DILLON RICE INVESTIGATES

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STATE OF CONTROL. Draft, copyright WRBJr. Living Trust.

DAY TWO.

PENNSYLVANIA, 2 PM EDT

Dillon Rice was not tall enough to see above fourth-floor beige privacy-partitions dividing cubicles of Central PA liquor inspectors. Scarcity of ringing phones or hallway palaver told him most were already in the field. Rationale: licensees to see before happy hour got busy; licensee-applicant background checks; over-service investigations. Central-district inspectors devised any excuse to escape headquarters; out of sight, out of mind. They envied colleagues in offices across the state without the all-powerful Board breathing down their neck.

Tory’s transfer here from Central Stores was rumored to have been punitive. Rice didn’t know details, despite her friendship with his wife. His job brought few interactions with local inspectors, including Tory. His general impression: a hard-driving, humorless woman questioning everything.

In her cubicle, against windows with an abbreviated Market Street river-view Rice smelled lingering hints of a subtle perfume he knew his wife would identify readily. Several color photos were pinned above her desk. An eight-by-ten of Tory and Hugh in front of Hugh’s gun store, red ribbon across the door: Hugh’s grand opening after leaving the Board. A five-by-seven print on either side: tabby cat asleep on a rocking chair; a range of snow-capped mountains.

Surface of her issue steel desk was empty. In-box piling up: inter-office correspondence, printouts from her completed audits, unopened business and junk mail. Rice replaced it all precisely as found. Desk and cabinet drawers were locked but Rice had Thornton’s master keys. Beneath expected clutter of paper clips, pens, hi-liters and Post-It pads her center drawer yielded two file folders. One bright blue with bulging pockets, the other tan, flat, dog-eared.

One blue pocket held deposition-subpoenas for cases she had worked. The other held personal receipts, pay stubs, state-employee credit union statements with payroll deductions as source of funds. Savings account worth $3700.

He examined receipts carefully. New Michelin all-weather tires last winter. Mechanic’s list of repairs for her ’89 Saab, dealership invoices, VISA-card paper. Then he glanced over medical correspondence: recent pap smear and breast exam negative; doctor’s prescription for birth-control pills. Rice swallowed, disliking intrusion in information that personal.

Tucked behind the medical paper were three more photos, all five-by-seven, glossy, full-color. The first showed a racing herd of antelope against a cobalt sky, some suspended midair, large liquid eyes and dramatic markings perfectly captured. He thought a photo that good required skill, or luck.

In the second, a lone horseman in black tall-crowned Western hat and gray ankle-length duster led a pack mule down a dry wash. The third showed an old single-wide mobile home beneath a grassy ridge, old-fashioned windmill on a ridge behind. The trailer’s once-bright colors were faded as the denim jeans on a sagging clothes line. Broken wagon wheels decorated by bleached cow skulls and a wide rack of deer antlers fenced the trailer front. Rice was impressed: the high lonesomeness of Old and New West, captured in a single frame.

He turned the trailer photo over. Home written in blue ballpoint. He reversed the horseman: Jed going walkabout. Behind the antelope: Twenty miles west of Kanorado. Rice wrote Jed and Kanorado in his notebook and unpinned the snowy-mountain photo above her desk: Front range from Denver. All in the same hand; masculine he judged. Nothing written about the tabby cat.

Something nagged him about her VISA paper until the coin dropped: the mailing address was a downtown P.O. Box, not Tory’s home address. Same for the credit-union account. Looked like he’d found Tory’s mad-money stash. He carried financial information and photos to a copy machine and copied everything, including the handwriting.

The dog-eared tan folder contained a single stapled carbon-copy of a typewritten Board document eleven pages long: Exit Comments authored by Alex Raymond.

Raymond’s legendary Board service had begun soon after Repeal, spanning all divisions, before his two-decade reign as Executive Secretary and eminence gris. His handiwork was encoded in most statewide policies and procedures.

Carbon hinted pre-computer origin; a 1985 date on each page confirmed it.”The following exit comments are prepared in anticipation of the undersigned’s retirement within the next fiscal year,” Rice read.“They are intended as a guide for my successor and a check-list for the Chair and Board Members. The order in which the comments are listed has no bearing on the priority…”

But Tory had assigned priorities, with a yellow hi-liter and margin-notes. Rice read her first priority with absorption.

“Membership in the State Beverage Alcohol Control Institute (SBACI). This is a question that begs an answer: what are the sources of funds for SBACI and the conventions and other social functions it puts on for control-state board members? Until full financial disclosure reveals the degree of liquor-supplier involvement, this Board should limit its participation.”

In the margin, in Tory’s distinctive southpaw back-slant scribble:”Dillon always says follow the money.” Had she investigated this Institute? On whose orders? He’d ask Thornton.

Her next highlighted section was Investigative Audits:”The Board is missing an enforcement opportunity by not hiring investigative auditors to uncover commercial bribery, bootlegging, skimming, and hidden ownerships. The caliber of these inspectors should equal those hired by the FBI or the IRS to specialize in financial intelligence, and work primarily on suspected hidden ownership, tied-house issues and international distribution questions.”

Tory had highlighted “international distribution questions.” Scribbled Gray Market! What was a Gray Market? Rice trudged back to the copy machine, freed the staple, copied the whole report. He returned it to its folder and moved on to her file cabinet. Copies of audits and other official paperwork filled two drawers.

The third drawer held Tory’s neatly ranked spiral-topped steno books propped up by a Thesaurus. Whatever Tory had been doing, there should be traces in daily work-notes. From dates inked on covers they were stored in inverse order. Front notebook was “4/5–5/31.” She probably took June-July with her. First entry read 4/5–10 am. telcon Steubmeir re missing tax forms. Will check w/ his acct. Following entries provided a chronology of daily activity, and it took only a dozen pages to establish she was a careful and consistent note-taker. Rice approved.

Almost everyone tucked scraps of paper into work logs. He fanned pages; evidently Tory did not. Some notebooks had an occasional page folded on itself. Following his careful methodology he read all entries until reaching the first of these, found an item marked to go back and review. He fanned pages again. Some pages had been folded then flattened. Each re-flattened page showed a review-item checked off and cross-referenced to a newer entry. Dotting all her I’s.

First item on a folded page to catch his attention was in January/February:

1/19–3:40p telcon SBACI flack Jordon re Miami convention. SBACI legit non-profit. SBACI voting mbr=Con State bd mbr/they spend SBACI funds. Distiller reps=assoc mbr(non-voting). Assoc mbr dues=SBACI budget. Assoc. mbr list only avail PA voting mbr=Red (Chairman!) Suspicious I’m asking (!)

SBACI, the trade association Alex Raymond questioned in his exit remarks. She had not re-flattened the page but there was a later entry:

1/23–8:35a Keyes: why I want ID assoc mbrs SBACI? Why go around Red? Me: Is there problem? Him: list not puterized, too much work for small staff without good reason/AS IF!!! He’s stalling…

Tory’s SBACI inquiry had brought Keyes down on her quickly. Present Executive Secretary, the Chairman’s right-hand man. “M’mm.” He didn’t even know he was doing it. The rumor about her transfer from Central Stores centered on causing trouble for authorized liquor peddlers doing business with the Board. The same SBACI associates whose funding of Control State soirees Raymond had questioned?

Did his chief encourage her to snoop into this? Or did she merely hold a grudge against people who caused her transfer? Time for a heart-to-heart with Thornton.

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Bill Burkett

Professional writer, Pacific Northwest. 20 Books: “Sleeping Planet” 1964 to “Venus Mons Iliad” 2018–19. Most on Amazon for sale. Il faut d’abord durer.