Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Gone Postal - A Novel - Chapter 11

Spencer was fucking brilliant, he thought in complete paragraphs, and you talk about connected. Gianni had the juice with the USPS, he had the means to get those pikers to do his bidding. Spencer trumped that in spades. Who knew how far his tentacles reached.

He lived high and worked high, his office near the top floor of that "obscene erection" Columbia Tower, burnt out bankers wandering the halls. When the financial system collapsed, office space went cheap, Spencer sublet his aerie for a song.

In that first visit Spencer cut right to the chase. We sat across his big desk, Rosie, Max, Milton and me looking out at snow covered Cascades, and he asked, “Tell me, how many guns do you have?” When your common-law brother-in-law’s criminal lawyer is asking you how many guns you have, you know you’ve taken it to another level.

We laid out the situation. Max and his crew were sitting on a big cache. His reticence and worry had worn off once Max got his own gun, and friends with guns; and once he was cut loose from the post office he was a changed man.

Milton owned the International District and had allies in pockets up Aurora, Lynnwood, Bellevue and down Tacoma and Federal Way.

Hector gave up the meth trade and the truly kinky sex, but he kept the guns. He wasn’t stupid, dangerous and twisted, but not entirely brainless.

We’d stashed guns in warehouses and safe-houses up and down the coast. I didn’t want to overpromise or overplay my hand, at that point, we really, and I mean really needed Spencer. Gianni was breathing down our necks and nervous turned to terrified with every unexpected noise.

“There are others, too.”

“’Others.’ Nice. How many? How many mailmen and bums can you really rally and how good are they? And what about you,” he said nodding towards Max and Milton.

Max said, “My guys are good, tough, a bit undisciplined, but with a little work…”

Spencer looked to Milton who said, “Don’t worry about us.”

“Oh, but I do worry, it’s my job to worry. If I’m not worrying, not thinking about what next, what’s the next move and the move after that, then this scheme will never work. And, if this doesn’t work then we’re all dead. Dead.” He said again for effect.

“We’re good,” said Milton enigmatically.

Spencer stared, wheels turning, wondering if it was worth pressing, then turned to Rosie, “And, what about you young lady. Are you and your brother and all his compadres on board? What can we expect from them?”

“Loyalty. Blood.”

Even I got goosebumps. I think she really believed it.

Spencer had a good stare, I mean he could wither you with his stare, but even he backed down, looked away after gazing just a moment at her burning orbs.

“OK, then. This is quite an army, a bunch of mailmen and criminals. Thank god we’ve got help.”


Spencer then let us in on the scope, as we sat there at the flaky apex of Seattle’s crumbled financial sector, he explained where the money came from and how it would be distributed.

“Accountability. Here. Now. There will be accountability. I’ll need receipts. The boom times are over, no footballs of plastic-wrapped hundreds will be floating around here.”

“Do you really think we can do this? I mean, sure I’ve got some vets and they know shit, but they’re washouts, most of them would crap their pants if they got put into any sort of action again.”

“Give them three squares and a cot, a little professional help, and they’ll be good enough to serve our purposes.”

“And my carrier-brothers?”

“Yeah, we’ll see, we’ve got some Hessians, our Von Steuben. They will be trained.”


“Jesus, nobody knows their American History anymore.”

“Dude, I was an English major.”

“The Hessians were professional soldiers paid by the British. Von Steuben trained militiamen, if he could turn a bunch of farmers into an army, our guys can help yours.”

“Yeah, and who exactly are your guys?”

“They’re pros, don’t worry.”

“But I do worry," I said, parroting him. "You’re talking about mercenaries, Hessians, they didn’t exactly work out so well for the Brits…”

“These are ‘domestic’ mercenaries. They’ve got some skin in the game, too. They know the work and are motivated, for them it’s the same shit just a shorter commute.”

He warned us then, “Don’t say KBR, don’t say Blackwater, and for god’s sake don’t mention the Carlyle Group. OK?” Looking across his desk and into each of our faces to make sure we fully understood.

“They have nothing to do with this.”

“I still don’t understand,” I said.

“There are forces at work here beyond your ken. We have influence in the highest reaches of government.”

“So, why do you need us, why do you need me?”

“You have the hearts and minds of the people.”

That was rich. If I had hearts and minds I wasn’t sure how I’d got them. If I had any organ it was livers, or maybe, to get spiritual for a moment, their souls.”

“Where does this end, Spencer?” I asked. “How does this movie end?”

We got into details, jumping around from strategy to tactics to goals, it was a martial SWOT analysis, rolling so fast before our ears and eyes our heads spun trying to keep up.

“The federal government no longer represents the will of the people, in a democracy that’s a no-no. We’re going to take it back, we’re going to reclaim what’s rightfully ours. Elections these days are a farce, a kabuki play put on by corporate media for the entertainment of a populace so numbed by pretty pictures and coddled and comforted with their cars and homes, they don’t even realize they’ve been living, not a dream, no, this hasn’t been the American dream, it’s been an American fantasy, and all of us hypnotized by the teevee and the promises and sloganeering of the marketers and our political masters, as if those weren’t the same thing.”

A wake up call was in order, way overdue as a matter of fact.

“The Civil War never ended, my friends, it’s just been fought by different means. Well, it’s time to re-enter the fray, we’re going to the barricades and storming the Bastille. In the 21st century, though, we have tools at our disposal more lethal than ripped up cobblestones.”

I tried to slow him down and interrupted, asking, “How far does this reach?”

“Farther than you can imagine, farther than you could dream. It’s all about States’ Rights. It’s always been about States’ Rights. Those bad-luck 13 colonies strapped together by Hamilton and Madison with their phony propagandist Federalist Papers and British-based banking institutions, tin shackles everyone thought were steel.

“Davis and Lee and their slave-holding buddies wanted to keep their lives, cushy lives of free labor, free sex and now they couch it all in free market mumbo-jumbo. What it all comes down to is not wanting to do what people you don’t like tell you to do.

“’Don’t Tread on Me,’ ‘Live Free or Die,’ what do you think those are, nursery rhymes?”

I wanted to say those don’t rhyme during the pause after his rhetorical interrogative but thought better.

“We’ve got the Northeast, you’ve got the West.”

I cringed a bit at that and Spencer added, “With your help we’ll take the West. We’re going to go all the way to the Mississippi.”

“Really,” I said skeptically. “Utah, Idaho, Montana…folks there don’t strike me as our types.”

“States’ Rights, my friend, States’ Rights. Give Utah the right to practice their religion as they see fit, bring back, or make legal, rather, polygamy, that would go a long way. We’re just legitimizing what’s been going on already. People are bucking for their freedom because they know what it really is, it’s not spending billions of dollars in deserts and mountain crags trying to fight ‘terrorists’ and find bogeymen. It’s about the land and their future, their children’s futures. For too long they’ve been put on a path pointing to a mirage, some pale made up vision of peace and prosperity that, when they stop to look around, simply isn’t there.

“They’ve been tricked, bamboozled, and the only ones to stand up and scream, to really make some noise, turn heads, and yes, yes, Rosie, to spill blood, have been dubbed cranks and terrorists. Ruby Ridge, Waco, Oklahoma City, that damn Ted Kaszinski, those maniacs wanted the same thing everyone was telling them they already had, but they didn’t have it. Eventually you hack and hack at that sort of people and they’re going to cry foul, and when that doesn’t work they’re going to foul back. Technically, we’d call them ‘insurrectionists’ but what they are is the point at the end of the spear.

“Well, listen to me, my friends, we’re that spear.”

He had a way with words.

Still skeptical and not a little bit afraid after that tirade I inquired about specifics. The Mississippi is one long fucking river, how did he propose to defend it?

Spencer picked up the phone on his desk. “Doris, bring in lunch.” He put his mouth over the receiver and looked at each of us again, this time kindly, asking, “What do you guys want? Sandwiches? How about a pizza?”

After we’d settled on one sausage and mushroom, and a small cheese (Milton’s a vegetarian), he hung up the phone and continued in the same vein as before.

“We don’t need to defend the whole river, we just need the ports, the most important being New Orleans and do you really think the people of New Orleans and all the National Guardsmen who’ve come home after seeing stupidity taken to the Nth are going to side with the crowd that sent them on the mother of all wild goose chases, losing limbs and friends and for what? No. We promise those people something else, we show them there is a way to live free, not that faux free presidents and talk show hosts blather about, I mean real freedom. You know what I mean. I’ve heard you speak, I’ve read your words, you’re our Paine.”

For a split second the homophone confused me, but I got what he meant and was flattered.

“How?” I asked, overwhelmed. “What am I going to do, how can I help with what you’re talking about, because, Spencer, I gotta say this is all starting to sound a little crazy, or, at a minimum over-ambitious.”

“I’ve got one word for you, my friend,” he said, pointing at me. “Are you listening?”

“Yeah,” I said.

Then he said, quietly, after a pause, “Diplomacy.”

Have to admit, wasn’t the word I’d expected. We hadn’t heard much from diplomacy lately.

“You’re going to be an adjunct to our special emissary to Asia. You’re our proof that the people are with us.”

So that’s it, I thought. I’m a tool. Well, once a tool, always a tool, I figured, and why the hell not. What between Gianni after us and the feds still pissed about us stealing their paper, we didn’t have many options.

“Look, the engine is breaking down, all we need is one loose screw to fall into the works and the machine will come to a screeching halt,” Spencer opined.

“And I’m your loose screw.”

He raised an eyebrow as if to say, ‘you said it not me.’

“Listen, my friend, we’ve, OK, you’ve, no, really, the three of you,” he said, correcting himself again and waving at Milton, Max and Rosie, “You have got one chance to make this work. For obvious reasons, I need to remain above the fray.”

His reasons, frankly, weren’t that obvious.

“You, my friend,” and yes I was getting tired of his ‘my friend’ crap, it was like a verbal tick with him. “You will need to leave for Canada as soon as this is all over.”

“Canada? I thought you said Asia.”

“We can't be certain you'll be able to get out of the country after all this goes down.”

“What goes down,” I stammered, “and isn’t Canada out of the country?”

“Technically…for the time being. Don’t worry, we’ve taken care of all that.”

I don’t know about you, but whenever someone says ‘don’t worry’ to me twice in the same meeting, I know I need to worry. Again, though, there wasn’t much we could do. We’d gotten ourselves into this mess. Max and I with our bullshit sessions, our hair-brained scheme, then Milton enabling it and pushing us towards something better, and Rosie bringing her talents to the table wholeheartedly. We were the ones that went to Gianni, that moved drugs, guns. Sure we shed the drugs (except alcohol, of course) and took the high road, but that was something of a calculated decision to make us look good, a PR move.

Now it appeared we were being thrust in as the lynchpin of a real revolution, or, to segue into the military portion of our program – the pin of a grenade. Ironically, if we didn’t put the pin back in we’d be blown to bits, but in order to put the pin in we needed to throw some grenades.

This was Spencer’s plan, or Spencer’s people’s plan. We were soon to meet these Hessians of his, and what a meeting it was, then, though, winding down our long first meeting, the sun casting last light on the Cascades, veritable purple fucking mountains majesty, as darkness loomed, Spencer set out a skeleton of the plan.

We were to shut down I5, create pile-ups both northbound and southbound, then blow the shit out of it. The Alaskan Way Viaduct, that ugly monstrosity, was to go, as well. No Ryder trucks full of fertilizer, no, this was to be a professional job. We’d bring that baby down like the ’89 Loma Prieta did to its twin brother in San Francisco. Except we were the earthquake now.

Our Hessians had the explosive expertise, we were to supply the mess. Diabolical plots like this are surprisingly low-budget, all it took was manpower, will, skill and cash.

Anyone out there with a teevee saw what happened next, history was made, I’ve no idea how it will be told and retold to future generations, but there’s no disguising the fact that we made history.

The problem is, when you start doing business with history, it has a way of extracting interest, and then, well, to put it simply, you never know how things are gonna turn out, do you. Occam’s Razor meets the Law of Unintended Consequences.

Spencer didn’t give us a date, it was to be some time during the summer. We were to rally our troops and get them ready. My role was something of a career counselor for fired mailman, except the only vacant positions were for revolutionaries.

We were to send letter carriers and backroom drones, decades lost to corralling a constant stampede of mail, out to the wilds to be trained by that crew Spencer knew.

Walking down the hill back home to Pioneer Square we passed The Brooklyn and I decided we needed to go in. For all his talk about accountability and receipts, Spencer had given us as a parting gift, a briefcase filled with fifties. I didn’t care what he’d said, it had been a long time since I’d been able to expense a really good meal and I was hungry.

We got a booth in the back and evaluated everything over a couple of bottles of their big house red. Max was riled up, and Milton, as usual, was cryptic and reserved. Rosie was sanguine, not to say sanguinary. It was only later back at our room that she would reveal the depths of her disappointment that we were to be parted.

The general consensus was as I had determined myself during the meeting, ie we had no choice, and if we were going to go down we might as well go down guns blazing.

“That ‘adjunct’ bullshit, though,” said Max. “What the fuck is that all about.”

I had to confess I had no idea then what it was or how I would do it, and the guilt at leaving my partners behind during the crisis point was already weighing heavy. Surprisingly, or maybe not considering what we’d already been through together, none of them begrudged me my new status, such as it was. Max even took to calling me Ad-junked or conjunktavitis, or conjunction junction, and then just plain Junk, and that stuck.

Rosie was, as I’ve said, and to which I should elaborate further, but probably won’t for purely personal reasons, different. Yes, we were to be apart, we’re apart now, then, though, we managed to find each other. I don’t know how that’s going to happen now.

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