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White Collar Crime

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  I leaned my head against the hard plastic police cruiser seat and let out a deep sigh.

I can’t believe I got caught. The handcuffs were cold on my wrists. My normal urge to fidget was a thousand times stronger knowing that I couldn’t. Even though I’m not particularly tall, my knees pressed up against the back of the driver’s seat. How long is a prison sentence for embezzlement? I tried to remember what I had heard on the news. Ten years? Fifteen? I did the math in my head, I would be in my forties by time I got out.

Then another thought hit. Hard. I can’t believe I actually stole money from my own family. How did I allow myself to get this far into it? A little bit here, a little bit there. I had a family to support. How would I even know if they were okay? Surely we would lose our house. I didn’t expect any help from my family, but maybe they would make sure my wife and kids had a roof over their heads and food to eat. I hoped so, at least. After all, I was the one who stole. I was the one who lied to Natalie.

I would probably lose everything - my house, my car. Not that much of it was actually mine. Everything I owned, from my sprawling 6 bedroom house and the land it was on, to my Land Rover was bought with stolen money. But, it was mine while it lasted. I just wanted to provide for my wife, to make her happy. To buy her things worthy of a rock star’s wife. She put up with a lot, after all. Natalie was the one who took care of the kids while I was on the road for months at at time, following my dream. She dreamed of being a writer, and she did write some things here and there, but between homeschooling our five active kids and always making time for me when I was home, she was never able finish her novel.

“Okay, out with you,” the officer barked as he opened the back door. I slid out as best I could with my hands cuffed together. Once I was standing, he grabbed my left elbow and led me toward a concrete brick building. I felt my heart pound as I looked at it. How long would it be before I saw the outside of the concrete walls again? I felt my legs start to give way.

“Not going to get out of it that easy, son,” the officer jerked me back into a standing position. “This isn’t my first rodeo. Come along and be a man about it. You were man enough to steal from your own family after all.”

“What happened to innocent until proven guilty?” I said more to the steel door we were now facing than to him.

He squinted at me “I’ve been doing this a long time. I know guilty when I see it,” He pressed a button on an intercom outside the door.

“Yes?” I heard a salty female voice.

“Officer 38056. Have one for processing.”

“One moment please,”

I heard the door click open and I was hit by a blast of cold air as we stepped inside.


 

“Musician Taylor Hanson has been taken into custody following an investigation into embezzlement of funds from 3CG Records, the label he co-owns with his brothers. The Tulsa based band rose to fame with their smash hit single ‘MMMBop.’ Let’s go to Leslie Case on scene now at the Tulsa County Jail. Leslie?”

“Thanks, Carl. Even though record sales have been slowing, the Hanson brothers still have a very loyal fan base. You can see behind me that a group of fans have already set up camp, some holding signs begging officers to release Taylor. Police are trying to control the scene, but they have told me that they expect more fans set up camp in the next few days . . . “

I turned away from the TV in disgust as the blond reporter blathered on about our unfortunate 90s hairstyles and clothing choices. I was hoping they would say something about my brother, anything to let me know he was okay.

“SHUT UP!” I yelled at the television as I heard the familiar chorus of MMMBop start. I was sure every news channel in the country was playing the same clip of us. I moved my cigar box and hi-ball glasses around trying to find the remote control.

I felt my elbow come in contact with a glass and before I could react, it fell off the coffee table.

“Shit,” I banged my hands on the tabletop as I watched the glass shatter. I shook my head to calm myself. “Get it together,” I said to myself. Soon enough I would be dealing with the entire family, and I knew that with Taylor gone, it was up to me to be the leader. I took a few deep breaths, then slowly walked to the flat screen and turned it off.

My cell phone vibrated in my pocket as soon as the TV screen faded to black. I knew it was coming, but I was dreading it. There was so much business to discuss. My brother had been arrested only a few hours ago and already there was so much to do and so many questions to answer.

“Hi, Mom”

“Isaac,” she was sniffing, “your brother . . . “

“Yes, Mom, I know.”

“You sound so calm. How do you know?”

“It’s been all over the news.” I didn’t mention that I had been drinking for the last few hours or that Taylor’s arrest didn’t surprise me at all.

“I just don’t know what to do. I never thought Taylor would ever . . . He was always so good.”

That’s what you think. She didn’t know half of the things he did. He was always so good at not getting caught. He never would have been caught if Zac hadn’t insisted . . .

“Son?” I heard my Dad break-in, “You need to get down to the offices right away. No one knows what’s going on and Zac is fit to be tied.”

“Alright, I’ll be there as soon as I can.”

Usually I took great care when getting dressed. I just didn’t have the heart for it today. I quickly ran some water over my hair to smooth it back.

“Damn it!” My keys weren’t in their usual place on the dresser. I tossed my bedding around, trying to find them. Finally, I heard something rattle and fall to the floor. I reached under my bed to grab my keys. How they got on my bed, I have no idea. I didn’t even remember going to bed last night, honestly. The day, like the entire week before it, had been too emotional.

I headed for the door, praying that I would arrive at our headquarters safely despite my very worried and slightly intoxicated state of mind.


 

“HOW COULD HE?” I looked for something else to throw, but my family had been moving things off of Taylor’s desk and out of my way. I walked over to my desk and picked up a Luke Skywalker figurine and aimed it at a picture of Taylor. “Traitor!” I yelled as I heard the glass smash.

“Zac! That is enough!” Dad said. “We have let you indulge your temper tantrum long enough. Come into the conference room and sit down, please.”

“Do not treat me like a child!” I spat back at him.

“Then don’t act like one. Your brother is on his way. We have business to discuss and we need you to put your emotions aside for the time being.”

“Fine,” I stomped into the conference room and slouched in a chair. Mom was already sitting at the table. Her eyes were red and her face was lined with worry. Taylor had always been her favorite, we all knew it even if we never said it out loud.

“Mom, I’m sorry,” I reached across the table to take her hand. “I was just upset, you know?”

She squeezed my hand “Darling, we all are. I can’t believe he would steal from his own brothers. I sometimes wondered how he afforded everything, but I never thought. . . I raised you all better than that.” She shook her head. “Isaac, you look awful,” she said as my brother walked into the room.

“Thanks, Mom,” he pulled out a chair and sat down. He was usually the best dressed out of all of us, but today his hair was a mess and I could smell the alcohol oozing from his pores. He hadn’t shaven and his clothes were wrinkled. He was wearing worn blue jeans and a black t-shirt instead of the suit he normally wore.

“It’s a wonder you made it here alive,” I murmured to him.

“I drove slow and took the back roads,” he leaned his head against the back of the chair and rubbed his temples.

“Coffee.” Black coffee sloshed over the sides of the mug Dad plunked down in front of Isaac.

He walked over to Mom and gingerly sat a cup of coffee on the table in front of her as well, then sat beside her and took her hand. “Guys, we have a serious situation here.”

“I know, Dad. It’s all over the news. Fans are already camped out at the jail,” Isaac said. Mom started to sob. Dad put his arm around her and started rubbing her back.

“I can’t believe Taylor would do that to us. How could he?” I asked again.

“We are all in disbelief, Zac. Taylor will always be your brother, but I seriously think you need to consider if you want to continue to include him in your business.”

“The band is the business, Dad. Are we supposed to just stop everything?” Isaac shook his head.

“Isaac, you need to be reasonable. We don’t even know how long he will be in jail. It could be months before he even goes to trial. Do you think your fans are going to be around several years from now? Even then, he wouldn’t be able to leave the state to tour, much less the country.”

Isaac jumped to his feet “There is a way to work this out. There just has to be. And don’t you dare talk about our fans,” he pointed a finger at our father “the same fans that are camping outside of the jail right now are the same ones that are going to be around whenever we get all this worked out.”

“Isaac . . . “

“What do you want us to do, Dad? Go on without Taylor? Hire a new keyboardist? Taylor is a part of this band and we won’t kick him out just because he made a mistake. Back me up here, Zac.”

“Well, it was a shitty thing to do,” I started.

“Zachary! Language!” Mom said through her tears.

“You can’t tell me you agree with Dad?”

“What’s to stop him from taking the rest of what we have when he comes back?”

“He wouldn’t do that, Zac!”

“How do you know?”

“Because,” he sighed “I just have faith in him, that’s all.”

“Ike.” I was beginning to put the pieces together. “Did you know what he was doing?”

He sat back down and took a long sip of coffee. He licked his lips before he began to speak “Not at first.”

Mom gasped. “Let him talk, Diana,” my Dad said quietly.

“He came to me about a week ago, just a few days after the investigation started. He told me everything - about the money, about how he was having trouble making ends meet even with his side projects. He was still upside down on his mortgage. We were trying to find the right time to tell everyone, but then the investigation was moving too fast. I called the police to request that they drop it, but they said they already had enough evidence to move forward. We thought we would have at least one more day to tell everyone and discuss plans.”

“Isaac, I can’t believe you knew and didn’t tell us,” Dad’s voice was gruff. I could tell he was trying to suppress his anger.

“He was going to pay us back, Dad. I was helping him go through his finances so he could make ends meet and have a little left over to start paying us back.”

“He was just manipulating you, Isaac,” I said “It’s the oldest trick in the book - fess up before you get caught. Get sympathy. Fake remorse. I bet he is only sorry he got caught.”

“It isn’t like that, Zac! Taylor knew exactly how much he had to lose and he was trying to do the right thing.”

“Isaac, I don’t want Taylor anywhere near our business or finances. That’s my final word. If he wants to go out and play pretty boy when he gets out of jail, fine. But I won’t be in a band with a thief and a liar.”

“Zac! Don’t you understand? Taylor is the band! We may not like it, but it’s the truth.”

“What?” I couldn’t believe Isaac actually thought that. “We have just as much talent as he does, Ike. We could each launch our own solo projects from 3CG and sell just as many records. We could even co-headline on a tour together.”

“No, Zac. I don’t want to make music without him. I guess I’ll have to figure out some type of job, but it won’t be music. Not until we are all back together.”

“Well, then I guess you are done with music. I will never, ever be in a band with Taylor again. I don’t even want to be in the same room with him.” I pushed away from the table.

I heard my Dad calling me, but I just couldn’t deal. I slammed the door behind me as I left. I threw my truck into reverse, heedless of the traffic behind me. I last thing I remember before everything went black was the sound of squealing tires.