So there you are facing down an auditor from the bank about unaccounted for funds. A scene that would make anyone shiver in their boots. Where did the money go? That’s what Lily Cranston is asking in Homicide at High Noon.
About the Book
Lily Cranston is soaring high as the manager of the Calico Rock Mine and Ghost Town in Grady, California. Cash is finally flowing in and improvements to the theme park, like the new zipline, are drawing crowds. Even Lily’s previously stalled love life seems to be heading on the right track with CSI Cody West. But all that comes to a halt when the park’s board of directors suddenly comes to Lily with accusations of embezzlement! Someone’s had their fingers in the till and all eyes are on her. To make matters worse, before Lily even has a chance to prove her innocence, murder strikes her small town!
Melvin J. Rinehart is the arrogant, browbeating bank auditor who’s determined to prove Lily has been stealing from the ghost town. But when Lily arrives at his office to set him straight, she finds someone’s beat her to it—killing the man before Lily has a chance to plead her case! Now not only is Lily in danger of facing embezzlement charges, but she’s also a prime murder suspect. Even her family and new boyfriend in law enforcement may not be enough to keep Lily out of jail. She’s worked too hard to lose it all, so Lily puts her skills to the test to find the real guilty party, uncovering shocking truths and unscrupulous practices along the way. Will she be able to find the missing money and the killer before it’s too late? Or will her time run out as the killer sets their sights on her…
When I entered the office, Gretchen greeted me with a tight smile, and my steps slowed. She always wore a bright, cheerful expression on her face, but this one looked strained and forced. Beside the receptionist’s desk stood Steve, the bank president and chairperson of The Park’s planning committee. Next to him, a tall, thin man I’d never seen before, sneered in my direction. His thick dark hair and bushy eyebrows paled when compared to his Fu Manchu style mustache. His dark hair wove around the corners of his mouth until it reached the end of his chin. Short and stout, Steve’s clean-shaven face looked naked next to the stranger. Neither of them appeared pleased to see me. “Good afternoon.” The hardened look in Steve’s eyes did not bode well. “Lily, this is Melvin Rinehart, from the Rinehart Accounting Firm. He also serves as the bank’s auditor.” “Hello,” I reached out to shake his hand, but instead of taking mine, he handed me a business card with the name Melvin J. Rinehart printed in gold lettering over a glossy maroon background. Concerned they’d think I’d been playing hooky from work; I said the first thing that came to my mind. “I’ve just returned from trying out one of the nearby ziplines.” My words didn’t sound as reasonable an explanation as I had hoped, so I dug the hole deeper by babbling. “I never knew how great a place Ward County’s National Park is to visit.” “Let’s go into your office,” Steve tilted his head toward the hallway leading to the back of the building. “Sure. Follow me,” I said and then led the way to the room not much larger than a walk-in closet set aside to serve as the park manager’s private office. Thanks to the help of my sisters, we’d made the tiny quarters as cozy as possible. I sat down in the upholstered black captain’s chair behind my desk and the two men took a seat on the chairs across the room from me. After they were settled, Steve got right to the point of this unplanned meeting. “Melvin is the bank auditor and we’ve asked him to look into The Park’s banking accounts.” “Oh, I see,” I said, although I really didn’t, but still I believed it was good practice to keep company funds in check. “There seems to be a discrepancy in spending,” he continued, and my heart sank. Not too long ago, The Park had been struggling to stay open. We’d worked so hard to cut back on spending and keep the numbers out of the red. I’d believed the recent discovery of gold on the property had put all our money troubles behind us. “What do you mean?” I asked sharply. The fact they’d called in an auditor seemed to imply something more serious than a simple mathematical error in bookkeeping. “Someone has withdrawn a large amount of money from the account,” Mr. Rinehart explained with more than a hint of accusation in his tone. “And there’s no receipt to show what they used the funds for.” “When we looked deeper, we noticed strange activity on more than one occasion,” Steve added in a stern yet less threatening tone. “And there will need to be an investigation.” My stomach stiffened like a ball of tightly wound rubber bands. What were they suggesting? From the sound of it, they suspected me of taking the missing money, but Steve knew me better than that. We’d grown up in the same small town. My father and his dad had been fishing buddies. Our mothers had helped organize bingo games at the civic center on Wednesday nights. I wasn’t some stranger off the street. Calm down, Lily. My mother’s gentle voice whispered in my ear as if she’d risen from her final resting place to comfort her high-strung daughter. ‘It’s the curse of being the middle child’ she’d often told me when I had fretted over a seemingly big ordeal as a teenager, but long since forgotten now. “I can assure you I have not been taking money from the account for myself.” I swung around to face my computer and, like a woodpecker on steroids, tapped the keys to log into The Park’s banking information. “Can you give me the amount and date?” Steve pulled out his phone and used his index finger to scroll as he looked for the information. “On September 7th, someone withdrew $1000 from The Park’s account, but there is no record of what we used the money for. Does the amount sound familiar to you?” “No,” I said and stopped typing. There was no need to look any further. Although necessity had forced us as a company to dip into the reserves last summer to pay bills, we never touched the special account now since the mine was back in full operation. Such a large amount taken without a receipt looked highly suspicious and required the attention of an accountant from the outside. Hence Mr. Melvin J. Rinehart.
Find Homicide at High Noon at These Online Retailers
Jamie L. Adams fell in love with books at an early age. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott opened her imagination and sparked a dream to be a writer. She wrote her first book as a school project in 6th grade. Living in the Ozarks with her husband, twin daughters, and a herd of cats, she spends most of her free time writing, reading, or learning more about the craft near to her heart.