~ Business Trip ~
by Lady J
Disclaimers: Welcome back to my world. I hope you are enjoying the ride thus far. There will be a few more twists to come but my hope is that you will continue to be entertained. As usual the following is a product of my creative processes. � February 2006
Love and sex: Not yet but stay tuned. If your birth dates do not fall before 1988, well, I have jeans older than you are. LOL Y'all know what I am saying. Please only proceed if lesbian love stories are your cup of tea, and are legal for you to read.
Violence: Well, yep there maybe a fight or two, but nothing serious.
Acknowledgments: To my betas for all the help in making me look literate. A special thanks to my readers for sticking with me through thick and thin, long periods of silence and exploding hard drives. To my wife, you will always be my inspiration.
I love visitors so please come and see me at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. You can also find me hanging out at TheRisingPhoenixfirstname.lastname@example.org. You are welcome to join us.
The unlikely group stood in the corridor for sometime in an astonished silence each lost in their own thoughts. It's quite a shock when one is hunting a snake in the brush, but ends up fighting with a mongoose in the thicket.
Patty was completely aghast and couldn't remove her eyes from that brass plaque proclaiming the name of Jason Kimbrough. "This can't be true," Patty whispered unaware that she had said anything aloud.
Tim, sensing Patty's hopelessness placed his arm around her shoulder and pulled her closer to his side. At this point it didn't seem that anything they could prove or disprove would matter now. Not if the President of the company was involved. The best they could hope for now is that they would just let Kara quit in peace, and not pursue any type of legal action against her.
Jac stoically tapped her index finger against her lips in a furtive, but contemplative manner. Blue eyes blinked slowly as she stared at the number of the office. The tall woman rolled all the facts of the 'case' over slowly in her mind. She examined each fact that the three had uncovered with a cold detached efficiency.
She knew if she was going to help Kara she couldn't let her feelings for Kara become a factor. From experience Jac knew that men, especially those men with power to wield or with highly advanced educations, expected a woman to be emotional when it came to crisis situations. Once in this emotional state a woman, in many cases, would be perceived as irrational. Once the woman is labeled emotional and irrational she was totally discredited. Apparently, whoever was behind all this knew Kara well enough to know that she would fit into this stereotypical mold. Sadly Kara proved them right.
On the other hand, Jac couldn't afford that to be the case here so she took on an air of frigid professionalism. She shrugged on this attitude as easily as if she were putting on a suit jacket. This wasn't the first time she had to do it, and she knew it wouldn't be the last. The Dragon Lady was back and she was pissed.
Jacqueline could feel the atmosphere of defeat as it crept into the heart of her little group. She would not be defeated so Dragon Lady took charge. In her most frosty tone she began to delegate. "Patty, I need you to go back to and type up a report with all our findings. Copy and print out everything you need to back up the facts." Jacqueline continued, "Tim, I need you to go and fire that reprobate Gary. But not before you rake him over the coals, the more information we get out of him the better."
"Yes Ma'am," the two chorused.
"Once we're finished, where can we find you?" Patty asked timidly.
"In Mr. Kimbrough's office."
With a huff Tim collapsed into his chair. He ran his well-manicured fingers through his wavy hair and groaned.
"....rake him over the coals, the more information we get out of him the better."
"Rake him over the coals, and me without my rubber hose or bare light bulb," Tim muttered. "What was the woman thinking? Interrogations no, interior decorating yes. Does she know nothing about me? I am the biggest, most stereotypical queen you can find this side of the Rockies, and damn proud of it." He smirked before continued to voice his thoughts. "Which means I like to pleasure men not pummel them. Well, that depends on what they're into but�" He shook his head. "�get your mind out of the gutter and back to the problem at hand."
He leaned the back of his head against the tall leather chair and slowly closed his dark eyes. This had been quite the day of intrigue, secrets, and lies. Drama always drained the life out of him. "This day has had more drama than a drag show with too many Chers." He snapped his fingers three times through the air before he settled more completely into the warm cocoon of his chair.
I need an idea. How the hell am I going to intimidate Gary? Tim thought. Gary was a tall, broad, muscular, arrogant, inbred, homophobic redneck that had worked on Tim's last nerve for much too long.
Think... think... think. It is definitely time to take the trash out, but how? John usually does that for me at home. He smirked. Take out the trash, he chuckled to himself. Take out the trash�take out the trash!
He opened his eyes. "That's it! I need somebody to take out the trash." He reached for his phone. "Whom am I speaking with?"
"Bud, hey this is Tim Stone in IS...Yeah it is a lovely day. Look I need a couple of your more beefier boys to come up here and escort a guy off the premises."
"No HR doesn't know about this yet......Fifteen minutes perfect." Click.
So in conclusion we believe that we have proven beyond any doubt that Kara Marlow had neither knowledge of, nor was a participant in any wrong doings perpetrated against this company or Jamestown. And though at this time we have no direct proof of Russell Davies involvement, we feel the eyewitness account of Timothy Strong and the confession of Gary Mandel (Providing Tim can get him to confess) sheds sufficient light on Russell Davies to warrant a full investigation.
Patty leaned back in order to admire her work. "When you're good you're good. Russell, you're so nailed."
With a flourish Patty clicked the 'print' button. She then opened her email and attached the documents to four specific email addresses. First to Jackie, then to Tim, and finally to Kara and her own private email addresses. She would have a copy in her sent box for use at the office.
"Better to be safe than sorry," Patty commented.
She listened to the printer whir while she gathered the other papers to be placed in the file. After she put all the back up documents in neat little piles, she walked over to retrieve the report from the printer's out tray. She looked into Kara's office.
Reverently she walked into the darkened office. She looked from the book cases to the shaded windows letting her gaze finally stop at the large desk. Patty smirked. She always felt the desk was too large for Kara. She felt it made her boss look like a preschooler sitting at her Daddy's desk. But Kara Marlow was no preschooler. Though she did lack skill with what she considered trivial details of the necessary but mundane day-to-day routine, she out shined all her colleagues in her ability to make the impossible possible. She was involved in each aspect of each project and had the rare talent for not being a micro manager. She would make deals on material, get accelerated completion dates from contractors, find obsolete parts while engineering in new parts to be used in future builds. She could get customers to pay outrageous sums for her work, and convince them they were getting the deal of the century. She could out negotiate, out engineer, out run any program manager she had ever seen. Patty stroked the back of the tall wing backed chair that faced the front of the desk. She admired Kara, and it truly stunned Patty that this amazing woman had no idea of just how really remarkable she really was. It was for that reason, if for no other reason, that she was going to fight for Kara and not let this golden opportunity that she had worked so hard for slip away. Especially not for a pack of fabricated lies.
"We'll bring you home, Miracle Worker," Patty addressed the empty shrine to her boss and friend. She walked out of the office closing the door softly behind her.
Jac sauntered up to Janice. "Ms. Drakkon to see Mr. Kimbrough."
"I'm sorry, Ms. Drakkon, but Mr. Kimbrough left word that he was not to be disturbed," Janice replied nervously.
A feral smile crossed Jacqueline's soft lips. She leaned over Janice's desk, picked the receiver of her phone, and handed it to the fidgeting woman. "I'm sure he will make an exception for me."
Janice took the phone and pressed a button. "Yyyyyes sir... I know, but Ms.Darkkon is here. Ok."
With a strained smile she looked up to Jac and said, "You can go in now, Ms. Drakkon."
"Thank you." Jacqueline strode passed the desk and entered the inner sanctum. Not surprisingly Jason met her at the door.
"Jacqueline," he said, offering his hand, "This isn't the best time."
"So I hear. You canceled the meeting with Darrell?" Jacqueline feigned ignorance.
"Yes." He guided her to a chair then circled his desk and sat heavily in his own chair. Jacqueline noticed all the different papers and folders scattered in front of the graying man. They were very, very similar to all the papers and folders that she had been going over in Patty's office. Her attention being distracted by the papers, she didn't hear Jason speaking.
"Did you hear what I said?" Jason asked.
"I said Kara quit this morning."
"Why?" Jacqueline asked though she knew exactly why Kara had walked out.
Jason seemed uncomfortable as he looked at the plethora of papers and folders spread out before him. "Because of all this."
"And exactly what is all this?"
Jason sighed. "These are all reports and copies of emails from the auditors. They all say that Kara embezzled funds from us and the Jamestown project."
"Emails? How long has Kara been being investigated?" Jacqueline was curious about the time line. Auditors would only come in at the very end of the project, unless alerted otherwise. It takes time to get this much paperwork together. Even longer since it had to be manufactured.
"Your guess is as good as mine. I wasn't made privy to any of this information until this morning when HR came to talk to me about it," Jason replied.
"Really, so who do you think reported all this?"
"I don't know." At that moment Jacqueline noted how haggard Jason looked.
"Well I may have some idea of what's happening�"
"You do?" Jason asked, sitting up straighter and a glimmer of hope flashed in his eyes.
"Yes, yes I do." Jacqueline stood picking up a spreadsheet that was on top of the pile, and looking it over closely. "Yes, as a matter of fact I have investigated this entire issue. Well not just me, I did have help from a couple of your more dedicated employees."
"Dedicated employees?" Jason's expression had changed from hopeful and nervous to anxious and confused.
"Yes, employees that are dedicated." Jacqueline took a dramatic pause. "Dedicated to the truth that is." She threw the paper she had just picked up back in front of him. "Would you like to hear what conclusions I've reached?"
He sat back uneasily. "Yes."
"Well, let's just cut right to the chase then. The money is really the core issue," Jacqueline started. "I've found out where those missing funds were sent."
"Where?" Jason lunged forward.
Leaning back in the chair and crossing her long legs Jacqueline let him stew for a few seconds before answering. "That's the question I have for you. Where's the money Jason?"
Where the hell are those morons? Tim thought as the towering Gary Mandel walked in.
"You wanted to see me?" Gary asked in the way of a sneer.
Tim was well aware of Gary's lack of respect for him as a manager and a person. If he had a dime for every time he over heard Gary calling him a pansy, a fudge packer, or a rump ranger he could have bought John that dream house on Fire Island. He had wanted to terminate (in more ways than one) Gary for years, but never had enough in the way of breech of protocol to do anything about him. Now Tim had all he needed to throw this Deliverance banjo boy out on his ass. Tim knew this whole scene was going to be very ugly which was why he had called in the reinforcements, which had not arrived.
Don't any of them know how to tell time? Well can't wait for them, just pray that I'm not dust before they get here.
"Yes, have a seat." Tim cleared his throat so his voice wouldn't crack.
Gary took a seat, and it creaked under the burden of his weight. No, Gary was not fat by any means. In fact Tim doubted there was an ounce of fat on him whatsoever. He was one big, no necked, muscle man. Tim fought the urge to gulp while he stood and pushed his chair under his desk. He leaned against the wall so he could put as much space as possible between himself and the incredible hulk.
"Did you work on Kara Marlow's computer?" Tim asked crossing his arms to look more casual.
"Yep, why?" Gary replied in the way of a challenge.
"I didn't see the work order on that computer. What was wrong with it?"
"Let me see..." he paused.
YEAH RIGHT. Like you can't remember.
"If I'm not mistaken it had a virus. A mean ass Trojan crashed the hard drive completely. I rescued what I could, then I reloaded some of the software that was lost or corrupted, and sent it back."
"Sounds exactly like what I would have done. So tell me, why did you change the hard drive for that machine?" Tim gathered all his strength and stared Gary down sternly.
To Tim's surprise Gary actually started to squirm.
"Didn't you hear me?"
"Yeah, I heard. What makes you think I changed the hard drive?" Gary asked, dark eyes narrowing.
Gary stared at Tim suspiciously for a time. Then slowly, to Tim's horror, Gary's face changed to a mask of anger sprinkled with disgust. Tim tried to back up, but his butt was already pressed to the chair rail that divided the office walls with a horizontal line. Tim placed his hands on the back of his chair pulling it in front of him as a meager barrier.
With a savage grin Gary spoke as he rose menacingly from his seat. "So you got me. I bet y'all think you have it all figured out don't you?" He started to sidle to his left nearing the desk's edge.
"Yes, I think I do. . I over heard you talking to Russell Davies the other morning when you brought him into the server room to show him your 'work'. I certainly hope he paid you well considering that you'll not only lose your job, but your freedom in the process." Tim sidled to the left pulling his chair between Gary and himself, leaving as much room as possible between him and the encroaching predator.
"You can't prove nothin', Nancy boy"
"I believe I can. You see I took a look at her computer and it had your fingerprints all over it." Just do it. John knows how you want to be buried. "Your work was so sloppy I could tell instantly that you were the one who tampered with her computer."
"SLOPPY? What do you mean sloppy?!" Gary growled as he stalked closer to Tim. "On my worst day I'm better than you ever hope to be. "
Tim backed up, still pulling the chair with him. He continued to verbally spar with Gary. He needed to keep the big ape talking. The more he pressed the big man, the angrier he got the more his gums flapped. "You have got to be kidding me." He laughed in Gary's red face. "Everything you did was bush league. Any high school geek could've done a better job. Hell, you didn't even think to change the documentation for that computer which has the serial number of the hard drive right on it. I bet you're stupid enough to have kept that drive in you desk drawer instead of getting rid of it."
Gary shook with rage. He pushed the chair out of his way and lunged for Tim.
"You better say your prayers, you big pansy..." Gary grabbed Tim by his collar. He lifted Tim off the floor before he growled, "Cause Ima gonna kick your lily white ass from here to Key West."
OH MY GOD! I'm gonna die.. . I'm gonna die... John, I love you...
With a strangled voice, Tim replied, "You won't be doing anything, but hitting the pavement when I report you to HR. Security is already on the way."
"Don't matter to me whose comin'. After I'm done with you, you wont be sayin' nothing to nobody for a long, long time. Damn, I've been wantin to do this for years." Gary pulled his hand back. Tim braced himself as Gary let his monstrous fist fly.
"WHAT!" he cried.
"Why yes, Jason, the funds are being forwarded to this office." Jacqueline dropped the bomb, and waited to see what shook loose. "Do you have any explanation for this?"
"No, I don't, because I have no idea what you're talking about!" Jason exclaimed the color draining from his face. "Jackie, you have somenerve accusing me!"
"I'm not accusing, I'm simply stating what my findings are." Jacqueline kept a cool demeanor.
"Stating your findings huh? Well I've got some findings of my own." He handed her a red folder that had been lying to the side of all the other papers on his desk. "Do you have an explanation for these?" he sneered as he imitated the words she had uttered not 30 seconds ago.
Jacqueline opened the folder, and read over the papers that lay within. They were emails, quite a few emails between her and Kara. Sexually explicit to the point of pornography. Her jaw clenched and unclenched as she read each epistle. If these got out she knew the impact they would have on her career. Moral turpitude, even if disproved, would place a permanent stain on her stellar career. Even though Jacqueline knew she could show these letters were total fabrications, the implications only served to fuel the fires of her wrath.
Have a care, Jason Kimbrough. It's been a long time since I had an exec for lunch and all this faldaral has made me hungry. The Dragon Lady will fry you to a crisp where you stand.
She threw the folder back on Jason's desk. Calmly she said, "Why Jason," she made a 'tisk tisk' sound by clicking her teeth, "blackmail doesn't become you."
"Whatever it takes to keep me out of this," Jason responded yet only half-heartedly; which surprised Jacqueline. When you draw a gun you better be ready to shoot. Jason wasn't ready. Jacqueline had him, so she went in for the kill.
"There is one little problem with your theory though." She paused, "I can also prove that they're all fakes. Can you? That is, can you prove that you didn't receive these hijacked funds?" She paused again, "Jason, why don't you make it easier on everyone concerned by telling me where the money is now?"
Jason threw himself back in his chair exasperated. "I don't know where the money is because I didn't have anything to do with any of this bullshit. Damn it! First Stan's breathing down my neck about this whole mess, and now you're accusing me of being the culprit."
"Stan� Stan Davies? Chairman of the Board Stan Davies? Why is he involved?" Jacqueline asked, shocked that this issue had risen so quickly to the board level.
"Yes Stan Davies. And I have no idea how he even found out about anything unless�"
"Unless Russell let the cat out of the bag. But that can't be right. Hell, I didn't even know about this cluster fuck till just a few hours ago. I don't think office gossip could spread that quickly," Jason replied rubbing his face in the process.
"Russell? Russell Davies?" Jacqueline dragged out the last name. "Is he any relation to Stan?" She had heard the name from both Patty and Tim, but didn't connect that the two could actually be related.
"Yeah, I think Stan is his uncle or great uncle or something like that," Jason answered some what fatigued. "Why?"
"Can I borrow your phone?" Jacqueline asked. She was like a bloodhound on a scent now. She hadn't believed for a moment that Jason was involved, but she had to rattle him in order to prove it. She had now shaken the tree enough to see her main suspect fall out. Russell Davies. He was at the heart of all of this, she was positive of that. She just needed a little more information to nail him to a cross. She needed to catch him with his hand in the cookie jar, but how?
Blankly Jason pushed his phone toward the tall woman. Jacqueline pulled her palm pilot from her jacket, and searched the screens for a moment. Still looking at the palm, she dialed a number, then pressed the speaker button so Jason could listen in.
"Stan Davies office," A female voice came clearly through the speaker.
"Terri, this is Jacqueline Drakkon, is Stan available?"
"Hang on a moment, Ms. Drakkon." <<>>
Both Jacqueline and Jason jumped as the voice of Stanly Davies boomed through the speaker. "Jackie, it's been a long time. Have you finally decided to sit at the big boy's table with the rest of us old geezers? Heh, heh, heh, heh!"
"Not yet Stan. I'm not ready to retire and sit around playing with my golf balls all day."
Stan's jovial laughter filled the room. "Well you know I'll keep the seat warm for you."
"Thanks. Hey, I'm down here in Florida working with the Jamestown project..."
"Oh yeah. So are you handling this Marlow situation? Nasty business that. Something like this will give us all a black eye." His tone turned grim.
"Well, the one with the biggest black eye right now is Ms. Marlow."
"All I care about is that she gets gone."
"She's gone. She quit this morning."
"Fine, good riddance to bad rubbish..." Stan harrumphed.
Jacqueline interjected, "She isn't rubbish, but a treasure. She didn't have anything to do with any of this mess. If anything her leaving is going to cost us millions in contracts."
"How is that possible? She's a thief..."
"How do you know that?" Jacqueline argued.
"Russell keeps me informed of everything that goes on down there."
"So you're saying he's your mole?" Jacqueline commented. "Doesn't say much for your opinion of him."
"He's blood, my niece's kid. He's always had delusions of grandeur." He chuckled. "Always saying how he's going to climb up the ladder and have Jason's job. Came running to me when he heard about this Marlow thing. Guess he thought Jason's lack of judgment concerning Marlow was just the thing he needed to bring Jason down."
Jacqueline noticed that Jason was seething and about to explode. She put her finger to her lips to signal his continued silence. He grumbled quietly.
"When did he come running to you with this little tidbit?"
"A week ... ummm maybe two now," Stan replied.
Jason mouthed 'what?' astonished at the time line. It was painfully obvious now that Russell had been laying this trap for a long time.
"Would it surprise you if he was the mastermind behind the embezzlement scheme? That he framed Marlow as the fall guy in order to get rid of her, and take out Jason in the process?"
Stan was quiet for a moment. "It wouldn't surprise me that he came up with the scheme, but what would surprise me is him following through with it. He's a lily livered coward on his best day."
"By C-O-B today I will be emailing you a report that exonerates Ms. Marlow and implicates Russell. Can I trust you to take appropriate action, Stan?"
"You make your case, Jackie, and leave the rest to me. He's blood... bad blood." Stan paused. "I'll be waiting on that email."
Jacqueline replaced the receiver, and leaned back in her chair. For all of her strength and confidence the longer this day went on the more drained she became. Jason looked at her in amazement.
"Russell? Russell did all this?" Jason asked his mouth slightly agape.
Rubbing her throbbing temples, Jacqueline replied, "Yes."
"But how? Why?" Just then there was a knock on the door. "Come! Jackie, he couldn't seriously have thought he would get away with any of this?"
Patty entered her arms laden with what seemed like several reams of paper. They were in actuality a number of copies of the report that Jacqueline had her put together. "Ms. Drakkon, here's the report you requested. I've made up ten complete copies. I wasn't sure how many you would need."
"Good job, Patty. When we're done here I need you to email this report to Stanley Davies at corporate." Patty nodded her assent. Jacqueline smiled a strained smile. Handing Jason a copy, she said, "I think you'll find all the answers to your questions in here."
Jason began skimming through the report. It read like a cheap detective novel. This had to be fiction, nothing like this happens in real life. "Did Tim get that confession from Gary?"
At that moment his door burst open. "I feel so butch."
Stepping into the office was a very disheveled and very bloody Timothy Strong. His hair was sticking out at strange angles. He bled from his eyes, ears, nose, and lip. One eye was almost swollen shut, that matched his lip, which was so large it appeared to be made out of rubber. His tie was gone and his shirt torn open with half a tail hanging out. One shirt sleeve was missing and his knuckles were bruised and swelling.
"What happened to you?" Patty gasped.
"Well, Ms. Drakkon wanted me to rake him over the coals so I did..." Tim began excitedly.
"My god man. I wanted you to get some information, but never intended for you to be hurt in the process." Jacqueline was aghast at Tim's appearance.
"No, no really, it's all good... Jackie... uh Ms. Drakkon." He giggled. "I'm sorry, I'm just glad to be alive."
"Gary attacked you?" Patty gasped.
"Well, let's just say he wasn't going to go gently into that goodnight so I had to help him." Tim struck a body builder's pose and tried to flex, but only managed to grimace in pain.
"Where was security when all this was going on?" Jason asked concerned with Tim's appearance. More bruises seemed to be materializing before his very eyes.
"Yeah they finally got there after I had beat him into submission," Tim proudly stated.
"You beat HIM into submission?" Patty asked skeptically.
Tim struck a pose by placing a hand on a hip and glaring at her. "I surely did Ms. Thang. Little Timmy took out the trash," he said snapping his fingers three times through the air to punctuate his point. Then he regaled them with his exploits. How Gary had attacked him and threw the first punches. Though Gary was bigger and stronger, Tim was slight and faster and had the ultimate motivation. He didn't want to die. So he fought back with the fury of a dying man. By the time security had gotten there they had to pull Tim off of a cowering Gary who was lying in a fetal position on the floor.
Patty laughed. "You better sit down before you fall down." He took Patty's advice, and flopped down in the chair that was next to Jacqueline's. Jacqueline patted him on the knee of his tattered slacks.
"But, Tim. Where is he now?" Jacqueline couldn't stifle the grin that invaded her features. He was so flamboyant and oh so proud of not being pummeled to death that you just had to smile with him.
"What's left of him was escorted to HR by security. Right now he should be giving them a statement and praying that they won't press charges," Tim answered proudly.
"But how can we prove that he tampered with Kara's computer? I mean all this computer jargon is just mumbo jumbo to me," Jason asked.
Smiling an injured grin, Tim pulled a square metal case from his pocket. "Because I have Kara's original, untainted hard drive. The dumb ass had it in his top desk drawer. This proves that any data on her computer is crap."
"Well that takes care of everything..." Patty started.
"But the money. Where the hell is the money?" Jacqueline asked mostly to herself. It was the last puzzle piece left. She would have to be put that lost piece into place before this whole nasty business could be laid to rest. But first she had to find it.
"All I know is I don't have it," Jason said.
"But it was addressed to your mail stop..." Tim started, but was interrupted by Patty.
"Yeah, but that doesn't mean that Mr. Kimbrough ever saw it."
"What are you saying?" Jacqueline asked.
"I know I open all of Kara's mail personally. All she sees is what I put in her 'in box',"" Patty explained.
"Have the last paychecks gone out for Jamestown?" Jacqueline asked Patty.
Patty paused a moment to think. "No, the last one for that job will come out today to be distributed tomorrow."
All eyes turned to Jason. "No way. I can't believe that Janice would be involved. She's been with me for fifteen years. I trust her implicitly."
"Call her in here, and let's see what she has to say," Jacqueline demanded.
"Yes, Mr. Kimbrough?" The disembodied voice wafted through the air.
"Janice, can you come in here for a minute?" Jason asked.
"Yes sir." <<>>>
"You'll see." Jason leaned back in his chair confident in his knowledge of her character. "She's the best."
His demeanor changed dramatically when Janice came into the room. It was painfully obvious, from the moment she cleared the door, that Janice was very nervous. Though she had tried to adopt a calm cool exterior the thin ruse was failing miserably.
Janice let her eyes fall on each individual before she asked, "What can I help you with, Mr. Kimbrough?"
Like a cobra, Jacqueline uncoiled from her chair and stood. She slinked to where Janice stood. Stark blue eyes pinned her with an icy stare. Janice visibly shrank before the tall woman. "We know what's going on. We know that you've been receiving funds from accounting and payroll concerning the Jamestown project. We wont prosecute if you'll tell us everything you know."
"Well if you knew everything security would already be here," Janice snapped in return.
"Not likely," Tim said under his breath.
"Perhaps we wanted to be merciful and give you the chance to confess and return the funds you obsconded," Jacqueline hissed while circling the smaller woman.
"Merciful my ass. You want me to confirm what you already have surmised so that you can pat each other on the backs and say, 'We're so smart. We figured it all out,'" Janice replied, her narrowed eyes still affixed to Jacqueline's.
"We've done exhaustive probe into�"
Janice interrupted, "How exhaustive could it have been since you've only been working on it a few hours?"
Jacqueline finished circling her prey. "Well then you must be either very smart, very stupid, or suicidal since you were the one who gave us all this paperwork so we could exonerate Kara."
"I didn't think y'all could figure your way out of a wet paper bag," Janice snarled.
"Then you're saying you are stupid," Jacqueline pressed.
"I'm not saying anything."
"Well then if you don't want to talk about the money, can you tell me why you went to check on Kara after she left the office? Hmmm? Why did you call Patty to tell her where Kara was and what had happened?"
Janice, in oppressive silence, glared at the tall VP. CHECK
"Nothing to say huh? Jason, call the police department and ask for the fraud department. Tell them we have a package for them to pick up." Check Mate.
Janice paled before this infamous corporate icon. "Doesn't matter what you do, when this gets out my life will be over."
"Don't be so dramatic. The fact that you're a thief and conspirator will only end your career. It will hardly end your life," Jacqueline snarled. She knew she was going to have to press Janice hard. She was obviously covering for Russell. Apparently she had more to fear from Russell than she did from the corporation or the law, but what was she so afraid of?
Janice's body began to visibly shake. Her bottom lip began to tremble while her eyes reluctantly spilled several tears. She held Jacqueline's eyes, but not with an air of defiance as much as desperation. "Don't know as much as you think you do. Trust me," Janice stated through gritted teeth.
"Trust you? Well that's an oxymoron if I've ever heard one," Jacqueline snickered, "Let me see what I know. I know that you took the money. I know that you tried to make Mr. Kimbrough a patsy for those funds. I know that Kara became the unwitting victim to your devious little plot. Have I left anything out?"
"Yes, you've left out quite a bit. You've left out the part where this was all Russell Davies's idea. Your sweet little Kara is not the only victim here. He's been bla--" She stopped. "Look I don't have the money anymore so just do what you need to do."
Janice looked away from Jacqueline for the first time since this confrontation had began. Jacqueline's tone changed dramatically from harsh to soft. "What information does Russell have on you that you would sacrifice everything to cover for him? Why is he blackmailing you?"
Without looking up Janice stated, "Russell found out about me and Cheryl, Ken Larkin's Admin."
"Ken Larkin, the Accounting Manager?" Jason asked.
"Whoa," Patty breathed.
After a short silence, Janice said, "Russell some how found out that we're�we're..."
"Dating?" Patty chimed in, sidling next to her long time friend, and putting her arm around Janice's slumped shoulders. Janice nodded again. "So then he had the two of you in his pocket," Patty added.
"Yeah. Cheryl would slip the fake invoice vouchers in with the valid ones. Mr. Larkin trusts her to do all the validating so he just signs what she hands him. She would then inner office them to me." Janice sighed.
"When did I lose control of my company?" Jason commented to no one in particular.
"I don't understand. Why would the two of you having a relationship have to do with anything? What would have been the consequences if you both 'came out'?" Jacqueline was confused.
Janice looked up at the VP. "I would lose my kids."
"Why?" Jacqueline was still confused. In California it was not uncommon for a family to be 'my two moms' or 'my two dads'.
"I had a messy divorce�" Janice started but then Tim chimed in to help her out.
"Ms. Drakkon, she can lose her kids because in the state of Florida if you're a gay parent, you're considered an unfit parent. Her ex could be Charles Manson and in a court of law he would be considered the 'fit' parent. Hell, gays can't even adopt. Gays are fit to foster, but not fit to adopt. Now tell me the sense in that?" Tim cut himself off before he got on his soapbox.
"That's absurd!" Jacqueline cried.
"That's the south." Tim responded.
"I see," Jacqueline replied, reality shaking it's ugly fist in her face. "Thanks for the education." She tapped her slim finger on her lips lost in thought. Everyone waited for her to speak.
"Well, we'll have to deal with Mr. Russell Davies without compromising Janice or Cheryl." Jacqueline thought out loud.
"What do you have in mind?" Jason asked seeing the twinkle in her eye.
"I'll simply make him an offer that he won't be able to refuse." Jacqueline smiled a sinister grin that sent chills up the spines of everyone in the room.
As for me, I was still drinking heavily.
"And the signs said 'The words of the prophets are"
"written on the subway walls____"
"and tenement halls'___"
"And whispered in the Sounds�"
The music slowly faded away. I emptied bottle two into my glass, and slammed it down in one gulp. My stomach gurgled.
"Hmmm. Maybe I better get somesssing to eat." I stumbled to the kitchen barely catching myself on the counter before having a close encounter with the tile floor. "Ekkk, that was close. Yessssire I need something to eat so I don't get sick. It's a good thing I'm not driving." I chuckled at my own joke. Pathetic, I know, but give me a break. I was drunk and unemployed. Maybe even unemployable looking at a stretch in Sing Sing or wherever they would send me.
"Now what do we have in here." I opened the pantry doors and perused its contents. "Yeah thass it. Puffed cheese death." I grabbed an unopened bag of Cheese Doodles and returned to my couch, but not before taking another trip (literally) to the bar.
"Guys, I have another suicide mission, who wansss shoo volunteer?"
Continued in Part 9