Chapter 2: Mac Gargan
Mac Gargan stood just a block away from The Daily Bugle building, eating a hotdog he had just bought from a cart. He had a meeting with the editor-in-cheif, J. Jonah Jameson this afternoon, and didn’t want to be late. Gargan watched as his mark exited the building. He had been trailing Peter Parker for weeks, trying to find out what his connection was to Spider-Man at the behest of Jameson. Parker was providing better photos of the hero than any other photographer in the city, and Jameson wanted to get to the bottom of it.
MacDonald “Mac” Gargan was a Private Investigator (among other things). He started shaving his head after he began losing the hair on the top. He stayed in good physical fitness since a lot of fist fights broke out in his line of work. He boxed in a gym in Hell’s Kitchen three times a week to keep his reflexes strong, although he had no formal boxing training. He had connections that would bring him to the underworld of New York and back again if he needed to.
Mac’s didn’t like to dwell on his childhood much. His father was a New York City detective, but he lost his job after beating a perp to death. On top of that, he was brought up on numerous corruption charges and sentenced for hard time. He lasted somewhere between eight to ten months before he was killed in the rec yard, ending his reign of shame.
Mac’s mother had to work hard to make ends meet for herself and her only child. She was a waitress at a diner during the day and a whore at night. Soon, she became distant, and Mac only saw his mother two or three days a week. A string of boyfriends and pimps started coming in and out of their small home, and this continued until Mac was fifteen. At that point, Mac’s mother was found dead in Central Park and he was on his own.
Once he was bounced out of the orphanage that took him in for three years, Mac got a loan from a loan shark to start his small business as a Private Investigator (since he had no aspirations to follow in his father’s footsteps as a cop). He started off with enough work from mobsters and lowlifes to payback his loan shark, and was able to keep the lights on and food on his table most of the time.
The problem with being a P.I. was that when a dry spell hit, it hit hard. Gargan lived out of his office in a rough neighborhood. The only thing Gargan valued more than himself was money, and he had little of that to go around before Jameson came knocking on his door one fateful afternoon.
“Hello?” Jameson called, banging loudly on Gargan’s door. “Does anyone actually work in this dump?”
Mac walked to his door and opened it a crack. “Who wants to know?” he asked.
“Can the routine, Gargan,” Jameson said. “I’m a busy man with a deep wallet. I have a job for a man like you. Open the door and we can talk turkey.”
Eager to hear Jameson out, he unlocked the door and let him in. Jameson wasted no time lighting up a cigar and laying out his plan for Gargan to tail one of his photographers, Peter Parker.
“This Parker kid is the only one who has been able to get me a decent photo of this menace, Spider-Man,” Jameson said. “I want to know his secret.”
“What secret to you think I’d recover?” Mac asked. “You think they know each other?”
“That’s what my money’s on,” Jameson said. “I think they’re both scamming me. Spider-Man sees that I’m offering cash money for photos of him for my paper, he finds this kid who can use the money, poses for some pictures, and the two split the money. I bet they’re laughing at me right this second!”
Gargan respected the man’s paranoia. In his line of work, paranoia was key. Especially with someone who had as much money as Jameson. “So I follow the kid around,” he said. “I wait for him to contact this Spider-Man, tell you how it goes down, then you use the information any way you see fit. Do I have that straight?”
“That’s the long and short of it,” Jameson said. “I’ve hired guys like you for stories in the past, and the results are mixed bag sometimes. Can I trust you to keep this discreet.”
“Mr. Jameson,” Gargan said, smiling. “Discreet is my middle name.”
So the two talked payment, and Mac Gargan was officially in the employ of J. Jonah Jameson. It didn’t take long for Gargen to find out about Peter Parker. The kid was an open book. His parents died when he was a kid, leaving him to be raised by his much older uncle and aunt. His uncle was tragically shot and killed when Parker was only a teenager around the same time Spider-Man started coming onto the scene.
It didn’t take a rocket scientist to put the dots together. Spider-Man somehow knew this Parker kid and felt bad for his predicament. Parker was now all alone with his elderly aunt in a house in Queens. Spider-Man knew The Bugle was offering a hefty reward for photos of him, so he entered an arrangement with young Parker to provide the pictures and split the money. Spider-Man told him where he’d be, and Parker would be right there with his camera.
Gargan gave his findings and his theory to Jameson on their first meeting after Gargan accepted the offer. Jameson was doubtful at first, but Jameson struck Gargan as a man who was doubtful of everything until he could put his own spin on it.
“That’s nonsense,” Jameson said, looking out the window of his huge office. He thought in silence for a moment while his mind connected the same dots in an entire new pattern. “What if Spider-Man had Parker’s uncle killed to set Parker up to be in desperate need of the money? What if Spider-Man was the one who killed Parker’s uncle? It makes perfect sense. A teenaged boy in need of money and a super hero in need of a lackey. I bet that’s it.”
“That’s another theory,” Gargan said. He let Jameson’s wheels turn in his head. He already knew that the man who shot Ben Parker was caught and behind bars, and Spider-Man was the one who put him there. That information was easy enough to come across. Gargan just wanted Jameson to make one more statement.
“Can you look into the old man’s death?” Jameson asked. “See if Spider-Man could have anything to do with it? I could research it myself of course, but I don’t want to be seen prying into Parker’s life.”
“I can certainly look into that,” Gargan said, writing a note on his pad and fighting the sly smile he felt creeping up on him. He figured he could milk some more money from Jameson while he hunted for information he already had. “I’ll start immediately.” Jameson was extremely pleased when he was presented with the connection, and Jameson rewarded him handsomely for it.
In the hear and now, Mac watched Peter Parker intently as he exited The Daily Bugle. He wasn’t tailing him today, but he was curious to see where he would go. Thus far, Parker had been a hard mark to track down. It was as if he somehow knew he was being followed and would duck into an alley or a crowded store before disappearing. He was a slippery man to follow.
Mac ate his last bit of hotdog as Parker went down into the subway and tossed his napkin into a nearby trashcan. He looked at his watch. It was almost time for his meeting with Jameson, and Jameson hated to be left waiting.
“Mac Gargan to see Jameson,” Mac said to Jameson’s secretary. This was his favorite part of coming to The Bugle. The sexy redhead looked up from her desk to the smiling Mac Gargan. She seemed taken aback by his leer, but rang Jameson all the same.
“Mac Gargan here to see you, Mr. Jameson,” she said into the intercom.
“Send him in,” Jameson’s voice blasted back.
Mac entered the office as Robertson left. Mac knew that Joe Robertson shadowed Jameson most of the day, but he knew he had no place during certain meetings. Jameson was puffing on one of his cigars as Mac took the seat across from him. Jameson wasn’t aware of it, but MacDonald Gargan, Private Investigator, had done his homework on him as well.
John Jonah Jameson Junior’s life was The Daily Bugle. Period. He had dedicated every drop of blood and sweat that poured from his body into it. Jameson was raised by an ex-war hero and had started working at the Daily Bugle when he was still a boy, bragging that he would someday own the paper. Jameson, as always, did not reneged on his word.
Jameson’s son, John, was a highly decorated astronaut. The two didn’t speak much except for on the holidays, despite no documented animosity between them. His wife, Joan, had been killed in a mugging while he was away on business for The Bugle back when he was still a reporter. It was after that Jonah dedicated his life to The Daily Bugle.
“What do you have for me?” Jameson asked.
“This Parker boy is tricky,” Mac said, flipping through his small notebook. “I get the impression that he’s paranoid that he’s constantly being followed. Maybe Spider-Man put that fear into him somehow. Maybe he’s scared that Spider-Man will come down from the sky to collect his money. Either way, he takes a lot of shortcuts down alleys and whatnot. I haven’t been able to catch him even coming close to Spider-Man.
“I can continue the tail on Parker,” Mac went on. “But the price is going to go up. I’ll have to spend more time trying to connect Peter Parker to Spider…”
“I’m stopping the tail on Parker,” Jameson said suddenly. Gargan knew instantly that he had pushed Jameson too hard. He should have kept his mouth shut and continued at the same price. Gargan’s love to make more money outweighed his common sense, just as it always seemed to do.
“Parker screwed up,” Jameson continued, not waiting for Gargan to dispute the cancelation of his services. “He didn’t get any pictures of Spider-Man’s fight with The Vulture, and I would have paid a mint for those after Spider-Man flooded four floors a a building during the fight. Spider-Man would have made sure to get Parker a front row seat to that fight if they were in cahoots. Also, you still haven’t found any proof that they had ever met. I think we’ve gone as far with Parker as we’re going to get. I’ll have to chalk his uncanny ability to photograph this Spider-Man character to a combination of dumb luck and a near-suicidal attitude to these photos.”
Gargan nearly had a panic attack. He figured the Parker / Spider-Man case would keep him gainfully employed for months. The only other job he’d had this year was a mobster who hired him to find dirt on some blind lawyer, and that had ended very badly. Jameson’s paranoia was high when they met, but now that paranoia was seeming to wane. In a moment of desperate genius, Gargan opened his mouth and said what he believed would bait Jameson into thinking of another task for him.
“Damn it,” Gargan said. “I was really hoping to nail that Spider-Man to the wall.”
Jameson’s raised his eyebrows, weighing Gargan’s statement. Gargan tried not to sweat as he decided whether or not Jameson would see through his ploy. “You’re in fairly good shape,” he finally said. “I may have something else for you if you’re interested. You’d have to come on another interview of sorts first.”
“Sure,” Mac said a little too quickly. “I’d have to hear about this job first, though.”
Jameson half-smiled, moving towards his desk. He put his cigar out in his ashtray and pulled a piece of paper from a small pad. “Come to this address Thursday night at eight o’clock sharp,” he said, scribbling. “I think you’ll find this quite an intriguing offer if you can pass the interview.”
“So you’re not going to tell me about this job?” Gargan said, taking the slip of paper from Jameson’s outstretched hand.
“Come and see for yourself,” Jameson said. “It’s a little project of mine. Something I’ve been working on privately for some time now. You’ve done good on this assignment, Mac. I’ve been looking for someone with the right fit for this, and I believe it can be you. The pay for this will be much more substantial than what I paid you for following the kid.”
Mac looked at the address that Jameson had scribbled down. It was outside of the city near some industrial parks. What are you up to, Jameson? he thought.
“I’ll be there,” Gargan said.
“Good,” Jameson said, folding his hands in front oh himself and smiling. Mac stood up and walked towards the door. “And Mac… Don’t tell anybody.” Mac nodded once, leaving Jameson’s office.
Jameson sat in silence once the door was closed and Gargan was gone. He used Gargan to tail Parker since he was a nobody, and a nobody is the best somebody to blend into the background. He’d only met with Gargan a few times since he hired him to investigate Parker, but there was something about the guy that Jameson liked. At the end of the conversation, Jameson figured out what it was.
Jameson picked up the receiver of his private phone. He pulled his address book from a desk drawer and flipped it open. He dialed the number once he found the one he was looking for. “Get me Stillwell,” he said once the operator picked up the other line. “Tell him it’s Jameson.”
“Stillwell,” the voice said on the other end.
“I found him,” Jameson said. “I’ve found someone for The Scorpion project.”