Thursday, July 18, 2013

One of the best opening scenes I've ever read

 You want to get my attention? Write the first 3-5 pages of your novel with this kind of elegant full-tilt-boogie action and I'm all yours!

What the big accounting firms forget is, if someone's rigging the books, they're already lying to you. And the longer they've gotten away with it, the better they're going to be.

A good audit isn't a playdate with calculators. It's a hostile interrogation.

The Clay Micro offices were on the second floor of a converted industrial building.  Pittsburgh's local rust belt was right outside but state development funds had paid for a nice rehab, all exposed brick and granite columns.  Across a range of cubicles I could see interior glass overlooking the line floor.

"Sir? Sir?" A young woman behind the chrome reception desk, wireless earpiece blinking, tried to wave me down.  "Do you have---?"

"Here to see the chief." I smiled and finished removing my cap--I'd stretched it out an extra two seconds.  Long enough to keep my hand, and the hat itself, in front of my face while I crossed the ceiling camera's field.

"Is he expecting you?"

"Sure." I kept moving.

"Because I don't--"

"Thank you, Sharon." And I was in, headed for the executive suites at the end of the wing.

Hearing her name puzzled the receptionist an extra moment even though I'd simply read it off the nameplate on her desk.  But she was fast enough to dial up help.  Two young guys in suits arrived at the CEO's office the same time I did.  Not security but willing to pitch in.  One had a coffee cup in hand, and it spilled down his shirt as I shoved past and banged open the door.

The CEO twisted around in his leather chair, reading glasses falling off his nose, staring in pasty surprise.  "Wha--?"

I slammed the door in the face of my pursuers and said, rather loudly, "False invoices for ten point one million in Q4.   Your boss sent me, Brinker."

Then I opened the door again, stepped to the side and waited.

I'll give him this, Brinker was quick. He gestured at the two eager beavers bursting in and said without hesitation, "It's okay.  I need to talk to him. Back to work."

And five seconds later we were alone.  That told me something about his style.  He confirmed that our conversation was going to be harder than necessary when his next words to me were, "You're full of crap. The audit committee passed on those statements, and I've got signatures.  Understand?"

I sighed.

"You think I'm an accountant," I said.  "Here to cross-check invoices, review the bank reccs, that sort of thing.  Right?"

Brinker picked up his glasses and laid them on the gleaming hardwood desk, perhaps comforted by its vast size and width.  The office had that hushed, opulent feel of a hundred-grand interior design contract.  Thin gray light filtered through the windows, which must have created a glare problem on his plasma monitor, but which lit the room pleasantly.

"You can pound sand," he said.  "That's what I think."

I drew my Sig Sauer P2267 from its around-the-back holster.  It's a nice workaday handgun, pricey to be sure, but heavy, reliable and intimidating.  The suppressor made it look like something out of Hitman. Brinker, showing nice reflexes, immediately dove under the desk.  Without really aiming I shot out the monitor, his telephone console and for good measure the framed Harvard diploma on the wall.

Destroying the phone must have triggered an intercom or something.  The door flew open as Brinker pulled his way back up from the floor, glaring.  The two young men outside peered in suspiciously, but between the suppressor and the high-class soundproofing, I doubt they heard anything.  The Sig was already back under my jacket.

"Sorry, private meeting." I pushed the door shut again.

"All right." Brinker brushed broken plastic from the desk.  "You're not an accountant."

"Actually--well, never mind.  Ready to talk about revenue recognition?"

He was a tough nut. After several fruitless minutes, I opened the door and called out, "Where's the supply closet? We need a paper cutter."

The two men were still in the hallway, along with the receptionist.  The three of them stared back at me, uncertain.

I looked at Brinker.  "You want them to hear what we're talking about?"

He frowned and said past me, "Just do what he says. Sharon, you."

"Uh, sir, are you sure--?"

"Don't worry."  The son of a gun was getting confident again, which began to annoy me.  When Sharon brought up the paper cutter--a nice big one, a grid-marked platform with a two-foot swivel  blade--I locked the door and dumped it on Brinker's desk.

"Drop your pants," I said, and opened the blade.

Think Jack Reacher with an abacus.  FULL RATCHET is the second Silas Cade novel; the first, CLAWBACK, is damn good too.


Joyce Tremel said...

Holy crap. Now I have to go buy this so I know what happens next!

He did a great job of pulling the reader in from the first sentence. Even though I have no idea what's going on, I feel compelled to read on.

Ramon A. Clef said...

I wish it weren't 40 minutes earlier than my local bookstore's opening time. And that I didn't have to work until six.

Greg L. Turnquist said...

I was just thinking of Jack Reacher as I read the bit with the camera and the weapons fire. Cool!

Colin Smith said...

This is the SECOND book? Oh maan, now I've got to read the FIRST before I can read this and find out what happens next..!

Don't you love it when a book promotes itself? :)

Landra said...

Concur with Colin.

Now I have to buy some books.
Thanks Janet!

John "Ol' Chumbucket" Baur said...

Wow! Just ... Wow!

Back to school, all of us, I guess. 'Cuz that sets the bar pretty damn high!

Steve Forti said...

I think I may have nightmares from that last line. Sure, not Andrew Grant's "Even" genital-losing nightmares, but I still just crossed my legs reading it. Well done.

Steve Stubbs said...

Well done.

Great crisp writing.


Ellen said...


NotaWarriorPrincess said...

I love the line where he shoots the Harvard diploma. Warms the heart.

BP said...

Nice - my brother did audit work at a major company and he liked the line about it being a hostile interrogation - so three thumbs up for accuracy.

french sojourn said...

What happens when you skim 10% off the top! writing, will pick it up. (no pun intended.)

LynnRodz said...

I thought the opening was good, but calling it one of the best is subjective to say the least. Honestly, if I had picked up this book, I would have put it back down when I got to "Pittsburgh's local rust belt was right outside...."

Why do people think Pittsburgh is still the old steel mill town it use to be? It's not. I won't bore you with facts about Pittsburgh's economy today, but unless this story takes place before the 1990s, traces of that local rust belt within the city limits are long gone. If you're looking for dilapidated steel mills in South Side or Homestead, you're going to find chic shopping centers with great restaurants, boutiques, etc., instead.

I may have spent more than half my life in Paris (not Texas) but when you're from the 'Burgh, you're from the 'Burgh!

TonyK said...

Meh. It struck me as rather garish, a caricature of reality. But then again, I suppose that's what this sort of book is supposed to be about and why I would never read one of these. Technically, it seemed fine.

Chris said...

The sample is now on my Kindle. Dammit, I'm SUPPOSED to be writing!

Must forward to a friend who used to do high-level audits. Sounds like something he would love! And then I won't be alone in the "should be writing" club. :-)