Read I Would Rather Stay Poor Online

Authors: James Hadley Chase

I Would Rather Stay Poor (5 page)

The sight of all that money in small bills turned Calvin’s mouth dry. He stood to one side watching the four men as they counted the money, each taking the amount needed for their particular payroll, putting the money in their briefcases.

While they counted the money, the sheriff stood at the head of the stairs. The out-riders and the two guards with Travers guarded the entrance to the bank. Within fifteen minutes, the four accountants had collected their money and had gone.

During the day, Calvin continued to think about the money, but he always came back to the same impossible snag: if he took the
money, he would immediately beco
me suspect No.
1.
He knew this to be fatal.

That evening, while Alice, Miss Pearson a
nd the m
ajor had settled down to watch television, and after he had heard Flo leave, he went into the kitchen.
Kit was pressing a dress. S
he looked up and smiled at him.

‘Television isn’t interesting you?’ she asked, moving the dress on the ironing board.

‘Television seldom interests me,’ he said, leaning against the
wall
and w
atching her. ‘Am I in the way?’
‘Of course not.’
‘Tomorrow is Saturday,’ he said, his blue eyes intent. ‘What does one do in a place like this on Saturday?’
She shrugged as she moved the damp cloth into position.
‘Nothing very exciting

there are a couple of movies on at Downside if you can bother to drive that far.’
‘Would you come with me?’ he asked, watching her. ‘Being on one’s own isn’t much fun.’

She folded the cloth and put it away.

‘Thank you, but I can’t tomorrow.’ She looked directly at him, the irritating amused expression in her eyes. ‘Besides, it wouldn’t
be a good thing for the local bank manager to be
seen with me in Downside. People hav
e the habit of gossiping here.’
He scowled.
‘Yeah

I hadn’t thought of that. Well, I guess I’ll be able to kill time somehow. Is there a golf course handy?’
‘There’s quite a good one at Downside. At least, Major Hardy says it is good

I wouldn’t know.’

‘Maybe I’ll take a look at it.’

She held up the dress, examined it critically, then folding it, she moved towards the door. As she passed him, he put his hand gently on her arm.

You said the other night, you could be tempted. I have an idea that might tempt you.’

She disengaged her arm, her brown eyes suddenly alert.

‘What idea?’

He hesitated, wondering if he could trust her. ‘Just how badly do you want mo
ney?’ he asked, staring at her.
‘I want it,’ she said. ‘Why do you ask?’
Again he hesitated, then urged on because he was sure he couldn’t do this thing alone, he said, ‘I’m tal
king about the pay
roll. Didn’t you say if you were in my place you would be tempted to steal it?’

She stared at him for a lo
ng moment, her face suddenly ex
pressionless, then she said quietly, ‘Did I? You mustn’t believe everything I say.’

‘Why not? You say something

you must mean what you say.’
‘Not necessarily.’ She moved away, putting the ironing board back into a closet. ‘I must get on. I have a lot to do before I go to bed.’
She was moving to the door when he said, ‘Le
t’s
talk about it tonight. Will you come to my room?’
She paused in the doorway and looked searchingly at him. For a long moment she seemed to hesitate, then she nodded.
‘Yes

all right.’
She went out of the kitchen. He waited a few moments, then he went to his room. He sat down, loosened his tie, lit a cigarette and began to think.
He was still thinking when he heard Kit come upstairs and enter her room. There was a long pause while he waited expectantly. The lock of the communicating door clicked back and the door swung open.
She came into the room, closing the door behind her. Calvin sat motionless, watching her as she walked to an armchair and lowered herself into it.
‘Well?’ she asked, looking at him. ‘What is it?’

‘You say you want money,’ Calvin said. ‘Will you tell me why?’

‘That’s not difficult. I want it to get out of this dreary town.
I want it so I don’t have to slave for the rest of my days. I want it so my daughter can live a decent life instead of working in the box office of a third-rate movie house. I want it so I can take her away before she is stupid enough to marry a sma
ll
-time deputy sheriff with no future and no hopes of making any money. I want it to give her the opportunity to have the right clothes and right background to hook a rich husband.’
‘Why shouldn’t your daughter marry a deputy sheriff?’ Calvin asked.
‘If she does, she’ll have to remain in this
na
rrow-minded, gossip-ridden town for the rest of her days. She’ll have to scrape for money as I have done when
I
was fool enough to marry a man who lived here. I know what it means. I’m going to take he
r
away if it is the last thing I do.’
‘Maybe she doesn’t want to leave here. Maybe she even wants to marry this guy. Maybe she’s even in love with him.’
Kit made an impatient movement with her hands.
‘She’s too young to know her own mind. Once I can get her away from here, show her how the world really lives, she won’t want to marry that small-time boy.’
‘Just how far would you go to get your hands on big money?’ Calvin asked.
‘You mean the payroll?’

Calvin nodded.

‘I told you

I would take any risk,’ Kit said. ‘If you think I can help you and if my share is b
ig enough, you can rely on me.’
Cal
vin drew in a long slow breath.

‘We’ll have to trust each other,’ he said.

She smiled
.

‘You are frightened of me?’
‘Why shouldn’t I be?’ He lean
ed forward, his blue eyes gleam
ing. ‘I don’t know you. You could call the sheriff and tell him I’m planning to steal the payroll. Then where would I be?’
She laughed.
‘Where would I be too? I’d never do such a thing. I’ve been waiting and waiting and hoping and praying that someone like you would come into my life

a man who isn’t scared to take risks.’
Looking at her, he was suddenly convinced that he could trust her.
‘Okay, so you have yourself a partner,’ he said. ‘With your help, we could lay our hands on this money

three hundred thousand dollars!’
‘But how?’
‘I don’t know

yet. It’ll be tricky.
I’ll
be the first one they’ll suspect.’
‘So you haven’t e
ven an idea, let alone a plan?’
‘Not yet, but I now have a partner and that’s important. If we are going to do this thing we mustn’t rush it. When we do it, it must be foolproof.’
‘I’m ready to take risks.’
‘You think about it,’ Calvin said. ‘I’ll think too. It’s got to be foolproof.’

He got to his feet and crossed to the closet. He took from it
a
bottle of whisky. ‘Let’s drink to it.’

She looked first at him,
then at the bottle he held in h
is hand. Her
e
xpression puzzled him.

‘I don’t drink,’ sh
e said curtly. ‘I never drink.’
She moved past him towards the communicating door. He put down the bottle and caught hold of her arm
. For a moment they looked searc
hingly at each other, then she jerked free.
‘I give nothing for nothing,’ she said. ‘Don’t complicate things.’
She went into her room, shut and locked the door.

Calvin shrugged. He poured a stiff shot of whisky into a glass.

‘I’ll wait,’ he said half aloud. ‘What I don’t get today, I’ll get tomorrow. She’s worth waiting for.’
For the first time in years he slept dreamlessly and in the dark. He now felt secure, knowing he was no longer alone.
2
On Saturday afternoon, Calvin drove out to the Downside Golf Course.
He played perfect golf because his mind was fully occupied with the problem of stealing the payroll. He didn’t think about golf. He approached the ball and hit it without bothering if it hooked, sliced or flew straight. It had flown straight. He putted in the same frame of mind. The ball would either drop or miss by yards: it dropped.
His afternoon wasn’t wasted. He now had an idea. This was something he want
ed urgently to discuss w
ith Kit. It irritated him when he drove into the garage to find her estate wagon wasn’t there. He went up to his room, stripped off, took a shower, then putting on a shirt and slacks, he pul
l
ed his armchair up to the window and sat down to consider this idea of his. A little after six o’clock, he heard the television start up. Then at half past six, he saw the estate wagon drive into the garage.
There would be the inevitable dinner to prepare. He would have no chance to talk to Kit for at least another three hours. He went downstairs.
He met Kit as she came hurrying in. They paused and looked at each other.
‘Did you get any golf?’ she asked.
‘I played a round

not a bad course.’ He stared fixedly at her. ‘I have an idea. Let’
s talk about it tonight.’
She nodded.
‘About ten?’

Again she nodded.

He went down the stairs and into the lounge. Alice was sewing on a button on a blouse. The two old people were in the other room, watching television.

Calvin dropped into a lounging chair. He switched on his charm as Alice looked up. She flushed and looked quickly away from him.

‘Gee! I’m tired,’ he said. ‘I’ve been playing golf all afternoon. What have you been doing?’

She looked confused as she said, ‘Nothing

really

sewing


‘Don’t you find it dull living here?’ he asked, staring at her. Suddenly this thin pale spin
sterish girl had become very im
portant to his financial future.
‘No

I don’t find it dull at all,’ she said. ‘I like it here.’

‘Do you ever go out dancing?’

Blood stained her face.

‘No

I don’t care for dancing.’

His expression was kindly as he shook his head.

‘But you should. You’re young. Don’t tell me you haven’t a boy-friend.’
Her flush deepened painfully.

‘No

I haven’t.’

There was a pause then he said, ‘By the way, I meant to ask you about Mrs. Reeder’s account. Couldn’t we suggest she invests in something a bit more exciting than gilt edged?’ Now he had learned what he wanted to know, he deliberately changed the subject. Alice immediately lost her shyness. For the next half hour, they discussed Mrs. Reeder’s investments, then they were interrupted by Miss Pearson and Major Hardy who had seen the six o’clock serial and were now anxious to be entertained by the younger people.
After dinner Alice and the old people watched television and Calvin, excusing himself, saying he had letters to write, went upstairs.

He stretched out on his bed, lit a cigarette and gave his mind again to the idea that had suddenly come to him on the golf course. The more he consider
ed it, the more convinced he be
came that it would work.

Finally, a
little
after ten o’clock, he heard the lock click back, then the communicating door opened. Kit came in and went to one of the lounging chairs and sat down.

‘Well? What is this idea of yours?’ she asked, looking at him as he lay inert on the bed, staring fixedly up at the ceiling.

‘Maybe it’ll surprise you to learn that Alice is planning with her
boy-friend to steal the Pittsvil
le payroll,’ Calvin said. ‘What do you think of that as an idea?’

Kit frowned.

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