(Click for Episode Two)
Lily Damone sped along the picturesque, undulating Canal Road, heading north out of D.C. for the Virginia suburbs where she lived. On this glorious July afternoon, the top was down on her red Mazda Miata, but she wasn’t enjoying the view. For the fourth consecutive day she was picking up what seemed to her very strange vibes coming from her immediate supervisor. Normally, she could have written it off to male hormones, except that it had started the day after her extremely disturbing disclosure. Even though, she was assured by the Chairman that the information she had divulged would be held in “strictest confidence,” she decided the “strictest confidence” guarantee sucked.
Lily was a mid-level finance officer responsible for accounts payable. Standard procedure expected her to track cash balances, and delay action on invoices for as long as possible in order to ensure payouts never exceeded cash on hand. Special authorization was required to dip into reserves. During periods of high expenditures, she would alert her immediate supervisor who, in turn, made arrangements with the treasurer and investment committee to transfer funds from the portfolio into cash. It always came as a lump sum and was easily identifiable. But, over the past several months, she had become aware of an anomaly in the process. Several millions of dollars from a source unknown to her had loaded onto the cash balance sheet. These deposits would come in nearly similar amounts and times as certain charges, as if someone on the income side already knew what and when a third-party bill was arriving.
Lily had worked for the organization for three years, since her graduation from the business school at Georgetown. She started as an invoice clerk, sorting, inputting data, and filing hard copies of bills. Two years ago, she was promoted to her current job, and she took her new responsibilities very seriously. Most payout specialists would neither have noticed the anomaly nor, if they had, given a damn. Lily was certain that someone or some ones were defrauding the organization. Since she had no idea who the culprits might be, she spoke about it only with her top boss.
Immediately following their meeting, Stuart Whistler put through a call to the Vice President insisting that they needed to meet. Haney found time in his schedule the next morning for breakfast in his Executive Office Building headquarters, next door to the White House.
The stewards set out the two low-carb dishes of western omelets, sausage and tomato slices and a carafe of coffee, and left. Whistler, skipping the usual easy banter the two old friends enjoyed, immediately got down to the business of bringing Haney up to speed.
“Bob, this is bad. I’ve put a hold on all transfers for now, but the Damone woman is onto this. She thinks it’s her supervisor, so I’ve put him on two weeks notice to deflect her suspicions. When his termination leaks out, Damone will assume I’m on top of it, and that I’ve begun to handle the problem. But I can’t take the chance of shifting any more funds to Clevenger.”
“Stu, calm down man. This is not the end of the world. Did you get assurances Damone spoke with no one else, at the Committee or elsewhere?”
“Good. But how in hell did she get onto this? You assured me there’d be no problems.”
“Bob, as you know, we’ve done this dozens of times over the years without a hitch. But they were one-time shots. The only thing I can think of is that Damone picked up on some pattern. She’s a smart cookie to have spotted it.”
“Well then, I guess you better lower your standards for her replacement.”
“Replacement? Look, if I fire her or arrange a transfer, she’ll only get more suspicious, and if I promote her, she’ll still be around to ask questions.”
“You know the timetable, Stu. A day here or there is no problem, but this project has got to stay on track for Dor’s numbers to look legit. We can’t afford to have weeks go by without money pouring in. Plus, we’ve got third quarter reporting to the Federal Elections Commission in two months to worry about, and I want to show at least $45 million in Tony’s pot.”
“So, what will we do?”
“Leave that to me. You just find a nice reliably dumb clerk in your shop to be ready to go with.”
Whistler didn’t want to know what “leave that to me” meant. He just left.
The man was predictably dressed in black BDUs (battle dress uniform). Yesterday, he had parked what looked to be a District highway truck along the northbound shoulder of the Chain Bridge, placing orange cones to force nosey drivers well to the left, as well as to protect himself from the ones not paying attention at all. He rigged small amounts of PE4 plastic explosives as ten bolt busters on the guardrail and wired them to a remote detonator that he secured out of sight, under the overpass. When the vehicle made the sharp left turn at speed onto the bridge off Canal Road, the former Green Beret marksman would shoot out the right front tire and blow the guardrail simultaneously, leaving the appearance the car had caused the malfunction. The vehicle would spin out of control and, without the guardrail in place, plunge into the marshland 150 feet below.
Vincent and his partner had trailed the woman since receiving instructions three days earlier, directly from their boss, Tom Bishop. The two operators now knew the woman’s patterns and anticipated that at some point within the next three or four days, she would use the Chain Bridge route home. They were right. They usually were. That’s how they stayed alive. While Vincent settled into the wooded blind 1000 yards west and north of the bridge with his Barrett M82A1 sniper rifle, Bendex followed the woman’s convertible out of the parking lot across the street from the National Republican Center. The Center, at 1st and D Streets Southeast, is a four story white brick building conveniently snuggled next to the Congressional offices and adjacent to the lobbyists’ lair, the exclusive Capitol Hill Club. A second story bridge connecting the two buildings permits the free flow of two-way traffic far from public view.
When Damone hit the Whitehurst Parkway and turned left onto M Street toward Canal Road, Bendex sent the agreed upon one word code with her estimated time of arrival at the bridge.
Lily was sure the Chairman had said something to her supervisor. Although she heard on the grapevine he had been given notice, she was not the kind of person who dealt well with confrontation. She did not want to have to spend another week anticipating being accused of blowing the whistle, or worse, stabbing him in the back to get his job. Anyway, it was Friday. She would just put the whole issue out of mind until she was forced to face it again on Monday morning. In the meantime, she’d fantasize about the new guy in her life. She had met Sean at a tony Georgetown club on Wisconsin Avenue ten days ago. Saturday night would be their third date, and you know what they say about third dates. She was ready, and she knew Sean was. He had planned a romantic dinner at the very expensive, very chic Ceiba, and had sent flowers to her office today as a reminder, as if she needed one. It had been so long since she’d had sex with anything other than her dildo, she wasn’t sure if she’d remember how to act if it didn’t hum.
As she swung onto Chain Bridge, her car bolted
and she lost control. All she saw in front of her was open space. Where
the hell was the guardrail! Her last thought as she plunged to the swampy
ground below was that she wouldn’t see Sean tomorrow night. His flowers
spilled out the open top of the car and floated on the marshy water as
an instant memorial to her tragic “accident.”
Next in SAECULA: