Friday, June 29, 2012
Turning the Tables
Turning the Tables
Harvey Wilson couldn't remember when he had ever enjoyed himself more. He was sitting around a table with people who had considered him the enemy not too long ago. He was ashamed about the way he had acted in the past and vowed he was a changed man.
Everyone laughed as Nettie told a story of one of her wayward students. The door to the shop opened and Miss Kitty Moody walked in carrying a wooden box filled with silverware.
Jonas stood up and took hold of the heavy box. “What have we here Miss Kitty?” he asked.
“Oh dear,” said the octogenarian, “I don't mean to intrude on your party.”
Emma said, “You're not intruding at all Miss Kitty, we aren't having a party. Just some old friends gathering for a nice chat. Would you like to join us, Miss Kitty? We have a fresh pot of tea.”
“Oh my, that does sound very tempting. I wouldn't mind resting for a moment. My arms are so tired from carrying my mama's good silver. I was wondering Miss Emma, if you would be able to sell it for me. It is silver you know. Mama always took such special care of it. She brought it over from England, don't you know? It belonged to her mama before her.”
“Are you sure you want to sell the silverware, Miss Kitty? It has been in your family for such a long time.” Emma could tell at a glance the flatware, although quite pretty, was not of the highest quality.
Lily and Emma discovered shortly after they opened their shop that people often came in to sell a prized possession or family heirloom because they were in need of cash. They set up a special section where they collected these treasures. They would offer the customer money to tide them over and set the merchandise aside until they were able to come in and buy the item back for the same amount.
“Yes, my dear. I'm afraid I will not be able to pay my taxes if I don't. I think I may have given a little more than I should have to that wonderful Brother Jeremiah Hershey when he was preaching in Camden Corners. He was so persuasive and he said we should give every thing we possibly could to him. I did just that, but I'm afraid I forgot about the taxes being due on my home this week.”
“How much do you need Miss Kitty?” said Lily.
“The taxes are fourteen dollars and thirty two cents. I wonder if you think my silver would sell for fifteen dollars? That would be enough to tide me over until the end of the month when my pension money arrives.”
Harvey spoke up, “May I see the silverware? Well I'll be, this is the exact pattern my dear grandmother brought from England herself. I have been looking to add place settings to my collection. Miss Kitty, I wonder if you would take $200 for the silver, case and all?”
“Oh my, sir. I don't think it's worth that much money.”
“It is to me, I have been looking for this exact pattern for many years.” Harvey reached for his money clip and counted out $200. and handed it to Miss Kitty.
The worry left her face immediately. It was obvious she had been troubled with money concerns after she realized she had given all of her money away to Brother Jeremiah. Miss Kitty sipped her tea and nibbled on the cranberry bread Nettie had set out earlier. This was the only food Miss Kitty had eaten all day. She bid farewell and took one last look at her mother's silver as she left the shop.
“Mr. Wilson, that was a wonderful thing for you to do. I'm afraid that silver isn't worth nearly what you paid for it.”
“It was worth much more than that to see the look on Miss Kitty's face. She reminded me of my own dear mother. After closer examination, I realize it is not the same pattern as the silver in my home. Please make sure the dear woman gets it back, will you?” he winked as Nettie poured him another cup of coffee. “Now, tell me what you know about this Brother Jeremiah Hershey. Sounds like a swindler to me.”
Jonas told him about how people had been spellbound by him and his performance. “Unfortunately, many of our friends and neighbors fell for his nonsense. He and his group travel from place to place and bilk people out of their hard earned money. Neville Merryweather and Oscar Crowley are working on a plan to get some of that money back from him.”
“I wonder if they would like some help from an old swindler? You know what a scoundrel I can be,” he laughed and everyone laughed with him.
Oscar and Neville happened to walk in at that moment.
“Well if it isn't Harvey Wilson. What are you trying to con my friends out of this time Harvey?” said Neville.
“Hello Neville, I heard you had moved to Camden Corners. A nice little town, isn't it? You may not believe this but I have turned over a new leaf. I discovered having all the money I could ever want left me without anyone in this world who thought I was a nice chap. I hope you will give me another chance.”
“I believe in second chances Harvey and I'm willing to take your word for it that you have changed. I hope you don't disappoint me.” The men shook hands.
Oscar was skeptical but he could see the look in his wife's eye and knew that Nettie believed Harvey.
Neville told of their plan. “Max Harcourt is available for suggestions but since Sarah will be making him a father any day now, he will not be heavily involved in our scheme. We don't have much time. The revival is scheduled to set up its tents next week in Greensboro. Since I still have connections there with the insurance firm, it won't be too suspicious if I am an investment counselor. Harvey, I think your known wealth and reputation will be a great advantage.”
“This will be fun. Count me in.”
The men worked on their plan for the next few days. Harvey stayed in Camden Corners in the room next to Neville's in the boarding house. Oscar and Neville were happy to have Harvey with them. They found he had a dangerously conniving mind and were glad he was on their side.
They knew Audrey Lynch had a friend who had been involved with Brother Jeremiah. Cora was willing to help in any way she could. She told them Jeremiah stayed out of sight before his performances. His sidekick, Brother Damien was the one who was out in the field observing the tempo of whatever town they were in. He could spot a vulnerable target a mile away. If he thought someone was being secretive, he would listen in as best he could. He was deaf in one ear and because of that he was an expert at reading lips.
Will Duesenberry remembered the fellow who called him a sinner that day at the lake. He described the man to Jack Mackenzie as Jack drew a sketch of him. Butch and Billy helped too and came up with a very good likeness of him.
Cora told them Damien frequented the coffee shops and parks near where the tent was being raised. They recruited Jonas, Melvin Tanner, Lou Rossi, Leland Harvey, Chris Pringle, Alexander Burke and Duncan Mackenzie for their scheme. The men were happy to be involved in the caper. They all knew some of their friends had been swindled and were anxious to help in the attempt to get their money back.
Randy Burke printed official looking stock certificates. The day before the revival, all the players boarded the train for Greensboro. Harvey arranged for chauffeurs and cars to pick them up at the station. Each man had his own car and chauffeur.
The men had practiced their parts until everyone knew exactly where they would be at any given moment of the day. It was finally showtime.
Just as Cora predicted. Damien was at the coffee shop located a block from where the tent was being set up. He walked through the door and sat at the far end of the counter where he could see most of the tables. Neville was sitting at a table well away from the entrance. Lou Rossi walked in trying his best to look suspicious. Damien noticed him immediately and also noticed another suspicious looking character was signaling to him. He'd spotted a chauffeur waiting in a car just down the street and now there was another waiting in front of the restaurant. He also observed the two had on fine attire. Damien knew a custom made suit when he saw it. He was patting himself on the back for his choice of seats since he could see both men's lips as they spoke quietly away from the crowd. The waitress delivered their coffee and was given what looked to be a twenty dollar bill by the gentleman who had been waiting. Damien read his lips as he slipped her the twenty. “Dear, we need to speak privately. Please don't disturb us until I call you.” She nodded her head and pocketed the money as she walked away smiling broadly.
Neville began his prepared speech. Damien could read his lips word for word. There was going to be a takeover. Only a handful of people knew about it. By this time next week the gentleman would be rich beyond his imagination. He was selling stock certificates at a mere $100 a share. The other gentleman balked at the price. Neville acted as though he was packing up to leave. Lou put his hand on his arm asking him to wait he wanted to know how much time he would have to decide. He was told Neville had other prospects who were more than willing to invest in a sure thing. Lou stopped him and wrote out a check for $3,000 making sure he mentioned the amount. Lou didn't worry about his check being in the wrong hands. Leland Harvey set up bogus accounts in false names for each one of the men.
Neville carefully counted out 30 certificates letting one slide off the table and under Damien's feet. Damien was able to read the name of the company. ORCA was the only name on it. What Damien didn't realize was that ORCA was anagram for CORA. Of all the people who were hurt by Brother Jeremiah's greed, it was Cora Lynch who suffered the most.
As Neville was signing the certificates, Lou walked over to Damien. “Excuse me sir, I believe something of mine slipped under the counter by your foot.”
“What is this? ORCA. I've never heard of it. It might be something my boss is interested in. What can you tell me about it?”
“Nothing sir. Just give me the paper. I can't discuss it,” Lou said nervously as planned.
Damien gave him back the certificate. Obviously, this guy wasn't going to be a help. He needed to go to the source. The man signing the certificates with the fat check in his pocket.
Damien waited until Lou left and then walked over to the table.
“What can I do for you?” said Neville curtly.
“I want to hear more about ORCA.”
“Where did you hear that name? I don't know what you're talking about.” said Neville. Just then another gentlemen walked in. “You'll have to excuse me, my next client is here. You'll forget you heard that name if you know what's good for you.”
After Melvin, Jonas and Duncan each played their part, Neville began to get up from the table. Damien stepped in front of him. “Let's you and I have a talk now.”
“Listen fella, I can't do a thing for you. I'm only an employee of Mr. Harvey Wilson. He only takes on certain clients and by the looks of you, I don't think you qualify.”
“It's not for me, it's for my boss. Have you ever heard of Brother Jeremiah Hershey? He's got plenty of money and I'm sure he'd be interested in this company you are selling stocks for $100 a share. I know that last guy bought 100 shares. That's a lot of dough. Brother Jeremiah has more than that. I'll bet he'd buy 300 shares.” Damien wasn't sure he would be that interested but he knew he was getting tired of the revival grind and might be interested in a sure thing. He would also be grateful to Damien and would surely give him a finder's fee.
“Meet me back here in 45 minutes and bring Hershey with you. I'll see what I can do. Don't talk to anyone except your boss about this or the deal is off.” Neville walked out of the restaurant and into the back seat of the waiting auto. Damien was cursing the fact that he was on foot. He would have been interested to know the gentleman's destination.
Exactly forty five minutes later Damien and Jeremiah were sitting in the booth previously occupied by Neville. Brother Jeremiah was disguised in a hat and dark glasses. He was skeptical about the whole thing but decided it was worth the risk if it turned out to be the deal Damien thought it was.
Without greeting the men, Neville took a seat. “I talked to Mr. Wilson about you Hershey. He knows who you are since his personal secretary has asked for time off to see you at some revival. He is willing to let you in on the deal. He wants to meet you at his home office. He has some questions for you. If I were you, I'd be prepared to answer them truthfully. Mr. Wilson doesn't like to be lied to and believe me, he will know if you are not being honest with him.”
Right on cue the chauffeur was holding the automobile door open for the men. They drove through town and just beyond to Harvey's estate. Even Jeremiah was impressed when he saw the size of the mansion. This is the kind of house I want someday. Maybe after this transaction I will be able to buy one just like it for Maude and me. He couldn't wait to see what it looked like inside.
The chauffeur drove around to the back entrance which infuriated Jeremiah. How dare he be treated like a delivery man. He was Brother Jeremiah Hershey, he saved souls and cured the infirm. He thought it best just to accept the indignity for the time being. It wouldn't be long before he had wealth beyond his imagination.
The doorman guided the men through various hallways and stairwells until they were finally standing in the main entrance. The door was opened by another servant and they were escorted into the den. Jeremiah had never seen such a large desk before. He was almost consumed with envy as he looked at the old man sitting behind it.
“You may be seated,” came the booming voice of yet another servant.
“Leave us alone Jeeves” Harvey said to Oscar who portrayed a fine butler. “My man here tells me you are interested in purchasing stock in ORCA. You do realize the shares are being sold for $100 each?”
“Are you prepared to pay cash for the shares?”
“Yes, sir, I have $30,000 in these two cases.” He opened one up to show Harvey.
“I don't want to see it man. Take it over there and let my man count it.”
Neville stood up and took both cases putting them on a table out of sight. Damien had a funny feeling about this whole set up but he could tell Jeremiah was impressed with Mr. Wilson and didn't dare interfere.
“So tell me Hershey. What is your real name and don't tell me your mother named you Jeremiah.”
“My name is Jerry Boyd. I come from Hershey, Pennsylvania. Brother Jeremiah sounded a little more convincing than Brother Jerry.” Mr. Wilson obviously was taking this very seriously and Jeremiah felt it best if he did the same.
“How do you get people to come to your revival meetings?”
“Damien here goes around town and calls everyone a sinner. You'd be surprised how many people think he is speaking directly to them. Most people believe they have sinned at one time or another so it isn't too difficult to rope them in. Once we have them in our tent is when the fun begins. I think I have made Jimmy Bryant see over 900 times. We have changed kids in a wheelchair about 10 times. They get more sympathy when they are 5 or 6 years old. We had a mute that I made sing up until a little while ago. She went back home. I'll get her to come around again one of these days.”
“So all you do is falsely heal these people in your employ and people give you money? That doesn't make sense.”
“You have to get them stirred up. You make them think their troubles will all go away if they empty out their bank accounts and donate the money to our charity to help the sick and poor and make more miracles happen.”
“So you give their money to the sick and poor.”
“No, I keep it.”
“How much do you pay Damien and all the people who pretend to be suffering from blindness and other disabilities?”
“I don't pay anybody. They get good meals everyday and a place to sleep at night. Some of the men are given a few bucks to go out and tie one on every once in a while. It's a privilege to be with Brother Jeremiah Hershey. Isn't that right Damien?”
“Yes sir.” said Damien.
“Are you willing to sign these papers saying you are willfully turning over this money to me for the purchase of 300 shares of stock in ORCA?”
“Yes sir, I'll sign anything you wish.” Jeremiah signed the paper without even looking at it. He couldn't wait to have the stock certificates in his hands.”
“Have you finished counting the money Neville?” said Harvey.
“Exactly $30,000 Harvey. That will help pay back quiet a few people.”
The Greensboro sheriff stepped out from behind the curtain.
“Jerry Boyd. You are under arrest for fraudulent practices for starters”
“What are you talking about? You can't prove a thing. Damien and I will deny what was said in here. Don't forget. That's my money you have over there.”
“You just signed a confession admitting you are a fraud and have bilked unsuspecting people out of their hard earned money.”
All of the participants in the scheme stepped out from behind the curtain. Damien looked up and saw the men who had been in the coffee shop buying stocks from Neville Merryweather.
“Jeremiah, we have been conned!”
Lou Rossi spoke up. “Damien, you wanted to know what ORCA was. Say hello to Cora. You remember her don't you?”
Cora smiled. She would never get the six years back that Jeremiah had taken from her but she was hopeful he wouldn't be claiming any other victims for years to come.
A trust fund was set up to reimburse those who had given their money so freely to Brother Jeremiah.
Kitty Moody was able to retrieve all of the money she had donated. She stopped by the antique shop.
“I wonder if Mr. Wilson would be willing to sell back my silver. I have his money here plus interest.”
“Oh Miss Kitty, I'm glad you stopped by. As it happens, Mr. Wilson was mistaken. His mother's silver is a different pattern after all. He returned yours just the other day. I'm sure he doesn't want you to return his money,” said Emma
“I insist. He is such a kind man isn't he Emma?”
“Yes Miss Kitty, Mr. Harvey Wilson is a very kind man with a very big heart.”