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The First One Falls - The Landslide is Coming July 23rd!

Here's a little something to whet your appetite! An excerpt from my soon-to-be released corporate thriller, Landslide.

Claire wondered if she’d just turned an already mildly adversarial relationship into something more contentious. Well, if he wanted it that way, then she could do nothing about it. Guilt aside, this was her moment; she’d earned it and wouldn’t let him to take that from her.

Charlie appeared in her doorway now. It was a wonder that anything actually got done in this office. “I hear you had to tell Lucas he was staying put.”

His words seemed to bring her back from her drifting thoughts. “I’m afraid so. He didn’t seem very pleased.”

“No, I don’t imagine he was. He’s a good kid, but he’s still got a lot to learn.” Charlie sauntered in, his oversized midsection leading the way and groaned as he lowered himself into the chair. The metal armrests grazed his sides on the way down. “Listen, did you happen to talk to Beth this morning?”

“I saw her when I came in, but she was on her way to Accounting for their quarterly meeting. I haven’t seen her since. Why?”

“It’s just that I know you two are pretty close.”

He was hesitating now and Claire felt a pang of nerves hit her gut. “What’s going on, Charlie?”

“Seems they found some discrepancies on her reports. Big ones. Like the kind that could bring in the SEC.”

“I’m sorry, what?” Incredulity shot from her quick and hard. “What are you saying? What kind of discrepancies?”

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) handled more than insider trading and Ponzi schemes. They enforced accounting and auditing policies and ensured the credibility of financial statements presented to possible investors. Winters Financial was a public company and had to abide by the transparency rules set by the SEC. And where the SEC was, the FBI usually followed.

“They don’t know for sure. But Liz Sherman got a call from Sea-Tech this morning. Their server was hacked into night before last and disbursements were issued to some apparently dead accounts in our system. After some research, she found that those disbursements are now missing, withdrawn from the inactive accounts in which they were posted.”

“Okay.” Claire held her hand up. “Just wait a minute.” She leaned over her desk, arms folded and dropped her voice. “Do they think Beth took the money? How is that even possible?”

“It’s only just come to light in the past few hours. She’s in with Winters, Sherman, and someone else from Accounting who handles Sea-Tech’s bills. Have you noticed Beth acting unusual lately?”

“No. Nothing out of the ordinary. This just isn’t possible, Charlie. Beth would never do something like that. Look, she called me on Monday night and asked me to take a look at the reports for Sea-Tech’s account, said things weren’t adding up. I actually stayed up until midnight reviewing them and I thought I found the problem. It looked the like the system was double posting the hours. In fact, I was going to mention it to you yesterday, but when I looked at the files again, they were fine. And then, I got sidetracked with the whole promotion thing.”

“You didn’t think it was strange that the reports were corrected, just like that?”

Did his tone sound just a little bit critical? “Well, yeah, at first, I guess. But then I just thought that I was the one who made the mistake. And…”

“And then I called you into my office and talked to you.”

“Yes.” Claire shook her head. “This just isn’t right. She was the one who called me with the problem. There’s no way Beth would risk her job. She’s a single mother, for God’s sake.”

“Well, they’re putting her on unpaid administrative leave until they know more. It shouldn’t take long to follow the money trail. You really should have come to me with this on Monday, Claire. I might’ve—I don’t know.” Charlie lifted himself up. “If you want to talk with her, that’s fine, but I wouldn’t do it from here. It’s best if you keep your distance.”

What did that mean? Did they think, in small part, because of her relationship with Beth that she might have something to do with this? No, they just promoted her, but that sure sounded like a warning coming from him.

Claire watched Charlie leave her office. She was completely shocked. So much had happened these past few days, so many good things for her and her family. None of this made sense. She’d known Beth for almost as long as she’d been working for the company. Claire knew there was no way Beth was capable of stealing. Yes, she had three kids to support, her ex-husband never gave her a dime in child support, but stealing? She couldn’t believe it, wouldn’t believe it. There had to be another explanation.

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