Sunday, May 22, 2016

Sluice Tundra, Private Eye In: The Case of the Murdered Party (Part One)

Opinion |

It was a bright and sunny day at the Home for Retired Private Eyes. The smell of newly mown grass filled the air, and the birds were singing.
I hated it.
I’d spent my professional life as an honest gumshoe, plying my trade in the dark alleys of the mean streets, where life was cheap, the dames were cheaper, and hot lead waited for a man around every corner. …
“Mr. Tundra?”
It was the nurse. She was shaking me by the shoulder. I squinted up at her. “That’s me, dollface. Sluice Tundra, Private Eye. An honest gumshoe, working …”
“Yes, sir. Mean streets, hot lead. You were muttering it to yourself again. But you need to wake up. There’s someone here to see you.”
“Who is it?”
“I don’t know. But they say it’s about a case.”
“A case!? I’ll be right there!”
The woman standing in the dayroom had the kind of face and figure that made more promises than a hedge fund prospectus, but I knew that any sucker who took her up on it would soon be going to Capitol Hill for a bailout. Half of me knew I needed to be careful, but the other half was hungry for some action. A private eye can only live so long on prune juice and a weekly gin rummy game in the Multi-Purpose Room.
“What can I do for you, sweetheart?” I said. “Other than the obvious.”
She gave me a tolerant smile and dodged my grasping hands as deftly as Hope Solo shaking off a defender in the World Cup. “Mr. Tundra,” she said, “Your country needs you.”
“The last time I heard that, sugar-lips, I ended up spending two years scraping garbage cans on an Army base in Killeen, Texas. You’ll have to do better than that.”
“Well, how about …”
She pulled out an alligator hide checkbook and named a figure with a lot of zeroes in it. It got my attention.
“You have my attention,” I said. I even stopped trying to grab her.
She nodded, tore the check out of the book and handed it to me. “I need you to solve a killing.”
I took the check and stuffed it in the pocket of my beat-up trench coat. “You came to the right place, angel-britches,” I said. “Sluice Tundra’s the name, murder’s my game. Who’s the stiff?”
She sighed and tears sprang to her eyes. “The Republican Party.”
Suddenly, there was a dramatic, crashing organ chord. The girl jumped a foot in the air. “What the heck was that!?”
“Oh,” I said. “That’s just Doris. She gets a couple of early afternoon cocktails in her and passes out on the keyboard of her Wurlitzer. Pay her no mind.” I tightened the belt on my trench coat. “So, are you sure it’s dead?”
She sniffled. “It might as well be. That awful man Trump is going to be the nominee. He’s going to kill it. Just kill it, I know.” The sniffles turned into a wail of despair. “How could this happen?” she sobbed as she fell into my arms.
Now this was more like the old days. “Don’t worry, punkin,” I soothed. “I’m on it.”
She looked up at me, her eyes brimming with hope along with the tears. “Really? You’ll take the case?”
“How could I turn you down, precious?” I said. “I’ll start interviewing suspects right away. I’ve got some ideas.”
“The Governor. The Other Governor. The Cowboy. Maybe even that guy who shoots his buddies in the face.”
“Oh, Mr. Tundra,” she said earnestly. “Do be careful.”
“I don’t need to be careful,” I said. “And you can call me Sluice.”
“OK. Sluice?”
“Yes, kitten?”
“If you don’t remove your hand from where it is, I’m going to break it off. And if you call me one of those stupid pet names again, you’ll be eating your next meal through a straw. Now, don’t you have work to do?”
I sighed and stepped back. Yep, just like the old days. “Yes, ma’am.”

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