Incandescence (Part I)

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It was after 5.00pm when we finally arrived at my house. Leonard met us at the front door as we made our way inside.

‘Care to explain my spy mission?’ Leonard joked as we walked inside. ‘Seriously, today was the first time I’d ever received a message from an employee telling me I had to sneak into my own business and steal some files. What’s going on?’.

‘You make me sound insane when you word it that way’ I nugged Leonard as I took the files from him. ‘Bradley and I popped into the office earlier and it looked as though Mandy was trying to hide some files. I wanted to know why she was sneaking around the office on a Sunday afternoon. So, to get her out of the office, I invited her and Bradley out for lunch and then had you to do my dirty work’ I stated matter-of-factly.

‘I’ve already looked through these files; all I found were invoices and general paperwork’ Leonard stated as I started flicking through the files, not really knowing what I was trying to find.

‘Damn’ I said out loud ‘I don’t know what I was hoping to find, but I wasn’t expecting invoices. I’m sorry for sending you both on a wild goose chase with this’. I said, feeling deflated.

‘Any excuses to have us round for dinner again hey?’ Leonard joked ‘So what’s for dinner?’

‘Don't go there! After being forced to have lunch twice today, the last thing on my mind is dinner brother’ Bradley chuckled.

We spent the next hour going through the files trying to find something, but there was nothing glaringly obvious; I was starting to wonder if Leonard had picked up the wrong files.

‘Leonard, what would you like for dinner? I’ll quickly place your order.’ I asked remembering his earlier comments.

‘The Chinese you ordered last time was good’ Leonard said and before he could continue Bradley’s head snapped up from the files.

‘Not that it’s any of my business, but when did you two have Chinese?’ Bradley looked at his younger brother demanding a response.

‘You’re right, it is none of your business, but if you must know we had a meeting about Jackson before our last Executive Meeting. Remember, I told you all about it after you stormed into my office demanding an explanation!’ Leonard wasn’t afraid of his older brother and knew how to quickly defuse his outbursts.

‘That’s right’ Bradley said before looking back at me. ‘You certainly have a sixth sense about people. I think we should keep these files; I have a feeling there’s something right under our noses’

It was just before 7.00pm when Chinese was finally delivered and I was glad I ordered extras. The smell wafted through the dining room and before I knew it, we were all digging in.

After dinner Leonard and Bradley offered to stay and watch out for me, but I politely refused the offer. It took some persuading but after I reminded them that they had already provided me with security, they finally agreed to leave. Bradley took the files with him as he didn’t want me spending the night worrying about work.

It was strange I had only been working at BL Corp for 4-weeks, but I felt a special bond developing.

That night I couldn’t sleep. I knew security was stationed outside my home, but that didn’t stop me from worrying. After one o’clock in the morning I finally fell asleep and was annoyed when my alarm woke me up at 5.30am.

I slowly made my way out of bed and got ready for work. After breakfast I left home and was in my office by 7.30am. I had 90minutes to prepare for our Executive Meeting and quickly printed a few reports and review figures. I hadn’t given myself enough time to prepare for the Executive Meeting; but I knew today’s meeting would be detailed as last week’s meeting was cancelled because of the Staff Retention Event, and after that, I fired the Chief Financial Officer.

I looked up when I heard a knock on my office door. ‘You look busy, but the meeting starts in 5. You know dad hates anyone being late’ I couldn’t believe I’d lost track of the time. ‘Thanks Bradley’ I said as I grabbed my folder, notebook and pen. We made our way upstairs to the boardroom and sat down just as Mr Salvatore arrived.

It was clear from Mr Salvatore's demeanor that he was angry. Both Brent and Leonard sat upright and gave their father their full attention.

‘I’ll cut to the chase’ Mr Salvatore addressed the meeting ‘this company is bleeding money. I don’t understand how we lost $3.5 million last month. I want each Manager to present me with their Departments results for last month, forecast for this month and business plans. Sales, you’re up’

And with that, one by one each Departmental Manager stood up. Sales Gross profit for the last month went up by $5.6 million. Marketing expenses were on par with previous months. There was no increase to IT expenses, however they were looking at a $200,000 expense to upgrade the Sales CRM program. HR hadn’t incurred any major expenses other than Jackson’s termination payout and a few training expenses.

The Executive Committee looked at one another confused. We all heard that sales results increased and all other expenses remained stagnant. We all had plans to improve our department and increase revenue for the business. So how was it we lost so much money that month?

Finally, Catherine from Marketing spoke up and expressed what we were all thinking ‘These numbers don’t add up. All departments have shown improvements yet the overall results show a loss. Is it possible the results are wrong?’

‘Bradley might not be the Chief Financial Officer Catherine, but he did major in Accounting, so no, I'm confident he hasn't made any mistakes’ Leonard snapped. It was nice that he jumped to his brothers defence, but he seemed to have taken Catherine’s comments a little too personally.

‘Leonard, I’m not suggesting Bradley made a mistake. But did it occur to you that maybe Jackson wasn’t reporting correctly in previous months!’ Catherine didn’t hold back in what she was thinking and we held our breath.

‘Enough’ Mr Salvatore yelled. ‘We will not turn this business around by accusing one another. You’re all earning decent money, so start showing me your worth.’ And with that the meeting was closed and we all swiftly made our way back into our offices.

Bradley didn’t leave his office all day. I heard him calling out to everyone in his department 'Mandy get me a report on this; Linda I need you to download this analysis; Teresa I want you to provide me year-on-year analysis reports'. The girls were running around and the level of tension Bradley was emitting was almost intolerable.

At 2.00pm I went to the cafeteria for a quick bite. Before leaving, I grabbed an Espresso and Wrap before heading back upstairs. On exiting the lift I could hear Bradley’s voice thundering through the department; the Accounts Department were on edge as I made my way to Bradley’s office.

After knocking on his door I stepped inside, giving him his Eespresso and Wrap.

‘What’s this for?’ Bradley asked not looking up.

‘You need to eat’ I stated before sitting down to face him. ‘Please don’t take this the wrong way, but I know we have to cut expenses; so I’d like you to cease security at my home. It’s not right that the business should be paying for it’.

‘A few thousand dollars in security fees won’t make a difference to the millions we’re losing. I need to figure out why we’re losing all this money’. It was clear Bradley was frustrated and not wanting to be subject to his further tyrant, I promptly got up and left his office.

I spent the next few hours liaising with the top two recruitment agencies in the State. I knew we had to find a suitably qualified Chief Financial Officer.

It was after 6.00pm when I starting looking into auditors, there was a strong possibility that Catherine was onto something. Maybe Jackson had made errors in previous months, or worse still, manipulated figures. Pondering various scenarios I heard a knock on my door.

‘You’re still here’ came a familiar voice ‘Sorry about earlier, it’s just our finances are bad. I know something isn’t right, but I can’t put my finger on it’ Bradley seemed defeated and I swiveled my screen around to show him a list of auditors. ‘Why don’t we use auditors, they specialize in finding discrepancies’ I suggested.

‘Funny you should say that, Leonard just said the same thing’ he replied.

‘Great minds!’ I smiled. ‘It’s late, I think I’d best head home’ I told Bradley as I switched off my computer.

‘I won’t be far behind, I'll just secure the floor’ he stated before adding with a wink ‘and by the way, nice try but security is staying’.

I smiled and left, making my way to the basement carpark. As I exited the lift my phone buzzed. Stepping outside the lift I opened my handbag and grabbed my phone

1 New Message from 'Unknown'
‘I thought I told you to watch out’

I took a deep breath to calm my nerves and went to put my phone back in my handbag. Being a large empty carpark I was startled when I heard footsteps. I looked around and spotted a figure standing in a dimly lit corner. Then I head the unmistakable sound of gunfire ringing in my ears.

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