Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Expose (08/22/13)
TITLE: Pilfering Pete
By Christina Banks
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I turned to the front of the leger and started again. Column after mind-numbing column, I reworked the figures. I was sure I’d missed something somewhere, but the numbers didn’t lie. I felt sick. Uncle Peter was stealing from Grandma. There could be no other explanation.
My accounting assignment seemed so trivial now. Thousands of dollars were missing from my grandma’s account, taken out in small withdrawals of a few hundred each, all marked with my name. I’d never seen a penny of that money.
The sterling image I’d constructed of my uncle crumbled as I grasped his hypocrisy. As a pastor, he should help orphans and widows, not rob them. How could he do that to her? To us?
Anger boiled within me. I slammed the leger closed and started to pace. How I wished my father was still alive to guide me. He would have known what to do.
One thing was certain; Uncle Peter’s embezzlement must be stopped. But I was just a kid. He’d never take me seriously if I confronted him alone. I needed to expose him in front of the whole family.
Slowly a plan began to take shape. I was going to throw a surprise party for Uncle Peter. It would be a surprise that no one would forget.
I mentioned the party to Grandma, after she woke from her nap. She loved the idea and immediately made the calls. The date was set for after church. Even with the short notice, we were going to have a full house. My plan was coming together perfectly.
Sunday morning I dragged myself out of bed after a night over elusive sleep. It was hard to act natural around Uncle Peter when he picked us up for church. I felt like I was going to throw up, but I knew Grandma would cancel the party if I got sick. I ground my teeth all through Teen class as Uncle Peter preached. I used to enjoy his sermons, but today his words meant nothing. The hypocrite. Did he honestly think he could steal and not get caught?
“You're awfully quiet today, Pipsqueak,” Uncle Peter said on our way home.
“She’s had a lot on her mind.” Grandma winked at me.
There was more on my mind than she realized.
“Anything you’d like to talk about?” He pulled on my braid and grinned.
I shook my head. Now was not the time.
Uncle Peter was thrilled with the surprise waiting for him at Grandma’s house. The air was festive and I almost hated to end it. But this had to be done. I gathered everyone in the living room.
“For your birthday,” I said when it was quiet, “I wanted to give you something that you probably don’t deserve.”
“I’m ready, Pipsqueak. Bring it on.” Uncle Peter grinned at me in anticipation.
“I’m giving you the opportunity to tell the truth.” I pulled the leger book from behind my back.
“The truth about what?” The confused look on his face was almost genuine. He was a better actor than I thought.
“I know about the money that you’ve been stealing from Grandma.” The whole room seemed to hold its breath. “The evidence is all here. Thousands of dollars are missing. What do you have to say about that?”
“Oh, Pete,” Grandma groaned.
Uncle Peter swallowed a few times, working his jaw as he thought. Finally he looked at Grandma. “Sorry, Mom.” His eyes were misty when he finally turned to me. “It’s not what you think.”
“Sure it’s not.” I shook my head. Of course he wouldn’t tell the truth.
“When your Mom and Dad died, they left you some money in trust. I don’t know if you remember, but Grandma got real sick not long after and ended up in the hospital.”
Grandma nodded and laid a hand on my shoulder. “I borrowed your money to pay the bills.” There were tears in her eyes.
“She’s been paying it back as she was able.” Uncle Peter looked around the room. “We’ve all helped as we were able.”
Heads nodded and I knew he was telling the truth. All the anger seeped out of me. I felt like such a heel. With a guilty look at the leger book in my hand, I gave it back to Uncle Peter. How had I doubted?
“I’m so sorry.” I muttered.
“Me too, Pipsqueak.”
The truth was a surprise I’d never forget.
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