Home » NEWS » Arts & Entertainment » PHIL HARDWICK’S THE ALIBI, a serial novel: Chapter 4: The Press Conference and a Lead

PHIL HARDWICK’S THE ALIBI, a serial novel: Chapter 4: The Press Conference and a Lead

Alibi-graphic_rgb» Jack Boulder, Mississippi’s premier private investigator, seeks to recover the special Brett Favre MVP exhibit that has been stolen from the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame & Museum.


Monday, March 2

Jackson, Mississippi

At noon, Captain Robert Richards, Special Operations Unit of the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation, proceeded to a podium set up in the front of the Trustmark Conference Center  of the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and Museum. Richards’ massive hands gently clutched the sides of the podium as his six-foot six frame towered above it. Standing behind him were Captain Lewis of the Jackson Police Department, Agent Sheila Burgess of the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation and Chad Montgomery, Executive Director of the Sports Hall of Fame and Museum. In an efficient and matter-of-fact voice he read the official statement.

» READ MORE: Chapter 1: The Break-In


“This past Saturday morning the Jackson Police Department received a call regarding a burglary at the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and Museum.  Investigation revealed that sometime during the early morning hours of Saturday a person or persons somehow gained entry to the museum and took the exhibit featuring the NFL Most Valuable Player trophies on loan from Brett Favre.  At this time there are several persons of interest as our investigation continues.  The Mississippi Bureau of Investigation and the Jackson Police Department are coordinating efforts in the investigation.

“At this time I am also announcing that there is a $5,000 reward for the return of the exhibit.  Persons with information regarding the trophies should call the toll-free number, 1-800-555-8433 or the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation.  Information will be kept confidential.”

He lifted his head, indicating that he was available for questions.  A young, attractive female television reporter wasted no time.  “Captain, when was the theft discovered, and who discovered it?”

“It was discovered by the museum staff when they arrived at the normal start of the day on Saturday,” he replied.

Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame

Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame

“Wasn’t there an alarm?” she said.

“The alarm apparently had been disabled by the perpetrator, and did not sound.”

A reporter for a daily newspaper was next.  “You said that there were persons of interest.  Are they employees of the museum?”

“No.  At this point we have no reason to believe that any museum employees were involved,” Captain Richards replied.

“So how are there persons of interest?” came the follow-up.

“We have video evidence that we are reviewing,” Captain Richards said.

“Are you going to release the video?” the reporter continued.  “That seems common in most cases.  Somebody may be able to identify the burglar.”

“That is really not applicable in this case,” the Captain said abruptly.  “Other questions.”

There were none, so Captain Richards took the opportunity to repeat the toll-free number.

Within half an hour the story was “Breaking News” on television stations in Mississippi.  Within an hour it had reached the national sports talk shows.  It did not take much longer for the cable news channels to begin carrying the story.

Less than an hour after the press conference Jack Boulder, the private investigator hired to recover the trophies exhibit, received a call from Laura Webster, whose law firm was handling the 800-number calls.

“Jack, I think we may have something,” she said.  “We received a call from a girl named Jenny Westbrook.  She thinks her boyfriend may have some information.  Can you meet them at the Primos Cafe in Ridgeland at one-thirty?”

“What’s the deal?”

“She says that he may be accidentally involved.  She’s afraid to go to the police because she works for a law firm.  She and the boyfriend want to talk to you before they go to the police.  It may not be anything, but I talked to her personally, and I can tell you that she is really worried about his possible involvement.”

“Okay,” Boulder replied.  “I’ll be there.”

“She said she will be wearing a red sweater.”

“Have you gotten very many calls?”

“We’re already over a hundred,” she said. “When it got started on the social networks it became an avalanche. I’ve got four paralegals on the phones right now.”

Boulder arrived at the cafe at 1:20 p.m., ordered a cup of coffee and took a seat where he could see the front door. A few minutes later he observed a young couple walk into the cafe.  The girl wore a bright red sweater and black slacks.  He wore jeans and a high school letter jacket.  Boulder made eye contact, but remained seated as they approached.

“Mr. Boulder?” she asked timidly.

He stood up.  “That would be me.  Please have a seat,” he said, motioning to a chair at the table.

She introduced herself and then said, “This is my fiancé Bobby Gates. He has something he would like to tell you.”  Bobby looked down at the floor and put his hands together.  She placed a hand on his leg.  Then he looked up at Boulder and began telling his story.

“Well sir, it’s like this.  I have this what you might call a parcel delivery service…”

“But he’s got his application in with UPS and FedEx,” she gently added with a smile.

“I got a call last week from a man asking me if I did after-hours deliveries,” he continued.  “I told him I did deliveries twenty-four hours a day.  He said that he would like for me to pick up a package at the front door of a business on Briarwood Drive in north Jackson and deliver it as the instructions would say on the box.  He said that I was to be available Saturday morning between four o’clock and five o’clock a.m. and that he would call me on my cellphone.  At four-fifteen that night my phone rang and he gave me the address and told me to pick up a box that would be sitting in the front door of the building and to deliver it to the address on the box.  I went straight to the address and found the box sitting right there at the front door.  There was an envelope on the box with my name on it.  I opened the envelope and there was a piece of paper that said to take the box to the truck stop at the Canton exit on Interstate fifty-five.  It said to put the box on top of pump number nine and then drive away.  I did what I was told by the customer.  That’s all I have to say.”

“Bobby is a good driver and good at following instructions,” Jenny said.

“How would someone know to call you if they wanted a package delivered?” Boulder asked.

“What do you mean?”

“Do you have a classified ad in the newspaper?”

“No.  I use Craigslist. I’m getting more business that way,” Bobby said.

“Tell me about the man’s voice.  Did he sound old?  Young?  Did he sound like he was from around here?”

The girl turned her head toward him.

“Oh, yes sir.  He was from here.  He didn’t sound like a Yankee if that’s what you mean.  He just sounded like a regular person.”

“Did he sound Black? White? Latino?”

“Oh he was definitely white.”

“How much did you tell him that it would cost?”

“Now that’s where this gets a little strange if you know what I mean,” Bobby said.  “I told him fifty dollars plus fifty cents per mile.  Well, in the envelope there was another envelope.  A smaller one.  And inside the smaller envelope was three hundred dollars in twenty dollar bills.”

“May I see your cellphone?” Boulder said.

Bobby reached into his jacket pocket, and said, “OK.  Why?”

“You’ll see.”  The private investigator took the device, flipped it open and began punching buttons as Bobby and Jenny stopped eating and started watching.  Boulder studied the phone and then said, “Just as I suspected.  The call on Wednesday was from a cellphone, but there is no caller ID.  The Friday night call instructing you to pick up the package was probably from a pay phone.  My guess is that it is within sight of the spot where the package was left for you.”

“How do you know the call was from a pay phone?” Jenny asked.

“The first number of the last four digits is a nine.  That’s almost always the case with pay phones.”

“What route did you take from where you picked up the package to where you dropped it off?” Boulder asked.

“I went straight to the Interstate and then to the truck stop,” Bobby replied.

“Did you notice anybody following you?”

“No sir.  And there was hardly anybody out that night, so I would have noticed.”

“How much do you think the package weighed?”

“At least ten pounds.  Probably more.”

“What was the weather like?”

“Cold as heck,” Bobby said.

Boulder asked several more questions designed to verify that Bobby was telling the truth.  He had no reason to doubt the young man, but good procedure dictated this policy.

“What should we do now?” Jenny asked.  “Is Bobby in trouble?”

“From what he’s told me I don’t see where he has done anything illegal.  But I’m not up to speed on the latest laws.  Bobby, I’m going to give you the name of a state investigator.  Call her later today and tell her everything you told me.”

“Do we get the reward money?” Jenny asked.

“That will depend on whether the item is recovered and how valuable the information you gave turns out to be.  We really appreciate your calling and for talking to me.”

Boulder took out a small notepad and wrote down Bobby and Jenny’s contact information.  He handed each of them one of his business cards. He then drove to the location on Briarwood Drive where Bobby had picked up the package.  The building was a concrete block structure with a large plate glass window on the front.  It was also vacant.  He got out of his car and peeked though the glass.  Judging from some old signs and shelving it appeared that its last use was as a paint store.  The parking lot had spots of brown grass here and there.  He made a 360-degree scan of the area and noticed a drive-up pay phone at a convenience store about 30 yards away on an intersecting street.  He got back in his car, drove to the phone and inspected the number on the box.  Sure enough, it was the same number in Bobby’s cellphone.  So Bobby was called from here at  around 4 a.m. The caller probably waited here and then received a call when the exhibit was removed from the museum, and then waited and watched until Bobby picked up the package.  Bobby sounded certain that he was not followed, so this caller may have called someone else to tell them that Bobby and the package were on the way.  The caller would have used a cellphone for the other calls, but it would not hurt to suggest that the pay phone call record be checked.

Boulder called MBI Agent Sheila Burgess and told her about his conversation with Bobby Gates.  He also told her where he was and that he had verified where the phone call to Bobby had come from.

“OK,” she said.  “Can you meet me at the truck stop in thirty minutes?”

“I’m on the way,” Boulder said. “See you at pump number nine.”

» NEXT WEEK:   The Truck Stop Video


… we’d like to ask for your support. More people are reading the Mississippi Business Journal than ever before, but advertising revenues for all conventional media are falling fast. Unlike many, we do not use a pay wall, because we want to continue providing Mississippi’s most comprehensive business news each and every day. But that takes time, money and hard work. We do it because it is important to us … and equally important to you, if you value the flow of trustworthy news and information which have always kept America strong and free for more than 200 years.

If those who read our content will help fund it, we can continue to bring you the very best in news and information. Please consider joining us as a valued member, or if you prefer, make a one-time contribution.

Click for more info

About Phil Hardwick

Leave a Reply