Three savvy women launch a bumbling undercover investigation to find missing commissions. Instead they find a massive embezzlement plot.
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With $800 Million worth of products produced in federal prisons every year, division director Abby Hamilton had a diabolical scheme to become a very wealthy woman. In fact, she had almost reached her $35 million goal when she made the mistake of hiring three savvy women who blew the lid off Pandora’s box.
Despite comical backfires, Jennifer, Kate and Cameron were determined to find out what happened to missing bonus money and managed to pull off an intensive amateur undercover investigation. What they discovered was shocking evidence of something so much bigger—Abby’s clever multimillion dollar embezzlement plot.
I blasted into Abby’s office on Monday morning with sheets of sales and
shipping printouts in hand. I had finally nailed her, or at least I thought I did.
She motioned me to sit down. “Pull up a chair, Jennifer. What’s on
I couldn’t help noticing she seemed to have gained some more weight
during the past few weeks. She tried to pull off a chummy, “hey girlfriend”
dialogue, but I wasn’t buying it.
With her hands tented, she leaned forward. “Please don’t think I’ve
been avoiding you. I’ve been so busy in that god-forsaken place, I’m glad
you’ve had Colin to rely on. By the way, he said you’re doing a great job.”
Had Colin told her about our Friday dinners? Was there any reason for me
to worry about anything I might have told him? As she fixed me with those
twin emerald eyes, I felt my heart speed up, and willed it to slow down. I
strained to remember. Did I say anything really vile about her? Nope. Just
in my thoughts. I calmed down and told myself not to be foolish. Abby
may have been good at giving inspiring presentations, but she sure didn’t
have the kind of personality that made you want to be her friend. Her
attempt at being warm and sociable came off stiff and contrived.
She was still talking, so I straightened up and listened. “—and I finally
decided to rent a little house in a tolerable area of Paradise. I tried staying at that loathsome Paradise Cottages but it was absolutely impossible for more than one night. I’m sure you know what I mean.”
Boy, did I ever know. I don’t think my back will ever be the same.
She straightened, squaring her shoulders. “After taking it as long as I
could, I negotiated a weekly rate at the Nighty Nite Motel, but wound up
kicking cockroaches out of my bed and comforted myself by pigging out
on McDonalds’ Big Macs and shakes.” She patted her hip. “I sure don’t
need all of that junk food. Anyway, now I have a decent place to stay
when I’m out there, and a kitchen to cook meals, so I’ll be a little more
relaxed. Again, sorry if you got the idea I was avoiding you.”
Well now. That was better. I wondered if Colin had mentioned I was feeling shut out. She didn’t say a word about Lena, and I assumed that dealing with a woman like the devil incarnate on a daily basis would be enough to make anyone abrasive. I don’t think I’d want to talk about it either, so I decided to cut her some slack.
She patted the pile of printouts I’d laid on her desk. “Are those your
monthly order reports?”
I nodded and was about to let loose with the spiel I had prepared when
she said, “I’m planning a little impromptu ceremony and hope to hand
everyone a check. Good for the morale, you know. I guess you need some
figures from me for shipped merchandise.” She glanced over at the locked file cabinet. “I’m pretty much of a dunce about figuring those things out.
Fortunately I’ve been lucky to hire good people around me.” With that,she actually winked. Hmm. What was that about? Not what a boss should
say to an employee.
Speechless, I nodded again. She had beaten me to it. Maybe nothing
was wrong after all.
She walked over to the cabinet, unlocked it and rummaged through quite a few files. Then she pulled some out and handed them to me.
“Well, go ahead and get a preliminary report together for me. I hate to say
it, but cash flow is a little tight and I might have to do some fancy
shuffling this time. It will help to know how much we’re looking at.
Unfortunately, quite a few of the big invoices haven’t been paid yet.” She
cleared her throat and brushed her hair from her eyes. “Don’t worry. I’m
keeping tabs on those personally.” I noticed she glanced over at the file
cabinet again before her eyes flicked back to mine.
Something in her eyes told me I was right in the first place. I could
feel it in my bones. I took the files she offered and gave her mine, then
said, “I’ll just leave these with you and run another set for myself, Abby.
You know, in case you want to look through them.”
I was half out of my chair when she signaled me to sit back down.
“Listen, I actually called you in here for a completely different reason. I
have something important we need to discuss now.”
My mouth went dry. Was she going to fire me? Maybe I had gotten too
close to whatever was wrong with the whole scenario and all the talk
62 Morgan St. James and Meredith Holland
about bonuses was designed to get me knocked off track. Shit. Me and my
Instead she said, “There’s something in the works that’s really big.
Truthfully, it has nothing to do with your job description, but Colin has
volunteered to do what he can and I really need you on board too. You’ve
got a good relationship with all of the sales reps and I’m counting on you
to be the liaison with them.
I felt my eyebrow raise and knew she saw it because she said, “I don’t have the time to go into details right now, but we’ll meet after lunch. I’ve got a free hour between one and two and I’ll spell everything out for you. This is Walter’s idea and I do believe that it’s brilliant. It will mean so much to our cause.”
What kind of a “cause?” Last time I looked, this was a furniture manu -
facturing rehabilitation program. What could possibly qualify as a cause? I recalled a statistic she cited with fierce pride in our original orientation
talk. Maybe she was more dedicated to keeping inmates from returning to
prison through our program than I thought. Maybe that was her personal
I remembered her saying it had been proven there was a twenty-five
percent reduction in repeat offenses among former inmates who had been
part of the Federal Association of Correctional Reform program. Could
that be why she used words like “mission” and “cause?” I tried, honestly
I did, but I couldn’t shake the strange feeling that washed over me when
I’d recognized a flash of greed.
Abby had asked Colin to sit in on the meeting that afternoon. We
spread ourselves around the small conference table near the floor-to-ceiling window and I drank in the fantastic view of the shimmering lake.
“Jennifer, Colin knows some of this already, but Walter wants to have
a big blow out party for our main manufacturing partners, maybe some of
our good customers and everyone on our staff. We’ll be hosting the
executives from twenty of our big manufacturing partners. The contracts
we have with them for design, training and components are what keep us
growing. They all love a party with great food and free drinks, so we’ll
really wine and dine them. Walter insisted upon inviting representatives
from certain key accounts as well. He believes bringing everyone together
will instill confidence. Then we’ll have our company meeting the next
day and pass out commission checks.