For the record: All characters engaging in any sexual activities are at least 18 years of age!
A huge thanks to my editor RFFAST for his work fixing all my errors.
To be familiar with the characters, it would help to read previous chapters of the story, or you might miss out on some of the references in this part.
Ryan went back to Harvard, and Ray and I went into work with May. She immediately started giving Megan the rundown on the trip and showing some of the pictures she took.
“Don’t worry. You will get your turn for a trip soon enough, but next weekend, it will just be family.” Ray said, brightening Megan’s day.
She hugged Ray, then me and rushed back to her desk outside with May. A few minutes later, May put through a call from the officer in charge of the fraud squad.
“Mr. Gardner, Pulson has asked for a deal, it involves the return of some of the unspent money that he says he has stashed. I was wondering what your thoughts are on this because we are willing to talk with him if you are.” The officer said, and Ray looked peeved.
“I would be worried he is bullshitting, but we should listen to what he has to say. There are still millions unaccounted for.” Ray said, and looked over to me, worried.
“I will talk it through here and get back to you.” He said, and pushed the button on the speaker.
“The money would be better back in the business, it’s stopping us from doing profitable deals, but I hate the idea of him getting off lightly.” Ray said, throwing his pen onto the desk.
“Do you know the amounts missing, and could you have an educated guess as to what’s left?” I asked, keeping Ray on the problem, not the emotions.
“May, get Margaret and Maxine in here as soon as you can.” Ray said, jumping into action.
“They are waiting in the outer office when you are ready, Ray.” May said, over the intercom fifteen minutes later.
“OK, we have to come up with our best guess as to what money each of them has left, hidden away. I don’t want to go in there blind because as much as I want to see them rot in prison, the company employees rely on their jobs, and that money could be use much more productively.” Ray said when they were all assembled.
“I can only tell you the total taken and what we have recovered over the last four years, and I could probably estimate what was spent on the house in Bahama and the staff. What they blew on girls, booze, and drugs are harder to say.” Maxine said, trying to write down some notes.
I need some ballpark figures before I go in there on Wednesday, so get on it.” Ray said, and looked at Margaret.
“I will come up with some figures for the other assets he could have spent money on, but my guess a guy like Pulson will hold back some money or something he can sell to set him up for when he gets out.” Margaret said, looking worried.
“Check his wife’s assets and background and put an investigator on her and his son. Let’s shake their tree good and hard, and see what falls out.” Ray said, and May ushered them out the door, as Ray was looking tired.
On Wednesday morning Ray and I headed into work with David. I did flash him a little as he held the door and kissed him on the cheek when we got to the building. Maxine presented Ray with some numbers that put the unfound money at $3.9 mil but said it could be well over $4 mil. Margaret said the investigator was working on his family and would get back to me as soon as he could.
We headed down to the jail that held Pulson and met Allan, the head of the task force in the carpark. “We will need you to approve the plea bargain before we go ahead. It’s your money, but from what I have seen in prior cases, getting anything back is rare.” He said, putting it in focus for us.
“If I think we are getting nothing from him, I would rather him get the maximum penalty available. It sends the wrong message to others in powerful positions that they can get away with this kind of shit.” Ray said, and turned to head in through the gates.
After many searches and signing in, we were led to a room with Pulson sitting cuffed at a desk. As soon as we stepped into the room, his head dropped, and any bravado seemed to leave him.
“I am here to offer you my apology and return the unspent money in exchange for getting some of my life back, I’m an old man, and twenty years would effectively be a life sentence for me. I can tell you where $1.45 million is held in an offshore account. I will give it to you and the account numbers for the other two, and take the lighter sentence of four years they are offering. My life is already in tatters for my mistake. Please, I am begging you.” Pulson said, his head down. It felt natural, but he could be just a good actor.
“Where is the other 3 million, Andrew? You are a little short. The other two would be minor partners in this. Their accounts won’t have 1.5 mil each.” Ray said, leaning over Pulson.
“That’s all I have left, Ray. Your father and I go Lefkoşa Escort back years. Please.” Pulson said, but the humility had cracked a little when he looked up, but he dropped his head again quickly to hide it.
“I will think it over,” Ray said, his face in a grimace when he turned to grab my hand.
We picked up our phones at the door, and Ray told Allan he would let him know his answer tomorrow. As soon as we got in the car, there was a ping from Ray’s phone.
“Hi Mr. Gardner, I have contacted Mr, Pulson’s wife, and she would like to meet with you as soon as you can arrange it. I haven’t found anything strange with her finances. She is living in a rundown hotel with her Son and is struggling to pay the bill.” He said, in his voicemail, that Ray put on speaker.
“He is holding most of it back for when he gets out. Prick can’t even lay straight in bed.” I said, sure if he was happy to hurt his wife and son, he was just putting it on for our benefit.
“May, could you get the investigator to have Mrs. Pulson come into my office as soon as she can? Tomorrow is too late, got it?” Ray said, and David headed the car back the way we came.
“Ray, Mrs. Pulson will be in the office at 2:30.” May announced, soon after we returned to his desk.
“Why don’t you lean back in your chair for a few minutes and close your eyes. I want you to have some energy for me when we get home tonight.” I said, hoping it might give him some motivation to rest for half an hour.
“OK, you got me. I will lay back here but don’t let me sleep too long. I will just be groggy later, and I need to be sharp when I need to talk to this lady.” Ray said and pushed his chair back and closed his eyes.
I texted May to hold all his calls for the next hour, and she texted back a wink emoji, thinking we were fooling around, but I was saving that for later.
“Mrs. Polson, to see you.” May called over the speaker, startling me out of my nap, and when I looked over to Ray, he was shuffling papers on his desk and turning them over to hide their contents.
“Did you get any sleep?” I asked, and Ray smiled.
“A little, but you looked so cute with a dribble coming from the corner of your mouth.” he said, making me wipe at my chin.
“You were supposed to rest.” I said, but he didn’t look too tired.
“I’m OK Beautiful. Send her in, May.” Ray said, and the smile left his face.
“Mrs. Pulson, you had something to say to me?” Ray asked, holding a steady gaze.
“Ray, I thought when I married Andrew, I would have a better life for myself and my son. It turns out that I have just wasted ten years of my life loving someone who couldn’t or wouldn’t love me back. God, I’m such a fool, but I’m not as stupid as he thinks. I saw some things that didn’t make sense at the time but now have a totally different meaning.” She said, wiping at the corner of her eye.
“I am sorry for the position this puts you and your son in. I can promise you that I would never wish this on you, but here is where we have found ourselves.” Ray said, remaining very calm.
“Andrew has offered to give back some of the money for a reduced sentence, and I am inclined to take the deal.” Ray said, and watched her reaction closely.
“Oh, No!” She said, and started to sob.
“Are you OK, Mrs. Pulson?” Ray said, coming around and giving her a tissue.
“I don’t want him near my son. David thinks Andrew is the king of the world. I don’t want him thinking that stealing from your employer is an acceptable way of getting ahead. My father was poor and came home with sore hands every night after working on oil rigs. Mom would massage them while he watched TV every night. But he was an honest man. Thank God he is gone now. He would be so ashamed of me.” She said, her head hung low as she quietly sobbed in the tissue.
“I thought he had sent you to plead his case.” Ray said, returning to his seat.
“No, I don’t want to ever see him again, and I don’t want a cent of his dirty money. I can only honor my father’s name by starting again and changing my last name back to his. I know the address and locker number of a storage locker he has. He kept it from me, and I just thought he had some bikes or other man stuff in it, but I think it might be more than that now. I know it’s a two-car garage size according to the paperwork I saw, but what is in it, I have no idea.” She said, looking Ray in the eye.
“What do you get out of this? I know you both are doing it hard right now, correct?” Ray said, without flinching.
“I don’t want anything from you. I need some work, but that would not be easy because some of the staff have seen me at functions. I would only ask if you could look around and ask your associates to see if they would need a secretary with twelve years of experience. I work hard, my name is now Conny Rodriguez. I’m a girl from a small Texas town.” Connie said, and lifted her head to look at Ray then me.
“So, no finder’s fee or anything.” Ray said, trying to help her Girne Escort out.
“I might get something from the house when it’s all sold up.” Connie said, handing over a slip of paper from her purse.
Connie stood to leave with as much dignity as she could muster, but she stumbled on her long but shaky legs. Ray stood to go to her, but I was only a few feet from her side and took the few steps to draw her into an embrace. I could feel her body shaking and her chest heaving with each sob that came from her body. I couldn’t help but feel for her as I had seen her future so recently in my own, and I looked at Ray sadly.
“Come with us to the locker, and let’s see what he is hiding Connie, I might need someone to help go through the junk to find anything of value.” Ray said, then shrugged his shoulders to me like it was the only thing he could think of at the time.
“I’m only worried it will be a bust and just full of empty boxes and used tires, like most of the ones I have seen on TV.” Connie said, but her mood picked up a little at the thought of being useful.
We met Allan at the locker, and his badge got us in without much fuss. The attendant took us down to the large roller door and used a set of bolt cutters to cut the lock. When we rolled up the door, I was met with a feeling of let down with an old car without wheels peeking out from an old tarp.
Ray strode forward and pulled off the tarp to reveal an old open-top sports car that I only kind of recognized. Allan and Ray looked over the car as Connie and I looked a little deeper into the darkness. I saw a switch on the wall, and when I flicked it, a pair of fluorescent lights flickered a few times then cut right through the gloom.
“Wow, it goes back a long way, and it’s stacked to the roof.” I said, as I looked through to the back of the unit.
“OK, I will start handing stuff out to you, and you stack them up to the side.” Allan said, looking at Connie and me.
It only took a few minutes to have a good pile of paintings and framed pieces filling the small hallway. Allan came out of the unit covered with dust.
“There are a lot of the parts for that car in the back, but I’m not lifting them out right now. What do we have out here?” Allan asked, as he brushed off his clothes.
“I don’t really want to answer that because it makes me look so bad, but Andrew has been listening to more of my art chatter than I thought as there are exquisite artworks here. The value of the pieces is in the hundreds of thousands. I don’t know anything about the damaged car or the sports memorabilia.” Connie said, worry written all over her face.
“That car wreck is the body of a Shelby AC Cobra and is worth over a million when it’s restored. Even the shell with the original title tag is worth a lot on its own.” Allan answered, and Ray was nodding.
“It’s another thing I will probably buy off the company for myself and get the restoration done properly. It’s too easy to stuff it up with the wrong parts and kill the value. I think it would be a cool project for my son and me to do together.” Ray said, making me feel all warm inside.
“If the art is not stolen, it will be easy to sell and recoup its value, and I don’t think any of it has dropped in price lately. I can see why he did this. It would only be worth more in five years when he gets out.” Connie said, shaking her head.
“I don’t think Andrew is dumb, just has questionable morels. Anyway, it looks like we have found you your first job. I need you to catalog all the art and collectibles here and get them moved to the house for safekeeping, and then we need to find a buyer for each. I don’t want a fire sale and kill the value. So, we need to do it over a reasonable time frame. If your son is looking for work, he can help.” Ray said, and a smile came to her face.
We left Connie waiting for the truck, making notes with Allan, and we went back to the office. May came straight in and gave us a rundown on the messages while Megan came over the intercom, letting Ray know Maxine was waiting.
“Send her in.” Ray said, and sat behind his deck.
“I think I found another bank account in Switzerland, I haven’t found the ones from the other two jerks, but I am sure I can, given enough time and with someone like Ryan to help. It will happen.” Maxine said, looking tired.
“OK, Maxine, that’s enough for now, it’s late in the day, and I think it’s time to send your team home for the afternoon; but take them down to the bar for a few drinks first as a thank you for their hard work. Ensure they know how much I appreciate their time spent on this, it was time-critical, and they pulled it off beautifully. Put your work AMEX over the bar, and I will make sure it has plenty of limit for a few rounds. Relax and make certain you have a few too, I am so grateful for your support, Maxine. Now get out of here and take your team with you.” Ray said, waving her away.
“Can I go with you? I want to see his face when you kick the chair from Magosa Escort under him.” I said, having trouble keeping the grin off my face.
“I am still interested in the other two, and I’m not going to ignore the full twenty years would probably see Andrew die in there. I can’t reconcile that with the loss of money. I don’t think my Dad would want that either. I will see what deal we can do for the three bank accounts, and maybe he can enjoy what’s left of his pension when Connie’s lawyers get through with him.” Ray said. I had to admit I didn’t think anyone should die in jail for fraud, but I was still plenty angry with him for forcing his wife and son to be nearly destitute.
“I don’t think Connie can afford lawyers.” I said, questioning his logic.
“My lawyers are in need of some pro bono work, I’m sure.” He said, smiling brightly.
We met Allan outside the prison, and when we got to the interview room, Andrew was again sitting cuffed to a table. Ray sat in the chair opposite him and coolly looked him in the eyes.
“I think we have your account in Switzerland, so I don’t need your shitty deal, but Allan wants to get this over with, and I would like to save my people’s time chasing the other two’s money. The deal is twelve years, which would make you seventy-one when you get out and still able live out your years in peace. Take it or leave it because we will have the rest of the money in a few months anyway.” Ray said, and you could see the rage in Andrew’s face as he tugged on the chains, only to have the officer in the room walk forward and hold him in his chair.
“Fuck! Fuck! Fuck!” He said, but stopped struggling after a few minutes, and his shoulders slumped in defeat.
“OK, Fuck it. Deal.” He said, no more fake sorrow, just the cold player’s face that had seen many million-dollar deals over the last forty years.
“When we have the money transferred back stateside, we will go in front of a judge and get this done.” Allan said, as he picked up his paperwork with the account details.
“Oh, by the way, your taste in cars is incredible. I will enjoy driving the Shelby Cobra when I finish the restoration.” Ray said, as he paused at the door, and Andrew went nuts. The last we saw through the window was the guards holding him down as they roughly pulled his arms behind his back to re-apply the cuffs.
Trouble in paradise
On Friday, Ryan met us at the airport, and he was texting as he boarded the plane. I guessed Andrea was chatting to him, and after much thought, I was going to step back to allow their romance to grow. It was just under four hours later when we met Jalen at the gate.
As we pulled up at the door, Andrea was already sprinting into Ryan’s arms, and he pulled her into a kiss as he swung her around his body. The house was beautifully clean and ready for the weekend. I guessed that she was keeping herself busy. We had a light dinner and asked Andrea to eat with us.
“Andrea, do you know of someone you could trust to do the housekeeping here?” Ray asked, and she looked like she was about to cry, and Ryan was ready to jump to her defense.
“Don’t worry. I have something else in mind for you.” Ray said, before the waterworks started.
“What is it? Don’t I do a good enough job?” Andrea said, her forehead wrinkled with worry.
“Abby won’t stop working, and I have a huge house to keep clean in Boston. I know it would mean leaving this paradise, but it would get you closer to some things.” Ray said, looking at Ryan.
“You want me to do the housekeeping for you in Boston?” Andrea said, her face brightening.
“Yes, she doesn’t want to admit it, but the house is wearing her down. If you have someone who you can trust that won’t tell the rest of the island what goes on behind the gates, we would love you to take some of the load off Abby.” Ray said, and I felt a little insulted that I couldn’t do it myself, but he was helping Ryan out with the offer.
“My little sister Dani is a good cleaner and can cook quite well. I know she would love the work as it’s scarce on the island, and she would never talk about what goes on here, ever.” Andrea said, as she smiled at Ryan and took his hand.
“See if she can start tomorrow, so she can have a few days to see if she is happy with the job.” I said, and Andrea didn’t move. I think she was still in shock.
“Excuse me. I have to talk to my family. I have never been that far from home before.” She said, and took her phone out of her pocket as she headed out onto the beach.
“How did you pull that off, Dad?” Ryan said, as he turned back to us.
“It’s just a matter of who you know. I can see what’s happening. But if you break up over something, she will still be the housekeeper, OK. We don’t treat people like that and just discard them because a relationship changed.” Ray said, and Ryan nodded his understanding.
“That could be a bit awkward, but I get it.” Ryan answered, and turned back to watch Andrea’s body language.
She spoke to her sister for a while and came back to sit with us. Andrea looked up to make eye contact with me and spoke. “I would like to work for you in America, but I’m worried about where I would sit within the family. Ryan loves you, and you love him. Where does that leave me?” her eyes darting from Ryan’s to mine.