Chapter 1. Michael's Very Bad Day

Michael Guilford was in a hurry. He was meeting his girlfriend, Melissa, at their favorite Thai restaurant for dinner, and he was already running late when he rushed to the automatic teller machine in the lobby of his bank. He quickly stuck his card into the slot, punched in his four-digit code, and selected the $40 quick cash option. He tapped his fingers impatiently on the machine as he waited for the money to appear, but instead of the familiar sound of $20 bills being shuffled electronically, he heard a short series of clicks before the machine spit out his card and a slip of paper.

Insufficient funds.

"You've got to be kidding," Michael muttered to himself. "That can't possibly be right. My paycheck was just deposited a few days ago."

Putting his card forcefully back into the ATM, he repeated the process, this time asking for just $20. The result was the same.

Now what? With a sick feeling in the pit of his stomach, he pulled out his cell phone and called the first number on his speed dial. Melissa answered after two rings and Michael sputtered out a clumsy story about having to work late ... couldn't make it for dinner ... so sorry ... he'd make it up to her tomorrow. He felt like scum lying to her, but there was no way he could face her right now. She would probably be understanding, like she always was, but that would just make him feel worse.

Michael walked to the parking garage adjacent to his office building, took the elevator to the fourth ...

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