Niles drove back to the office. He called the county prosecutor and asked for a search warrant for the post office. The prosecutor said the earliest he could fax the warrant to him would be in the morning.
That night Tom watched the post office 2:00 AM. Niles took over and Sid came at 7:00 AM. Niles wanted to be certain the Brooks Prater did not enter the post office during the night.
At 8:26 AM Niles received a fax from the county prosecutor; the search warrant.
On his way to the post office, he told Sid he could now go on patrol. Niles walked into the post office and stepped to the counter. A round man with a postal uniform shirt sauntered to the counter.
“What do you need today?” he said.
“Books Prater,” Niles said.
Brooks sat at a desk in view of the counter. He was a small man with an elf face and buck teeth with gaps wide enough to fit a toothpick.
“I’m to busy right now,” Brooks said looking up from his desk with a wrinkled nose and toothy smile.
“I have a question, Mr. Prater,” Niles said. “Two letters were supposed to be delivered to my office and they didn’t get there, do you know anything about them?”
“Bowden,” Prater said to the clerk, “get a lost mail form. Show him how to fill it out and we’ll do a search.”
“Get up off your boney butt and do a search now,” Niles said.
“Listen, Chief,” Prater said, “This is a United State Post Office and I’m the postmaster. I have complete control over the mailing jurisdiction of this office. If I deem anyone a threat to this office, me, or any of my carriers we can make things very difficult for mail delivery. You are not better than anyone else. They have to go through procedures and so do you. Fill out the form and we’ll handle it from there.”
“You’re a smug little man,” Niles said. “I’m less than a minute from turning in my badge and dragging you to the end of the pier and tossing you in.”
Niles pushed open the door beside the counter and stood in front of Prater’s desk.
“I’m ordering you out of here,” Prater said. “You are trespassing on federal property.”
Niles reached into his coat pocket, pulled out a paper, and tossed it on Prater’s desk. “It’s a search warrant. I’m searching for my letters. You and your clerk can watch, but don’t touch anything.”
“You can’t come busting in here like this,” Prater said.
“Prater, get up from your desk,” Niles said. “If those letters are anyplace, they’re in your drawer.”
“I’m not leaving my post,” Prater said.
“That’s resisting a warrant,” Niles said. “You are making it so easy for me to lock you up. And this town would throw me a parade for doing it. Now get up before I put you under arrest.”
“I’m not moving,” Prater said.
“Fine,” Niles said. “You’re under arrest for interfering with a search warrant,” He walked behind Prater’s chair slapped one cuff on his right hand and cuffed him to the chair. Niles grabbed the back of the chair and shoved it across the room. “Your wheels need oiled.”
“Okay,” Niles said. “I don’t see you as very bright. So I’m thinking bottom drawer right-hand side.” Niles opened the drawer. He pulled two letters from the back. He looked at the address. “Bingo, former Postmaster Prater. I’m calling your district office. Looks like mail fraud, theft, or something like that, but from my end it’s interfering with a police investigation, hiding and concealing evidence. Niles looked at Bowden. “This is the time to fess up if you know anything else. If you don’t, I’ll just say you’re uncooperative, that means no breaks for you.”
“Don’t say anything without a lawyer,” Prater said.
“Oh,” Nile said, “back to you. Resisting a warrant. resisting arrest. I’m just getting started and after Bowden rolls over on you for a deal, I think we’re going to find a whole host of stuff to lay on you. I think they have mail sorters in prison. Brooks, Brooks, wasn’t there a TV program named Our Miss Brooks. That will be your name in prison.”
“So here’s the deal,” Niles said. “I’m detaining you two over at my office until I call the regional post office and the FBI. I’ll let them handle it from there.”
“All you got is a couple of letters that I forgot to deliver,” Prater said.
“No,” Niles said. “You have two letters you lied about. During my search, I noticed three prescription bottles and a stack of lost mail inquiries, likely never investigated. We have some reports of a few old folks who haven’t received their mail-in prescriptions; I’m suspicious by nature.”
Niles phoned the regional postal office from the post office. They told him to lock the post office and hold Prater and Bowden.
Niles marched them down the street to headquarters and put them in the same cell.
Within an hour four postal inspectors descended upon the post office and two FBI investigators took Prater and Bowden into custody.
Niles called Izzy. “Is Izzy there?”
“Hello, Izzy, this is the Chief. Come on down to my office, have I got a story for you.”
Izzy posted a special online report of The Beacon and able to sell the story to The Portland Press Journal.