AN ELABORATE EXTORTION© (Cont'd)
"Sorry, Norm, I can't. But the request comes from the top. I know I can count on your nondisclosure."
"Of course, Sara, I'll request it immediately and have my assistant hand deliver it to you."
"Thanks, Norm. You're wonderful."
Sara couldn't wait to get her hands on those files. She knew all she had was circumstantial evidence, but instinct told her that there would be other clues. She didn't know what they were exactly, but she knew they would be important.
At 4:55 P.M. Norm's assistant delivered the file. Sara was beside herself with excitement. "The hunt is on," she thought as she dug through the files.
Jarvis's auto file revealed he owned two vehicles, a Honda Accord and a four-wheel drive Ford Bronco. "Damn, I can't believe this, a Bronco . . . " Sara was literally bouncing in her chair at this point. Then she attacked the homeowner's file. "Nothing unusual in the past few years," she thought with disappointment. "Wait . . . oh my gosh . . . he owns guns."
The file indicated that a shotgun was stolen, and Jarvis had submitted a bill for a replacement. "Let's see this bill is from Sizemore's Gun Shop, Portsmouth, Maine. Oh, I don't know," she deliberated. "He could just be a hunter, but I better note the place where he bought his gun and the serial number," she decided and summarized her information.
She and the other agents went through the rest of the files that evening and the next day. Benton Jarvis remained the number one suspect. In the meantime, Special Agents Tanner and Mills prepared to pick up the extortionist note at the appointed time from the telephone pole on the corner of Billings and Cooper. Tanner emerged from the car and located the pole. The note was exactly where the extortionist had indicated, carefully protected in a sealed plastic bag.
Drive to Henderson's Pharmacy on Nilan Avenue. There is a soda fountain in the back. Your next instruction will be attached under the counter at the third stool from the left.
Tanner came back to the jeep and informed Mills of the next stop. When they arrived at Henderson's Pharmacy, a brown envelope was affixed to the underside of the counter. Pick up your next instructions at the phone booth at the Newport exit off I-95.
This was a two-hour drive and the pair continued on their journey. They found the next set of instructions at the phone booth. Go to the rear of the grocery mart in Blue Hill. Look in the rear of the dumpster.
It was another two-hour drive to Blue Hill. The dumpster had the last message, which contained a map of a secluded area about fifty miles away. The map pointed to a creek and a pasture with a lone tree. They were to put the briefcase by the tree in the pasture and leave.
By the time the two arrived, it had grown dark. Mills waited hidden in the jeep while Tanner emerged from the vehicle with the briefcase in his hand. As Tanner stepped a few feet away from the jeep, a shot echoed and splintered Tanner's leg. Mills flashed a large floodlight in the direction of the shot.
"FBI, drop your weapon!" Mills demanded.
The gunman emptied his shotgun into the jeep's front tires, dropped his gun, and escaped on foot. Mills radioed for help and a helicopter flew in to assist. That evening agents swarmed the area. They couldn't find the gunman, but they located his shotgun.
Sara hardly slept that night. She had hoped to hear something before leaving work that day, but Tanner had not called. The next day she called the chief executive officer first thing for an update. Morgan informed her of the prior day's events. When he told her about Tanner, she interrupted.
"Is Tanner okay?" she asked, shaken by the news.
"Yes, he's fine, though his doctor says he'll be in a cast for awhile."
"Oh, God, this guy is really serious. We've got to find him!" she said.
"They found Jarvis's gun," Morgan commented.
"His gun? What kind of gun? Did they tell you what type?"
"I don't know."
"Morgan, I've got to talk to Tanner . . . or his partner. Right now."
"Fine, they're still in Maine. Here's the number."
Sara spoke to Mills and filled him in on her suspect. She told him about the gunsmith in Portsmouth, where Benton had purchased his new shotgun. She gave him the serial numbers.
Mills paid a visit to the gunsmith. The gunsmith checked the serial number and matched them to Benton. He recalled having made recent repairs to the very same gun, and his records reflected a match to the serial number.
Benton didn't elude the agents for long. They tracked him down at his sister's house in Vermont. When they arrived, he appeared dejected and confused. Benton was later tried and convicted under the Hobbs Act. Currently, he's serving out his term in a federal corrections facility.
For a secret investigation that could involve insiders, too many people were involved in the research. Also, Sara should have advised the agent of the gun information as soon as she became aware.
In favorable contrast to some other cases throughout the book, here the company made a prudent decision to involve and cooperate with the police. In cases where potential criminal conduct is involved, companies should avoid playing the role of prosecuting attorney, judge, or jury.
Excerpted from Outrageous Conduct: Bizarre Behavior at Work