Edward Slocum is the executive vice president of KemKor Pharmaceuticals in West Grey, Canada, where he grew up. A widower, Edward Slocum goes on a walk after a long day at the office on the two-year anniversary of his wife’s death. He feels tired and upset, reminiscing over the loss of his beloved Karen.
During his walk, he passes Building 3C, soon to be used for Edward’s groundbreaking new filter, created to eliminate pharmaceutical waste byproducts—his obsession for the last fifteen years. He’s very surprised, however, to see men with machine guns at Building 3C. KemKor is up to something Edward isn’t aware of—something illegal. As his suspicions mount about his own employers, Edward finds himself on a roller-coaster ride of events that may change both his life and the community he lives and works in. In the meantime, he reignites a love affair with his teenage sweetheart, Charlotte Bradley.
As things heat up at KemKor, Edward suspects drug smuggling. He doesn’t know who to trust; it’s possible that his coworkers and even the local authorities are in on the whole thing. Soon, Edward will learn much more than he ever wanted—about his wife’s death, KemKor’s real agenda, and the strength of his own moral resolve.
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.85(d)|
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BETRAYAL of TRUST
By B. B. Wright
iUniverse, Inc.Copyright © 2012 B. B. Wright
All right reserved.
Chapter OneEDWARD SLOCUM COMBED HIS fingers through his thick salt-and-pepper hair; stretched out his six foot–plus, medium-sized frame; yawned; and, using his foot, pushed away from his desk and placed his legs on the only small island vacant of paper left on his desk.
He wore a dark blue dress shirt with sleeves rolled up, the top two buttons at his neck undone, and a yellow silk tie hanging loosely down. His grey pin-striped jacket was draped across the back of his high-backed black leather chair.
At 42 years old, he had only lately seen a roll developing around his 32-inch waist. Though he had a gym at home and went to the executive gym at KemKor (one of the perks of being an executive vice president), he had barely used either of them in the last two months.
Edward glanced at his watch, shook his head in disbelief and sighed. Four hours had flown by since his return from supper at six. He pursed his lips as he looked at the stack of folders still in his in-tray and the reports and other related paraphernalia scattered about his desk. He rested his chin on his extended thumbs, his fingertips pressed together to form a steeple.
Two years tomorrow, he thought.
He took a deep breath, stood up and walked to the wall of windows overlooking the lamplit main street. His eyes followed the street to the intersection.
A soft thud caused Edward to turn away from the window and look back toward his overly busy desk. The Tuesday evening newspaper, which had been neatly folded and left earlier on the corner of his desk by his administrative assistant, Nadia, lay on the floor, the headline page facing up. He picked it up and scanned the front page while making his way around his desk toward the office door. Halfway across the room, he stopped. "Well, I'll be damned."
The heading of the article located right in the middle of the lower half of the front page read, "Norman Rattray found dead. Thought to be suicide." The article finished up on the second page with a picture from the recent staff picnic of Norman standing beside his brother William, the CEO of KemKor Pharmaceuticals.
The two of them don't look too happy, he thought. Surely they could have found a better picture.
He placed the paper on the table beside the door and made a mental note to convey his condolences to the CEO the next day. After looking back at the mound of paperwork on his desk, he let out a deep sigh.
Still a few hours yet, he thought, cringing with the prospect. Right now, I need to get out of here.
Though the July evening was hot and muggy, Edward showed a sense of relief, almost freedom, as he stepped out into the courtyard and heard the door slam behind him, imprisoning the air-conditioned atmosphere within. For a moment he took in the night sky, watching wisps of cloud drift lazily across the full moon. He reached into his shirt pocket and took out a cigarette, briefly hesitating before placing it between his lips. He fumbled through his pant pockets for the paper matches, tore one off and, striking it, held the flame up to his cigarette but did not light it. Instead, he threw the lit match onto the ground and stamped it out with his foot.
"There," he said, looking up at the night sky. "I've kept my promise, Karen." The poignancy of the moment caused his voice to crack. "This is the last one." He crumbled the cigarette in his hand and, holding the resultant debris close to his lips, he blew it away. "God! How I miss you. Whatever drew you out that evening two years ago?" It was one of several questions he still had unanswered after her death.
His attention was drawn to the light and muffled sounds at the far end of the court. He began to walk down the middle of the treed courtyard toward its source.
The only structure down the path to the left was Building 3C, and it was still not operational—at least according to the information he had been told. Building 3C was under the jurisdiction of the other executive vice president, his friend John Elkhart, and it was being refurbished to test out Edward's new filtration system.
Edward took a deep breath and slowly let it out as he continued through the courtyard. Uneasiness and trepidation unexpectedly bubbled up in him. Trusting his instincts, he moved off the paved surface onto the lawn and into the shadows, pressing his back against the wall of one of two large buildings that lay to his left. He slid along the wall until he came to the open space that separated it from the next building, and he peered around the corner.
Building 3C was in use.
He quickly traversed the open space to the next building and made his way along the wall to the far corner. Giving himself enough time to catch his breath, he finally eased forward enough to take a circumspect look at what was going on.
The effluent valve was turned on full, and whatever flowed from it spilled into the Saugeen River.
Anger swelled up in him.
He had worked the last 15 years to develop a new filtration system that screened out harmful pharmaceuticals from contaminating the water supply. His preoccupation with it had almost cost him his marriage. Their careless indifference could jeopardize my project, his mind screamed. Goddamn them!
He was about to step out to give them a piece of his mind, but he quickly pulled back and pressed hard against the wall, hoping that he had not been seen. A short, wiry individual with a ponytail stood on the loading dock with an automatic weapon while three other men loaded something from the building into a white van.
Edward reached for his cell phone to call security and the police, but it wasn't there; he had left it in his office. A surge of panic rippled up his spine as he turned and ran the distance back to the main building. He went into the main foyer to alert security and to get them to call the police, but he was shocked to find their desk was empty. The monitor that should have displayed Building 3C was blank.
When he lifted the phone to call out, the line was dead.
He looked around at the darkened offices, hoping that someone may have decided to work late, but he was quickly disappointed.
Only one elevator ran at this time, and it was on the top floor.
He started to head to the stairs when a sudden flash of movement at the front of KemKor caught his attention. A white van pulled sharply onto the main street from the side of the building, where the security hut was located, and sped past the building.
Chapter TwoEDWARD LOOKED OUT ONTO the street below his office and chewed over the previous night's disquieting events around Building 3C. What in god's name were they loading into that van? he thought. And why would they need automatic weapons?
His eyes drifted along the main street to the intersection where his wife, Karen, died two years ago.
After returning to his desk, he hovered over it, his knuckles tapping on its surface as he remembered Constable Paul Dickenson's askance look and his not-too-subtle reference to the empty scotch glass and uncapped bottle on the credenza the previous evening.
It troubled him deeply, and it was then that he decided to keep a detailed diary of not only last evening's events but everything he learned or that happened to him until it got resolved—no matter how minuscule it might be.
Deep down, he knew that Paul hadn't believed him. Paul had bought into the bit about one drink to settle the nerves after calling the police, but the smirk on Paul's face told him that he didn't believe that it was his only drink. He'd been barely able to restrain himself from taking Paul by the neck and throttling him, but he had relented and instead exhorted his innocence to Paul's unsavoury inference. "I took only one goddamn drink, taken after the fact, not before!"
Not surprisingly, Paul just lowered his eyes, continued to smile and nodded his head in that "Sure, I believe you" manner that meant he thought it was BS, and he had scribbled down something in his notebook.
It hadn't helped Edward's cause that not so much as a speck of evidence supported what he had seen last evening. In fact, according to Paul, Building 3C had been closed up tighter than a sardine can. That meant to Paul that there had been no break-in. Edward had also learned that Paul had tried to contact the CEO to obtain permission for entry, but his attempts had been fruitless because Rattray had turned off his cell phone. As it turned out, Rattray had travelled to Toronto to make arrangements for his brother's funeral and to visit with family.
Edward found having Norman Rattray's funeral in Toronto bizarre, because he had spent the better part of his life in West Grey. But he knew that Norman's friends probably wouldn't complain too much about travelling the two hours south to that sprawling megatropolis.
He shrugged off the thought as he walked to the table beside his office door and picked up the West Grey Chronicle that he had left there the evening before. He began to reread the article about Norman's death as he slowly made his way back to his desk and sat down. He opened the bottom drawer, placed his foot against its edge and began to rock back and forth, the paper lying across his lap.
His mind kept drifting back to last evening's events.
The guard at the gate house swore that only Edward had left and returned to the KemKor facility. His red Wrangler and license number had been dutifully recorded as leaving at 5:01 and returning at 6:09.
There's only one goddamn exit and entrance for vehicles coming and going, and that's through the gate house, he thought. So how did the white van get in and out without being seen, except by me?
He kicked the drawer shut with his foot and leaned forward in his chair.
Unless ... the white van came in before the guard's shift, and the guard, for whatever reason, either was not there or was lying about it leaving. Still, Paul should have found at least one entry in the day shift's report, he thought. Funny, there was no mention of that.
"Both guards had to be in cahoots," he murmured under his breath.
He picked up his reading glasses from the desk, opened the newspaper to the second page and examined the pictures that went with the article on Norman. Other than Norman and William posing for the camera at the Canada Day celebrations at the Stoddard Fair Grounds in Priceville, there were two other photos. One showed John Elkhart, William Rattray and other administrative members standing in front of the ruins of Ritchie's Factory and Head Office eating clearly visible Ritchie's ice cream sandwiches. Norman stood off to the right of the group while, in the middle, William shook hands with a sombre-faced Gale Slaughter, vice president of Ritchie's. The other picture showed the ground-turning ceremony for KemKor Pharmaceuticals' Complex at the same site where Ritchie's used to be. There were four people in that picture: John Elkhart, William Rattray, company lawyer David DeLuca and Norman Rattray. Norman's eyes looked away from the camera and off to his left; he was the only one not smiling.
Sombre puss! They could have at least found a picture with the guy smiling, he thought. He looked at the photo again. I wonder who captured his attention to plant such an expression on his face?
There was a light knock at his door. After quickly closing the paper and folding it over, he dropped it beside his chair and placed his reading glasses on the desk. "Yes?"
His administrative assistant, Nadia Oiska, poked her head around the slightly ajar door. "Mr. Slocum?" she asked, seeking permission to enter.
Before Edward could reply, the door swung wide open, and she entered balancing an armful of binders and folders. Blowing aside wisps of blonde hair, her five-foot-two-and-a-half, petite frame figure quickly traversed the office to a small table beside Edward's desk, where she plunked her load down. After a few minutes of rearranging the material into folders and binders, she straightened her blouse, patted down her skirt and turned back toward the door.
"Hang on there! What's this?" Edward said as he pushed back his chair and grabbed his glasses, heading toward the mountain of material on the side table.
Nadia arrived just as Edward picked up one of the binders and inserted her face between his and the binder.
"Now, Eddy—I mean, Mr. Slocum—don't tell me you've forgotten? Two weeks of my life went into compiling this for today's meeting." Nadia stepped back and placed her hands at her hips, waiting for an answer.
"Oh—ah, I see. Thank you. It's just I don't think there'll be a meeting. You know, because of the recent death of Mr. Rattray's brother. Ah—you do know, don't you?"
"Of course I do. Everyone knows." She sighed deeply and clasped her hands in front of her. "You know, Mr. Slocum, he's the last person I would have thought would commit suicide." She drew her forefinger across the top binder on the table and looked up at him. "Everyone liked him. You'd have to be in a deeply sad place to blow your brains out like he did. To my knowledge, no one had a hint of him being in such dire straits emotionally."
"I want to show you something," Edward said as he rounded his desk and picked up the newspaper. "Do you know anything about these two pictures?" he asked.
Nadia took the paper from him and spread it across the top of the binders and folders. She bent down to get a closer look. "He sure doesn't look happy in any of them. I'd guess these two were taken ... what, ten years ago?" Nadia said, looking up at him.
"You know anything about them?"
She smiled at him as she straightened up. "Are you kidding? I was a teenager back then. My only interests were boys, partying and sports. But, I'd bet Shirley Cooper would know. I think she still works for the Chronicle in the archives section." The West Grey Chronicle was often referred to lovingly by many in the region as just the Chronicle.
"I'll do just that," Edward said.
"I ordered the flowers for your wife's gravesite. You can pick them up at the flower boutique before you head home."
He quietly thanked her, and for a brief moment silence reigned between them.
To break the silence, Edward asked, "Oh, by the way, how's your stepsister?"
"Charlotte's doing just fine. You know, Edward, she wouldn't bite you if you decided to drop by. Should I tell her you asked for her?"
Charlotte Bradley had been Edward's first love. There was a time they thought their love would last forever. That all changed when they went off to university.
"I know she wouldn't bite me. It's just that ... sure, if you'd like." He pointed to the binder he was perusing: "You've done a great job here, Nadia. Meeting or no meeting though, I should get working on it."
Nadia pointed at the newspaper across the binders. "Should I take it away?"
"No—just place it on the table by the door. If I have time later, I'll drop by the Chronicle for a chat. It might be helpful if I brought it with me. Thank you."
Nadia was closing the door behind her when Edward called out. "Nadia?"
She poked her head around the door. Edward waved at her to come back in and to close the door behind her. He put down the binder he had been perusing and came around the desk. "I guess you've heard about last night and the break-in at Building 3C?"
She looked away from him and down to the floor.
"Yes—there are rumours floating around about the alleged break-in," she replied.
"What kind of rumours?"
"Just rumours—nothing more, nothing that's worth repeating." She barely raised her head to look at him. "I guess you know that Constable Dickenson was in to see Mr. Elkhart this morning?"
"No, I didn't." He made a mental note to ask John about it. John Elkhart and Edward had been friends since they'd met at the University of Waterloo. "I wonder if I can ask a big favour?"
"Tell me what it is, and I'll decide," replied Nadia.
"Before I ask it, I wonder if you've heard anything about the readiness of Building 3C?"
Nadia stepped back a couple of paces and looked Edward straight in the face. "Why would I know anything about that?"
"I just wondered since I've seen you having lunch with Lola Albright."
A broad grin creased Nadia's face. "Edward, Mr. Elkhart's administrative assistant and I never talk about any business associated with KemKor during lunch or at any off-hour events. None of us do. It's our golden rule." She crossed her arms and asked, "Now that that's out of the way, what is this favour you want from me?"
"I wonder if you would check something for me in accounting."
Nadia's arms across her chest closed tighter. "Accounting? Sorta out of my mandate, don't you think? Wouldn't it be better if you did that? You do carry a lot more clout than me."
"After last night, I think it's best that I keep a low profile here. I think you know what I'm getting at." He raised his eyebrows and added, "Rumours."
Excerpted from BETRAYAL of TRUST by B. B. Wright Copyright © 2012 by B. B. Wright. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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