Double Entry Death

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A murder mystery set in Victoria and Vancouver, involving financial hi-jinks. Cleo Dawson, a freelance writer, is assigned to do a profile on Jennifer Forbes, rising star of Kitsilano Savings Credit Union. But the more she learns about Jennifer, the less Cleo feels she knows her. Who is Jennifer Forbes, really—a financial genius? A bold embezzler?—or a killer?

From Chapter 1

Assignment

Look Sharp! Take Care! Beware! The bright red words leaped up at me as I unfolded the single sheet of paper I’d extracted from an envelope in this morning’s mail. They were imposed across, and partly obscured, a black and white picture of something I couldn’t immediately make out.

My initial reaction was amusement; I thought it was a joke of some kind from someone I knew, and turned the page over looking for a signature and perhaps a note on the back. Finding neither, I scanned the picture more closely. It seemed to have been photocopied from a newspaper for there were fragments of type-set sentences on either side—but it was difficult to discern the image with three lines of mismatched consonants and vowels dancing across it. When my brain finally assembled the gestalt, I was more puzzled than ever, and growing uneasy, for the photograph was that of an Italian banker who had been found hanging from Blackfriars Bridge in London sometime in the early 1980s. Reduced by distance, the body dangled in mid-air like the stem of a question mark.

I’m not normally so casually familiar with historical events, even of so recent a vintage; I only remembered this one because the same picture had recently been published in the local daily, accompanying an article on famous frauds. One of the few items I recalled was that the man’s jacket pockets had been full of rocks. And his name: Calvi, Roberto Calvi, and his nick-name, ‘the Vatican’s banker’—No, ‘God’s banker’—. that was it—but what had an embezzler of church funds to do with me?

I examined the thing again. Against the white expanse of the Thames below, and the black geometry of the bridge above, the letters gleamed fresh as blood. Their varying sizes and clumsy shapes suggested that they had been cut out free-hand, while the paper’s glossy texture and its thinness indicated one of the cheaper magazines. The envelope was a standard #10 business envelope with my name and address typed directly on to it. By a rather old and dirty typewriter, judging from the bleared typeface. There was no return address, and the postmark was Victoria, which is where I live.

My puzzlement and uneasiness grew as I dredged up a another detail about Calvi, the intriguing question: Had he committed suicide or been murdered; and if murdered, on orders from the Vatican or the Mafia? Theories and theorists abounded on all sides, each one about as convincing as the next.

Was that what I was being warned of? That if I didn’t ‘take care’ I might end up hanging from the Point Ellice Bridge? Take care of what? I laughed in nervousness and denial, having read about anonymous letters, but never having received, or even seen one before. It must be a joke, a hoax of some kind, yet a sense of menace rose like fog from the page, sending cold little feet tracking down my spine.

Was I being threatened? For what? By whom? By the person who had sent this message to me? Or by someone else? And what was Calvi’s significance? I didn’t even know a banker. Although I was about to get to know one—suddenly recalling my latest assignment. Was it possible that this communiqué had something to with Jennifer Forbes? . . .

[A week ago, a women’s magazine had assigned me to write a profile of Jennifer Forbes, rising young star of the provincial credit union system]

. . . I had yet to sit down with my subject, and [now] this anonymous letter had arrived. Did the timing indicate a connection to Jennifer Forbes, or not? Coincidence could not be entirely ruled out, but I could think of nothing else in my life to which a tie-in wasn’t even more far-fetched. How many people even knew I was doing this story? Quite a few, come to think of it, considering the interviews with family and colleagues I’d been setting up. Were any of them my mysterious correspondent? And if so, returning to a core question: Was the letter a warning, or a threat