No Accounting For Danger
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by Laird Long
Description: When this CPA crunched the numbers, they added up to crime. After graduating from university, gun Clint Magnum, accountant-in-training, is hired by Twinkle & Winkle Chartered Accountants of Winnipeg, Manitoba. He quickly discovers many of the firms he is assigned to audit are less that squeaky clean, and that many have balance sheets that hide criminality - or worse. These include: Roadhog Trucking - a company whose corporate vision is a load of something other than clarity; a senior citizen-run crafts emporium where the blue-haired merchants are importing more than just knickknacks; the clandestine tax reclassification of the oxymoronic Democracy Foundation. Along the way, Clint and his buddies, Spud Morgan and Vanya Holden, are forced to attend a training session in the secluded hinterland of Eastern Manitoba, under the unbalanced guidance of a host of crackpot consultants and technical shamans. And as the months crawl by like wounded snails, Clint realizes the more he knows the greater a threat he becomes to his bosses and clients. When a man knows too much, he needs to be very careful. But as Clint finds out, even that may not be not be enough, because as careful as you are - there is no accounting for danger. Then comes a climax filled with emotional sparks and electrical blackout.
eBook Publisher: Renaissance E Books/Deerstalker Editions,
eBookwise Release Date: July 2012
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [225 KB]
Reading time: 126-177 min.
All Other formats: Printing DISABLED, Read-aloud DISABLED
Chapter 1. CALCULATOR FOR HIRE
Clint Magnum. CA wannabe.
I'm a Chartered Accountant-in-training with a head full of numbers and fists full of dynamite. I make the numbers crunch, and, baby, if they don't, I become the biggest liability on the balance sheet of your life.
It was my last year of University, and my dream of becoming a Chartered Accountant--the dream of every red-blooded, bespectacled jarhead--was inching towards reality. First, though, I had to fight through the hellacious rounds of interviews being conducted by the public accounting firms recruiting on campus. You had to be hired by one of them, and one is all I had an interview with. It was do or die, third and long (in the CFL), D-Day, the thin, red line holding their ground against the chanting, spear-wielding hordes of Zulu warriors pouring over the grassy knolls at Rorke's Drift; it was ... Spud mouthing off.
"Hey, Clint, good luck to youse, eh," he said, in Canada's third, unofficial language.
Spud Morgan, myself, and Vanya Holden were seated in the cramped holding pen where the interviews were taking place. The three of us went back a long way--four years of gut-wrenching university. Spud was short and stocky and wore glasses. He looked and dressed like Mr. Potato Head. Thus, the moniker. Vanya was long and silky, with black, flowing hair and a body that had more hills and dales than the Welsh countryside. They were square joes, and they were nervous. Spud had nine interviews scheduled for the day, Vanya, eight. They had their choice of firms, while the firms had no choice with me. I tried to calm their clatter.
"You two eggheads won't have any problem enlisting," I told them with certitude.
"We go where you go, Clint, you know that," Vanya responded, in a voice that would have warmed the heart of a refrigerated Disney.
"How 'bout to Hell?" I fairly bellowed.
"Come on, Clint, it's only accounting."
Only accounting! That's what they said to Pinky Sharguts when he was auditing the tax return of Al Capone. Right before he was force-fed a bottle of Wite-Out and a couple of HB pencils were shoved where they didn't belong--pointy-end first. After that, when they told Pinky to get the lead out, they weren't kidding.
Only accounting. That's what they said to Whitey Bernbaum when he was going through the second set of books kept by the Teamsters Union. Right before an 'out of control' eighteen-wheeler hauling anvils and cement slippers careened over top of his head while he was 'dozing' face-first on the asphalt yard of the Little Vietnam Trucking Company.
"Only accounting? Was Dieppe only a day at the beach? Was the Bay of Pigs only a three hour cruise? Was the..." I cut short my tirade when I noticed Spud nervously playing with his bowtie, and Vanya with hers. My mission was to calm them down, I remembered.
My thought process was snapped like the elasticized band on Rush Limbaugh's underwear by a dame calling my name from one of the cubicles that doubled as an interview room. I jolted myself erect, nodded confidently to Spud and Vanya, and headed for home.
* * * *
The blonde's foot shook like a drumstick being eaten by someone with Parkinson's. She was interviewing me for a job, but it was going to be me who ran this little interrogation.
"What sorta weapons training do you offer?" I spittled into her bland face.
"I think you've been watching too many action-accountant movies, Clit. We don't use guns."
"The name's Clint," I corrected. "Explain it to me again." I was as gung-ho as a boatload of Cubans heading for the Florida coast, but that bad taste in my mouth told me that my mandatory three years of service with a public accounting firm weren't going to be nearly as violent or glamorous as I had fantasized. It also told me to pop a wad of Wrigley's into my mouth before the dame's face wrinkled up even more, if that was possible. She was twenty-five, going on millennium. Accounting will do that to you. I remembered the tall tales I had heard, passed around campfires like so much gas, at compounds in southern Alberta and northern Montana--tales of accounting intrigue and auditing cloak and dagger. I let blondie fill me in, and I think she wanted the same from me.
"Well, to receive your Chartered Accountant designation, you have to article for three years with a partnership such as ours, basically assuming the status of an indentured servant, performing audits, and doing tax, accounting, and other work as assigned."
Other work as assigned. Code name for a little off-the-books covert action? She beat me to my question with an answer. She wasn't pretty, but she was capable.
"By other work as assigned, I mean photocopying, filing, washing partners' cars, laundry, etc. You'll be expected to do this, at a starting salary of thirteen thousand dollars a year, less supply costs and desk-space rental fees, with a minimum two hundred and fifty hours of unpaid overtime, while taking four courses over a one year period in the evenings, culminating in a four day, four hour a day, final exam. I know it seems like a lot of boring work for minimal pay, but you have to look at the long term--a life of middle class mediocrity."
I had tuned her out after the first three words of her soliloquy. I was trying to figure out if she had any discernible chest. I couldn't find any and gave up trying.
"What does your firm offer that the other Big Eight don't?" I queried. In the public accounting oligopoly, there were eight large international firms. It was a big bed they slept in, but everyone was comfy--controlling the salaries and dreams of thousands of young accounting aspirants, and controlling the exorbitant fees that they charged clients all too willing to pay if it meant the financial life of their company. It was a sweet deal for those in charge, but, as usual, it was the grunts at the bottom of the totem who paid with their blood, sweat, and tears.
An international firm is what I wanted, though. I could handle bringing down unfriendly governments with some well-timed trade and tariff work. Her answer, however, sucked the wind from beneath my wings.
"We're exactly the same as the other firms. But, Clink, I hardly think you're in a position to bargain, having been excluded from the first round of interviews by all seven other firms," she purred, eyeballing me like I was a bumble bee and she was a honeysuckle waiting to be pollinated.
I flexed in my too-tight suit. The clip-on popped off my bullfrogged neck and hit the ground running. I bent down to pick up the off-the-rack, blue Transit tie and responded, "You know your stuff, but do you stuff your know? I guess those other weenie firms didn't like the long-range goal I put down on my application--to bash the red out of Fidel Castro and Kim IL Sung in a twenty-four hour torture session with nothing but a hole-punch and a box of brass metal head fasteners."
"No, I think they just didn't like you."
"The feeling's mutual. Let's gab gobbler, Toots. When and where?"
"You start September, 1990, at our Twinkle &; Winkle branch office here in Winnipeg."
"I start now and I start in New York--the world under my leather-swaddled feet and deli sandwiches burning a hole in my guts!"
As her tongue entered my mouth and tasted vomit, I thought ahead four months to September. Clint Magnum wreaking havoc in the accounting departments of this nation's finest companies. The thought got me up for the task at hand.
After a few ticks of the clock, I sidled out of the open-air cubicle and into the arms of my friends. "We're staying in Winnipeg!" I exclaimed, with all the heart of a man headed for reconstructive bowel surgery. The grimaces on their faces told the story, and it made their words all the more beautiful.
"We're right behind you, Clint," they said, shaking their heads in unison.
* * * *
"There's gonna be hell to pay--GST excluded!" I screamed at the audit team. My twelve-inch fist shook the conference room table, triggering a group pants-wetting.
After a summer of dynamite fishing and recreational sandblasting, Vanya, Spud, and I had begun work at Twinkle &; Winkle. September 4, sharp.
I was briefing my androgynous staff on the upcoming audit. Vanya and Spud had their own audit teams, and their own audits. I was given the dregs--relatives of partners and their mistresses, and summer students earning a few extra bucks for partying through their last year of Arts. The team didn't share my enthusiasm.
"Who's bringing the donuts?" Halsey asked, as a recently chewed Rip-L-Chip particle cannonaded out of his mouth and onto my tie. To say Halsey had an eating problem was to give the Elephant Man some Clearasil and call it problem solved.
I adjusted my hip and shoulder calculator holsters and steeled myself for the inevitable argument.
"It's your turn, Malvin," Lizzie remarked. As she spoke, her breath hit me and spun me around. I came up gagging.
"I think not! I brought the taco chips and Barry Manilow CD's last night, remember?" Malvin's voice broke more times than a British heavyweight's jaw.
"That's right," Gerdle chimed in. "And I brought the Cocoa Puffs and Pizza Pops for breakfast this morning." Gerdle was wearing a dress that hadn't seen the light of day since Man walked on all fours, and a hairdo straight out of an Annette Funicello flick.
They were young and dumb, but they were mine. To mold into mine own image. To sweat into a lean, mean, bean-counting team. I raked my fingernails over my washboard abs to get their sound-bite attention. "Does everyone have their section assignments and budgeted hours?" I barked like a trained seal.
They nodded in unison.
"Good! I don't want an overbudget situation on my first job. Any questions?"
"Yeah," Halsey whined. "How come you're the senior on this audit when you've only been here one day?"
"I guess, Halsey," I responded, "that's because on the leadership and personality section of the psychological test we all took, I'm the only guy who scored positive. In the history of the firm. Any other stupid questions?"
"Yeah, I've got one," Malvin stated. "Who's doing the deferred taxes section on this audit?"
I could tell that Malvin had at least the right side of his brain working--he could be trouble. The last thing I needed on an interim audit budgeted for thirty-five hours, including can time, was a lot of questions about why we counted this, why we cut the fingers off her, etc., etc. "Figgy in the tax department will be doing that section."
"I thought he was in jail for tax evasion?"
"Figgy got fax."
Just then Mr. Twinkle oozed into the room. His thousand-dollar silver suit blasted my eyes, his toupee made my insides ache with undigested laughter.
Tinman spoke. "Everybody ready for the Roadhog Trucking Company interim audit tomorrow?"
"Yes, Mr. Twinkle," they responded, with all the enthusiasm of a group of lemmings at a cliff diving competition.
"Yes, daddy," Gerdle chimed, like my death knell.
"Excellent. Our continuing good relations with Roadhog management is contiguous on a clean audit, so any errors under, say one hundred million dollars, just keep to yourself. Anything over one hundred million, bring directly to me in the shredding room."
"Yes, sir!" they roared.
"On a lighter note, I hope everyone has paid their entrance fee to the Partners in the Park Picnic this Saturday. Don't forget to pack a lunch. Anyhoo, keep up the good work, and you treat these people right, Flint. Remember, they're our greatest asset ... next to our liability insurance, of course."
"Thank you, sir," I responded. "You're an inspiration to weenies everywhere."
Tinman left the set-to with a frown as I checked for my wallet.
* * * *
Whack! Whack! Whack!
Later that week, I found myself in the washroom of Roadhog Trucking, getting ready for the closing audit meeting with the President, CEO, Chairman of the Board, and Imperial Grand MennoKnight of Hall 304. They were one and the same person. Slapping my face always got me in the mood for abuse, paid or unpaid.
They had told me that every client is different. Some resented the presence of the audit team and the fear, mixed with chortles, they inspired, while some fawned all over you like you were a country music rock star. But this guy was even more different. Sir Cedric Kingdom wasn't off the wall--his world didn't have walls.
I exited the refreshing pungency of the washroom and headed for the executive offices.
"Sir Cedric is expecting you," his secretary, Ms. Clamdeboye, told me.
As I passed her desk with authoritative strides and rippling buttocks, she spoke again. "Clint, why don't you come over to my house tonight to check on the value of a few of my assets?"
Her sweater was tighter than Andre the Giant's hatband. I jotted down a mental note to keep that appointment.
I splintered the door to Kingdom's office on the first kick and pulled up a keister planter.
"So, how did the interim audit go this year, Mr. Magnum? Everything ship-shape like last year, I presume?" He spoke with an English accent that was so phony he should have been dubbed. His foppish attire and the white Persian cat he was stroking made the farce complete.
"I don't know who did the audit last year, because I can't find any prior year files, or anyone who wants to talk about it, but how you got a clean controls audit opinion is beyond the scope of my comprehension," I verbally dazzled him.
"I believe I did said audit myself," he retaliated, "because your firm was short- staffed."
That sounded as kosher as a pig's knuckle sandwich at a bar mitzvah.
"We got trouble in the inventory section!" I clamored, breaking out the file and a sweat at the same time.
"How old do you think my son is in that picture?" He pointed to a stick figure drawing on the wall of his cave. "Look at his teeth."
"I haven't a clue. Now, about this obsolete Edsel parts inventory--"
"I think he was ninety. Ever been to Africa, Mr. Magnum? I was on safari just last month, hunting game only slightly larger than yourself."
"No," I responded. "I haven't left this building, or bathed, in three days." This conversation was going no--
"The Horn, Mr. Magnum. The Horn is the key to the dusky continent."
"So I've heard. We're going to have to adjust the value of your inventory downwards by upwards of fifty million--"
"I understand that you accountants are a little anal retentive," he interrupted. "Would you care for a laxative? It's in the shape of the Prime Minister."
"No sh--" I was cut off in mid-profanity by the phone ringing. I scooped it up. "It's for you, Kingdom." I handed him the receiver and tried to readjust my thinking. I had to get weird. I had to enter his strange world to talk his strange language.
As he rocketed the phone off the wall, I made my move. "The Ulundi tribe of Baffin Island culls their seal herd on a yearly basis of any sick or diseased stock."
"It's the prudent management thing to do," Kingdom responded.
I was getting somewhere.
"Of course, the Newfy culler of the old and infirm seals is later castrated, tortured, and killed by lethal injection as a sacrifice to the Gods," he continued.
I was getting nowhere.
I slammed my hands down on his desk with a sonic boom. The cat shot out of his lap and through the plate-glass window, leaving Kingdom with a discount circumcision. My massive, milk-fed arms were clearly visible under the cheesecloth shirt I was wearing. "I want the inventory written down and I want a prior period adjustment now!"
A gaggle of Teamsters in tight suits escorted me out of the office on the fly.
I wasn't licked though, that would come later that evening at Ms. Clamdeboye's. I would report my findings to Twinkle and let him do the rationalization on this one. I could almost see the inventory section getting misfiled.