Six Hours Past Thursday
Six Hours Past Thursday is a legal thriller novel by Jack Payne.
Two-thirds of the Six Hours Past Thursday story unfolds on the streets and in the office buildings, restaurants, and bars of Chicago's Loop, along with the suburban reaches on into the city by way of commuter train. The other one-third of this legal thriller takes place in Florida and off the coast of Miami Beach where a large construction project is underway: the building and outfitting of an island nation ambitiously planned as a Monte Carlo-like gambling Mecca.
Steve Draves leads three lives:
Life #1: contented, happily married, father of twin sons, family man. He is a successful business broker. To all outward appearances he is the epitome of the American Dream. He resides in the affluent suburb of Mellwood, Illinois, on the Norwest outskirts of Chicago, with his doting, devoted wife, Betty—she of considerable personal and physical appeal—and their offspring. He commutes daily to his Michigan Avenue office in Chicago's Loop.
Life #2: He engages in a secret extra-curricular activity as an inveterate womanizer, whose lust knows few bounds. Among his amorous pursuits are a fashion model, Tina Landon, a restaurant hostess, Sandy Serrell, even his own secretary, Deby Collinger. But, his prodigious prurience does not stop here. To him, all female species of the opposite sex fill the bill if they are sexually desirable, voluptuous, drop-dead beautiful.
Life #3: A con man of extraordinary skills. Among his high-risk exploits are a block-of-stock sale in a mining company about to declare bankruptcy, extracting eight fees from a single business transaction, the "straw man" sale of prime development property in his own suburb that risks his having to take his own family and run, and a now-you-see-it-now-you-don't escrow manipulation. Con man extraordinaire, Draves successfully pulls every lever of the get-rich-quick engine: kickbacks. under-the-table-deals, accounts-stuffing, assets scraping, books-rigging. He prides himself in keeping all his business activities, technically, legal.
He overconfidently falls in with mobster, Johnny Patiense in a grandiose gambling island development off the coast of Florida. Then, storm clouds threaten. In a reverse of Draves' usual womanizing role, the mobster, Johnny Patiense's daughter, Nina, pursues him. Draves tries every evasive maneuver he can think of with little success.. He considers this a dire necessity since her father has declared him, Draves, "off limits" to his daughter. To compound the fracture of his crumbling relationship with the mobster, grievous error by his distracted secretary, Deby, leads to contested ownership of Patiense's island with wealthy entrepreneur, Chester Carlin. The construction project, for which Draves is responsible, falls behind schedule. And, other expected routines become unglued. He finds himself being rolled over by rapidly accumulating negative events. Now, as Nina Patiense stalks Draves, in a series of amorous pursuits, her father's "Enforcer" stalks him with a very different motive.
The scope of Draves' dilemma widens to involve everyone close to him. Deby, Tina, Sandy. His lifelong friend, disgruntled advertising agency account executive, Mark Brightly, who also gets inadvertently entangled with Nina Patiense. His loving wife, Betty. Even innocent bystander, Chester Carlin, whose name gets mistakenly posted onto the deed to Patiense's island.
Through all of this, Draves has long intended to reform, close out his relationship with Patiense as the last scam project of his career, and retire to a more quiet life, clean of avocational skirt-chasing, and all con games. He has long looked forward to fully appreciating and maximizing his loving relationship with his wife, Betty. With painful slowness the realization of the good life he has already enjoyed has nonetheless been gradually building within him.
It all comes down to the final question: What's the true definition of a con man? And, the usual answer: a mouth with a life support system, an empty suit But, in this story the answer reverts to the question, in a much-to-ponder sort of way.