Title: San Francisco Secrets
Author: Greg Messel
Format: Paperback, ebook
Length: 405 pages
Publisher: Sunbreaks Publishing
Noted novelist and newspaper editor Edgar Watson Howe once said. “A man who can keep a secret may be wise but he is not half as wise as a man with no secrets to keep”
As the spring of 1958 arrives in San Francisco, it seems that baseball player turned private eye, Sam Slater and his fiancée, TWA stewardess Amelia Ryan, are surrounded by people who have secrets.
A prominent doctor, John O’Dell is being blackmailed by someone who has discovered a dark secret from his past. When the private investigator trying to catch the blackmailer is murdered, Dr. O’Dell hires Sam Slater to try to pick up the pieces. Someone is playing for keeps and will do anything to protect their own secrets.
Meanwhile, Amelia begins her new job as an international stewardess which takes her on adventures to New York City, London, Paris and Rome. In hot pursuit is a womanizing older pilot who has his sights set on Amelia.
Their lives get even more complicated when a mysterious woman from Sam’s past returns.
Sam and Amelia’s relationship will be tested as they work together to solve the mystery on the foggy streets of San Francisco.
March 6, 1958
On a quiet sunny Thursday afternoon, a quaint, little Spanish-style bank on Macarthur Boulevard in Oakland was robbed.
Two career criminals, Lloyd Wells and Doug McAllister, who were down on their luck, were elated as they pulled off a big score and made their getaway towards San Francisco.
The small neighborhood bank, made of white stucco with a red tile roof, had minimal security provided by an ancient bank guard who seemed to be dozing when the robbers stormed in. In the middle of the afternoon, there were just a few old people putting some money in their passbook savings accounts or cashing their Social Security checks.
Wells and McAllister needed this score badly. They planned to grab their loot and head for the Reno area where McAllister had a small rundown house. The score at the bank would set them up for future exploits in Reno.
Wells was anxious to get out of the Bay Area where he had already had several run-ins with the law. The bank robbery went flawlessly. It was over in just a few minutes with the tellers quickly emptying their cash drawers into McAllister’s bag before the thieves fled.
After making a clean getaway from the bank in Oakland, the pair caught the on-ramp to the Bay Bridge and headed for San Francisco. They kept checking their rearview mirror but there was no one in pursuit, even though they expected a lot of heat after the robbery.
McAllister and Wells wanted to get as far away as possible until things cooled down a bit after the heist. Wells had a plan to stash most of the loot from the robbery and then come back later to retrieve it before they permanently relocated to Reno.
McAllister tried to do a quick count of their haul while Wells drove the car cautiously over the bridge into San Francisco. It all happened so quickly inside the bank, but to his astonishment, it looked like they might have gotten away with as much as $70,000.
Wells drove out to Ocean Beach near the Cliff House on the western edge of the city, where he had parked his light-blue and white 1953 Chevy. He pulled the stolen aqua-colored 1954 Ford into the parking lot by the beach.
The men emptied everything out of the Ford. Wells popped the trunk on his Chevy and retrieved a burlap bag. The men put their black masks, hats, gloves, and two bricks into the bag.
They inspected the interior of the stolen car one last time and then locked it. McAllister looked around and then threw the keys to the Ford as far as he could out onto the sand of Ocean Beach. Wells transferred the bag full of money into the Chevy. The two men got into the car and drove away slowly.
They drove north past the Cliff House on the roadway that snaked along the seaside heading toward the Presidio grounds.
“Pull over here,” McAllister said.
Wells complied. McAllister retrieved the burlap bag and walked to the edge of a cliff near China Beach that overlooked the Pacific Ocean. He gave the bag a few swings and then threw it as far as he could off the cliff. McAllister watched the bag create a large splash as it landed in the ocean below.
When McAllister returned to the car, Wells said, “Time to go visit uncle.”
The men then headed to a house on O’Farrell Street in the heart of San Francisco. Wells’ uncle, Andrew Griffiths, was 85 years old and lived in an old Victorian townhouse that appeared frozen in time.
Wells had always been very fond of his uncle, who had raised him after his troubled parents abandoned him. Andrew Griffiths thought of Lloyd Wells as the son he never had, but he knew in his heart that attempts to keep his nephew on the straight-and-narrow were largely in vain. Griffiths had stopped asking Lloyd about his activities. He had come to the sad conclusion that it was best if he didn’t want to know a lot of details about his nephew’s life.
Wells knew that his uncle’s health was beginning to fail and he was spending more and more time in bed. His uncle’s only child was a daughter, Yvonne, who lived in Vacaville near Sacramento.
As the men parked in front of Uncle Andrew’s house, Wells gave final instructions to his partner.
“When we get in there, I’ll go into the back of the house and keep my uncle busy. There are two high-backed overstuffed antique chairs with green upholstery by the front window,” Wells explained. “Take the bank money and stuff it in the bottom of the two chairs. Just take your pocketknife and carefully pry off the covering on the bottom of the chairs. Put the cash inside and reattach the cloth on the bottom of the chairs. Got it?”
“Got it,” McAllister replied.
“Just make sure the covering on the bottom of the chair is securely fastened so the wad of cash stays put. Put the cash in these paper bags and secure it to the frame of the chair.
“Yeah, no sweat,” McAllister said.
“It’s important that no one suspects that there is anything stashed in the bottom of the chairs. Those chairs haven’t been moved for a hundred years, so it’s the perfect place to hide our money until we come back to San Francisco and get it. I just want to make sure no one gets wise about what’s in those chairs.”
“Okay. You’re sure you can keep your uncle occupied and he won’t hear me tinkering with the chairs?”
“You could run a herd of cattle down my uncle’s hallway and he wouldn’t hear it. Just be quick about it and I’ll talk with him. I need to make sure he’s taken care of and I’ll explain that I’ll be out of town for a few weeks.”
“Sounds good. I’ll keep enough cash to get us through while we’re waiting for things to calm down,” McAllister replied.
“Right,” Wells responded. “Let’s get to work.”