Printing Access & Privileges

By Joseph S. Pete

Cheryl rushed into the library director’s office, and tried to catch her breath. She explained what she had seen, how the somewhat shady-looking man had been printing stacks of documents day after day, making her just slightly curious, and how she chanced to walk by one day while he was in the restroom and just happened to notice the entire stack of printouts was all insurance forms. It must be some type of forgery, some manner of insurance fraud, she concluded.

“Well, how can you be so sure?” Carole asked while shuffling through invoices from last month’s library association conference, barely glancing up.

“He printed the same insurance form out 100 times. Why would anyone need to do that? Anyone on the up-and-up I mean.”

“Well, everyone’s innocent until proven guilty,” Carole said, scrutinizing a receipt for a salmon entrée and idling wondering if an updated per diem policy was needed. “Maybe you should try to gather some more substantial evidence. Seems like nothing more than a hunch.”

Cheryl went about trying to verify her suspicion, feeling every bit like a detective or a spy. The gambit she settled on was obvious: she’d simply print something out of her own when he was on one of his printing binges, and would then have a credible pretext to sort through all the 8 ½ in. x 11 in. sheets while the printer pumped them out in one of its labored, overheated frenzies. It happened all the time; he would surely think nothing of it. Even if he were paranoid and on knife’s edge, he couldn’t reasonably question such a mundane act without setting off alarms.

After convincing herself he would do her no harm and mustering the requisite courage, Cheryl clicked print and strode straight-backed across the room to the printer. As she leafed through the pages, she noticed he was filing basically the same claim to scores of different insurance companies. Impulsively, after scanning around from the corners of her eyes, she grabbed one of the forms and shuffled it under her own printout, hoping he wouldn’t notice,that it wouldn’t be possible to keep track of so many different filings.

Too late.

Oh bloody hell, he was lumbering toward her with a nasty expression.

He hovered behind her.

Tense, still, motionless, Cheryl drew a deep breath.

Then she whirled around.

“These,” she primly declared, pushing a stack of printouts toward him, “must be yours.” She harrumphed and traipsed off before he could say anything.

She had nervously crumbled the printout in her clenched fist, but set it flat on the counter by the newly returned audiobooks and primly straightened it out.

Triumphantly, she studied the form again.

It was enough evidence for Carole, who gave Cheryl the clear to call the police. She did, and they almost immediately turned the investigation over the Federal Bureau of Investigations, which got everyone atwitter in the branch and throughout the library system.

The FBI set up a sting operation that was really just disguising an agent as an old fellow flipping through magazines while observing the man, who only started coming into the library branch maybe a month ago and ended up using the printer more than all the other patrons combined.

After a few days, the agent apparently gathered all the evidence he needed because he suddenly moved in and made an arrest, with no advance warning to the library staff. He confronted the man at the printer and then two more agents in blue windbreakers with FBI printed on the back stormed in. Large, almost improbably metallic-looking guns were holstered on their hips, though they never so much as reached for them.

All of the librarians and pages lined up behind the glass behind the counter, watching raptly. They read the man his Miranda Rights and handcuffed him right there, leading him out as befuddled patrons froze in place and stared. It was a lot of commotion, almost too much for a staid suburban branch library.

Cheryl was almost giddy the next time she reported to Carole, and ended up being recognized with an official commendation at the next library board meeting. Emails of praise poured in. Colleagues passed by and all said, as if following a script, that it was a brave, commendable thing she did and they wouldn’t have had the courage themselves.

Eventually, interest faded.

But not for Cheryl.

She closely followed the case as it played out in the paper and, after he pleaded guilty, decided to pull the court records herself. She was so curious to find out more, what was behind this whole mystery. She had never gotten the chance to accost the man and demand he explain himself.

The man had been in fact running an insurance scam, flooding insurers with claims that were just small enough where they wouldn’t send out an adjuster.

One bit of the probable cause affidavit caught her eye. The detectives who interviewed him asked why he printed out fraudulent documents in a public place where he might be caught, why he would ever do such a thing at a public library.

“Well,” he said, according to the transcript, “libraries always have the best printers.”

“The best printers?” a detective queried.

“It’s got to look convincing,” he continued. “The paperwork, I mean. Look, if I had the cash to buy a decent printer, I wouldn’t be out running a two-bit scam, now would I? I go to the library because it’s got the best printers.”

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Joseph S. Pete

Joseph S. Pete / About Author

Joseph S. Pete is an award-winning journalist, an Iraq War veteran, an Indiana University graduate, a book reviewer, and a frequent guest on Lakeshore Public Radio in Merrillville. He was named the poet laureate of Chicago BaconFest 2016, a feat that Geoffrey Chaucer chump never accomplished. His work has appeared in Noise Medium, The Grief Diaries, Chicago Literati, Dogzplot, shufPoetry, The Roaring Muse, Spill Words, Prairie Winds, Blue Collar Review, Lumpen, The Tipton Poetry Journal, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, Pulp Modern, Zero Dark Thirty and elsewhere.

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