Monday, September 29, 2003

Here’s an excerpt from chapter one of my hardboiled mystery novel, “Credit Murder, Debit Intrigue.”

It was a Tuesday, 8:35 in the evening. I was just about to leave this dank office and head out onto the rain soaked streets. Go down to the local gin mill, catch a trolley home, listen to a game on the radio and turn in for the night.

My name’s Nick Ledger. I’m a CPA. It’s a hard racket, a world of tough characters, cheap women and hard liquor. Your only true companions are the trusty .38 at your hip and your amortization tables.

I was pondering the state of the Brooklyn Dodgers’ pitching staff when in walked this incredible dame. She had a pair of gams that stretched from here to Bakersfield, and the way she moved her hips was illegal in 13 states. I lit a Chesterfield while she made her way to the chair.

“Are you Mr. Ledger?”

“That’s what the bookies and parole board call me.”

“Mr. Ledger, I’m in dire need of assistance. You see, my father’s cardboard box plant has been losing money for the past two years. We’ve always made a profit, and we can’t figure out the problem.”

I could see where this was headed. This skirt wasn’t quite as innocent as she made herself out to be. Probably skimming from the top and trying to pin it on some other poor sap. Sure, dames are pretty to look at, but they go together with business like dogs and cats, like hot dogs and ketchup, like oil and…something that doesn’t mix well with oil. (So sue me, I’m an accountant, not a chemist.)

“Look, I’m willing to audit your books. But internal control and fraud prevention consulting - that’s extra. And you’ve got to do an internal audit.”

“Is that really necessary? Why, I’ve looked through the books myself, and I can’t find any problems.”

“You looked through the books?” I scoffed.

“What’s wrong with that, Mr. Ledger?”

“Accounting is a man’s world, dollface. It’s no place for a pretty little thing like you. You don’t know what these bastards are capable of doing. I got a slug in the neck once just for switching depreciation methods.”

“You have some very old fashioned ideas about women, Mr. Ledger,” she sniffed haughtily.

This gal was more poisonous than a New Jersey soil sample, but I didn’t have much choice. Business was slower than the hamburger concession in Bombay. The only things I was coming up with recently were hangovers and labored similes.

“All right, I’ll take the case, Miss --”


“Right. But you’ve got to leave the real work to the experts. Run off a few copies, make a pot of coffee, something like that, but I don’t want you messing around in my business, understand?”

“Well, Mr. Ledger, I won’t get in your way, but I intend to help out. I want to get to the bottom of this. Besides, I took a couple of accounting courses at the business college ---”

“Business college?” I laughed. “You can’t learn accounting in a school. You’ve got to get on the street, get your hands dirty, use your sources, put the works on some mugs if they give you the runaround.”

“Well, I realize I have much to learn, but I just want to help out. Can I count on your services starting next week?”

“Yeah, yeah, I’ll do it. Now I’ve got to go see a man about a horse. Just remember what I said.”

She slinked out of the office just as quickly as she had entered. I leaned back in my chair and poured out three fingers and a thumb of gin from my hip flask. No doubt, this was going to be a dangerous and suspense-filled case, filled with opportunities for me to make dry, witty observations and clever, sexually charged banter with gorgeous dames. I just hoped that my instincts wouldn’t fail me this time. One more major slipup and the AICPA will disbar me, and I’ll have to go back to the soulless drudgery of bookkeeping. Once you get a taste of living on the edge of danger, you never want to go back. That’s why I do what I do.

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