9 – Finding Duke Dasher

United States

Patrick Kibby had palmed the security guard on duty twenty dollars to tell him the coordinates of where the Blackhawk helicopter had crash-landed. The guard had been suspicious of someone whose sloping shoulders, beady eyes and quivering lips made him look perpetually on the verge of breaking down in tears, but ultimately knew the twenty dollars would get him and his wife and kids drunk one more night. Kibby later found himself in rural Illinois. He stopped at a California Pizza Kitchen for a quick bite of Chicago style pizza, as one does in rural Illinois, and then hurried to the coordinates. Wherever this helicopter had landed bore great significance in finding the truth behind the spree of neck snappings happening across the country. What could possibly be at the end of these coordinates? A Plato’s Closet? Would it be a mass grave constructed by Dasher for all of his victims? Was this entire predicament as simple as a singular maniac going off the rails like the President had detailed, or was the threat something larger?

Kibby pulled into a non-descript cul-de-sac. The air smelled of potpourri and quitting. The well-manicured lawns served as red carpets for the residents who had abandoned their dreams in favor of insufferable suburban living. “They wouldn’t trade their life for anything in the world,” Kibby had heard and seen from friends who never left –  friends who were trying to devour enough Xanax and produce enough shitty art at wine-and-paints to convince their uninterested social media following they were happy. The yellowing beige walls of each house matched the dull complexion of the people inside. Kibby continued on in disbelief. Up ahead, he spotted the Blackhawk helicopter crashed in front of a ranch-style home with an unreasonably large and budget-friendly looking Don’t Tread On Me flag flying out front. Kibby wondered again about the President’s accusations of Duke Dasher. He pondered if somewhere this benign seeming could really be the catalyst for a nationwide terror crisis. 

He pulled wearily into the driveway. Even from the vantage point of his shareable electric scooter, the door to the house appeared completely open. Kibby reached into his back pocket, hoping to God that he had packed his pocket knife, but instead found only a handful of extremely full tissues. It would not have mattered anyway if Dasher were, in fact, at the house. Kibby’s skull would be crushed instantly. 

He approached the front door, his All Bird sneakers making him appear like even more of a weakling loser than he was. He had fallen for the relentless Facebook ads almost immediately and would talk endlessly to friends about their superior comfort and styling. All the while, he merely appeared to be some blubbering spokesperson for a shoe that screamed gullibility and willingness to be targeted by lifeless marketing techniques. 

“Hello?” Kibby yelled in the house, breaching into the foyer while experiencing another breach in the seat of his pants. 

“Get the fuck out!” someone yelled from the kitchen. “Girl Scout cookies are more dangerous than vaccinating your children, so get the fuck out!” the voice screamed again. 

“I just need to ask you about a certain Duke Dasher. Do you know him?” Kibby asked cautiously. There was a pause for several seconds; Kibby took this as a good sign, hoping the person would be willing to talk. 

Instead, he felt his skull caving under a sock full of quarters. The last thing he remembered was watching the blood pool under his head onto a wood floor. When he woke up, he was tied firmly to what appeared to be a life-sized crucifix in a completely white room. 

“You awake? When Duke bought this life-sized cross from Sky Mall using the last bit of my inheritance, I thought he had lost his marbles, but this thing is paying dividends now,” said the woman standing in front of him. Kibby blinked several times. He knew he was severely concussed, but he had to find out what was going on. Goddamn Sky Mall, thought Kibby, rattling his hands and feet, which were securely tied to the enormous wooden structure.

“Look, I think we’re on the same side here. I think the President is lying,” blurted out Kibby, realizing he was also now missing several teeth. He wondered how that had happened, given it seemed like the person had hit him from behind.

“I see you licking your teeth. I pulled a few of them when you weren’t answering me during our first interrogation. I guess you were still asleep,” said the person holding up a Ziploc bag full of teeth.

“Are you Stacy Dasher?” said Kibby, now with a severe lisp.

“All my life,” replied Stacy Dasher.

Stacy Dasher was a legend in the philanthropic world. Kibby wondered how the woman in front of him could be the same person. She seemed erratic and paranoid. The news of Dasher’s exploits delivered by the President must have caused a complete mental breakdown.

“Stacy, I think your husband is being framed. Something about the President…I can’t tell what, but I think Dasher is being set up,” continued Kibby. “I need your help in finding evidence to clear his name.”

Stacy took a hero line of blue powder from the edge of a military knife directly into her nose. Her head jerked back and when it leveled, her nose hemorrhaged blood all over Kibby’s whimpering face; his discomfort didn’t seem to concern her.

“That’s the first smart thing you’ve said all day,” Stacy said, spitting on Kibby’s coveted All Bird sneakers.

“I already told the president everything. Joel Oscreen came here with three men and tried to murder us before kidnapping Duke and taking him away in a Honda Civic. God, Duke always hated driving foreign. He must have been madder than a wet hen,” continued Stacy, in a Southern accent of sorts.

“Why didn’t the President listen? This all seems to hold up based on what I’ve researched,” asked Kibby.

“He said Joel Oscreen has never done anything wrong that he’s ever seen, so, therefore, Joel would never have taken Duke. He also expressed mistrust because I am regrettably, a woman,” replied Stacy.

The logic seemed sound enough for someone running the most powerful country in the world. Kibby shook his head in dismay. All of this time, Duke had a potential alibi. Could he really trust Stacy Dasher, who was now in the corner changing her own adult diaper? He did not have a choice. After several hours of rabid debate and negotiation to get himself untied, a deal was finally struck. He told Stacy that if she released him, he would order a Harry & David gift basket to the house and put her hair in cornrows with seashells at the tips as they do at fancy Mexican all-inclusive resorts. The improbable combination was strange enough to appease someone as unglued as Stacy Dasher. Once untied, Kibby explained his method for winning Duke Dasher’s public approval back.

“First things first. I publish the article Top 10 times Duke Dasher Beheaded a Terrorist while Singing an Acapella National Anthem with a Nude Pentatonix Cover Band. If it goes viral like I think, it’ll immediately sway the fickle country back into Duke’s corner,” Kibby said excitedly, knowing that the headline alone would persuade the swarms of locusts barely able to wipe their own asses back into Dasher’s corner.

The country existed almost exclusively on lists, rankings, and short form videos. Always favoring the most recent anal bead dripping with reheated content being popped into their gaping assholes. Week-old news passed through their system like a can of room temperature creamed corn. Kibby published the article and hoped the flies would dutifully swarm the shit sandwich served on crumbling Wonder Bread.

“Next thing, is there anything we could use to locate Dasher like a cell phone or pager? Did you maybe hear the men say where they were taking him?” Kibby asked.

“A condom filled to the brim with blood,” Stacy replied knowingly, even though the response elicited a disturbed look from Kibby.

“Excuse me?” said Kibby. “A condom full of blood? I thought Dasher was strictly opposed to contraceptives.”

“His hatred of contraceptives is well documented, but this was bought at a gift shop in the Vatican when we went. The store owner told us it was the blood of Judas. It reeked like gasoline…there was certainly blood in it too, but mostly gasoline. I knew it wasn’t an actual relic, but Duke seemed so excited…” Stacy replied, experiencing what appeared to be either a moment of clarity or severe and uncontrollable gas. A moment later, it was confirmed to be the latter.

“Sorry Stacy, but I’m having trouble following. It seems like Dasher may or may not have purchased a condom that a complete stranger filled with gasoline and possibly their own blood. I don’t understand how this is relevant in finding Duke,” said Kibby. He glanced down and saw the likes and shares growing on the article he had published.

“There was a car accident outside of Montana last week; witnesses said the car spontaneously burst into flames. None of the people in the car were found, and the car was not found either. It came through on our police scanner,” replied Stacy, already grabbing a soiled jean jacket from Burlington Coats.

Kibby followed closely behind. Stacy Dasher may have been nuts, but this was the only lead he had, so he followed purposefully. She had also threatened to “cut his junk off” if he didn’t come along, so the rescue mission was concurrently a hostage situation also. Kibby was all right with it, so long as he got the truth and his scrotum remained intact.

Absurdist exploration into our agreeable descent to madness.

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