February 10, 2015
Tina Kirkland walked across the hallway into the office her heart pounding. Unease filled her because what she had just discovered was bad. Really, really bad. Like the government would want to know kind of bad and she wasn’t sure what the heck to do about it. She wasn’t sure if she should do anything. Mr. Clark was stealing money from one of their FBI accounts. This was bad.
Tina felt her stomach turned because this was the kind of thing people got killed for in movies and she was only twenty-eight. She didn’t want to die at twenty-eight. She stared at the blank computer screen wondering what the hell she’d followed the errors in the system for. Why was she such a stickler for things being correct? If she’d just ignored it and went about her business she wouldn’t be here contemplating what to do about this. God, was she going to have to move away from the only family she knew? Enter the witness protection program and leave them all behind. Maybe she didn’t have to tell anyone.
She could pretend she’d never seen the proof. Damn it, no, she couldn’t do that it would slowly eat at her soul because what Mr. Clark was doing was against the law. Her cell phone began ringing and she jumped letting out a screech. Then she shook her head and dug it out of her bag, which was in her desk drawer.
“Hello,” Tina answered.
“You better not be still at work Tina Kirkland! You’re supposed to be here in thirty minutes and I don’t want any excuses.” Laney growled angrily.
Still a bit out of sorts it took Tina a minute to remember that she was supposed to meet her best friend and her husband Craig at their place for dinner tonight. Crap, she had been so distracted by this money trail that she had forgotten.
“I’m on my way, Laney.” Tina told her shaking the mouse on her computer. The files she’d been searching were still on the screen. She pulled a thumb drive from the top drawer that she usually used to backup her files. She dumped everything that was on it into the trash and copied the proof onto the drive.
“You had better be! You canceled on me the last two times I invited you because you were working. I won’t be happy if you do it again, Tennie.” Laney told her the annoyance in her voice coming through loud and clear.
Tina felt guilt slide through her because she had been canceling on her friend a lot lately. Her only excuse was that Laney was so very happy with Craig that Tina sometimes felt like a third wheel in their relationship. Not that either of them made her feel that way on purpose. They were just so happy they didn’t realize it was a bit awkward for those around them.
The files were finally done and the hundred percent flashed and she wondered what the hell she’d do with this damned evidence. It was going to change her whole life and it was just a freaking thumb drive. Tina wanted to cry as she pulled it from the computer and began closing out the files she’d just copied. This was crazy, absolutely crazy.
“Are you listening to me Tina! ” Laney demanded bringing her back to the conversation she was supposed to be having with her best friend.
“Yes, I am. I will be a few minutes late but I am on my way. I promise!” Tina cried into the phone as she grabbed the small amount of her personal items that were on her desk. Scooping them into her thankfully large purse she took the drive and stuffed it into the small zippered pouch and grabbed her coat off the back of the chair.
“You’d better be. Drive safe and get here as soon as you can. Love ya.” Laney said before she hung up.
Her heart pounded in her ears as she stood to leave. She was walking out the door when she heard a voice behind her. Her heart jumped to her throat and she felt like she was going to pass out because the voice belonged to Mr. Clark. Tina knew her hands were trembling and her palms were sweaty. She wanted to run but forced herself to turn and smile instead.
“Hi, Mr. Clark. Just headed out to dinner with friends.” Tina offered up and almost wanted to smack her forehead at this ridiculous statement.
“That’s nice. I am headed out myself. My wife and I are meeting our children for my wife’s birthday.
Tina wondered if his wife knew about the embezzling and if she did was she in on it. She wanted to ditch him and run from the building but she couldn’t, not if she wanted to get out of here. She had a feeling that he wouldn’t be too happy to know that she knew about his embezzling.
Tina tried to steady her racing heart with a few deep breaths without letting on that she was taking them. It was much harder than it may seem to walk calmly down the hall with the boss you’d just discovered committing a crime that could send him to jail for a very long time.
“That’s wonderful. I hope you have a good time.” She told him trying to act as if she wasn’t panicking inside her head even as her inner voice screamed at her to get the hell away from him.
“Yes, we always meet for dinner every year on each of our perspective birthdays. It’s always so hard to get you young people to stop long enough to visit. This way we get to see them at least at our birthdays and theirs.” Mr. Clark chuckled and shook his head.
Tina was reminded again why when she’d found the evidence earlier she’d been so shocked. Mr. Clark reminded her of a kindly grandfather type who wouldn’t harm a fly. He wasn’t what a person would expect a man stealing millions to look and act like. He seemed to live a modest life and he wasn’t clipped and rude. He was friendly and didn’t set off any alarms, which she supposed made him the perfect criminal. The kind you least expected.
“That’s nice. My mom and I used to do the same before she passed.” Tina told him wishing as they stepped on the elevator for it to go faster. She wanted to get the heck out of this conversation and this building. Preferably alive.
She felt like she was in a crazy spy movie having to act all calm and collected when inside she was a screaming mess. She suddenly wanted to get rip roaring drunk because she knew that her life as she had known it was over. After tonight she couldn't come back here to the job she loved or to the huge pension that she was two years away from receiving. Damn, sometimes doing the right thing sucked.
The elevator doors came into view and she reached out pressing the down button. She didn’t want to be trapped inside the tiny space with Mr. Clark and it made her stomach turn and her hand gripped the straps on her purse more tightly. Her palms began to sweat and she wanted to scream her body felt so tense.
“Ah, yes she passed when you were young didn’t she?” Mr. Clark asked a look of sympathy on his face.
“A little over eleven years ago when I was eighteen. It was cancer.” Tina felt her heart squeeze a bit thinking about her mom. It was hard sometimes even with so many years to cushion the blow.
She and her mom had been really close. A relationship that had gotten even closer when her father had died in a plane crash when she was ten, after his death it had been her and her mom against the world. She was glad that the Stewart’s had been in their lives by then. They’d helped her mom raise her and they had kept her sane when her mom had been so sick. Marie Stewart, Laney’s mom, had been a godsend. She’d helped Lily, Tina’s mom, to her many appointments and had even moved Tina and her mom in with them that last year when she’d been unable to get out of bed for longer than an hour.
After her mom had died it had been Mr. and Mrs. Stewart who’d made all the arrangements and Tina was grateful for them. She had been in no condition to do it herself. She wasn’t even able to think about finals and getting into the college she’d worked so hard to get into with Laney for the last three years.
Marie had made sure she got the extensions she needed for her testing and talked with the college admissions board about her starting the second semester due to her circumstances. She would never be able to repay them for all they’d done for her and her mother. They were her family just as much as Laney and Luke were.
“Yes, I’m sorry my dear. Having lost my own mother about six years ago I know that the blow never gets any easier.” Mr. Clark placed his hand on her shoulder and it took everything inside her not to flinch away from him.
Although, she would have to rethink the guy out to kill her bit, perhaps he was just a man who’d made a bad choice. Maybe the witness protection wouldn’t be necessary. Maybe she was over reacting and this wouldn’t be such a life-changing event. After all this wasn’t a movie it was real life and things were never as dramatic as they seemed in the movies in real life. It was silly of her to overreact like a bad heroine in a B movie.
As they entered they the elevator she looked at the unassuming elderly man beside her. He was in a three-piece blue suit, with a red tie and black dress shoe’s. He looked like you’d expect the manager of a major accounting firm to look, unassuming and boring.
She felt like she might have been having a bit of a freak out over nothing. The thought that this man would come after her to kill her was kind of laughable really. She stood staring at him for a moment inside the small space as the doors closed them inside. Mr. Clark pressed the garage button and smiled at her kindly.
“Yes, it’s still hard. I miss her every day. She was an amazing woman.” Tina told him as the elevator lurched into action taking them down to the garage.
“I bet she was, dear.” Mr. Clark smiled again his hand still clutching his briefcase. They chatted about an account Mr. Clark was trying to start with a multimillion dollar company that she knew would be a huge asset to the firm. For a moment the night almost seemed normal and Tina relaxed. They talked until the doors pinged that they were in the garage.