If Tomorrow Comes
|Preceded by||Master of the Game|
|Followed by||Windmills of the Gods|
If Tomorrow Comes is a 1985 crime fiction novel by American author Sidney Sheldon. It is a story portraying an ordinary woman who is framed by the Mafia, her subsequent quest for vengeance towards them and her later life as a con artist. A 3-part TV miniseries with the same name based on the book was released in 1986.
Tracy Whitney, an intelligent operator for a prominent bank in Philadelphia, is at the peak of her young life: she is engaged to Charles Stanhope III, a wealthy heir from a prominent family, she is carrying Charles' baby, and she is expecting a promotion after her honeymoon. However, after she hears that her mother, Doris Whitney, has committed suicide after Joe Romano, the right-hand man of New Orlean's Mafia Don Anthony Orsatti, scammed Doris into letting him sell all of her assets in her small auto-parts company and left her with a huge debt and charges of fraud, Tracy hastily returns to New Orleans to try coercing Romano into confessing her mother's innocence. She brings a gun with only the intention to scare him, but things get out hand and she non-fatally shoots him when he tries to rape her, and she attempts to flee back to Philadelphia. However, she is arrested for attempted murder and allegedly stealing one of Romano's expensive paintings so she can pay her mother's debt. She is given an attorney named Perry Pope, who convinces her to take the guilty plea so that she will only receive a three-month sentence because if she doesn't, she will face a long trial with Judge Lawrence and risk ten years in jail if she is found guilty. She takes the guilty plea, and after Judge Lawrence sentences her to fifteen years in jail, Tracy realizes that Judge Lawrence and Pope work for Orsatti as well. Romano claims a large sum from the insurance from the painting, which he actually kept hidden, Tracy is snubbed by her boss, and Charles breaks up with her to avoid being connected to the scandal, abandoning her and his unborn child.
In prison, Tracy is assigned to a cell with two Mexicans, Lola and Paulita, and a large black woman named Ernestine Littlechap. She is subjected to the horrors of physical and sexual abuse from the other inmates, and miscarries her baby. During her recovery, she vows revenge against Romano, Orsatti, Pope, and Judge Lawrence for harming her and her mother, as well as Charles for abandoning her and his son and marrying another woman. She befriends Ernestine, who notices the change in her personality and makes everyone stop abusing her. Because of Tracy's status as Ernestine's pet, she gains the unwanted attention of Big Bertha, an equally large Swedish inmate and Ernestine's rival as "queen bee". Tracy gets a visit from Daniel Cooper, an eccentric private investigator assigned to look for Romano's painting, and admits that he knows she did not steal the photo and Romano is hiding it, but he refuses to help her. Tracy eventually becomes the warden's daughter's nanny, and although hesitant to love a child after the death of her own, Tracy slowly begins to love Amy. Ernestine is informed of her upcoming parole, and decides to help Tracy escape knowing that Big Bertha will rape and kill Tracy once Ernestine is no longer there to protect her. Tracy follows the plan, but Amy falls into a nearby lake and she misses her chance to escape to save Amy. Tracy is recognized for her good work and, being a behaved prisoner, she is granted an early parole. Her high-profile exit from prison is watched by many: Cooper is indifferent, Romano is aroused, while Charles looks at his wife and wonders if he made a mistake.
Tracy exacts revenge on all those who tricked her, and gets the help of Ernestine and her boyfriend Al. She uses her knowledge of her former bank to make Romano's bank account receive deposits from other people, and then make it look like he secretly made a large amount of money and was planning to escape to Brazil, and it is implied Orsatti kills him for his betrayal. Al plants evidence in Pope's home to make it look like he is cheating in poker games with Orsatti, and Orsatti kills him as well. While Judge Lawrence is in Russia, she sends him carefully coded letters that implicates him as an American spy, and is sentenced to ten years of hard labor. With the three gone from Orsatti's Mafia, a younger, ruthless mob is trying to force him to leave New Orleans, and Tracy boldly sends him a funeral wreath. She stalks Charles into a restaurant, but decides that his marriage is his own punishment when she sees how he and his wife ignore each other and look obviously bored and depressed.
With her mission of revenge complete, Tracy begins to face the hardships of having a criminal record. It is revealed that her boss was only kind to her because of her connection to the Stanhopes, and refuses to take her back. Tracy leaves for New York for a job opportunity one of the inmates told her about. She finds out that the job is a jewel heist and she reluctantly agrees out of desperation. She narrowly escapes the police but successfully steals the jewels. In the train, she is conned by Jeff Stevens, who pretended to be a policeman, but she realizes that Jeff couldn't be a policeman and that the store owner was making Jeff steal it from her so he can buy them cheaper, and she cons Jeff into giving them back with a real policeman in their presence. She meets Jeff once more in a cruise ship to England, and they scheme against two chess grand masters to win money; Jeff tries to leave with all the money, but she catches him and leaves with her half.
Tracy is introduced to Gunther Hartog, who helps her steal only from those who deserve to be stolen from, and she becomes one of the world's smartest criminals as all the evidence is there, pointed out by Cooper, who decides to help the police catch her, but there is never enough evidence to arrest her. Tracy pursues brilliant con schemes filled with humor and ingenuity all over Europe — such as stealing jewelry from an actress on the Orient Express, a valuable painting from a museum, reselling a gem to a jeweler for much higher than its worth, and tricking a Frenchman with fake US Dollar plates. During a heist, Tracy has a fever and nearly gets caught if Jeff did not rescue her and nurture her back to help, and the two begin to fall in love. After having collected enough money to live a luxurious life, Tracy and Jeff plan to marry and live together in Brazil as law-abiding citizens. In their last scheme, Cooper convinces the police to plant microphones in their hotel room, but the two outsmart them all and manage to steal a large diamond without getting caught. Tracy boards her flight to Brazil and finds Maximilian Pierpont, the elusive, ruthless businessman Jeff and Gunther had been trying to catch, sitting next to her. Maximilian shows an interest to Tracy, leaving the reader to wonder if she will steal from Pierpont in an open-ended conclusion.
Master of the Game
|Sidney Sheldon Novels
Windmills of the Gods