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Authors: June Mayes

Swindled

BOOK: Swindled
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Swindled

June Mayes

Text copyright 2013 June Mayes

All Rights Reserved

Chapter 1

“Swindled,” Beth repeated softly. She sat across from her accountant, desperately trying to regain a grip on the situation. Under the table, she pinched herself, maybe just maybe, she could wake up herself up from the nightmare.

“Robbed, flinched, double-crossed, cheated, conned,” Michael said bringing her attention back to him. He shuffled through his papers on the boardroom table deliberately keeping his eyes focused away from her.

“Swindled,” Beth repeated quietly and shook her head. She stared at Michael and asked, “Are you absolutely positive?” Beth was hoping that Michel, the number genius of the world, was this once wrong. He looked back at her saying nothing.

She unbuttoned her pale blue jacket and slid it off her shoulders. The bangles on her arm jingled as she pulled them from the sleeves. Her concession to appearing businesslike at this meeting had been to wear the suit. As the meeting was degenerating, it was time to shed the trappings of the corporate world. The sooner she reverted to her more normal self, the better. Beth’s bangles, choker and Chinese satin pumps were a true reflection of her personality. The suit - not so much. She tucked a strand of her long fringe behind an ear.

Beth glanced over at her twin sister sitting shocked next to her. Identical except for her sister’s rather large pregnant belly, there was no doubt in Beth’s mind that her face reflected the same look of complete disbelief. Beth smoothed a hand over her face. Her bracelets clattered in the silence of the room and she stilled. Taking a deep breath she leaned forward.

“Let’s just get this clear. Basically you are telling us that our dear brother, Brian, has taken everything. There is no business to speak of. Nothing left to salvage.” Beth said, proud that she had managed to keep her voice calm as their accountant squirmed.

“That pretty much is it in a nutshell,” Michael replied rubbing his sweaty palms together. He obviously had more to share before he could leave this disaster in their less then capable hands while making a quick getaway.

“Of course there is the small matter of your bank loan. Even though the business has had a setback, you need to continue making payments,” Michael rushed through the last few words. He clutched at his papers and looked ready to bolt for the exit. Vickie and Beth shared a glance. In unison they turned back to Michael and glared.

“Set back? Is that what you call this?” Beth asked concisely, “And Michael, in case it’s escaped your notice, we can’t make payments. We haven’t sold anything. We haven’t actually opened our business yet,” she explained carefully, just in case he somehow missed that fact. “A business that you’ve just told us is bankrupt. Bankrupt because Brian, that worthless brother of ours, never set up the launch, never set up the connections with the department stores and took all the startup money!” She ended in a yell. Beth took a deep breath trying to pull herself together and continued more quietly.

“Brian was supposed to be setting up the launch for
next Thursday.
Instead, he is gone,” she said, “and now you’re asking us to make payments? With what Michael? What are we supposed to pay with? Go ask Brian to make the payments. He took the money so he can more then afford it!”

“You’ll just have to dip into your Trust Fund for this,” he replied waving his hands in a calm down gesture. He looked incredibly pleased with himself with the suggestion.

Vickie raised an eyebrow at her sister as Beth glanced at her. They were both baffled by the idiot’s response. Their company, their dream was crumbled around them and Michael, their accountant, was falling off the deep end. Oh good.

Vickie turned back to Michael and asked succinctly, “What Trust Fund?”

“Brian explained you had one,” Michael stuttered looking a touch less sure of himself. “He showed me all the paperwork, naming the three of you as Trust beneficiaries in his mother’s will.” Michael started going through his papers and paged through his notebook. Apparently the answer to all Michael’s problems was written down somewhere. Vickie was shaking her head in despair in the chair next to her as Beth felt her jaw drop.

“No. We never had a Trust Fund. Brian was the only beneficiary to his mother’s Will,” Vicky responded glaring at him over the boardroom table.

Beth narrowed her eyes and watched Michael as he scrambled. In the back of her mind, a light switched on. She leaned forward, saying quietly and distinctly, “Did you help him do this Michael? Did you help Brian ruin our company? Were you in on the deal?”

So help her Beth decided she really was going to rip that toupee off his head and stomp on it. The idiot had set them up.

“Brian said the money wouldn’t even be a drop in the pond for you. The Estate Trusties weren’t happy that you were going into business. It was imperative that the launch not happen,” Michael paled and began to stutter.

“I’m going to kill that brother of ours... rip him limb from limb” Beth muttered to Vickie “When I get through with him, he is going to be beyond sorry!”. She sucked in a breath trying to calm down.

“So, out of the goodness of your heart, you offered to help him ruin us?” Vickie was asking Michael as Beth seethed in the chair next to her. Were all accountants this gullible? No, Beth decided. It was just that she and her sister had the misfortune of choosing the one account that was a certified cretin.

“You have a Trust to pay back everything you borrowed. You must have. Brian showed me the Will,” Michael continued to mutter until finally slowing to a halt. He looked like he had just swallowed a very big and hairy spider.

“Brian had a Trust Fund which was his alone. He did not share. When we asked him to loan us some funding for the business, he compromised. He offered to match what money we raised from the bank and to use his contacts to sell the product. That’s why he came into the business with us,” Vicky explanation while Beth tried to regain control of her emotions.

“Brian, as a partner, has to be as liable for repayments as we are,” Beth said suddenly. “Since he has the money, he’ll have to pay.”

The room grew quiet. All they could hear was Michael’s laboured breathing as he tugged at his collar.

“He’s not a partner in your company anymore,” Michael muttered. “Brian dissolved his third. Your Partner contracts stated that if he wanted to sell his shares, he would have to offer each of you first refusal. But there was nothing regarding dissolving of a partner shares and simply giving them to the other partners,” Michael shrugged. “The company is now held by you two. He’s free and clear,” Michael ended in a near whisper looking paler then the paper he was holding. He was in the deep end and sinking fast.

“Get out Michael,” Beth said wearily blowing out a breath and shaking her head, “Just get out of this boardroom and this hotel. Try in that mighty little brain of yours to find a way – any way - to save this mess.” Beth took another deep breath to calm herself down. Her bangles clattered as she waved a hand at their nervous soon- to-be-ex accountant.

Michael scrambled for the door, stuffing his papers into his briefcase as he went and casting worried eyes at the two of them.

“I’ll … I’ll see what I can do … there must be something that … well there must be a way. Um,” he tripped over the chair at the end of the boardroom table, casting anxious looks back over his shoulder.

“Well I’ll be talking to you soon and we’ll… um sort something out I’m sure,” he mumbled, thrusting himself out the door and slamming it shut behind him.

It was finally quiet. Beth looked around the boardroom with its plush maroon chairs and large oblong Beach wood table. The room was decorated in mute colours and seemed to ooze tranquillity and calm. No doubt designed to offset the results of many business meetings ending up in showdowns. Business being what it was... no amount of calming colours was going to dampen the raging frustrations of it all Beth decided.

“Now what?” Vickie asked sounding weary and Beth suddenly felt blindsided. For the past month everyone had put all their energies, time and efforts into preparing for a big launch. A launch that now had no venue, no buyers and no chance. She banged her head against the table top as Vickie patted her on the back. This had turned into a really bad day.

She sat up again and pulled at the strand of hair that had fallen from her upswept hair.

“So that’s it then,” Beth said more to herself then to Vickie. “In short we’ve ended up with a mountain of debt and 5000 unsold sets of top of the line, sophisticated, original, one of a kind French lace bras and panties.”

Chapter 2

“You okay?” She added as she took a good look at her rather pale sister.

“Yes,” Vickie replied slowly. She looked devastated and frustrated and angry. “I’m just in shock. Half the time my heart was going into palpitations” she explained, “The other half I was trying to heave myself out of this chair and grab hold of that toupee of his. I think it would have worked so much better as a Frisbee, don’t you?” The soon-to-be-mother was absentmindedly rubbing her swollen pregnant belly under the sway of her braless bust. She looked like an icon for impending motherhood. She did not look like someone planning the mutilation of a grown man’s hair piece, Beth thought with a smile.

“You got the crucial bit of the meeting though?” Beth sighed, growing serious again. She groaned and continued, “Our next payment is due a week tomorrow- that’s seven days away! The initial sales from the launch were supposed to cover our bank payment. Without the launch, we have a week to find 20,000 pounds.” Beth dropped her head back into her arms on the table. Her bracelets clattered against the wood top and she could feel panic starting to set in.

“I need a drink,” Beth said shaking her head, caused more of her auburn hair to make a break from its upswept style. She pushed it away blankly thinking how carefully she had dressed this morning to look properly businesslike. All that effort wasted. Her hair fell in a riot of waves down her back and her suit jacket was flung discarded over the back of her chair. All that remained from their disastrous meeting.

Vickie gave a grin and replied, “Tell you what, we’ll go down to the hotel bar and you can have one for me as well. Okay?” The twins smiled at one another and left the quiet boardroom with its calming grey and blue walls.

*

David Andrews looked at his watch. The flight should be landing in the next forty-five minutes. Thank goodness.

He sat back in his seat and took a deep breath. He hadn’t been able to sleep more then ten minutes here and there of the twelve hour journey. It had been a long trip. All around him in the first class cabin, people were beginning to stir. The lights, which had been dimmed for the majority of the flight, were growing stronger. There was a murmur and the occasional chink of glass in the back of the cabin. The stewardesses were prepared breakfast. David put his book down and rolled his right shoulder in an attempt to ease the stinging pain. With the bandages on, he didn’t have much movement but he had a feeling it was a good thing.

The team doctor had given him a firm ticking off for getting injured and several bottles of painkillers. David was holding off on the human elephant tranquillisers until after arrival, figuring they would knock him out for days. Over the past few hours his shoulder had gone from blessedly numb to tingling ache to stinging pain. He feared that the next stage was going to be far worse.

Having managed to get himself on an earlier flight back into London, he was looking forward to a well deserved break. One more game for the season and then it was over. He would be official retired.

Of course it was just his luck that he would get hurt doing an exhibition match. David shook his head. It was a sure sign it was time to retire. Having been a pro for the past seven years, he had played enough to last a lifetime. As long as he put in an appearance on Saturday for the last game, he would be content.

David turned his thoughts to his retirement plans. With most people, they worried about being bored once they left their jobs but not him. He was more concerned that he might be biting off more then he could chew. In the last two years, he and a university friend, Pete, working part time had designed programmes that companies were lapping up. With both partners now retiring from their current professions, they would get a chance to get into more detail. They would be able to take on bigger scale projects and take the company to a whole new level.

It was going to be challenging but a welcome change, David conceded. It was far past time he hung up his sporting regalia and entered the world of normal living again.

*

It was still quiet when the twins arrived in the bar. It was too late for the lunchers and too early for the after-work drinks. It meant that the two attractive sisters had the undivided attention of the bar staff. Their drinks, a mango juice and a straight whiskey came in the flash of an eye. The bartender looking heart-wrenchingly disappointed when he couldn’t mix any of his more complicated cocktail creations.

“Oh goodie,” Vickie muttered to Beth with a raised eyebrow, after her glass delivered and the waiter had left. “Mango juice garnished with a sprig of mint, a neon red cherry and a mini umbrella. I couldn’t ask for more.” She gave her dressed up juice a dubious look and grinned at her sister.

“Stop whining,” Beth snickered back. “At least they made an effort to make your juice look more interesting. And it could have been worse.” Beth sat back and took a well deserved sip of her drink. She was so wound up that anything to take the edge off was a dream come true. The harsh liquid warmed her throat as it slid down. Perfect.

“How, do tell?” Vickie asked looking with exaggerated wide eyes. Beth sputtered trying not to choke on her drink.

“It could have been served in one of those tall frosted cocktail glass accompanied by a troupe of mariachi players.” Beth laughed as Vickie gave a look of exaggerated horror. Only in London, Beth thought, did a place dress up its drinks like the latest models on the catwalk. Even her whiskey was in a cut crystal glass with two cubes of perfectly formed ice. It looked like something out of a commercial. She wondered how long some poor minion in the kitchens had worked to get the ice perfect.

Beth turned to look out into the rest of the quiet bar. The bartender would have to survive the disappointment of their mundane drink orders. There was no one else there to order anything remotely more exciting. Sitting on one of the couches was a middle aged man chatting up a much younger woman in a tight black skirt. Other then those two, there was no one else in the bar but the staff.

The sisters sat quietly enjoying themselves. It had been a long time since they had been able to just talk without work getting in the way. With the launch supposedly a week away, they had been eating, sleeping and dreaming lingerie. Sitting together they made a studious effort to avoid talking about the business for as long as they could.

Finally Vickie gave up on the inevitable and asked, “What do you think? Could we appeal to Brian’s better nature and get the money back?”

The twins looked at one another for a second and broke out in hysterical giggles. Beth had to put her drink down before she spilled it. Vickie frantically patted her on the back to stop her from choking. They ordered another round of drinks as the waiter rushed up to assist.

“I think Brian doesn’t have a better nature.” Beth tried to get out between snickers and coughs. She took a deep breath, “We are going to have to write it off. We’ll have to try something else.”

“We could rob a bank.” Vickie volunteered staring moodily at her empty glass with its pink umbrella. She had a little growing pile of those umbrellas in front of their glasses.

“Oh yeah that would work… I can see it now. Police have issued a likeness of the two bank robbers from today’s heist. One was wearing high healed Chinese satin shoes and the other looked to be about eight months pregnant. There is a suggestion that the two may be related as they looked exactly the same!” Beth said, looking fondly at her sister. “Sure, let’s try that.” She leaned back as their drinks were delivered.

Vickie giggled again, “Okay not one of my sounder suggestions. But Beth, we are going to work something out. We have to.”

“I’ll think of something. We’ll come up with the money.” Beth agreed.

“Why do I think that it’s going to be much harder then it sounds?” Vickie asked plaintively. Beth knew how she felt. All that work, all that effort for a nonexistent launch. It was nauseating to think about how much they had put into getting a now bankrupt company up and ready. It was barely sinking in that it was all over. It was even harder to believe that Brian had managed to destroy it all in a single instant.

“Why do I think I had better have some coffee?” Beth said minutes later, putting down her empty glass. “I promised to help Karin unpack boxes tonight. No more alcohol or she is going to kill me.” She took a deep breath. “We’ll have to save the business tomorrow. Okay?”

Vickie was nodding.

“We can rob the bank tomorrow. Trust me. You’ll see it’s the best suggestion we’ve had,” she said, waving over one of the bar waiters who was polishing an empty table.

“I’m craving tea. Of course, it will go right through me but why not live a little?” she asked cheerfully as she placed their order. “Gives me a chance to see every restroom in town; think I might write a book about them once the baby arrives!” The sisters laughed. Beth shook her head in mock despair, she could see Vicky pulling it off.

“I can’t believe that Karin has moved again. Is this something like the third time in the last year? She’s insane,” Vickie continued as the waiter wandered off.

Beth agreed. “But for some reason she loves it. She has a knack for finding houses that were complete wrecks and turning them into masterpieces. Once she finished a place,” Beth shrugged, “she just can’t seem to hold onto it.”

“Well Karin must be rolling in it selling all those houses. Hey there’s an idea,” Vickie said sitting up straight in her chair. “All we have to do is get Karin to strategically leave our business cards lying around her places and success!” She grinned and raised an eyebrow.

“Or maybe she could leave her dresser drawers open during the show houses. Just strategically place a few undergarments,” Beth pitched in as they laughed.

“Scary but that idea might just have some merit,” Vickie said pursing her lips.

A few minutes later, the attentive waiter came back with the tea and coffee. As he leaned down to place the tea pot on the table, Vickie shifted and he caught an eye full of her ample cleavage. For a second he teetered with the hot pot of tea in his hand, seemingly frozen. The tray, in his other hand, tilted precariously sending the cup of coffee sliding toward the edge.

The waiter never noticed. His eyes were firmly glued to the moving flesh revealed by Vickie’s top. Before Beth could so much as shout, her arms, lap and left leg were covered in the searing hot liquid. For a second she didn’t feel anything but then is started to burn.

She jumped out of her chair with a yelp and pulled at the sodden cloth sticking to her body.

“Ow!” As she jumped back and forth trying to ease the burning pain, a shock of freezing cold water hit Beth from the side. It nearly threw her off her feet again and shocked her into stillness.

The well meaning and hovering bar manager had moved into action in the seconds the coffee had spilt. In one great heave, he had doused her with a shower of icy cold water from the wine bucket off the other table.

BOOK: Swindled
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