by Morris J. Marshall
Chapter 12: : Consultations
In her second week at DBC Financial, Krista asked Jenny Townsend, her personal assistant, to lunch to get to know her better and find out what she knew about Gavin McLeod. Personal assistants were privy to information that wasn’t readily available to others.
It was twelve thirty and the restaurant was filled with lunchtime diners, mostly office workers eager to escape the stress of business for an hour or so. The tinkle of cutlery and the drone of conversation drowned out the top 40 music that played in the background. By the time their drinks had arrived, Krista was comparing her own experience at Apex College to that at DBC Financial.
“Teaching was never as difficult as hustling new clients for their investment business. When you’re in front of a class, people come to you.”
Jenny sipped her water. “It’s difficult for everyone. But Carla said you were doing well. She seems impressed with your performance so far.”
“I’m still no Gavin McLeod,” Krista said. “From what I’ve heard, he was a real star.”
“I knew it,” Krista said.
“He was bright and a charmer.”
“How did you and Gavin get along, Jenny?”
“Would you promise not to mention any of this to Carla? I don’t want her to know I’ve talked to you.”
Krista pinched her thumb and forefinger together and dragged them along her closed lips. “You’ve got my word. Anything you say stays with me.”
“Why are you so interested in Gavin anyway?”
Krista took a deep breath. “I read about his death in the newspapers. They mentioned that he worked at DBC Financial.”
“Gavin and I were more than colleagues,” Jenny said. “We were secretly dating. The night before he died, we bought two all-inclusive tickets to Cuba. We were planning to leave the next week. That’s why I can’t believe he killed himself.”
“I don’t believe it either, Jenny. That’s why I’m at DBC Financial. I’m investigating Gavin’s death. I think he was murdered, but I haven’t figured out who’s responsible yet. Do you know of anyone who might want to kill him or why?”
Jenny shook her head. “Everyone liked him.”
“Do you mind if I ask you a few questions?”
“Of course not.”
“Have you ever heard of Thomas Chan or Edward Vickers?”
“They were financial planners at DBC. The last time I saw Mr. Chan was about three years ago after a meeting with Carla. He walked quickly out of her office. Didn’t even say ‘Hi’ to me like he usually did. I thought it was kind of strange at the time.”
“And Vickers?” Krista asked.
“He left the company in 2015. I thought Carla fired him. He had some kind of drug problem. What do they have to do with Gavin?”
“They’re both dead, Jenny.”
“I...I didn’t know.”
“Do you remember anything unusual about the morning Gavin died?” Krista asked.
“In what way?”
“In terms of the behavior of DBC employees.”
“Not really,” Jenny said. “Carla called me at eight that morning and told me not to come in, that Gavin had committed suicide. She doesn’t usually arrive until nine, but I guess the police called her. They shut the building down for four hours while they investigated. Everything’s a blur for me now.”
“Did anything upset Gavin during the weeks before his death?” Krista asked.
“He was depressed. He told me he might not have his job much longer, but he didn’t say why. I just assumed he wasn’t performing well.”
“One last question,” Krista said. “Did Gavin and Carla ever date, to your knowledge?”
“She liked him and asked him out a few times, but he turned her down. I thought she might try to fire him, but he didn’t seem worried.”
“Thanks, Jenny, for your openness. You’ve been a big help.”
* * *
Later that evening, Krista was alone in her apartment with Simon nestled on the floor between her feet as she worked on her laptop. She went to Google and typed in “Edward Vickers.” His obituary and Facebook page appeared. A picture of Vickers dressed in a black tank top and Bermuda shorts stared at Krista from her monitor. He was a short, thin guy with black spiky hair and a silver stud earring in his left ear. Smiling at the camera, he had his arm around a woman named Janet Darcy, who was identified as his girlfriend. Krista went to the DBC Financial website and typed in “Edward Vickers.”
When she pressed “enter,” her screen blackened. She tried getting back to her homepage, but her computer was frozen. She jumped when the red letters “Who are you?” appeared.
Krista withdrew her hands from the keyboard as if it were a hot stove. She wanted to ask her questioner the same thing, but her screen went black again and a new message appeared: “Why are you researching dead employees?”
Krista fiddled with her mouse. She pressed the Alt, Ctrl, and Delete buttons simultaneously to power down her computer, to no avail. After a minute, the red lettering disappeared, leaving her back on the DBC Financial homepage. She left the website and returned to Google.
Just then the buzzer in her living room sounded. Krista wasn’t expecting any visitors, but someone was calling up from the downstairs lobby. She ran for her cell phone. “Hello?”
“Is anyone there?”
She waited several seconds, listening to dead air. Once, as a young teen, she’d picked up the phone at her parents’ place and was greeted by heavy breathing. As much as that freaked her out, this silence was worse.
Still holding her phone, Krista ran to her front window and parted the curtains. The streets were dark, wet and deserted. A car with tinted windows started up and tore away from its parking space in front of her building, tires squealing. The taillights twinkled in the dark and quickly disappeared.
Still staring at the street, Krista went into “Contacts” on her phone, highlighted Haiyuan’s number and pressed “Call.”
“Haiyuan? It’s me. Are you free right now?”
“I’m just coming home from work. I’m not far from your place. Would you like me to drop by?”
“I’d love that. Some strange things have been happening.”
“What do you mean?” Tran asked.
“I’ll explain when you get here.”
“You’re not in any danger, are you?”
“No, I don’t think so.”
“I’ll be right over.” Tran pressed his foot against his car’s accelerator, then eased off, slowing down on the wet streets.
Ten minutes later, he arrived at her apartment. He hugged her as soon as she opened her front door. “What’s going on?”
Krista took his hand and led him to the couch. Tran removed his coat, draped it over the couch and sat down next to her. He hooked his arm around her shoulder, and she leaned her head against his chest and told him everything. About the mysterious stranger at the back of her Economics class. The messages on her computer. Her buzzer going off. The car speeding away.
“They haven’t actually done anything,” Krista said.
“I don’t want to wait. I’ll stay with you.”
“I don’t think that would be a good idea. Simon might get jealous.”
Tran laughed. He reached down and petted the cat’s head. “Would you mind, Simon, if I got your owner something for Valentine’s Day? It’s only two days away.”
Krista punched Tran in the arm.
“Ow! Seriously, I could post someone outside your door.”
“If anyone really wanted to harm me, they would have done it already.”
“I can’t convince you to leave your job, can I?”
Krista shook her head. “I do find your protective side very attractive, though.” She drew him closer and kissed him on the lips.
* * *
After Tran had left, she called Bill. “Can you do me a favor?” she asked.
“Sure, Lass. Anything.”
“I have an idea that might help find Gavin’s killer.”
Copyright © 2017 by Morris J. Marshall