This month’s prompt was: What would you find in an accountant’s trash?
It’s midnight. The night is inky black and I can’t see my hands in front of my face. Along the coast, all the rich folks keep their outside lights off so hatching baby sea turtles don’t mistake the artificial lights for moonlight and head away from the ocean by mistake. This works to my advantage because I’m about to dumpster dive in one of the rich bastard’s trash cans.
My name is Rita and I work for the local newspaper. We’re working on a story about a local big name accountant who wants to run for public office. You know how it is. A run for public office usually means skeletons you thought were long since buried can resurface overnight. They almost always do. I’m one of the reasons why.
That’s not to say I don’t get some information honestly. I talk to people. I stare at my computer well into the night entering words and phrases into search engines that have always led reporters to pay dirt on even the seemingly innocent among us. Everyone has a history. Everyone has something they would be embarrassed for the world to know. You just have to dig deep enough to find the kryptonite that will bring down the monster.
A story like this could make my career.
Opening my backpack, I pull out a pair of latex gloves and a flashlight. Peeking around the side of the garage, I make sure all the lights are out inside the house. Shining the flashlight into the garage window, I see his Lexus so he’s not going to show up and catch me midway through the remains of his Chinese takeout and a week’s worth of the Wall Street Journal.
Word on the street is his accounting firm is going under. The office phone number recording confirms the “phone number is temporarily unavailable,” email messages sent to the company return undeliverable and during a weeklong stake out of his offices he didn’t show up at the office once. Not once. And it’s tax season.
This is a small town and his family goes way back. He’s old money and everyone in town knows it. His parents wanted him to have a real job. They believed he should work for his money and learn to appreciate it before they hand over the keys to the castle. Most of us joke that the job is just a front for his illicit activities – something to get mommy and daddy off his back so he can do what he wants.
Digging around in the recycling, I find boxes of business cards and letterhead for his company. Either they are relocating, or dissolved. Further down I find late notices and disconnect bills of all kinds. Proof he’s been kicked out of the office space and his phone disconnected. Only for the business. Any bills that might relate to his beach front brothel are missing or shredded. Or those bills go to Mommy. Probably it’s Daddy’s name on the mortgage.
Underneath all the rest of his business paperwork is a framed certification from the University of South Carolina. Also a membership for the South Carolina Board of Accountancy, the local licensing board.
I move on to the trash cans. Removing the lid, I feel as if I’ve walked into the corner bar well after close but before the cleaning crew has arrived. I shine the flashlight on a few of the bottles.
“At least he spends Daddy’s money on the good stuff,” I whisper to myself.
Underneath the bottles I open the first trash bag to find a handful of wadded up napkins. Shining the flashlight on the pile, I can see writing on one of them so I pluck it out and smooth it out.
I smile. I’m familiar with this trick – in fact, I’ve given out that phone number myself. Instead of looking like a bitch, it’s easier to give a guy you aren’t interested in a fake number. 438-5678 spells GET LOST on the phone keypad. The number is actually the number for a local pawn shop. They’ve gotten to the point where their voicemail says, “this is not the girl you met last night, this is…”
A lot of women give out this fake number around here. Beach towns have a lot of tourists. Many of those tourists are men. Many of those men spend their vacation drunk. If you’ve ever been on the receiving end of admiration from a drunk man, you know that if you turn them down, they try even harder. You’ll have a lot more fun with your friends if you just give the idiot a fake number. He thinks he’s won and he leaves you alone.
Some women give out the number for the sanitation department. Some give the number for a phone sex line. Some even give the number of a friend they aren’t speaking with. By the looks of things, this idiot has gotten more than his share of blow off phone numbers on high-end establishment napkins. He might have better luck at the corner bar. Unfortunately, the rumors of his reputation precedes him in society circles. Middle class women with a dream of marrying into money would be easier game. Nice Southern society girls wouldn’t be caught dead with him and his baggage.
Moving to the last garbage can, I lift the lid to find a photo. Sitting right on top of the pile, it’s almost like he left it there on purpose. Looking more closely, I can see him standing on what I assume is his boat in the harbor next to the day’s catch. Some type of shark (probably a bull shark) hangs from a line next to him and he’s surrounded by four other guys. All of them are smiling, two of them are flexing their muscles for the camera, like they are some kind of bad ass. Poking out of the trash next to the picture is a fishing pole. I pull out half a fishing pole broken right above where the reel would have been.
I open the first bag in this can and find empty fertilizer bags. Lots of them. Stuck between two of them, is a receipt for acetone.
“Bingo.” I don’t know for sure that our accountant is making meth, but he’s got two of the ingredients right here. If I take the bag with me, I can get a better look during the day and I might be able to get the items in the bag tested. I’ve got a friend at the lab who owes me a favor.
My gut instinct: I’ve found the kryptonite.