My test of a good novel is dreading to begin the last chapter.

Thomas Helm

 
 
 
 
 
Tác giả: Sidney Sheldon
Thể loại: Tiểu Thuyết
Biên tập: Bach Ly Bang
Upload bìa: Bach Ly Bang
Language: English
Số chương: 34
Phí download: 5 gạo
Nhóm đọc/download: 0 / 1
Số lần đọc/download: 5304 / 139
Cập nhật: 2015-09-04 21:01:18 +0700
Link download: epubePub   PDF A4A4   PDF A5A5   PDF A6A6   - xem thông tin ebook
 
 
 
 
Chapter 17
t was not until the Amtrak train pulled out of Pennsylvania Station that Tracy began to relax. At every second she had expected a heavy hand to grip her shoulder, a voice to say, "You're under arrest."
She had carefully watched the other passengers as they boarded the train, and there was nothing alarming about them. Still, Tracy's shoulders were knots of tension. She kept assuring herself that it was unlikely anyone would have discovered the burglary this soon, and even if they had, there was nothing to connect her with it. Conrad Morgan would be waiting in St. Louis with $25,000. Twenty-five thousand dollars to do with as she pleased! She would have had to work at the bank for a year to earn that much money. I'll travel to Europe, Tracy thought. Paris. No. Not Paris. Charles and I were going to honeymoon there. I'll go to London. There, I won't be a jailbird. In a curious way, the experience she had just gone through had made Tracy feel like a different person. It was as though she had been reborn.
She locked the door to the compartment and took out the chamois bag and opened it. A cascade of glittering colors spilled into her hands. There were three large diamond rings, an emerald pin, a sapphire bracelet, three pairs of earrings, and two necklaces, one of rubies, one of pearls.
There must be more than a million dollars' worth of jewelry here, Tracy marveled. As the train rolled through the countryside, she leaded back in her seat and replayed the evening in her mind. Renting the car... the drive to Sea Cliff... the stillness of the night... turning off the alarm and entering the house... opening the safe... the shock of the alarm going off, and the police appearing. It had never occurred to them that the woman in the nightgown with a mudpack on her face and a curler cap on her head was the burglar they were looking for.
Now, seated in her compartment on the train to St. Louis, Tracy allowed herself a smile of satisfaction. She had enjoyed outwitting the police. There was something wonderfully exhilarating about being on the edge of danger. She felt daring and clever and invincible. She felt absolutely great.
There was a knock at the door of her compartment. Tracy hastily put the jewels back into the chamois bag and placed the bag in her suitcase. She took out her train ticket and unlocked the compartment door for the conductor.
Two men in gray suits stood in the corridor. One appeared to be in his early thirties, the other one about ten years older. The younger man was attractive, with the build of an athlete. He had a strong chin, a small, neat mustache, and wore horn-rimmed glasses behind which were intelligent blue eyes. The older man had a thick head of black hair and was heavy-set. His eyes were a cold brown.
"Can I help you?" Tracy asked.
"Yes, ma'am," the older man replied. He pulled out a wallet and held up an identification card:
FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION
UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE
"I'm Special Agent Dennis Trevor. This is Special Agent Thomas Bowers."
Tracy's mouth was suddenly dry. She forced a smile. "I--- I'm afraid I don't understand. Is something wrong?"
"I'm afraid there is, ma'am," the younger agent said. He had a soft, southern accent. "A few minutes ago this train crossed into New Jersey. Transporting stolen merchandise across a state line is a federal offense."
Tracy felt suddenly faint. A red film appeared in front of her eyes, blurring everything.
The older man, Dennis Trevor, was saying, "Would you open your luggage, please?" It was not a question but an order.
Her only hope was to try to bluff it out. "Of course I won't! How dare you come barging into my compartment like this!" Her voice was filled with indignation. "Is that all you have to do--- go around bothering innocent citizens? I'm going to call the conductor."
"We've already spoken to the conductor," Trevor said.
Her bluff was not working. "Do--- do you have a search warrant?"
The younger man said gently, "We don't need a search warrant, Miss Whitney. We're apprehending you during the commission of a crime." They even knew her name. She was trapped. There was no way out. None.
Trevor was at her suitcase, opening it. It was useless to try to stop him. Tracy watched as he reached inside and pulled out the chamois bag. He opened it, looked at his partner, and nodded. Tracy sank down onto the seat, suddenly too weak to stand.
Trevor took a list from his pocket, checked the contents of the bag against the list, and put the bag in his pocket. "It's all here, Tom."
"How--- how did you find out?" Tracy asked miserably.
"We're not permitted to give out any information," Trevor replied. "You're under arrest. You have the right to remain silent, and to have an attorney present before you say anything. Anything you say now may be used as evidence against you. Do you undersand?"
Her answer was a whispered, "Yes."
Tom Bowers said, "I'm sorry about this. I mean, I know about your background, and I'm really sorry."
"For Christ's sake," the older man said, "this isn't a social visit."
"I know, but still---"
The older man held out a pair of handcuffs to Tracy. "Hold ijut your wrists, please."
Tracy felt her heart twisting in agony. She remembered the airport in New Orleans when they had handcuffed her, the staring faces. "Please! Do you--- do you have to do that?"
"Yes, ma'am."
The younger man said, "Can I talk to you alone for a minute, Dennis?"
Dennis Trevor shrugged. "Okay."
The two men stepped outside into the corridor. Tracy sat there, dazed, filled with despair. She could hear snatches of their conversation.
"For God's sake, Dennis, it isn't necessary to put cuffs on her. She's not going to run away...."
"When are you going to stop being such a boy scout? When you've been with the Bureau as long as I have..."
"Come on. Give her a break. She's embarrassed enough, and..."
"That's nothing to what she's going to..."
She could not hear the rest of the conversation. She did not want to hear the rest of the conversation.
In a moment they returned to the compartment. The older man seemed angry. "All right," he said. "We're not cuffing you. We're taking you off at the next station. We're going to radio ahead for a Bureau car. You're not to leave this compartment. Is that clear?"
Tracy nodded, too miserable to speak.
The younger man, Tom Bowers, gave her a sympathetic shrug, as though to say, "I wish there was something more I could do."
There was nothing anyone could do. Not now. It was too late. She had been caught red-handed. Somehow the police had traced her and informed the FBI.
The agents were outside in the corridor talking to the conductor. Bowers pointed to Tracy and said something she could not hear. The conductor nodded. Bowers closed the door of the compartment, and to Tracy, it was like a cell door slamming.
The countryside sped by, flashing vignettes briefly framed by the window, but Tracy was unaware of the scenery. She sat there, paralyzed by fear. There was a roaring in her ears that had nothing to do with the sounds of the train. She would get no second chance. She was a convicted felon. They would give her the maximum sentence, and this time there would be no warden's daughter to rescue, there would be nothing but the deadly, endless years of prison facing her. And the Big Berthas. How had they caught her? The only person who knew about the robbery was Conrad Morgan, and he could have no possible reason to turn her and the jewelry over to the FBI. Possibly some clerk in his store had learned of the plan and tipped off the police. But how it happened made no difference. She had been caught. At the next stop she would be on her way to prison again. There would be a preliminary hearing and then the trial, and then....
Tracy squeezed her eyes tightly shut, refusing to think about it any further. She felt hot tears, brush her cheeks.
o O o
The train began to lose speed. Tracy started to hyperventilate. She could not get enough air. The two FBI agents would be coming for her at any moment. A station came into view, and a few seconds later the train jerked to a stop. It was time to go. Tracy closed her suitcase, put on her coat, and sat down. She stared at the closed compartment door, waiting for it to open. Minutes went by. The two men did not appear. What could they be doing? She recalled their words: "We're taking you off at the next station. We're going to radio ahead for a Bureau car. You're not to leave this compartment."
She heard the conductor call, "All aboard...."
Tracy started to panic. Perhaps they had meant they would wait for her on the platform. That must be it. If she stayed on the train, they would accuse her of trying to run away from them, and it would make things even worse. Tracy grabbed her suitcase, opened the compartment door, and hurried out into the corridor.
The conductor was approaching. "Are you getting off here, miss?" he asked. "You'd better hurry. Let me help you. A woman in your condition shouldn't be lifting things."
She stared. "In my condition?"
"You don't have to be embarrassed. Your brothers told me you're pregnant and to sort of keep an eye on you."
"My brothers-?"
"Nice chaps. They seemed really concerned about you."
The world was spinning around. Everything was topsy-turvy.
The conductor carried the suitcase to the end of the car and helped Tracy down the steps. The train began to move.
"Do you know where my brothers went?" Tracy called.
"No, ma'am. They jumped into a taxi when the train stopped."
With a million dollars' worth of stolen jewelry.
o O o
Tracy headed for the airport. It was the only place she could think of. If the men had taken a taxi, it meant they did not have their own transportation, and they would surely want to get out of town as fast as possible. She sat back in the cab, filled with rage at what they had done to her and with shame at how easily they had conned her. Oh, they were good, both of them. Really good. They had been so convincing. She blushed to think how she had fallen for the ancient good cop-bad cop routine.
For God's sake, Dennis, it isn't necessary -to put cuffs on her. She's not going to run away....
When are you going to stop being such a boy scout? When you've been with the Bureau as long as I have....
The Bureau? They were probably both fugitives from the law. Well, she was going to get those jewels back. She had gone through too much to be outwitted by two con artists. She had to get to the airport in time.
She leaned forward in her seat and said to the driver, "Could you go faster, please!"
o O o
They were standing in the boarding line at the departure gate, and she did not recognize them immediately. The younger man, who had called himself Thomas Bowers, no longer wore glasses, his eyes had changed from blue to gray, and his mustache was gone. The other man, Dennis Trevor, who had had thick black hair, was now totally bald. But still, there was no mistaking them. They had not had time to change their clothes. They were almost at the boarding gate when Tracy reached them.
"You forgot something," Tracy said.
They turned to look at her, startled. The younger man frowned. "What are you doing here? A car from the Bureau was supposed to have been at the station to pick you up." His southern accent was gone.
"Then why don't we go back and find it?" Tracy suggested.
"Can't. We're on another case," Trevor explained. "We have to catch this plane."
"Give me back the jewelry, first," Tracy demanded.
"I'm afraid we can't do that," Thomas Bowers told her. "It's evidence. We'll send you a receipt for it."
"No. I don't want a receipt. I want the jewelry."
"Sorry," said Trevor. "We can't let it out of our possession."
They had reached the gate. Trevor handed his boarding pass to the attendant. Tracy looked around, desperate, and saw an airport policeman standing nearby. She called out, "Officer! Officer!"
The two men looked at each other, startled.
"What the hell do you think you're doing?" Trevor hissed. "Do you want to get us all arrested?"
The policeman was moving toward them. "Yes, miss? Any problem?"
"Oh, no problem," Tracy said gaily. "These two wonderful gentlemen found some valuable jewelry I lost, and they're returning it to me. I was afraid I was going to have to go to the FBI about it."
The two men exchanged a frantic look.
"They suggested that perhaps you wouldn't mind escorting me to a taxi."
"Certainly. Be happy to."
Tracy turned toward the men. "It's safe to give the jewels to me now. This nice officer will take care of me."
"No, really," Tom Bowers objected. "It would be much better if we---"
"Oh, no, I insist," Tracy urged. "I know how important it is for you to catch your plane."
The two men looked at the policeman, and then at each other, helpless. There was nothing they could do. Reluctantly, Tom Bowers pulled the chamois bag from his pocket.
"That's it!" Tracy said. She took the bag from his hand, opened it, and looked inside. "Thank goodness. It's all here."
Tom Bowers made one last-ditch try. "Why don't we keep it safe for you until---"
"That won't be necessary," Tracy said cheerfully. She opened her purse, put the jewelry inside, and took out two $5.00 bills. She handed one to each of the men. "Here's a little token of my appreciation for what you've done."
The other passengers had all departed through the gate. The airline attendant said, "That was the last call. You'll have to board now, gentlemen."
"Thank you again," Tracy beamed as she walked away with the policeman at her side. "It's so rare to find an honest person these days."
If Tomorrow Comes If Tomorrow Comes - Sidney Sheldon If Tomorrow Comes