Copyright© 2020 by Graybyrd
Confessions and Counter-Measures
“What did the IRS tell you?” Mike asked.
“Nothing, really,” Jim Brightman said. “They claim we owe $6,500 in back taxes on unreported income; they’ve added penalties of $11,000 for a total of $17,500.”
“Nothing cited. Just this demand notice, and an accompanying notice of seizure of assets. They’ve taken the ranch and our home; they seized our bank accounts and garnished my Army pension. Two days ago agents came with a sheriff’s deputy and seized our car. They’ve left us nothing.”
“We’ve got a lead on an excellent tax attorney in Spokane, a former IRS officer. Hang in there. We’ve got to hope that he can get more information.”
“It was a tip,” Jim told his friends. “Our tax attorney was able to talk with a former associate. Speaking off the record, his friend told him that an unnamed accountant presented a folder of accounting documents for a client named James Brightman. He claimed he’d been deceived; an unidentified informant gave him copies of sales invoices from a precious metals dealer that showed far higher sales receipts than reported to the accountant. He claimed the misreporting covered a three-year period. He also claims the fifteen percent reward for reporting the tax fraud.”
“Knowing this, and having copies of the actual invoices, can we dispute the IRS tax demands?”
“No. Not without a lengthy appeal for a hearing in federal tax court.”
“And that will take how long?”
“Months ... many months, if not more than a year, our attorney said. But that won’t help. The most we could expect would be a refund of the monies seized from my accounts. But the ranch and our home will be gone.”
“Gone? How?” Graydon exclaimed.
“IRS tax auction sales are final. There’s no way to challenge it. Both the buyer and the IRS are exempt from action.”
“That’s ... that’s barbaric!” Graydon complained. “It’s unfair! It can’t be right!”
“Fairness has nothing to do with it,” Jim growled. “The IRS is a law unto itself. They interpret the tax code; they make the rules, and they enforce them. Nobody can touch them. Congress gave them total power to collect revenue for the nation and turns a blind eye to how they do it. I know that sounds harsh, but that’s how it is.”
“But ... but the Constitution, it guarantees our rights,” Graydon protested.
“Sorry, but Congress has essentially decided that tax collection is Constitutional; they even amended the Constitution to allow income tax. How the IRS collects taxes is neither a Constitutional nor a congressional concern, according to them. We’re stuck with it.” Jim explained.
“So, what next?”
“We’ve got less than ninety days to find out who’s behind this, to disprove the fraudulent invoices, and to frustrate the buyer’s scheme so we don’t lose the ranch. We need information,” Mike answered.
Three men entered the office. The receptionist looked up and--gasped--then recovered her poise. Two of the men were dressed in full buckskins and beads, with beaded headbands holding back shoulder length hair. The other man, a rancher from his dress, she recognized as a client.
“Good day, Mr. Brightman. How may I help you?”
“Is he in?” Jim asked.
“Yes. I’ll announce you.” After a moment on the telephone intercom: “He will see you now.”
Jim Brightman was polite but his voice had a hard edge to it.
“Evans, I’ve information that you sent false documents to the Internal Revenue Service and you expect a reward.”
“You’ve no proof, and no right to accuse me!” Evans stood behind his desk, shaking. Anyone could see that he was frightened. Mike and Graydon focused intently on him. His eyes darted from his angry client to the old man in leathers to the young man in leathers, and he began to reach for his telephone.
“No!” Mike commanded. “Sit down!”
Evans stared at Mike. The old man’s eyes blazed at him. He fell heavily into his desk chair. Jim and Mike sat themselves in guest chairs facing Evans’ desk. Graydon remained standing. He stared into Evans perspiring eyes. Evans wiped his face with a cloth pulled from his trouser pocket, then reached again for the telephone.
“There is no one you can call who will absolve you of what you have done, Mr. Evans. You are frightened. You stink of guilt. We know what you have done. You betrayed a friend and caused him grievous injury. This will destroy you, you know. When it becomes known what you have done, clients will desert you. Your business will fail. You will lose your license. You will lose everything you value.
“What made you do it. Who forced you to betray yourself and your client and your friend, Mr. Evans?”
Graydon’s voice droned steadily on; the minutes slipped by. Evans sat unmoving in his chair, his eyes unable to break free of Graydon’s accusing stare. Evans shook his head from side to side, seeking to escape the impact of Graydon’s accusing words on his soul. Minutes ticked by, then the quarter hour, and finally, the half hour.
“Enough!” he screamed, half rising from his chair. He fell back, covering his eyes with a shaking hand. His other hand tore at his trouser pocket, pulling a half-damp handkerchief free. He wiped away beads of sweat running down into his tear-filled eyes.
“They made me ... they threatened me. They had pictures ... papers ... my business, my house ... my wife. She’d divorce me. Those pictures!”
The story was quick to follow once Evans broke down and confessed to being black-mailed. He’d been to an annual accountants’ convention in Denver a few months before. He’d been surprised to find an unexpected companion one evening in the convention’s resort hotel. The pictures were graphic and could destroy his marriage. The deal was to accept a package of documents and present them as proof of tax fraud by Brightman. Evans would get the reward percentage and the incriminating negatives. No, he didn’t know the man who accosted him.
Evans described a fat, balding man in a bad suit. Graydon glanced at Mike, who nodded. It had to be Bertrand Adams, the Alpine-Colorado project lawyer.
“It’s too late to undo what you’ve done, Evans,” Jim Brightman spoke coldly after Evans had fallen silent, beaten down, slumped in his chair. “I want all of my account records, every last sheet. And I want copies of everything you filed with the IRS. And I want a sworn affidavit of everything you heard, discussed, agreed to, and did under duress. I want a sworn description of the man who accosted you, and--to the best of your recall--every word, threat, and order. And I want copies of everything involved with that Denver convention: the program, all the receipts, your room number, a complete description of the companion and how she approached you and the actions that followed.
“Evans, I want everything. All the originals in your possession, and original copies of material you gave up. Begin immediately. We will stay with you here in your office until we have everything. If it takes until midnight, that’s fine with us. Ask your office girl to help. Now get started.”
Evans’ receptionist/secretary had a notary public license and seal; she stamped and recorded everything. Mike and Graydon witnessed. As soon as Jim received the first bundle, copies of the fraudulent accounting sheets and sales invoices, he called Abner Goode. Abner agreed to make time; Jim marched down the street to Abner’s office.
“There’s more, lots more to come. Evans confessed to everything and we’re getting every last sheet of paper, all of it notarized and witnessed,” Jim said.
“It’s a very good beginning,” Abner rumbled, his deep voice resonating satisfaction.
“I’ll assume you fellows will have equally illuminating results with your metals dealer, concerning those bogus invoices.” Abner shuffled through the three-year collection of invoice copies, scrutinizing them.