Each society must have its amusements. For those who understand the system, life would be monotonous if it weren’t for the occasional challenges that are presented. In order for those who wield power to have fun, a substructure has been created composed of individuals dedicated to bring down the leaders. Naturally, this is pure nonsense, since success would undermine the society which nurtures these individuals. Definitely self destructive.  However, a considerable amount of excitement is engendered by a constant battle — similar to a hunt — which pits the substructure against the superstructure. Laws are passed to provide a set of ground rules carefully worded to avoid any possibility that those in control can lose the game, which is as it should be.  But it wouldn’t be fun if the prey knew that they were destined to lose. As a result, a cadre of the substructure are developed to act as instigators (the quarry), convinced that they are the guardians of the tranquility of day to day life, never realizing that they cannot defeat the hunter.

This makes the chase more exciting. The hunters are distinguished by their refusal to use bribery ( a cardinal sin) but short of that, it is wide open. Any means to defeat the prey, legal or not, are not only condoned, but in the proper circles, lauded.

The victims of this particular game are members of an organization known as the Internal Revenue Service in the states, bred especially to believe that they guard the peace, trained in the latest methods of computer technology, never realizing that they must always be one step behind. From time to time small morsels are permitted to be consumed by these agents in order to maintain their vigor during the hunt and to bolster their morale. But, in fact, the valued members of society are barely touched.

On a simple level, legal means are used to thwart the efforts of the IRS by clearly using the wordings of the laws to defend the system. On a higher plane, however, there are those true hunters whose imagination is stimulated by the hunt and who produce a series of extraordinary coups to not only frustrate but to utterly destroy their victims.

To these men the people doff their caps, for not only do they perpetuate the society, but they create an atmosphere of success. They do more than can be expected. They have fun.

Games People Play

John Corcoran had made the grade. Having spent an inordinate number of hours studying for the CPA qualifying examinations, an effort that was rewarded by three sequential failing grades, he had been hired by the Internal Revenue Service. This was the result of a psychological profile which had detected an enormous animosity toward the medical profession, leading to a fifteen point bonus and immediate placement.

He arrived early the morning of the fifteenth and noted the commotion at the entrance to the building on Fourth Avenue. A police line had been set up and many of the employees of the service were banned from entering. Three police cars and a city ambulance blocked the parking lot and a multitude of onlookers stood by awaiting some sensational development. Corcoran approached the wooden barrier and noticed Phil Burns standing nearby.

“What’s up, Phil? Somebody got shot?”

“Wouldn’t this crowd just love that! Somebody’s girlfriend carried out in handcuffs would guarantee a successful day. I’m not sure, but I heard that they’re taking someone out of the building. Ed Foyers thinks somebody went haywire upstairs.”

They were standing fifty yards from the front entrance, and through the glass doors they could detect disorganized movement within the marble lobby. Pressure from the surrounding crowd increased as two of New York’s finest exited and headed toward a nearby police car.

Although sunshine obliterated a clear view of the interior lobby, John could make out the form of two figures clad in white uniforms dodging through a small crowd of executives. Between them was a tall figure, clearly being directed to the door with force. The figure appeared diminutive beside the burley attendants. John noticed that each attendant seemed to concentrate on one half of the figure, slowly coordinating their movements toward the doors.

“My God,” he said, “it’s Fairly.”

“Ya know, he’s been flying low the past two weeks. He’s missed the ‘chase’ for the last eight days and has been hard to understand since Wednesday. He was moping around. Everybody thought he was acting strange.”

“Jesus,” said Corcoran. “He’s a hero. What the hell’s going on?”

George Fairly was indeed a hero. He graduated cum laude from a classic program in the arts at Dartmouth. With his future wide open, he decided upon a graduate education in mathematics, only to fall prey to a pretty dark haired girl from Queens in New York City who serviced him regularly and convinced him that immediate marriage and a calculable income were far better than a long string of degrees. George succumbed. His position at IRS was due to a rumor that an incentive plan was to be introduced (pure nonsense, of course) during which George envisioned huge bonuses. He was convinced that no one could slip an out of line figure past him.

Within three months at the IRS George had established a reputation for himself. “The Chase” had been introduced in 1965 by an energetic appointee of a democratic administration. Each morning at six o’clock. a twenty dollar bill was hidden somewhere at the headquarters. Clues consisting of phony expenses such as “coffee and cake at Dino’s – $85.00” led to the snack bar. “Parking for meetings $1,025.00” led to the garage, and so on. This exercise sharpened the wits of the investigators and also led to an extra twenty bucks for the finder.

George excelled and thrilled his fellow employees by seventeen consecutive finds culminating in a recovery of a bill in the bottom of a toilet bowl in the ladies bathroom, precipitated by the clue “bidet for female buyers $8015.00”. He became a legend.

On October 14, 1978 George was handed a choice assignment. The chief called  him in for a briefing. “George”, he said, “we’ve got a problem. Henry Albakirk earned 2.5 million dollars last year and paid $400 in income taxes. Something’s wrong. It stinks. He bought a new Lexis 400 for 250 dollars and the dealer swears that this represents a viable sale. His wife bought two fur coats valued at 7,000 dollars for 158 bucks and they have the bills to prove it. This guy’s been having fun with us and I don’t like it. I’m assigning you to this case, — screw him — make him sweat — and find out what the hell is going on. It’s a complete field audit. You’ll have as much help as you need.”

George was elated.. Albakirk was a prize catch, running a business which dealt with city property at fantastic profits, personal income and life style that made New York Magazine, and relatively nothing in the way of income taxes. It stunk, and George was convinced that he alone could purify the smell and clear things up.

Henry Albakirk received the notice of inquiry from the IRS on December 1st, turned it over to his accountants and promptly flew to San Juan for an extended vacation. After several months of delay the meeting was sat up on February 15th between the lawyers and Fairly.

Fairly entered the offices of Mills and Weber and was immediately impressed by the fine mahogany paneled walls and green leather upholstery. A pretty blonde girl greeted him. “Mr. Mills is expecting you, sir. Just down the corridor, first door on the right.”

Fairly was not disappointed by the elegant inner offices and expensive accouterments. A highly polished low boy by the window served as a bar containing fine whiskey for important clients. Sam Mills sat at a large, dark green desk, an assortment of crystal animal figures lined the front edge and served as both distraction and conversation openers. A black leather upholstered couch to the right was carefully strewn with a few books and ledgers. This area was cleared when casual conversation was to lead to an important business deal.

Sam rose. “Pleasure to meet you, Mr. Fairly. Would you care for some coffee or tea?”

“No, thank you. I’d prefer to get to work if you don’t mind.” This was going to get off on the right foot.

Sam frowned for a moment. “Of course”, he said, glancing to his left. I believe you are interested in the accounts of Albakirk Enterprises. Anything in particular you’d care to start with?”

“Well, I believe I have your records of payments for the 2013 calendar year. Perhaps we could just take a look at the books of the company for that year so I can familiarize myself with your accounting techniques. Then we’ll go from there.”

“Of course, of course.” Sam pressed a small buzzer and walked toward a paneled door at the rear of the office. He opened it and pointed inside. “I took the liberty of setting up a desk and calculator for you in here. You may stay as long as you wish. Let me know if you’d care for some lunch or anything else.”

A petite young secretary, demurely dressed in simple black, stepped in carrying three large ledgers. She strolled directly into the second office, placed the books on the desk, and pointed to a button. “Anything you wish, sir, just press that.”

Very cooperative, thought Fairly. Absolutely first class. He removed his coat and jacket and carefully hung them on the clothes rack alongside the desk. He loosened his tie and began to peruse the ledgers,

Albakirk Enterprises was comprised of three interlocking corporations. Henry Albakirk was Chairman of the Board of two and President of the third, drawing salaries from all three. There were records of reinvestments, stock options, delayed payments, bank loans, transfers, etc. which occupied most of the morning. While he was interested in the personal income of Albakirk, he thought it might be worthwhile to spend a bit of time on the corporate setup. Maybe there would be material for additional investigation later.

By eleven o=clock he had decide to try a few figures. Let’s add up some of the income, he thought, and get an idea of the magnitude of the fraud. He was convinced that the set up was going to be a gold mine of illegal dealings.

He drew one of the leather bound ledgers toward the calculator. He noted it was very heavy, but paid little attention to it. Beautiful covering, he thought. He plugged in the calculator and began to tap lightly on the keys. An electronic display lit up and he quietly jotted a series of numbers down on his lined pad.

By eleven -twenty he noticed there was something wrong. He had mentally calculated profits of four million dollars in one three month period, but the display on the calculator lit up 180,000. Must have pressed a minus, he thought. He flipped back several pages and began again. He reached the same point in the calculation and looked at the display which read 58,179. Impossible, he thought. He contemplated starting again and then decided to have some lunch.

He bit into his date-nut sandwich at the lunch counter and thought about the morning’s activities. What a dope! Been using calculators for years. “How could I make such a mistake, — and a different one each time? Dummy.”

By one-thirty he was back at the desk, carefully tapping in the appropriate figures – – 148328. Two more tries, and two more numbers. He rose and peered out to the larger office. Sam Mills sat at his desk glowering over some reports. A heavy cloud of cigar smoke lay floating on the desk top.

“Excuse me, Mr. Mills, but I think you’ve got a faulty calculator here.”

“Well, wha d’ya know.” Sam Mills looked surprised. “Not a very good advertisement for an accountant,” he laughed. “We check ’em daily, of course, but I’ll get a new one set up at once.”

Within fifteen minutes a shiny new calculator was installed – this one with a memory unit that allowed calculation of complex formulas by a preset program. Fairly set to work at once. A few beads of sweat appeared on his forehead as he entered the numbers. Aha – he smiled, there it is! He had just entered a profit of 729,000 dollars on one sale of a building to the city and looked at the display — a negative 729000. Did he brush across a minus sign instead of adding? He cleared the machine and slowly pressed the digits 7-2-9-0-0-0-  — It was all right.

“Okay, we’ll watch that and start over.” He slowly entered each figure and satisfied himself that the proper display appeared, then after reaching the final point pressed the ‘equal’ button: 4,000,000. Hooray, he thought, jotted down the figure and continued a methodical list of entries. He added in the previous profit and pressed the ‘equal’ button again: 138,079.

“What the hell is going on here?” he said aloud. He heard the desk chair race back, then a short tapping on the door. “Everything’s fine Mr. Mills”

Fairly was deeply disturbed as he left that afternoon and returned to his own office. Those fellows must be buying used calculators, he thought. In order to reassure himself he tapped out a long list of numbers on his own machine, and noted the sum of 7,328,498 which was quite close to the figure he had mentally calculated. “Good”, he said.

But that night he was quite distressed. He sat with a large bourbon contemplating the day’s activities. A firm the size of Mills and Weber, working with defective machinery? Not very likely. Then what was wrong? Fairly never lacked self confidence. He prided himself on his sharp mind and astuteness, and above all — his ability to use a calculator.

Two days later Fairly was back in the little room. For several hours all seemed well as he compiled long lists of figures, but he never came close to the profits he imagined were turned over by these corporations. He decided to try another tack. He peeked through the doorway.

“Excuse me.” The dark haired pretty secretary was arranging several folders on the desk. “Would you be good enough to ask Mr. Mills to prepare the personal expenditures for the 2012 -13 years? I’ll go over those next week on my next visit. I would also appreciate it if he would make arrangements for me to bring these ledgers over to the IRS office where I could spend an evening or two with them. I wouldn’t want to keep anyone overtime here.”

“Of course, Mr. Fairly. I’ll make the necessary arrangements personally.”

Fairly sat back in his chair once again. He reached into his inside pocket and extracted a small, shiny calculator. He pressed several single digit entries and satisfied that it was working adequately, he opened the first ledger again and began to enter figures.

Profits for the first three months : 169,048

“Oh my God.” the small machine dropped from his hands. He felt the table waver and beads of sweat lined his brow.

He didn’t report for work on Friday, taking a long weekend instead. This was the first time he’d missed a day at work. On Monday the chief called him in.

“Fairly, everything okay? You haven’t joined ‘the chase’ this week.”

“Fine, chief, fine.”

“How’s the case going with Albakirk? We’re going to get him, nest ce pas, old buddy?”

“Sure but the surface figures look good,” he lied. How could he admit what was happening? The sharpest brain in the regional office couldn’t get a calculator to add a set of numbers. His hands trembled as he stuffed them into his pockets. He felt faint. He had to get out of there.

That day he couldn’t eat. He was trembling when he next appeared at Mills and Weber. He had brought with him a calculator from the office. Over the next week and a half he worked daily at the list of figures before him, working through the IRS calculator and three portable ones that he purchased for the job. Nothing he could do would make the figures add up.

Each time he thought he had the problem licked, a loss would appear where there should have been a profit. He alternated the ledgers, started with number three, then moved to another quarter — but it made no difference.

He finally decided to move out of that room. Mills was as good as his word. He had Albakirk’s expenses in a similar ledger and seemed delighted to let Fairly move them over to the IRS offices. Arrangements were made, Fairly signed a receipt, and the ledgers were picked up by two treasury agents for transport to the regional headquarters.

Three weeks passed and his colleagues noticed a change in Fairly. He slouched slightly as he walked, never started a conversation, and had one of the secretaries in tears over a ‘typo’ which never would have bothered him in the past.

And each night he worked late, almost passionately using a different calculator each time, borrowed from Herman or Jeffreys or one of the other men. He watched them at work during the day and if all seemed to go well, he would borrow their calculator and use it at night.

But nothing helped. Each night he’d press a set of figures, and each night he’d get a different answer.

The final break came on the morning of the fifteenth. Fairly rose especially early that morning and reported for work at 5:30. He slipped into his office and lifted one of the ledgers, placing it under his arm. He walked slowly down several stories to the basement and entered the large computer room. The lights flashed quietly around him as tapes bursting with information rotated on discs.

He sat down at the controls and tapped out a set of instructions. The machines stopped, accepted the program, and then began to whir again softly as he entered figures for a six month period. He worked with dedication for two hours through the maze of figures, noting the transfers, profits from real estate, a fishing fleet, hotels, race horses.

And the profits ran up, day by day, weekly, monthly grand total for the period : 148,721.

They found him that morning having produced $50,000 in damages to the computer . . . tapes strewn over the room . . .lights smashed     . . .  They carried him off — the topic of conversation for weeks to come.

On April twenty first Sam Mills appeared at IRS headquarters and was ushered into the chief’s office.

“I know Fairly was one of your best men. I hope he regains his health. I need to know if you intend to pursue the case against my client. After all you must have had interim reports. Two months spent on a few ledgers — can you tell me anything?”

The chief looked down, then across the room. “I guess we’ll suspend the inquiry.”

“One other thing. If you don’t mind@, said Sam, I’d like to pick up our records if that’s okay.”

“Yes, I”ll have them waiting for you in the lobby.”

Sam carried the four ledgers to the front door and was met by his chauffeur. He sat back calmly in his black Rolls, the ledgers next to him on the seat. He glanced slowly toward them as the car glided through the side streets onto Broadway, heading downtown. He lifted one.

Thank God they never weigh these, he thought. With deliberation he raised one of the ledgers to his ear, opened the cover and listened. He heard the soft hummm of the transistorized motor in the cover.   He chuckled. Or x-ray them, he thought.  A light flashed on.

“Everything all right, sir?”

“Sure Ed, everything’s A okay.” He smiled, replaced the ledger and leaned back.