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Our Porous Border, Chapter 1

Jacob Macovski was not a nice man. For one thing he murdered his girl friend—one night in her cheap rooming house in Everston, Illinois north of Chicago. He murdered her for an heirloom gold bar that her grandfather had bought long ago, when gold was only $35 an ounce. He definitely wouldn’t have murdered her when gold’s trading value was at $35. But now it was somewhere over $1,000 and he figured the bar would be worth between $40K and $50K. Definitely a motivation. No, Jacob Macovski was not a nice man but he was intelligent, maybe “crafty” would be a better word.
Of course, two to three pounds of gold is not a heavy amount to carry while escaping from a crime. Except that gold is so concentrated that it can set off a metal detector from a block away and he didn’t want to having the whole thing confiscated. Jacob knew exactly what he was going to do. He would hide the bar in Illinois and fly across the border to Canada before the hue and cry rang through the land. He was a Canadian and carried a Canadian passport, so assuming he could cross the border before any alarm was sounded, he’d be scot free. He figured no one would find the body for 24 hours (he had hung a “Gone away for a holiday” sign on the door handle) then they would have to identify him as the guy who came up to visit her occasionally and that might take from several days to forever. Then sometime in the future he would return and pick up his bar of gold.
So when we join Jacob (except his new name is John Cole) in Canada some two years later, he is running out of money and hankering after that $50K of gold lying in secret in Everston. He is aware that the body of his girl friend had been discovered. There was no mention of an identity of the assailant at that time. Then the news fell off the radar and though he didn’t know the present status, he knew he couldn’t risk crossing into the US as either Jacob Macovski or even John Cole. So he had to adopt a new identity.
How could he best create and establish a new identity? He had spent some time considering this problem and had had a brain wave. The best thing to do would be to take over the identity of a male who had recently died. He would have to be approximately of the same age, same colour, and same general appearance. The best place to discover such a match, he thought, would be in a funeral parlour. There would be a fair selection of dead men going through the terminal process and he would just have to wait until the right one came along!
And the right one did come along—in spades! Jacob and an assistant were sent to pick up a body in a private home—a certain Harry Hoskins, deceased. They appeared at the address given by the funeral home and Mrs. Grace Hoskins greeted them at the door and introduced herself. She led them up to the bedroom where the deceased lay.
Jacob inspected the face and body with more than casual interest. If one was required to give a VERBAL description of Harry Hoskins, it might equally suit Jacob Macovski, except for the beard on Jacob, which could have been a later addition. To add to the rightness of the deception that Jacob was planning, he noticed a driver’s license renewal form on the bedroom desk and he slipped this into his pocket. After the team had loaded the body into the hearse, Jacob went back into the house to finish off details with the widow. As he left, he had a sudden inspiration and said, “Don’t worry about notifying the various governmental authorities, you know the tax department, the motor vehicle department, etc., about your husband’s death. That’s one of the services that we provide.” He desperately didn’t want any hint of his death to percolate up to government records.
When his shift was finished he returned to his lonely room where he checked out the application form for a new passport. (Some time previously, on the way home from work, he had picked up a blank form and instructions at the local Post Office.) He read that he would need proof of birth (place and date) of Harry Hoskins, whose identity he was about to assume.
The next morning he phoned Mrs. Hoskins. “I’m terribly sorry to trouble you yet again but the authorities are getting very thorough about identity papers, etc. Do you know where Mr. Hoskins kept his birth certificate, passport and credit cards?”
“Birth certificate and passport? Well I suppose they would be in the wall safe. Credit cards would be in his wallet. Can you hold for a minute while I check?… Yes, I have them all or at least most of them.”
“That will make the winding up of his estate less burdensome for you. If you don’t mind I’ll pick them up this afternoon.”
“I’ll have them ready for you.”
“And one further thing, Mrs. Hoskins. Do you happen to know the maiden name of his mother?”
“What an odd question. Yes, it was Ryan.”
“Thank you. It’s just that the name of the mother is frequently used as an identifier on credit cards. I’ll see you this afternoon about three.”
The next day the ersatz Harry Hoskins (formerly John Cole, formerly Jacob Macovski) presented himself at a Ministry of Transport office with his driver renewal form filled out. He also carried two credit cards made out to Harry Hoskins. He explained that his former driver’s license, which had been about to expire, had been stolen. The bored clerk did not check very closely and had him stand in front of the camera where he photographed him, beard and all. The clerk issued him a temporary license and said the permanent one would be mailed in a few days.
The new Harry made up with a sharp wit for what he lacked in integrity. “I wonder if it could be mailed to my business address as the mail to the house seems to be very erratic.” He gave the clerk his rooming house address.
Back at his work, John Cole was charged with the arrangements for the cremation and ash burial of Harry Hoskins. Fortunately for him, the attendance at the funeral was light. It also gave him the opportunity to ingratiate himself with Mrs. Hopkins. One could never know when such a relationship might become important.
A couple of weeks later he received the driver’s license in the mail. He had heard that this would be sufficient for crossing to the US and returning to Canada but the driver’s license had been so easy to get that he felt he should have the security of a valid passport. So he assembled all the personal materials he had accumulated related to Harry Hopkins—the new driver’s license, the old passport (wrong photo and no beard) the credit cards—and tackled the task of applying for a new passport.
First thing, he attended at the local photographer and had two passport pictures taken. He paid in cash. The photographer did not even ask for his name.
Now for the actual application form. No trouble with entering surname or given name: right from the old passport. Date and place of birth: from the birth certificate (being a stickler for detail, he checked those facts with old passport. They agreed.) Mother’s maiden name: “Ryan,” how prescient that he had asked Mrs. Hoskins for that. Marital status: he’d have to be married to Grace Hoskins (from the old passport.) Personal characteristics; eye colour, hair colour, height, weight. He fudged that, sort of half way between what the old passport listed and what he actually was. (For instance the passport said eye colour was blue and his was a light brown so he entered hazel.)
He decided it would be too risky to hand in the old passport with the application, where the clerk might compare the picture with the applicant, but he would use the passport number and claim that the original too was stolen. He would tell the clerk he hadn’t realized how important it was to report a stolen passport, but would certainly be aware of it in the future. That should work.
Now for two guarantors. He would pick two fictitious names. Names that if the authorities looked them up on the net they would find too many to pin point which one was which. Dr. William Smith and Mary Jones. That should do it.
The next day he went to two different post offices and rented one PO box in each name. Then he visited Bell Canada and contracted for a phone in the name of Dr. William Smith and Rogers where he signed a contract for Mary Jones’ phone. That should be enough to establish a real identity for his made-to-order friends. He entered this information on the application and took it in person to the post office and mailed it to Passport Canada.
He did not receive any mail at either of the PO boxes . But he did get a call on Dr. Smith’s mobile phone.
“Hello?”
“I am looking for a Dr. William Smith.”
“You are speaking to him.”
“Dr. Smith, I am Gerald Peabody, from Passport Canada.”
“Oh yes. You must be asking about Harry Hoskins’ application.”
“I am. He submitted your name as a reference. Did you know this?”
“I did.” Jacob (or at this precise time, William Smith) had learned early on not to volunteer information to government officials—just answer their questions.
“Do you mind if I ask you a few personal questions?”
“Go ahead.”
“Are you a medical doctor?”
“No I’m a doctor of psychology.”
“Do you practice in Ontario?”
“No. I’m retired now.”
“How long have you been retired?”
“Let me see. It’s about ten or eleven years.”
“And how long have you known Mr. Hoskins?”
Jacob checked his copy of the application form. He wanted to be consistent. “It must be 15 years I would think.”
“And what was your relationship with him?”
Think quickly. “He used to be patient of mine, but when I retired we carried on as friends.”
“Did you know his family?”
“Yes. I knew his wife, Grace, though not well.”
Jacob could tell by the tone of voice of his inquisitor that he was becoming convinced that Dr. Smith was a bona fide guarantor. There were few more polite comments back and forth and then the interview ended. Jacob was quite pleased with himself.
A couple of weeks later Jacob (or rather Harry) did receive his legal passport in the name of Harry Hoskins. Finally he was all set for his trip to the US. He decided to rent a car, a compact. It would be a ten or twelve hour drive. First stop in the US would be a hardware store to buy a hacksaw. He would drive to the Evanston hiding place, and cut a slice off the gold bar to bring back. (A small amount of gold shouldn’t ring “too many alarm bells.” It wouldn’t be illegal to take a small amount into Canada, even if it were discovered.) He would rehide the rest, then throw away the saw and return to Canada.
A week later he picked up his rental car and set off. At the border he passed through the Canadian authorities without incident. However, he knew that the real test would be at US Immigration. That was the next step. He took a deep breath and drove up confidently to the rather beefy Immigration Officer leaning out the window of his booth. He handed over his passport. The officer ran it through his machine to access computer records.
“Where are you going, sir?”
“Evanston, Illinois.”
“Purpose of your visit?
“To see my sick aunt. I think she may be dying.”
The officer was non-commital. He closed the passport and extended it in his hand. “Have a good day, sir.” Then he looked at “Harry” and did a double take. “Good God. It’s Jake Macovski. I was your guard at the Chicago prison. What an amazing coincidence… Going to Evanston you say… Well, let’s just take another look at your passport shall we?”
He opened the passport again and suddenly yelled into the intercom, “CODE RED. CODE RED. I’ve got a live one here!”

13 Responses to “Our Porous Border, Chapter 1”

  1. Kucb says:

    Looks like chapter 2 may be rather short :)

  2. charles kirby says:

    Well…now we are going into Mystery Novels. As usual : Then what happened ?
    Starts off with the necessary twigging of interest, then: TO BE CONTINUED.
    Sounding good so far.CWK

  3. Joy MacFadyen says:

    I hope you don’t keep us on tenterhooks for too long. yfJ

  4. Alexis says:

    I love cliff-hangers! (Much as at the time I always want to know immediately…).

  5. Jack Long says:

    Sounds as if the story just ended for Jacob.Your creativity will be tested in the second instalment.

  6. Silvana Ness says:

    One was expecting some “contretemps” but this turn of events took me by surprise.

    The story is so compact and amusingly written, that it would be satisfying even if it ended here.

    Silvana

  7. Allycia Uccello says:

    I was really absorbed in the details of all the trouble he went to. “All the best laid plans of mice and men” A good read.

  8. Rose says:

    I love it! I Love it! I love it!! I’m imagining different scenarios here of where this could go. You are great Lyman. Please keep them coming.

    xo Rosie

  9. John Crossley says:

    You’ve done it again Lyman–what next??

    Looking forward to it.

  10. betsy ermarth says:

    Economical, sharply observed, and as usual thoroughly surprising: not just at the end but throughout so I’m laughing the whole way. AND you make it look easy.

  11. Eva L. says:

    He is pretty clever and I think that he
    will manage to outsmart everybody and end up a millionaire – what do you think, Lyman? I am anxious to hear whether you believe that in real life all the bad ones are punished and the good ones rewarded?

  12. Libby Buchanan says:

    Ithink I prefer the non violent stories with all the ghastly world news of today !!!

  13. Marie Sampson says:

    The story is perfect as it is! I love it. I cannot wait to read the other works.

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