Exclusive Excerpt from ACCUSED
Five minutes had passed since Chloe had tried to place the call to her job in Washington. As she lowered the receiver toward the telephone cradle, she finally faintly heard him say, “Personnel, Mr. Wimpledink.”
Chloe rammed the receiver onto her ear. She began her rehearsed sob story—“Hello Mr. Wimpledink, this is Chloe Lambert. I’m in North Carolina, my mother’s had a stroke and I must tend to her while she convalesces. It’s…it’s too early for a prognosis.” Chloe sniffled. “I need a leave of absence… My landlady will come and get my last check on pay day.” Please let him believe this big fat lie…
Right on cue, he was sympathetic. “I’m so very sorry to hear that, Miss Lambert. Is there anything I can do to help?”
“No, thank you. I don’t even know if I can help her now.” Her voice trembled.
“I understand. I can give you about a month, but after that I cannot guarantee that we will continue to pick up your slack…you understand.”
“Yes, yes I do. Thank you. Goodbye.” Stunned, she hung up the phone. That had gone too well. No mention of Bill or his murder.
Rubbing her ear, Chloe shouldered open the swinging door and left the kitchen. Hungry people filled the bakery. The bell tinkled as people entered and left. She scanned the crowd, but unfortunately, not one soldier was in the bunch. “Can I be of some help to you, Mr. Grogan?”
“Oh no, don’t bother yerself one bit Snow White. Go. Have some sunshine.”
“The sunshine will wait. I need to find a job first. Anything at all will do.” The sooner the better. I need to assimilate into Miami Beach and get my fresh start.
Paddy filled two boxes with assorted doughnuts and shoved them in her arms. “1500 Collins Avenue—the bank. Tell the manager I sent ye.”
Chloe carried the heavenly-smelling boxes outside. The skies were partly cloudy, mostly bright blue. With the morning breeze blowing through her hair, Chloe felt pretty. As she waited on the corner to cross the street, she snuck a chocolate frosted doughnut from the top box. A long convoy of army trucks trudged along. By the time she’d made it to the bank, two more doughnuts had gone away without leave, as the soldiers would say.
The short, bald, gourd-nosed guard smiled as he held the door open for her. “Take them to Mr. DuNoir, the last office on the left, miss.”
Chloe looked at his gold wedding ring. She wasn’t too disappointed he was taken. Just because I need a husband doesn’t mean I have to be stuck with an ugly one. He’s almost as ugly as that poor nun from the train. In fact, they could be siblings. Chloe proceeded through the small nearly empty bank. Locating the manager’s office, she knocked on the glass of the open door.
He smoothed his white slicked-back hair and beckoned her in.
She said, “Patrick Grogan sent me.” Chloe noticed his eyes. One was mud brown, the other ice blue. Averting her gaze, she put the boxes on his desk, shuffling the full one to the top. A sense of familiarity made her try to conjure him up in her memory, but she couldn’t place him. And no way would she have forgotten those dichromatic eyes. Ha, maybe that’s why he’s familiar. I remember that from the chapter on family traits in biology class. This whole town is déjà vu-ish..
His voice was inflectionless. “Well, that was fast work. Paddy is a dependable old
Irishman. What’s your name? Any banking experience?”
Taken aback, Chloe smiled as she gave her name but denied previous work experience. There is no way I can use the Bureau of Engraving and Printing as a reference for a bank in Miami Beach. As soon as he called to check, my jig would go kaboom.
“I’ve got a bachelor’s degree. In home economics.”
“The position of Girl Friday will be yours tomorrow. Report in promptly at 8:50 a.m. and be prepared to be flexibly bored, but continuously busy.”