.Mark Warren is an accountant. He’s a college educated CPA. His degree got him a job with the State of Connecticut. He investigated tax fraud. After twenty years he took the money and set up a cottage industry out of his cellar. He does the books for small businesses and taxes for relatives. He’s married to Robin and they have three kids. More about them later. His life would have moved along normally if he didn’t get two bits of bad news. First, his desk job had thickened his waist and arteries. He’s taken care of that. Second Robin has contracted a neuro-muscular disease that has confined her to a wheelchair. Mark has to help her with some of the daily things in life like bathing and dressing. He’s had the house modified to accommodate her.
Robin Warren is confined to a wheelchair. She married Mark just after their daughter Kim was discovered. The two boys came five and seven years later. She was in school when her condition was discovered. She left school and married Mark with hopes of going back. That never happened. She became a contented housewife. Around her forty-fifth birthday she began noticing that she was beginning to have pain when she moved. At first she wrote it off as aging. It got worse. She went to what seemed an unending series of doctors. What it came to was a wheelchair, medication and pain-killers. She does her best to function, cleaning, cooking and serving as a buffer between her husband and clients who called inquiring why ten years of accounting records couldn’t be processed in three days.
The kids are Shelley, the eldest. She been married and divorced and lives near home. She takes care of her mother when Mark has to visit clients at their businesses. Her younger brother, Will, is a teacher. He’s married and has a son. The youngest child is Sam. He hasn’t quite settled down yet and his parents dread the fact that he’ll move back home.
That’s the daylight world. Mark paid for college by joining the military. He did time in Vietnam. It effected him. The doctors he saw when he came back talked him down from the ledge that shelling, stress and recreational drugs put him on. During the day, he could cope. A lot of talking and some light meds helped but he gave up the pills. He drank for a while. The sloppy feeling it gave him was unpleasant. He quit. Tobacco was never a problem. What scared him was sleep. He dreamed. Dreams about war that involved his family and friends. Sometimes they shot at him. Sometimes he shot at them. Sometimes the enemy was an unknown being that attacked his soul. The dreams sometimes carried over into the day. He caught them in the shower or by focusing on work. If he let his mind empty out and wander, the night entered. A bit at a time.
His life doesn’t allow Mark to deal with problems he has. He’s scared. What if the dreams take over his life? That’s the first question. Now the story:
He woke up next to her. She slept late these days. the painkillers she took to allow her to make it through the day petered out about ten at night. She was laying on her side surrounded by a body pillow that let her sleep on her side. She fell asleep that way after they talked. He swung his legs over the side of the bed. He stood slowly, his back hurt. It part of getting older. He staggered into the kitchen and started the coffee machine. Back in the bedroom he pulled out clean shorts and a tee-shirt out of the dresser drawer. In the bathroom he turned on the shower and stripped. He climbed into the tub and leaned against the front wall of the shower stall. He let the hot water relax the muscles in his back. As he dried off he looked at himself in the mirror. His body wasn’t that bad for a guy just north of sixty. The office job let him get sloppy and a visit to his doctor got him eating healthy. He sat down on the toilet seat and dressed.
He could hear her in the bedroom. She had pains early in the morning and had difficulty moving. In the bedroom he pulled on gym shorts and set up her meds. He knew them by heart. One blue, one yellow and three big white horse pills. Her eyes were open and she was smiling, good sign. He leaned over and kissed her. He stroked her hair. He took the body pillow from around her body and eased her onto her back. He got the wheelchair next to the bed and lifted her in. He got a change of clothes and wheeled her into the bathroom. He got her onto the toilet seat to take care of her morning duties. He left her alone. When she was done he adjusted the seat in the tub and turned on the water. Warm, not too hot. He adjusted the shower head to a gentle mist. Back in the chair he began to help her undress. There was a time when they could not do this quickly enough, but now it was mostly lifting limbs and tugging clothing. The tub had six or so inches of water and he got her out of the chair and onto the tub seat. She could wash most parts but he helped when he could.
When she was washed he wrapped her in towels and dried her. He wheeled back to the bedroom. He lay her on the bed and began to massage. He’d watched the physical therapists and took a course in Therapeutic Massage. He worked her legs to keep circulation going. He massaged her back and shoulders just because he enjoyed it.
“Still trying to cop a feel after all these years. You tried the first date but I’ve got a bit easier.” She said.
“Yeah but you’re just the same hot girl I married.”
“Except I traded legs for wheels.”
He sat her in the chair and dressed her. Soft bra and panties, white gym socks, sweat pants and long sleeved tee. In the kitchen he set her place by one of the counters. Coffee, toast and cold cereal. Her pills were in a small egg cup by the side of the cereal bowl. She tipped the pills back and swallowed some water. The counter was adjusted as were most parts of the kitchen to accommodate her chair. Mark sat at one of the few normal height sections of the counters.
“What do you have going today?” She said between spoons of cereal.
“Some guy named Pettiman. He thinks the accounting firm that the insurance company recommended is stealing from him.”
“Does he sound like a nut case?”
“I’ll have to listen to his story. I told him to bring as many years back as he could go. Ten years max. That usually thins the herd. When they have to work for something that they might be trying to pull off, they usually don’t want to do too much work. Scammers try to get by with as few real details and a lot of shiny stuff.”
“So if he shows up with a lot of files he might be telling the truth.”
“And I’ll be up too my ass checking paperwork.”
Mark cleaned up the dishes and made the bed. Robin rolled around the kitchen wiping and cleaning. He went downstairs to his office and unlocked the door that led to the driveway. He turned on the radio. Quiet wasn’t good for him. Stuff crept into his head, bad stuff, old stuff. He turned on the intercom. It was mostly for him. He had to hear her moving. She knew what she had to do and just did it.
At nine the client showed. Pettiman was round. Round head atop a round body held up by bowed legs. His whole head was red from the exertion of hauling two briefcases into the office. Beads of sweat were showing through his bad comb-over. He barely got the two cases onto the desk. The were the rectangular type designed to carry files. Pettiman plopped into the seat.
“Mr. Pettiman I see you brought the files.”
The words came out of Pettiman in gasps. “Yes They’re on disks.” “Everything.” “Past ten years.” “Fifty dollars to my nephew to copy them.”
“Mac or PC?”
“What operating system Mac or PC?”
“PC, I think.”
“Doesn’t matter.” Mark used both systems. A job he’d done for a less than legitimate electronics store owner got the PC delivered after a successful audit.
“How long has your accounting firm been shafting you?”
“About five years.”
“And you’re coming to me now.”
“It wasn’t too bad at first, maybe three and a half years. I checked the books myself. The accountants just sent me reports and I assumed they were legit. Then I noticed a problem the books looked good overall but the nuts and bolts profits and losses were off.”
“Can you explain?”
“I deal in import/export. I’ve got four stores open and I’m looking to open a fifth in a year. A lot of money orders are being sent overseas to Eastern European countries from my West Hartford store. There aren’t a lot Eastern Europeans in West Hartford. The business was mostly import of food and clothing. Now money is being sent to foundations and medical centers.”
“They’re probably legitimate charities.” Mark was trying hard to pay attention to the radio.
“I don’t think so, I tried to donate but when I sent a check to the local branch it came back. They don’t exist.”
“What’s the problem? Don’t give money to phony charities. It’s simple.”
“A lot of people gave money to those people and they might think that I’m involved.”
“So you’re looking to cover your ass.”
“Um, no, yes. The people who recommended you said you worked in forensic accounting and were one of the best.”
The best you can afford Mark thought. He and Pettiman talked about what Mark could and couldn’t do. Pettiman signed releases. They shook hands and Pettiman levered himself out of the client’s chair and waddled out of the office. Robin called him upstairs for lunch.
They sat and talked about things that were on the schedule for the week.
“So what do you think?” She asked.
“No about world peace, of course Pettiman.”
“He’s lying. People are using his business to funnel money to phony charities and he wants to cover his ass.”
“Go through all of his records thoroughly bill the shit out of him and send him on his way.” She had that look on her face that he first saw when his parents offered to pay for the wedding. She could be mercenary when she wanted to.
Back downstairs Mark ran the earliest disks through the computer. They were clean. He skipped ahead to the past two years and ran the disks. The program he’d had installed searched for anomalies. They began popping up. The money was deposited in one account and within twenty-four hours an equal amount was headed back.
Mark is a hand grenade. How soon do we show it?
Robin isn’t a cheerful wheelchair-bound person she’s in it for the money and what else?
Pettiman comes in with a set of bogus books. If he checked he’d know Mark would find out any errors. Is he what he says he is? Is it a CYA job?
Mark has a past. Can this be pert of it coming back to bite him in the ass?
Any questions or suggestions? Put them in Comments Section. See you next Wednesday.