A good book should leave you... slightly exhausted at the end. You live several lives while reading it.

William Styron, interview, Writers at Work, 1958

 
 
 
 
 
Tác giả: Sidney Sheldon
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Chapter 15
hiladelphia
TUESDAY, OCTOBER 7--- 4:00 P.M.
It was time to deal with Charles Stanhope III. The others had been strangers. Charles had been her lover, the father of her unborn child, and he had turned his back on both of them.
Ernestine and Al had been at the New Orleans Airport to see Tracy off.
"I'm gonna miss you," Ernestine had said. "You sure set this town on its ass. They oughta run you for people's mayor."
"Whatcha gonna do in Philly?" Al had asked.
She had told them half the truth. "Go back to my old job at the bank."
Ernestine and Al had exchanged a glance. "They--- er--- know you're comin'?"
"No. But the vice-president likes me. There won't be a problem. Good computer operators are hard to find."
"Well, good luck. Keep in touch, ya hear? And stay out of trouble, girl."
Thirty minutes later Tracy had been in the air, bound for Philadelphia.
o O o
She checked into the Hilton Hotel and steamed out her one good dress over the hot tub. At 11:00 the following morning she walked into the bank and approached Clarence Desmond's secretary.
"Hello, Mae."
The girl stared at Tracy as though she were seeing a ghost. "Tracy!" She did not know where to look. "I--- how are you?"
"Fine. Is Mr. Desmond in?"
"I--- I don't know. Let me see. Excuse me." She rose from her chair, flustered, and hurried into the vice-president's office.
She came out a few moments later. "You may go in." She edged away as Tracy walked toward the door.
What's the matter with her? Tracy wondered.
Clarence Desmond was standing next to his desk.
"Hello, Mr. Desmond. Well, I've come back," Tracy said brightly.
"What for?" His tone was unfriendly. Definitely unfriendly.
It caught Tracy by surprise. She pressed on. "Well, you said I was the best computer operator you had ever seen, and I thought ---"
"You thought I'd give you back your old job?"
"Well, yes, sir. I haven't forgotten any of my skills. I can still---"
"Miss Whitney." It was no longer Tracy. "I'm sorry, but what you're asking is quite out of the question. I'm sure you can understand that our customers would not wish to deal with someone who served time in the penitentiary for armed robbery and attempted murder. That would hardly fit in with our high ethical image. I think it unlikely that given your background, any bank would hire you. I would suggest that you try to find employment more suitable to your circumstances. I hope you understand there is nothing personal in this."
Tracy listened to his words, first with shock and then with growing anger. He made her sound like an outcast, a leper. We wouldn't want to lose you. You're one of our most valuable employees.
"Was there anything else, Miss Whitney?" It was a dismissal.
There were a hundred things Tracy wanted to say, but she knew they would do no good. "No. I think you've said it all." Tracy turned and walked out the office door, her face burning. All the bank employees seemed to be staring at her. Mae had spread the word: The convict had come back. Tracy moved toward the exit, head held high, dying inside. I can't let them do this to me. My pride is all I have left, and no one is going to take that away from me.
o O o
Tracy stayed in her room all day, miserable. How could she have been naive enough to believe that they would welcome her back with open arms? She was notorious now. "You're the headline in the Philadelphia Daily News." Well, to hell with Philadelphia, Tracy thought. She had some unfinished business there, but when that was done, she would leave. She would go to New York, where she would be anonymous. The decision made her feel better.
That evening, Tracy treated herself to dinner at the Café Royal. After the sordid meeting with Clarence Desmond that morning, she needed the reassuring atmosphere of soft lights, elegant surroundings, and soothing music. She ordered a vodka martini, and as the waiter brought it to her table, Tracy glanced up, and her heart suddenly skipped a beat. Seated in a booth across the room were Charles and his wife. They had not yet seen her. Tracy's first impulse was to get up and leave. She was not ready to face Charles, not until she had a chance to put her plan into action.
"Would you like to order now?" the captain was asking.
"I'll--- I'll wait, thank you." She had to decide whether she was going to stay.
She looked over at Charles again, and an astonishing phenomenon occurred: It was as though she were looking at a stranger. She was seeing a sallow, drawn-looking, middle-aged, balding man, with stooped shoulders and an air of ineffable boredom on his face. It was impossible to believe that she had once thought she loved this man, that she had slept with him, planned to spend the rest of her life with him. Tracy glanced at his wife. She wore the same bored expression as Charles. They gave the impression of two people trapped together for eternity, frozen in time. They simply sat there, speaking not one word to each other. Tracy could visualize the endless, tedious years ahead of the two of them. No love. No joy. That is Charles's punishment, Tracy thought, and she felt a sudden surge of release, a freedom from the deep, dark, emotional chains that had bound her.
Tracy signaled to the captain and said, "I'm ready to order now."
It was over. The past was finally buried.
It was not until Tracy returned to her hotel room that evening that she remembered she was owed money from the bank's employees' fund. She sat down and calculated the amount. It came to $1,375.65.
She composed a letter to Clarence Desmond, and two days later she received a reply from Mae.
Dear Miss Whitney:
In response to your request, Mr. Desmond has asked me to inform you that because of the morals policy in the employees' financial plan, your share has reverted to the general fund. He wants to assure you that he bears no personal ill will toward you.
Sincerely,
Mae Trenton
Secretary to the Senior Vice-president
Tracy could not believe it. They were stealing her money, and doing it under the pretext of protecting the morals of the bank! She was outraged. I'm not going to let them cheat me, she vowed. No one is ever going to cheat me again.
o O o
Tracy stood outside the familiar entrance to the Philadelphia Trust and Fidelity Bank. She wore a long black wig and heavy, dark makeup, with a raw red scar on her chin. If anything went wrong, it would be the scar they remembered. Despite her disguise, Tracy felt naked, for she had worked in this bank for five years, and it was staffed with people who knew her well: She would have to be very careful not to give herself away.
She removed a bottle cap from her purse, placed it in her shoe, and limped into the bank. The bank was crowded with customers, for Tracy had carefully chosen a time when the bank would be doing peak business. She limped over to one of the customer-service desks, and the man seated behind it finished a phone call and said, "Yes?"
It was Jon Creighton, the bank bigot. He hated Jews, blacks, and Puerto Ricans, but not necessarily in that order. He had been an irritant to Tracy during the years she had worked there. Now there was no sign of recognition on his face.
"Buenos días, señor. I would like to open a checking account, ahora," Tracy said. Her accent was Mexican, the accent she had heard for all those months from her cell mate Paulita.
There was a look of disdain on Creighton's face. "Name?"
"Rita Gonzales."
"And how much would you like to put in your account?"
"Ten dollars."
His voice was a sneer. "Will that be by check or cash?"
"Cash, I theenk."
She carefully took a crumpled, half-torn ten-dollar bill from her purse and handed it to him. He shoved a white form toward her.
"Fill this out---"
Tracy had no intention of putting anything in her handwriting. She frowned. "I'm sorry, senor. I hurt mi mano--- my hand--- in an accident. Would you min' writin' it for me, si se puede?"
Creighton snorted. These illiterate wetbacks! "Rita Gonzales, you said?"
"Si."
"Your address?"
She gave him the address and telephone number of her hotel.
"Your mother's maiden name?"
"Gonzales. My mother, she married her uncle."
"And your date of birth?"
"December twentieth, 1958."
"Place of birth?"
"Ciudad de Mexico."
"Mexico City. Sign here."
"I weel have to use my left hand," Tracy said. She picked up a pen and clumsily scrawled out an illegible signature. Jon Creighton wrote out a deposit slip.
"I'll give you a temporary checkbook. Your printed checks will be mailed to you in three or four weeks."
"Bueno. Muchas gracias, señor."
"Yeah."
He watched her walk out of the bank. Fuckin' spic.
o O o
There are numerous illegal ways to gain entry to a computer, and Tracy was an expert. She had helped set up the security system at the Philadelphia Trust and Fidelity Bank, and now she was about to circumvent it.
Her first step was to find a computer store, where she could use a terminal to tap into the bank's computer. The store, several blocks from the bank, was almost empty.
An eager salesman approached Tracy. "May I help you, miss?"
"Eso sí que no, señor. I am just looking."
His eye was caught by a teen-ager playing a computer game. "Excuse me." He hurried away.
Tracy turned to the desk-model computer in front of her, which was connected to a telephone. Getting into the system would be easy, but without the proper access code, she was stymied, and the access code was changed daily. Tracy had been at the meeting when the original authorization code had been decided on.
"We must keep changing it," Clarence Desmond had said, "so no one can break in; yet we want to keep it simple enough for people who are authorized to use it."
The code they had finally settled on used the four seasons of the year and the current day's date.
Tracy turned on the terminal and tapped out the code for the Philadelphia Trust and Fidelity Bank. She heard a high-pitched whine and placed the telephone receiver into the terminal modem. A sign flashed on the small screen: YOUR AUTHORIZATION CODE, PLEASE?
Today was the tenth.
FALL 10, Tracy tapped out.
THAT IS AN IMPROPER AUTHORIZATION CODE. The computer screen went blank.
Had they changed the code? Out of the corner of her eye, Tracy saw the salesman coming toward her again. She moved over to another computer, gave it a casual glance, and ambled slang the aisle. The salesman checked his stride. A looker, he decided. He hurried forward to greet a prosperous-looking couple coming in the door. Tracy returned to the desk-model computer.
She tried to put herself into Clarence Desmond's mind. He was a creature of habit, and Tracy was sure he would not have varied the code too much. He had probably kept the original concept of the seasons and the numbers, but how had he changed them? It would have been too complicated to reverse all the numbers, so he had probably shifted the seasons around.
Tracy tried again.
YOUR AUTHORIZATION CODE, PLEASE?
WINTER 10.
THAT IS AN IMPROPER AUTHORIZATION CODE. The blank screen again.
It's not going to work, Tracy thought despairingly. I'll give it one more try.
YOUR AUTHORIZATION CODE, PLEASE?
SPRING 10.
The screen went blank for a moment, and then the message appeared: PLEASE PROCEED.
So he had switched the seasons. She quickly typed out: DOMESTIC MONEY TRANSACTION.
Instantly, the bank menu, the category of available transactions, flashed onto the screen:
DO YOU WISH TO
A DEPOSIT MONEY
B TRANSFER MONEY
C WITHDRAW MONEY FROM SAVINGS ACCOUNT
D INTERBRANCH TRANSFER
E WITHDRAW MONEY FROM CHECKING ACCOUNT
PLEASE ENTER YOUR CHOICE
Tracy chose B. The screen went blank and a new menu appeared.
AMOUNT OF TRANSFER?
WHERE TO?
WHERE FROM?
She typed in: FROM GENERAL RESERVE FUND TO RITA GONZALES. When she came to the amount, she hesitated for an instant. Tempting, Tracy thought. Since she had access, there was no limit to the amount the now subservient computer would give her. She could have taken millions. But she was no thief. All she wanted was what was rightfully owed her.
She typed in $1,375.65, and added Rita Gonzales's account number.
The screen flashed: TRANSACTION COMPLETED. DO YOU WISH OTHER TRANSACTIONS?
NO.
SESSION COMPLETED. THANK YOU.
The money would automatically be transferred by CHIPS, the Clearing House Interbank Payment System that kept track of the $220 billion shifted from bank to bank every day.
The store clerk was approaching Tracy again, frowning. Tracy hurriedly pressed a key, and the screen went blank.
"Are you interested in purchasing this machine, miss?"
"No, gracias," Tracy apologized. "I don' understan' these computers."
She telephoned the bank from a corner drug store and asked to speak to the head cashier.
"Hola. Thees is Rita Gonzales. I would like to have my checkin' account transferred to the main branch of the First Hanover Bank of New York City, por favor."
"Your account number, Miss Gonzales?"
Tracy gave it to her.
An hour later Tracy had checked out of the Hilton and was on her way to New York City.
When the First Hanover Bank of New York opened at 10:00 the following morning, Rita Gonzales was there to withdraw s8 the,money from her account.
"How much ees in it?" she asked.
The teller checked. "Thirteen hundred eighty-five dollars and sixty-five cents."
"Sí, that ees correct."
"Would you like a certified check for that, Miss Gonzales?"
"No, gracias," Tracy said. "I don' trust banks. I weel take the cash."
o O o
Tracy had received the standard two hundred dollars from the state prison upon her release, plus the small amount of money she had earned taking care of Amy, but even with her money from the bank fund, she had no financial security. It was imperative she get a job as quickly as possible.
She checked into an inexpensive hotel on Lexington Avenue and began sending out applications to New York banks, applying for a job as a computer expert. But Tracy found that the computer had suddenly become her enemy. Her life was no longer private. The computer banks held her life's story, and readily told it to everyone who pressed the right buttons. The moment Tracy's criminal record was revealed, her application was automatically rejected.
I think it unlikely that given your background, any bank would hire you. Clarence Desmond had been right.
Tracy sent in more job applications to insurance companies and dozens of other computer-oriented businesses. The replies were always the same: negative.
Very well, Tracy thought, I can always do something else. She bought a copy of The New York Times and began searching the want ads.
There was a position listed as secretary in an export firm.
The moment Tracy walked in the door, the personnel manager said, "Hey, I seen you on television. You saved a kid in prison, didn't you?"
Tracy turned and fled.
The following day she was hired as a saleswoman in the children's department at Saks Fifth Avenue. The salary was a great deal less than she had been used to, but at least it was enough to support herself.
On her second day, a hysterical customer recognized her and informed the floor manager that she refused to be waited on by a murderess who had drowned a small child. Tracy was given no chance to explain. She was discharged immediately.
It seemed to Tracy that the men upon whom she had exacted vengeance had had the last word after all. They had turned her into a public criminal, an outcast. The unfairness of what was happening to her was corrosive. She had no idea how she was going to live, and for the first time she began to have a feeling of desperation. That night she looked through her purse to see how much money remained, and tucked away in a corner of her wallet she came across the slip of paper that Betty Franciscus had given her in prison. CONRAD MORGAN, JEWELER, 640 FIFTH AVENUE, NEW YORK CITY. He's into criminal reform. He likes to give a hand to people who've been in prison.
o O o
Conrad Morgan et Cie Jewelers was an elegant establishment, with a liveried doorman on the outside and an armed guard on the inside. The shop itself was tastefully understated, but the jewels were exquisite and expensive.
Tracy told the receptionist inside, "I'd like to see Mr. Conrad Morgan, please."
"Do you have an appointment?"
"No. A--- a mutual friend suggested that I see him."
"Your name?"
"Tracy Whitney."
"Just a moment, please."
The receptionist picked up a telephone and murmured something into it that Tracy could not hear. She replaced the receiver. "Mr. Morgan is occupied just now. He wonders if you could come back at six o'clock."
"Yes, thank you," Tracy said.
She walked out of the shop and stood on the sidewalk, uncertainly. Coming to New York had been a mistake. There was probably nothing Conrad Morgan could do for her. And why should he? She was a complete stranger to him. He'll give me a lecture and a handout. Well, I don't need either. Not from him or anyone else. I'm a survivor. Somehow I'm going to make it. To hell with Conrad Morgan. I won't go back to see him.
Tracy wandered the streets aimlessly, passing the glittering salons of Fifth Avenue, the guarded apartment buildings on Park Avenue, the bustling shops on Lexington and Third. She walked the streets of New York mindlessly, seeing nothing, filled with a bitter frustration.
At 6:00 she found herself back on Fifth Avenue, in front of Conrad Morgan et Cie Jewelers. The doorman was gone, and the door was locked. Tracy pounded on the door in a gesture of defiance and then turned away, but to her surprise, the door suddenly opened.
An avuncular-looking man stood there looking at her. He was bald, with ragged tufts of gray hair above his ears, and he had a jolly, rubicund face and twinkling blue eyes. He looked like a cheery little gnome. "You must be Miss Whitney?"
"Yes...."
"I'm Conrad Morgan. Please, do come in, won't you?"
Tracy entered the deserted store.
"I've been waiting for you," Conrad Morgan said. "Let's go into my office where we can talk."
He led her through the store to a closed door, which he unlocked with a key. His office was elegantly furnished, and it looked more like an apartment than a place of business, with no desk, just couches, chairs, and tables artfully placed. The walls were covered with old masters.
"Would you care for a drink?" Conrad Morgan offered. "Whiskey, cognac, or perhaps sherry?"
"No, nothing, thank you."
Tracy was suddenly nervous. She had dismissed the idea that this man would do anything to help her, yet at the same time she found herself desperately hoping that he could.
"Betty Franciscus suggested that I look you up, Mr. Morgan. She said you--- you helped people who have been in... trouble." She could not bring herself to say prison.
Conrad Morgan clasped his hands together, and Tracy noticed how beautifully manicured they were.
"Poor Betty. Such a lovely lady. She was unlucky, you know."
"Unlucky?"
"Yes. She got caught."
"I--- I don't understand."
"It's really quite simple, Miss Whitney. Betty used to work for me. She was well protected. Then the poor dear fell in love with a chauffeur from New Orleans and went off on her own. And, well... they caught her."
Tracy was confused. "She worked for you here as a saleslady?"
Conrad Morgan sat back and laughed until his eyes filled with tears. "No, my dear," he said, wiping the tears away. "Obviously, Betty didn't explain everything to you." He leaned back in his chair and steepled his fingers. "I have a very profitable little sideline, Miss Whitney, and I take great pleasure in sharing those profits with my colleagues. I have been most successful employing people like yourself--- if you'll forgive me--- who have served time in prison."
Tracy studied his face, more puzzled that ever.
"I'm in a unique position, you see. I have an extremely wealthy clientele. My clients become my friends. They confide in me." He tapped his fingers together delicately. "I know when my customers take trips. Very few people travel with jewelry in these parlous times, so their jewels are locked away at home. I recommend to them the security measures they should take to protect them. I know exactly what jewels they own because they purchased them from me. They---"
Tracy found herself on her feet. "Thank you for your time, Mr. Morgan."
"Surely you're not leaving already?"
"If you're saying what I think you're saying---"
"Yes. Indeed, I am."
She could feel her cheeks burning. "I'm not a criminal. I came here looking for a job."
"And I'm offering you one, my dear. It will take an hour or two of your time, and I can promise you twenty-five thousand dollars." He smiled impishly. "Tax free, of course."
Tracy was fighting hard to control her anger. "I'm not interested. Would you let me out, please?"
"Certainly, if that is what you wish." He rose to his feet and showed her to the door. "You must understand, Miss Whitney, that if there were the slightest danger of anyone's being caught, I would not be involved in this. I have my reputation to protect."
"I promise you I won't say anything about it," Tracy said coldly.
He grinned. "There's really nothing you could say, my dear, is there? I mean, who would believe you? I am Conrad Morgan."
As they reached the front entrance of the store, Morgan said, "You will let me know if you change your mind, won't you? The best time to telephone me is after six o'clock in the evening. I'll wait for your call."
"Don't," Tracy said curtly, and she walked out into the approaching night. When she reached her room, she was still trembling.
She sent the hotel's one bellboy out for a sandwich and coffee. She did not feel like facing anyone. The meeting with Conrad Morgan had made her feel unclean. He had lumped her with all the sad, confused, and beaten criminals she had been surrounded by at the Southern Louisiana Penitentiary for Women. She was not one of them. She was Tracy Whitney, a computer expert, a decent, law-abiding citizen.
Whom no one would hire.
Tracy lay awake all night thinking about her future. She had no job, and very little money left. She made two resolutions: In the morning she would move to a cheaper place and she would find a job. Any kind of job.
o O o
The cheaper place turned out to be a dreary fourth-floor walkup, one-room apartment on the Lower East Side. From her room, through the paper-thin walls, Tracy could hear her neighbors screaming at one another in foreign languages. The windows and doors of the small stores that lined the streets were heavily barred, and Tracy could understand why. The neighborhood seemed to be populated by drunks, prostitutes, and bag ladies.
On her way to the market to shop, Tracy was accosted three times--- twice by men and once by a woman.
I can stand it. I won't be here long, Tracy assured herself.
o O o
She went to a small employment agency a few blocks from her apartment. It was run by a Mrs. Murphy, a matronly looking, heavy-set lady. She put down Tracy's resumé and studied her quizzically. "I don't know what you need me for. There must be a dozen companies that'd give their eyeteeth to get someone like you."
Tracy took a deep breath. "I have a problem," she said. She explained as Mrs. Murphy sat listening quietly, and when Tracy was finished, Mrs. Murphy said flatly, "You can forget about looking for a computer job."
"But you said---"
"Companies are jumpy these days about computer crimes. They're not gonna hire anybody with a record."
"But I need a job. I---"
"There are other kinds of jobs. Have you thought about working as a saleslady?"
Tracy remembered her experience at the department store. She could not bear to go through that again. "Is there anything else?"
The woman hesitated. Tracy Whitney was obviously over-qualified for the job Mrs. Murphy had in mind. "Look," she said. "I know this isn't up your alley, but there's a waitress job open at Jackson Hole. It's a hamburger place on the Upper East Side."
"A waitress job?"
"Yeah. If you take it, I won't charge you any commission. I just happened to hear about it."
Tracy sat there, debating. She had waited on tables in college. Then it had been fun. Now it was a question of surviving.
"I'll try it," she said.
o O o
Jackson Hole was bedlam, packed with noisy and impatient customers, and harassed, irritable fry cooks. The food was good and the prices reasonable, and the place was always jammed. The waitresses worked at a frantic pace with no time to relax, and by the end of the first day Tracy was exhausted. But she was earning money.
At noon on the second day, as Tracy was serving a table filled with salesmen, one of the men ran his hand up her skirt, and Tracy dropped a bowl of chili on his head. That was the end of the job.
She returned to Mrs. Murphy and reported what had happened.
"I may have some good news," Mrs. Murphy said. "The Wellington Arms needs an assistant housekeeper. I'm going to send you over there."
The Wellington Arms was a small, elegant hotel on Park Avenue that catered to the rich and famous. Tracy was interviewed by the housekeeper and hired. The work was not difficult, the staff was pleasant, and the hours reasonable.
A week after she started, Tracy was summoned to the housekeeper's office. The assistant manager was also there.
"Did you check Suite eight-twenty-seven today?" the housekeeper asked Tracy. The suite was occupied by Jennifer Marlowe, a Hollywood actress. Part of Tracy's job was to inspect each suite and see that the maids had done their work properly.
"Why, yes," she said.
"What time?"
"At two o'clock. Is something wrong?"
The assistant manager spoke up. "At three o'clock Miss Marlowe returned and discovered that a valuable diamond ring was missing."
Tracy could feel her body grow tense.
"Did you go into the bedroom, Tracy?"
"Yes. I checked every room."
"When you were in the bedroom, did you see any jewelry lying around?"
"Why... no. I don't think so."
The assistant manager pounced on it. "You don't think so? You're not sure?"
"I wasn't looking for jewelry," Tracy said. "I was checking the beds and towels."
"Miss Marlowe insists that her ring was on the dressing table when she left the suite."
"I don't know anything about it."
"No one else has access to that room. The maids have been with us for many years."
"I didn't take it."
The assistant manager sighed. "We're going to have to call in the police to investigate."
"It had to be someone else," Tracy cried. "Or perhaps Miss Marlowe misplaced it."
"With your record---" the assistant manager said.
And there it was, out in the open. With your record...
"I'll have to ask you to please wait in the security office until the police get here."
Tracy felt her face flush. "Yes, sir."
She was accompanied to the office by one of the security guards, and she felt as though she were back in prison again. She had read of convicts being hounded because they had prison records, but it had never occurred to her that this kind of thing could happen to her. They had stuck a label on her, and they expected her to live up to it. Or down to it, Tracy thought bitterly.
Thirty minutes later the assistant manager walked into the office, smiling. "Well!" he said. "Miss Marlowe found her ring. She had misplaced it, after all. It was just a little mistake."
"Wonderful," Tracy said.
She walked out of the office and headed for Conrad Morgan et Cie Jewelers.
o O o
"It's ridiculously simple," Conrad Morgan was saying. "A client of mine, Lois Bellamy, has gone to Europe. Her house is in Sea Cliff, on Long Island. On weekends the servants are off, so there's no one there. A private patrol makes a check evey four hours. You can be in and out of the house in a few minutes."
They were seated in Conrad Morgan's office.
"I know the alarm system, and I have the combination to the safe. All you have to do, my dear, is walk in, pick up the jewels, and walk out again. You bring the jewels to me, I take them out of their settings, recut the larger ones, and sell them again."
"If it's so simple, why don't you do it yourself?" Tracy asked bluntly.
His blue eyes twinkled. "Because I'm going to be out of town on business. Whenever one of these little 'incidents' occurs, I'm always out of town on business."
"I see."
"If you have any scruples about the robbery hurting Mrs. Bellamy, you needn't have. She's really quite a horrible woman, who has houses all over the world filled with expensive goodies. Besides, she's insured for twice the amount the jewels are worth. Naturally, I did all the appraisals."
Tracy sat there looking at Conrad Morgan, thinking, l must be crazy. I'm sitting here calmly discussing a jewel robbery with this man.
"I don't want to go back to prison, Mr. Morgan."
"There's no danger of that. Not one of my people has ever been caught. Not while they were working for me. Well... what do you say?"
That was obvious. She was going to say no. The whole idea was insane.
"You said twenty-five thousand dollars?"
"Cash on delivery."
It was a fortune, enough to take care of her until she could figure out what to do with her life. She thought of the dreary little room she lived in, of the screaming tenants, and the customer yelling, "I don't want a murderess waiting on me," and the assistant manager saying, "We're going to have to call in the police to investigate."
But Tracy stilt could not bring herself to say yes.
"I would suggest this Saturday night," Conrad Morgan said. "The staff leaves at noon on Saturdays. I'll arrange a driver's license and a credit card for you in a false name. You'll rent a car here in Manhattan and drive out to Long Island, arriving at eleven o'clock. You'll pick up the jewelry, drive back to New York, and return the car.... You do drive, don't you?"
"Yes."
"Excellent. There's a train leaving for St. Louis at seven-forty-five A.M. I'll reserve a compartment for you. I'll meet you at the station in St. Louis, you'll turn over the jewels, and I'll give you your twenty-five thousand."
He made it all sound so simple.
This was the moment to say no, to get up and walk out. Walk out to where?
"I'll need a blond wig," Tracy said slowly.
o O o
When Tracy had left, Conrad Morgan sat in the dark in his office, thinking about her. A beautiful woman. Very beautiful, indeed. It was a shame. Perhaps he should have warned her that he was not really that familiar with that particular burglar-alarm system.
If Tomorrow Comes If Tomorrow Comes - Sidney Sheldon If Tomorrow Comes