I’m Mashie Niblick. I am the greenskeeper at the Hoity Toity Golf and Monopoly Club. Along with my wife, the beautiful Pauline, I do some contract work for a government agency (one of those alphabet organizations). I used to be a confidential informant for the Tracy Police Department. I would tell Deviled Yeggs what illegal activities might be going on behind closed doors among the rich and famous of the big city of Tracy. But since I moved into my old boss, Janis’ job and home, I have been lax in reporting anything. So, here is my apology for …
“Mashie? Do we have to live in a hobbit-hole?” Pauline queried.
“You don’t like it in the Shire? Is not our smial cozy?”
“Don’t make me laugh, Dear, and I prefer hobbit-hole to smial. This may be called a hobbit-hole, but our neighbors are far from hobbits, and this is no shire. It’s a cesspool of depravity if you ask me.”
“Correct me if I am wrong, but when we first met, you had just finished a round of golf with the daughter of one of the richest dudes at the club.”
“Yes, and I sank rather low in finding the funding for my research, but all I did with Dolly’s father was exchange information. But I have now completed my PhD, and I would much rather live somewhere far away from these beasts.”
I spun my desk chair around to see her face. She was in distress. Something was bothering her. She had loved the hobbit-hole at first. When Janis had been hired, they insisted that he build a cottage on the club property. That way, they had an “untouchable” that could ask to unclog a toilet in the middle of the night or some other menial task that was below an upstanding “hoity toity.” They insisted that the house be unseen, so that they could ignore that an “untouchable” was even among their midst, even though none of them lived at the club.
Janis was probably smarter than most of the hoity toities. He found some level ground next to the overflow parking lot, only used for professional tournaments, when there was a big tourney at the club. He built a standard two-story home, but with no windows and only a back door. The second floor was much smaller, with a door to a balcony that wrapped around the house. When he buried the home, filling in soil to match the surrounding terrain, the door to the balcony became the front door, and the back door led to a tunnel that, through a hidden door panel, led into the greenskeeper maintenance shed where we kept the mowers and other vehicles. Since most of the downstairs rooms had access upward, there were skylights, impact resistant, but the hobbit-hole was out-of-bounds (OB). Of course, that did not keep the hoity toities from trying to break a “window” or two. With solar panels for electricity with battery back-up, with a solar water heating system with a large storage tank, with sewer tied into the maintenance shed, and with Janis sneaking fresh water from the club’s lodge, we paid no utilities, what little utilities there might have been. Even our internet is courtesy of the club’s Wi-Fi. The club owns the hobbit-hole, but why would anyone want to leave? We have a crowd next door when we want to have one, but we have solitude when we want to be left alone (as the hoity toities like).
I asked, “Sweetie, there must be something that has come up, or is this all about you thinking that you were cheated at Monopoly?”
“I was cheated against, and Amy G. Dala, the club president, gave me the proof! As you may remember, I was taking a shortcut through the gaming room after a round of golf, coming back here to our hobbit-hole. Three ladies waved me over to their table. They had been playing with Ginger Gold Apple when she was called away. Ginger Gold texted them that she would not return and that they could get anyone to take over her place at the table without providing an ante to pay into the game.”
“Yes, Dear, and you said that Ginger Gold had every property between “Go” and the jail, even a monopoly of the four railroads. Hotels everywhere along the way. You were basically given the win when you sat down. No one else had a monopoly on anything else, and even some of those properties were yours.”
Pauline nodded, “And then the Chance card was drawn that if someone had a monopoly of Baltic and Mediterranean, the card was to be played placing a detour over the properties and without paying rent they were to move to the next Chance space if their roll landed on either of the properties. The next Chance space is between Oriental and Vermont. The only rolls that would land on my properties would have been snake eyes, landing on Connecticut or an eight, landing on Pennsylvania Railroad, or an eleven, landing on Tennessee. And then, each of the other three avoided all my properties for the rest of the game, always landing on either Baltic or Mediterranean and enjoying their free detour and every Chance card gave them a boat load of money. There is no official detour card. I checked!”
I smiled, “And them always landing on those two properties is beyond strange. They are the cheapest on the board, but not after it becomes a monopoly with hotels.”
“Right! And Amy told me of how these rich people have created their own deck of Chance and Community Chest cards to cheat at Monopoly. And the landing on a specific square is not strange when they palm dice that are loaded to form, one, three, four or six. That way, two dice would produce four, five, seven, nine, or ten. And when they insist on using the cup, you cannot see the dice rolling in an odd way, like loaded dice sometimes do.”
“Okay, rich people cheating each other, is that new?”
“Okay, my field is not History, but here is the History 101 of the Hoity Toity Golf and Monopoly club.”
I rubbed my hands together, “Oh, goodie, I love your lectures and I always wanted to know.”
Pauline rolled her eyes. “The club started as a for-profit golf club, not a country club. Tennis courts and the Olympic size swimming and diving center were added later, again for more profit. Some golfers wanted an excuse to not go home to their wives right away one night, and one of them, an unnamed Apple, said that he knew of a huge box of Monopoly games that had ‘fallen off a truck.’” Pauline made air quotes, or inverted commas as they might say across the pond. “The addition to the club’s name became official when they would gamble to gain valuable strokes on the handicaps. They sandbagged to improve their handicap anyway, but then the Monopoly winner got three added strokes, second got two strokes, third got one stroke, and the first loser (last) got nothing for their next golf outing. It became common practice among established foursomes. By then, the wives got involved at other tables, playing for small amounts of money that grew over time. Then the pranks started.”
I took a chance to interrupt. “Is that where the streaking started?” She nodded. “And then the streaking stopped when no one noticed the naked person running through the dining room. If there is one thing that a hoity toity hates, it is to be unnoticed.”
Pauline nodded, “And seeing many of these women in the showers, I can pick out at least a dozen who could run to the far side of Tracy and go unnoticed.” She stifled a laugh. “Then the pranks went to the sophomoric humor and then to petty theft.”
“So, that’s where the left-handed set of clubs went!”
“Mashie, you are right-handed, what about left-handed clubs?”
“The club pro has clubs to loan to selected members if they are entertaining someone important or renting to the commoner. We had two sets of left-handed clubs behind the counter for that purpose until one set was missing a driver. The pro thought that the cashier screwed up the club count when the clubs were last turned in, but then the three-metal went missing. When it got down to about four clubs, the pro placed the bag in front of the counter, with a note begging the thief to take the rest of them. That’s when the clubs started reappearing, one club at a time.”
“Yes, if you stole something, you had to be in possession of the stolen property for at least six months, but usually they just kept the item.”
“And you got all this from Amy?”
Pauline nodded. “And you think I was playing for a few dollars. Each person had anted $15,000. Ginger Gold almost always won.”
“Wow! Sounds like money laundering. I finally have something to report to Deviled. Only problem, no one has seen Fuji or Ginger Gold at the club since that night. Rather than an e-mail, I better call Deviled.”
“And tell him about the rape while you are at it.”
I dropped my phone on the floor. She continued, “I don’t know when it officially becomes rape, but Patty Tourney was treated roughly by someone named George. It is why Amy told me all this. She wanted me to stay clear of at least one Monopoly table.”
I nodded, “I know who you mean about ‘George.’ I doubt if anyone would play Monopoly with him. Everyone in the club knows about George, so how did Patty get alone with him?”
“She was invited to play at a non-monetary gambling table by Mildred Quisling. The other two were Terrance and Tara Cotta.”
I sat up straight. “Oh, goodie, goodie. I have been observing Terry Cotta on the golf course. Since you and I have special contract jobs, Hugh McAdoo has spy cameras all over the course for our protection. Honest, none inside the hobbit-hole! Please, please, what does dear Terry gain when he wins the game?”
“And I will not ask how you know that either Terry or Tara wins every game. You are supposed to know nothing about the Monopoly side of things. In the case of Patty, Terrence gave her a tame request, or so it seemed. He told her to go to room 204 of the lodge and sit in the straight chair by the window for thirty minutes. She was given a key card. When she sat down, George came out of the bathroom, wearing only his boxers, supposedly unaware that anyone was in the room. Patty got up to leave, but she was trapped at the far side of the room. She put up a fight, but George had her clothes ripped away quickly and before it went any further, the desk clerk and the Cottas burst into the room. Patty told Amy about it, and Amy went to the board of directors, who said that what had happened was consensual. She was ordered to not investigate further, but she did. She knows everyone who has been lured to that table over the past six months. The only ones that will admit what they had to do said that they gathered information, solid evidence, and surrendered it to Terry. And what else is strange is that while Tara came into the room with clothing, knowing that Patty’s clothing was probably not going to be serviceable, Terry did not make a citizen’s arrest of dear George. He pulled George aside, and George promised to do something for him. Patty heard him say, ‘I’ll get it for you.’”
“So, each victim is coerced by the hoity toity code of never welching on a bet to gain information and that information is used to blackmail the next victim.”
“Correct. So, when can we leave this cesspool?”
“First, we have to remove the cameras from room 204 and find if any other rooms have been rigged for such activity. They had to have filmed George in the act. We need to call Deviled. I can add what I know. Terry Cotta plays golf with the state senator, the dishonorable Dom Drum. He finds a place where he thinks he is not being watched to pass manila envelopes to Senator Drum, near the eighth tee box. We have a spy camera in that spot. There might be printed documents or DVDs inside, or flash drives. The senator’s motto, printed on his office wall, is ‘Information is Power.’”
“I cringe when he says that in his speeches. He uses information to gain control over others, but the quote has changed since Sir Francis Bacon stated, “Knowledge itself is power,” in Latin of course, to encourage the education of others so that with everyone more knowledgeable and more powerful, the society will grow more powerful, benefiting all. Yet, the greedy among us use information as a weapon, to gain more power and to oppress those without the knowledge.”
“Everyone wonders how Senator Drum went from nothing to an upcoming governor bid. Now we know. Blackmail, with the information gained at a crooked Monopoly game.”
As I picked the phone off the floor, it rang. It was Deviled Yeggs, just the guy that I was about to call.
“Hello, Deviled, I have some information on a number of people. Pauline and I just came across some information on people surrounding Terrance Cotta. You might want to look into him.”
Deviled laughed, “What a great idea! Why don’t you come over to room 204 at the lodge? I’m looking at him right now, or what is left of him. Death by golf ball, a lot of golf balls probably.”
I added, “Oh, and I think you may find some video camera setup in that room. With any luck, you might have the murderer caught red-handed if it was turned on and recording.”
Deviled growled, “Mashie, you know too much. Get over here now!”
I ended the call and reached into my pocket. “Pauline, take these keys. The address is on the fob. With being undercover for so long, especially as a homeless person in Tracy, I have saved a bundle. I was going to surprise you. The house is a block from the Yeggs home. I called in favors with a few contractors that are members of the club, and a television channel, that Hugh McAdoo has connections with, has filmed the kitchen being constructed for an upcoming show. You will like the kitchen, so big you can have your own cooking show if you wanted to with a pantry the size of the local food bank pantry. I was waiting for the holidays. I wanted you to decide the interior décor, but I have some designers who owe me favors that you can work with.”
Pauline might not have heard any of it. She was crying. She threw her arms around me and then ran upstairs, and her car was gone from the parking lot by the time I got there.
Why would we ever think of leaving the Shire? We had yet to talk about it, but we might think about having a boat load of children, and the cottage was too small, too small for a boat load. And our new house would have some good babysitting candidates a block away, if we started a family soon enough.
A hobbit-hole, or smial, is an underground home, inhabited by hobbits, found in a community of hobbits called the Shire. Or so is told by J. R. R. Tolkien.
While Elliott Ness and his Untouchables were highly regarded, the origin of the term “untouchable,” as used here, is the untouchables of India, the lowest caste among the Hindu. Although they have officially abolished the caste system, there is a certain sense of the system left in place. And often, if we know something no one else knows, we might hold onto that knowledge… Knowledge is power, as you know.
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