Below is an excerpt from my novella, Paper Losses, available in Kindle and Paperback on Amazon.com from Solstice Publishing:
James entered the facility and saw Danny at his desk. He could not believe just how frazzled Danny looked. The generally clean-cut, clean-shaven Daniel Sconcroft actually had the look of fear in his green eyes. A heavy-set man but not taller than James, Danny stood up and smiled weakly.
“Hey James,” Danny said. “You’ve gotta’ see this.”
James looked at the screen Danny was looking at and saw numbers; lots of numbers. It was the latest Publisher’s Statement. James knew that the Publisher’s Statement was the Nielsen report of the newspaper business. A good statement meant numbers were up, advertising rates could be raised, and businesses would come to the larger paper. Weak numbers meant ultimatums to “grow the business” or you lost your job. It was that simple, and even more cutthroat.
“What doesn’t look right here, James?” Danny asked.
“Hmmm,” James said. He perused the information and came to a glaring statistical entry.
“Danny,” James asked. “When did the University of the Gulf suddenly start ordering papers to be delivered in bulk?”
“Never,” Danny said. “That’s the problem. We are showing we’re delivering over 200,000 papers to 5 campuses last year.”
“That’s impossible!” James remarked. “That school is in my district. If I had even one paper delivered there I would have known about it, much less 200,000.”
“Think it could be a mistake,” Danny said curiously.
“No way,” James stated. “Even if it was a mistake, how could something of that high a volume not be noticed for an entire year?”
“You have a point, James. It’s too coincidental, and the numbers are entered too cleanly. Look.” Danny pointed to several lines that ordinarily would not calculate correctly. “Everything is entered properly and adds up right.”
“Exactly. So that means that either someone within the company is having these things shipped directly to the plant, or….”
“Somebody is cooking the books.”
James and Danny both blanched at the notion. James quickly got on the phone to production and the pressroom.
“James Allister, North City Center. I need to speak to the person in charge of dock operations.”
James knew the only person with the authority to authorize such large school shipments was the dock manager.
“Lenny? James Allister here. Yes, I’m okay for now. Listen, I have reason to believe that there may be an error on the Publisher’s Statement. A line item misplaced perhaps. Did we ever print 200,000 school papers last quarter?”
James sat in wait for several minutes while Lenny checked. He and Lenny were hired at the time same time, and both rose through the ranks. Lenny’s personal relationship with the Dock Master two years ago got him the job of lead dock foreman, and later dock manager.
“James,” Lenny responded. “I show no printing of that volume anywhere during the previous quarter. In fact, we never got any order for this many papers.”
James got off the phone. Danny stared at him and James stared back.
“Call Mr. Spears,” said James. “I think we have a huge problem.”