The Embezzlement Ledger

Other submissions by MoulinP:
If you want to read their other submissions, please click the links.
The Enigmatic Door (Mystery & Cozy Mystery, Book Award 2023)
The Elusive Key (Mystery & Cozy Mystery, Book Award 2023)
Writing Award Sub-Category
Award Category
Golden Writer
Logline or Premise
New life under threat. Suffering amnesia. A killer to find.
First 10 Pages

Chapter 1

“Wash, I’ve asked you three times now when are you going to fix that back porch roof?” Janet Turner asked, walking into the sitting room.

Wash Turner, sheriff of Bronze Canyon, relaxed in his favorite chair, feet up, reading the newspaper. Correction - sleeping behind the newspaper. At the sound of his wife’s voice, he started up with much rustling.


Janet came further into the room and stood over him, arms folded. “The back porch roof?”

Wash looked up at her blankly.

“You promised to fix it.”

“Did I?”

“Yes.” She looked down at him. “So?”

Wash growled. “You want me to do it now? Right now?” he snapped.

“Well you’re not doing anything at the moment are you?”

Wash opened his mouth as if to say he was doing something, and then closed it again. He threw the paper aside.

“I’m a sheriff, Janet, not a janitor!” he tossed over his shoulder as he stalked out.

“Not in this house you’re not,” Janet said to herself.

She went to the window and watched her disgruntled husband, disappear into the shed. He reappeared some minutes later with a ladder, a hammer and a box of nails. He still muttering under his breath as he leaned the ladder against the back porch. Janet winced as the handle of the hammer rammed its way down the front of his pants. She smiled in a satisfied way as nails were crammed into his mouth and the first few rungs of the ladder climbed. Only then did she turn away to attend to other things.

The afternoon became filled with the sound of furious banging as the shingles on the back porch roof were persuaded back into place. Then suddenly something slipped, a yell, followed immediately by a panicked cry, a heavy thud and then a groan. By the time, Janet rushed out, Wash struggled to sit up, holding his left leg, pain etched over his face.

“Better get the doc. Think I’ve busted my leg.”


Florian Fooks, reforming outlaw, bent to peer at the immobilized limb. Straightening up, he sniffed. “I reckon that’s broke,” he said, deadpan.

“I know it’s broke! It feels like it’s broke! That’s ‘cos it is broke!” Sheriff Washington Turner snapped. “When ya quite finished, I didn’t ask ya here for ya medical advice!” He put a hand on the splinted leg and closed his eyes.

Fooks put on his best innocent face. “No need to be like that, Wash.” He couldn’t quite keep the smirk off his face. “’Course me being in hardware. I coulda told you the proper way to use a ladder is--”

“Fooks,” Wash growled. Pain etched over his pale face. He waved Fooks into a chair furiously.

Fooks pressed his lips together in sympathy. Janet had warned him. Wash’s broken leg had pained him all day, and he was in no mood to tolerate Fooks’ humor this evening.

Fooks sat and set his features to serious. “What can I do, Wash?”

Wash sighed. “I’m gonna be outta action for a while.”

“Yeah, you will be,” Fooks agreed, nodding at the leg.

“I’m in kinda a fix, Fooks. I mean, look who I’ve got as a deputy …” Wash scowled. “Luke said he’d come outta retirement for the duration but him an’ … I mean him and Bart! Y’know, they don’t get along.”

Fooks pursed his lips thoughtfully and nodded. Luke Fletcher was Wash’s predecessor as sheriff of Bronze Canyon. Before that, a US Marshall, respected by lawmen and outlaws alike. Now enjoying his retirement, only occasionally called on to help out by Wash. Deputy Bart, foisted on Wash as a favor to an old friend. The boy was willing, but none too bright. Not a recipe for a successful law enforcing partnership.

“So …” Fooks’ head snapped up. “No! Now Wash, you know I’d do anything to help…” He rose slowly. “But I’ve a wife and a little daughter … Not to mention a business to run.” Fooks paced. “Wash, I appreciate your trust in me an’ all, but I just can’t. I mean, I know nothing ‘bout the law.” He winced and twitched his head. “That is. From your side of the fence. No, really …” Fooks came to rest with his back to Wash and stood hands on hips.

Fooks gave a deep sigh. “All right. I’ll …” He turned and saw the amusement on Wash’s face. “What’s so funny?”

Wash chortled. “Did ya think I was gonna ask ya to stand in as sheriff? Ha, Ha.” He put his head back and roared.

Fooks felt disgruntled now. “You mean you weren’t?”

“No.” Wash wiped his eyes. “Ask Florian Fooks to be sheriff? Oh no, Ha, Ha, Owh!” He held his leg.

“Ah.” Fooks struggled. Am I relieved or offended? He returned to the chair, deliberately placing his hat over his knee. “So why am I here?”

Wash sobered. “I’ll need to find a decent lawman until this heals up. So, the Capitol is sending one. Be here day after tomorrow.” Wash looked at his friend. “Jus’ thought I oughta warn ya, the man they’re sending … he don’t like outlaws who rob banks. His brother was a bank teller. Two months ago, someone shot and killed him in a robbery gone bad. Word has it, my stand in is putting up most of the $5,000 reward.”

“Oh.” Fooks understood. This could be awkward, giving who he was. Now he became serious. “Do I know him?”

Wash hesitated. “Yeah.”


Wash swallowed hard. “Jack Priestly.”

Fooks sucked air in sharply. Yes, he knew him. Priestly had been a sheriff in a town where the Guardian Wall Gang, his gang, had robbed the bank, getting away with $35,000. Priestly had raised a posse and given the Gang a hard chase. To make matters worse, the day before the robbery, Fooks had played poker with the man. A considerable amount of his winnings had come from the sheriff. Later, Priestly realized just who the lucky poker player was and made it known he had vowed to capture him. Preferably, dead rather than alive. Definitely no love lost there.

Fooks licked his lips and swallowed. “How d’you … I mean … I can avoid him for a while but that could take months.” He gestured at Wash’s leg.

“Yeah, I’m sorry Fooks. It’s outta my control.”

Fooks nodded. “I know.” He considered. “Perhaps,” he turned back. “Perhaps if I talk to him. Tell him I’ve gone straight. Y’know first off. Try and reason with the man,” he said, silver tongue winding up. “It’s been years since the Guardian Wall Gang robbed the bank in Prelude. He can’t hold a grudge that long. Can he?”

Wash’s face told him Priestly could.

Fooks groaned and rubbed a hand over his face.

“What do I tell Mary?” Oh Sheesh! Just when he was making progress in living a law-abiding life, something like this occurred. He didn’t want his secret to come out. Only a few people in town knew who he really was. Despite five years of living a law-abiding life (mostly) he remained a wanted man. He’d chosen to live in Wyoming, where there was no statute of limitations, because he liked Wyoming. Unless something dramatic and unexpected happened, he planned to remain living under his assumed name of Joseph Crane for the rest of his life.

“I’m sorry Fooks,” Wash said. He looked sympathetically at his friend.

This was a warning to Fooks that his fresh start was still fragile and could easily be broken in an instant. He had to find a way out of this. Rubbing his forehead as he thought, he didn’t know how to do it. Simply no idea at all.

Chapter 2

Fooks had left Ted in The Hardware Store. He stood behind the counter patiently waiting for customers. Wednesday afternoons were always quiet for some reason so Fooks had no qualms about leaving Ted alone in the store while he worked in the office at the books. Ted, the younger of the two boys who Fooks employed. Seventeen. Practical and willing, he knew his numbers and letters, but not academically bright. Fooks needed help with the paperwork. Reluctant to fire Ted, Fooks took on another boy, who was proving a godsend.

From the back office, the tinkling of the outside door, barely filtered into Fooks' consciousness as he bent his head over the books. He smiled, tight-lipped in satisfaction, at the neat penmanship of his other assistant's writing. Better than my scrawl. Should be able to crack through this in half the time.

“Mr. Crane.” Ted yelled. “Mr. Crane.”

In the small office in the warehouse out back, Fooks rubbed his eyes and sighed. He'd tried doing the accounts at home but Susan, demanding as ever, kept interrupting. Rather ungentlemanly, he'd parceled her up and delivered the toddler to her mother in The Hat Shop. Fooks, the office blissfully quiet in comparison, managed a full hour before this interruption. Knew it was too good to be true.


“Mr. Carmichael to see ya! He’s got a … thing.”

Curious about the thing, Fooks stomped into the store. He took in the scene. The newspaper editor, Craig Carmichael stood, breathing deeply at the end of the counter. Ted stood back against the shelves and then he saw the … thing. Pursing his lips, Fooks made his way down to the end.

“Hi Craig,” he nodded at the newspaper editor.


“What’s this?” Fooks waved his hand at the thing.

Craig’s eyes flicked to Ted and then back to Fooks, who turned to his young assistant.

“Ted, how ‘bout making some coffee please, huh?”

Ted nodded and slowly retreated out back and out of earshot.

Fooks turned back to Craig and gestured towards the thing meaningfully.

Craig managed a grin. “Oh, it’s a ….” He swept the canvas cover off to reveal a typewriter.

Fooks realized what it was, but wondering why it was here, in his store. He smacked his lips and nodded. He could understand the secrecy, though. The identity of the author behind the stories Fooks wrote for the paper was confidential, and Fooks wanted it to stay that way for a while longer.

“Joseph, I’ve published twelve of your Florian Fooks stories now. They’ve gone down well and my readers are demanding more. I want to publish more and I know you’ve got more, but you have to admit your handwriting is abysmal. I’m having real problems reading it.”

Fooks was quiet. He knew his handwriting wasn’t the neatest, but he tried. When he was telling a story, he ended up scribbling, so he didn’t forget to get everything down. He nodded resigned.

“So, are you saying you won’t publish anymore?” he asked in disappointment.

“No! I want you to learn how to type.” Craig was emphatic. “This is an old typewriter, but it still works, and it’ll do for a while until you get the hang of it. Then the newspaper will stump up for a newer model.” He could see Fooks’ interest but unsure. “Here are the instructions.” He handed over a pamphlet. “Play with it for a couple of days. See how you get on. I can’t show you how it works right now, but you like a challenge. I’m sure you can figure it out.”

With a smile, Craig let himself out. The open door catching on the tinkle and he turned, saying, “Oh, by the way, it’s heavy. I’d put it in a cart to take it home if I were you. So long.” He gave a cheery wave, leaving Fooks alone with the enormous machine.

Typing. For this, I gave up leading the Guardian Wall Gang?


Later, Fooks trundled the typewriter home in the small handcart the store used for local deliveries. He heaved it onto his desk. Craig hadn’t exaggerated. Boy, it was heavy! Getting his breath back, he scanned around the small house, frowning. Where were Mary and Susan? Thought they'd be home by now.

He spied a note on the coffee table. It read, “Had an errand to run. Susan is with Wash and Janet. Back later.”

Fooks grunted and dropped the note back. He turned and hands on hips he regarded the typewriter.

“Okay, let’s take a look see.” He settled himself at the desk in front of the machine and studied the instructions.

The afternoon became filled with mumblings and murmurings along the lines of “Lay the paper under the paper shelf (F) – where’s F?” After several attempts, he eventually succeeded in inserting a sheet of paper correctly into the machine.

“Strike the key with sufficient force and promptness to throw the type against the cylinder, strike but one key at a time …. Strike squarely, with equal, even touch … Okay. Hey, I’m typing! Now what? To return the carriage to begin a new line, pull the carriage-lever (170) toward you … Okay, so what have I typed? The carriage may be lifted at any time to observe results …Ooh! Hey that’s pretty neat!”

Fooks was deep in concentration practicing typing when Mary came home and called, “Hi.” Susan squirmed in her arms. "Home, Pappy."

Fooks grunted an acknowledgement.

“Sorry we’re late.” Fooks sensed Mary hanging up her coat and wrestling the child out of hers. “What’s this?” Mary put her hands on his shoulders and smacked a kiss on his cheek.

“It’s a typewriter,” Fooks mumbled, frowning hard in concentration. Why weren’t the keys in alphabetical order? He snatched up the pamphlet and thumbed through it until he came to a diagram at the back. “… placed so the letters most used are located to facilitate speed. They’re hopeful, aren’t they?”

“Seems complicated,” Mary said.

“Yeah, ‘tis.” Key pressing.

“Don’t you want to know where I’ve been?”

“Hmmm?” More key pressing.

“I’ve been to the doctor about something important. Aren’t you curious to find out what about?”

“Yeah ‘course.” Even more key pressing, followed by lifting the carriage and peering at the paper underneath. “Look, I typed that.” He beamed proudly at her. “Mary, I can type!”

“Yes, very nice.”

“You didn’t look!”

“Yes, I did.”

“What did it say?”

When she didn’t answer, Fooks growled and turned back to the typewriter.


“Just a moment, Mary, I’m trying to get the ….” He tailed off and pressed some more keys.

Mary sat down on the sofa and pulled Susan onto her lap. “Shall we tell Pappy about your new brother or sister?” she said, conspiratorially in Susan’s ear but loud enough for Fooks to hear if he had been listening.

“No,” Susan said with a giggle.

“That’s what I think too. We’ll just make it our secret, shall we?”


“What would you like, Susan?” Mary said in a loud voice. “A brother or a sister?”

“Sister!” Susan was firm.

“Hmmm. Then we would really outnumber Pappy, wouldn’t we?” Mary said, louder.


Fooks’ back remained stubbornly turned away from her. Mary sighed.

“We could gang up on him. Do you think he’d like that?”


“I don’t think so either, but if he doesn’t turn round, he won’t get any choice!”

Fooks slapped the desk and spun round in his chair.


Mary smiled at him smugly.

Fooks allowed the conversation to replay in his mind.

“Mary, what are you saying?” he asked. He wanted her to be clear.

“Remember, we talked about Susan having a brother or sister,” she started slowly. “It would appear she might be getting one,” she beamed.

As it sunk in, a big, double dimpled grin spread over his face. The typewriter now forgotten.


“Was that nice?”

As he’d recently been away in Boston for six weeks, Fooks decided he should take his turn at baby minding. The morning had gone well. He and Susan had played dolls and bricks and push along donkey. He enjoyed getting to know his little daughter again. Fooks laughed as Susan ate her lunch and opened her mouth for more. Susan's attempts at feeding herself usually ended in an unholy mess. Responsible for her alone with her, he was taking no chances.

“More.” Susan screwed up her face in protest when nothing more was forthcoming.

“All gone.” He showed her the empty bowl.

“Let’s see what Mama’s left you for dessert.” He got up, tossing the empty bowl into the sink and crossed to the icebox. “What do we have in here?” He peered in and gave a gasp of surprise. “Apple!” He set the pureed confection on the highchair tray. Intent on closing the icebox door and finding a spoon, he didn’t hear the front door open.

“Hello?” a man’s voice called from the living room.

Fooks scowled. Great. “In the kitchen, Luke.” He set his features in greeting as his father-in-law came in.

“Hullo, sweetie.” Luke rubbed his knuckle over his granddaughter’s chubby cheek.

“Grampy.” Susan giggled and squealed.

Luke straightened up. “Ya’ve heard about Jack Priestly?”

Fooks closed the icebox door. “Yeah, Wash told me.”

“What are ya gonna do?”

“I don’t know. Stay outta his way, I guess.”

“For two months?”

“What else can I do?” Fooks hunched his shoulders and spread his hands.

Luke growled. “Difficult one. Ya’ll have to take care he don’t spot ya.”

“Yes, plan to. I’m sure I can manage it. There’s a lot of work to do at the store. That’ll keep me busy and off the street. I can duck round the back of town instead of walking down Main Street. The saloon is out for the duration though. I’ll be careful, Luke. I know what he looks like.”

Luke nodded thoughtfully. “Anything I can do to help?”

“Not really. I’ve told Mary and she understands why I won’t be socializing for a while.”

Fooks bit his lip. He was still proving himself to Mary’s father, and this situation wasn’t going to help any. Another reminder he wasn’t exactly ideal son-in-law material.