The Simsville Inheritance
Copyright ©2006 Elizabeth G. Cox. All rights reserved.

Chapter 28 - Call the Boss, or Not Call the Boss

A nagging thought kept running around in the back of my mind. Whatever is going on in Simsville is getting bigger and bigger. Too big. Maybe it was time to call my office.

Sure, I was on a leave of absence. Sure, they didn't expect to hear from me for another week or so. But a little unofficial help would be welcome, and I had no doubt it would be offered if I explained my situation to my boss. I could do a lot with the resources I had at my disposal but to do more would require my supervisor's authorization. Matt Ryan's authorization.

Did I want to explain the situation to Matt? That was my number one question. I'd worked very hard to arrive at my position, one of responsibility and respect, one where I knew what I was doing and others came to me for help. Not one where I went to someone else for help. It was sort of a running joke between Matt and me. He was Mr. Macho, I was Miss Know-it-all. He and I liked each other and our roles were complementary as a rule, not competitive.

The problem was, we were looked at differently by the higher ups. In spite of the fact that I had solved some difficult problems and saved our agency a lot of embarrassment as well as money, Matt got the credit for it. He didn't strive for the credit, he tried to make sure I was recognized for my efforts, but that didn't matter in Richmond. His immediate superior didn't believe any woman was truly capable of excellent work. It tended to create an air of tension between Matt and me.

Which got worse after our social lives began to coincide. First we discovered a mutual interest in jazz. Then a mutual interest in old classic movies. After running into each other several times at concerts and theaters, we began to schedule our free time to "coincidentally" coincide. We'd never had a date you could exactly call a date, right out. That was sort of frowned on around the office. Still, with coffee and burgers after a movie, wine and cheese at a concert or a long walk to wind down after a long day, things were progressing. Not fast, just comfortably. Any tension on the job could be dealt with after work in a sensible conversation, ending with laughter and a good night kiss. I wanted to keep it that way.

So, call the boss, or not call the boss?

I had come upstairs to freshen up before the team from Sumter arrived, and to give myself a few moments of peace and quiet in which to think. Okay, Simsville was a company town. I could understand that, sort of. I'd never heard of such a thing, never imagined it, but I could understand it. It was an out-of-the way community inhabited by intelligence types, mostly retired but with an active contingent. Witness protection for spies, maybe? A secure vacation spot when more public ones would be dangerous. A sense of invisibility surrounded this little village, an aura of anonymity. Jones, Smith and the others had spent a lot of time creating this oasis, and the girl's kidnapping followed by the bank job threatened its existence. Would soliciting Matt's help add to that threat, or lessen it a bit? Hearing the doorbell, I decided to hold off on that phone call until after the meeting with the Sumter crew.

I glanced over the balustrade and realized there were only two newcomers, men in windbreakers and jeans. The Sumter team was a small one.

"Avery? Join us in the study, if you don't mind." Jones was bringing the men upstairs, leaving everyone else scattered around the first floor. No-one was talking, just looking thoughtful as Jones led the way into the second-floor study. He took his usual seat behind the desk, I sat in the far chair and the two men sat next to each other facing Jones.

"Monroe Elliott and Will Askins, meet Avery Alderson, new owner of Simsville. Myrtle's niece." The men apparently knew Aunt Myrtle, knew about the family ownership of the town property. They gave me a polite nod as their names were spoken. Monroe seemed to be the older of the two by a few years, but both men could have been any age from thirty to forty-five. Will had a younger, more mod look to his longer hairstyle, while Monroe had a businessman's hair cut. Either could have been an insurance salesman or a truck driver, except for a somewhat disconcerting watchful air to their demeanor.

"Avery's only been in town a few days, I'm afraid. We were going to bring her up to speed gradually but I guess that's not feasible now." Jones looked a little tired as he spoke.

"Monroe and Will are FBI, Avery. They're tasked with operational oversight of Simsville, although we usually manage the day to day stuff on our own. This current dilemma with the bank is going to require some extra management, unfortunately."

Monroe took the lead in asking questions and I sat back and listened to the queries and responses. Will seemed to be taking mental notes, listening intently but saying little. After Jones had answered his questions as best he could, Monroe gave us a run-down on what his office had discovered so far.

"Whoever did this wasn't a professional, Jones. They just skimmed what amounts to pennies from multiple accounts, considering what's in there. Transferred it off shore. It would have been much worse if professionals had done it. A hacker trying it on, maybe gearing up for something bigger later? Anyway, taking the bank staff just isn't done, not by experts. That wouldn't have been necessary at all."

Monroe was explaining that the bank's computer system had indeed been hacked but it seemed to be an amateur job. Hmm. Some amateur, I was thinking.

"Well, Alice said he seemed like a kid, Monroe. Maybe he was a kid, at least when it came to doing this job. Although he did have his plan thought out pretty well. But I don't think he realized the bank staff weren't your run of the mill civilians. If he had, he sure wouldn't have picked Simsville to pull a stunt like this." Jones was rubbing his forehead, squeezing his eyes as if he had a headache.

"Avery, do you know what the bank here actually does? In addition to checking accounts, that is." Will had turned slightly in his chair and was looking at me with a blank expression as he spoke.

"I assume it's more than normal banking activities because of the unusual function of the town, but I don't know any specifics, Will." He nodded slightly, glanced over at Jones and paused for a moment before continuing to speak.

"The Simsville bank is a regional hub for financial transactions that are fairly wide-spread. Stocks, bonds, mutual funds and retirement accounts, plus many types of trades made automatically by computer programs. We're talking the volume of business usually done in a place like Atlanta or Charlotte. What you see when you walk in that front door is just that. A ‘front' door. The majority of the real bank is located underground, several stories down. You can understand that hitting that facility set off alarm bells from here to D.C." Will paused again, as if gathering his thoughts and deciding how much more to tell me.

"It took a somewhat sophisticated computer geek to hack into this system. But the thing is, whoever it was didn't even begin to do the damage he could have done. It's as if he didn't know where he was, digitally speaking. Think of it like this. A burgler bypasses an alarm system and gets into a jewelry store. But then he only steals costume jewelry and leaves the real diamonds behind. That's what this situation looks like. That might make it harder to find out who did it. Not impossible, of course; we'll find him. It is curious, though, don't you think?"

Waiting for my response, Will was looking at me with the trace of a smile on his lips. At that moment I realized he was well aware of what I did for a living. And I began to think maybe he wasn't the junior agent in this Sumter team, despite his youthful appearance.

Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3 | Chapter 4 | Chapter 5 | Chapter 6 | Chapter 7 | Chapter 8 | Chapter 9 | Chapter 10 | Chapter 11 | Chapter 12 | Chapter 13 | Chapter 14 | Chapter 14 | Chapter 15 | Chapter 16 | Chapter 17 | Chapter 18 | Chapter 19 | Chapter 20 | Chapter 21 | Chapter 22 | Chapter 23 | Chapter 24 | Chapter 25 | Chapter 26 | Chapter 27 |