chapter 23 - scamming the scammers?
Jack sat at the kitchen table with Mr. Karras and his wife, reading a copy of the Des Moines Register while they ate lunch. The story about Jack was in the statewide news section of the paper. It read,
Financial Questions for Missing Orphan
"What began as a routine trial run of the Des Moines Register’s new computerized auditing system has turned into a state-wide search for Jack Piper, a resident of . . ."
" . . . the Orphanage of our Lady of Perpetual Acceleration in Des Moines.
Representatives from the Special Collections Branch of the Des Moines Register newspaper explained that the computerized audit has linked Piper to $120,000 in missing revenues connected with RAGBRAI, the Register’s annual cross-state bicycle ride.
The search for Piper began Thursday evening at the Des Moines orphanage but quickly spread to the Iowa City area by Friday morning. Persons with information having to do with the whereabouts of Piper are encouraged to contact the Special Collections Branch of the Des Moines Register newspaper."
[actual scam artists, below and above]
“Well, kid?” Jack glanced up from the paper to see Mr. Karras studying him carefully. “You don’t look like a $120,000 scam artist. What’s the deal?”
“I have no idea,” said Jack, shaking his head. “I don’t even have one dollar. You work for the newspaper. Don’t you have any idea what is going on?”
“Used to,” corrected Mr. Karras. “I used to work for the paper, although I still write the usual Ragbray columns each year. I’m just as puzzled as you are.” Mr. Karras paused to look out the window at the snow beginning to fall. “I can’t make heads or tails of it, even though I’ve kept in touch with friends who still work for the paper since I retired and moved out here.”
“Moved out where? Where am I, anyway?” said Jack. “The last I knew, I was in downtown Denver.”
“Welcome to the Greater Frisco-Silverthorne-Dillon metropolitan area,” laughed Mr. Karras. “Never heard of it? Good. That’s the way we like it. We have a nice home here, up on a mountain, out of the way of all those tourists and vacationers. It’s a couple of miles to town down below us.” The swirling snow outside the windows was making it more and more difficult to see anything besides the steep slope of the mountainside and the nearest fir trees.
“If getting away from everything was such a big deal to you, then why do you have a Des Moines Register delivery truck coming to your house?” asked Jack.
“The Register pays my way and takes care of all the travel arrangements each year,” Mr. Karras replied. “But someone really messed up this year and …
… lost all of my baggage and my bike at the end of the ride. I flew back to Denver wearing borrowed shorts and an old t-shirt. They found my gear sitting in a warehouse a few weeks ago and finally got around to bringing it out here today.”
Mr. Karras continued, “Of course, I never expected to find you on the truck, kid. I recognized you right away because the thugs
from the Special Collection Branch of the newspaper ‘visited’ with me during Ragbray and showed me some pictures of you. They asked me all sorts of questions, but I didn’t have any answers.”
Then Mr. Karras smiled. “Now that you are here, I have a serious shot at unraveling this conspiracy.”
“Conspiracy?” exclaimed Jack.
“Conspiracy!” echoed Mr. Karras while Mrs. Karras shook her head and began to clear the empty lunch plates. Outside, the wind began to howl and the snow was driven hard against the window panes.
“Follow me to my study,” gestured Mr. Karras, as they walked from the kitchen, “and I’ll show you what I’ve uncovered so far.”
to be continued...
[a serial by little orphan dbax]