The Body in the Pool
Book One of the Dismember Killer Series
Chapter Twenty Five
The three squeezed in around Spence’s monitor and waited for enough of the file to buffer through the madly slow internet connection. A snowy gray screen gave way to a conference room. Large oval table, high backed chairs, and an expensive-looking conference phone in the middle of the table. The camera had a wide-angle lens on the whole room. Several people were seated around the table with fine china cups and mostly untouched plates of dessert.
Spence hit pause, “If the microphone is embedded in the camera the audio is going to suck on this thing.”
“We could call the lip reader if we need to,” Melanie suggested.
Spence pushed play. “Might as well see how it goes.”
The video resumed playing. The audio was quite good.
“Such a vile thing to happen at our school,” said a brunette female in her early to mid-forties.
Spence paused the screen again. He turned the monitor at Tom’s desk around to face the team. A web page with pictures of the Board of Directors and their short bios filled the screen.
“Solidad Marquez?” Spence asked.
Melanie agreed, “Vice president in charge of membership.”
“One down,” said Spence as he pushed play.
“We can stand the publicity, but really, we shouldn’t have to.”
Spence hit pause again. “Roger Boffherd, Board President. How nice for him.”
“There has been way more publicity than the situation required,” Matt, the lawyer, contributed.
“Isn’t there some way to squash all the talk?” Roger inquired.
“I don’t really see how,” Matt replied. “The whole serial killer angle is entertainment for small minds.”
Melanie slammed her hand down on the space bar. “I think our friend Matt the lawyer just implied this isn’t a serial killer case. Is that what you heard?”
Spence nodded. “I wonder what kind of knowledge he has to assume that?”
“I’m wondering if he’s right.” Melanie hit the space bar to resume the playback.
“I called this meeting because it is imperative that we decide on a strategy.”
A new woman was speaking. The detectives compared her to the website. Melanie whispered, “Helena Starling, Special Projects.” The video kept rolling.
“Now that the bastard is dead, we have to figure out what to do about the missing money,” Helena continued.
“Are we sure the money is really gone?” Roger asked.
“We’ve been over this, Roger. I asked Harold for the numbers in our Capitol Improvements Budget and he never gave them to me. He’s been dodging my calls for months now.”
“Maybe Harold was behind in his paperwork. I believe he said he took on several new clients at the start of the year,” Roger said.
“You cannot go on defending your good buddy, Roger.” Solidad was angry and her tone of voice made it very clear. “When I asked Harold how much was invested and how much was liquid in the Repair and Rebuild Fund, he couldn’t give me numbers on that either.”
“Again, Harold has been busy. Or was busy. The man is dead. We should show him some respect.”
Matt’s slow and calm voice carried clearly. “We need to get our hands on the files. That should make the situation clear. It’s frankly inconceivable to me that you don’t have an independent auditor. Even more inconceivable that none of you have access to the school’s long-term accounts.”
There was such a long silence, Spence feared the sound had gone out on the recoding.
“I maintain we have no proof Harold was embezzling academy money and it would be disrespectful to trouble his widow at this time.” Roger sounded a might tetchy.
Barnes popped the space bar. “Anyone else wondering if Roger was helping Harold embezzle the money?”
Spence chuffed and started the video.
“I’m not sure why you think demanding access to the Academy’s accounting would be disrespectful or a bother to his widow?” Matt asked.
“We have to do something about this, Roger. We can’t keep our heads buried in the sand and pretend everything is fine,” Helena insisted. “We promised our parents an indoor swim facility. We guaranteed it would open by next fall. We can’t move forward at all on the project without funds, which I highly doubt are where they should be.”
“Fine.” Roger clanked his coffee cup back into the saucer. “Fine. You go talk to widow. You tell her you think her husband was embezzling.”
Matt’s voice intruded again. “There is no need to say anything like that. In fact, it would be legally reckless to make such a comment without evidence. The corporate office for his firm is the appropriate place to make a request for documentation and access.”
“Matt, you’re not even on this board,” Roger defended his ignorance. “Arlene inherits everything, I’m sure. All of this is a direct reflection on Harold and her.”
Matt cleared his throat. “I am this board’s general counsel. You pay me to provide you with sound legal advice and assistance. That is what I am offering you now. Whether or not Arlene inherits everything, which I do not know as Harold’s will is not in probate yet, the corporation Harold ran will continue to function. That is who will give you the answers you need now.”
Melanie reached for the pause button but Spence knocked her arm away.
Eventually Solidad spoke, “I agree we should ask for the paperwork. I will go with you Roger, if you insist on a board member only trip.”
“I’m not going.” Roger looked as shocked as he sounded.
“Then I will go and wisely take our general counsel,” Solidad asserted.
“Are you implying I am behaving unwisely?” A vein in Roger’s temple began to throb visibly.
“Honestly, I’m wondering: how dumb are you?” Solidad said before taking a bite of the cake in front of her.
“I don’t think we need to resort to name calling,” said Doctor Wallsgraf. “Let’s try to stay on topic.”
Solidad snorted and shoveled in another bite of dessert.
“Matt, can you fill us in on our legal position?”
Melanie whispered with the video still rolling, “Adam Stingle, Operations.”
Matt nodded and cleared his throat. “Legally speaking, if Harold has embezzled a considerable amount of money from the Academy accounts, you, as the board, could be held responsible.”
“Don’t we have insurance for this sort of thing?” Adam asked in horror.
“Not against deliberate malfeasance,” Matt calmly replied.
“How the hell did that happen?” Helena shouted.
No one answered. The silence dragged on.