Panic struck the Klepto Kompound as the ruling family digested the news that one of their own, the Flying Monkey, was about to sell them out for immunity. Klepto and his children huddled and shuddered in front of the TV in the Pale House and thought of Nixon.
“It won’t stop with me, you know,” Klepto mused. “The Flying Monkey knows everything. About all of us. Even about Harlequin and his deals with the Chinese.”
Harlequin was standing straight and silent beside the door. The look of pleasant optimism that always graced his boyish face turned to a look of silent panic and he pissed himself.
“There, there, Daddy,” Tinkerbelle cooed. She picked up the clumps of hair Klepto had pulled out, stuck them back on his bald white head and combed them out neatly. Klepto’s heart rate slowed and he stopped panting through his nose and unclenched his teeth.
“There must be something we can do,” Tinkerbelle urged.
“Maybe Vlad will poison him like those other guys!” The Cowardly Lion Killer suggested excitedly from the floor.
“Yeah, major organ failure,” the Scarecrow crowed. “I’ll bet that means he pooped himself! Pooped.”
“No, no,” Klepto muttered. He realized once again he was the brains of this operation and that made him feel proud smarmy and terrified at the same time. “He knows all about that stuff. He’ll take precautions—and probably blab about that too.”
The ruling family was silent as the TV babbled on about how the first seventy days of Klepto’s reign seemed like seventy years.
“At least they think you’ve been around a long time,” the Scarecrow blurted. “Enough to go into syndication, even.”
“They don’t show reruns of game shows, stupid,” his brother chided from under the table.
“Why not? It’s not like you remember who won or what the questions were or how to play the game or anything. You just sort of stare and listen to people cheer for the winner. I don’t know why they bother to make new ones—”
“Shiny objects,” his father interrupted. It was his only strategy, to deflect attention from one headline grabbing flub by creating another even bigger flub. The odd thing was it took him so long to remember it.
“We’ve got to create a distraction. Ideas?” he demanded.
“Now that you’re Precedent, you can start a war,” the Scarecrow called.
“We’ve already got a war,” Tinkerbelle reminded him. From his Scarecross against the back wall behind her, the Scarecrow stuck out his tongue at his smarty pants daddy’s girl sister. “I saw that,” she said.
“You did not,” the Scarecrow said.
“You stuck your tongue out at me,” Tinkerbelle said without raising her eyes from the work she was doing to repair Klepto’s fake tresses.
How does she do that? The Scarecrow thought.
“What if you give everybody in the country the day off?” The Cowardly Lion Killer suggested. “Everybody likes a day off. You could call it a snow day.”
“We just had one of those. It was called A Day Without Women and it did not play well for Dad,” Tinkerbelle said.
TCLK wanted to stick his tongue out at her, but she was looking right at him. Tinkerbelle was a big girl; she could kick his ass. She had.
“All right, let’s start with announcement. I’m good at those. I’ll say we’re going to Mars. I’ll challenge the Chinese to a race to get there. The nation will be mobilized behind me and forget all the shit I’ve done. It worked for Kennedy.”
“Kennedy was shot, Daddy,” Tinkerbelle reminded him.
Klepto said, “Oh, right, Ted Cruz’s dad killed him. I wonder what that was about.”
“But what if the Chinese get there first?” TCLK asked.
“Don’t be ridiculous. The Chinese will never beat us to Mars. Why the hell would anyone want to go to Mars?” his father explained. “I can get my picture taken with rockets. Big fat tall rockets. We could work a deal to brand them KLEPTO rockets and get paid by the government. We could sell toy rockets to children. We could even sell the matches the children would use to set them off. And whey they flew into the sky they would spell out KLEPTO in big orange letters.”
“You’re a genius, Daddy, but I think NASA has been talking about going to Mars for a while now and it’s not getting much traction.”
“Of course not,” Klepto said. “Who the hell would want to go to Mars?” He sighed. “I guess I’ll just have to pull out the big guns, then. A sex tape.”
“But Daddy, where would you get one? You haven’t been able to have sex since before they invented video tape,” Tinkerbelle reminded him.
“Not mine. Yours,” Klepto said.
“You and Harlequin right here, right now.” He glanced over to Vice Precedent Suit, always present, rarely noticed. “You’ve got your camera ready?”
“Already running,” the Suit said with his Ken Doll smile.
“Okay, kids, have at it. Bend her over the couch. Doggy, standing, cowgirl, reverse cowgirl, handstand, wheelbarrow, pearl necklace. Keep looking at the camera so they know it’s you.”
“If you weren’t my father I’d spray you with mace,” Tinkerbelle said.
“You work for the federal government now, young lady, and all ethics rules apply. You want somebody from the Justice Department poking around your business dealings?”
“I’m not afraid of little Uncle Cornball,” Tinkerbelle said but her voice was not as brave as her words
“What if he sends one of the Democrats who still work there?”
“Oh, all right. It’s not like I haven’t had sex on film before.”
“Don’t worry, Klepto. We got this,” the Harlequin said downing a handful of Viagra. “It’s a small family business and everyone has to pitch in.” He stood with his hands on his hips waiting for the Viagra to kick in.
“What can we do to help, Dad?” called the Scarecrow from the back wall.
“Yeah, Dad,” I want to help too said TCLK.
“You’re next,” said Klepto.
“Great, I’ll call Mrs. Scarecrow.”
“Don’t be ridiculous,” Klepto scolded. “Nobody wants to go to Mars or see you screw your wife.”
“What then?” asked TCLK.
“You two. Together. That’ll sell. Harlequin’s ready. Rolling Suit?”
“Always,” said the Vice Precedent. Six months ago he was the second most unpopular governor in America. Six months from now he’d be the leader of the free world. And he had some ideas about what to do with it.
“Gee, Dad, this had better work. If you’ve got more stuff to hide, you’re not going to able to top this.”
“Sure, I can,” said Klepto. “Remember that nice young man from the Air Force, the one with the suitcase he calls a football? He doesn’t know it, but that’s what he’s for.”