“What’s this?” I shake the folder at Kinnesberg as she opens the door. There’s anger in my voice, and I push into her flat. The wide open-planned space stretches before me, and I can’t help but wonder if she rents or owns it.
“Come in, why don’t you?” Her tone is sarcastic, but then it is late, and she wasn’t exactly expecting me. “Drink?” She moves to the fridge, and I can’t help but enjoy the view of her backside in her figure-hugging trousers.
When I don’t answer, she reaches in and pulls out a bottle of mineral water. It lightly hisses as she twists the cap. She takes a long drink before deciding to approach me. “Now, what is it that’s got you all worked up?” She’s close, and her perfume pushes into my nostrils, reminding me of so many moments from the last few weeks. From wild rolls under the covers to passionate nights on the couch, I’ve enjoyed being with her.
Kinnesberg takes the folder of incriminating evidence from me and flicks across the pages. “Wow, we are in worse trouble than I thought. Who committed to all this expenditure?”
“Have you seen the requisitions at the end?” I growl as I stay exactly where I am. I stare at her, barely blinking.
She turns to the final pages. “Looks like you’ve spent a little bit of money.”
“Why would you think I’ve spent it?”
“Well,” she purrs, “it is your name that’s signed on all of these purchase orders.” My brow drops, and I can feel my jaw tighten. “Why were you looking at these anyway?” she asks casually, moving past the enormous television, round the decorative coffee table to stop near a lazy chair with a duffel sat on it.
I eye the bag. “Going somewhere?”
“You know I’ve got that conference for the next two days. I’m out of here first thing and won’t be back until Friday night.” She grins at me and flutters her eyelashes. “Shall I come straight over when I get back? I haven’t packed anything for yours, but I think you’d prefer it that way.”
I speak slowly, my voice barely above a whisper. “What am I going to do about this?” I shake the paperwork roughly.
“What’s there to worry about? You’ve spent a bit of money. You’d have to do it at some point during the year. It’s much better to get it done now, and we can start to reap the rewards. Show the electorate that we’re ready to deliver on all your pledges.”
“But what have I bought?” I wave the pages. “And why haven’t I seen these requests?”
Kinnesberg strides back to me, her hand closing on my wrist. She holds my unblinking gaze as she uses her other hand to shut the file.
“Look, let me get this stupid conference out of the way, and then we can sort it all out. I’ll go over everything at the weekend. We’ll work it out together.” She leans in. “I’ll do it at your place, wearing nothing.” She comes in for a kiss, but I twist away.
“Do you think I’m that stupid?” I see her true colours as she snatches at the folder, wrenching it from me. Her cheeks flush red.
“Actually, yes!” she roars. “I think you are a complete moron. Because you know what? You let someone come and work for you, handle everything, and you didn’t do one single check on them.”
“Didn’t you want a second chance?”
“At politics?” she storms. “At the one thing that almost ruined my life? Cut me off from my family?” Her eyes narrow. “Until you came along, I wanted nothing to do with it ever again. Stupid, naïve Darnell, with his grand ambitions. Okay, I fell for it for a bit. I was taken in by your excitement. But, news flash, you’re not that inspiring! You’re just someone with a whole lot of good intentions and not a lot of brains. Do you know what politics does to someone like that? It shafts you.” She raises her hand high, fingers white as they grip tightly to the document holder. Her face twists with rage. “So yes, I decided that I’d take a little something extra. I mean, I did get you here, and against all the odds, I might add! Don’t I deserve something for all those late nights living off so little sleep?”
“Wasn’t that your job? Weren’t you paid well enough?”
“Fuck no. Do you know what I could have made in the financial sector in the same amount of time?”
“But what about the people?” I demand, feeling my eyes welling a little. “It’s public money, isn’t it?”
“Oh my god,” she chortles at me. “Are you really that fucking innocent? If that’s the case, and I sort of believe you are, you’ll get them sorted, even without the money.” It’s a really evil grin that she gives me as she steps closer. “Call it an economy drive or something. You can have that one for free, unless…“
The silence feels almost deafening until I finally swallow and ask, “What?”
“Well, there is plenty of money, and I wouldn’t say no to a bit of company while I’m on the run. Have you ever been to South America?”
I don’t break eye contact with her as I lower my chin towards my chest. “Did you get all that?”
Kinnesberg looks bewildered for a second and then goes wide-eyed. She grabs at her bag at the same moment the cops crash through the door of the apartment.
“Laura Kinnesberg, you are under arrest!” booms Detective Foley, my new best friend. The portly cop makes it quickly to Kinnesberg’s side, seizing the paperwork before she has a chance to do anything with it.
“You fucking bastard!” she screams at me as the detective tucks the folder of evidence under his arm and cuffs her. Kinnesberg tries to struggle, but against his heavy grip it’s hard.
Foley keeps a tight hold on his prisoner as the boys in blue pull clothes from Kinnesberg’s duffel bag.
“There isn’t any money here, sir.”
“Fan out, check everywhere for the two million dollars. She’s got to have done something with it.”
“Two?” Kinnesberg’s voice is high as she stares down the detective. “Wait, and why would you think it’s here? I haven’t withdrawn any of it!”
“Sergeant, read this woman her rights,” Foley demands. “Then we can get the rest of her lies down on paper and use them against her.” He passes the woman over and sidles over to me. “Some people think they are above the law.”
“I think people who steal public money are a disgrace.”
It’s gone midnight when I finally arrive outside the rundown building. It’s taken three buses and quite a lot of legwork to satisfy me that I haven’t been followed. I pause, once again checking social media to ensure there are no mentions of me being out so late.
I hear the lock of the shop door slip back, and then the heavy piece of wood grates open. I nod at my accomplice as I step inside. A light shines from the far end of the room, and I don’t need any instruction to head past the clothes rails and into the back of the charity shop.
“I was expecting you ages ago.” The redhead looks very shifty, all dressed in black. I take my time to peel away my scarf and hat before undoing my bulky overcoat.
“You wouldn’t want me followed, would you?” She looks sheepish. This isn’t something she’s used to. I can’t imagine Amelia’s done much sneaking around in her life. I take in the small space, a table and chair plonked to one side, a stained sink on the other. “Where’s the money?”
With a small smile, Amelia reaches under the table and brings up two brown bags. I glance in, noticing that she’s packed the top with a random selection of clothes from the shop. Nondescript, nothing that can be traced.
“Nice, huh?” She’s proud of herself. I must admit I wasn’t sure she’d have it in her, but she was the only person I could turn to. She’s been loyal throughout my campaign, even when I was threatened by my unruly investor. I knew that day I could trust her. I worked out she’d never say no to me and would welcome the chance to do something more with her life.
“And the two million?”
“Left in that safe deposit box, as you requested. I had the wig on the whole time. Made me feel like I was in Mission Impossible.” She scrunches up her nose like she’s enjoyed living out a fantasy.
“And you were caught on camera?”
“The whole way. I did everything you instructed me to. Went to her building, changed when I was out of sight, waited, and then left with that big bag full of money. I was so worried I would get mugged, but I also felt so powerful.” I can’t help but grin. She’s had the time of her life and made some cash along the way.
“What are you going to do with your share?”
She looks thoughtful. “I was thinking it would be swell to do something for others, give some to charity, but it all feels a bit complicated.” I nod, pleased that she’s playing safe. “So I have options.” She dives into one of the bags, producing an array of plane, train, and bus tickets. I get the briefest of glimpses, and then she shoves them back into hiding. “And you’ll never know where I go.” She beams, still having a lot of fun with the cloak-and-dagger antics. Then she looks seriously at me. “What about you?”
“Would you be surprised if I said I’m going to stay?”
“Not really,” her smile is warm, “because I think you meant all those things you said. How are you going to explain all of this?”
She’s right. I didn’t become the mayor to get involved in stealing four million dollars. I really wanted to make things better, and I still do. I’m going to have a lot to deal with now in my capacity as mayor. It won’t take long for Foley to work out where Amelia, posing as Kinnesberg, stashed the money. Then the city will have back a third of what it lost. The rest will never be seen again. Well, not by most. One million will disappear to wherever my accomplice decides is safest. The other three will pay off those people whose promises I can’t deliver on. It’s going to help get a lot of people off my back.
Sure, I’m going to have a hell of a lot of explaining to do, but this is where I want to be. Not only has Springfield restarted my abilities, but it’s shown I’m just as good as I ever was, maybe better. I always knew there was a risk with Kinnesberg, and I had kept an eye on her. It was hard, especially when we spent so much time in bed together. I’d hoped I might be wrong, that things wouldn’t work out as I predicted. It just goes to show that I’m the great trickster, and there’s no one better.