Ray finished his telephone conversation, dropped the phone into its cradle and then said, "I'm in real trouble, Fraser."
Fraser, sitting across from him in his usual visitor's chair, leaned forward across Ray's desk to hear more. Ray was in trouble. Fraser was on the alert.
"They're coming after me. Cripes! What am I going to do?" He ran his hands through his blond spikes and looked pleadingly at his friend. "What am I going to do?" he repeated, helplessly.
"Ray, it would help if you told me who was after you and why." Fraser pointed out.
Ray leaned back in his chair with a loud sigh. "I'm doomed. Dooooooooomed."
Ray's delivery was so low and melodramatic it made Fraser think of an ent.
"That was the IRS. They're going to audit my taxes. That was some woman on the phone to make an appointment."
Fraser was so relieved he actually smiled. "Is that all, Ray? What would you have to worry about? As a policeman, you must have been reporting your financial affairs fully and honestly. You have nothing to fear."
"How do you figure that? What's being a cop have to do with it?"
"You're an officer of the law. Sworn to uphold the laws of the land. Now, tax law is still law and . . ."
"Fraser, here you go with this making the world safe to tuck kids in at night stuff again. I'm not a cop to uphold the laws. Most of the laws are pretty stupid. I'm here to take out the bad guys: boom, boom." Ray punctuated the last two words with little punches to the air.
"But, you have been honest on your tax returns, haven't you?"
Ray cleared his throat and looked down at his desk, avoiding his Mountie friend's eyes.
"See, Fraser, it's like this . . ."
Fraser jumped to his feet. "Ray, I'm aghast!"
"No, Fraser, you belong here. You're like one of the gang."
"No, Ray, not 'a guest'. 'Aghast' as in surprised, dismayed, taken back."
"Taking what back?" Ray struggled to follow.
"It's an expression, Ray. It means it distresses me greatly to think you have been dishonest in your dealings with your own government."
"Calm down, buddy. It's not like that. Sit down and don't get 'em in an uproar here. Jeez!"
"I'm very disappointed in you, Ray."
Ray got up from behind his desk and came over to his friend. He put an arm around Fraser's shoulder but the Mountie, to Ray's amazement, flinched at his touch.
"I said, it's not like that. I never lied or nothing. I'm just kind of disorganized. Here, sit down and let me explain. Maybe you can help me out with this."
Fraser put his moral indignation on hold momentarily for the sake of giving his friend the benefit of the doubt. He sat down and listened.
"See, here's the thing. Before I got married my mom used to take care of the taxes for all the family. Then I got married and, well, Stella's good with paperwork and so she took care of all that stuff. But after we got divorced, she didn't want to do my taxes no more. So I was sort of stuck. I had to do all this tax stuff myself. And, I'm no good at paperwork, Fraser. I guess you sort of noticed that."
Fraser had indeed, but withheld comment allowing Ray to get out what he had to say.
"So since I got divorced I do my own taxes but the thing is I never really know what I'm doing. So write some stuff and attach some stuff and I send some money. They always send me back a correction - some years they want more money, some years they give me some back. Somebody down at the IRS figures it out, so I figured whatever I'm doing is okay."
"That may have been a premature assumption."
"Yeah. So now they're sending somebody to look at all my records."
"And you're concerned because your records are . . . haphazard?"
"They're a freaking mess, Fraser."
Fraser considered his friend's plight. The detective wasn't dishonest after all, only disorganized.
"Ray, you could have paid an accountant or a tax service to help you."
"Oh yeah, and look like a helpless dork who can't take care of my own affairs?"
Fraser cleared his throat. "Apparently you are a helpless dork who can't take care of his own affairs."
"Yeah, but nobody knew it but me, see."
"And the IRS."
"Yeah but they're not a person."
Fraser took a moment to consider his friend's plight. "But there are remedies for the situation. I'm certainly willing to help."
Ray brightened. "I knew I could count on you. So, when this tax broad comes over, you'll show up in your Mountie get-up and she'll be too goo-goo eyed to do me any damage."
"I don't think that scenario is likely. The tax auditor will be a professional. I doubt her eyes will goo-goo."
"Okay, how about this. We tell the auditor you're a Mountie - which you are - and that you don't lie - which you don't, and that you'll vouch for the complete rightness of my taxes."
Fraser only inclined his head a little and crinkled his brow.
"No go, eh?" said Ray.
"You're beginning to say 'eh' like a Canadian, Ray. But to bring this back on topic, you're right. I can't do anything like that. Let me offer you an alternative that may serve you better in the long run. I'm willing to spend some time helping you sort out your finances. You'll present a very organized set of records to the tax auditor and be able to handle things yourself from now on in a very methodical manner."
"I live by instinct," Ray pointed out.
"Which is what got you into this predicament in the first place. Tomorrow after work, Dief and I will come over to your apartment and we'll take a stab at getting you sorted out."
"What, the wolf knows accounting?"
Just as Fraser was about to reply, Ray reached over to put his hand over the Mountie's mouth. "Never mind. I don't want to know. Just don't let him lecture me, okay? That would be way too humiliating."
But Inspector Thatcher had other plans for Fraser the next morning. She sent him to Disney World to accompany a visiting Canadian dignitary. Dressed in his red serge, Fraser attracted the attention of even more tourists there than did when standing motionless in front of the Consulate door. But that's not important right now. What is important is that this assignment prevented him from helping Ray with his bookkeeping.
Ray took care of Diefenbaker in his apartment as he often did when Fraser was away. Dief saw the detective sitting with boxes and envelopes all around him, looking dejected, and tried to advise him as best he could. Ray, unfortunately, didn't understand and so Ray faced the tax auditor all unaided.
When Fraser got back from Florida, he went to Ray's place to pick up Diefenbaker and of course wanted to know what had transpired in Ray's tax audit.
He found Ray despondent. "It was the worst thing that could happen, Fraser, the absolute worst."
"She raised a sizeable assessment against you," ventured the Mountie, thinking of the worst a tax auditor could do to anyone.
"She wasn't armed, Fraser. All she had with her was a computer. Are your tax guys armed in Canada?"
"No Ray, I mean, she must have ordered you to pay a great deal more tax."
"Naw, nothing like that. Worse, Fraser, much worse. She SCOLDED me."
Fraser was puzzled. He turned to Dief, who had been there with Ray in the apartment when the auditor was there, for confirmation. Was this indeed the worst that had happened? Dief nodded affirmative.
"She told me off! Didn't charge me anything because she said it would take more of her time than it was worth to sort my crap out."
Fraser didn't see how that was the worst that could happen and said so.
"You don't get it Fraser. To get charged a whole bunch of back taxes, go to jail for it even, that's respectable. Some pretty tough characters get sent up on tax raps. But to get told off like a little kid because my records are such a mess. That's humiliating, Fraser. Really humiliating."
Fraser digested this. "Humiliating enough to do something about it? I can still help you keep your affairs in order from now on. I'll teach you some double-entry bookkeeping."
Dief turned to the Mountie with an interrogatory whine.
"Well, it would be a beginning," Fraser told the wolf.
Ray didn't like this. "I can't enter things one time. You want me to do it twice?"
"Double entry bookkeeping simply means that all transactions are recorded with equal debits and credits. For example, when you deposit money into your bank you debit the appropriate account in your books and . . ."
"Whoa, hold the phone. You're mixed up, Fraser. When I put money in my account they call it a credit. Even I know that."
"No Ray, it's a debit."
"I'll show you my bank statement."
"There's no need. The bank calls it a credit. But it is a debit for you because . . ."
"Are you about to tell me something that's going to confuse me?"
"Most likely, yes."
"Then save it."
Fraser and Dief exchanged a look. They were still determined to help Ray in some way.
"Perhaps if we got you a money-management software."
"Me and computers aren't friends, Fraser."
This was true. Ray had yet to master the intricacies inherent in printing.
"Well, there's only one thing to do. Diefenbaker will have to take over your taxes for you."
"Fur-face? He knows about accounting?"
"He's really quite adept. Wolves have a very logical mind."
"What? He didn't say a word about it all the time you were away!"
"Are you sure?"
Ray took hold of Diefenbaker's snout and pulled his face around so that the detective and wolf were eye to eye. "All that time you were bugging me and I thought you just wanted more Smarties, were you trying to tell me something?"
Diefenbaker shook his head loose from Ray's grip before giving a little yip.
"And he charges very reasonable rates, payable in baked goods," Fraser added.
"You pay him to do your taxes, Fraser?"
"Only to save me time," Fraser admitted. "I could do them myself but in spring I was always busy out on the trail."
Ray pondered. "This could have advantages. It would mean no HUMAN would know how lame I am. Dief, you're hired."