When a Lioness Hunts (A Lion's Pride Book 8), page 1
When A Lioness Hunts
A Lion’s Pride #8
Copyright © 2019, Eve Langlais
Cover Art by Yocla Designs © 2016
Produced in Canada
Published by Eve Langlais
All Rights Reserved
This book is a work of fiction and the characters, events and dialogue found within the story are of the author's imagination and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events or persons, either living or deceased, is completely coincidental.
No part of this book may be reproduced or shared in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including but not limited to digital copying, file sharing, audio recording, email and printing without permission in writing from the author.
E-ISBN: 978 177 384 123 6
Print ISBN: 978 177 384 124 3
Also by Eve Langlais
What happens when a lioness with dubious accounting practices gets involved with an auditor for the Internal Revenue Service?
How was Melly supposed to know she shouldn’t claim illegal ammo on her taxes? So what if she took a few liberties with the term “allowable expenses”? Her creative accounting is why the IRS ends up on her doorstep. Lucky for her, they sent the cutest geek in glasses.
The kind that tempts a girl to fling them clear across the room that she might better maul him.
Silly man thinks he can play hard to get. Doesn’t he know a lioness always gets what she wants?
Problem is, Theo sees more than he’s supposed to. Worse, he poses a threat to the pride.
Can she distract him from the truth, or will his digging force her to assume her role of huntress?
Previous books in A Lion’s Pride, a USA Today Bestselling series:
Be sure to visit www.EveLanglais for more books with furry heroes, or sign up for the Eve Langlais newsletter for notification about new stories or specials.
The cat, a definite look of malice in its eyes, swiped at him, and Theodore only barely managed to dodge the sharp claws. The evil beast yowled and hissed, expressing its disappointment at the lack of blood.
Theodore kind of wanted to growl right back but instead wound up sneezing. Again. Damned allergies.
This was why he didn’t have pets.
Achoo. The third time, strategically aimed, proved a charm, given the fluffy white devil bolted, scattering even more of the papers on the table. Utility bills. Some of them with stains. Crumpled receipts. Coupons joined the mix as well, along with a few recipes, colorful pages ripped from magazines.
A mess. It was almost enough to make him twitch. He certainly required a lint brush. The hair sticking to him appeared stark on the dark fabric of his pants. A good thing he kept a spare pair in his trunk. He’d have to change before he got into his car.
Mrs. Peterson—a lady in her eighties, according to her date of birth—tottered from the kitchen with a cup of tea shaking and sloshing in one hand, a plate of cookies in the other. She set the beverage in front of him. The hot liquid had a hair floating on the top.
There’d been a time early in his career that he would have gagged. Now he calmly said, “Thank you,” and proceeded to ignore it.
She set the plate of cookies—probably made in a hair-and-dander-dusted kitchen—alongside.
His stomach shriveled into a terrified ball. No way was he eating or drinking. He didn’t care how widely the old lady beamed or how excited she was as she exclaimed, “They’re homemade.”
Given cat hair appeared to blanket her home, that wasn’t exactly a ringing endorsement.
“This is very nice, Mrs. Peterson, but you were supposed to fetch your receipts. Remember, the ones detailing these deductions?” He pointed to the small script on the form. The writing was shaky in many places except where there were large refunds to be had. Those numbers were quite clear and sizeable, belonging to receipts he’d yet to see.
Mrs. Peterson kept stalling under the guise of hospitality. He didn’t buy it for one minute.
“I can assure you, all of those deductions were necessary medical procedures,” she said, sitting in the chair across from him and watching his cup of tea intently.
“Which means you have details, billing records. As mentioned before, I need to see them.”
“Do you think I’m lying? I would never,” she huffily declared. She quickly changed the subject. “You haven’t drunk your tea.”
“I’m not thirsty, nor am I accusing you of anything, Mrs. Peterson, but I will require more than your word that these medical expenses exist.”
She lifted her nose. “I swear, today’s youth is all rush, rush, rush. No sense of manners at all. In my day, we had a nice cup of tea before getting down to business.”
He sighed. “Mrs. Peterson, as I’ve already told you, this isn’t a social call.”
“And isn’t that the problem these days? No one has time to talk anymore. Everyone glued to their phones and that internet thing.” She sniffed.
“What do you know. Visitors. It better not be my ungrateful son and that whore.”
The whore being her daughter-in-law of thirty-five years. He’d already heard all about them. He understood why they didn’t visit.
Saved by the bell. Mrs. Peterson tottered to the front door to answer it. Theodore took a moment to grab that damnable cup of disgusting dirty water and dump it in the nearest thing he spotted. The cat’s water bowl changed color as he poured. He was upright and pretending to hold the empty cup to his lips when Mrs. Peterson returned.
“Sorry for the interruption. Someone wanted to check my water meter despite that nice fellow who came just last month.”
“You shouldn’t let them in your house.” He set the cup down, and she eyed it with a sly smile.
“Now there’s a good boy.”
“If we could get to business. The receipts. Now.” He added some firmness to his request.
“I am sorry, but just like I told the last fellow from the IRS, I don’t have them. Because they don’t exist.” Stated quite boldly and without a hint of a quiver in her voice. “The government are bloody vultures thinking they can claw at the pension my husband gave me.”
“I am not here to debate our laws.”
“But you are here to enforce them.”
“You didn’t give us a choice. You got a refund of seventy-five thousand dollars.” Which raised the first set of flags at the office.
“And? I just filled out the papers like I was supposed to,” she defended.
“You only had an income of thirty thousand.”
“Because that company my dear Gordie worked for screwed its employees.” She scowled.
A flash of movement showed the feline lapping at its water bowl. It liked the tea, probably because it was flavored with cat hair.
“I am not here about the amount of your pension but the fact you demanded a return for a paid receipt that exceeded it, which is quite impossible given you claim to have no
She sighed and rolled her eyes dramatically. “And this is why the last fellow is now composting in the basement.”
“Did you just admit to the murder of my missing colleague?” he asked softly, not relaying any hint of his emotions.
“Yes, I did.” Stated quite proudly. “And you’re about to join him. It’s your own fault really. Bothering an old lady in her golden years.” She sniffed. “You should use the sparse time you have left to reflect on your poor decision to work for the government.”
“And how will you eliminate me?” he asked.
“I already have with that tea you drank!” Her expression turned sly. “I poisoned it. You’ll be dead in a few minutes.”
“Is this where I should admit I didn’t drink the tea? Your cat did.” He gestured and wished he’d worn a camera. Because the situation erupted.
Mrs. Peterson screeched, “Baby! No.”
The old lady dove from her chair and scooped up the cat grooming himself nearby. The thing yowled and tore out of her arms.
“I don’t think he drank much. We can call a vet once we’ve concluded our business.”
“We won’t be concluding shit you—you—cat hater!” Mrs. Peterson grabbed a knitting needle from her basket and jabbed at him.
He batted the wand aside and, after a scuffle that indicated he needed to spend more time in the gym, subdued the tax fraudster. He felt no guilt at all as he handcuffed her. She could glare all she wanted. She’d broken the law.
“You should have been the one to drink it,” she spat.
“You should have stuck to legitimate deductions,” he said.
Mrs. Peterson, who’d been perpetrating income tax fraud for a while now, went to jail. The cat, despite his thoughts on the matter, was saved.
A job well done, Theodore went home—in a spare outfit, his filthy suit bagged. It immediately went into the dry cleaning pile once he got home, and he took a long shower with plenty of soap to ensure not a trace of feline remained on him.
He hated cats. His grandmother used to have a houseful when he was growing up. The nasty things didn’t like the little boy that came to live with their owner. Peeing on his pillow. Scratching all his things. When he developed allergies, his grandmother had him shipped to boarding school. Which turned out to be a good thing.
Theodore enjoyed the structure and neatness of the academy. He credited them for the man he became. A man who thrived on order. Not chaos. Rules gave Theodore the boundaries he needed.
The day after he took down Mrs. Peterson, he was called to Garry Maverick’s office. One of the higher-ups in the bureau who had been giving Theodore more interesting assignments, lately. He hoped that meant he’d soon get the promotion he’d been working hard for.
“Theo, good job on the pregnant granny case.” Because not only had Mrs. Peterson claimed a massive refund she wasn’t entitled to, she’d chosen to claim it was because she’d had twins. She might have been shown leniency if she’d not tried to eliminate the agent sent to question her.
“Did you find the other agent, sir?”
“We did.” Maverick, the man who’d handpicked Theodore for the job, looked somber. “Barely alive because of the poison but recovering now in the hospital. Good job.”
“Thank you, sir.” As if he’d ever call this steely-eyed man anything else.
“So, Loomer”—the use of last names common in the office—“you’ve been showing promise on the more complicated cases I’ve been assigning you. What if I said we have something big we’d like you to take a look at? Give us your thoughts.”
“Another field case?” Theodore straightened in his seat. He’d only recently been given the chance to go on field assignments. Until now, he’d been an internal auditor, which he didn’t mind. Numbers had an orderly fashion to them that he quite enjoyed. He’d cracked many a case without ever leaving the office. However, he could admit to a certain excitement of escaping the sterile office to work for Maverick himself, a man spoken of in hushed tones.
“We think it might be a huge one.” Maverick slid the file over.
Theodore popped it open and noticed it contained several files. A quick scan showed a few things immediately. “According to the address in these filings, they all live in the same place.”
“It’s a massive condominium downtown. Very restricted in who gets to live there.”
Theodore tapped his finger on the file. “I see a few share the same last name. I assume they’re family.”
“Pretty much everyone in that condo is related in some way. Given the number of incidences, we think the whole family is involved in the scam, and it extends well beyond the taxes.”
But using the taxes as an excuse would get them in for a closer look and probably give them cause for warrants and such.
“Did you see anything that sticks out?” Theodore asked.
“Not really other than they’re private. Preliminary digging hasn’t found much. They have very little social media presence. Odd in this day and age.”
“Maybe they like to be unplugged.” Theodore certainly wasn’t one to indulge in electronic entertainment. Computers were for work. When he relaxed, he preferred to read a classic or cook.
“They also believe in creative accounting. They’ve been dodging taxes for years now.”
“Nothing big, though,” Theodore remarked as he thumbed through the folder. “All the refunds are under ten grand.”
“But take a look at what they’re classing as business deductions.”
Theodore frowned. “That’s an awful lot of expense for something that’s not making money.”
“It gets better,” Maverick said. “When receipts were requested, they sent some in.”
Flipping to the back of the folder, he saw scanned copies of crumpled receipts. Some of them blatantly inadmissible. How could anyone claim a manicure and pedicure were needed for work?
“What’s with the biggest expenses? It doesn’t actually say what company sold these things or what it actually is.” He pointed to a typed receipt with a stream of digits and letters, almost like a model number. In another column, a quantity of ten thousand, then a hefty dollar amount.
“We aren’t sure what that’s supposed to be, but we’d like to find out. It might be related to the bigger things I mentioned.”
Theodore kept skimming. “All these files are for females ranging in age from early twenties to the fifties.”
“A pair in there seem to be mother and daughter. Another two, possibly cousins.”
“Marital status is mixed. As are living conditions,” Theodore noted.
“Roommates and spouses mean there could be more people involved.”
Theodore snapped the folder shut. “I’ll do some research, start some inquiries, and then make some appointments with the subjects.”
“Already done. The letters informing them they’re being audited have already been sent with appointment times recorded. None called to reschedule. The first is tomorrow afternoon. Melly Goldeneyes.”
“This is short notice,” Theodore remarked, remembering with his eidetic memory the file Maverick referred to. The one with the name Melly had a driver’s license picture attached and not a very flattering one. She squinted and had her hair going every which way, as if she’d just emerged from a tornado.
“I’m sure you’ll manage. We need this handled.”
“I’ll handle it, but why the urgency? Won’t that be suspicious?” The IRS wasn’t known to be a fast-moving machine.
“Because we have reason to believe animals might be in danger.”
Given he wasn’t crazy about beasts of any kind, his first impulse was not the kind he’d admit out loud. “If you believe that, then why not conduct a raid?”
“Because the situation is delicate. We can’t just rush in without concrete proof. The repercussions…” Maverick shook his head. “We have to be sure. Resolve this quickly and you can have a few days off.”
“You can count on me.”
Theodore spent that day and the next reading the files, making notes, planning exactly what to ask. He made a list of questions. Numbered them and added sub lists to a few. He’d show Maverick he could keep doing fieldwork.
The day of the appointment, he circled the building a few times, watching it as he crept past. It projected into the sky, a big golden high-rise with a wall all around it.
Given the road bypassing the condo had no parking, he had to resort to a garage a few blocks over. The spot between a pillar and a wall with no one at his back provided the utmost protection for his car.
As he walked to the address on file, he chose the sidewalk side that ran the length of the massive wall. It extended the length of the block and turned the corner to run for another block. It kept those inside secure, along with the cameras dotting the corners, watching every edge. Interestingly enough, he caught a glimpse of a tree, its branch hovering over the wall. Greenery in the city was becoming more common as people made an effort to have nature around them.
He really wished they’d stick to plastic. He was allergic to pollen and grass.
Following the length of the wall, Theodore reached a large gated driveway, wide enough for two vehicles at once. Approaching the closed gates, he noticed the intercom and the button below it. He pressed it with a handkerchief.
“Excuse me?” He didn’t know if anyone listened. “Hello?” He pressed the button again.
A tinny voice said drowsily, “What do you want?”
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