"I want you to marry my wife," the
boss told him, and handed him a fat check for the expenses
by John J. Coffey
Vol. 1 No. 10 1959
CONNERLY, President and Chairman of the Board of Westco Chemicals, looked
up from his desk and studied the young man standing before him, then motioned
to a chair, and said, "Sit down, Meadows."
"Yes sir," replied Dick
Meadows, picking a chair farthest from Connerly and nearest the door.
Connerly glanced at
a legal sheet, lying on his desk and said, "You have been employed as a
clerk in the shipping department for the past six months?"
"You're single, no dependents
and your pay is $86.00 a week?"
"You live in a rooming
house in a quiet neighborhood, date twice a week and play an excellent
game of golf on Saturdays, right?"
"Well, I guess that's
about it," Dick stammered.
"Answer yes or no, Meadows,
I'm a busy man."
"You are twenty-five
year's of age, three years of college and intend to save enough money to
finish law school, is that correct?"
"Yet you bought a second
hand car and you are in debt in excess of eight hundred dollars. Just how
do you expect to finish your schooling, win the Irish Sweepstakes?"
Dick felt his neck and
face getting hot and he angrily replied, "Mr. Connerly, I believe that
is my own personal business."
"The hell it is," retorted
Connerly, "all of my employees' personal affairs are my business. I want
to know about each and every one of you, your family life, your good and
bad habits, your loves and hates; in fact, everything you do on your free
time reflects upon your job at Westco Chemicals. As far as you are concerned,
Meadows, you're not much of a shipping clerk. I can replace you in five
minutes with at least a dozen men more qualified than you who, in turn,
will make a career with the firm, not just a stepping stone to a law office.
In other words, Mr. Meadows, as of now you are no longer connected with
Westco Chemicals, you're fired."
Dick could hardly restrain
himself. He felt like walking over to Connerly's desk, reaching across
and smashing him in the face. "Mr. Connerly, I've never heard of a so-called
big shot discharging or reprimanding a lowly clerk. You have heads of departments,
supervisors and foremen to do your dirty work and as I am no longer in
your employ, would it be too much to ask why I was brought up here, like
a lamb to slaughter?"
Charles Connerly stood
up, looked very sternly at Dick, then slowly his face softened and broke
into a completely disarming grin. "Well spoken, Meadows, I couldn't have
done better myself," he said.
The turnabout, catching
Dick off guard, left him limp as a rag and all the more bewildered. He
slumped hack into his chair, his eyes never leaving Connerly. He was fascinated
by this strange man.
"Meadows, with your
background, education and ambition, I am doing you a favor by discharging
you. The manner in which you have been conducting yourself on the job and
the circle you travel in certainly is not in line with your present position.
Now, I am going to offer you the equivalent of four months vacation with
pay and at the end of four months I am going to give you a certified check
for twenty-five thousand dollars. Naturally I expect something in return.
Let us say a little bargaining is in order."
"I'm listening. Mr.
"Meadows. I want you
to marry my wife. Is it a bargain?'
Charles Connerly leaned
back in his chair and, picking each word carefully, he continued. "Meadows.
I have been separated from my wife for almost a year. I want to remarry
but she won't give me a divorce and being a wealthy man, I pay her eighty
thousand a year. I wish to be taken off the hook. Mr. Meadows, I want you
to marry my wife, Mary. Whether or not you remain married will be your
affair, but on the day she files for a divorce I will hand you this certified
check for twenty-five thousand dollars."
Dick sat up straight
in his chair and stared unbelievingly at Connerly and the check he waved
back and forth in his hand. "But why me, I don't know your wife. How do
I know that she would marry me? Why, this whole conversation is ridiculous,
Dick stood up and started
for the door.
"Just a minute, Meadows,
I haven't finished yet. Sit down and hear me out."
Dick sat back down in
the chair and remained silent.
"That's better," said
Connerly, "I've been watching you for some time. As a matter of fact, I've
had you investigated thoroughly. Meadows, you are exactly the type of man
Mary would be interested in...believe me, I know. This isn't any child's
play, but strictly a business deal between you and me. I've al ready taken
the liberty to lease a suite in your name at the swank Sussex Arms with
a new convertible in the garage, also in your name. Tomorrow I'll take
you to my tailor's for a complete wardrobe." Connerly opened his top drawer
and withdrew a checkbook. "Here is a sizable amount to draw from." he said,
"You have exactly four months in which to contact, entertain and propose
marriage to my wife. Well, Meadows, what is your decision? Remember, you
are now among the unemployed and quite heavily in debt."
Dick's head was whirling,
the office felt stuffy and hot and he longed for a cool drink of water.
"Mr. Connerly, I don't
know what to say. I know what I should say, but you have me over a barrel.
I'll sleep on it and give you my answer in the morning."
"Like hell you will.
I want your answer before you leave this office. I'll give you three minutes.
Dick looked up. sighed
and in a resigned voice replied. "I'll try it, sir."
"That is more like it,
Meadows, but I don't like the word try. Is it a bargain?"
"It's a bargain."
"Fine. Be at the Bohemian
Club at ten o'clock tomorrow morning and I'll brief you on Mary's current
activities and give you a membership card to her golf club. From there
on in it's up to you, but remember--four months from tomorrow I want divorce
papers on my desk."
As a signal to end the
conference. Connerly again flicked the knob on the intercom and instructed
his secretary to escort Dick to the cashier's cage and pay him off in full.
"He is no longer in our employ," he said.
Dick mechanically walked
to the door, he was in a complete stupor.
at ten, Meadows."
Dick didn't hear Connerly
as he left the office and when he arrived back in his room, he couldn't
recall how he got there, nor could be account for the money he had in his
THE MONTHS ROLLED past
at an alarming rate. It had been too easy for Dick; on the fourth day after
his interview with Connerly he filled in at the Country Club in a foursome
and drew Mary Connerly as a partner. He was mildly surprised to find Mary
so young, attractive and pleasant and playing his usual excellent game,
he found Mary to be a capable golfer also. Before departing they had a
drink at the nineteenth hole and Dick casually remarked that he would enjoy
being her partner again in the near future. Mary readily accepted and that
was it. For the next four months Mary's picture was seen frequently in
the society pages and the personable Dick Meadows was seen either accompanying
her or somewhere in the background.
On the day terminating
the fourth month, Connerly instructed his secretary to have Dick in his
office at ten the following morning, but it was two in the afternoon before
Dick finally sauntered in. He had the air of a wealthy playboy, completely
Connerly stood up and
appraised him closely. "Well, Meadows," he said. "you certainly are a changed
man. Amazing what money can do, isn't it?"
"It's a very comforting
commodity," replied Dick casually.
"Meadows, I didn't send
for you to pass the time of day. I have been following you closely and
I must admit you have done an excellent job, as I knew you would, except
in one department. I think I am entitled to, shall we say, a progress report
"Mr. Connerly," said
Dick seriously. "I have found Mary to be a charming companion and a wonderful
woman. I believe she is very fond of me, but not fond enough for marriage--yet.
Your wife is a very patient and cautious woman."
"I know all that, Meadows,"
said Connerly, "but I want results, not alibis. Damn it, man, you've spent
almost forty thousand dollars in four months. Hell, I expected you to be
in Reno by now."
"I feel that I can win
Mary over, Mr. Connerly, but I need at least two more months. As I said
before, Mary is a cautious woman."
"Well, perhaps you're
right, two months but not a single second more."
"Sure, Mr. Connerly,"
said Dick grinning broadly.
"I deposited some more
money in your checking account, you were overdrawn, as usual. For God's
sake, take it easy."
"Mary and I are going
to Sun Valley next week and to Las Vegas the following week, so I hope
you deposited plenty," replied Dick with a touch of sarcasm.
"Las Vegas, eh, Meadows?
See to it that Mary establishes residence there for about six weeks. All
right, I guess there's nothing further to discuss, but I'll be keeping
a close check on you during the next two months. Good day, Mr. Meadows."
DICK RETURNED TO the
city six weeks later, but Mary remained in Las Vegas and Connerly was quite
pleased. He had sent his investigator to check the court records. He was
certain Dick had succeeded in his quest for Mary's hand, and even though
the investigator returned sans information, Connerly was still confident
that in a few days, or even hours, he would be well on his way to becoming
a free man. He discharged the investigator and waited patiently for Dick
to come in and pick up the certified check he kept in his desk drawer.
The day before the two
months were up he was pleased to learn that Dick was in the outer office
awaiting an interview.
"Send him right in,"
he said anxiously.
Dick stepped into the
office, sat down, lit a cigarette, inhaled deeply and after a few nervous
puffs, he said flatly, "Mr. Connerly, I'll need at least another month."
"Nothing doing," replied
"How about two weeks?"
"Absolutely out of the
"One week?" asked Dick
Connerly jumped to his
feet. "Listen, Meadows, for the last six months I have gambled over sixty
thousand dollars on you. Now get this straight, you'll go to Mary now and
ask her to marry you and to start divorce proceedings against me at once,
is that clear?"
Dick stood up and faced
Connerly. "Will I?" he asked slowly. "For the past six months you've been
ordering me around like a little tin soldier, you've had your nose in every
move I made. Investigators have been shadowing Mary and me constantly.
Charles Connerly, Captain of Industry, playing a game of chess with his
wife and a shipping clerk. You make me laugh." Dick pointed to Connerly's
vacant chair. "Now you sit down and let me tell you something."
Charles Connerly plumped
him self down and stared in amazement.
"Connerly, you're a
god-damned fool. On the fourth date I had with Mary, over five months ago,
I was so disgusted and ashamed of myself I told her about the whole stinking
scheme you cooked up. In other words, Mary Connerly and I have been playing
you for a sucker--sucker Mister Stuffed Shirt." Dick was shouting now,
"Do you understand, Connerly? Sucker!
"Get out," roared Connerly.
"Furthermore, I've milked
enough out of you to put me through law school, with plenty to spare and
do you know, Connerly, there isn't a damn thing you can do about it either."
Struggling to get up
from his chair, Connerly screamed, "Get out of my office before I throw
Dick walked over and
shoved him back in the overstuffed chair and whispered hoarsely, "Not until
I finish what I have to say, Connerly, so listen carefully. From the very
beginning, I've had no intention of marrying your wife and I feel certain
Mary has no intention of marrying me and never did have. During the past
six months you have probably wondered whether or not Mary and I have been
living together. Well, Connerly, you can figure that one out for yourself.
Unfortunately, we all have an Achilles Heel and Mary is no exception. She's
still in love with you, Connerly. Why? Christ only knows. She has your
pictures scattered all over the apartment and each morning she dusts them
off very carefully. It's always Chuck this and Chuck that and I wonder
if he is well and I wonder what he is doing now? And just what are you
doing, Mister Connerly? I'll tell you. You're playing footsie with a washed
out bottle blonde who is trying to take you for your bundle and doing a
damn good job of it."
"Just a minute," protested
Connerly, with a feeble motion of his hand. "I will not be talked to in
"Oh, shut up," replied
Dick, "and what you don't know, Connerly, is every time you go out the
front door of that woman's apartment her gigolo comes sliding in the back
door and you're footing the bill. Try your private investigator on that
one for size."
"You'd better be sure
of that statement, Meadows, that's a serious accusation to make without
"Don't worry, mister
Big Shot, I'm sure of it. The grass may look greener on the other side
of the fence but you've been playing second fiddle all along when you have
a whole orchestra at home waiting for you."
For a fleeting second
Dick almost felt sorry for Connerly but he quickly thought of Mary and
decided to give his former employer a parting shot.
"Mary's been employing
a private eye too," he said. "In fact he's the same one that's been working
for you. Another double payday, Connerly, and you're going to ante up for
Dick snatched his hat
from Connerly's desk and started for the door. Hesitating, he turned towards
Connerly, now slumped, dejectedly in the chair and staring at the floor.
"If I were you, Connerly,"
said Dick a little more kindly, "I would call Mary up for a game of golf.
That will give you eighteen holes to square yourself. And, Connerly, if
you have any self-respect or manhood left in you, which I doubt. you'll
crawl every inch of the way. She's worth every bit of it and much more."
Dick quickly left the
private office, slamming the door on the way out. He drove straight to
Mary's apartment and was ushered into the living room by Mary's personal
As Mary entered the
living room, Dick sheepishly looked up at her and grinned.
"The party's over, Mary,
the end of six of the best months of my life. I just came from your husband's
office and I might add, I gave him both barrels."
"Tell me all about it,
Dick," ask ed Mary eagerly. "But first, let me pour you a drink. You look
as though you were run through the proverbial wringer."
Dick slowly sipped a
scotch and soda as he told Mary of his final interview with Charles Connerly.
He left nothing out and Mary howled with delight. "I would have given the
whole eighty thousand just to see the look on Chuck's face when you told
him we were playing him for a sucker. Just how did he look, Dick?"
"Gosh, Mary, I was too
scared to notice. I think I had better duck out of town for a while though,
before he comes gunning for me. You know, Mary, discretion is the better
part of valor?"
"Relax, Dickie boy,
Chuck's not the shooting type. Right now I would guess he's eating cottage
cheese and drinking milk to calm down his ulcers."
"Seriously, Mary," said
Dick. "I've swindled enough from my so-called expense account to finish
school and I want to go east and register. My job is done here. My only
regret is the inference I left with him that we were living together."
"You know, Dick, I haven't
been exactly fair with you," she said. "I guess you'd call it being female,
but I knew from the very first day that Chuck sent you. At first I thought
you were spying on me so I figured I might as well play along and see what
would happen next and, Dick, I'll never forget the evening you told me
of your bargain with Chuck. It was like a wave of clean, cool, fresh air
striking me in the face after being in a hot, sticky, dirty swamp for four
weeks. I was terribly proud of you then, Dick. You completely restored
my faith in mankind and displayed a hell of a lot of intestinal fortitude
on your own part. A thing like that is hard to do."
"But how did you know?"
interrupted Dick, blushing at the compliment.
"Simple, Dickie boy,"
quipped Mary. "You must have thought I just fell off a haystack. I'd never
seen you around the club before so I checked and found that you were given
a card on Chuck's recommendation. There's where I smelled a rat. So, when
you drove away, I took note of the dealer on your car plates. Chuck always
buys his cars there and I discovered that he bought yours too. Simple eh,
Dickie? Want more? I checked Chuck's clothier and I found..."
"That's enough, Mary,"
pleaded Dick, throwing up his hands. "Connerly's investigator couldn't
hold a candle to you."
Dick stood up, put his
arms around Mary and kissed her tenderly.
"Well, that should just
about wrap everything up, Mary," said Dick. "You're over the hump now,
Mary, and I have a sneaking suspicion that your husband will be checking
in soon. Let him work for it this time, Mary."
Mary looked up at Dick
and her eyes softened. "I wish you every bit of luck, Dick, you've been
simply grand. Just the right tonic for a very lonely woman."
DICK MEADOWS checked
out of his hotel room early the next morning. after making reservations
on a plane east. He asked the desk clerk to order a cab, paid his bill,
then reached in his pocket and pulled out a set of car keys. He tossed
them on the desk in front of the clerk.
"Mail these keys to
Mr. Charles Connerly of Westco Chemicals and tell him to have my car in
the garage picked up, will you please?"
"Certainly, Mr. Meadows,"
replied the clerk.
"That won't be necessary
clerk. Give Mr. Meadows back his keys."
Dick turned around startled
at the familiar voice behind him. He stared at Charles Connerly in complete
disbelief. He was wearing the loudest sweater and matching knickers Dick
had ever seen. His waxed mustache, graying slightly, was reduced to mere
pin-points at the corners of his mouth and a crazy plaid cap sat at a rakish
angle on his head.
"Mary and I are going
to try that eighteen holes you spoke of so eloquently yesterday afternoon,
Meadows. The car is yours. Drive it east and take up corporation law. You've
earned it. Why, after that performance you gave yesterday in my office,
I certainly could use a man like you in my firm."
Connerly shook Dick's
hand warmly. "After all," he said, "a bargain is a bargain." He turned
and strode out of the lobby.
Somewhat stunned, Dick
gazed absently in his direction, then turned to the desk clerk. Cancel
those plane reservations," he said. "I'll be driving."