Crime du Jour: 31 Days of Malfeasance, Misconduct, and Immorality
One crime story per day, all the way through October. Ebook to be published Nov 1. This will be under my mystery/crime pen name, Diane R. Thompson!
Crime du Jour #11: Embezzling
THE $24,000 COOKIE QUESTION
Cassandra Bivings, troop leader of the Girl Scouts River Trail Council, peered through the slats in the vertical blinds at the white SUVs pulling up in front of the house. The house belonged to her sister-in-law’s cousin, who was in Atlantic City for a few days to gamble. The front yard needed watering, and the cousin had left town halfway through a landscaping project, so there were bags of bark mulch stacked up like sandbags all along the side of the house and big ugly sheets of plastic stapled to the ground. On the front porch were a pair of wood rocking-chairs, a pair of hanging baskets of begonias, and a decorative printed nylon flag with a bouquet of pink irises on it. The air had the tang of rain to it. It was a small house with no garage and not much of a basement. Cassandra’s brother’s minivan was parked down the street, about two blocks away, and she had only brought as many boxes of cookies into the house with her as she could fit inside her purse.
The doors were locked and the windows were closed.
Kaitlyn Gurry, the Community Connections Specialist of the River Trail Council, emerged from one of the white SUVs with a stern look on her broad face, walking down the sloped driveway, around a stack of bark mulch, and up onto the porch. She rang the doorbell several times, bing-bong! then opened the screen door, tried the handle, then banged on the door with her fist.
“We know you’re in there, Cassandra! Come out and tell us what happened to those cookies!”
It was Cassandra’s first year as troop leader. Under her charge were fifteen girls as well as over five hundred cases of cookies, or six thousand individual packages of cookies. About half the cookies were for her own troop, with the other half going to other troops in the area. What had happened hadn’t been planned so much as snowballed, a snowball rolling down a steep hill and ending up an avalanche by the time it hit bottom. But there was no point in going into all that.
“We just want to know what happened to those cookies!” Kaitlyn shouted again.
Cassandra didn’t answer. The fact was, she didn’t completely understand herself. Some folks, friends of her brother’s, had wanted to buy entire cases of cookies from her, and although they had paid her, checks had bounced, bills had come in, and some of the cases had just plain disappeared. It wouldn’t have been so bad, but after the trouble had started coming out, her brother had helped her hide half of them in different houses, and then a friend of his had moved them after that, and now nobody knew where most of the rest of the boxes were. The question of where $24,000 of cookies had gone was not one she was prepared to answer.
But she wasn’t about to tell Kaitlyn Gurry that.
After shouting any number of things, finally Kaitlyn said, “That’s it, Cassandra. I’m calling the cops.”
Kaitlyn stood there and took her phone out and called the police, standing right there on the front porch.
She had determination and righteousness on her side, but she had forgotten one thing: school let out at two fifty-five p.m.
She had made the call at two twenty-five.
At two thirty, the first of the white SUVs drove off.
By two thirty-five, Kaitlyn was in tears.
“Aren’t you going to pick up your girls, Cassandra?”
But Cassandra’s sister-in-law was on kid duty today. Kaitlyn, a single mother with no family in town, was on her own. No backup. And she couldn’t even be sure Cassandra was inside the house.
Kaitlyn finally drove off at two-forty, with a twenty-minute drive to get to her daughter’s school—if she sped the whole way and the traffic was good.
Two forty-two, Cassandra ran for her brother’s minivan. But coming down the street–a patrol car!
She drove the back to the house just in time, as the patrol car drove up. She got out and waved the officer over.
“Did you make the call about the cookie theft, ma’am?”
“I did,” Cassandra said, with all the authority she could muster. “I had a whole posse of ladies with me to confront her, too, but everyone else had to leave to go pick up their kids. Good thing my sister-in-law is picking up mine. What took you so long?”
The officer gave her some excuse, then went up to the house and knocked on the door. No answer.
“She won’t come out, will she? Break down the door and get her,” Cassandra demanded. “She knows what she did.”
“I can’t do that without a warrant, ma’am.”
“Well, go get one.”
They went back and forth, with Cassandra swearing that she would stay in front of that house until “that woman” came out. Eventually, a second patrol car arrived to watch the house while the first officer went to pick up a warrant.
They sent her off and told her not to come back.
Cassandra gave them a hmph! and drove off to her sister-in-law’s house. Her brother better hope his cousin won enough to pay for those cookies.
Otherwise, he would have some real explaining to do.
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