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, the protagonist of the story, is a young, beautiful, and intelligent woman working as a computer operator for a bank in Philadelphia. The prologue opens with her mother, Doris Whitney, calling Tracy from New Orleans and then shooting herself in the temple afterwards. Tracy is engaged to be married to Charles Stanhope III, a wealthy heir in Philadelphia whose parents think their son is marrying beneath them because Charles had gotten Tracy pregnant while they were dating. Tracy senses that they dislike her because of her family's status and that they think she had trapped their son into marriage. Upon arriving at New Orleans, Tracy becomes aware of the circumstances that led to her mother's suicide from a family friend. Tracy is later notified about it by a Lieutenant of the New Orleans police department. Joe Romano, the right-hand man of New Orleans' Mafia leader Anthony Orsatti, offered to buy Whitney Company, a small company started by Tracy's father that specializes in auto-parts, for ten times the value of the company. However, after Doris received a small down payment of the promised money, Romano used her company to buy parts and then resell them without paying the supplier and stripping the company of all its assets before giving it back to Doris claiming he no longer wants it. With Doris' name still on the company as the sole owner, she is forced to give up her company, car, and home, owes half a million dollars and could face legal charges on fraud, since she has no way to expose Romano's transactions and the workers are unwilling to testify.
Tracy is filled with hatred for Romano, and naively decides to bring her mother's name in the clear by threatening Romano to confess his misdeed. She purchases a gun, which she only intends to use to threaten Romano, and reaches Romano's house. Her plan backfires and she is nearly raped. She grabs the gun during the struggle and accidentally fires a shot at Romano. She is horrified, as she never intended to kill Romano. She calls for medical aid and then flees to the airport. She is immediately arrested, as a wounded Romano has accused her of attempted murder and stealing a painting worth half a million dollars, claiming she was stealing from him, a wealthy man, to pay her mother's debt. She is assigned an attorney named Perry Pope. Pope convinces her to plead guilty in court before Judge Lawrence, saying that he had worked a deal with the judge and it is either she plead guilty or face a long trial and risk a chance of ten years in jail, and promises that she'll be given only a three-month prison sentence. She follows his advice, and after Judge Lawrence coldly sentences her, she realizes that it was a setup by Orsatti and Romano to destroy her. Judge Lawrence sentences her to 15 years of incarceration in Southern Louisiana Penitentiary for Women. On the phone, Charles doesn't give her a chance to let her explain herself, and leaves her at her fate with his unborn child in her womb.
In the prison, she is assigned a cell with three other women: a Hispanic teenager named Lola, a middle-aged Mexican named Paulita, Ernestine Littlechap, a big black woman who is known to be an influential prisoner. She also meets Big Bertha, a Swedish woman who immediately lusts for Tracy, and Daniel Cooper, an reclusive but highly intelligent detective with an ambiguous past. He is investigating for the insurance company that is supposed to pay Romano for the missing painting, and although he knows that Tracy is innocent, he is only there to do his job and says little else. On her first night, Tracy is raped by her cellmates and her attempts to fight back leads them to assault her, resulting in a miscarriage. While recovering, she vows revenge against all those who harmed her and her mother: Romano, Orsatti, Pope, Judge Lawrence, as well as Charles, for allowing their baby to die. The title of the novel itself is from a melodramatic quote in the novel, where Tracy vows to take her revenge tomorrow, if tomorrow comes:
|“||She was going to make them pay… Tomorrow, she thought. If tomorrow comes.||”|
Eventually, she befriends Ernestine for her influence, and when she is noted as Ernestine's friend, only Big Bertha continues to sexually harass her. Tracy soon becomes the nanny for the prison warden's young daughter Amy, whom she slowly begins to love. Meanwhile, with Ernestine about to be paroled, Big Bertha was poised to become the next "queen bee" of the prison, and uses her influence to be cellmates with Tracy. Ernestine knows this will lead to Tracy's death, and they plot to help Tracy escape. However, Big Bertha hears about it and attempts to warn the warden. Tracy was close to following the plan, but Amy falls in a nearby lake and she lets the laundry truck leave without her to save Amy. This act grants her a high-profile early parole; Cooper is indifferent, Romano is aroused, and Charles wonders if he made a mistake, as he had just married another woman implied to be Charlotte, the girl his parents bragged about to Tracy earlier in the story.
After her release, with the help of Ernestine and her boyfriend Al, she cunningly sets up distrust among Orsatti's, afia. She uses her knowledge in banking so that Romano's bank account in her former bank will receive accidental deposits from other people. She first pretends to be his secretary to reserve him a ticket and hotel to Rio, then his wife to send expensive luggage for a trip. She has them sent all to his office at the same time she called Orsatti to imply that Romano was doing hit-jobs without his knowledge. Orsatti sees the evidence and believes Romano is lying to him. When Orsatti finds out that Romano suddenly had over 300,000 in his bank, it is implied he had Romano killed. Meanwhile, Al, pretending to be the air-conditioner repairman Pope's houseboy called, plants evidence in the attic to make it look like Pope had a spy overlooking the gambling room, and makes it look like Pope had planted it solely to win against Orsatti, and it is implied that Orsatti killed him as well. Meanwhile, while Judge Lawrence is in Russia, she sends him carefully coded but confusing letters. He is later arrested and forced into ten years of hard labor when it is revealed that every fourth word read is a secret espionage-esque message. Now that Orsatti's empire is crumbling, with a younger but more ruthless mob trying to force him out of business, Tracy boldly sends him a funeral wreath. Finally, she follows Charles to a restaurant and sees that he is unhappy with his marriage, by the way he and his wife ignore each other on the table and their obvious boredom and sadness, and she lets go of her anger as he is now punished.
Tracy begins to face the hardships of being an ex-convict. Her former bank will not take her back due to her status, and her boss, who at the beginning is implied to only be friendly to her because she was the fiancé of Charles Stanhope III. When she tries to apply for other banks, they refuse. She tries being a personal shopper in upper-class stores, but she is immediately recognized by a woman who mistook her as the one who tried to murder Amy, not save, and was immediately fired. She tries to get the money saved in her employee account in the bank, but she is sent a letter informing her that she cannot, and she resorts to pulling another clever scheme to get back her money before leaving for New York.
She turns to a well-known New York City jewelry store owner (and fence) who helps her make some fast money in a jewel heist. Escaping with the goods, Tracy has an encounter with Jeff Stevens, a master con man, who tricks her into thinking he is a policeman who has caught her. Stevens steals the jewels from Tracy, who soon realizes she's been had and the store owner had it stolen from her by Jeff so that he could send it to him for a cheaper price. She then cons Jeff, silently threatening him with the police, taking back her prize. She later meets him aboard a cruise ship to England, with him led to believe that Maximilian Pierpont, a dastardly businessman, is aboard. He convinces her to con the ship by making bets that she can beat both chess prodigies on board, and then use a scheme to beat both players. Jeff tries to con her once more, but she outwits him and leaves with her half. Not long after, Tracy travels to England and is introduced to Gunther Hartog, a world-class fence who only steals from the ones who deserve to be stolen from. She becomes one of the world's cleverest criminals. Tracy pursues some 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, and reselling a gem to a jeweler for much higher than its worth. The Interpol issues alerts all over Europe in search of - as they perceive it - a gang of con-women. Only Daniel Cooper seems capable of matching Tracy's brilliance, although he never manages to catch her red-handed and their evidence is never enough to apprehend her and Jeff, who she had slowly began to love after he stayed with her during a heist while she was sick and nurtured her back to health. 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. However, just as Tracy boards her flight to Brazil, she finds out that her seatmate is Maximilian Pierpont, the wealthy and ruthless businessman known to force smaller companies out of business, and he is shown to be highly interested in her and leaves 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