Oregon Magazine
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MacNeil Goldspit and the K.K.K. Power Grab Caper  by Dashweld Hamlet

   It all began on a gloomy Oregon winter afternoon in Portland’s Chinatown.  The winter had come in the previous evening and stripped the leaves from the trees in the Place du Condorde Socialista, and we had to rise in the night and close the shutters against the wind and the rain. The next morning in the rain was almost as gloomy as the next afternoon in the rain.  The streetlamps were on by three P.M.  I was having a drink with the Fat Man in the Blue Parrot when Gardenia stuck his head in the door.  A shaft of  blue streetlight from a high window caught his cueball eyes as they rolled around the saloon and stopped on us.  He came in and minced over, in his three piece suit and spats looking like a tiny Hercule Poirot.  His voice is nasal.  He looks like and sounds like a whining rat in a sewer pipe.
   “Goldspit has done it,” he said to the Fat Man. 

   I knew Gardenia from the case of the pickled herring, whch involved the murder of a newspaper editor by the hostess of the now-defunct public broadcasting news analysis program, Seven Days.  He was shifty and nervous, and had the prey concentration qualities of a viper.  He was a natural associate of the Fat Man, who has his hand in every small time scam and racket in Portland.  (At least, that's what I thought at the time).  The heavyweight stuff around here is run by MacNeil Goldspit and the K.K.K.  That’s Klutz, Kitzenjammer and Kulongasbag.  All four are bigtime political figures.  They pull all the big strings in Oregon.
   The Fat Man swatted a fly on the table.  “Well,” he said, “it seems the gods of the aeries have picked another plum for their basket.”  His tiny pig’s eyes looked off into the distance and his voice dropped to a whisper.  “Think of the revenues!” he said with a deep and envious criminal respect.
   “What’s this all about, you fat hypocrite?” I asked him
   A chuckle rolled out of the fat folds of his face.  “It is nothing of interest to the citizens of the gutter,” he said mysteriously. 

   My name is Shovel.  Clem Shovel.  My friends call me Razor.  I don’t have many friends as you understand the term.  I’m a private dick.  The information I need in my line of work comes from low places.
   I didn’t have any cases at the moment, so as the Oregon day went from mostly dark to very dark and rainy, I returned to my office, broke out a bottle of cheap bourbon and sat at my desk looking carefully through the paper to see if  there was anything about the powers that be in it.  The rain was blowing in through the half open window, giving the peeling paint on the sill a just-waxed gloss.  The traffic on Burnside Avenue, two blocks to the north sloshed and honked along. 
   Across 2nd street an ex-advertising creative director named Brian Mountebank sang in slurred lyrics to his bottle of MD 20-20 as he weaved his way down the rain-blackened sidewalk.  I recognized his voice.  He used to work for Jung & Rower before he cost them the Freightliner account by telling the company management they should green up by dumping their big rig line and just manufacture Yugos with big trunks.  Once an up and coming suit, he was now a derelict.  The advertising business is like a liberal.  It talks about heart all the time, but what is beating in its chest would power a tiger shark.

   What there was in the paper didn’t tell me much.  When the Oregonian is put to bed, Oregon’s political big four are there under the sheets.  The lead item was about the local power company.  Once a privately held monopoly, it had been picked up by Enron, a giant energy fraud created during the Clinton Administration.  When Bush won the White House, the crap hit the Enron fan.  He had his Justice and Commerce departments dig into things.  It turned out that Enron was the largest corporate campaign donor to a California Democrat who had used his executive position to protect energy supplier price increases while freezing consumer costs.  The taxpayers had picked up the difference.  In L.A. the surcharge had been 30%.  He had driven California into the dark, but had protected his donor’s interests while Democrats ran the White House. 

   Now, the local division of Enron was to be split off.  A proposal to make it a P.U.D. had recently been defeated by the voters after a major political campaign by the utility, and now -- there it was! -- the most dangerous man in Oregon, MacNeil Goldspit, along with his friends, was going to team up with a Lone Star State leveraging company and take the system for themselves.  What they were going to do with it, then, wasn’t mentioned.  The natural assumption would be that they would run it from then on out as a private company.  That, I thought, was one of the missing pieces in this puzzle.  The paper didn’t say it, but the recent campaign to defeat the P.U.D. initiative had been funded by money funneled to Goldspit.  This could be nothing more than an end run around the voters.

   To me, this purchase smelled like a Tillamook dairy barn at high tide. MacNeil Goldspit was to be the top dog, and his chief henchman would be a former head of TriMet, the most botched up transportation mess in state history, and another example of a public project completed in spite of voter turndowns.  This had to be the roundabout way to another government cash cow, but how could the Fat Man profit from it? 
   I was staring at the paper thinking this was none of my business when the phone rang and it became my business.  I picked it up.  It was the Fat Man.

   “Gardenia has disappeared,” he said.  “We have to talk.”
   The rain was blowing sideways when I opened the door to the Blue Parrot and walked inside.  The Fat Man waved me over to his table.
   “What’s the story?” I asked.
   “Mr. Gardenia was shall we say ‘looking into some financial opportunities for me’ and did not report in as expected,” said the Fat Man.
   “And, you are concerned about his welfare, I imagine.”
   The fat chuckle.  “Yes, of course,” he said. 
   “Why don’t you have one of your thugs go find him?” I asked.
  “There are – difficulties – Razor.  I believe you may be the best man for the job.”
   “Difficulties,” I said.  “What kind?”
   “MacNeil Goldspit,” said the Fat Man.
   “Good Lord!” I said.
   “Exactly,” said the Fat Man.

   Playing around with MacNeil Goldspit is like pounding on TNT with a hammer to see what will happen.  You can get killed for doing him a favor.  Once an enforcer for the Oregon Bar Association, he had worked his way up to mayor of Portland, Governor of Oregon and finally the most powerful man in the state.  They called him Don Goldspit.  They kissed his ring, though not in public.  Some Klamath Lake duck blinds were made of a kind of canvas that looked like the skin of his former political enemies.
   He is as warm as moonlight on a chrome bumper.  As gentle as the fangs of a cobra.
   And, he had Gardenia.  If he got from Gardenia what he wanted from Gardenia, he would learn the name of the man who was trying to blackmail him, and the Fat Man would become a four man duck blind.

   :”The remuneration,” the Fat Man said, “ameliorated the potential risk.”
   “Considering your affection for your own skin, I can’t imagine there is that much money in Oregon,” I replied.
   “There is,” the Fat Man said. “I had planned to ask for diversion of all Department of Transportation funds into my offshore bank, or to reveal to certain conservative publications and radio talk show hosts the actual purpose of the power company takeover, with documentation..”
    He had me.  I knew from personal experience that the Department of  Transportation hadn’t built a road in Oregon for decades.  There had to be trillions salted away somewhere.
    "But, something went wrong," I said. 

    "You never cease to amaze," said the Fat Man.  "One never knows what a man like you will say next.  But, yes, something went wrong.  I received a call from Gardenia an hour ago.  It consisted of a scream."
    "Why do you care?"
    "First, the call came to me, here.  Goldspit knows I am involved. Second, it turns out that he may end up with something on me, as well.  A small matter of a ship which came into Portland with its cargo manifest a bit short.  Gardenia knows about it.  He might deal."
    "So, he already knows you're the blackmailer.  Now, abouit the ship's manifest. What was missing?"
   "Industrial diamonds."
   "Diamond saw blades?"
   "No.  Diamonds for the, oh, lady friends of industrialists. There is the matter of customs, and certain insurance companies. And, of course, my skin. I will pay you five hundred dollars to fnd a way to reduce the complexity of the situation."

  That wasn't a difficult problem conceptually. Goldspit lives by rules of fear and intimidation.  Favors and and disappearing enemies.  To affect a mind like that required the application of surprise gratitude. Goldspit must be convinced in a shocking way that I am doing him a big favor.  But, how exactly should it be done?

   The interrogation arm of the state government consists of facilities located at each major college.  Locally, that is Portland State University.  I figured that they had Gardenia, there.  I was right.  Working through the bushes next to the main building, I spotted him duct-taped to a chair, his eyelids pulled up with scotch tape.  I moved a few feet to the left to see what they had him looking at.  It was a video tape of Hillary Clinton making a campaign speech.  Gardenia’s mouth was taped shut, but I could see the muscles in his face contorting as he tried to scream.
   MacNeil Goldspit was sitting on a desk, laughing.  The cruelty of liberal Democrats could turn the stomach of a maggot.
   All the doors had armed guards.  There were probably guards in the halls, as well.
   I checked again to make sure my secret weapon was secure, then moved back twenty feet and ran head on toward the classroom window.  Crashing through, I hit the floor in a shower of broken glass, rolled over and jumped to my feet with an 8x10 autographed photo of Barry Goldwater in my hand.  I thrust it to within two feet of Goldspit.  His face lost its normal steely demeanor and twisted into a mask of horror.  He tried to turn away, like a vampire avoiding a cross, but I held him with one hand and began to chant.
   “Extremism in the pursuit of  liberty is no vice.”

   His shoulders sagged.  The fear of whatever a liberal thinks of as God was in him.
   “You want more?  I have a picture of Ronald Reagan at the Berlin Wall.”
   “Oh, God, not that!” cried Goldspit.
   "And an audio tape of the collected wisdom of Newt Gingrich.  You want to hear that?”
   He shreiked and began to babble.
   “Shut up,” I said.  “I don’t care how powerful you are, Goldspit, or how many people you’ve turned into duck blinds.  Do you really think you can take on the homosexual community and survive?”

    The door guards, armed to the teeth, rushed into the room.  Goldspit held up his hand to them and said,  “The homo—what do you mean?” 
   This was the crucial moment.  It would work or I was dead.
    “Gardenia is the Fat Man’s life partner,” I said. "Take him out and you'll have every dainty darling of them in the city after your hide.  There are enough of them living in the Pearl District and northwest Portland to elect conservatives to every major political seat in Oregon."
   Goldspit shuddered. Afer a long moment, he said, “I’ll deal.  And, I owe you one for this, Razor.  The key special interest group in the party. God, but what a mistake I almost made.”
   “You’re welcome,” I said.  “I’m sorry I had to do it this way, but you didn’t leave me any options.  It was the only way I could save you.”
   “I’ll deal,” Goldspit repeated.  “What does he want?.”
   “No more parking tickets and to be the Grand Marshall of next May’s Gay Parade,” I said.  “Now, let’s get Gardenia out of here before anybody gay happens to look in the window.  It’ll be too late for you, then.  I won’t be able to help.”

   Later, I deposited Gardenia, just a little worse for wear, in the Blue Parrot.  When I told the Fat Man how I had bailed him out, he turned purple and threw me out.  I thought it was ungrateful of him to do it, but you get old soon expecting people to appreciate it when you do them a favor.
    That reminded me that Goldspit now thought he owed me another favor. It’s not a good idea to have an Oregon Don believing something like that.  They like having people owing them favors, not the other way around, so I called him the next day and asked him if he could fix my parking tickets, too.
    That came to eight grand, which is the best fee I ever got for a case.
    I still don't know what the G.K.K.K. has up its sleeve on this electric utility takeover scam, and, frankly, am not sure I want to.

© 2003 Oregon Magazine