My father had just passed away two months before and we were holding our annual Christmas party, to which we routinely invited some of our closest vendor partners. Hank’s wife had recently passed away as well, so he brought Sheila as his plus one.
Grief plus alcohol…bad fucking combo.
In a very weak moment, I ended up banging Sheila against the women’s bathroom door. To me it was a quick fuck and a much-needed stress reliever; to her it meant a diamond, a honeymoon in France, and happy-fucking-ever-after.
Before that night, I tolerated her failed attempts to trap me. After that night…well, let’s just say if she could cut off my dick and get away with it, she would. I slept with one eye open for months afterward, worried she’d break in and make good on her threat.
Luckily, I didn’t work with Sheila often over the years. But if I could have predicted Hank would die just a few short months ago, Sheila would take over his business, and I would have to be constantly subjected to her, I would have found another audit firm before that fateful day. We have three months left on our current contract and then it’s buh-bye Sheila. Until then, I have to deal.
Tara steps aside and Sheila walks into my office, her attitude cocked and her feathers on full display. But like a female peacock, hers are dull and drab. They don’t attract the opposite sex. Only, because she can’t look behind her strut, she can’t see it like everyone else.
I contain my eye roll as she strolls in.
“Sheila, nice to see you again.” I wave for her to take a seat.
“Save it, Asher. We both know that’s not true.” She walks by me with barely contained disdain. I follow her, taking a seat behind my desk. Jesus, this is bound to be a painful meeting.
“Have it your way. What did you find?” I ask, leaning back in my chair, trying my best to intimidate her. She just shakes her head.
“Slightly over half a million dollars is unaccounted for. I suspect misappropriation of funds, but as you know, we don’t have that auditing expertise in our small firm, so you will need to hire a forensic auditor.”
Fuck. This was exactly my fear. We have an embezzler in our ranks and I need to find out who it is and stop them. They’ve already stolen over half a mil of my company’s money. Probably more by now.
“Can you tell how long this has been going on?”
“Sometime within the last twelve months since our last audit. I went back and checked the work papers from last year to ensure we didn’t miss anything, but that audit is clean.”
So sometime within the last twelve months. This has been going on under my nose for up to a whole year and I was none the wiser? Ouch. That stings. Some motherfucking heads are going to roll, the first being my CFO. How the hell did he not know about this for a goddamn year? Either he’s incompetent or he’s the culprit. I’d bet money on the latter.
“Anything else?” I want to get this meeting over with so I can formulate my next steps. And they happen to involve a chocolate-eyed beauty that I’ve been wanting to spend some quality time with. Now I have a valid reason.
Sheila pulls out a couple of papers from her folder, laying them on my desk. “I have a few recommendations for forensic audit firms. Ones we’ve used in the past that produce solid work. They’re reputable.”
The one thing I would not do is take any of Sheila’s recommendations. I’d just as soon scour the damn phone book, picking one blindfolded. Besides, I already know exactly who I’m going to hire.
“Thank you. I’ll call you if I have questions after I read your report.”
She rises, not acknowledging I said a damn thing, throws her briefcase over her shoulder, and turns to leave. Three months, I tell myself. Just three more fucking months.
After she exits, I quickly pull up the Internet and type in “ARK Consulting,” the name of Alyse’s auditing firm, which I remember from our family dinner. Her forensic auditing firm. Exactly what I now need.
After several minutes of perusing her website and reading client testimonials, I call her office and talk to a lovely woman named Heather. I find out that Alyse will be in on Wednesday, so I ask Heather to send me client reference phone numbers and to block the afternoon for me, starting at noon. I schedule the meeting under the name GRASCO, as I don’t think Alyse is familiar with our holding company name. For now, I want to keep my identity under wraps. I don’t want to give the lovely Alyse time to formulate reasons why she should deny my proposal.
Thanking Heather, I hang up and ponder how my impending discussion with the stubborn Alyse will go the day after tomorrow. Her clients seem relatively small, so I have no doubt this will be a big job for her tiny firm, but if you listen to Livia talk, she’s as brilliant as she is beautiful. I also overheard enough of her conversations a couple months ago with my mom to know she’s extremely passionate about what she does.