The Trade, Chapter 9

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It hadn’t taken long for Andrew the auditor to discover that none of the payments to Promise Publishing could be tied to any material items received. He had quickly zeroed in on the purported vendor when he noticed no street address for it recorded anywhere. A simple PO Box is a red flag if there ever was one, and this flag kept waving as he requested and obtained from the postmaster the renter’s name and address. “Looks like your Miss Smith has some explaining to do,” he had said to her boss.

When Andrew and the agent from the FBI went to Ruth’s apartment hoping to question her, armed with a search warrant, they found her gone, her dresser drawers open and half empty, and hangers strewn over her unmade bed. A quick look at the bathroom, void of any hair appliance or toothbrush, was enough to confirm their suspicion that she was on the run.

But it was when they found at the bottom of a wastebasket near her kitchen table a crumpled blank invoice from Promise Publishing that any alternate, innocent explanation of the evidence was discarded.

The evidence the auditor and agent uncovered strongly implicated Ruth in felony embezzlement, but further investigation implicated someone else as well. Ruth’s inexperience as a thief, and the desperate way she came to be one, meant that a number of little details she should have thought about…she hadn’t. Like what might result from the fact that the Promise Publishing checking account her father had opened for her, and into which she was depositing her bogus invoice payment checks, was still in his name also. The FBI immediately considered this case a two-person scheme.

Ruth knew her father was still on the account and likely getting statements, but she saw that as helpful towards her goal of being completely independent of him. He’d see she was making good money and didn’t need his help, and she wouldn’t feel guilty about him worrying and wondering if she was supporting herself. In a warped sort of way she was proud of how she had managed to get herself out of debt, and wanted him to know that she had, as long as he didn’t ask about the how. She didn’t phone him last Christmas.

But she never considered that if she ever got caught, this little detail would make him a suspect too. Which it did, in a big way. Because, like most, this state bureau had a board of directors and, unbeknownst to Ruth, her father was on it.