The lights were off in most of the office areas but Julie McKinn was still at work in her office. This report on the finances of Taggert and French was the first that would have her name on it and she was determined that it would be exactly correct in all details.
She had been out of this world pleased, when she was chosen for this job, after temping for a good long time and working as a kind of accounting flunky for an office across town. But the job at Taggert and French represented for her the crashing through of the 'glass ceiling'. In a very concrete way, with her getting the position of head of their accounts, Julie had 'made it'.
(She tried not to reflect on the additional fact that an African American woman getting this kind of position was indeed a rarity. It was the 'glass ceiling' to the nth degree! But that thought was there and she paid attention to it now and again.)
She was simply determined to make sure that there were no problems, and there were some stubborn areas of these reports that refused to add up for her, so she kept working at it.
She had already called her sister Lila at home and asked her if she would give Lily Anne some dinner.
"I have to be at the office for a bit longer," Julie said. "There's an end of quarter report that is due and I'm still struggling with it."
Lila, a wonderful sister as usual, told her that 'yes', she'd corral the ever effervescent Lily Anne and feed her dinner.
(At that point Lila was living in the same apartment that Julie and Lily Anne had; she was getting over a nasty break up and had been really grateful to Julie, when asked to simply come and share their place. It wasn't huge but they all managed.)
Having made the call, Julie went back to the part of the report that puzzled her. It was then that there was a knock on the office door. It startled Julie, since she'd been certain that she was the only one left in the offices.
"Yes," she asked, opening her drawer where she had a can of pepper spray just in case.
The door opened and in stepped the boss of the company, Mike Taggert.
(Though he, Mike Taggert, was indeed the boss, he simply hadn't been around that much lately.)
"Oh, Mr Taggert!" Julie said.
He smiled at her and she clarified: "I recognized you from you photo."
"I see!" he said. "And I know that you're Julie McKinn, the new kid on the block around here."
"Yes, sir!" she said, standing at her desk.
"It's 'Mike'," he said, "Not 'sir'!"
"Thank you, sir," she said, before she even had a chance to think. She simply put her hand over her mouth and giggled into her hand.
"Care to try again?" he asked with great humor.
"Yes,... " and she realized that she was about to use 'sir' again and only stopped herself in time. It left her blushing and Mike Taggert was grinning at her.
(Julie McKinn was 27 years old, and had a master's degree in Business Admin with a hefty minor in economics and accounting. She was a treat to see and wore her 120 lbs well. She was a workout devotee and kept herself in what she thought was very good shape.
She had, at a very early age, made what was then thought to be a 'mistake' with a boy who professed eternal love, but was interested rather in getting Julie's panties down and off. Of course, the result of that 'mistake' was her lovely Lily Anne. But after that 'mistake', committed at the age of 18, Julie dampened down the flames of any romance and got on with making her way. She finished her basic schooling and toiled for years to get her MBA and finally get herself settled. And, to tell the truth, her lovely Lily Anne was anything but a 'mistake'.)
She was, right then, in Mike Taggert's eyes, who knew that there was a new light in accounting but had not really met her yet, since the decision to hire her had been the company manager's decision, Sheila Fox, looking simply gorgeous, though he sensed that Julie was, right then, a little frazzled around the edges.
"Nice to see you, Mr ... uh, Mike," she said.
"Takes some getting used to," she admitted and he nodded, still smiling.
"Sheila has been singing your praises for a while now and, since I'm back in town from my wandering..." he smiled at her then and explained: "Well, not really wandering, I've been setting up new outlets for us in some spots in Europe. We're very excited about those. That's why they call me 'reclusive' around here."
"But, as I was saying," he went on, "Sheila has been singing your praises, and, when I saw your light, I decided to look in on you. Sorry, if I frightened you!" he finished.
"Yes," she admitted, "My defense drawer!" She held the pepper spray and giggled.
Immediately she explained: "I was raised in what's called a 'bad area', both my sister Lila and I were. You learned early about taking care of yourself, or you became a statistic of the neighborhood."
"And you didn't!" he said pleasantly.
She went on with her explanation, not really sure why she was, but only feeling that this man was someone that she could talk to: "No, I didn't, though I did the normal 'stupid' young girl thing and got pregnant at the age of 18. It almost meant that any chance for me in life was over."
"But it wasn't!" he said, and she nodded again.
"No, that only meant that I have my beautiful Lily Anne to raise," she said, smiling. She thought a moment and said: "Sorry to be dumping my stuff on you this way, uh, Mike."
"Not at all," he said, "I have always felt that the company at a certain level resembles, if it works well, a kind of a family. I might like to meet your Lily Anne some time," he concluded.
She smiled at him and said: "That would be nice."
(Mike Taggert was 40 years old with curly, gray highlighted hair and a kind of outdoorsman's face. He had come up through the family but had been, in ways, a rebel, aiming his own life at first the marines and then working, while in the service, as a military policeman. It was a life that he loved. He was urged by his Uncle Frank to come into the business after the Marines and promised to give it a chance. Now, at the age of 40, he was the owner of the company, having inherited it from his Dad and Uncle Frank and saw it thrive.)
(For her part, Julie thought that Mike Taggert was gorgeous: a thought that she kept strictly to herself. She would only share that thought with her sister Lila, when she got home.)
"Okay," he said then settling down on a chair. "Tell me why you're burning the midnight oil here, so to speak."
"It's these reports," she said. "I've only taken over now from Les Winston and it's the first set of reports that will have my name on them, and I'm having some problems with them. It's fairly technical."
"Try me!" he said.
"Yes," she said, "Sorry, I've gotten my head so far into this that my mind is still working on problems here, I didn't mean to be talking down to you."
He held up and hand and smiled: "Julie, I know exactly what you're talking about. I used to work on those reports, when I was learning about the company, before Les took the job and did the reports himself."
"Okay," she said, "Here it is."
She took a deep breath and went on to explain: "Well, there are several ways of testing the results that the report shows. It is normally, almost always, enough to just use one of those methods, and you only go to other methods if there is a problem. I began using the normal method to make sure that the figures were accurate but wanted to be sure. Then I went on to a second and a third method with the figures and that's where I am with the stuff now."
"Conclusions?" he asked.
"Yes, I'm afraid that there is a discrepancy of about $40,000 in these figures." She took another deep breath and then went on: "I've run these three tests on the figures three more times and there is no doubt now at all. If I hadn't gone on to the other ways of testing the figures, the discrepancy likely wouldn't have shown up at all, and doing only the one kind of test is standard procedure."
"I see," he said. He was silent for a few moments and said: "And, Julie, what's your conclusion with the figures?"
"My conclusion, sir..." she said and he didn't correct her that time. "Is that there is a figure of $40,000 missing and unaccounted for. It normally wouldn't have been discovered at all. Sometimes our margins are at about that rate and we wouldn't have noticed this. But this is no margin error, of that much I'm sure. I just don't know what to think. I can't put my name on this report and say to you and the Board that the finances are all fine. They're simply not, I'm sorry."
He put his hand on hers and said: "Julie, you have no cause at all to apologize here. You're doing a spectacular job and I'm really, really pleased. This is not your fault."
He thought a moment and said: "Why don't we do the overview tests one more time, and I'll be here to do them with you. If we have the same conclusion, and I'm afraid that we certainly will; there is absolutely no reason to challenge what you've done here, then we'll know there's a problem."
"Fine," she said.
"Uh, Lily Anne?" he asked, concerned.
"Oh, thank you, Mike," she said, "Lila, my sister, who's living with us just now, is taking care of her."
"I promise that it will only be another forty-five minutes to an hour at the most," he said, "And then I'll take you to dinner. Is that okay?"
"Oh, I think so," she said, "Let me please call Lila first.
"Good," he responded, "I'll begin to run the figures."
"Hello," Lila said.
.... There is more of this story ...