Paula stopped to twist the lock. “Since you’re staying, I’ll lock you in.”
With Ivan no longer a threat, she felt much better about being alone. The last she’d heard, he was still alive. Jason’s first bullet had hit the lower lobe of one lung. The second had lodged in his spleen. Surgery had taken several hours.
Jason had fared much better. She hadn’t even realized he’d been hit until the ambulance arrived and he’d removed his coat. He’d insisted it was a flesh wound. So while the paramedics had loaded Ivan into the ambulance, she’d driven Jason to the hospital five miles away.
By 1:00 a.m., he’d been patched up. Upon his release, she took him by the park to retrieve his truck, and he drove with one arm to his mother’s. The bullet had torn through some muscle but hadn’t damaged the joint.
Clanging on the other side of the interior door drew her thoughts to the present. Camille was apparently in the kitchen preparing dinner. Since Lacey hadn’t arrived until almost lunchtime, Ruben had given her permission to work late. Before she left, she hoped to have proof of Darla’s innocence. Or evidence of her guilt.
There was still the issue of the delayed payments. She’d told Chirbani’s accounts receivable person last Friday about the fire and promised an answer this week. The week was half over.
Camille’s voice drew her gaze to the kitchen door. “Where are you going?”
“Errands. I’ll only be gone an hour.”
Lacey returned her attention to her computer screen, trying not to eavesdrop.
“You’re going to the casino again, aren’t you?”
Lacey cringed. Camille wasn’t making it easy. Her voice was raised, her tone accusatory.
Ruben’s wasn’t. If he answered, it was too soft to carry to the garage.
“Haven’t you done enough gambling for this month?” Camille continued her tirade. “You spent more in the ship’s casino than the cost of the cruise and shore excursions combined. You need to get help.”
Several seconds later, the front door slammed. Lacey winced. The downside of setting up shop at home. It was hard to keep one’s personal business private.
But Ruben’s leaving was a blessing. One, he expected her to be processing claims. Two, he’d said he’d research the delayed payments, even though he was far too busy. Three, he was convinced Darla was guilty and wouldn’t appreciate Lacey trying to clear her.
Since she’d already begun tracking the delayed payments, she decided to start there. Using the log-in information Darla had given her, she pulled up the vendor account activity for Chirbani.
Once received, Medicare processed the claims and electronically deposited the funds into Advanced’s account within two to three weeks. No delays there.
The front door shut again, and Lacey stood to peer out the garage door windows. Camille slid into her Camry and backed out of the drive, probably needing to cool down.
Now Lacey was alone. She printed the activity, then matched payments received to checks cut, less Advanced’s fee. A one-week hold time was acceptable.
So why was Advanced waiting four and five weeks to send payments to its clients? Had Darla gotten that far behind?
She laid the printout aside. Now the fraudulent Medicare claims. Each one she looked at, nothing seemed amiss, until a November 10 processing date jumped out at her. Her dad’s birthday. It had been on a Saturday this past year.
Advanced wasn’t open on weekends.
She checked the others. Eight of the ten fraudulent claims had been processed on Saturday or Sunday. The others were likely evenings. So who was slipping in after-hours? Whoever it was, they would have somehow accessed the funds.
Lacey leaned forward, checking the vendor list for one she didn’t recognize. A minute later, she found it. She opened another window and navigated to the North Carolina secretary of state’s website. The owner would be listed, telling her what she needed to know.
She’d just typed “SLX Group” into the search page when the door opened behind her. Ruben walked toward her from the kitchen, his eyes on her computer screen. She’d been so intent on what she’d been doing, she hadn’t heard anyone drive up.
“You’ve made a huge mistake.” The cold disapproval in his tone was reflected in his eyes.
Chills danced up her spine. He wouldn’t try to hurt her, would he? Ivan was the one who’d set the fire. He’d admitted it.
Or maybe he hadn’t. She struggled to remember his exact words. “I thought for sure the fire would take you out.”
He’d been there, watching. But he hadn’t set it.
He hadn’t tampered with her salad, either. Ruben had known about her allergy and come prepared.
Yes, he would hurt her.
This time Jason wouldn’t be coming to her aid.
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