by Shawna Robison Young
Pizza and coffee? Not sure about that combination, but Paul Wright seems to like it. Chapter eleven introduces Connie’s closest brother, Paul. Will he answer her call? Read on to find out. Maybe glean a few good clues along the way…
Paul Wright stepped out of his police cruiser and headed toward his front door where his wife and little girl waited. The rising, morning sun peeked through the trees and momentarily blinded him.
“Hey guys. Why are you up so early?” He stepped onto the porch and leaned in to give his wife a kiss.
Maggie returned it. “You know the early bird gets the worm.” Smiling, she nodded towards their daughter who always rose before the sun no matter how late they put her to bed.
Little Teagan wrapped her arms around his legs. “Daddy, I just gotta see you every morning before you go to sleep. How was your beat? Did you serve and protect?”
“Always.” Paul lifted his daughter into his arms and tapped her nose. He loved it when she used police terminology. It reminded him how much she listened and watched him. “Were you a good girl last night? Did you help, mommy?”
Teagan nodded. “I washed the dishes.”
“Good girl.” He placed her on the ground and spun her around by her fingertips.
“Connie called last night.” Maggie’s voice and eyes held worry.
Paul let go of Teagan’s hand. “Is she okay?”
“Your sister fears that something fishy is going on at the foundation. They’re having some financial trouble, apparently. Her and your father’s account accesses are inactive, and passwords aren’t working either. It does all sound a little sketchy. Your parents are out of town. Your other siblings have all weighed in, but she’s beginning to wonder if there’s something criminal going on. I didn’t want to bother you at work, but I think something might be up. Connie reached out to your brothers and sisters. That, in itself, proves that she really believes something bad is going down.”
Maggie was right. Connie needed him, and he would be there for her. He had the next couple of days off. He looked down at his watch. A five-hour drive would get him to Chicago around noon. So what if he’d been up all night working a twelve-hour shift?
Nothing a little coffee wouldn’t fix. He’d get some shut eye later after helping his baby sister.
“I already made you a breakfast sandwich and a thermos full of black coffee.” Maggie raised an eyebrow. “You are planning to go to her, right? Not just call?”
He kissed his wife’s cheek. “Ah, you know me so well.”
She squeezed his hand. “Best husband, dad, and brother on the planet. Connie is lucky to have you. We all are.”
He gave her another kiss. “I’m the lucky one.”
“You better head out soon. I’ll call Connie and tell her you are on the way.”
His sister had a wild imagination from time to time and tended to see a mystery when there was none to be found, but it wouldn’t hurt to do a little investigation work if it eased Connie’s mind. Besides, she had a good head on her shoulder. If she felt something was wrong, then she was more than likely right.
Five hours later, he pulled into the parking lot. The foundation building hadn’t changed much in five years since he’d visited last, and according to his parents even most of the volunteers remained the same too. It appeared nearly all of them were out to lunch now except for Mrs. Hodges who waved from her reception chair as he walked through the door.
Her smile spread across her wrinkled face. “Well, well, look what the cat dragged in.”
“Hello, Mrs. Hodges. Is Connie around?”
“She’s back in the volunteer accountant’s office. She’s been working herself to the bone trying to figure out why some of the donors are reportedly giving less than they pledged. It isn’t true of course, but I think she feels responsible for this situation. Thank goodness you’re here. You are her knight in shining armor.” She winked. “You know that, right.”
He nodded. He’d taken his role as big brother seriously since the day she’d been born.
“Sometimes I feel like the only one in the family who stands up for that girl.” He shook his head. “I don’t get it. She’s a gem and has worked so hard to achieve all she has at such a young age. I don’t know why they count her out.”
“Plight of being the baby of the family.” She gave him another wink and then answered the ringing phone.
Paul slipped into the volunteer wing of the building and quietly opened the door to the office. Connie sat in the chair, facing the bulletin board behind the desk, her back turned away from the door. He snuck in and wrapped his arms around her.
She swung around and smacked him. “Paul, don’t do that. You scared the bejabbers out of me.”
He patted the top of her head, the same way he always did. It was his affectionate and fun way of calling her short and him tall. “You were daydreaming about crimes and murders and such, I assume.” He raised an eyebrow at her. He loved teasing her.
She winked. “Not this time.” She tottered her head back and forth. “Well actually, maybe I was a little. I can’t shake the feeling that Clint—the new accountant . . . Have you met him?”
“No, but Dad raves about how amazing he is.”
Connie pointed toward him. “Exactly. I don’t think Dad is seeing the full picture. Our emails associated with our bank accounts and my foundation passwords aren’t working. And the donors are, reportedly, lowering their donations or stopping their payments altogether. According to Clint, but he’s out of town, lounging in a luxury hotel, so I can’t ask him any questions.”
She pulled the sticky note from her pocket that had been shaded to show several numbers and letters. “And why would Clint write 1.5 million? Is that how much he’s trying to steal from the foundation?”
“You really think the new accountant is taking money from the donors and the foundation?”
She continued talking, obviously unaware he’d asked her a question. “Of course, I guess anyone could have written that number down, but he’s the one most often working in here.”
Paul pointed to the note. “I see I’ve taught you well. You rubbed the imprint off onto this sticky note?”
“Yes, how else does one find evidence on a crook?” She flashed him a winning smile. “But seriously. I need something to prove Clint is up to something. I feel it in my bones. Something is off about him. Mama and Dad may not see it, but I do.”
Paul nodded. Once his sister had her suspicions she ran with it. That was for sure. “I believe you are on to something, but we need to look at all angles. Who else could possibly have both the access and ability to tap into the donors’ information? Or the know-how to change the passwords.” He pointed to the computer. “You mind if I take a look and see what I can dig up.”
She stood. “Please, do.”
He plopped into the chair. “Give me an hour or so.”
“Do you need anything from me?”
“How about a cup of coffee? Black.”
“And I’ll order us a Chicago-style deep-dish.”
He clapped his hands together once then pointed at her. “Best sister ever.”
Some time later, Paul wiped pizza sauce off the side of his mouth with the back of his hand then took another swig of his coffee. The scanning of the hard drive would have come faster if the volunteer computer wasn’t ancient and if he had access to the search programs at his station, but he was making some headway. Only a few files left on the drive.
A male voice along with Connie’s came from down the hall. Paul didn’t recognize the other voice. Perhaps the missing man had returned? He should go out and introduce himself.
He paused and straightened glancing up at the door. The voices seemed to get softer, like they were moving away.
Good. He really wanted to finish this.
He clicked on a file labeled W.F.D.L.B. Inside the file, folder upon folder filled the screen. Twenty-seven untitled folders in total, twenty-six of them empty. He clicked on the last unnamed file.
Inside of it a blank folder labeled B.B.T. held a Word document of names underlined with hyperlinks. Connie. Dad. Clint Rutherford. Anna Hodges. Diana Carson, the rest of the volunteers, along with people and companies he knew to be long-standing donors to the foundation and several he didn’t recognize. He slid his finger down the list.
Bahama Bank and Trust? Had they partnered with the Wright Foundation? They did have donors from all over the world. The folder was labeled B.B.T. Did that stand for Bahama Bank and Trust? He clicked on the hyperlink. It went to their website. Was this the account where the donors were directed to send their money?
He should ask Connie, but that could wait.
He clicked through several of the other hyperlinks. Each one pulled up email addresses, phone numbers, and addresses for the donor, volunteer, or company.
He finally reached Clint Rutherford’s name. Same as all the rest of the links—a breakdown of his contact information. Nothing suspicious. Except . . . a second page? With another hyperlink for something called, “goalscrbbt1.5m.” He clicked it and it took him to a yahoo email account password box.
Hmm. I wonder.
He entered the letters from the post-it note that Connie gave him. The email account opened.
Paul clapped his hands together once and pointed to the screen. Bingo. Everything he needed to prove Connie’s suspicions were correct glared at him from the screen. Something shady was going down at foundation.
“That-a-girl, baby sister. You are definitely, the right Wright for the job.”
What has Paul figured out?
Come back tomorrow for some revelations!
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