by Morris J. Marshall
Krista Beauregard, a part-time college professor, is delayed in rush-hour traffic one winter morning. Toronto police have cordoned off the intersection of Yonge and King Streets, and a bloody tarp lies on the sidewalk. Krista discovers that this incident has a personal connection: Gavin McLeod, her former top student, has died in a fall from a nearby office building in which he worked. The police quickly close the case, contending it was a suicide, although one of the investigating officers suspects more is at play. Devastated by the suicide ruling, Gavin’s father asks Krista to help him discover what really happened.
Chapter 11: First Day
Krista arrived at DBC Financial half an hour early on her first day. The building was easy to find the second time round. It was just fifteen minutes from her college. It seemed like years since she’d stood on the street nearby, staring at the tarp that covered Gavin’s body. In reality, three weeks had elapsed.
She had passed this intersection hundreds of times without really noticing the building that housed DBC Financial. It was thirty stories high and covered in silver-coloured mirrors. On her way up to the office, Krista stared through the elevator’s glass floor. It reminded her of the time in university when she’d accompanied Dara up to the CN Tower’s observation deck. There was a clear Plexiglas floor where you could view the streets and buildings thousands of feet below. Despite Dara’s encouragement, Krista had refused to stand on it. She was certain that, regardless of how safe it had been for the last ten thousand people, the glass would crack when she stepped on it, plunging her to her death.
“Nice to have you back,” the receptionist said when she saw Krista. “I’m Marnie. I’ll let Carla know you’re here.”
After several minutes, Carla Travini came out to the waiting area. “Hi, Krista, could I talk to you for a few minutes?”
Krista followed her to a room at the end of the hall and sat down in the same black swivel chair Tran had occupied when he questioned Carla about Gavin’s death.
Carla closed her office door and sat down behind her desk. “There are a few things I want to clarify before you begin working.”
Krista’s fingers twisted in her lap. She made them stop.
“Most of the work here involves cold-calling for new clients, but we do have some leads. If you can think of anyone who’s currently looking for investments that would be great.”
“Of course,” Krista said. “I can think of a few.”
Carla smiled. “Wonderful. Once you’ve got a new client, transfer the paperwork to me. I’ll set up the accounts. The most important thing is to maintain confidentiality. Do you have any questions?”
Krista shook her head.
“Good.” Carla stood up. “I’d like to introduce you to Andrew Miller, our call-centre manager. He’ll show you around the firm.”
Apparently Andrew had been waiting outside; he came in on cue. In his mid-twenties, he had reddish-blond shoulder-length hair with bangs in front. A spattering of pimples splashed across both his cheeks reminded Krista of her own students.
“Nice to meet you,” he said, extending his hand.
“You, too,” she replied. The offered hand was unpleasantly sweaty. She wiped her fingers on her skirt.
“Well, I’ll leave you to get to know each other,” Carla said. “I have to get back to work.”
* * *
“This is the staff room,” Andrew said, walking into a small kitchen. A microwave stood on one of the counters beside a Tassimo coffeemaker. A grey circular table surrounded by six chairs occupied the middle of the room.
A wall poster depicted a beige plush bear with a caption underneath: “People don’t care what you know until they know that you care.” Who’d said that? Krista seemed to recall American President Theodore Roosevelt. Presumably DBC Financial expected civility from its employees. Good to know. Gavin had definitely fit the bill.
Andrew opened the fridge. “Put your lunch in here. Don’t worry, it’s safe. In six years, I’ve only had one thing stolen, a piece of chocolate cake.”
“Is that how long you’ve been working here?” Krista asked.
“Actually seven. I was hired part-time after high school. I got my financial designations while working here.” They walked into a hallway and entered another room with a series of desks separated by partitions. “Here’s our phone bank. We’re a small outfit. We have eight to ten reps hustling for new business on any given day.” He waved at the people sitting there. The ones who weren’t on the phone waved back.
After the tour, Andrew showed Krista his own office. “It’s sad what happened to Gavin McLeod,” she said, sitting down in front of his desk.
“How did you hear about that?”
“I saw it in the newspaper,” Krista said. “I’m just curious. What do you think happened?”
“I think he killed himself.”
Krista sighed. “So, what was he like? Were you close friends? Did you go out for lunch and drinks?”
Andrew had been looking down at his desk, but now he looked straight at Krista. “He was a nice guy, very bright and everything, but we weren’t buddies. Look, I hate to speak negatively of anyone, especially the dead, but I think he got the manager’s position because he was sleeping with Carla. He spent a lot of time in her office. I had higher sales figures and more experience, but he got the job.”
“Why do you think Gavin killed himself?” Krista asked.
“Why does anyone do it? The financial business is tough. Not everyone can hack it. Especially now, when people have less disposable income for investing and returns are so volatile. There were rumors that Carla broke up with him. He wasn’t himself the last few weeks he was alive. I think he cracked under the pressure. It happens to the best of us.”
Krista nodded. “Maybe so. I just hope it doesn’t happen to me.”
“You’ll be fine. The office you’re in was actually Gavin’s. For what it’s worth, he was one of the smartest guys I’ve ever met.”
As Krista walked past Carla’s office on her way to her own, muffled voices drifted through the closed door. A male voice asked whether the new hire could be trusted. Carla responded that everything would work out fine.
Copyright © 2017 by Morris J. Marshall