Erik Bransom crept along a dank alleyway, soft, warm rain dripping from the brim of his hat to mix with the fetid rivulets beneath his feet! With several leads to pursue, his starting place was with the Filipino landlord! In Cebu City on his own reconnaissance, he was an army of one! No back up! No margin for error! He froze as a back door flung open and an angry couple emerged, arguing hotly! Hopefully their differences would resolve quickly, or the rain would drive them back inside! He flattened even more tightly to a slimy wall as headlights turned into the narrow passage! Relief! As the car backed around onto the silent residential street, and the angry man strode away in the opposite direction! Stepping forward to continue his mission, he emitted a moan! And dropped in the mucky swirling river of the alley!
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Prominent Tulsa Geologist Daniel Faulkner smacked futilely at the alarm on the bedside table! Aside from the glow of the digital device, the room was still black dark! But the annoying sleep interruption wasn't the alarm! It was the phone! Gone from its stand, but still buzzing! Diana was gone, too! Suddenly wide awake, he bolted for the door!
Stopping just long enough to submerge gas cans in the foul, turbid water that was the river, three lowlifes rumbled toward the ferry dock in an antiquated outboard! Boarding the ferry with practiced ease, they blended with other locals on the deck! One checked the second hand of a knockoff Rolex!
"And, three, two, one~"
Laughter erupted as the ferry churned out into the bay! "See, easy money!"
Not one of the passengers seemed to notice the orange glow and rising black column coming from the heart of Cebu City!
"Di, Honey?" Daniel's voice squeaked out in a frail, mousy tone; but at the moment, his manliness was the least of his concerns! "What's going on? Al? One of the girls?"
She shook her head as she sniffled and dabbed her pinkening nose with a tissue! "No, no! Nothing that bad, thankfully! There was a fire at the facility! Ramon Hermosa~uh~is horribly burned~and not expected~"
He stared blankly, "Did~uh~you tell them about the~honey~"
Tears flowed, "No, I haven't even thought to pray! 'Dear God, please help Ramon~and~uh~his family! And help me~'!" Sobs! "It took out everything! DiaMal's ruined!"
"Here, your coffee's done brewing! It's actually almost cold! Do you want me to start you another? I'll drink this one! Who all have you called?" Noticing her laptop, "Or emailed?"
"No one! It's three in the morning! I didn't want to bother you rummaging for my Bible, so I accessed one~"
"Well, Di! I would want you to wake me up when~You're~you're sure it took out everything? Who~uh~notified you?"
"Ronnie!" she blew her nose and sopped more tears! Veronica, affectionately known as 'Ronnie', was the operations manager of DiaMal's offshore clothing manufacturing company!
"She said there was this bogus inspection~the uh~inspector~ordered everyone out~and then they~were told they couldn't~go back in~because the building was unsafe! It's one of the best properties there, and she knew that! She was trying to call the police, but her phone~was jammed~"
Daniel's mind reeled! 'Seriously? The fire wasn't an accident? Why would anyone deliberately strike a blow at Diana?'
"Okay, plan of action! Call Gray first! He'll probably have to get Joe Hamilton to look into the insurance angle! Then you need to call Mallory~"
He paused in consternation as she scribbled! "What are you doing? I said, call Gray!"
"It's the middle of the night!"
He pulled her close and kissed her, "Di, this is no time for good phone manners! I'll call Gray! He doesn't like me anyway! You need to let Mallory know!"
"It would be easier if Diana just came here!" David's observation as he checked off a list of what would be required to set up a temp office for Mallory at the Faulkners' Tulsa mansion!
She glanced up, "What's easiest isn't necessarily what's best! I get it that this isn't your war! I can call Sam Whitmore!"
He brightened, "Well any war that's your war is mine, too! But calling Sam is genius! I don't have to disconnect everything here, and make a six hour drive with it! I can put you on a plane and Sam can have you up and running by the time you get up there! I'll reserve you a rent car! Right after I see if Sam can do it! It's time for us to purchase upgrades, anyway!"
Joe Hamilton reported to Gray Prescott! "Kind of as I feared! Since Mallory torched her Colorado cabin she couldn't keep rented~"
Gray frowned! "Is that what the adjustor thought? Or did you plant the doubt?"
"Well, insurance companies~they always grasp~you know~at anything plausible~to keep from paying! And the immediate report out of the Philippines is that it's definitely arson! And clumsy at that!"
Gray frowned, "If Mallory felt that her cabin wasn't profitable as a vacation rental, she only needed to sell it! She's never done anything fraudulent or criminal! I'm sorry the insurance company took that stance! And even sorrier that your thought process is the same!" A meaningful silence caused the bean-counter to squirm!
he defended his opionion, "Well, I asked about it once; point blank! Of her and David both! They never denied doing it!"
"Well, you were asking them for a job! You were out of line grilling them! It's nice they overlooked your faux pas, and you've done a creditable job! Because they didn't feel they owed you a response is no reason for you to assume their guilt! And share your opinion around! You're out of line, and if I must deal with this myself, what need have I of you?"
"I~I can do it, Sir!"
"Be certain, Joe, because if Ramon should die, there will be murder charges added in with the arson! I'm not asking you to be on Mallory's side, but only on the side of what's right! After a very careful investigation is made! I hope your attitude hasn't been harmful already~although I fear it has~"
"Hello, Deborah!" Mallory's tone was normally friendly and warm! "How's everything going for you?"
A guarded response, "Quite well! Thank you for your call! I heard about the fire gutting DiaMal's production plant! So, I'm not too surprised at your call! I just don't know what you think I can do!"
Mallory's laughter rippled naturally! "I'm sure you're ready to duck and run! I know your orders are pouring in for your company, and your staff is pressured to keep up!"
The laughter in response was forced, "Okay, then, so why call me? You know I'm in your debt~"
"Well, that's the thing Deborah! I don't see it that way! I'm in your debt, but I'm not asking for favors you can't deliver, to indebt myself to you further! I'm wondering about Pablo and Jose!
An audible sigh of relief! "Ah, my brother and cousin! Of course! You're not looking to my seamstresses to help fill your orders! You're looking to get the operation back up and running!"
Another laugh! "Yeah, no kidding! Like yesterday!"
"It so happens that Jose just recently worked himself out of a job! And he liked when he helped David overseas before! Is David going~"
"Not if Jose can handle it! Which we know he can! Why we're wanting to contact him! And I won't have to take Pablo away from you! If he can order the new equipment we'll need on line and get it shipped promptly, I'll pay him seventy-five dollars an hour for his time!"
Deborah's laugh, gleeful! "To think that I almost didn't take your call! Pablo will be delighted! He has a bambino in the oven, and Tia Rose's problem keeps him strapped!"
"Okay, I'll have Gray get travel documents and airfare in order for your brother to get over there as soon as possible! He'll need to find a suitable space and be there to take delivery as the equipment arrives! He did great hiring a local crew before, and I know he can get this done! I love you and your family, Deborah, and appreciate all you do! Thanks for taking my call!"
"Okay, why don't you go work on designing, and I'll address the nuts and bolts of getting production back up and running?" Mallory slid into position behind an electronic assortment covering a new mid-sized desk in Diana's design studio/office!
"I'm not sure I can get the creative juices flowing right now!" Usually not one to hide behind artistic temperament, the response didn't set well with Mallory!
"Well, let's pray about it, and then maybe you can give it a try! If we get these orders filled, there's always the next line to consider! If the devil's fighting us, I don't want to give him a win!"
"Well, I have at least one very important call to make first~"
"Okay, well let me make the calls! That's what I'm here for! I can make calls, but I can't design!"
"Well, I need to make this one! To Leeds & Strattonhouse, Ltd. I have a great relationship with them!"
Mallory frowned; she was a pretty good finesser, if she did say so herself! As far as she knew, she hadn't ever alienated a supplier yet! "Okay, suit yourself! I'll call David and tell him I got here; no problems! But why do you have to call Leeds?"
"Well, all the fabric they shipped was destroyed in the blaze, and I'm going to ask if they'll share the loss!"
"Seriously? Why would they do that? Their liability ended when the product shipped!"
"Well, I'm a very good customer! What can it hurt to ask?"
"Unh? Your relationship? Diana, this isn't their fault, or their problem! We just need to pay their invoice and hope for the best with the insurance companies! It is the insurance company's problem! I didn't torch a plant half way around the world! Especially one actually making me money! And providing me with killer outfits! I didn't burn my Colorado cabin, either! And the way I proved I didn't was by finding out who did! If the local police don't make good headway with this right away, I'll hire a private eye! It's ten o'clock at night in the UK anyway!"
"I'm calling Edward Leeds at his home, and it isn't getting any earlier while you stand there arguing!"
Tammi Larson opened the door wide to admit her brother and his four kids!
"Hi, Aunt Tammi! Hey, Aunt Tammi, guess what? Where's Uncle Kerry?" All four questioning excitedly!
"Hey, don't all talk at once! Let Aunt Tammi get the door closed!" Although David could be loud, he wasn't sure his kids were hearing him, or obeying!"
"Yeah, I'll talk to her first because I'm the oldest! Hey, Aunt Tammi, guess what we got?"
David shook his head in bemused defeat!
Tammi laughed, "Go on, Bro! I got this!" As David made his exit, she turned her attention to Amelia! Although she thought she knew the answer, she played along! "A Jedi?"
Adam cackled at the wrong but cool answer!
"Nuhn-uhn! Guess again!
"Um~a golden carriage made from a pumpkin?"
"No! Come on, Aunt Tammi! Get real, and try to figure it out!"
"That's what I'm doing!" She acted hurt!
"Guess again, 'cause you only get three tries! You have one more guess left!"
"I don't know! A bicycle?"
"No, Aunt Tammi!" Amelia's ire rose, flushing her delicate complexion!
"New parrots!" Avery spoke up diffidently, figuring her older sister would fly at her, bracing herself for the attack!
Tammi swooped her up, "New parrots? I wouldn't have ever guessed that, Avery, and y'all wouldn't have gotten a chance to see how I fixed the playroom, and the new toys~"
"New TOYS?!" In unison as they stampeded toward the stairway!
Mallory couldn't help overhearing Diana! And Edward Leeds' voice carried across the line, British upper-crust accent floating to her quite clearly! There was 'being nice' and then there was business! The sweet Diana sometimes seemed to live in a vacuum! Would she do anything she could to help a business associate struck with a disaster? Yes, she probably would! But, most people wouldn't, and Edward Leeds sounded like most people! He was sorry about the fire, but DiaMal still owed! The total amount! What Mallory couldn't understand was why Diana didn't 'get it' and end the call as gracefully as possible!
"Well, while we're sharing our difficulties with one another, then, Mrs. Faulkner, my mill supervisor mis-entered your order! Well, actually, he doubled the order because DiaMal sent us duplicate orders! Figuring you wouldn't make such a disastrous error, we didn't contact you! We have yards and yards of identical fabric that we're stuck with! We could sell it, but it's designed to your secret specifications, so we assumed you would not wish your competitors to get their hands on it!"
"You double-milled? No wonder you're being so unreasonable! Maybe it was Leeds ~"
Mallory sprang across the studio to snatch the phone from a startled Diana!
"Hello, Mr. Leeds, this is Mallory Anderson, Diana's partner! That's where our corporate name DiaMal comes from: Diana and Mallory!"
She continued, "How fortuitous that the order got mixed up and you now have the extra inventory! We're working very hard to equip a new facility and fill our orders! If you could please expedite shipping, we'll gladly purchase the surplus!"
She spun away from the spluttering Diana to respond to the spluttering Edward Leeds! "Yes, Sir, she intimated that we might not pay unless you cut us some slack, but I'll wire the money first thing in the morning! The entire invoice amount doubled! Oh yes, Sir, plus the extra shipping charge for expediting!"
"Was Mrs. Faulkner inferring that Leeds Strattenhouse, Ltd burned her slimy Philippine factory to force her to purchase our overstock inventory?"
"Listen, Mr. Leeds, we've had a grueling day! We can't figure out who torched us, or why! I guess it occurred to Diana that being stuck with an overage might have been a motive for your company~but on second thought, you've been a highly respected company for years and years! We regard you highly, and our business association with you! Sorry to phone you at home so late in the evening!"
Daniel paused in the doorway of Diana's studio! The hour was late, and he had assumed she'd be asleep!
Sensing his presence, she looked up from her sketchpad, her face tear-stained!
She forced a smile, "Hey, welcome home! Who won?"
He moved forward! "The Lady Lions! Nadia led the team~ Are~are you okay? I hate that I left you with everything! I'll~uh~be around tomorrow! Wow! That looks gorgeous!"
She shook her head! "There wasn't that much you could have accomplished! You needed to go with the team! I'm~uh~upset for proving myself to be an unequivocal moron!"
"Let's move toward going to bed; you can tell me about what you mean! You're a brilliant designer~and~"
"Well thanks! That's mostly what Mallory tried to tell me when she got here! To get busy designing next season, and let her do the business~part~"
He shrugged, "Well, you were doing the business part before we ever even met her~"
"Yeah, I guess! I was just upset at Leeds & Strattenhouse!"
"Why? What did they do?"
"Well, it's a long story! I thought that based on our business relationship, that if I called and explained that the fabric order was destroyed in the fire, that they might lend a hand, financially! Cut me some slack on having to pay for what's destroyed! Mallory tried to stop me! She tried to tell me that business is business!"
His expression turned worried, "Yeah, Honey, you're so idealistic~"
The volume of tears increased, and he encouraged, "So, go on! I'm guessing you called anyway, and their sympathy didn't run as deep as you hoped!"
"Well, the problem was that they accused me of placing a duplicate order, so that they double-milled my order! And they were taking the loss of having all that inventory without whining to me to help them out~"
"Well, it suddenly occurred to me, that they might have been the ones to torch the plant, so I'd need to replace the ruined fabric with their overage~"
"Well, Honey, it's easy to want to place blame; you~you didn't say anything~accusation-wise; did you?"
"Well, yeah sorta! And that's when Mallory grabbed the phone to do damage control! I just can't figure out~who~"
"Yeah, I can't either! That's an old and respected company! If they were complicit, which I rather doubt, proving it would be tough!"
Up early, Mallory tried to control her frustration! "Could you please connect me with someone there whose English is better?"
"Mrs. Anderson, my English is very good! I understand the best of anybody here! Our officers are working on the fire and who set it! We are being told that you are the one who orders these things done! And we are looking at that angle especially! Mrs. Diana Faulkner makes many people here angry, also! Maybe this should be a sign for you two women to call it quits here! I do not think that you will find other landlords so you can just establish again!"
Excerpted from "Sabotage"
Copyright © 2017 Paula Rae Wallace.
Excerpted by permission of Trafford Publishing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1: NOTIFICATION, 1,
Chapter 2: ACTION, 5,
Chapter 3: TRANSACTION, 14,
Chapter 4: GAME, 24,
Chapter 5: ESCAPE, 30,
Chapter 6: FRUSTRATIONS, 38,
Chapter 7: TRESPASSERS, 50,
Chapter 8: BUSINESS, 56,
Chapter 9: GETAWAY, 66,
Chapter 10: DEATH, 78,
Chapter 11: LIFE, 90,
Chapter 12: NUPTIALS, 99,
Chapter 13: DOUBLE CROSS, 110,
Chapter 14: FLIGHT, 123,
Chapter 15: ARRIVALS, 134,
Chapter 16: RESCUE, 148,
Chapter 17: DISCOVERY, 160,
Chapter 18: DETOX, 172,
Chapter 19: VICTORY, 185,
Chapter 20: ATTEMPTS, 197,
Chapter 21: SNAGS, 210,
Chapter 22: FINES, 222,
Chapter 23: WISDOM, 235,
Chapter 24: ROMANCE, 247,
Chapter 25: CHARGES, 259,
Chapter 26: DELIGHTS, 272,
Chapter 27: DEFENSE, 284,
Chapter 28: ORGANIZATION, 297,
Chapter 29: DIAMONDS, 316,
Chapter 30: MEMORIES, 331,
Chapter 31: FUN, 347,
Chapter 32: FAMILY, 362,
Chapter 33: SUMMONS, 381,
Chapter 34: SUMMATION, 385,
Chapter 35: BLOW, 400,
Chapter 36: OUTCLASSED, 411,
Chapter 37: SHOWDOWN, 424,
Chapter 38: WARFARE, 429,