Nine months is a lot of time. Enough time to rehab a darling vacation bungalow on Cape Cod. Enough time for a whirlwind romance with the contractor. The birds 'n' bees boys down at the OB/GYN lab claim that's how long it takes to hatch a baby. But in my line of work you learn it's also plenty enough time to hatch a plot -- maybe the single biggest stinking political gestation coverup plot ever to hit P-town.My name is Loads. To me, everything is a mystery.
I was working the night shift at the Atlantic blog division, typing up my final report on the Khalid Sheik Mohammed torture case (Mike Loads #11, "The Waterboarders"). That's when he walked in.
My eyes scanned the 5-foot-10 slab of man candy framed in my office doorway, the neon light from the venetian blinds slashing diagonally across that tailored acre of double-breasted charcoal. He took a step forward and removed his fedora, revealing a jet black pompadour glistening with high-dollar salon gel product. He was toting a shopping bag from the P-town Chocolate Shoppe.
"You Inspector Loads?"
I continued sizing up the jake. He had too much fashion sense to be a thug from the Christianist syndicate... but something in the way he minced throbbed with danger. This wasn't the kind of boy you took home to your overbearing mother. I could tell that underneath that $20 suit was a chest like a bear rug and a pair of voluptuous white marble glutes straight from a Greek statue.
"Yeah, I'm Mike Loads. Who wants to know?"
"Let's just say I was sent by a friend. Is that a gun in your pocket or are you just glad to see me?"
"Actually it's a chew treat for my beagle. Fetch, Madonna!"
While the stranger was distracted by Madonna chasing the oversized rawhide bone, I pulled the adorable Ruger .22 I keep stowed in my sock garter. I swung around and trained it on his beady sparkling baby blues.
"No sweetheart. I keep my gun... right here."
He raised his mitts nonchalantly and his pert mouth slowly worked into a sly smile.
"Hey, take it easy with that heater, handsome. I just thought you and I could have a little... friendly chit chat."
"If it's all the same to you, I'll keep my thumb on the hammer. It's not everyday a stranger drops by my office packing fudge."
"This assortment from the Chocolate Shoppe? Try some, Loads. It's divine."
"Slide a couple of those truffles across the desk nice and slow, pally. Then start making with the banter."
"Whatever you say, Loads. Suppose we start with a little story about a certain baby-snatching dame named Palin."
I let the Ruger down slowly and put on the safety. Ma Palin was a Northside moll who had worked her way to the top of the Christianist syndicate. She was too violent and stupid for the Ivy League, but she was an expert at the two things that got you made in her gang -- shooting guns and making babies. I had long suspected some of those babies were fakes. If I could prove it, it would spark an internal war among the Christianists -- and bring down their iron-fisted control of the marriage rackets.
"I'm all ears... what did you say your name was?"
"Suit yourself. Now let's hear that nursery story."
"Suppose I told you a certain dame's baby wasn't born to that certain dame. Suppose I told you the real mother of that certain baby was the certain dame's other certain teenage baby, who was trying to cover up another second certain baby."
"Suppose I told you that you better have some damn good certain proof, sweetheart."
I raised my gat again. Twenty years patrolling the boutique punditry beat teaches a man a few things. Like when you're hunting big game, you need .50 caliber fact checks. I wasn't about to get burned again like in the Steve Glass caper (Mike Loads #3: "Nightmare at the New Republic").
"Sure thing, gumshoe," he purred. "Riddle me this: what happens to dames when they get pregnant?"
I have to admit the mysterious himbo's surprise question threw me for a loop. I poured a shot of chardonnay and put some Pet Shop Boys on the hi-fi, and located my old biology notes from Oxford.
"I've got it! It says here they get even grosser and fatter than normal."
"That's right, Loads. You tell me -- just how fat does this dame look to you?"
He slid a glossy 7" by 5" print of Palin across my Steelcase. There she was in black and white, svelte and unpregnant as Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany's.
"You have the negatives?"
"Locked in a safe deposit box at First National, Loads."
"Mister, I believe you just broke open the biggest scandal case in P-town history."
I tilted the brim of my fedora back with the barrel of my Ruger and smiled. I guess my overbearing mother was wrong. Sometimes you really should talk to strangers with candy.
"So, Doc, you're saying that Bristol Palin gave birth to both of those babies?"
Burns -- the Atlantic crime lab's gynecologist -- took off his stethoscope, put his face in his palms, and slowly rubbed his eyes.
"No, Loads, you fucking idiot. That's the exact opposite of what I'm saying. The human gestation cycle is 9 months, and the human female is physically incapable of completing two separate birth cycles within an 11 month period. The odds of an 18 year old female having a Down's Syndrome baby are more than 100,000 to 1, compared to 30 to 1 for a female in her 40s. It is an anatomic, physiological impossibility, never before seen in the history of human medicine."
"Ahhh... I catch your drift, sawbones," I said, looking up at the fluorescent panels of his exam room. "You're saying... you're saying that the Palins may not actually be humans! Dammit! How could have I been so blind no to see all the obvious clues? Do you suspect they may be a sleeper cell for intergalactic invaders?"
The medico looked at me with a blank stare for a few minutes. I could tell he knew something, but was too afraid to talk.
"Inspector Loads, do you use marijuana frequently?"
"Depends. Is five or six times a day frequent?"
"Are you on any HIV medications that might cause delusions or hallucinations?"
"Who isn't? Why do you ask?"
"Inspector Loads, I'm referring you to a specialist in your kind of... problem," he said, scribbling out a note and handing it to me. "Good luck."
"Thanks for the clues, Doc. When I bring down Palin, I'll put you in for a commendation."
I wrestled my legs out of the table stirrups and headed for the door.
The swinging light painted a sickly oscillating spot in the filthy room. I struggled against the abrasive ropes that had already chafed my wrists and ankles raw. The leather hooded figure approached slowly, menacingly, and hit me hard against the face with the back of his hand.
"Are you ready to talk now, Loads?"
"Go peddle your papers, pal," I sputtered defiantly. I spit in his face.
The goon laughed, then walked over to a dial connected to a dry cell battery. The jumpers led up my pant legs, to two clamps locked firmly onto my pecs. Sweat was flowing from every pore on my body.
"Maybe 200 volts will loosen that tongue of yours," he grunted, twisting the knob.
I screamed uncontrollably as the room slowly filled with the musky acrid stench of my burning body hair. Suddenly an alarm rang.
"Okay sweetie, your 20 minutes are up," he said. "Same time next week?"
"My God, Carlo, you are amazing," I panted, putting my shirt back on. "Pencil me in for Tuesday."
It was time to get back to the case, so I kissed him on the hood and stuffed an extra sawbuck in his Speedo.
"Oh, and Carlo? Wear that special CIA uniform that I like."**********
"We're pulling you off the Palin caper, Loads!" barked Bradley. The Commish was surrounded by his smirking yes-men Bennett and Goldberg. I could tell the fix was in.
"Admit it, Commissioner! It's because I'm getting too close to the truth, isn't it?" I snarled.
"No, you dope-addled Limey moron! It's because you've posted 37 straight columns about amniotic fluid and sperm time travel and the reproductive organs of neo-nazi space aliens," he stammered, attempting to concoct a flimsy excuse. "Crissakes, I'm trying to run a high class coffee table magazine here, not some sci fi baby fetish rag! Even the lunatics at Harpers think you're nuts!"
"And I suppose you think I'm nuts too, Bradley?"
"Oh yeah? Well, let me tell you something, commissioner," I said, my blood rising to a slow boil. "I may have taken more balls to the chin than Minnie Minoso, but we both know I'm still the best goddamn forensic political vaginologist on the entire force. If you're taking me off this case, the only explanation is that you're getting strong-armed by the reactionary blog mob! Who's pulling your strings, Bradley? Althouse? Reynolds? Out with it!"
"You're fired, Loads. And for God's sake, man, get yourself some help."
"Too late, Bradley! I'm suspending myself. At full pay."
I stormed out of his office and headed for my PC. I was now officially a freelance investigator on Uterusgate. I needed to post a pledge drive -- and quick.
I crawled on my belly under the electric fence surrounding Palin's log fortress, working slowly so as not to make a sound. As the capa of the syndicate, her place was likely crawling with a private army of Christianist security goons who would shoot first and ask forgiveness later. Once inside the perimeter, I hopscotched a 20 yard minefield of moose crap until I reached the amber glow of a side window. It was frosted over and I was unable to see inside. It was now or never -- my only chance to get inside the Palin compound and to the bottom of this case. I broke the pane with the stock of my Ruger, unlatched and opened the window, and pulled myself through.
The house was deserted, just as Levi Johnson had promised during our torrid encounter. But around every corner waited another mounted head or wolf pelt that sent my pulse racing. Whatever the truth was about this dame, she was no interior decorator. Softly... I heard it... a baby's cry?
I walked as quickly as my crepe soles would allow to the sound, which seemed to be coming from behind a garish stone fireplace. On the mantle was a bronze bust of Ronald Reagan. Curious, I picked it up. Suddenly the entire fireplace rotated, revealing a secret room -- full of basinettes.
"Good evening, Inspector Loads, I've been expecting you."
I wheeled around with my pistol. In the corner of the secret room, cradling a baby in a rocking chair.... it was the handsome mysterious stranger.
My gun dropped to the floor.
"Whah aw you doin hewe?" I asked, dumbfounded to see him again.
"Is there something wrong with your tongue?"
"Iht fwoze ohn a fwagpo ihn Wasiwwa," I explained.
"Tsk tsk, Inspector. I'd have thought a professional like you would be wise enough not to accept dares from schoolchildren."
"Cuh duh cwap, misteh," I said angrily. "I wan duh twoof, an I wan ih now!"
"Truth? I'm not sure you can handle the truth," he said, gently shushing the gurgling infant.
"Alright inspector, as you wish. Look all around you. Dozens of cribs, all filled with ectoplasmic pods. From each will soon emerge a very-human-seeming baby. Within mere months, each of these babies will be ready to spawn more pods, with more babies. And more, and more. Within two years there will be millions of Palinians on the voter rolls, all programmed for one purpose. To stop gay marriage. Everything you imagined, and more."
"Buh... buh... why..."
"Why did I put you on the trail, let you discover the truth? It's really rather brilliantly simple, Mike. Every time you publish about this, you have succeeded in convincing the entire world you are utterly insane. We can now increase the operation with no fear of further scrutiny. Here's another bit of truth, Mike. You are still hopelessly attracted to me."
The stranger was right. My whole world was spinning, but I had been unable to get him off my mind ever since he walked through my office door. I was obsessed by him, and wondered whether I would ever get the chance to be in his arms, to be lovers, to go antiquing together. My heart raced as he put the alien hellspawn back in its crib, and began walking to me provocatively.
He stopped after a few steps and put on a pair of wire spectacles. He removed his fedora, reached behind his head and removed a ponytail holder, shaking loose a mane of feminine hair. My God... he wasn't a he. It was a woman. It was Sarah Palin.
I ran screaming from the cabin with tears freezing in my mustache, her evil laugh echoing through the pines.