Violet was on Instant Messaging with Jake while keeping an eye on Chet. The guy was boring. He did nothing all day long. But Jake was chatty, to say the least.
'If you could go on any vacation, where would you go?' he asked on messaging.
'It's keeping my mind off my dad. Where? Money is no object.'
'Chet just came back to his desk. He's eating something that smells like nuts.'
'Boring. Where would you go?'
'I have no idea. I've never been on vacation. As a kid, we couldn't go, because Mom worked year-round. So dad would get us to do the work around the house all summer long. When we didn't have work to do, he'd make us learn more. I guess that's why we all have extra degrees. Ben's a doctor but didn't want to specialize. Instead, he took extra classes to get a PhD in psychology to handle women, or so he said. Ashley has a PhD in education, but doesn't like being called doctor. Emma has a master's degree in biology. And Ronnie just finished her master's degree in chemistry. Why am I telling you this?'
'You never went on vacation. If you could go anywhere, where would it be? Do you think you'd like mountains or the beach?'
'The beach. I can't even imagine what that's like.'
'Do you like winter or summer?'
'Summer, hands down.' She heard the speakerphone again. 'Chet just dialed the phone. Keep an ear open.'
'Yep.' He paused. 'He's calling a 1-900 number. A sex call during work?'
'Can you prove anything?'
'No, unless you hear moaning.'
She listened for a moment. 'Just breathing. He left the office again.' She leaned out the cubicle door and returned to the computer. 'He went to the bathroom.'
'Can't get him there,' Jake wrote.
They kept messaging, but nothing happened. At lunchtime, a secretary brought a sandwich and a drink. "Take a break," she whispered. "I'm here now. Eat when you get back."
Violet nodded and left the room, using the restroom. When she walked out, Jake was waiting for her. "I'm on break," he said. "The secretary's eating your meal so you can get out of there for a bit."
"Thanks. I have to get my purse and coat."
"Nope." He took her hand and headed back for the forbidden conference room. "My treat." He opened the door and there sat two steaks on plates, with baked potatoes and a salad with a soda.
"Wow. Some treat. Trying to get back in my good graces?"
"No. I'm not a suck-up, either." He ushered her through the door and closed it behind him. "I'm thanking you for helping me out. We don't have it yet, but we'll get the goods on him. When he calls those kids, I want to know about it."
They sat down and started to eat, talking over the meal. Each time she laughed with him, she felt guiltier and guiltier. Maybe he was right and had to lie to everyone. If they had more employees like Chet, he'd have to go undercover. There was no doubt about it.
After they ate, they went back to their positions to watch Chet. That afternoon, Chet called one of his kids.
'He's on the phone,' Violet wrote. 'He's talking to Billy. He had Billy tear holes in his clothes and put mud on his cheeks to make a sale.'
'We're listening,' Jake wrote. 'Wow. He's teaching the kids how to steal. They're going to use a team of kids. I think this might be enough. What do you hear?'
'Same thing. He's even laughing about it. Get the cops to Sixth and Main. They're talking about knives.'
'How old is that kid?'
'Pre-teen I think? Maybe twelve, from the way he's talking.'
'Would you be willing to testify against him?'
'Sure. Ask the neighbors around me, too.' She looked around and two people were standing up and staring at Chet. 'Nora and Anne are both staring at him, and now Ned and Victor are on their feet.'
'Good. Security will be there in three-two—"
"Chet, you're fired. Come with us."
Chet slammed down the phone and he was ushered out. Another man came in and took everything personal from Chet's office and he was gone.
About ten minutes later, Jake came into her office and sat down, leaning close. "The cops were nearby and got the kids," he whispered. "Billy is nineteen and his cohorts were ten and eleven. They had to be disarmed, but Billy was shot in the shoulder when he tried to get away. They're in jail and the hospital, and when they patted Billy down, he had a gun and over three thousand dollars in his pockets. He said they were for sales of not only greeting cards, but drugs he'd sold for Chet."
Violet was more than surprised. "So he's gone."
Jake nodded. "Now I have to leave. I wish you could come with me."
"Call me with whatever happens. You can always talk to me by phone. I keep my cell on all the time."
He shook her hand. "Thank you. I'll be home as soon as I can." He stood up. "Hold down the fort for me. I'm off to round up the horses."
She chuckled, said goodbye, and he was gone. She'd certainly miss him, but knew her time with him was limited.