Arriving at his office next morning, Harry was met by two men at the reception desk. His client Brian Frost, a tall and somber man, rose to introduce his short and rotund companion, Ross Brackley. Although the pair reminded Harry of Laurel and Hardy, he found little humor in their demeanor.
“Gentlemen. What can I do for you?”
Frost spoke. “We need to see you on the Parrish estate. You remember; I’m the executor.” Brackley scowled in the background.
As Harry ushered them into the boardroom, he mentally reviewed the file. Except for a few clerical details, the estate was wound up and distributed to several charities. It had taken years to finish it off due to some lengthy and complicated trusts. Harry took a chair across from the two men.
Frost began stiffly, “Mr. Jenkins, Mr. Brackley is a forensic accountant.”
Harry remained absolutely still. “Yes?”
Frost swallowed hard. “He’s reviewed the accounting in the estate and prepared a report, which I find very shocking.” Frost’s face was sheet white, and his hands trembled. “I couldn’t find any record of the Elixicorp shares I gave you.”
“I’ll have to examine the file, but why didn’t you raise any questions with me?” He nodded in Brackley’s direction. “It might have saved the estate some money.”
“Under the circumstances, I thought we should have an independent review,” Frost replied. “According to Mr. Brackley, there’s a lot of funny business going on with these Elixicorp shares.”
“Funny business? Are you suggesting fraud?”
Harry stared at him. Ugly and beefy, he thought. More of a henchman than an accountant.
Brackley began, “Let’s get the cards on the table, Mr. Jenkins. “I’m gonna spell it out for you. Frost brought you shares in Elixicorp. Then you sold them under some other name, and now millions of dollars are missing.”
“That’s ridiculous. I’m sure there were no shares by that name.” Harry reached for the phone to buzz Jeremy. No answer. He called his secretary. “Miss Giveny, do you have the accounting records for the Parrish estate?”
“No. Jeremy has them, and he’s at the library.”
“Can you run them off the computer?”
“All fifty pages?”
“Yes, and let me know when they’re ready.” Harry said.
Frost averted his eyes, and Brackley stared belligerently at him. Something was fishy.
“I’ll need until the morning to review this. But I can tell you right now, nothing is missing. The estate was worth about two million.” He shoved his chair back. “Give me a copy of your report, please, sir.”
“I’ll bring it tomorrow.” Brackley shouldered past him.
Harry held the door open. “Shall we meet here at eleven thirty, tomorrow?”
Frost nodded gravely at him.
On the way out, Brackley chuckled, “Don’t disappoint us, Jenkins.”
Brian Frost looked even more pale and sickly than before. To Harry, Frost resembled a crane wavering above a fat quail, Brackley.
Frost and Brackley sat at the bar. Frost asked, “How do you think it went, Ross?”
Brackley paused to peel the cellophane from his cigar. “You religious, Brian?”
“No. Not particularly. Why?”
Brackley grinned. ‘If I was you, I’d start praying. Mr. Pappas don’t like excuses, so I wouldn’t stop until he has those shares back.”
Frost’s voice was a croak. “Me? I don’t know a thing about any shares. The certificate was just a crumpled up copy I found in David’s desk.”
Brackley gazed on Frost with pity. “You don’t get it, do you Brian? Pappas gets real mean when you disappoint him. Just pray to God those shares show up fast.”
Reams of computer sheets curled across Harry’s coffee table. Examining the initial inventory sheet, he found no mention of Elixicorp in the list of capital receipts or disbursements. If Frost had never given him the certificates, what was he supposed to do? He jabbed at the intercom for Jeremy. Still no answer.
Perhaps the shares had been recorded under a similar name. He found the list of stocks. There it was! The third item was close enough for confusion. ‘Elazacor Holdings’ [nominal value].
“Hi, Harry.” His junior stood in the doorway. “Gladys said you needed me?” Loosening his tie, Jeremy sauntered in and sat down. “What’s up?”
“Do you know anything about some missing shares in the Parrish estate?”
The boy shoved a lock of hair from his forehead. “Haven’t looked at anything except the accounting summary for a while.
“Where’s the rest of the file?” Harry asked.
Jeremy shrugged. ”Probably Gladys has it. I’ll go look for it.”
Within moments, Jeremy was back with a thick file. “Right where I suspected,” he grinned. “Gladys had it stacked on a chair. Ever think of letting her go, Harry?”
Harry did not answer.
After several moments of rooting about, Jeremy pulled out a dog-eared photocopy of a share certificate, marked Elixicorp. “Got it, Harry. What’s the problem?"
“Elixicorp? Frost and Brackley say the original is worth millions.”
“Holy shit!” Jeremy gave a low whistle. “That’s crazy.” He leafed through the file. “Here’s my letter to the Stock Exchange. Says the shares have never been publicly traded.”
Harry spoke sharply. “That’s not the same as having a nominal value, as you said in the accounts. Besides, the name on the certificate is Elixicorp, not Elazacor. You have to pay attention to detail.”
“Sorry, Harry …” The boy gave a shrug of contrition.
Harry felt as if he were already sliding down a slippery slope. “We discussed the procedure. You have to track the shares until you come up with the principals, the real owners.” Annoyed, he fingered the front and back of the photocopied share. ”Where’s the original?”
“It must be in the bank safety deposit box.” Jeremy rose to his feet. “Look, Harry. I’m really sorry. I should have known better. I’ll go first thing in the morning to find it.”
Harry sighed and waved him off. “I’m in a tight spot. So you’ll have to get me out of it.”
Jeremy turned in the doorway. “By the way, did Mrs. Dinnick sign her new will?”
“Why do you ask?” Harry looked up and caught that damned calculating glint in his eye.
Jeremy shrugged and smiled. “Just thought it was a good one for a precedent … that’s all.” With a wave, he turned to go. “Well, good night. See you in the morning after the bank.”
“Just a minute, Jeremy. Are you absolutely sure Bronwyn Saunderson—your Aunt—hasn’t seen the will?”
“Of course not!” The boy sounded injured. “I’d never do something like that.”
Harry watched him saunter down the hallway to Miss Giveny’s office.
“’Night Gladys. You’ll have that agreement ready in the morning?” Jeremy asked.
The secretary’s only reply was a burst of typing.
Five minutes later, she appeared in Harry’s doorway. “I just want you to know that the Parrish file was not on my chair. He got it from his own office.”
Before Harry could reply, Miss Giveny trundled back to her office and closed the door. She sat before her typewriter for a long moment. Then she took a clean sheet of paper and began to type her letter of resignation.