Book Jacket


rank 5911
word count 87314
date submitted 09.11.2010
date updated 30.08.2011
genres: Fiction, Thriller, Romance, Crime
classification: moderate

The Unluckiest Woman in Belfast

Maria Coyle

What do you do when money laundering, blackmail, death, and a troublesome face from the past surface, and you're a stranger in the city?


Belfast is a city with a history for Sian O’Neill, so when she is sent there on a business trip, all she wants is to get in, get out, and keep it simple.
Instead she finds evidence of money laundering in the books of her client, Provincial Bank, and witnesses her teenage sweetheart roughing up a suspect during an arrest. This pales into insignificance though, when the manager of the team dedicated to preventing money laundering at Provincial is found dead. Sian finds herself accused of killing her, and only hours after she is interrogated, wakes up in casualty – the victim of a hit and run.
What is at the bottom of the quagmire in Provincial?

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1990s, belfast, crime, information technology, ireland, romance, white collar crime

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Kinder and More Considerate

First thing on Monday morning, Reena called Karen into her office and asked her to explain how she needed her software upgraded. Karen spent ten minutes talking about identifying suspicious transactions by searching for recognizable patterns of transactions on accounts. She listed the kind of things she needed to identify: too many lodgements to one cashier, too much money in total lodged to one account over a period of time, too many branches receiving lodgements to one account, too many accounts owned by one individual or business, accounts owned by one individual or business receiving too much cash over a period of time, too many accounts sharing one address. She wanted the software updated to help her spot these things.

Reena didn’t understand the relevance of everything Karen said, but she recognized enough to know that it was dangerous. Unwilling to let Karen see she had reason to be worried, she feigned incomprehension. If she could delay this, they’d have more time to set up Joe’s wages accounts. It wasn’t a perfect cover, but it was better camouflage than what they had at the moment. She tried to stall, saying she’d checked expenditure, and too much of the IT budget had already been spent on this software. Karen countered that it was a legal obligation, not discretionary spending, so the money had to be found. She told Karen that she could go back to her desk, and she’d get back to her with her decision. There was no way out of it for Reena, she had to okay the work. On Tuesday morning Karen found an email in her inbox. It said that the expenditure would be allowed, but that Reena needed a full written description of why it was required, and how it would improve the software and help Provincial meet their legal obligations. Karen drafted a document justifying the software upgrade, and listing the additional features as she’d described them to Reena the previous day. She attached it to an email and sent it back to her.

Reena contacted BankSys to arrange a site visit. She could have cried with relief when they told her that the first week in February was the earliest they could manage. It was a week from Christmas, and between the break, and commitments already made for January, they were fully booked until then. Reena knew that Karen wanted someone earlier. She double checked that no-one could be sent to them before February, but didn’t argue. She told BankSys that she’d have one of her staff get back to them. If it was cast in stone that February was the earliest someone could get to them, she could delegate the job of arranging the appointment to Karen. Her hands would appear spotless. She hung up, and mailed Karen the news that she’d contacted BankSys about the upgrade. They were now waiting on her to finalise the date and time she needed them to visit. Reena said that she could go ahead and make the arrangements.

Reena was almost sorry she’d split up with Joe so soon. The earliest that their scheme was going to come under scrutiny now was February. If she’d known that she could have had a long and enjoyable Christmas with him, she wouldn’t have acted so quickly. She began to feel tetchy. She walked out of her office and down to Karen’s desk. Karen was just hanging up the phone, a dissatisfied look on her face. “Well that makes two of us” Reena thought to herself. “Was that BankSys?” she asked. Karen nodded. “When will they arrive?”



“February” Karen said resignedly.

“You told me that this was urgent.” Reena made sure that her displeasure was plain in her voice.

“They’re fully booked. They can’t spare anyone until then. If another customer cancels they’ll call us, but otherwise it’ll be February. We left it too late.”

“We?” Reena’s tone dripped acid. “I took charge here precisely a week ago,” she said slowly and deliberately. “And it looks like it’s not a minute too soon that someone did.”

Karen was bright red, and unable to answer. Not making sure that the budget had been ring fenced for the software upgrade earlier, and BankSys contacted sooner was her mistake. It was difficult to imagine that one week would have made such a difference.

“Will we make the deadline for our audit?” Reena asked.

“By the skin of our teeth.”

“Do you know who we’ll be dealing with? Are they going to fob us off with some junior?”

“They’ve promised me their specialist in this area, so that we can get it right first time.”

“What’s the name?”

“Seán O’Neill.”

“Fine. Let’s hope you’re lucky then.” She drilled Karen with a harsh stare. “From now on, absolutely everything that you do comes across my desk for approval first. I want to know absolutely everything about this. Do you understand me?”

Karen was humiliated, but in no position to argue. “Yes.”

Reena walked away. Once her back was to Karen, she smiled to herself. She felt much better now.

Karen watched Reena’s retreating back angrily. She was unsure of where to direct the anger, inward or outward. She cursed herself for not having arranged everything before Reena had taken over, and she cursed her for dragging her feet during the week. She felt uneasy. When she was with Joe, he had hinted at how useful their expertise could be to the right people. Karen pointed out that a five year jail term, and a large fine was intended to put anyone in the bank off misusing their expertise. Joe just smiled at her like she was a naïf. Karen had wondered later if Joe had been just as indiscrete with Harry at any stage. Had he excluded himself from the possibility of doing her job with some ill chosen remark? Ever since their exchange, she had made it plain that she was a clean pair of hands. Since she’d taken over the team leader role, she’d made a point of ensuring that the AML team’s reputation was beyond reproach. Now all that might be called into question because she’d misjudged how long it would take to get her software upgraded. Her stomach felt sick.

Karen snapped out of it when Marion appeared by her shoulder.

“Can I ask what has the pointy heeled wicked witch of the west clumping away from us so dramatically today?” she asked.

“My stupidity” Karen answered flatly. “It’ll be February before we can even get started on the software improvements.”

“Oh... Well I just popped over to say, Joe McGrath was spotted in DaVincenzo’s last night looking very cosy over a candle lit dinner with a woman who wasn’t Reena. Word has it Joe doesn’t have any sisters either, so I suspect Il Duce’s executive relief may have left her.” Marion paused for a beat, as if in thought. “Perhaps we should all be a little kinder and more considerate to her today in case her feelings are hurt... Perhaps not, she’d have to find some feelings for that to work.”

Karen looked at Marion in wonder. Where did she get all this information? “Thanks Marion. I’ll bear that in mind.”

“No problem.” Marion smiled at her and left.



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