I'm so excited to bring you Chapter 1 from my first novel: Murder Audit.
It was New Year’s Eve and Jim Dunn, Controller of Prairie Pipeline Co., had no plans. He rubbed his eyes as he glanced up at the clock on the wall of his office. It was almost 7:00 pm, and while this would be an early night for him, he was ready to call it quits. He had been working late hours getting ready for Prairie Pipeline Company’s annual financial statement audit, and he wanted to make sure everything was in order for tomorrow’s inventory count. Although he had met with the audit manager, Cynthia Webber, several weeks ago, he felt it was important he was at the office bright and early on inventory day.
He reached into his desk drawer and pulled out a half-full bottle of Crown Royal. He unscrewed the cap and poured a good jigger into his stale, cold coffee. After replacing the bottle in his desk drawer, he swirled his coffee cup and downed the concoction in three big gulps. As he planted his cup back on his desk in its usual spot, he thought he heard voices. Knowing he was alone in the office, he went to his office window and noticed some protesters had gathered outside the front entrance. Feeling brave from his last three mugs of “coffee Royal,” he opened his window and shouted at the protesters.
“Get outta here you granola loving hippies! This town wouldn’t be what it is today without this company. I bet half of you work for our subsidiaries and don’t even know it. Go find something better to do!” As Jim closed the window, he heard something thunk against the building. He looked at the angry mob of about 20 to see they were throwing rocks at his window. He opened his window and shouted at the crowd.
“I’m calling the police!”
“Oooh, the police. We’re scared now!” one of the protesters sarcastically snapped back. By this point, Jim was ready to take matters into his own hands. He was sick and tired of environmental protest groups showing up at the office and disturbing not only the normal course of business but also the time he put in after hours. It was almost as if they were stalking him. He just couldn’t understand why they would choose 7:00 pm on New Year’s Eve as a time to protest. Then he remembered there was a benefit dinner and dance at the University to raise funds to relocate the hundreds of thousands of birds that would be without homes if the new pipeline went in just south of the city.
Jim opened the front door to PPC and felt like the mob had doubled in size in the time it took him to get from his office to the front door. He paused, suddenly feeling threatened by the situation, and he wished he had stopped to call the police like he’d threatened. He started waving his hands around yelling for the crowd to disperse.
“Just go home. We can find another way to resolve this. Your protesting doesn’t accomplish anything.” Jim panicked as he saw that many of the protestors still had rocks in their hands. He wondered just how angry the mob was and whether they would have the nerve to throw the rocks when face to face with another human. There were empty beer cans littered on the ground and, Jim still had enough sense about him to realize there was no predicting what this mob might do. As he turned to head into the office for cover, he noticed a woman that didn’t look like she belonged with this group. He recognized her but couldn’t remember from where. She looked beautiful in her fancy party dress.
Jim reached for the keypad to the office door which had locked behind him when he came out to confront the protestors. Whack! He felt a sharp burning pain at his temple as he fell to the snow-covered ground. Jim tried to get up but couldn’t. Everything was cold and dark around him. He could hear voices but couldn’t tell where they were coming from. They sounded far away.
“Shit, shit, shit! What do we do now?” he heard a woman’s voice.
“Just go. Go to your fancy benefit thing. The rest of us will take care of this. Why did you even come here tonight?” a man replied.
“I was trying to be supportive. He’s going to be ok, right? I’ll call 9-1-1.”
“9-1-1? Are you friggin’ insane? We’ll all get arrested.”
“He needs help; there’s so much blood.”
“You hit him in the head. Head wounds bleed a lot. He’ll be fine. We’ll clean up this mess then call 9-1-1 on our way out of here. Just go, get out of here!”
“You swear you’ll call 9-1-1?”
“Yes! Now go, before your colleagues wonder where you are or some camera crew shows up and catches you on video.”
All Jim wanted to do was go to sleep, but he felt so cold. He could feel his warm blood trickling down his temple and into his ear. He felt his breathing getting shallower, and his heart beat slowing. He feared if he drifted off, he wouldn’t wake up. Jim sensed he was being carried. He tried to focus on the sounds around him but couldn’t hear anything. Someone had a hold of his arms, and he could feel a tight grip around his ankles.
“Let’s put him in there.”
“Are you kidding? I don’t understand why we didn’t just leave him where he was?”
“At least here he’ll be under cover. Since we can’t get into the office, this is the next best thing. Let’s get out of here. Come on everyone; protest is over!” Jim heard one of his pallbearers say as he fell asleep one final time.