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Theodore Rubin

 
 
 
 
 
Tác giả: Sidney Sheldon
Thể loại: Tiểu Thuyết
Biên tập: Bach Ly Bang
Upload bìa: Bach Ly Bang
Language: English
Số chương: 34
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Cập nhật: 2015-09-04 21:01:18 +0700
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Chapter 16
ith the thousand dollars that Conrad Morgan advanced her, Tracy purchased two wigs--- one blond and one black, with a multitude of tiny braids. She bought a dark-blue pants suit, black coveralls, and an imitation Gucci valise from a street vendor on Lexington Avenue. So far everything was going smoothly. As Morgan had promised, Tracy received an envelope containing a driver's license in the name of Ellen Branch, a diagram of the security system in the Bellamy house, the combination to the bedroom safe, and an Amtrak ticket to St. Louis, in a private compartment. Tracy packed her few belongings and left. I'll never live in a place like this again, Tracy promised herself. She rented a car and headed for Long Island. She was on her way to commit a burglary.
What she was doing had the unreality of a dream, and she was terrified. What if she were caught? Was the risk worth what she was about to do?
It's ridiculously simple, Conrad Morgan had said.
He wouldn't be involved in anything like this if he weren't sure about it. He has his reputation to protect. I have a reputation, too, Tracy thought bitterly, and it's all bad. Any time a piece of jewelry is missing, I'll be guilty until proven innocent.
Tracy knew what she was doing: She was trying to work herself up into a rage, trying to psych herself up to commit a crime. It did not work. By the time she reached Sea Cliff, she was a nervous wreck. Twice, she almost ran the car off the road. Maybe the police will pick me up for reckless driving, she thought hopefully, and I can tell Mr. Morgan that things went wrong.
But there was not a police car in sight. Sure, Tracy thought, in disgust. They're never around when you need them.
She headed toward Long Island Sound, following Conrad Morgan's directions. The house is right on the water. It's called the Embers. It's an old Victorian mansion. You can't miss it.
Please let me miss it, Tracy prayed.
But there it was, looming up out of the dark like some ogre's castle in a nightmare. It looked deserted. How dare the servants take the weekend off, Tracy thought indignantly. They should all be discharged.
She drove the car behind a stand of giant willow trees, where it was hidden from view, and turned off the engine, listening to the nocturnal sounds of insects. Nothing else disturbed the silence. The house was off the main road, and there was no traffic at that time of night.!!!The property is screened by trees, my dear, and the nearest neighbor is acres away, so you don't have to be concerned about being seen. The security patrol makes its check at ten P.M. and again at two A.M. You'll be long gone by the two A.M. check.
Tracy looked at her watch. It was 11:00. The first patrol had gone. She had three hours before the patrol was due to arrive for its second check. Or three seconds to turn the car around and head back to New York and forget about this insanity. But head back to what? The images flashed unbidden into her mind. The assistant manager at Saks: "I'm terribly sorry, Miss Whitney, but our customers must be humored...."
"You can forget about running a computer. They're not going to hire anybody with a record...."
"Twenty-five thousand tax-free dollars for an hour or two.. If you have scruples, she's really a horrible woman."
What am I doing? Tracy thought. I'm not a burglar. Not a real one. I'm a dumb amateur who's about to have a nervous breakdown.
If I had half a brain, I'd get away from here while there's still time. Before the SWAT team catches me and there's a shoot-out and they carry my riddled body to the morgue. l can see the headline: DANGEROUS CRIMINAL KILLED DURING BUNGLED BURGLARY ATTEMPT.
Who would be there to cry at her funeral? Ernestine and Amy. Tracy looked at her watch. "Oh, my God." She had been sitting there, daydreaming, for twenty minutes. If I'm going to do it, I'd better move.
She could not move. She was frozen with fear. I can't sit here forever, she told herself. Why don't I just go take a look at the house? A quick look.
Tracy took a deep breath and got out of the car. She was wearing black coveralls; her knees were shaking. She approached the house slowly, and she could see that it was completely dark.
Be sure to wear gloves.
Tracy reached in her pocket, took out a pair of gloves, and put them on. Oh, God, I'm doing it, she thought. I'm really going ahead with it. Her heart was pounding so loudly she could no longer hear any other sounds.!!!The alarm is to the left of the front door. There are five buttons. The red light will be on, which means the alarm is activated. The code to turn it off is three-two-four-one-one. When the red light goes off, you'll know the alarm is deactivated. Here's the key to the front door. When you enter, be sure to close the door after you. Use this flashlight. Don't turn on any of the lights in the house in case someone happens to drive past. The master bedroom is upstairs, to your left, overlooking the bay. You'll find the safe behind a portrait of Lois Bellamy. It's a very simple safe. All you have to do is follow this combination.
Tracy stood stock-still, trembling, ready to flee at the slightest sound. Silence. Slowly, she reached out and pressed the sequence of alarm buttons, praying that it would not work. The red light went out. The next step would commit her. She remembered that airplane pilots had a phrase for it: the point of no return.
Tracy put the key in the lock, and the door swung open. She waited a full minute before she stepped inside. Every nerve in her body throbbed to a savage beat as she stood in the hallway, listening, afraid to move. The house was filled with a deserted silence. She took out a flashlight, turned it on, and saw the staircase. She moved forward and started up. All she wanted to do now was get it over with as quickly as possible and run.
The upstairs hallway looked eerie in the glow of her flashlight, and the wavering beam made the walls seem to pulse back and forth. Tracy peered into each room she passed. They were all empty.
The master bedroom was at the end of the hallway, looking out over the bay, just as Morgan had described it. The bedroom was beautiful, done in dusky pink, with a canopied bed and a commode decorated with pink roses. There were two love seats, a fireplace, and a table in front of it for dining. I almost lived in a house like this with Charles and our baby, Tracy thought.
She walked over to the picture window and looked out at the distant boats anchored in the bay. Tell me, God, what made you decide that Lois Bellamy should live in this beautiful house and that I should be here robbing it? Come on, girl, she told herself, don't get philosophical. This is a one-time thing. It will be over in a few minutes, but not if you stand here doing nothing.
She turned from the window and walked over to the portrait Morgan had described. Lois Bellamy had a hard, arrogant took. It's true. She does look like a horrible woman. The painting swung outward, away from the wall, and behind it was a small safe. Tracy had memorized the combination. Three turns to the right, stop at forty-two. Two turns to the left, stop at ten. One turn to the right, stop at thirty. Her hands were trembling so much that she had to start over twice. She heard a click. The door was open.
The safe was filled with thick envelopes and papers, but Tracy ignored them. At the back, resting on a small shelf, was a chamois jewelry bag. Tracy reached for it and lifted it from the shelf. At that instant the burglar alarm went off, and it was the loudest sound Tracy had ever heard. It seemed to reverberate from every corner of the house, screaming out its warning. She stood there, paralyzed, in shock.!!!What had gone wrong? Had Conrad Morgan not known about the alarm inside the safe that was activated when the jewels were removed?
She had to get out quickly. She scooped the chamois bag into her pocket and started running toward the stairs. And then, over the sound of the alarm, she heard another sound, the sound of an approaching siren. Tracy stood at the top of the staircase, terrified, her heart racing, her mouth dry. She hurried to a window, raised the curtain, and peered out. A black-and-white patrol car was pulling up in front of the house. As Tracy watched, a uniformed policeman ran toward the back of the house, while a second one moved toward the front door. There was no escape. The alarm bells were still clanging, and suddenly they sounded like the terrible bells in the corridors of the Southern Louisiana Penitentiary for Women.
No! thought Tracy.!!!I won't let them send me back there.
The front doorbell shrilled.
o O o
Lieutenant Melvin Durkin had been on the Sea Cliff police force for ten years. Sea Cliff was a quiet town, and the main activity of the police was handling vandalism, a few car thefts, and occasional Saturday-night drunken brawls. The setting-off of the Bellamy alarm was in a different category. It was the type of criminal activity for which Lieutenant Durkin had joined the force. He knew Lois Bellamy and was aware of what a valuable collection of paintings and jewelry she owned. With her away, he had made it a point to check the house from time to time, for it was a tempting target for a cat burglar. And now, Lieutenant Durkin thought, it looks like I've caught one. He had been only two blocks away when the radio call had come in from the security company. This is going to look good on my record. Damned good.
Lieutenant Durkin pressed the front doorbell again. He wanted to be able to state in his report that he had rung it three times before making a forcible entry. His partner was covering the back, so there was no chance of the burglar's escaping. He would probably try to conceal himself on the premises, but he was in for a surprise. No one could hide from Melvin Durkin.
As the lieutenant reached for the bell for the third time, the front door suddenly opened. The policeman stood there staring. In the doorway was a woman dressed in a filmy nightgown that left little to the imagination. Her face was covered with a mudpack, and her hair was tucked into a curler cap.
She demanded, "What on earth is going on?"
Lieutenant Durkin swallowed. "I... who are you?"
"I'm Ellen Branch. I'm a houseguest of Lois Bellamy's. She's away in Europe."
"I know that." The lieutenant was confused. "She didn't tell us she was having a houseguest."
The woman in the doorway nodded knowingly. "Isn't that just like Lois? Excuse me, I can't stand that noise."
As Lieutenant Durkin watched, Lois Bellamy's houseguest reached over to the alarm buttons, pressed a sequence of numbers, and the sound stopped.
"That's better," she sighed. "I can't tell you how glad I am to see you." She laughed shakily. "I was just getting ready for bed when the alarm went off. I was sure there were burglars in the house, and I'm all alone here. The servants left at noon."
"Do you mind if we look around?"
"Please, I insist!"
It took the lieutenant and his partner only a few minutes to make sure there was no one lurking on the premises.
"All clear," Lieutenant Durkin said. "False alarm. Something must have set it off. Can't always depend on these electronic things. I'd call the security company and have them check out the system."
"I most certainly will."
"Well, guess we'd better be running along," the lieutenant said.
"Thank you so much for coming by. I feel much safer now."
She sure has a great body, Lieutenant Durkin thought. He wondered what she looked like under that mudpack and without the curler cap. "Will you be staying here long, Miss Branch?"
"Another week or two, until Lois returns."
"If there's anything I can do for you, just let me know."
"Thank you, I will."
Tracy watched as the police car drove away into the night. She felt faint with relief. When the car was out of sight, she hurried upstairs, washed off the mudpack she had found in the bathroom, stripped off Lois Bellamy's curler cap and nightgown, changed into her own black coveralls, and left by the front door, carefully resetting the alarm.
o O o
It was not until Tracy was halfway back to Manhattan that the audacity of what she had done struck her. She giggled, and the giggle turned into a shaking, uncontrollable laughter, until she finally had to pull the car off onto the side of the road. She laughed until the tears streamed down her face. It was the first time she had laughed in a year. It felt wonderful.
If Tomorrow Comes If Tomorrow Comes - Sidney Sheldon If Tomorrow Comes