string coconut bikini. Her turkey wattle neck jiggled when she spoke.
“Hello, Mr. Stain. You’re just in time for the luau. We have fresh Humuhumunukunukuapua'a.”
Her voice was deep. Too deep. It did things to me I’d rather not think about.
She reached up and played with her hair, the way girls do when they’re nervous. She had hairy wrists, for a dame. “Perhaps you’d like to clean up, and then join us for dinner. Would you like me to show you to your room?”
I rolled my tongue back into my mouth and said, “You had me at Humuhumunukunukuapua'a.”
I was still drooling when she took off the wig. I didn’t notice where she got the gun from. Maybe it was in the wig. All I know is that when I looked at her hand, there was a .38 Beretta in it, pointed right at my spleen.
“Well I’ll be a monkey’s uncle,” I said. “Joe Biden.”
In the Veep of the Night
Joe Biden stood barefoot in the moonlight in his orange sarong, pointing a .38 Beretta at my belly button. “Okay, Stain,” he said, his lipstick-smeared kisser curled into a sneer. “We can do this the easy way, or we can do this the Scranton way. Which is it gonna be?”
I raised my hands, slowly. “Take it easy, Joe,” I said. “I know when I’m licked.”
He waved the gun at the long, flagstone stairway that led to the entrance of the hotel, flanked on both sides by lush hibiscus. “Walk,” he said. “Slowly.”
I did as he ordered, climbed the steps to the Volcano House with my hands in the air, the Vice President’s pistol prodding my ribs for impetus.
Halfway to the front door I spoke to him over my shoulder. “So you actually pulled it off. Put an alien in the White House. Congratulations, Joe.”
He chuckled. “You don’t know the half of it, Stain.”
“Who would have guessed it,” I said. “I always figured the Birthers’ story had more holes in it than one of Trump’s golf courses.”
“You figured wrong, smart guy,” said Biden.
I kept climbing the stairs to the front entrance of the hotel. Halfway up I missed a step, accidentally on purpose, and stumbled back into him. He should have just plugged me, but his bleeding heart instincts took over and he tried to help, put his arms around me to keep me from falling. Liberals. They can’t help themselves. I grabbed the Beretta and twisted it out of his hands. It was like taking Texas from a Democrat.
Biden’s eyes widened under the long, fake lashes, and his pale, bony arms reached for heaven. He still held the blond wig in one of his brown-spotted hands.
“Okay, talk,” I said. “What did you do with Trump’s investigators? The Jersey boys?”
He smiled, his sapphire-colored orbs twinkling in the moonlight. “They had a little accident over by the volcano. Seems they needed some health care, but the death panel voted ‘em down. Damn shame, really, but the panel decided they just weren’t worthy recipients of health care. I do hope their families understand.”
“Damn big government socialist bureaucrats, rationing health care!” I yelled, driving my fist into his jaw. He fell back onto the flagstones, unconscious before he hit the ground. He looked ridiculous, spread-eagled like that in his sarong and coconut bra, like Rudy Giuliani at the end of a bender. I stood over him, figuring my options. Loud voices coming toward me from the top of the steps helped make up my mind. I dragged the Vice President off into the hibiscus, then crouched down in the bushes, watching.
A large man in shorts and a luau shirt came down the steps, humming “The Girl From Ipanema.” He was heading for a parking lot filled with little electric Smart cars. I recognized him at once. It was Al Gore. I stuck the Beretta in my pocket and followed him down the flagstone walkway.
The former vice president walked to one of the funny-looking half-cars, which was plugged into some sort of electric charging post. While he fumbled with the cord that ran from the post to his gas cap, I came up behind him and stuck the Beretta in his back.
“Here’s an inconvenient truth,” I said through clenched teeth. “If you make a sound I’ll put a hole in you bigger than the ozone. Now, what do you say we take your little gaymobile for a spin.”
“Okay,” he said calmly in that Grand Ole Opry drawl, his voice thick as a Memphis breakfast. “Now, let’s not do anything rash here.”
“Good idea,” I said, opening the door. I got in first, scooting across to the passenger seat, then motioned for him to follow. “Get in and drive,” I told him.
He did as I said.
The little gizmo started up with a whir. “Sounds like a vacuum cleaner,” I said, as he wheeled us around the driveway.
He glanced at me, cold daggers shooting from his hooded eyes. “Let me tell you something. This little puppy can go from zero to sixty in 3.5 seconds, while reducing greenhouse gas emissions and our nation’s dependence on foreign oil, not to mention…”
I aimed the Beretta at the floor, a couple of inches from his right foot, and pulled the trigger. The explosion reverberated like a cannon shot inside the little toy car.
Gore jumped in his seat. “Jumpin’ Jehosephat!” he yelped.
“One more word,” I said, “and I’ll take off a couple of toes. What’ll that do to your carbon footprint?”
For once in his life he clammed up, staring straight ahead as he steered.
“That’s more like it,” I said.
We exited the drive and moved out onto the main road. After a moment, he looked at me. “Where are we going?”
“I don’t know,” I said. “Just drive. Give me your cell phone.”
Gore pulled a Blackberry out of his pocket and handed it over. I thumbed the keypad, punching in Trump’s number. He picked up on the seventh ring. I’d forgotten about the time difference. It was the middle of the night in New York.
“This better be good,” said The Donald. “Do you know what time it is?”
“Two a.m.?” I guessed.
“That's right," he said. "I was just in the middle of inspecting a couple of Miss Universe contestants."
"Sorry, Mr. Trump. It's Sam Stain."
“Where the hell have you been, Stain? You were supposed to have checked in hours ago.”
“The liberals kidnapped me,” I said. “Brought me to Molokai.”
“Did you find Obama’s placenta?”
“Not yet,” I said. “But I found out what happened to your investigators. The boys from Jersey.”
“Losers," he scoffed. "Tell me.”
“They were death paneled. Liquidated by the big machine.”
“Son of a bitch,” hissed Trump. “Murdered by Obamacare.” The line went silent for a moment, then he said: “I need that placenta, Stain. The liberal press is killing me.”
“I think I might know where it is,” I told him. “I’m going to need another plane ticket.”
“Africa,” I said. “The Dark Continent, where it all began. Get me a ticket to Kenya, Trump. I’m going to blow this caper sky high, with a cherry on top. But first, I need a way off this island.”
There was silence on the other end. The great mind at work. “Okay,” he said, finally. “I’m going to tell you what to do. Where are you?”
“On the eastern edge of Molokai,” I said. “Near the Volcano House.”
“All right.” His voice was the sound of authority. “Here’s what you do. There’s an airstrip on the other side of the volcano. Be there in one hour. I’ll take care of the rest.” He hung up.
I looked at Gore. “Do you know where the airstrip is, the one on the other side of the volcano?”
He nodded. “Yeah, I know where it is.”
“Take me there,” I said.
Turning to the window, I looked out at the dark landscape whirring past. A bright light blazed in the side mirror. I turned around and had a look out the back window. A big, black Packard was coming up fast behind us, its headlights eating up the road.
I turned to Gore, who had his eyes fixed on the windshield. “Step on it,” I said. “We’re being followed.”
“All right,” he said, his foot stomping the gas.
The little gizmo puttered ahead, not going any faster. I glanced at the dash. The needle danced at 60. It didn’t feel like 60.
“Is that the best it can do?”
Al Gore looked flustered. “Well, heck, I’m doing 60 kilometers an hour!”
I stared at him. “Kilometers? What’s that in American?”
He squinted, figuring the math. “37.28227153424004 miles per hour.”
“Dammit!” I yelled, pounding the dash.
Behind us, gunshots rang out, bullets pinging off the gizmo’s chassis.
“They’re shooting at us!” Gore yelled. “Why are they shooting at us?”
I rolled the window down, leaned out and fired back at the Packard.
The muzzle of a Tommy Gun appeared out of the passenger window, belching fire. Rat-a-tat-tat. I answered with the Beretta. Bullets ricocheted off the hood of the Packard, but it kept coming. The big car sped up, ramming us from behind. The little gizmo veered crazily across the road, tires squealing.
“Hang on!” yelled Gore as we flew off the road. We bounced wildly through the thick, tropical brush, and then we were airborne, the little car taking flight. As we soared through the darkness, I heard someone scream, and realized it was me.
Gore's eyes were wide as cueballs, his knuckles white on the wheel. He yelled, “I regret nothing!”
“Remember the Stain!” I screamed.
A Placenta in the Sun
We splashed down in a stream of rushing water, and floated. The little Smart Car’s headlights showed the way as we bobbed along on the surface.
I looked at Al Gore, who was still gripping the wheel, as if he could steer. “The gizmo floats?” I said.
He pointed out the windshield. “Clearly. It’s not a Swift Boat, but it’ll do.”
We were moving fast, the river carrying us downstream, away from the Governor’s goons who’d been chasing us in the big Packard.
“You know,” said Gore, “this is a perfect example of how global climate change has adversely affected the planet. This raging river that we’re floating in used to be a tiny stream, but now, due to increased rains brought on by a warming climate…”
I thought about plugging him, but I couldn’t do it. There was only one alternative. Groaning, I opened the door and jumped.
I could hear the former Vice President’s frantic cries fading into the distance as I hit the water and went under. Gasping and flailing, I fought my way to the surface as the river hurtled me downstream. Then something slammed into the back of my head, and the lights went out.
I don’t know how much time had passed when I came to, lying spread-eagled on my back on the riverbank with a lump the size of a breadfruit bulging the back of my head. It was still dark, stars twinkling the night sky above. I staggered to my feet and stood there, pain throbbing my think-tank. Where was I? I had no clue. I had to get to the airstrip, somehow, and I was running out of time.
An idea crawled up my spine and nipped me in the noodle. I still had Al Gore’s Blackberry. I pulled the phone out, praying that it still worked. It did, flickering to life when I powered it up. A half an hour later I staggered onto the Halawa Beach airstrip, Mapquest leading the way. I was just in time. The sound of a jet engine cut the darkness from above. Looking up, I saw landing lights flashing as a big, dark jet descended out of the west. Moments later its wheels hit the ashphalt runway, a roaring blue 727 with the word TRUMP printed in big, white letters across the fuselage. I recognized the design – it was one of the Trump Airline jets from the ‘80s. The Donald had bought the Eastern Air Shuttle, a flying bus service that flew hourly shuttles between Boston, New York and Washington. He’d tried to turn it into a luxury shuttle, but it didn’t take. The airline went bango a couple years later, Trump defaulted on his loans and the company was turned over to creditors. He must have kept one of the jets for himself, I thought, as I watched the plane bounce down on the asphalt runway.
I followed, running to the end of the airstrip as Trump’s jet wheeled to a halt. A door opened at the rear of the aircraft and a comely blond stewardess lowered a portable stairway. “Welcome aboard, Mr. Stain,” she said as I walked into the empty jet. Well, it was almost empty. There was one other passenger: The Donald. He was sitting in a big swivel chair in the center of the aircraft, facing a flat-screen TV and holding an empty vodka glass. A giant bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken sat on a table in front of him, next to an extra-crispy chicken breast on a plate.
“Have a seat,” he said. “I was giving a speech in Honolulu, so I thought I’d just swing by and pick you up. You look like shit, Stain. What the hell have you been doing?”
I started to answer but he cut me off, holding his empty glass up so the stewardess could see. “I’ll have another T&T, Tonya,” he said, jiggling the glass. He looked at me. “You want one, Stain? Trump and Tonic. My own label. Trump Vodka. You remember, I’m sure. It was the best, Stain. Everything I do is the best.”
I remembered reading somewhere about his vodka venture. He’d predicted the T&T would become one of the most requested drinks in America, but then the vodka went bust, just like the airline.
“I’ll take a bourbon,” I said.
Trump gave me a disgusted look, then began cutting into his chicken with a knife and fork.
"Want some KFC, Stain? We can stop over in Honolulu and get you a bucket." He nodded at the bucket in front of him, brimming with steaming drumsticks and chicken breasts. "This one's mine."
"Tempting," I said. "But no thanks. I want to keep my mind clear."
He turned to the flat screen. He was watching himself give a speech. “Watch this, Stain. It’s my favorite part,” he said, then he pointed the remote at the screen and turned up the sound.
The Trump on the screen was looking straight at me, his piercing blue eyes dancing with delight. “You wanna know what I’d tell the Chinese,” he said. “Here’s what I’d tell the Chinese. I’d say, ‘Listen you motherfuckers, we’re gonna drop a 25 percent tax on your asses.”
The crowd went wild.
The Donald muted the screen again, then turned to me, smiling smugly. “You see, Stain? They love me. I’m gonna tell you something. Everyone’s saying it’s all a publicity stunt, that I’m not really running for President. But let me tell you, I’m running. It’s gonna be Trump-Blagojevic, 2012. What do ya think? I’ve already got the slogan. ‘Let the hair take you there.’ What do ya think, Stain?”
“It’s catchy,” I said.
His too-blue eyes narrowed, boring into me, and his nostrils flared. He made a face like a five year-old eating broccoli. “You stink, Stain,” he said. “Why don’t you go back into the dressing room and change your clothes. There’s a whole wardrobe back there from my personal collection. Go ahead. You’ll feel better.”
He turned back to the TV, turning the sound up once again. I got up and walked back to the back of the plane. Behind me, I heard him replaying his favorite line of the speech. The part where he tells the Chinese who’s boss.
Tonya, the stewardess, led me into a private dressing room, filled with clothes from the Donald J. Trump Signature Collection. I picked out a white silk dress shirt and a pair of black slacks. The labels read: MADE IN CHINA. Peeling out of my filthy clothes, I slipped them on. They fit like a dream, the silk cool and clean against my skin, but somehow, I felt even dirtier wearing them.
When I got back to my seat, there was a glass of bourbon waiting for me, but The Donald was gone. I picked up the glass and drank. Then I drank another. Before long, my eyes closed and I went drifting off to dreamland.
I awoke to a gentle rocking, sunlight streaming through the windows of the plane. Tonya’s hand was on my shoulder, shaking me awake. “Mr. Stain, we’re here,” she said.
I peered out the window. She was right, we were on the ground, the big Trump plane parked at a jetway next to a terminal. “Mombasa?” I said.
“Cairo,” said Tonya, smiling. “We had a change of plans. Mr. Trump told me to give you this.”
As I stood up, she handed me an envelope.
Cairo? What were we doing in Egypt? I opened the envelope. Inside were two Disney On Ice tickets and a note. The note read:
I received a tip that what we want is in Egypt. A man named Dennis will contact you at the Sultan Bar, at the Mena House, near the Great Pyramids. Give him the Disney On Ice tickets, and he’ll tell you where to find Obama’s placenta. Contact me when you get back to New York.
I took a cab to the Mena House, a spectacular hotel in the shadow of the pyramids, and went up to the Sultan Bar.
“I’m looking for Dennis,” I told the bartender, a dark, elegant-looking man with a big, black moustache. His eyes led me to a dark booth in the corner of the bar, where a little man with a fez on his head sat with his back to me, sipping a martini. I walked over and stood behind him, looking down at the top of his fez.
“You must be Dennis,” I said.
He turned. It was Dennis Kucinich, his gigantic, elf-like ears jutting out from beneath the fez. “And you are Mr. Stain,” he said. “You brought the Disney On Ice tickets?”
“Show me,” he said.
I slid into the booth opposite the congressman and handed him the envelope.
He rubbed his little fingers over the tickets, licking his lips. “Excellent,” he said, smiling.
“The placenta?” I said.
He slipped the tickets into his jacket and stood up. “Come with me.”
I followed him outside, through the luxurious marble lobby of the Mena House to the hotel’s sprawling, jasmine-scented gardens. Above the gardens towered the Great Pyramid of Giza. That’s where he took me, the tassle of his little red tarbouche bobbing beside his head as he lead the way. We exited the gardens and walked out onto the plateau of the pyramids, heading for the spectacular temple of the Pharoahs. We passed the Great Sphinx, reclining as it had for nearly 5,000 years, and made our way to the pyramid’s entrance. The temple filled my field of vision, its sides sloping at a perfect angle to the sky. Gazing up at the smoothly polished limestone, I felt a shudder, as if the cold fingers of time were passing over my spine.
We walked inside, the soles of our shoes shushing sand against the ancient stone. Kucinich led me down a passageway that took us through a series of chambers, each seemingly smaller than the last, until I had to crouch down just to keep my head from smacking the stone ceiling. Finally he led me into a vestibule that opened up, the ancient stone walls soaring hundreds of feet high, sloping together at the same, steep degree as the pyramid itself.
The congressman stood in the center of the room, gazing up at the distant ceiling overhead. “They built this place,” he said. “Not the Egyptians. You know that, right?” His voice echoed off the pyramid’s walls.
“Who?” I asked. “What do you mean, not the Egyptians?”
He looked at me. “They visited me, Mister Stain. I was at Shirley MacLaine’s house, in Washington state. The smell of roses drew me out to my balcony where, when I looked up, I saw a gigantic triangular craft, silent and beautiful. It was watching me. It hovered, soundless, for ten minutes or so, and then it sped away with a speed I couldn’t comprehend. But I felt a connection in my heart and heard directions in my mind. Those directions led me here. Which is where I found this.”
He took something out of his jacket pocket. It was disc-shaped, about the size of a Frisbee, dark brown in color, almost maroon. It looked like it was made of rotten meat.
I moved toward him, staring at the dingus. “Is that what I think it is?”
“Yes,” said Dennis Kucinich, tossing the meat-disc onto the dusty floor of the pyramid. “It’s Obama’s placenta. Or whatever they call it on his planet. President Obama wasn’t born in Hawaii, Mister Stain. Nor was he born in Kenya. He came from up there, somewhere.” He pointed up, toward the ceiling, but what he really meant was beyond the ceiling. Beyond the pyramids. Beyond the earth.
“He’s an alien being, Mister Stain. Brought here, to our planet, to rule us.”
“You’re nuts,” I said.
“Am I?” said Kucinich, smiling, his little, rodent-like eyes dancing beneath the fez. “Or am I so sane I just blew your mind?”
I tried to cluck sympathetically, but it caught in my throat. Before I could get it out, somebody laid a blackjack to the back of my head and the lights went out completely.
When I came to, my head was throbbing and my eyes didn’t want to focus. I made them. I was sitting in a first-class airline seat, with a portable DVD player in my lap. A card on the seatback in front of me read “Hawaiian Air.” Someone was shaking my shoulder. It was the flight attendant.
I felt like I was having a deja-vu. Or, was I?
“Sir, we’ve landed.”
“Landed?” I mumbled, my mouth full of marbles. “Where?”
“Honolulu,” she said, smiling. “You slept most of the flight. You were talking in your sleep, too.”
I rubbed my temples. “Oh yeah? What was I saying?”
“Something about Obama,” she said. “It was hard to make out.”
It was a dream. The whole thing, just a cockamamie dream. Being kidnapped. Joe Biden in drag. Al Gore. Kucinich. The Pyramids. All of it. I hadn’t solved any case. Obama wasn’t an alien. Either I was headed for the loony bin or … I looked down at the little DVD player on my lap. Fox News was on the screen, Sean Hannity spewing a mouthful of gibbering hooey. That was it. I’d been watching Trump’s lousy DVDs and I fell asleep. The teabags had opened, and the wingnut juice seeped into my brain. I folded the screen closed, then I stood up, shaking my head, trying to clear the gibberish.
I staggered off the plane and into the terminal. In my pocket, my cellphone buzzed and hummed. I answered it.
“Stain, it’s Donald Trump. I need you to come back to New York. Obama released his long-form birth certificate. I’m very proud of myself that I was able to force him to do this.”
“I thought you wanted the placenta,” I said.
“Maybe later,” said The Donald. “But right now I’ve got something else that’s more pressing. I want you to look into his college transcripts. I read somewhere that he was a bad student. Horrible. I’d like to know, how does he get into Harvard, how does he get into Columbia if he wasn’t a very good student? I knew lots of kids, Stain. Rich white kids, with lots of money. Their fathers had all sorts of connections, and yet they couldn’t get into Harvard. So how’d this guy do it? There’s something fishy about it, Stain. I can smell it.”
I hung up. Sweat seeped out of my pores and clung to me like a stench. I felt dirty, like I’d been rolling in filth. I went to the ticket counter and picked up the ticket, then I stopped at B. Dalton’s and bought a book for the flight home. A biography of Barack Obama. I read it cover to cover, soaring 30,000 feet over the Pacific. Trump was full of it. So maybe Obama didn’t get straight A’s at Occidental College or Columbia. There are plenty of other presidents who didn’t get great grades either, including George W. Bush. In fact, Bush was a dunce, but you didn’t hear anyone asking to see his credentials once he got to the White House. Maybe they should have. And once he got to Harvard, Obama was brilliant, graduating Magna Cum Laude and named president of the Law Review.
By the time we touched down at JFK, I knew what I needed to do. I hopped in a cab and headed downtown to my dingy office, and I went to work. It took me a couple of days of digging, but I found the information I needed. When I had it all, I called Trump and told him to come to my office.
He came in, his face a pompous mask of glowing bronze, his hair swooping like a puma, ready to pounce.
He sat down in the chair across my desk, his face filled with expectation. “Well, Stain, did you get the dirt on Obama’s college transcripts, like I asked you?”
I pushed a manila folder at him. “It’s all there,” I said.
He opened it, pulled out my report and looked. His eyes sparked as they swept across the top page. Wrinkles appeared in his forehead, and his face turned red as the ink on his casino ledgers. He looked up at me, his lips trembling with rage.
“What the hell is this? This isn’t what I asked for…”
“No, but it’s worth something, just the same,” I said.
He thumbed through the pages. “This is all my dealings with Ghaddafi in 2009.”
“That’s right,” I said. “It reeks like a Boardwalk Port-a-Potti.”
“Where did you get this?”
“I found it. That’s what I do, Mr. Trump. I find things.”
“What is this, a shakedown?”
I shrugged. “Call it what you like. A warning.”
He squinted, his deep-blue orbs twinkling with anger. “What is it that you want, Stain?”
I leaned over the desktop and stared straight into his tan-in-a-can kisser. I said: “I want you to shut your big bazoo. Stop lying about the President. That’s all. No more lies. Got it?”
Trump’s lips quivered, as if he were about to smooch something. It wouldn’t be me. “And if I don’t?”
I stood up, moving quickly around the desk. I stood over him, my hands clenched into fists of rage. “If you don’t, I’ll steal the marmot. You know, the one on top of your head.”
He looked up at me, a smug smile playing across his lips. “Don’t threaten me, Stain. I leave particles of guys like you in my wind.”
“That must be painful,” I said, snatching the dead marmot off his head. Stepping quickly around the desk, I opened the window that looked out over the Avenue of the Americas, and I tossed it out. The sound of car horns honking echoed from the street below.
Without taking his eyes off me, Trump ran a hand across the top of his bald dome. He looked ridiculous. Like a clown, like an inconsequential foof. Like a dirty, bald-headed crumb. “I have another one at home, Stain,” he said.
“Then I’ll get that one too.”
“I have two more at my son-in-law’s house.”
“I know where your son-in-law lives.”
“Damn you, Stain.”
He got up and went to the door. Before opening it, he turned to me. “You’re a dead man, Stain. You know that, don’t you? As soon as I leave here I’m going to pick up the phone and make a call. That’s all I’ll do. Make one phone call. And then men will come here and rub you out. It may be tomorrow. It may be the next day, or the day after that. But they will come.”
I shrugged, pouring bourbon into a dirty styrofoam cup. “I’ll be here,” I said. “Waiting.”
He went out. I watched him walk past the bullethole in my frosted glass window, and then he was gone.
I put my feet up on the desk, leaned back in my squeaky office chair and drank.
I would wait. Like the sign on the door said, I was Stain.