A Nathan Vallor Investigation
Accounts Payable is the pre-quel to Haven of Danger: A Nathan Vallor Investigation. This is when Nathan first meets his future fiancée Jillian Hudson when he investigates Jillian's husband's death at the bequest of Nathan's sister Anne to keep an eye on her. It takes place in Richmond, Virginia, Nathan's hometown. He manages to protect the innocent and bring the bad guys down and narrowly avoids getting his own ticket punched in an accounting coverup that involves credits of money and debits of murder.
(Prequel to HAVEN OF DANGER: A Nathan Vallor Investigation)
A Nathan Vallor Investigation
Nathan Vallor, Private Investigator, walked across the airport terminal to where his sister, Anne, waited for her flight to New York. Richmond International Airport (RIC) was known as Byrd International Airport. It was a small domestic-flight airport with big dreams. Richmond, Virginia was becoming a convention town and the airport was expanding to accommodate this new status.
Anne was dressed in a business traveling suit of sorts, the expensive version. Her trip to New York was a glorified shopping trip combined with business for the Chamber of Commerce. Conventions and public relations for convention cities were the topics for the workshops there.READ MORE
His sister always made a statement in the way she dressed and handled herself. From her bobbed blonde hair and emerald-colored eyes to her choice in footwear. He felt like a poor relation.
“Thanks for seeing me off, Nathan,” Anne said giving him a peck on the cheek. “Too bad you can’t take some time off.”
“I’m preparing for a new case,” Nathan replied.
“Out of work again, huh?”
“Yes, but ready for that call.”
“You’ve already checked in your luggage?”
“I wonder if it’s raining in New York?”
“I’ve got my travel rain coat in my bag.”
“Good. I’ll drive by your place and make sure everything is okay during the week.”
“Thank you, Nathan.”
It was times like these that he felt like the seven-year-old holding his four-year-old sister’s hand. They had walked hand-in-hand up the sidewalk of their Aunts’ house to live after their mother had died. Now they stood next to each other at the airport window looking out at the wet tarmac. Anne’s plane was pulling up to the door.
“Is there anything else I can do?” Nathan asked.
“There is something. You remember Jillian Hudson?”
“Yes. She was at the Christmas party you had. Works as a travel agent downtown.”
“And been my best-friend since second-grade. Her husband has just died in a car-wreck. He was an accountant downtown. The Police think it may not have been an accident. If you could, call and see how she’s doing.”
“Sure,” Nathan said.
“Here’s her number.”
Anne wrote out the address and number on a slip of paper.
“I’ll have to go join the line at the door now.”
Nathan gave her a hug. He watched her disappear into the accordion-like tunnel onto the plane.
He looked at the address Anne had given him. It was in Southside Richmond.
He got back on Rt. 60 and stopped at the Burger King in Sandstone before getting on Rt. 64 back to Richmond. Two o’clock in the afternoon, he crossed the Manchester Bridge to get on Hull Street.
Jillian lived in a trendy complex off Hull Street, passed the run-down area on the other side from downtown. There was a 7-11 across the apartment where Jillian lived. A tall area of field-grass separated the complex from the road.
Nathan pulled into the 7-11 and reached for the slip of paper and dialed Jillian’s number from the payphone.
“This is Nathan Vallor, Anne’s brother. Anne asked me to check to see if you needed anything. She told me about your husband. I’m sorry. I believe I met him at the Christmas party Anne had.”
“Yes, he was there. Thank you for calling. Anne said to call you if I had any more problems.”
“It’s hard to explain it over the phone. It might not even be true.”
“Would you like to talk about it? I’m right across from you apartment at the moment.”
“That would be great! Thanks.”
“Okay. I’ll be there in a few minutes.”
Nathan parked in the visitor’s spot at the complex’s main office and walked down to Jillian’s building. It was an over-cast day, and smelled like rain.
He could see Jillian at the balcony door. She drew the curtains part-way. He climbed the concrete and metal steps to the second-story apartment, knocked at the door and waited. There were three other doors on this landing, all with peep-holes.
Jillian opened the door gingerly, a chair just the right height for placing under the door handle stood next to the door.
“Thanks for coming over,” Jillian said. “Please have a seat. I feel like I need a cup of tea or something hot. How about you?”
Jillian looked drained, but there was something else. Worry. Nathan noticed how she kept biting her lip and wringing her hands and how when she talked she looked around the room. She was scared.
Nathan headed across the apartment’s front room toward the bleached pine sofa. It was upholstered in a blue chintz material with solid-colored throw pillows in rust and blue. A Dhurrie rug accented the center of the room. By the wall next to the door, was an entertainment center with a combination television and DVD/VCR, compact disk-player, and framed pictures of family members. On the other was a computer desk, complete with fax, and printer.
Jillian brought the tea tray in and rested it on the pine coffee table in front of the sofa. Nathan sat down on the sofa. The butt of his .38 Police Special was visible in its shoulder holster as he unzipped his blue windbreaker.
Jillian poured out tea into the cups and added cream to her own and asked, “Milk or sugar?”
“Just one cube of sugar, please.” He took the cup from Jillian.
“Help yourself to the cookies.”
Nathan took a round digestive-type biscuit from the tray. It looked like the biscuits he had been served in England during his visit there. He had done a lot of traveling around while stationed in Germany. There was an option to pick-up these types of cookie biscuits in Midlothian not far from Jillian’s apartment.
“Thanks Jillian. When did you notice you were being followed?”
“The day Gary was killed. I gave him a ride to work the previous day. He had his car in for maintenance work.”
“Did he do this regularly?”
“Yes, he was very routine in his habits.”
Nathan nodded. Anyone familiar with his habits could have had the means to disable the car. He would check out the car repair shop and look into the type of contracts the Accounting Firm handled to narrow in on who might have benefited from Gary’s death. The Police would be following a similar line of investigation, but he would be able to do a more thorough job, seeing he didn’t have anything else pressing to do at the moment.
“What kind of contracts did your husband handle?”
“Mainly corporate accounts, and some defense contracts out of Washington D.C.,” Jillian said.
“Defense contracts? Did your husband have any government clearance?”
“Yes, but he dealt with figures, nothing dangerous.”
Nathan knew scores of people who had nearly died or been killed who had thought the same thing.
“Did he happen to mention any problems he was having?”
“You sound like Detective Ritter. Did he have any enemies? Were things going okay at work? I don’t really know. It was a part of his life I knew he couldn’t share.”
“I know Detective Ritter,” Nathan said. “The Police are trying to establish motive. Tell me more about the car accident.”
“I can’t see how it happened,” Jillian said. “Gary was such a careful driver and he’d just had the car in. Someone must have tampered with the car. I told the detective the same thing.”
“What about someone being in your apartment?”
“He said he’d make a note of it.”
“Was anything taken?”
“No, things were just moved around a bit in this room, the pictures over there and in our room the drawers were churned through. I notice these things.”
“Somewhat,” Jillian said taking a sip of her tea. She clutched the mug and placed it on the flower coaster on the table and said, “I work from home sometimes on brochures and bookings for the agency. I have a fax and printer and my computer. Gary has, had, an office in the other bedroom. I like to have everything a certain way. It helps me work.” She picked the cup again and clutched it.
“Did Gary bring work home? Something someone might want to get their hands on?”
“I don’t know. I didn’t even think to look in his office.” Jillian put her cup down, rose, and went down the hall.
Nathan knew someone wanted something that Gary had for him to have gotten his ticket punched. He looked around the front room. There was a certain amount of sophistication here and enough things for the average burglar to want to take. Objects, gathered from Jillian’s travels, he presumed, were displayed on the book cases and a couple of little shelves. Yet there was also a wholesome cultivated homey feel to the apartment. It was the kind of place that made you hope you’d wiped your feet when you came in.
“I didn’t see anything missing. The desk drawers are still locked,” Jillian said returning to the front room.
“Whoever was in here wanted it so you wouldn’t notice it. Since they are still following you, they haven’t found what they’re looking for.”
“Do you really think it’s possible? Maybe it’s just a case of nerves. The shock that Gary is dead.”
“The fact that Gary’s death is suspect and the nature of his work. I think it’s possible. I know I always listen to these kinds of feelings.” Not to mention it was probably the reason I’m still alive, he thought.
“I’m pretty sure about the apartment and being followed. I’ve traveled quite a bit and trained myself to be alert. I can feel when something is out of place.”
“I think you should go somewhere safer,” Nathan said. “I wouldn’t be surprised to find out Gary’s death was no accident. You’ve got to be careful. Have you eaten anything recently? It’s important to eat properly when you’re feeling stressed.” Nathan also knew eating brought a sense of normalcy to a situation.
“I haven’t eaten. I should know. I work as a travel agent. Whenever I travel, I make sure to take my vitamins and to eat well.”
“Good,” Nathan said. “I could look into things if you want, and keep an eye out for you, see if I can spot who’s been following you.”
“I’d like that,” Jillian said. “I’ve already packed a bag ready to leave.”
Jillian went into the bedroom and brought the flight bag and purse into the front room and placed it on the sofa. She dug into her purse and pulled out a Soft Puffs Purse Dispenser and said, “I’m all ready to go now, I can’t believe I have to leave here,” she sniffled. “I know it’s the best thing to do.”
Nathan knew the strain of the death of her husband as well as the thought of being in danger was too much.
“I’ll take you wherever you want to go. You can come back for your car.”
“Thank you,” Jillian said picking up the tissues to put them back into her purse. She stopped and looked at the packet.
“There is something in here,” Jillian opened the cover. “It’s an usb flash drive with a note attached to it.”
Jillian opened up the note and read it.
If you are reading this note, something has probably happened to me. During my initial audit, I stumbled on a different set of books on a guarded file. Curious, I broke the code and printed a copy of the information. This info is on this disk.
The government has already started a preliminary investigation of the firm and an agent approached me sounding me out; probable at first to see if I was involved.
Below I have listed his name and number. I hope you will be safe. Turn the matter over to the agent.
I love you forever. Gary.
“It’s from Gary,” Jillian said handing him the disk.
“We need to get out of here and make a copy of this.”
“Okay.” Jillian stood up and walked over toward the balcony to pull the curtains together. The glass door was secured with a broom handle. She held back the edge of the curtain and looked out. It had gotten dark and was raining. The water dripped down the balcony door in streamlets. The blue sedan was parked in the 7-11 parking lot, to the left, out of the bright store lights.
“There’s the sedan again,” Jillian said.
Nathan looked out of the window and said, “You stay here. Be ready to leave. I’ll go over and have a look around. If I’m not back in fifteen minutes, call the Police.”
Through the rain-splattered glass, Jillian watched Nathan walk across the grassy field to the convenience store. After he made it to the store, Jillian walked over to the hall closet next to the apartment’s front door and got out her Kelly-green rain slicker. As she was closing the closet door, she noticed the front door knob turning back and forth slightly. She had forgotten to put the chain on and the chair back under the knob.
Quickly she lunged for the door, turned the deadbolt and put the chain on as quietly as possible. Looking through the peep-hole she glimpsed a red jacket. It wasn’t Nathan. The chain and deadbolt wouldn’t hold the intruder for long – he could break in.
Jillian raced to the sofa, grabbed her bag and purse and dashed to the balcony door. She tugged at the sawed-off broom handle. There was the sound of the chain catching the door. The door closed. Jillian took the broom handle, flung open the balcony door and hurried out. She pressed herself against the balcony’s side rail, out of the direct light of the apartment. She struggled into the rain coat. The rain slapped against her face in a tingle of pain. She slipped her purse into her bag and threw the strap diagonally across her shoulder.
She looked across the field to the lighted store, and saw no signs of Nathan. It would be just a matter of time before the intruder followed her. She had to jump.
Jillian threw the broomstick over the side of the balcony onto the grass, climbed over the balcony rain and let herself hang from the bottom edge. She eased her hands from the rail onto the pavement section of the balcony. Her wet, cold fingers scraped against the jagged concrete. Dropping onto the grass below, she picked up the broomstick and started to run for cover.
Tearing through the grass, someone grabbed her and clamped a hand over her mouth. “It’s me Jillian,” Nathan whispered, releasing his hand. “My car is parked by the office. Let’s get out of here!”
Jillian and Nathan raced back to Nathan’s blue Chevy Blazer and headed north along Hull Street towards downtown.
Nathan turned to Jillian and said, “I got his license plate number. The car was empty. I was walking back when I saw you on the balcony. You okay?”
“Yes,” Jillian replied. “I scraped my hand, coming off the balcony.”
“We’ll go back to my place and fix that up. I’ve got friends who can help us out. These people are getting serious.”
Jillian nodded. Her teeth chattered.
“Can you reach the blanket in back?”
Jillian took off her drenched raincoat and put it on the floor at her feet. Then she reached behind her and found the blanket. She covered herself with it and looked out at the road before them. The windshield wipers slapped back and forth, sweeping the driving rain from view.
The hot tears streamed down on Jillian’s face, undisturbed.