It wouldn’t be enough to repudiate the rumours, Danielle thought.

Sheryl’s Daily Prompt

It wouldn’t be enough to repudiate the rumours, Danielle thought. She’d have to expunge the idea from the get-go, otherwise it would follow her around forever, with someone questioning the validity of the statement. People seemed to always believe the worst and a hint of was as damaging as the reality. Unless you were a movie star, then there was pretty much no such thing as ‘bad publicity’.

As a result, Danielle had hired a private investigator to determine where the rumour had begun. She was sure it had started out that way – someone with a grudge she wasn’t aware of, something. It made no sense otherwise for she was a straight arrow and always had been. Someone, it seemed, was choosing to undermine her name reputation and ability. She had to put a stop to it immediately.

Her appointment with Big Dog Detective Agency was in twenty minutes and she hoped she had all her ducks in a row. She wasn’t sure what information was required but she’d provide everything she could.

The waiting room was empty, whether by design or not, she wasn’t sure, but it made the situation more comfortable. She’d answered an email and was putting her phone away when a handsome man opened the office door and walking toward her, an arm outstretched. “Danielle Jacobs?” he asked politely with a smile.

Standing, she replied, “Yes.” Offering her hand in turn before adding, “In the flesh.”

“Please, come in.” And as she followed, she noted a lovely classic but modern take with a mixture of leather chairs and modern tables. The desk itself was minimal.

The man himself, Carter Bradford, was tall, slender, brown eyed and carried himself with elegance and authority. Turning he said, “Please, take a seat and tell me how I can help you.”

“I own a company called Gentle Designs for Living. We cater to the elderly who are in the midst of a crises, downsizing from homes to smaller accommodations, or perhaps to assisted living locations. In this, and I’m sure in every business, your reputation is everything. Particularly when your dealing with people that are vulnerable and susceptible.”

She cleared her throat before continuing. “Lately I’ve learned of rumours suggesting my company isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be, insinuating I take shortcuts, don’t supply the quality of care required in dealing with the elderly, etc. It’s imperative I find out who started these irresponsible and misleading accusations before irrefutable damage is done.”

“Any idea who might be behind the accusations? Disgruntled employee, business acquaintance or rival?”

“I can’t think of anyone that would stoop this low. I only have five employees, and they’ve been with me since the beginning. As for businesses, there are several in the same line of work, but I can’t imagine any of them causing problems for me or anyone else. Their reputation would be on the line as well for participating in such a scheme.”

“When did you first become aware these statements were being made?”

Looking into the distance as if to recall the exact moment in time, Danielle finally said, “It came to my attention, quite by accident. I was visiting a client in a care center that I’m quite fond of (a smile lit her face) and she took me aside before I left and told me she’d heard several scandalous rumours about the place and she wanted me to know”

“Do you think that is where they started?”

“I honestly couldn’t say. We didn’t have much time to talk and there were eyes and ears everywhere so I was going to go back to see her, but unfortunately, the dear heart passed away shortly after my last visit.”

“Natural causes, or foul play?”

Danielle was obviously shocked, “Foul play?”

“The question had to be asked. She tells you something that could potentially threaten your business, and she passes.”

“I know she was in relatively good health. She moved into the care center because she couldn’t get about as well as she’d liked since her hip surgery. That and I think she was hoping to meet others she could spend time with. She was the last in her family, outside of a long lost cousin she’d mentioned in passing. She didn’t think much of him, to say the least. Said he was after her money. To be honest, I didn’t even know she had money. Not that she didn’t dress well, but she never flouted her wealth.”

“I need the name of the care center she was in, a location, an in. I’ll need to set up an operative inside who can do some digging. Find out if that’s where the rumours began, and if not, if there are any strings I can pull. I’ll also need Emily’s full name and prior residence so I can investigate from that angle as well.”

Danielle opened her day book/address book and handed it across. “Emily Bronson.”

After taking down the information, they discussed fees and Carter Bradford assured her he’d get right on it, with weekly updates. Daily if it became necessary.

Danielle liked his attitude, his presence and his determination. He seemed the right man for the job.

Before long a week had passed and she was reaching for the telephone when Carter Bradford walked through the door. Surprised she went to greet him, “Why hello.”

“You seem surprised to see me.”

“I am. I was expecting a phone call, nothing this personal.”

“I believe in dealing one on one with my clients,” he informed her with a smile. Especially one as attractive as her. He certainly wouldn’t mind getting to know her more intimately than a business relationship.

He pulled some papers from his inside coat pocket and handed them across for her perusal. “I haven’t solved the case as yet, but as you will see from my notes, I believe I’m on the right track.”

After offering Carter a coffee, which he declined, they sat down and she read his report. When she was finished she asked, “Who is this Carl Forbes?”

“He’s the cousin you spoke of regarding Emily Sailings. The one she thought disreputable. It would seem she’s right.”

“I don’t understand why though.”

“It seems Emily Sailings is indeed or was a very wealthy woman. You’ll be hearing from a lawyer within a day or two. She’s left her entire inheritance to you.”

“What?!” Danielle couldn’t have been more shocked.

“The cousin is trying to destroy your reputation, make you seem dishonest in order lay grounds he can use in court to fight the inheritance he isn’t getting, but wishes he was.”

“I’m staggered, truly staggered. As I said, I had no idea until recently that she had money, certainly never knew how much, or that she intended leaving any part of it to me.”

Rising, Carter said, “I’ve built up a good case against this sleeze ball and believe me, he’ll run with his tail between his legs before I’m done.”

“That’s an amusing thought but unnerving as well. “

“I’ll tie this up so tight, we won’t be able to squirm his way out of it.”

“Do yourself a favour in the mean time.”

“Such as?”

“Be aware of your surroundings, people coming and going. I haven’t got a picture of him but I wlll have before the day is out. In the mean time, be care, take extra precaution when coming and going.”

“Is he that threatening?

“He’s made remarks that if he can’t have her wealth, neither will you. I’d be wary, is all I’m saying. He’s made the threat on several occasions. He could be all about the bluster, but when moneys at stake, anything’s possible.”

“Ok, I will, I promise.”

“Would he consider harming my employees? Should I make them aware of the situation?”

“Yes, they can help watch your back, and be on the lookout for anyone they haven’t seen before that might be hanging about or taking undue care and attention.”

“I’ll definitely do that then.”

“I’ll get in touch as soon as I have a photo to show you,” he promised.

“Thanks, I’d appreciate that.”

He turned to leave and when he reached the door he glanced back and said, “Don’t worry, we’ll catch this miscreant. That I guarantee.” Somehow, she felt confident about the statement and the man who’d made it.

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