Authors: Wayne Greenough
Tags: #Contemporary, #Thriller
Stacey Ryan and Jim Turner thought their latest scam was a lead pipe cinch for them. The Aviary proved otherwise.
Doris Meadows had twelve million dollars, a mansion, a bird aviary, and a very bad heart. All Stacey Ryan had to do was to marry her and wait for her heart to give out. It was all very simple. Or was it?
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This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Copyright © 2014 Wayne Greenough
Cover art by Carmen Waters
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To my wife, June
On the passenger bus Stacey Ryan stretched out his long legs into the aisle and relaxed. He smiled and held back the desire to shout his happiness to the six people seated near him.
Hey, hey, hey, I’m discharged from the Navy and from now on it is money, money, money, and Jim Turner.
Ten years ago, Stacey in the process of robbing Turner, was slick talked into becoming the man’s partner in crime. Turner was a shyster lawyer who could make money legally or illegally where there supposedly wasn’t any to be had.
And now, according to the letter he’d received from Turner, the man had found a deal that would put them on easy street for an indefinite time.
The letter told Stacey to stop at a certain place just out of the city, phone his office and then wait for him to show up.
The bus came to a halt. Stacey glancing out of his window saw a restaurant, two stores and a gas station. This was the place.
The bus driver stood. “This is a five minute stopover. The city is only ten miles away.”
Stacey grabbed his bags, stepped from the bus and remarked to the driver, “This is as far as I’m going.”
In the restaurant the waiter was all smiles and high pitched voice. “Yes, sir, and what will it be for you today?”
“I’d like a big thick steak, medium done, French fried potatoes, plenty of black coffee, and a beer.”
The waiter left. Stacey lit a cigarette before tapping in Turner’s phone number on his cell phone.
A woman answered, “This is Mr. Turner’s office.”
“I would like to speak to Mr. Jim Turner, please.” Excitement caused Stacey’s heart to race.
Several seconds passed. “Jim Turner speaking,” a rough voice said.
“This is Ryan.”
“Sit tight. I’ll be right there.”
Stacey had finished his meal, was working on a third cigarette, a fourth cup of coffee when Turner walked in. Turner’s left eyebrow shot upward, signaling Stacey to not recognize him.
He knew exactly what to do. While Turner sat at the upfront counter drinking coffee, Stacey waited until he figured Turner would be about finished. Then he stood, grabbed his bags, paid his bill and walked out.
His feet pounded a blistering hot pavement for close to two hundred yards when a car stopped next to him.
“Hey, buddy, would you like a lift to town?” the driver asked.
In the car, Stacey laughed. “Turner, you old son-of-a-gun, how are you?”
“Just fine, Stacey, never better. Sorry that I had to put you through the cloak and dagger nonsense, but this is such a big deal that if anybody discovered we knew each other it could queer everything for us. If this pans out, be prepared to spend millions, twelve to be exact.”
Stacey smiled. “You’re talking my language. So stop flapping your jaws. Tell me what it is.”
“Be patient, my boy. First we’re going to my current residence and enjoy a nice bottle of aged scotch.”
“All right, Turner,” Stacey said as Turner poured him a third scotch. “Give me the skinny on your latest scam.”
“Okay. Six months ago and elderly man walked into my office. His name was Matthew Hamilton. He wanted to make out a will leaving all his money and worldly possessions to his niece, a one Doris Meadows, age twenty-seven, who was living with him at the time. Hamilton was a retired oil man, and Doris was his only next of kin.”
“Turner, you keep saying Hamilton was. What is he, a stiff?”
The lawyer laughed. “As usual, Stacey, you’re racing ahead of me. I didn’t think too much about that money at the time, as there was no possible way for me to latch on to it. Now there is a way. Hamilton has checked out, killed in a car wreck, two months ago. Doris Meadows has inherited everything.”
“Okay,” Stacey said before sipping his whiskey and grabbing a second cigar. “So how do we get Doris Meadows’ money?”
“That’s simple, Stacey. You’re going to marry the gal.”
Startled, Ryan swore and coughed. “I’ll be damned if I’ll marry the Meadows dame. Has your brain gone around the bend? That won’t get us her money until she dies.”
“That’s right, my boy, until she dies,” repeated Turner.
“Now wait a minute. You’re surely not thinking of murder, are you?”
“Of course I’m not, Stacey. Quit jumping to conclusions. Listen to what I have to say. I had Doris Meadows come to my office two weeks after her uncle’s burial. I went through the usual procedure of reading the will and telling her the name of her uncle’s bank, plus a few other details. When all that legal nonsense was out of the way, she made the comment about wondering who would handle the money after she was gone. She told me her doctor informed her that she would most likely live only two more years, perhaps a few months longer at the most, because of her heart condition. Well, this took me by surprise. I mumbled a few words of encouragement and assisted her out of my office.
“Well, Stacey, right there the wheels in my head started turning. Old dame fortune had smiled upon me again. And with you practically out of the Navy, I knew the two of us could end up sitting pretty.”
“Now wait a minute, Turner. Something isn’t right. Doris Meadows is rich. She could buy herself a husband without any trouble.”
“Yes, she certainly could do just that. However, two things have kept her single. She’s shy and proud.”
“No, I’m not, Stacey. Doris Meadows has never been out with a man. She’s terribly bashful and also very plain looking.”
“You’re talking nonsense, Turner. Appearances can be overlooked when a pile of money is involved. Besides us, there are surely more than a few con-artists sniffing around her that know she has money and they’re trying to get it. Is she spending it, living in a mansion, doing something that will let people know she’s a lady with money?”
“Nice going, Stacey. You almost hit the bull’s eye with your guesswork. Here are the facts. Several months before Matthew Hamilton cashed in his chips, he purchased a rickety old mansion that has an outdoor swimming pool, and an aviary. Being a bird lover, said aviary was right up his alley and Doris Meadows’, to where they quickly filled it to capacity with their feathered friends. They hired a cook, a housemaid, and a groundkeeper. These Doris Meadows still employs.”
Turner paused to sip whiskey. He reached for a fresh cigar and smiled. “Okay, to squash the doubt written on your kisser, my further snooping around discovered that no one seems to be aware of her inheritance. People think she gets her money from paintings. She’s a successful artist, makes about fifty grand a year. And there is no danger of anybody trying to marry her for her property. It’s the white elephant type, been on the no sale market for five years until old man Hamilton came along.”
“Okay, Turner, so far you’ve covered most of the angles. But here’s the big one. What makes you think she’ll tumble for me?”
“Oh hell, Stacey, you know damn will she’ll fall for you. Didn’t you once tell me that all women drip between their legs the moment they see you?”
Stacey laughed. “Yeah, I said that. I might have been bragging a little. Okay, so how do I meet the lady in what appears to be a normal way?”
Turner frowned. “At the moment I’m stymied. I’ll pay her a visit on the pretense that I have more legal bull con to talk over with her. Some angle we can use to get you on her doorstep might turn up for us. Right now, we need to get you situated. Grab your coat and bags. I’m taking you to a swank apartment. Once there we’ll prepare you for the courting of Doris Meadows.”
After a week of watching television soap operas, twiddling his thumbs, attempting to figure out crossword puzzles while guzzling whiskey, Stacey was next door to going nuts. Turner hadn’t stopped by or even called him on the phone. Where in the hell was he? As if in answer to his unsaid question, the phone rang.
“This is Turner, Stacey. Drop by my office.”
Stacey eyed Turner’s slick blonde receptionist and caught her erotic scent as she ushered him into Turner’s office. For a second her blue eyes locked with his and delivered a sultry bedroom invitation. He smiled. Turner noticed.
“She can wait, Stacey. Sit down and listen to what I have to say. We have had a lucky break. Dame Fortune has smiled upon us.”
“Okay, Turner, okay. Stop writing a novel with your mouth and tell me the facts. I’ve been sitting on my ass for a whole week going nuts. What’s the pitch?”
“Calm your nerves down, Stacey. Guzzle the whiskey I just put in your hand and listen to what I have to say. Today I visited Doris Meadows with more fabricated legal business. We were sitting on her patio having coffee and cake while chatting about nothing in particular, when the man who takes care of the grounds and the bird menagerie appeared seemingly from nowhere. He’s all messed up with bird dung on his boots and a frantic look in his eyes. He says the birds are driving him crazy and he’ll have to quit because he can’t stand another minute of hearing them chirping and screeching at him. So the Meadows dame paid him off.”
“Well, I’ll be damned. Turner, she’ll have to hire another person. And that’s me.”
“Wait a couple of days. I encouraged her to advertise. It’s in the bag for us. We’re rich, Stacey.”
“Yeah we are. Now tell me what you aren’t telling me.”
Turner gave Stacey a half-smile. “You can sure read me like a book.” He took a long drag on his cigar and toyed with his whiskey glass. “Stacey, she has a police sergeant for a friend. He never comes to see her, but whenever she goes to town, she stops to see him. He’s no dice as a marriage candidate. He has a wife and three kids. They’re just close friends. His name is Benjamin Raymond.”
“Is he suspicious about anything?”
“Not as far as I know. Why would he be at this stage of the game? I’m sorry I kept this from you. But I knew if I told you about Raymond before I had all the information we would need you might think the whole deal was too risky. Stacey, I’m sure it’s a no sweat deal. We’ll play our cards right and we won’t be bothered by him or any member of the police force.”
“Yeah, I guess you’re right, Turner. Shake hands with a millionaire, a whole lot of times over.”
Two days later Stacey rang the doorbell of Doris Meadows’ mansion. A woman of about forty-five opened the door. Her gaze wandered over him.
“I would like to see Miss Doris Meadows, please,” Stacey said, making sure to use his most polite voice.
“Right this way, sir,” the woman replied.
Seconds later Stacey was standing in the middle of a large room.
“Please wait here, sir. Miss Meadow will be with you in a minute.” And with that the woman disappeared.
Stacey sized up the room. He was impressed. The far wall was one large bookcase packed to capacity with books. In about the middle, slightly to one side, was a grand piano. The room’s wall-to-wall rug was so plush it made Turner’s look like a gunnysack. The furniture was the old-fashioned heavy construction type. On the wall was a portrait of an elderly man, perhaps seventy or older. On the portrait’s lower right hand corner were the initials DM, for Doris Meadows.
Behind him he heard a throat being cleared. Stacey turned. Doris Meadow was a lanky beanpole of no more than ten pounds over a hundred. He would bet on that. Her eyes were black and staring and bothersome to him.
Oh boy, Turner, I’ll have to charge you double for this gig. Well, time to put on the charm.
“I’m sorry if I’ve been rude by not being aware of your arrival. I was admiring your lovely portrait. The initials on it are DM. Am I correct in assuming you painted it?”