Once the pizza had arrived, Connie and Mrs. Hodges split up the donor list and began calling.
An hour into the phone calls, Connie began to see a pattern. “Thank you, Mr. Hardy. And I’ll be sure to pass along your greeting to my dad.” Connie smiled at the receiver even though the dear man wouldn’t see her appreciation.
Mrs. Hodges hung up the reception phone just as Connie set her cell phone down. “Well, so far, all of the donors that I’ve called seemed to still be giving.”
The older woman tapped the tip of a ballpoint pen on a notepad. “I don’t understand it. Your father told Diana specifically that one of the donors I called was no longer giving at all. She said he was rather heartbroken about it because he and Eleanor knew the woman personally, and she had supported the foundation from day one.. But on the phone, the woman didn’t indicate that she’d stopped giving or even reduced her donations.” She gave Connie a quizzical look. “In fact, she said she’d just put in a payment using the new process as instructed.”
“What new process?” The hairs on the back of Connie’s neck stood up.
“Well, I didn’t ask her. I didn’t want to alarm her, but I haven’t heard of any new process. Do you suppose it’s going into a new account?”
A chill scampered across her shoulders. Was that what was going on? She snapped her fingers and pointed at the sky like Mrs. Hodges always did. “That’s it.”
“You know what’s happening.”
“It isn’t that the donors aren’t giving anymore. It’s that their donations are being transferred to someone else.” Connie’s cell phone vibrated on the counter, and she picked it up as the ring began. “This is Connie Wright.”
“Have you learned anything?”
“Well, we couldn’t decipher the letter string that you sent, but the numbers were a different story.” Her nephew-in-law began to explain some long process, but Connie’s brain wasn’t completely wrapping around it. She bit her tongue, hoping to hear something she could make heads or tails out of.
“So, with a little perseverance, and probably a bit of conniving, my assistant was able to identify a couple of bank accounts in the Bahamas. He was actually able to look at the funds there. He couldn’t touch any of it, of course, but he found a couple hundred dollars between the two.”
It was probably a good thing that Connie hadn’t understood Addison’s process. She really didn’t want to know how his worker was able to ferret out that information. “There’s still nothing to say that Clint Rutherford has anything to do with it, though, is there?”
“I’m afraid not.”
She thanked Addison and hung up as Mrs. Hodges completed another call. “There’s another happy donor. Mr. Iverson is even planning to increase his giving next year.”
“Did he say anything about a new process?”
“I didn’t give him the chance. I told him that he might have heard about a new procedure for the gifts, but that we were sticking with the way we had been doing it all along. He was pleased that he didn’t have to change his direct payment.”
“Good.” She pointed at her phone. “Margaret’s son-in-law was looking into the data that I found on the notepad in Clint’s office. He connected the numbers with two different bank accounts in the Bahamas.”
Her eyes widened. “I bet that’s where the money went.”
No real proof of that, but Connie’s gut told her it was indeed a good bet.
Connie’s phone chimed, and she glanced at it. Gretchen. Connie pulled up the text.
CR – LT CHI RES. WKD @ DOBESON CPA.
Gretchen and her shorthand. Well, CR was likely Clint Rutherford. Light shy rez? CHI would be Chicago, Chi-town. And RES most likely meant resident. But LT?
Long-time! And Dobeson CPA had to have been the other freelancing job that he spoke of.
Wait a minute. The WKD bugged her. Works would be WKS in Gretchen text language. WKD is either weekend, which wouldn’t make any sense at all, not even in Gretchen-speak, or it would be worked. Past tense. But he’d talked about his other job as though it were current.
She opened her internet app and looked up the company, then clicked on the phone number to call it.
“Dobeson CPA. How may I help you?” The woman’s voice was on the perky side of professional.
“I’d like to speak with Clint Rutherford, please.” The man had been with her brother Frank, but maybe he’d returned.
“I’m sorry, but Mr. Rutherford no longer works here.”
Connie started to thank the woman, but a thought entered her mind. She put on an elderly voice. “Well, I don’t understand. Mr. Rutherford has been working on my accounts for some time now. Where has he gone?”
“If you’ll give me your name, ma’am.”
Connie couldn’t exactly give her that. “I was supposed to contact him when I was ready for him to go through a new audit. How can I reach him?”
“I’m afraid I don’t know.”
“Well, surely you have some way to reach the man.” Connie pressed. “He couldn’t have just fallen off the face of the earth.”
“We haven’t been able to reach him.”
“For how long?”
“If I can have your name, ma’am, I’ll have one of our other agents contact you—”
“No, no. I want to at least speak to the man before I decide to hand over my business to someone else. How long has he been out of communication with you?”
“Oh, it’s been at least a couple of months, ma’am. We really have no way to contact him. He had no family or even an emergency contact. But we do have some wonderful agents here who can help you.”
“Well, thank you. I’ll think about it and let you know.” Connie set her receiver back in its cradle. She stared at the desktop. Clint Rutherford hadn’t been working at his job for months. And he’d only been at the foundation for a few months. Did the times coincide?
Before she could contemplate that question, Clint Rutherford came in through the front door.
Connie glanced at Mrs. Hodges. “We need to keep him out of his office.” There was no telling what state the office was in. They needed to give Paul as much time as possible to complete his investigation.
“Mr. Rutherford.” Connie stepped into his path as he began to veer toward the volunteer wing.
“Clint, please.” He gave her smile right out of a Disney movie. “How are you settling in, Connie?”
She hadn’t invited him to use her first name, but that was an old-fashioned thought. “Well enough. Thank you.” She held out her hand toward the executive hallway. “I have a couple of things I’d like to ask you about.”
“Certainly, let me drop my case off.” He sidestepped toward his hallway, but she tucked her hand around his arm.
“It won’t take but a second. I have an idea about the reimbursement that I’d like to show you on my board.” Why had she said that? Her board was a smorgasbord of Mama’s notes and cards. Nothing business about it. She’d have to come up with something.
“Well, all right.” He curled his arm up and squeezed her hand against his side, drawing her much closer than she wanted to be.
“So, you have been traveling?” She gave him a sidelong glance and fell into step beside him.
“Yes, I went down to meet with Frank Wright. I guess that would be your brother. Seems strange since he’s so much older.”
Funny that he would be so candid. She halfway thought he’d try to hide where he’d been since he hadn’t bothered to tell anyone that he was leaving. “Mrs. Hodges was a little worried about you.”
He tilted his head. “That’s odd.”
“Mrs. Hodges knew where I was. And I was able to speak to a number of potential donors who are interested in investing in the Our Kids charity.”
He went into detail, but Connie hung on the revelation. Mrs. Hodges had known all along where he was? Why had she made it seem like she didn’t know?
The man paused, apparently concluding his monologue about the charity.
“That sounds very promising.” She held her breath. Hopefully, that would be a reasonable response.
“I thought so.”
Good. She reached her door and unlocked it. “How were you able to get off your job for so long.” That should be an innocent enough question.
“Tennyson & Carstairs are quite liberal in their time off.”
Wait a minute. Not Dobeson? That explained a lot. “How long have you worked for Tennyson & Carstairs?”
“Only a few months, surprisingly enough. They lured me away from my former company and have made good on every promise. Including my time off.”
That fit in with what she’d learned about him. Could she have been wrong about him?
Don’t miss the ending of our little mystery with all its twists and turns!
Come back tomorrow for my final posting!