The 9 to 5 Caper

Chapter 1

"Stu, there's a Mr. Gerald East here to see you."

That's the way they usually started, with an intercom call from Suzanne. It was a Tuesday morning, so none of the Monday crazies were out. And it wasn't a full moon; Stu had checked the calendar that very morning. It seemed like all they had gotten recently were the odd and disturbing cases, and he hoped that trend was over. Oh well, better find out what this one's about. "Send him in, Suzanne."

Of course, Jeff had just gone over to Dino's for coffee. It was a slow morning and a cup sounded good. It was Jeff's turn to buy; that's how he'd escaped Mr. Gerald East, whoever that was. And then Stuart put his first-rate head to work and pulled something out of it. Gerald East, owner of Eastmill Paper Company, the largest paper manufacturer in the state. In the entire western region, as a matter of fact. They supplied paper to the States of California, Nevada and Oregon, and the provinces of British Columbia, Alberta, and Manitoba if he remembered correctly. What would a paper manufacturer want with a PI firm?

"Mr. Bailey, I'm Gerald East. I assume you know of Eastmill Paper Company." The men shook hands.

"Please, have a seat Mr. East. The largest paper supplier in the western region? Certainly I've heard of your company. What can Bailey and Spencer do for you?"

"Mr. Bailey, what would you say if I told you the company was losing money?"

"Stu, please. I'd ask you how?"

"Stu, I'd tell you I don't know. And I'm Jerry."

Just about then Jeff returned with coffee. Suzanne turned hers down, telling Jeff, "Give it to Stu's visitor."

Jeff went into Stu's office, handed him his coffee, and offered the extra to Jerry East. Whom Stu then introduced. "Jerry, this is the other half of Bailey and Spencer, Jeff Spencer. Jeff, this is Jerry East of - "

"Eastmill Paper Company," Jeff finished for him. "How do you do, Mr. East."

"Jerry, please. May I call you Jeff? I'm happy to meet the other half of the firm. And thank you for the coffee."

"Jeff would be fine."

Spencer started for his office but Stu stopped him. "I think you better sit in on this, Jeff." Once Jeff had taken a chair, Stu continued. "Jerry was just telling me that Eastmill Paper Company is losing money."

"Seriously?"

"Seriously, I'm afraid."

"Do you know why?" Jeff asked.

"That's the problem. I thought everything was fine until my accounting manager came and told what the latest balance sheet showed. It isn't a pretty picture, gentlemen."

"So what would you have us do, Jerry?" This time Stu asked the question.

"Find out where the money or the product is going. We don't have much time, I'm afraid."

Both men tried not to laugh. How many times had they heard there wasn't much time?

Jerry East continued. "I have a silent partner, my Uncle Reginald. He's coming to visit in a month. Things have got to be resolved before he arrives or there will be no more Eastmill Paper."

"Given the time frame, it sounds like you need both of us . . . one to examine the books, the other to examine the product shipments. You realize that's two-hundred dollars a day, plus expenses?"

East pulled out his wallet and removed a check. It was made out to Bailey and Spencer, in the amount of five-thousand dollars. "Is that enough to get you started?" The check was drawn on Jerry East's personal account.

Stu smiled as he picked up the check. "More than enough. Let us put together a plan of action and we'll get back to you. Today."

"Good. Here's my private number. No one answers this but me. I need to keep this as quiet as possible." Jerry East stood up.

"We'll do our very best, Jerry," Stu answered as he also stood and shook East's hand.

"Nice to have met you, Jerry," Jeff offered with his handshake.

Both men sat down after their newest client left. "Well, good thing we weren't busy."

Jeff laughed. "I thought you said we'd had more than our share of cray cases and we wouldn't get any more for a while."

Stu laughed with him. "I did, didn't I?" After they'd both had some coffee, Stu asked, "What do you think?"

"I've got some ideas, but let's both think about this until lunch. Then we can decide what to do, and who does it."

"That works for me."

The morning passed quickly, with phone calls and an attempt to clean up any outstanding paperwork that needed completion. Before Jeff knew it, Stu was standing at his office door. "How about lunch? It's almost one o'clock."

"Sure." Jeff put on his jacket, and they left for Dino's. They went to the very back booth, where they did all of their strategizing, celebrating and moping. Harry, the bartender, saw them and raised a glass. Jeff nodded ascent, and as soon as the vodka gimlets were ready Joe brought them over to the table. "To our newest client," Stu proposed. "Now, let's hear your idea."

"Well, let's face it, what he needs is an auditor of some kind and a warehouseman. I propose that you be the auditor and I'll go to the shipping department and throw boxes around. You can wear those glasses like you did when you played the psychiatrist, and I can stop working out."

"You just want to quit going to the gym. I think it's a good idea, I'll call Jerry and ask him when the state came in to audit his books last. And they always need somebody in shipping. Of course, you might be too tired to go out at night."

"Uh-uh, I'll manage. So if East can get us in there tomorrow, we can get started." Jeff was eager for this one, for some reason. Stu wasn't about to disappoint him.

"I'll call him when we get back to the office."

Lunch was delicious, as it always was, and Stu called Jerry East when they returned. There was good news on both counts . . . there hadn't been a state audit in almost fifteen months, and the warehouse was short a man. Jerry agreed to inform the accounting manager of Stu's imminent arrival and recommended Jeff to the warehouse manager.

"Well, partner, looks like we're employed again. You're sure this won't cut into your love life? I'd hate to see all the young ladies left with just me to go out with."

Jeff laughed that happy, hopeful laugh he had. "Don't worry, my love life won't suffer a bit."

"That I'm sure of."