THE WIDOWS AND ORPHANS FUND
This is one of my first crime fiction stories, published in Futures Mystery Anthology Magazine, March, 2007. In this tale, Edith, a homely accountant serving a sentence for fraud, is paroled to WOF, a strange social service agency. Bent on revenge, she dresses as a cleaner and confronts her ex-boss, Paul, the author of her misfortune.
“Paul…” Now that she had her moment, the moment she’d planned for five years, words died in the dust of her throat. “Paul…”
“Edith?” Paul’s fine brows shot up. “How did you get in?” He leaned forward, one hand outstretched.
“Don’t call security.”
“Who’s going to stop me? You? What the hell-“
The shiv leapt into her hand. Her heart was pounding, but the blade didn’t waver. “Sit down. Don’t touch anything.”
“OK, OK, take it easy.” He dropped into the leather chair behind his desk, highly amused. “Say what you have to say, but short sound bites, OK? I have a client meeting.”
“You used me.”
“So easy, right? Admit it, you’re not the brightest bulb on the Christmas tree.”
“Shut up!” She brandished the knife, one hand braced on the desk. “Answer me or forget your client meeting. Forever.”
“Fine, ask away.” He leaned back, polished, smug even. Five years had blurred and twisted his features somehow. Why had she found him beautiful?
“Miguel Rio wasn’t skimming the money from Shipmaster. You were. You used Miguel’s user ID to cover your tracks. But you ran across another hacker in Shipmaster’s computer system – me! Only a matter of time till I discovered your games. You neutralized me to keep the money.”
“Guess you had time in jail to think for once.”
“How could you, Paul? I loved you.”
“Oh, for God’s sake.”
Edith saw him glance at his watch in blatant boredom. She wiped her eyes with her free hand. “Miguel was onto you, wasn’t he?”
“Yeah, one day he actually did some work after his three-martini lunch.”
Breathing grew hard. “You killed him, didn’t you?”
“Don’t lie to me!” She flashed the knife. At last she detected a glimmer of fear in those astonishing blue eyes.
“Grow up, Edith. It was him or me or lose $50 million. Be glad you just went to jail.”
“Murderer! Give me the passwords to your off-shore accounts.”
“Just like that?”
“You have to pay back the money. Clear Miguel’s name. And you owe me, too, you bastard!”
“You stupid bitch!” He had the glass sculpture. Raised above his head. Crashing down.
Edith could never sort out what happened next. Perhaps those scuffles in prison had quickened her defences. Suddenly millions of pieces of glass were everywhere. Paul was leaping over the desk like a wild animal. A stranger she’d never imagined.