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The Squatters (#7)

Ming Zhen Shakya
Ming Zhen Shakya
 To see more literature about Zen and the Art of Investigation:

The Squatters

by Anthony Wolff (Ming Zhen Shakya)

To see all available chapters of “The Squatters” click here


Part 7:  Rick employs Kabbalah meditation techniques


Don Dawson called his attorney.  “You can get that P.I.” he said.  “I got the money.”

“Bring it to my office now,” Rosewall replied.  “We have no time to lose. Is it in cash?”

“No.  Why does it have to be in cash?  I’m not paying some gumshoe drunk under the table.  If he’s legit he’ll have business cards and gimme’ a paid invoice.  I’ll write him a check.”

Rosewall replied in an indignant tone. “Please don’t insinuate that I’d ever use any but the best professionals.  I was merely asking what form the payment would be in.  And for your information, he bills me and I bill you.”

Dawson went to his attorney’s office.  As he presented him with a check for Fifty thousand dollars, he said, “Anything he don’t spend, I get back. Right?”

“You’re assuming I won’t need him to work on that nasty child-molestation matter.  But naturally I always return any funds that haven’t been used up.  When did you open this account?”

“Yesterday. They gave me temporary checks and said my printed checks and my credit/debit card would arrive in a few days.”  He filled out a check for Fifty Thousand dollars.

“Fine,” Rosewall said, putting the check into his briefcase.  The prudent course, he knew, was to wait a week or so before depositing it.  Banks tended to be cautious with new accounts. He hesitated, before locking his briefcase.  “And the rest of my retainer?”  One of his clients, a Navajo gentleman, owned a ‘Pre-driven’ car business.  Rosewall had seen a used Ferrari in his lot and upon inquiry was told he’d get it “at cost.”  He also wanted to indulge his passion for the “tables” and calculated that between the price of the Ferrari, minus the trade-in value of his present car, plus a good bankroll to start with, he could use another Thirty thousand.  “My retainer fee would have been Forty,” he said cordially to Dawson, “but you paid Four which indicated a good faith deposit to me, and for that, I’ll reduce my fee to Thirty. Well, Thirty-four minus the Four. And again, if I get good results quickly or if those other charges are dropped, I’ll return as much of it as I can.”

Dawson wrote a second check for Thirty thousand dollars.


With all the adult neighbors assembled and all the children safely in the basement watching movies, Rick addressed the group.

“As many of you know, I am an ordained Priest.”  He presented his credentials which were passed around.

“First,” he said, beginning a semi-fantasy account of his own history, “I need to explain.  When I entered the seminary I gave no importance to the requirement that a novice sign over to the religious order all of his present and future assets.  I had no assets.  But then my dear mother developed cancer in the year I graduated from seminary school and quite out of the blue, an uncle I had never even known existed died and left me a few million dollars.  Now I could send my mother to one of those specialty cancer hospitals.  Or so I thought.  Our mail was routinely opened by the Dean’s secretary, and when they discovered the bequest that had been made to me I was ordered to put the money in the seminary’s general fund. Actually I had signed a contract to do this. And, no doubt, I should have done so.  But my mother was the light of my life and I knew I couldn’t live with myself if I just let her die.  They needed me to sign a few papers and after giving it a great deal of thought, I refused.  What kind of priest would I be if I turned my back on the woman who gave me life… and a smile…  always a smile even when she took food off her own plate to put on mine.  We had nothing.  My father was an alcoholic. I could not disappoint her the way he had.  I quit the Order.  End of story.

“Since I technically am a priest, I know something about meditation. I want to tell you now about one of the many ways people have learned to meditate.  In thirteenth century Spain a Kabbalah master named Abraham Abulafia developed an extraordinary way:  permutations and the concentration required to create them.  Simply put, there are a limited number of ways in which you can take a group of different letters or numbers and combine them.   Take A,B.C. We can write ABC, ACB, BCA, BAC. CAB, CBA.  Six ways only.  This number is determined by what we call the factorial of the number we are seeking to permute.  If there are three numbers or letters; we multiply 3 x 2 x 1.  If there are four numbers or letters, we multiply 4 x 3 x 2 x 1. As you can see, the number of ways has increased dramatically. 4 x 3 x 2 x 1 = 24.   Twenty-four.  That doesn’t sound like much but here it is on a paper chart I made for you.”  He placed the chart against his chest.  “Let’s say we want to permute the numbers 1,2,3 & 4.

1234    1243  1342    1324  1432  1423
2134    2143   2341    2314  2413  2431
3412    3421   3214    3241  3142  3124
4123    4132   4231   4213   4321  4312

Keeping these numbers straight and developing a system requires total concentration – and Abulafia used many more digits than 4.  But I guarantee that if you take a name… like Christ…and permute it, before you’re finished you’ll be in a deep state of meditation.  But you’re not here to learn permutations.

“The question is, are we going to be a bank to these thieves… to work hard all our lives and give them all that we have saved and all that we can borrow any time they threaten to burn our house down or murder our children?  Or are we going to form a brigade and go out there and station ourselves near the squatter’s place and follow Don Dawson when he goes out to make a purchase… gas, food, whatever… and get at least part of his 4 digit pin number? This will have to be done by someone he doesn’t recognize.” Everyone looked at the four grandparents. “All that these four individuals have to do is to follow him into the store and to observe him when he puts his pin number into the check-out register. He may have his wife with him and she may perform the transaction which is why we need,” he nodded towards the grandmothers, “we need you ladies.  We need at least two of those four numbers, preferably consecutive numbers.  This will get us started.  Are you all willing?”

All four agreed to tail Dawson and follow him into a store or get behind him in an ATM line. But they wanted to know more of Rick’s plan before they went into Holbrook and rented cars.

“All right,” Rick began, “let’s say we get the first two numbers and they’re six and three.  Now we have to find out the last two numbers.  But unlike the example that I did the permutation on, there are not four numbers, but ten numbers that are possible.  0,1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,& 9. Without knowing at least two of the numbers, the permutations are beyond our capability.  But let’s say we do get those two numbers, and, for the sake of argument, they’re six and three.

“We fan out and go to ATM machines that have no cameras and punch in 63 plus two of the permuted numbers and if that number is wrong, we get two more chances to punch in the correct number.  There are a hundred possibilities – I’ll show you them in a moment – and as soon as someone gets the right pin number, he withdraws $300 and calls everyone else and then we can all begin to withdraw from ATM machines.  The exact addresses of ATM locations we can download from the internet.  We can go to New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, or California.  We can withdraw $300 at a time until we recoup the entire $500,000 the kidnappers stole.”

“I’m in,” Jack Thompson said, opening his son’s bookbag.  “Let me get a calculator.  How many times does $300 go into $500,000?  1666.66.”

Rick answered.  “Right! 500,000 divided by 300 is 1666.66 and when you divide that by the number of folks who are willing to participate in this… which is…” he looked around and began to count the raised hands. “Four grandparents, two parents, six neighbors equals twelve.

Jack Thompson did the calculation  “That would be 138 visits to the ATM.  Each of us would have to make 138 withdrawals.”

“Now,” Rick continued, “we also need bank debit cards.  I happen to know – because I tailed him  – that Dawson opened an account at his old bank. No doubt he had to put the money in the same bank because he recently made a large legitimate deposit of $700K that the IRS would have had to clear.  So when he makes this new deposit he will want the IRS to think it is the same money being put back because the Mexican real estate deal fell through.  It’s the only reason he’s got to get it past them. He’ll probably say that Markovitz is a big time gambler and that’s the way he paid him back… in currency.  This will check out.”

“Now, for a price I’m willing to donate, a shady friend of mine – actually I ministered to him while he was in prison, but that’s another story – was able to hack into the credit card company that manufacturers the bank’s plastic – so much for bank security! – and another associate of his created a whole bunch of duplicate debit/credit cards for me with Dawson’s name and account number. He overnighted them to me.  Unfortunately, he could not get the pin number. The cards are here in this candy dish.”  He placed the cards in the dish. “Well, who’s game and ready to start?  I’m sure you know the procedure.  You insert the card at an ATM – one without a camera that takes your picture – or you wear a wig, dark glasses, and a hoodie – and when you’re asked for your pin number, you punch in four digits.  That’s all there is to it.  Now,  since we have ten numbers, 0,1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9 we have ten pairs of numbers to permute. Each pair can permute ten times.  That makes 10 x 10 = 100 possibilities.  Here’s how the permutation looks.”  He held up a chart.

01   10   11
02   20   12   21   22
03   30   13   31   23   32   33
04   40   14   41   24   42   34   43   44
05   50   15   51   25   52   35   53   45   54   55
06   60   16   61   26   62   36   62   46   64   56   65   66
07   70   17   71   27   72   37   73   47   74   57   75   67   76   77
08   80   18   81   28   82   38   83   48   84   58   85   68   86   78  87  88
09   90   19   91   29   92   39   93   49   94   59   95   69   96   79  97  89   98  99

“Every one of these numbers begins, let’s say, with 63.  Now we’ll need to assign the possible pin numbers.  We need to form two groups.”

“Let’s all exchange phone numbers,” Jack Thmpson’s mother suggested, “and write them down on a piece of paper instead of in our phone.”

“Good idea!” Rick shouted.  “Ok. Six of us get on one side of the room and the other six on the other. Couples stay together.”   The group moved accordingly.  Rick cut the permutations’ list in half and gave each side fifty possible numbers.  “This, I repeat, is dependent upon gaining at least two of those pin numbers by following Dawson when he buys something.”

Jack Thompson drove the two sets of grandparents into Holbrook so that they could rent four cars.

When they re-convened, Rick announced, “One thing more!  I’m going to deposit a series of bad checks into Dawson’s account.  I got the checks from the trash of a company that went out of business a couple of years ago.  You may not know this but certain garbage men will cull the discarded stationery… the paper invoices, purchase orders, memo forms, and, of course, the checks to defunct bank accounts… and fence them.  There’s a market for this stuff.  Anyway, Dawson’s account will be duly credited and no one should encounter a zero balance when a request for cash is made. It will take a week or so before the bad check deposits bounce and the kidnapping Mr. Dawson will be liable for the difference. This is a simple variation on the old check kiting scheme. Are there any objections?”

“No! None!” everyone shouted.

“To save time, let’s first divide the maps!” Jack Thompson shouted. He distributed the copies Rick had made and everyone agreed to a territory within the map’s area.

Harry Nicholson offered to lead the four rented cars to the squatters’ house in nearby Apache County.  As soon as someone learned at least two of the pin numbers, they would notify the others at any time of the day or night.

Rick and Helena returned home to get as much rest as possible. It was not until 10 a.m. the following morning that Dawson drove to a gas station and the four rented cars cautiously followed him to the pump.  Both grandfathers agreed that the first two numbers that Dawson punched-in were 3,3.  Jack’s father called the others and repeated the advice.  “Remember, use only those machines that don’t take photographs.  If you want to be extra safe, buy yourself a wig or a hoodie and sunglasses.  Use the machine once and then move on. You can return to the machine later.”  Everyone agreed to be careful and began to drive to the targeted ATMs.

Harry Nicholson got the correct pin number on his second try.  He called everyone.  “It’s 3342.”

The raiders each accessed between five and ten ATMs that day.  Still, they brought home nearly $25,000. Everyone pledged to get some sleep and be ready to start again the next day.  Nevada, New Mexico, California…  they consulted maps. After they exhausted Arizona, they planned to fan out.  The Thompsons created a ledger of “repatriated funds” and hid the money in their house.  Although the Nicholsons had not contributed to the ransom, they had been been helpful in redeeming the ransom.  They had been heavily fined for letting their pit bulls run free and had  to hire an attorney and were financially desperate.  It was agreed that they would be given a sum to cover these expenses.  Those who had borrowed on their credit cards were ecstatic since the loans had been made at a near usurious rate.  So oblivious were the twelve raiders to the possibility that they’d be caught committing such a crime, that they enthusiastically discussed the “cover story” they’d use to account for the return of the ransom money.

It is a commonplace that the most rigorously honest people, when they believe they are the victims of someone they determine to be evil, will casually commit the most heinous crimes against him if given the opportunity.  The rationale is always that the one who initiated the evil deserves to be punished for it; and if, as in this case, law enforcement agencies cannot be contacted without great risk, then the victims, themselves, must do whatever they can to solve the problem.  If at all possible, they will strive to effect a punishment that will end the criminal career.  Believing this, they act with a religious conviction that perhaps only witch burners could appreciate.  But some of these vigilantes, unlike witch burners, will direct their efforts against someone they know to a certainty is guilty of a terrible crime. The people who assembled in the Thompson home had no doubts about Dawson’s culpability.

And also, no one doubted that he would have killed Louella if the police were summoned.  Dawson had been in prison before and had the kind of mean streak that would not have allowed him to accept a life sentence for kidnapping especially when he felt victimized by the theft of the insurance money. At the sight of police officers, Dawson was entirely capable of killing everyone in sight, including himself.

The police had been summoned before and, claiming the law inhibited them from interfering in what had been deemed a civil mater, had shown little interest in solving any problems that involved the squatters. The victims were not entirely unreasonable in their supposition that for so long as this excuse existed, the problems would be dragged through the courts, further punishing the man who did not want to share his home with undesirables. The twelve raiders were eager to take action.  Not only had Dawson kidnapped and terrorized an innocent child, but he had placed them in the position of having to finance his luxuries with money they would have to work hard to repay. Dawson had financially ruined or damaged them.  In many small acts, they would even the score.

No, there were no pangs of conscience.  There was only enthusiasm and a “can do” spirit that removed stultifying fear and depression and allowed them to think creatively. They were gleeful. An onlooker might have seen the same expressions on the folks who danced around the burning witch. The difference was justice – justice that was not only blind, but apparently invisible.
Because none of Rick’s fake deposits had yet bounced, the group would finally tally $607,000 when their foray into the wold of ATMs was finished. They had “earned” $107,000 extra for their four days of exhausting work.

Rosewall deposited into his own account Dawson’s two checks that totaled $80,000. Rosewall withdrew $30,000 in cash and went on to the “Pre-driven” car lot to pay by his own check the $50,000 he needed to get the Ferrari he wanted.  As he drove the car off the lot, he headed for a high-end western clothing store.  He needed a new Stetson, a shearling jacket, jeans with a new silver buckle, and a pair of fine crocodile boots. He stopped at his insurance agent’s office and got both collision and liability coverage on the Ferrari and then he went to the Motor Vehicles Department, registered the Ferrari, and drove directly towards the hotel/casino of which Dave Begay was the Chief Executive Officer.  By the end of the week, when all the phony deposits bounced, he would owe a variety of people and governmental agencies over a hundred thousand dollars that he did not at the moment possess and had no hope of recouping.

Rick could not remember a time in which one of his schemes had rewarded him so well.  He did not know that a man who hated him was sitting outside David Begay’s office, waiting to ask him about Mr. Julius Markovitz and the artist who signed herself as “M.”

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