ALL THE NEWS THAT FITS
For the first time, putting up my short stories for everyone.
By G. L. Rix
There’s a phrase that applies here. As easy as taking candy from a baby. What I don’t get is why anyone would give babies candy in the first place. It’s a good thing to take it away from them, right?
Same’s true of authors and their money. They’re only going to spend it on drugs and alcohol and ink cartridges anyhow. Siphoning it away from them before they even know it’s theirs, it’s a sacred calling. Like the priesthood.
Their money? I see it as our money. I always take a bit off the top and apply it to something really worthwhile.
For example, Lady Mildred’s bodice ripper vampire mystery series funded my backyard pool, where deer sometimes come down to drink. And Anthony Pearce’s hoity-toity literary tomes pay my way onto week-long cruises from New York City to nowhere and back. A couple of times a month during the summer.
Don’t get the wrong impression. I give talks on those cruises. Mostly on how to set yourself up as a literary agent. Sometimes on Ponzi schemes. And most fun of all, how to edit a promising writer’s manuscript into something really good. Straw into gold. All free.
Here’s a bit of good advice. Don’t put all your money in the same bank. And be real sure you’ve shredded any and everything that’s got your name and address on it. Believe me, I wouldn’t be in this jam if I’d followed my own advice.
It wasn’t Lady Mildred or Anthony Pearce who took me down.
It was an ink cartridge.
When the royalty check came in for Mavis Schilling’s debut novel, I took my fifteen percent off the top and added another one percent for good measure. Not a lot to ask for all the trouble I took selling her book. I was on the phone a whole day!
As normal, I put most of the money in my offshore account, but I used the rest to buy ink cartridges as a gag gift for all my author clients.
Who knew ink cartridges were on the FBI list of suspicious contraband? I mean, there are a lot more interesting things to counterfeit than ink cartridges.
My order for fifty of the damned suckers landed me on a watch list. As if I’d even know how to counterfeit ink and how to stuff cartridges and design packaging. Which was what I told the agent when he came to call.
He took all of them away from me, anyhow. And gave me a lecture I dozed through, and a receipt.
Mavis Schilling sent me a condolence card, and returned some of the royalty money I’d sent her. Seems she felt sorry for me, and partly responsible since she thought she was the client I’d bought the ink cartridges for. I cashed her check, said thank you, you shouldn’t have, and continued on my merry way.
When the FBI agent returned, I noticed at once how his hands were stained with black ink spots. “The damned things exploded,” he told me. “Now we know you’re not smart enough to have jimmied the works on these cartridges—“
Well, excuse me!
“So where did you get them?”
I certainly could have jimmied the works on the cartridges! But I didn’t want to get covered in ink. Ha!
“China,” I told him. “They invented gunpowder, you know. A pity how low they’ve sunk. To gag gifts,” I added since he looked like he didn’t understand.
“You ordered them from China,” he said.
“Through Amazon. But they were shipped directly from China to my home address.”
“And these were some sort of gag gift? Is that what you’re saying?”
“No. They were supposed to be legitimate ink cartridges. What sort of stupid do you think I am? I’m not going to send my clients ink cartridges that explode in their printers. I’d lose all my business that way.”
Not to mention a lot of my illicit income.
The FBI agent sighed. I was picturing him picturing himself on a slow boat to China to investigate the counterfeiting. I grinned.
After a few more minutes of questions, he left. I checked my author lists. I couldn’t remember if I’d sent out any of the bogus ink cartridges already. Turned out I had. To my two bestselling writers.
Did you think my next move would have been to call, text, email, or snail mail those two a warning? And an apology?
You’d have been wrong.
In anticipation of their possible defection from my agency, I stole a couple of thousand more from their accounts than normal. Put it in my personal checking account for the time being. Which reminded me how and why I had started on my downhill slide.
I had been within twenty dollars of an overdraft on my account when the mystery writer’s royalty check had arrived at my office. My fifteen percent wouldn’t stave off the debtor’s prison for more than a week, so I borrowed from him, meaning to pay it back. Honest. I came really close to paying him back, but told myself to wait. I might need this cushion the next month. And the next.
That was years ago. The mystery writer never noticed. Not ever.
Neither did anyone else. Does no one ever try to match their royalty checks with the number of books they’ve sold?
Lucky for me, the answer seems to be no.
I got an email late in the day from one of those two, bawling me out for ruining their printer. I wondered if he expected me to pay for a replacement. He hadn’t said so right out, so I pondered the generous gesture for the couple of seconds it deserved, and decided against it. It would create a precedent for future reimbursements that I didn’t want on my record. Just in case.
Seems that was my second mistake in this case. Writer number one got in touch with writer number two and exchanged notes.
Writer number two hadn’t had the ink cartridge explode in her printer. It exploded in her mailbox and got her on some sort of local list of possible terrorists.
(It also gave her the idea for her next book, but I got no credit for that, the ungrateful little bitch.)
But back to embezzling.
The visit by the FBI put me on alert that my lucrative extracurricular business might have become a liability at long last, and I Took Steps.
As if I’d just found religion, as if I’d been born again, my private life and my business activities both suddenly went squeaky clean. Sort of.
I didn’t change anything from the past. I kept the offshore accounts, I just vowed not to add any more to them. I didn’t stop taking money from my current clients, either, I just vowed not to embezzle from any newbies. And worst of all, I didn’t shred, delete, or destroy any of my files. I simply set up a new system for the new clients. This lasted for a whole month before I went crazy.
Living a double life didn’t work for me. I made mistakes I’d never made before, including calling writer number two thinking he was writer number one. That set the whole kit and caboodle spinning out of control.
You can imagine the rest.
Now I teach creative writing in prison. And answer my fan mail.
And guess what? Although it will be years before I can practice again, only one of my author clients fired me. All the rest have vehemently denied they’ve ever been embezzled from, and that I’m the best literary agent who’s ever walked the earth. Their money continues to roll in.
Before I went to prison, I set up a computer program to handle the division: fifteen percent to me and eighty percent to the author after a six month holding period. I don’t even have to pay attention to it, just the way my clients don’t have to pay attention to their sales reports vs their royalty payments.
You see the problem here?
The whole little cadre of career criminals who form my friend base at the moment have had a field day laughing at me.
Taking bets on who is was who hacked into my account. Taking bets on which one of my sucker writers is going to greet me with a bullet to the back the minute I get out.
Myself, I’m betting on some sort of poison attempt through an innocent-seeming letter coming by snail mail. And since the prison wardens won’t give me any sort of gloves while I’m sorting through the things, I just have to remember not to put my fingers in my mouth. Or near my eyes. Or on my--
Copyright 2019 Gretchen Rix
Changing stories/work in progress
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