Chapter 1

Dani was never one to let money go to her head. It wasn't her money anyway but all the people around her thought it was. Dani or Daniella was a 5'4" 115lb, daughter of a rather wealthy industrialist. He owned several major companies and held stocks for many more. Her father was also a mean, arrogant, power hungry man that took what he wanted when he wanted it and there was nothing that anyone could do.

However, Dani was not something he wanted. He was not into women at all for that matter. He married Dani's mom only because he made a mistake and Connie (Dani's mom) became pregnant. When Dani was five Connie became very sick and died from a very aggressive breast cancer. This left the overly busy businessman with something he didn't really want or need, other than for looks. So a governess had raised Dani until she was about eight when she was sent off to a boarding school.

Dani hardly ever saw her father. He never came to see the plays or any of the father-daughter events that occurred but after her mother died she never attached herself to anyone.

Dani was a very good student and had A's in everything that she studied. What made her different was that she cared for others. She would volunteer for anything working with the homeless or less fortunate. She joined fundraisers to help different organizations that helped with food and clothing programs. She even worked with programs that were fighting against her father. But for all she did, he never noticed.

By the time she was fifteen, Dani was well on her way to finishing high school before her peers, and getting a degree in accounting and business management. She was even earning a salary from her father's companies, as she would work with their accountants from time to time. She showed them that if they made contributions to organizations that she liked helping, that they would show the company as being community conscious.

With what she could earn, which was not all that much, really only about $500 a month, and a small allowance from her father, which was $200, Dani was able to save quite a bit and even invest some. The schooling, thankfully, was paid for in advance for each five-year stretch. The first stretch took her to her twelfth birthday and this second would get her to her seventeenth and graduation.

That was until she turned sixteen and things changed drastically. Her father committed suicide. This took Dani home to a house that she only saw for three weeks at Christmas/New Years break and four weeks for summer break. Now she was at this house to take care of funeral arrangements. Then there was the business side of things. That's when things got good and bad for Dani.

Dani's father had left a will; it would seem, but did not name Dani as the beneficiary to his business estate. Instead it named some strange organization that no one had ever heard of, although the house and land it stood on, that Dani lived in was not part of that and did transfer over to her as the only living relative. That was the good part. The bad was that the businesses owned by Dani's father were now being investigated for several counts of security fraud, embezzlement, and quite a number of others things that the federal government came up with.

"Ms. Orchard, I'm sorry for your loss and I'm sorry that we have to call on you like this so soon after your loss, but we have some questions as to your involvement in the companies that your father created." said one of the three officers of the local three-letter government agency.

"Thank you, but I don't know how much help I can be. I did work part time as a charity consultant. I found out several years ago that my father's companies were donating very little to help anyone. It took me some time but I did manage to show that donating did help with the image of the companies. But it was still small and I had to work for the organizations in order to get his companies to sponsor them."

"We have seen that in the records. It looked like you worked for three different organizations. Is that correct?" asked the same man.

"Yes, I think I worked about 3-5 hours a week at each one, although they were not to pay me. I would get paid about $8.50 an hour from the company. The company would then donate two times what I made to the organization."

"The records have been looked at as I'm sure you know. And according to those records the numbers were ten times what you just stated. It would have looked funny with the amount being so low. It also looks like you were doing some dipping..." The man started to say.

"Sir, I have never and would never do such a thing. But then I couldn't do such a thing, I didn't have access to those funds. And to counter what the company shows." Dani got up and walked to her closet and pulled out several file boxes and walked back to the table where she had been sitting.

"I'm sure you have talked to those at the organizations and saw what they have, I hope that would have told you what you wanted. Nevertheless, I have kept very detailed copies and reports of everything I have done for them. These are certified copies of agreements that I have made on behalf of the organizations as well as time cards." With that she pulled out a file. "This is a copy of the original agreement with my father's companies. With it are copies of the agreement with the organizations and how the disbursement of the funds were to be done and by whom."

Dani gave the man time to look over the papers and watched as his eyes bulged. Then he passed the papers to one of the others to look over. The frown that came to the man's face was very distinctive. Dani offered coffee or tea to the men as they all waited for the one on the phone to finish. Then that man made a few more calls before handing the papers back.

"It is very surprising that a young woman like yourself is so prepared. Almost like you expected something like this," the man stated.

"I'm sorry that it looks that way. By the age of ten I knew my father only as a ruthless businessman. I saw enough to know I needed to cover my tail if things went bad. In school I was so meticulous that it was thought I had some kind of compulsive disorder. I don't, I'm just thorough. I had also heard too many tales of fraud and the like to want to get caught up in any of it. I would guess that now we wait and see if the papers from the charities match up?"

"Kid, your father should have had you running the company. I doubt we would be here right now," said the first officer with a smile and a chuckle. "I do have some concerns however, you're a minor all alone, what are you going to do and where are you going to stay?"

"I'll be staying here for the time being. I've been in contact with a realtor about the property and to see about selling it," Dani started.

"I'm sorry but as a minor you can't do that. Hell you should be placed in foster care until someone can find a relative to take you in," said the third officer.

"You must not have gotten the records from my school yet. They have a policy that when a student completes all high school requirements they become emancipated. Technically I graduated high school three months ago and as of last month became emancipated. Now that leads me to other matters. I know the account that my pay came from has most likely been frozen but what about the trust fund that provided my allowance?"

"Your trust fund was set up by your mother before she died, just after you were born. I'm surprised that the firm that is controlling that has not sent a representative to see you about it. But to answer your question, no it was not frozen and should be making its normal disbursements to you."

Dani sighed, "That's good to know. It may only be $200 but it helps. Most of the rest of my money is tied up at the moment and I think I only have about $1500 that I can use to live on at the moment."

"You only get $200 from it. That's not enough," said the second officer.

"It is if you only need to get some clothing every once in a while or something special. The school was paid for and meals were included. I guess I need to talk to them about a small refund, as it doesn't look like I'm going to be going back. That will help some too." Dani took up her day planner and made a note for the next day. There was some more small talk when the second officer's cell phone went off. There were several exclamations and curses but then the man closed the phone.

"I'm afraid we have to take all your files to get them verified. Though it is clear that what you have and what the charities have seemed to match. What the company has is way off."

"I expected that as well. I have a form then that I need the three of you to sign. It is to show that all documents are handed over and that all envelopes were sealed at the time you took them. It also says that you are responsible for the condition of the documents and that they will be returned in good order." Dani went to another filing cabinet and pulled five copies and carbon paper then started to arrange them.

"I'm sorry we're not allowed to sign anything like that."

"Then I would have to come with you as I have no idea what might be done to them and it would not be in my best interest to let them out of my control. Now if you have a warrant then it might be different as a warrant makes the same guaranties." Dani smiled at the three officers.

The second man looked like he was going to argue the point when the third spoke. "Jim, cool it. She's good. And for a kid it's amazing. She's using her head and is covering her bases."

"Ya, I guess you're right. Kid's almost too smart for her own good." Jim chuckled. "I'll call and have them send a warrant over to make this official," and turned to call the office back.

"While he does that, is this all of the stuff that is most likely going to be asked for?" asked the first officer.

"No, I have two more boxes." Dani stated.

"I assume they are in the same closet?"

"Of course. Should I let you get them so as not to be seen as possibly tampering with anything?"

"Why don't you let me get them, just so you don't have to lift them." said the officer with a smile. Dani pointed out the boxes and the man brought them both out and set them on the table.

It was a four-hour wait for the warrant to arrive so there had been plenty of time to talk and learn about the small group and to order pizza. The first officer was Captain Jim Corsair. He was married with three kids, a boy and two girls, was fairly tall and had a thick build. Next was Lieutenant Randal Marshal. He was working on his second marriage but had no kids as yet, and was also tall but very thin. The third, a Lieutenant Mike Heyens, was not married, had no kids and was not looking for that just yet in his life. His stature was somewhere in the middle of the other two agents. Both of the lieutenants had military training and one of the lieutenants came from the city of Portland where he was on the drug task force. The Captain came from a family of policemen and just continued the family business so to speak.

In turn the three men learned all they could about the incredible sixteen year old that was continuing to amaze them. Dani even asked that one call the boarding school and verify her emancipated status just to be on the safe side, although she did offer a certified copy of that too.

To the surprise of the three men as the warrant showed up so did a child welfare worker.

"Ms. Orchard, I need you to pack a bag and come with me please." said the pudgy snobbish woman.

"I think before I go anywhere with you I would like to see some ID and know who you are?" Dani answered.

"I'm Ms. Crandle, of Children's Services. You'll be coming with me as our office has been informed that you have no guardian at present and no relatives have been found." The woman said as if that would be enough.

"And your ID please." Asked Dani

"Look here missy I will not have you..."

"Madam, I have the right to verification as to who you are. For all I know you could be some child stealing maniac." Dani said, with a straight face, which almost broke when she heard chuckling from the three officers.

"Do not take that tone with me young lady. I have told you who I am and that is enough," Ms. Crandle said.

"It might be enough for you but clearly not enough for her or for me. I'm Captain Corsair. Now I would like to see your identification and for you to tell me why you are here."

The woman was clearly not expecting to be challenged, stormed back to her car and got her ID. "There, that's me. Now I have other things to do today so if you would let me get this over with I can get on with other work." The woman turned and was about to take hold of Dani's arm when Randal stepped between them holding the emancipation document.

"Ma'am I think you need to review this case just a bit more." and he handed the document to Ms. Crandle.

The woman quickly scanned the paper, turning five shades of green then ten shades of red in the process. "This document must be a forgery," exclaimed Ms. Crandle. "Nothing in my files says anything like this. Where did this come from?"

"From the Law office of ALM and Associates. And I personally verified it with the boarding school. Ms. Daniella Orchard was fully emancipated as of last month. This property is hers and she has an income so she is in no immediate danger, other than being put into a system that is over busy as it is." Replied Randal.

"This is highly irregular. I'll have to verify this as well as the rest of the file. In the mean time the girl still needs to come with me."

Just then the warrant arrived with several other men. One walked to Captain Corsair and gave it to him. Jim looked it over and was surprised that it also included a search of the property and detaining of Dani but did not specify why.

"Ma'am I'm sorry but she can't go with you at this time. I'll be taking her in for further questioning. Most likely in regards to the documents she is being asked to turn over and with the statement you made earlier you can go. It seems that you have nothing further pending here."

The woman sputtered but in the end there was nothing that she could do but glare at everyone and storm off.

Jim turned to Dani, "I'm sorry but you do have to come with me back to the office. It would seem that someone wants to talk to you."

"I had the feeling that someone would, other than you. I'd like to stay until the others have finished going through the house to make sure nothing is damaged; not that they would do anything on purpose, of course. Though I can't think what they would be after. My father's computer and home office was searched after he killed himself. I don't have that much and the only things on my computer would be homework stuff. I keep nothing financial on it. Too easy for someone to get a hold of all the info, now isn't it."

The two lieutenants had already brought out the boxes in question and her computer of course. Then to her surprise Mike brought her, her jacket and purse. As they were getting into the cars Dani heard one of the other men talking to his friends. "Is this all there is? I can't believe I was pulled off of the stake out to do this."

"I'm with you. Everything was ready and I found nothing else in the house that could be of importance."

Dani lost the conversation as she got in the car and it took off.

Dani sat in the room that they put her in and waited. To her surprise she didn't have to wait long.

"Now I assume you know why you're here?" said the man in a very deep voice. It was like the guy that did the voice of Darth Vader from Star Wars.

"I cannot assume anything Sir. I can only make an educated guess as to the reason, given the facts and evidence that I know of."

"Interesting, and what is your guess then?"

"Before I answer that might I know who you are Sir? It just seems impolite not to be able to address someone by name." Dani had seen enough movies to know that the man needed to identify himself before he could question anyone.

"Who I am is not important. Now..." he started to say.

"I'm sorry but I can't talk to strangers that might just walk in off the street. If you are unwilling to tell me your name, I will not be able to speak with you. I would like to talk to whoever is in charge, please. Or I will have to ask for a lawyer."

The man sat down at the table for a moment just looking at the girl in front of him who was in every way telling him off but in such a manner that it made him want to smile. So he did.

"Jim and Mike said you were sharp and Randal was sure you wouldn't let me get past the second sentence. I'm glad I didn't take the bet he put up. I would have lost. I'm Senior Field Special Agent Jeff Morrison."

"It's nice to meet you Agent Morrison. Now, what is it you were going to ask?" Dani said with a soft smile.

"I asked if you knew why you were here?"

"That's not what you said but I'll answer." She giggled and looked down for a moment then back up. "Your people are looking into my father's companies and most likely have found major discrepancies in the books or contracts or both. I was being questioned at my home by three of your agents. They where most professional about it, by the way, however, they found something that they were not expecting. I may be young but I learned long ago to document just about everything. When I started working more closely with the three charities, I researched them quite thoroughly before doing more than just surface work. It came out that the information in the books that my father's companies have are not the same as what the charities have. I supplied a third certified copy of those records, which seemed to change the overall look of the picture. How's that for understanding?"

Special Agent Morrison was stunned; he had yet to be informed about the last bit of info. It must have shown on his face. Dani continued, "I would recommend a small break so that you can take a look at the information for yourself so you have something other than speculation to go on?"

This seemed to catch the man as funny; he smiled bigger and gave a loud bark of laughter.

"Kid what did you do, become a lawyer at some point? I'll send someone in with a pop for you while I take a look at what was brought in. I assume you want something diet?"

"No way. That stuff will kill you. I'd rather have just a regular Coke or Pepsi please."

Jeff was still chuckling as he left the room.

"I told you she was a firecracker," a chuckling Jim replied as he, Mike and Randal sat sifting through the new information, when Jeff came in and told the men what was going on.

"I'll admit I thought you were pulling my leg when you described her but, damn, she's got it going on upstairs."

"I'll take her the soda. For a kid, I think she's rather neat. And don't go getting ideas; she's younger than my little sister. Besides, emancipated or not she's still jailbait." Mike stated glaring at the group of men then went to the soda machine, got the pop and left the room.

"If that girl was seventeen, I think our little Mikey there would be looking at her as that wife he's always wanted." Jim said and received a resounding laugh for it.

The three men went back to going over the paper work to see if there were any discrepancies.

Dani sat waiting again. She knew she had done nothing wrong and hoped that she would be able to go home soon. Dani was hopeful that her memory was good enough and that the people that searched her house left someone there to watch the place and to make sure it was locked up and safe.

As she sat she thought back to all the things that never happened at that house; no birthday parties, no barbecues, and no family get togethers of any kind. She knew that her father really didn't want her and had only done the honest thing after he had gotten Dani's mother pregnant. He told her once that he was a private man with a private life and children were anything but private. He told her he would take care of her schooling and major needs but he was not going to play the father role. The major needs included semi-annual trips to the dentist, and a yearly physical that included shots, eye exam, hearing test and so on.

Now she needed to think about the future and what it was that she was going to do. She had already let all of the house staff go. Though, Mr. And Mrs. Lynnette refused to leave her. They lived in a small cottage near the side of the property, so continued what they did. Mr. Lynnette was the grounds keeper and part time chauffeur. Mrs. Lynnette was cook and the head of the house staff. Dani thought maybe she could separate that part of the property and give it to them as just payment for services. There were two other such spots around the large property that might be subdivided in the same way. She really liked one of these areas, and thought it would be good to keep it for herself. The big mansion was just more than she really needed.

Dani took out her day planner and made several notes as to who to call to get things going. She had just finished when Mike came in with her drink.

"You look to be holding up well to this waiting game." Mike stated.

"I just wish I had a cell phone. I could start making calls about things I need to get taken care of. The school didn't allow them and I couldn't get one anyway as I'm a minor."

"What plans do you have? I mean, it's clear you might know a lot but there are things that you might not."

So she explained about calling the school, then getting the property surveyed and how she wanted to divide it up. She still wanted to know about the company that her father had named in the will as beneficiary to all his business dealings. Several times Dani checked her day planner to see if she missed anything, but she hadn't.

Mike handed over his cell phone. "I'm sure I'm not supposed to do this but you can use mine to start on some of the calls. I think the first and most important thing you need to do is find a lawyer. It would help greatly with the property dealings if for nothing else. The group that oversees your trust fund would be a good place to start."


Dani flipped the day planner to the phone list to get the numbers. The school was the first she called and even though they were sorry to hear that she was not coming back they told her that it would take ten days to process the refund after she had signed the forms that would be mailed to her the following day. Sadly the amount remaining for the current term, she was told, was not refundable. Dani understood and asked for the money to be sent to her checking account. The amount that she was told that would be refunded was eighteen thousand dollars. That amount was higher than Dani thought but not as high as it could have been. She thanked the person and then hung up.

Now she could deal with the task of getting a lawyer. But just as she was about to call, there was a commotion in the main entrance area.

Randal had just looked up from a stack of papers when the elevator doors opened and there stood Ms. Crandle with several other men.

"Oh shit, what the hell does she want?" muttered Randal.

"What? Who? Randal what's going on?" asked Jeff.

Randal and Jim told Jeff about the social worker but never thought that the woman would come to their office to claim Dani. For that was just what the woman had done. Jeff left the other two and went to the front desk.

"I'm Ms. Crandle of Children's Services. I need to see whoever is in charge of the Orchard case. Your people took Ms. Orchard in for questioning. As she is a minor and without a guardian at present, I have been asked to take care of her. That includes making sure your people stop harassing her. She's just an innocent child."

"Excuse me, I'm Special Agent Morrison. How can I help you?"

"I'm here to get Ms. Orchard. Your people..."

"Ms. Orchard is an emancipated minor and thus not subject to the services that you represent. Now who are these other men?" Jeff pointed to the men with her.

"This is Mr. Kirkland, he's an associate of mine and these other two are deputies here to help if needed. Now if you please bring the girl out we can be on our way."

"I'm sorry but we are not finished with the questioning as yet. If she wishes to have you collect her when we are done I will be more than happy to call you."

"Sir you have no right to question that girl without a guardian present. I demand that you hand her over. I do have a warrant that orders you to do just that." The woman yelled.

"Then let's see it." Jeff was starting to get upset with the officious woman. Ms. Crandle pulled out the warrant and thrust it at him. He took a second to look at the signature and all but laughed. Jeff reached over the clerk's desk and took up the phone then dialed a number.

"Judge Harper, please. This is Special Agent Morrison."

There was a pause. "Judge Harper, I'm sorry to disturb you but did you sign a warrant to have us turn over a young woman to Ms. Crandle of Children's Services?"

There was another pause. "Did she inform you that the young woman is being questioned about the business dealings of her father?" Pause, "Yes Your Honor but was it also told to you that the young woman in question was verified as an emancipated minor with an income?" there was another longer pause. "Yes Your Honor, Ms. Orchard has the documentation to prove it and one of my men called the school that she had been attending to verify it."

Again a pause, "Your Honor the young woman is only being questioned in regards to possible fraud by her father's companies but not by her involvement in regards to some charities that she was connected with. She supplied us with some surprises that we are currently checking on." And another pause. "No, as of right now she is conversing with one of my men but the door to the room is open, as are the curtains and a female officer is just outside the door. The young lady is very smart and is fully aware of what is going on around her." Pause, "No Your Honor she has not called for a lawyer but..." pause, "Why don't I let you talk to her, Your Honor. I think you would understand more fully if you did." Jeff turned to the windows of the room and caught the eyes of the officer just outside the door to signal for her to bring Dani to him.

Dani had watched from the room when she saw the signal she was already on her feet. When she got there, Jeff told her that a judge wanted to speak with her. Ms. Crandle started to complain but Dani had taken the phone by then. "This is Ms. Daniella Orchard, how may I help you?"

"Ms. Orchard, I'm Judge Harper. I'm trying to understand a few things and I was hoping you could help me?" said the Judge.

"Of course Your Honor, what would you like to know. Although I can make an educated guess that you are questioning the emancipation status and the conditions of my living arrangements," Dani stated.

The Judge was stunned but very pleased with what he heard so far. "Yes, it would seem that I was not given enough information about you. The first thing though, are you being treated well? Have you asked for a lawyer yet? Have you been read your rights?"

"I'm being treated very well, Your Honor. No, I have not asked for a lawyer, as I really don't think I can afford one at the moment and the agents are still looking over the records that I supplied. I have not been charged with anything so I do not feel the need for a lawyer at the present time, and this is just proper procedure for the people here to have me near at hand if something needs to be explained."

This discussion went on for several minutes until the Judge was satisfied with the situation. He thanked Daniella for explaining everything to him and asked to talk to the Special Agent again.

"Morrison, yes Your Honor?" There was a pause and Jeff smiled has he heard the praise from the Judge that he would share later. "Yes Your Honor, we had planned on doing just that. As of this moment there is really nothing we need from Ms. Orchard. Her records are even better than those of the charities. And no, we think we know what went on and will be forwarding it all to the DA handling everything as soon as we have a bit more worked out." Pause. "I will see to it personally, Your Honor." Another pause. "She's still right here, Sir." Jeff turned to the red faced Ms. Crandle. "The Honorable Judge Harper wishes to speak with you." With that he handed the phone to her and then took hold of Dani's arm and moved her away.

Many, "Yes, Your Honor's", "no Your Honor's" and "but Your Honor's" were heard but in the end the woman slammed the phone down and stormed off to the confused looks of her companions. Jeff turned to them.

"It would seem that Ms. Crandle did not do her homework for this case. Ms. Orchard is to remain with us for the time being, then we will be taking her home. She's considered an adult now with the emancipation and not subject to your care. Gentleman, thank you for stopping by, but your services are not required."

With that Jeff turned and walked Dani back to the room she had been in before and they sat down to talk. The door was still open and clearly nothing strange was going on so the men that had come with Ms. Crandle left.

It was about two hours later that Dani was given an escort home by Mike, Jim and Randal. Jeff just couldn't get away. When the group got to Dani's house they made a check of the place to make sure there was nothing out of order then went on their way. Jim and Randal had not missed the look Mike had as he watched Dani walk back into her home. Mike was going to have a big shock when he finally did realize that he was falling for that incredible young woman.

The following week had only a few surprises. The first was that the law firm that did the emancipation offered to help her with other matters as they were contracted to the school and thus part of the overall services the school provided. This helped as Ms. Crandle once again tried to take Dani into custody. After several calls by the lawyer that had come out, Ms. Crandle was no longer working for Children's Services and a restraining order was issued against her so that for the time of five years the woman could not contact or come near Dani.

The next surprise was that two life insurance policies were found. Both were on Dani's father though one did name that strange company as beneficiary. The second was however something of a surprise. Dani's mother had gotten it just a bit before she died and had paid for a full 20 years of coverage. The amount was for 1.5 million dollars to be paid to Dani. The terms of death were that if Dani's father died for any reason she got paid. The lawyer that was helping Dani was surprised but very glad for it. The lawyer handled everything and Dani was told that 5 new accounts were set up and the money split up and put into them. Dani then arranged for three other accounts and put 30 thousand in each with disbursements of $1000 each month going to the three charities that she had been working with. Sadly some taxes also had to be paid but she would get some of it back with her donations to the charities.

By the end of the first week Dani was tired but happy as she went to bed after locking up. As she got into bed she would pat her new cell phone and drift off to sleep with a smile. The cell phone was a gift from Mike and was programmed with his, Jim's, Randal's and Jeff's work numbers and home phone in case of an emergency.

Edited by Monbade, TeNderLoin, and others

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Story tagged with:
Romantic / Mystery /