Myra slid two copies of the agreement across the desk with a pen sitting on top.
“It’s all pretty standard boiler-plate stuff,” she told me, “pretty straight-forward. You can read it if you want.”
I picked it up and glanced at the front page. It read:
NON-DISCLOSURE AGREEMENT (NDA)
This Agreement made this 22nd day of October 2015 (the “Effective Date”)
By and between
The Huisache County Women’s Club having a premises at 160 Ensenada Avenue; Steubenville, NM 55526 (hereinafter “HCWC”)
Miller Investigations; 1018 East Chestnut Road; Steubenville, NM 55526 (hereinafter “Contractor”).
WHEREAS, both HCWC and Contractor desire to engage in discussions and communications that may entail disclosure of confidential information…
Yeah, it looked pretty standard to me so I flipped to the back page and signed where indicated, then did it again for the second copy. I noted that the HCWC signee had been Myra Beckensall; dated yesterday. She had left a message on my office machine last night and I had only returned her call this morning. She was confident. I folded one copy and put it in my purse, I handed the other back to Myra.
“What’s this all about Ms. Beckensall?” I asked.
“It’s about Jo Ann Philomen,” she began. “I have to be straight with you Linda, may I call you Linda?”
“Before I go into details I want to stress that the NDA you just signed is a legal and binding agreement which we take seriously and will enforce if required to do so.”
I nodded again. Non Disclosure Agreements are a standard part of my business. My name is Linda Miller and “Miller Investigations” is what it says on the door to my office. I had gotten my degree in Criminal Justice right after I got out of the Corps.
In the Marines I had learned to be independent while at the same time being loyal to a team. I had learned to be “mission focused”. I had learned survival skills. I had learned to get the job done. I had learned to live the culture of Semper Fi.
“I understand Ms. Beckensall, and I’ve signed your agreement so please speak freely.”
“You may or may not know that Jo Ann is the treasurer here at HCWC and we do a lot of fundraising. We put the money back into the community with meals for seniors, after school centers, libraries and the like. Last year alone, we put about one and a half million dollars back into this city.
“To facilitate her duties as Treasurer Jo Ann has access to all our accounts and moves the funds to the various causes we support as is appropriate.”
“Sounds like a huge responsibility.” I said though I was beginning to suspect where this was going.
“Oh it is,” Myra said. “But here’s the problem. Last year we raised over two million dollars. We supported our causes with a million and a half, while entering the year with a quarter million in our accounts. Operating expenses come to about one hundred and fifty thousand. At the end of the Fiscal Year we have about a quarter million banked. You see the problem, of course.
“A quarter million to start, two million raised, one point five million donated and overhead of a hundred and a half.”
I was running the numbers in my head when she said, “We should be going into this year with six hundred grand. We only have two hundred fifty, same as last year. That means three hundred and fifty thousand dollars are unaccounted for.
“Jo Ann has receipts, of course but the companies they are from don’t exist, as far as we can tell, and the expenditures were never approved by the board.”
“So you think she took it.” I said.
“Yes, we do and we’d like you to investigate. And, now I remind you of the NDA again. If you confirm our suspicions we’d like you to take care of the problem for us.”
“I’m happy to investigate.” I said, “That’s what I do. But I’m not sure I understand what you mean when you say you want me to take care of the problem.”
Myra looked knowingly, “I think you do Linda,” she was nodding her head. “Rub her out, make her disappear, terminate her. I don’t know the proper buzz words but basically, if she’s been stealing our money – we want her dead. You will be well compensated regardless of your findings as long as any loose ends are wrapped up.”
I pushed my chair back and stood, “’fraid, you have the wrong private eye, Ms. Beckensall.”
“Really?” she asked, “I have a contract here, which you signed, wherein you agree to investigate and terminate, as required.” She stared at me, “you should have read it. I told you that you could.”
I held her eyes and removed my copy of the contract from my purse. She sat quietly while I read it through this time. It looked like she was right.
“This can’t be enforceable,” I said.
“Our lawyers tell us that it is, but if you want to test it, we can.”
I read it again and found a sliver of hope. “OK,” I told her, “I’ll investigate but if there’s any doubt of her culpability then in accordance with clause 3.2 – I’m out.”
“Agreed,” Myra smiled and extended her hand to shake. I stood and turned to leave. I had no intention of shaking hands with Ms. Beckensall. When I got to the door she said, “Have a word with Carla at the desk on your way out. She’ll make sure you have full access.”
Carla got me hired as an assistant to the Treasurer. My investigation took three weeks and it turned out that Ms. Beckensall and the board were right. Jo Ann Philomen was as guilty as sin. On my last day there we went for a walk along the cliffs. She told me that she knew who I was and what I had been doing. She said she was relieved that it was all over and asked if I would let her turn herself in.
The top of the cliffs were about forty feet above the rocks where the Rattlesnake River had been cutting a channel for thousands of years.
It was easy. It only took a nudge and the coroner wrote it up as accidental death – a hiking accident.
It turns out that the cost of a life is pleasantly high, especially if you are working for the HCWC. After Ms. Beckensall’s cheque cleared I was going to take some time off, maybe visit Europe but it turns out that a lot of rich, powerful women are members of the HCWC and they seem to hold grudges. I’m getting a lot of new business, lucrative business, mostly cash business. They are keeping me busy. I’m already booked through the end of next year.
Things have definitely turned out for the best!