Ray Dean aka Raden, was a purveyor of chicanery. Three life-altering events had taken place in the last few months. He had turned sixty-five, had just been released from a federal prison after serving a thirty-year sentence for defrauding several unsuspecting elderly people and he had been graciously admitted to the Battery Park Hotel, on the condition that his evil ways had been put behind him.
Born in the hills of North Carolina to uneducated parents who had to scrimp and save every dollar just to make ends meet, he decided at an early age that was not the life he wanted.
With an IQ of 165, his debauchery began at twelve years old. He started stealing goats and cows from neighbors, tying them to a tree, waiting for a reward to be posted and then returning them to collect the money. It was a brilliant ploy and the grateful people started calling him “the little Pinkerton.”
But his ruse would come to an end when they began to wise up and realized that he was the one who always seemed to “find” the missing animals. He got what you would call a good ole whoopin’ from his Papa, and a lecture about right and wrong but his Papa’s speech went the way of the proverbial “in one ear and out the other.”
His Papa said, “I know you’re smarter than I am, son, but there’s a right way to do things and there’s a wrong way to do things. You need to do things the right way.”
Raden was smart enough to placate his Papa and showed the proper remorse but all the while, he was planning his next caper.
Feeling that higher education was for chumps, and also believing that he was always the smartest person in the room, he opted to drop out of high school at sixteen and start his own business.
That business took him from state to state, not because he was successful, but because he was outrunning the law.
He would travel around, find depressed houses and use his considerable, smooth-talking charm to entice the owners with promises of repairing roofs, mending broken down fences and replacing leaking pipes for a more than fair price. All he required was half the money down and then he would begin the project. Once he got their hard-earned money, he would skip town, live high on the hog for a few weeks and then move on to his next victim.
His turpitude continued for years and not until he met Isobel, did he start to show a bit of conscience. She was a spit-fire of a woman who could match his intellect and he found her to be quite challenging.
She had just inherited a tidy sum of money from her folks as well as their old farmhouse, which she intended to restore to its original state. Raden saw an opportunity to make a quick killing, but he found Isobel to be so alluring that he couldn’t take advantage and decided that maybe meeting her was a sign that he should start traveling the straight and narrow path of honesty.
They would meet and he would pretend to know what he was talking about as they looked at the rusty old tin roof and rotten eaves. He was being pretentious and his only purpose was to spend more time with her, not help fix the house.
The more time he spent with her, the more enamored he became and the more guilt he felt, but his funds were running low and he needed a quick fix. He fell back into his old ways and took several thousand dollars from her.
They planned to meet the next morning and start working. Isobel arrived at the house and waited all day but Raden never showed up. He took her money and left but Isobel was not going to be just another one of his victims.
She hired a private investigator and Raden’s luck ran out when the long arm of the law came knocking on his door. He was living in a dismal flat, crawling with roaches and rats and littered with empty liquor bottles. He had made off with her money but as soon as he skipped town, his daddy’s words of doing the right thing began to echo in his ears like the tolling of a death knell. Instead of cheating people out of money, he started begging people for money.
If he had ever been able to love anyone other than himself, Isobel had been the recipient. While in prison, Raden became an accomplished artist. His cell housed hundreds of paintings. Other inmates asked for their likenesses or those of loved ones, but Raden refused. All of his paintings were of Isobel and when he was released, he took those paintings to the Battery Park Hotel.
He was reclusive and other than an occasional nod to someone in passing, he kept to himself. It was almost as if he was self-imposed to another prison as a form of further penitence, although in the eyes of the law, he had paid his debt to society.
He never participated on game night and it’s questionable if he ever had the pleasure of meeting Eloise. He never visited the hairdresser nor did he ever lounge around in the main lobby.
He was found in the hallway with his arms full of melted oil paintings that were not recognizable. Perhaps in his last moments of life, he finally found peace and a modicum of comfort, knowing that he was going to die…with Isobel.
To be continued___________________