On the afternoon of March 19, 1998, a UPS driver named Armand Gevry delivered a cardboard box to the pea-green house at 3 Washington Street in Fair Haven, Vermont. Gevry lives two blocks away, and when Sheila Rockwell opened the door, she recognized him as the deliveryman who often brought shipments of citizen's band radio equipment to her son.
It was a cold, gray day outside—light snow changing to sleet changing to rain—so she quickly took the package from Gevry, thanked him, and shut the door. Rockwell, a weathered woman of 52 with hard blue eyes and wispy brown hair, carried the box down the hallway of her modest home.
Chris Marquis was talking on his new Ranger RCI 2990 radio with his girlfriend, Cyndi McDonald, when his mother brought the package into his wood-paneled bedroom. His 6-foot frame was hunched over the microphone on his desk, his dirty-blond hair was swept forward across his forehead, and a thin mustache fuzzed his upper lip.
Rockwell handed the 2-foot-long box to her son. She didn't recognize the return address, so she sat down on Chris's bed, curious to see what was inside.
Chris continued chatting with Cyndi. The name and address on the box—Samantha Brown, 1863 South High Street, Bucyrus, Ohio—didn't ring any bells for him either.
"I got a package in the mail," Chris told Cyndi. He'd met her two years earlier as a quiet, sweet voice on Channel 1. Cyndi was now in the 11th grade, a year ahead of Chris, but she attended school in Whitehall, the next town over. Their favorite date was a meal at the McDonald's on the far edge of Fair Haven.
"What is it?" Cyndi asked. "Who's it from?"
"Hold on. I don't know," Chris answered, as he grabbed his jackknife from the holster on his belt and slit the box open. Inside was a slightly smaller box made of styrofoam.
"Well, it's probably a bomb, then," Cyndi joked.
The explosion knocked Chris and his mother to the floor.
To his acquaintances online, Chris Marquis wasn't a teenager living with his mother. He was 27 years old, a father, and the proprietor of a Vermont store called the CB Shack. That was the identity Mark Sischo encountered earlier this year on the RCI Federation Web site, where CBers post messages to buy or sell the well-regarded brand of radios—RCIs—made by Ranger Electronic Communications.
"Chris had a message up," Sischo, who lives in Michigan, recalls. "It said, 'Anybody looking to buy, sell, or trade radio equipment, email me.' I had some stuff that I couldn't sell around here, so I was gonna do a trade." After corresponding by email, Chris taught Sischo how to use Mirabilis's ICQ software so they could chat in real time. They discussed the relative merits of Rangers and Unidens and Cherokees and Cobras. Chris, who used "Psycho" as his email name and CB handle and dubbed himself "PhantomOp" on ICQ, revealed his real name to Sischo. He also griped about his wife, sent a digitized picture of his daughter by email, and pointed Sischo to a Web page he'd set up to advertise the CB Shack.