When your back is against the wall,
how far will you go to provide for the ones you love?
Three years ago, Charley Weatherly walked away from a nine-to-five she hated to take a chance on her dream, running her own boutique bookstore. Unfortunately, business hasn’t been good. Whether it’s the location or the fact that most folks seem to prefer to buy their books online anymore, the remainder of Charley’s 401k might be enough to keep her afloat for another six months, tops.
Between trying to keep the business going and caring for the grandmother who raised her, Charley’s lovelife is nonexistent. It’s a sacrifice she’s willing to make, at least for the time being. She’s too tired to think about men anyway.
But when her grandmother nearly burns down the house while Charley is work, it becomes obvious that Nana needs more care than Charley can provide. So rather than propping up the business for one last try, Charley realizes that she has to use that money to get Nana into a quality memory care program.
Here’s an unedited snippet from what I’m tentatively calling THE GIRL IN THE GUESTHOUSE.
“Okay, Nana, that about does it.” Charley placed the last stack of clothes into the large suitcase on the bed. “You’re all set to go tomorrow.”
Celeste smiled vaguely. “Where am I going again?”
“You have a new room at Pacifico Manor. Remember your friend Mary? And Cole Porter?”
“Oh, yes,” her grandmother said. “That’s just lovely.”
From the back pocket of her jeans, Charley’s phone rang. “Hello?”
“Yes, Ms. Weatherly, this is Ruth Allen at Pacifico Manor.”
“Oh, hello! We were just getting Nana all packed.”
The other woman hesitated for a moment. “Yes, well, we have a bit of a problem. I’m sure it’s just a simple oversight, but your grandmother’s auto-draft for her first month with us was declined due to insufficient funds.”
Charley frowned as she stalked away from Celeste’s bedroom. “Insufficient funds? There must be some mistake. There was more than $30,000 in that account.”
“Like I said, I’m sure it’s just an oversight of some kind. But we need it sorted out before Mrs. Martin can move in.”
“I understand. I’ll check into it and get back with you. Thank you so much.”
She returned to the bedroom where Celeste alternated between hovering over the bags and bewilderedly peering into the empty closet. “Come watch some TV, Nana. Then we’ll go out for a little dinner.”
With Celeste settled on the sofa watching a Golden Girls rerun, Charley took her laptop to the kitchen table and fired it up, heading for the bank website. Pulling up the new account, she quickly found the balance and blinked unbelievingly.
Her heart pounded. How can that be? Last week I moved $30,000, the last of my 401k.
Hand covering her mouth, she stared at the screen. I’ve been hacked. It’s the only thing that makes sense.
It had happened before. The contents of her checking account had been drained a few hundred dollars here and there from several ATMs in Toronto, a city in which she’d never set foot. The matter had been resolved in about a week, but it had been stressful nonetheless.
But $30,000 certainly raised the anxiety factor. She pulled up the account details to see if she could determine the location of the withdrawals.
The most recent activity was when Pacifico had attempted to draft Nana’s first monthly payment. But that had been declined. There was only one other transaction.
Charley’s mouth dropped open. The entire $30,000 had gone to the Universal Church of the Apostolic Divine. “Son of a…” she breathed. “That shady TV preacher.”
How? How did they get their hands on that account? Charley wracked her brain. The day she’d moved the money, she’d left the checkbook in the kitchen. She’d been certain she’d left it on the table, but later, she’d found it on the counter.
On shaky legs, she walked into the living room. Celeste had changed the channel and was now engrossed in yet another sermon from Pastor Pompadour. Charley drew a deep, cleansing breath and focused on keeping her voice even.
“Nana?” She used the remote to mute the television. Celeste looked up at her expectantly.
“Nana, did you give money to that man?”
Celeste glanced back at the television. “God told him he was going to die if he didn’t buy a new airplane. We had to help.”
Charley squeezed her eyes shut and roughly scrubbed her lips with the palm of her hand. She followed her grandmother’s gaze to the screen where the man silently moved his lips and waved his hands. A telephone number was emblazoned across the bottom of the screen.
We have to get the money back, that’s all there is to it. She retrieved her phone from her back pocket and tapped in the number.
Handing the remote to Celeste, Charley stalked out the front door and into the mild evening. The phone rang twice, then was answered by a woman with a strong southern accent.
“Thank you for calling our love line. I hope you’re having a blessed day. How much would you like to give?”
“Um, yes, I need to speak to someone about getting back a donation? My grandmother inadvertently gave some money that was meant for another purpose.”
“You need financial help? I’m sorry, this is the wrong line for that. This is the line for giving.”
Charley pinched the bridge of her nose between her thumb and forefinger. “No, what I’m saying is that my grandmother gave $30,000 that she shouldn’t have. I just need it refunded.”
“Oh, no, ma’am, we don’t do that.”
With more patience than she felt, Charley forged ahead. “I need to speak with someone in charge. Do you have a supervisor I can talk to, please?”
With a humph, the operator responded with a “Just one moment, please,” and didn’t bother to put Charley on hold. “Yeah, Dot, we’ve got a live one.”
Another cheery southern voice came on the line. “Hello, I sure hope you’re having a blessed day. What seems to be the trouble?”
Feeling her temper rising, Charley took a deep cleansing breath. “I was explaining to your colleague that my grandmother donated a very large sum of money that was meant for something else. She suffers from dementia and she didn’t realize what she was doing. I’m just asking that her donation be refunded. Please,” she tacked on for good measure.
“Mm-hmm. And is your grandmother’s name on the account she used?”
Charley thought for a second. “Yes, it’s a joint account with both our names on it.”
“Okay, then. Your grandmother made a generous love offering out of her own bank account. She’s a grown adult and as such, is free to do as she pleases. And it pleased her to give of her tithes and offerings to the Lord. Far be it from us to stand in the way of her blessing. And shame on you for trying. Have a blessed day!” The last sentiment sounded more like a curse just before the woman disconnected.
Bewildered, Charley looked at the phone in her hand. Then she looked back at the house. What are we going to do?THE GIRL IN THE GUESTHOUSE by Pandora Spocks (unedited excerpt)