Harry Weininger, Criminal Mastermind

So Harry and I get this great idea for an ad: a great big dollar bill on one side and the headline "Save Big Money!" on the other. When you fold it up, George is about nine inches high. The idea is that customers bring in the mailer and get one buck off the price of a rug or some drapes. The discount doesn't amount to a hill of beans but it's an attention-getter. So I check with my lawyer and he says it's OK so long as the dollar bill is either three times bigger or three times smaller than real mazoola. We think it's a scream, and I print up a couple thousand, and out they go. The garbage men are whooping and hollering and going through the trash, fishing out these huge dollar bills, and a guy I know takes one into his neighborhood bar and it gets him a beer. Loads of laughs, and a bunch of folks bring them into the Carpet Center and buy carpets and drapes. A boffo success, if I do say so.

About a week later this fat muscle car pulls up in front. Parks in the red zone, sits there a while. In it are these two guys in polyester suits, loud ties that do double duty as bibs, hairstyles out of "Hawaii Five-O," and big Elvis sunglasses. They look just like undercover cops all dressed up for Saturday night at the disco. Anybody fooled by their act just fell off the turnip truck.

We're all lined up at the windows looking at them, wondering what's up. They get out of the car and come up to the door and knock real loud, like it's solid oak and everybody inside is stone deaf. The door is plate glass and unlocked. I open it a crack, like an old lady afraid of the paperboy, and ask, "What can I do for you."

They flash their buzzers and say, "Secret Service. Can we come in."

I think, Jesus H. Christ, I haven't had anything to do with this crowd since the Vietnam War, what the hell do they want. And then the penny drops, and I say, "Wait a minute. Gotta get on the horn to my lawyer, see what he thinks." I close the door and get on the blower real fast. The mouthpiece says he has no clue--far as he knows it's all kosher.

Now we're looking at them like goldfish looking at the cat. I stick my head out again. "So, what's the beef?"

"We got a tip you guys are counterfeiters. Need to check it out."

Of course Harry and all the Carpet Center gang are across the street watching, thinking is this rich or what.

So I say, "My lawyer said it was legal what I did so long as it was lots bigger. I mean nobody with a brain cell working would be taken in by a giant one dollar bill."

They give me the hairy eyeball. "Your lawyer doesn't go to jail."

I nod. That's a really good point.

They go on: "Just bigger's not enough, pal. Law says it's gotta be for educational or numismatic purposes. A flyer for rugs doesn't cut it. You can either let us in and we confiscate the ersatz and the plates and the negatives and then we forget about all this crap and split; or you don't let us in and we get a warrant and we come back and get you, and you cool your heels in stoney lonesome for a while and we get it all anyway."

I immediately grasp their simple argument. I say, "Come on in. Make yourself at home. Need anything just holler."

So they root around and carry out wads of inky scrap paper and take the plates and the negatives, and whatever of the finished mailers were left lying around. They miss the one that's stapled to the wall above the press. Thing's only two feet wide. Then they flatfoot it across the street and grab whatever Harry's got sitting out in the open, acting real officious and important, like the safety of the Free World is in the balance or some such bull. Probably embarrassed to be doing this silly job. They throw all the contraband in the trunk and off they go in their Dukes of Hazzard ride and that's the last I see of them.

First thing I do is call the legal beagle and tell him to take a hike. Need that shyster like I need boils. Then Harry and I, we go out and get something to calm the nerves. Maybe two somethings.

Turns out a retired San Francisco Mint employee--one of those guys who spends his lunch hour reading the fine print--gets the ad in the mail and blows the whistle. So, what's a shamus to do? They gotta act on the complaint. I mean technically it is illegal, after all. Jeez, some joker's got a lot of time on his hands.

So that was the end of the Great Counterfeiting Caper. Excepting I still got a few specimens of the bogus Long Green stashed away as souvenirs. And I'll bet you a dollar to a donut so do those Secret Service guys.

David Lance Goines
July 9, 2003

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Harry Weininger, Criminal Mastermind

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