The Accident by N T Franklin
The Accident by NT Franklin
The accident changed everything for Randolph.
Scott and Randolph were brothers, but as different as night and day. Scott was a head taller and weighed a third more than his younger brother. He was the starting quarterback for four years in high school. Randolph found his calling on the math team and chess club. Scott was the alpha male; Randolph was the omega male. But they were brothers. Had been their whole lives, Scott would tell people. The oddest peas in a pod, others would say.
Scott graduated, barely; Randolph graduated a year early, taking every academic honor the school offered and was awarded numerous scholarships.
Their personal lives were equally as different. Randolph never had a girl look twice at him; scores of girls chased Scott, much to his liking.
Scott entered the military after high school and found success with the Army Rangers. He left a parade of girlfriends, ex-wives, and children scattered along the way. Randolph continued his schooling with a Ph.D. in computer design and software development and immediately was appointed to a faculty position at MIT.
Scott was the first phone call Randolph made when he became engaged.
“What? You’re kidding? A real live girl? You didn’t build her?” was Scott’s response when he received the call from Randolph. “Nothing could keep me from being there. Of course, I’d be honored to stand up for you. I hope you have better luck in marriage than me. Oh, little brother, I’m going to throw you a bachelor party to end all others.”
“That won’t be necessary.”
“I know, but I had to say it anyway. You’d been disappointed if I didn’t say it. Your whole life, I’ve told you what a terrific catch you are and what a kind and wonderful person you are. I’m glad someone else finally has seen this, too. My little brother’s gonna get married.”
Randolph smiled. “I’m glad you can come.” He put the phone down and smiled again. Scott was right to be surprised. Robin was the first woman that would give him the time of day. Since before high school, he wore glasses and a hearing aid in his left ear. He was a pencil-necked geek to the max. Scott was the only reason no one messed with him in high school. Graduating a year early was a no brainer. With Scott graduating, he would have no one to talk with, or worse, become the target of teasing.
Randolph closed his eyes to savor the memory of his first meeting with Robin. He was sitting in the far dark corner of the coffee shop, outlining code on a pad of paper, he gazed up and blankly stared across the floor. Tall and long with a pixie haircut, she flowed gracefully when she walked from the coffee counter. A dozen pairs of eyes followed her. When she sat down at his table, he almost spilled his coffee.
“Nice pocket protector,” she said.
The dozen pair of eyes stared at the contrast of the two at the table.
Always wanting to avoid confrontation, Randolph looked away from the beautiful woman and started to put the lid on his coffee to leave.
He stopped when she continued speak. “My dad always wore one. It’s nice to see there are still people who don’t want ink stains on their shirts. I lost my dad last year, but I still have his last pocket protector. I’m Robin, by the way.”
Her soft, gentle voice was disarming.
He put his coffee cup back down. “Randolph… Randolph. I’m Randolph. Nice to meet you.” He stuck out his hand, and this time, he did knock his coffee over.
She gracefully stood up and Randolph nearly toppled the table when he did.
She looked at him and smiled. “I’ll get some napkins.”
Randolph was still standing, mouth agape, when she returned.
As she mopped up the coffee, she kept talking, “I’ve seen you in the corner before. You seem so interesting.”
Randolph blinked. “Really? No one has ever told me that before.”
She smiled again. “Now why do I find that hard to believe. I’m an artist and a dancer with the Cambridge Dance Company.” She leaned forward and said, “And you do something with boxes and arrows from your notes, right?”
“Yes, I work with computers. I try to make them faster, better, more secure. I find it interesting.” Randolph was back in a safe zone.
“I’ve never seen a dance performance. What’s it like?”
“I find it interesting,” Robin said.
She tried to suppress a smile but couldn’t. Then they both laughed.
“Tell you what, I have a performance Saturday night. I’ll have tickets with me at this table this time tomorrow. If I see you here, I’ll know you’re interested in seeing a dance performance. Should I bring one or two?”
“One ticket will be fine. And I will be here.”
With a glance over her shoulder and a finger-wiggle wave, Robin was off.
Randolph sat still for another ten minutes, still in shock. He had a date. Well, sort of a date, but it was good enough for him. Maybe he should sit and wait at the coffee shop, 24 hours wasn’t that long.
That was almost a year ago. Being in love made time blur. Nothing would bother him as he approached marriage. Now his brother would meet Robin.
Robin bounded out of the door ahead of Randolph when Scott drove up. She gave him a big hug. “I’m so glad to meet you. I have heard so much about the war hero brother and now I finally get to meet you!”
Scott looked over her head to see his brother. “Randolph, so this is the mystery woman?”
“Everyone inside. I’ve made hors d’oeuvres,” Robin said.
Randolph went over the ceremony details with Scott while Robin smiled at the two.
Scott listened intently and put his beer on a coaster. “See, I’ve learned to use coasters. I chose a drab tan suit for the occasion – “I’m suppose to fade away, this is your and Robin’s day.
The wedding was attended by her friends, his brother, and a colleague or two. Robin could have been on the cover of a bridal magazine. Her veil over her short hair and an ivory-white dress with an organza bodice brought knowing nods from the attendees. She glowed as only a woman in love could on her wedding day. Scott’s grin was nearly as wide as Randolph’s. Randolph was pleased. Scott was the perfect Best Man and brother. Had his parents lived to see it, they’d been pleased, too.
Through the next year, work success continued for Randolph and Robin; life was going well. The decision to have children coincided with Randolph’s starting a private company for internet security. The company was successful beyond anyone’s wildest expectations. The childbearing was not. After three years of dealing with the best fertility experts money could buy, Robin was successfully implanted with her in vitro-fertilized egg.
Randolph was a champion during Robin’s mood swings with the associated hormone therapy. “It only brings us closer,” he would tell her.
As Robin started her third trimester, Scott left the Army Rangers and was hired immediately as a Deputy Sheriff. Randolph was pleased, feeling Scott would grow into the role of uncle.
Scott’s second day in the job had him arrive as first officer on scene at a horrific accident with a DOA. It was clear that one car crossed over the center line and collided head on with the other. There were no skid marks. Both cars were totaled.
Scott instantly recognized one of the cars. He feared the worst when he peered in. Robin and the child died instantly. The other driver, whose blood-alcohol level was tested to be 0.35, four times over the legal limit to drive, walked away unharmed from the accident. Eventually, a police car took the other driver away.
Scott volunteered to do the notification. At least it would be done by family.
Randolph face went blank and he said nothing when he heard the news. He turned and walked to the couch to sit.
Scott shifted back and forth in the foyer. He’d never been nervous in front of Randolph before. “That level of alcohol likely caused the driver to pass out and cross into Robin’s lane.”
Randolph stared out the window and said nothing.
Scott approached the living room and said, “I’m so sorry. She’s gone. It was instantaneous; she couldn’t have felt a thing.” The quietness of the room brought them closer. “The Sheriff gave me time off. I’ll stay here tonight.”
Randolph slowly raised his head to face Scott and a meek “Thanks” eked out.
Scott sat next to his brother on the couch and said nothing.
After 30 minutes, Randolph softly spoke. “When can I see her?”
“I’ll call the Sheriff in the morning and let you know. But you might not want to see her. Just think about it.”
The two sat in silence for an hour.
Randolph shifted on the couch. “How bad is it, Scott?”
Scott drew in a deep breath. “Bad. Real bad. I can do the identification if you want.”
The sternness of Randolph’s voice made Scott’s head jerk a little, but he didn’t answer.
Scott didn’t breathe for the minute that followed.
“I asked how bad,” was the surprisingly strong voice from Randolph.
Scott didn’t hesitate, nor did he say it was as bad as anything he’d seen in war zones. “She was decapitated, Randolph. Let me make the confirmation. Please.”
Randolph stood and walked to the window.
“Thanks,” Randolph said.
Like the wedding, the closed-casket funeral was attended by mainly Robin’s friends. Randolph was stoic and expressionless during the service. He dutifully accepted condolences from the attendees.
Scott watched and worried. Randolph avoided the stretch of road where the accident occurred and wouldn’t take more than a week off from work. He also refused any contact with the driver’s lawyers.
Months later, the trial made local headlines. A second-generation industrialist’s team of lawyers were making a mockery of the judicial system. Randolph refused to attend or read about it. Delay tactic after delay tactic, the trial ended with a hung jury. No criminal charges came about.
During these months, Scott dropped in to see his brother every Tuesday and Saturday. Randolph refused to discuss the accident. There was no visible grieving and there was no healing. Scott had seen this over his military career and knew it was not good.
But Randolph worked evenings on the days Scott did not visit. In the past months, he penetrated the complex financial network of a local company. Not just any local company, but Round Rollers, the company inherited by one specific drunk driver. During the hours learning the financial dealings of the company, a pattern emerged and a plan was developed. Complex computer code was put in place, but not activated. Like a sleeping dragon. Like Randolph.
After the trial was over, incremental changes were being make in Round Rollers financials. Supplier accounts were not being paid on time, even though the internal records showed nothing wrong. Then some were not being paid at all. Then more weren’t being paid. Revenue was being diverted. Established, open loans were accessed to cover the shortages. Round Rollers went on making rollers for moving goods in warehouses right on schedule, but it was bleeding cash. The internal records showed nothing out of the ordinary of a profitable company.
In the following months, the personal assets of the company owner were being transferred to shell companies in the Bahamas. His personal wealth was being reduced by almost ten percent per month. The shell companies made many charitable donations.
Gradually, the assets of Round Rollers were being leveraged by bank loans. Randolph left the employee funds alone. The employees did nothing wrong and should not be punished.
Electronic communications from creditors and vendors never reached company officials. Phone calls from vendors were getting curt answers that company records showed the accounts paid up to date.
Approaching the first anniversary of Robin’s death, the bank moved in and shut down Round Rollers. By then, the company was in arrears to every vendor, down to the coffee supplier. The personal assets left of the owner were his house. Nothing more. His life insurance policy had defaulted through nonpayment; the company vehicle he drove was repossessed, his 401K and investment portfolios had massive short sells and they were coming due every week. Not a good strategy in a rising market. The emails questioning this strategy never reached the intended recipient.
With a poor credit rating, Round Rollers could not raise enough cash to operate. The owner had no personal assets to save the company, so the bank went looking for a management team. They didn’t have to look far as an email detailing management personnel and restructuring arrived the next day.
Randolph enjoyed the first good night’s sleep in a year.
Within a week, the company was up and running and debt servicing their accounts. Vendors started delivering materials again as their accounts were brought up to date. By then, Randolph was a person of interest. Certainly, he had a reason and the ability to carry off what was done. Eventually, the police visited Randolph’s office.
No, he had no idea what was going on. He hadn’t followed the trial and wasn’t aware of the financial problems with Round Rollers.
The police returned with a warrant. Randolph gave his employees the rest of the week off. He took off and spent the next days at a nice resort on the coast.
Nothing was ever found on any of the computers linking Randolph to the bleeding of the Round Rollers. He was too good at what he did for that. In fact, the FBI and the police came to him when they couldn’t solve these kind of computer problems.
The following week Randolph’s computer security company was up and running as before and Round Rollers was making steady progress getting back on track.
Randolph had one last surprise to financially destroy the ex-owner, but that would have to wait a couple weeks.
Scott dropped by on his usual Tuesday. “It’s good to see you smiling, Randolph.”
“Yes, I’ve come to grips with Robin’s and the baby’s death.”
Scott grabbed a beer from the refrigerator, opened it, and set it on a coaster. “Odd thing about the Round Rollers going under from some computer transactions, huh?”
Randolph’s face went blank. “Unfortunate, it is.”
Scott has seen that blank face once before – when he did the notification of Robin’s death.
After a pause, Randolph continued, “You know my office was invaded and occupied for a few days. The police thought I had something to do with it.”
Scott smiled. “So I heard. I’m in law enforcement, you know. Perhaps the owner has suffered enough. If he has, then there would be no reason to revisit your involvement again.”
Randolph gave Scott a slight smile and a slighter nod. “Do you want to come over Sunday, I’ll have the game on. I’ll make sure there’s more beer.”
Scott swigged the last of his beer. “That sounds like a good idea.” He stood up and smiled again at his little brother. He gave a nod and closed the door behind him, whistling as he walked down the sidewalk. Randolph smiled. Maybe Scott was right. Holding off on his last surprise could wait.
Copyright N T Franklin 2019