Here is a little tangle that is perpetually cropping up in various guises. A cyclist bought a bicycle for L15 and gave in payment a cheque for L25. The seller went to a neighbouring shopkeeper and got him to change the cheque for him, and the cyclist... Read more of THE BICYCLE THIEF. at Math Puzzle.caInformational Site Network Informational
Privacy
   Home - Science Fiction Stories - Western Stories

Other Chapters or Short Stories

Heist Job On Thizar



Heist Job On Thizar







From: Heist Job On Thizar

In the future, we may discover new planets; our ships
may rocket to new worlds; robots may be smarter than
people. But we'll still have slick characters willing
and able to turn a fast buck--even though they have to
be smarter than Einstein to do it.


Anson Drake sat quietly in the Flamebird Room of the Royal Gandyll
Hotel, listening to the alien, but soothing strains of the native
orchestra and sipping a drink. He knew perfectly well that he had no
business displaying himself in public on the planet Thizar; there were
influential Thizarians who held no love for a certain Earthman named
Anson Drake.

It didn't particularly bother Drake; life was danger and danger was life
to him, and Anson Drake was known on half a hundred planets as a man who
could take care of himself.

Even so, he wouldn't have bothered to come if it had not been for the
fact that Viron Belgezad was a pompous braggart.

Belgezad had already suffered at the hands of Anson Drake. Some years
before, a narcotics gang had been smashed high, wide, and handsome on
Thizar. Three men had died from an overdose of their own thionite drug,
and fifty thousand credits of illicit gain had vanished into nowhere.
The Thizarian police didn't know who had done the job, and they didn't
know who had financed the ring.

But Belgezad knew that Anson Drake was the former, and Drake knew that
Viron Belgezad was the latter. And each one was waiting his chance to
get the other.

A week before, Drake had been relaxing happily on a beach on Seladon II,
twelve light-years from Thizar, reading a newsfax. He had become
interested in an article which told of the sentencing of a certain lady
to seven years in Seladon Prison, when his attention was attracted by
another headline.

VIRON BELGEZAD BUYS ALGOL NECKLACE

Thizar (GNS)--Viron Belgezad, wealthy Thizarian financier, has
purchased the fabulous Necklace of Algol, it was announced today.
The necklace, made of matched Star Diamonds, is estimated to be
worth more than a million credits, although the price paid by
Belgezad is not known.


magnificence.]

Such an interesting bit seemed worthy of further investigation, so Drake
had immediately booked passage on the first space liner to Thizar.

And thus it was that an immaculately dressed, broad-shouldered, handsome
young man sat quietly in the Flamebird Room of Thizar's flushiest
hostelry surveying his surroundings with steady green eyes and wondering
how he was going to get his hands on the Necklace of Algol.

The police couldn't touch Belgezad, but Anson Drake could--and would.

"Hello, Drake," said a cold voice at his elbow.

Drake turned and looked up into the sardonically smiling face of Jomis
Dobigel, the heavy-set, dark-faced Thizarian who worked with Belgezad.

"Well, well," Anson said, smiling, "if it isn't Little Bo-Peep. How is
the dope business? And how is the Big Dope Himself?"

Dobigel's smile soured. "You're very funny, Earthman. But we don't like
Earthmen here."

"Do sit down, Dobbie, and tell me all about it. The last I heard--which
was three hours ago--the government of Thizar was perfectly happy to
have me here. In fact, they were good enough to stamp my passport to
prove it."

* * * * *

Dobigel pulled out a chair and sat down, keeping his hands beneath the
table. "What are you doing here, Drake?" he asked in a cold voice.

"I couldn't help it," Drake said blandly. "I was drawn back by the
memory of the natural beauties of your planet. The very thought of the
fat, flabby face of old Belgezad, decorated with a bulbous nose that is
renowned throughout the Galaxy, was irresistible. So here I am."

Dobigel's dark face grew even darker. "I know you, Drake. And I know why
you're here. Tomorrow is the date for the Coronation of His Serenity,
the Shan of Thizar."

"True," Drake agreed. "And I wouldn't miss it for all the loot in
Andromeda. A celebration like that is worth traveling parsecs to see."

Dobigel leaned across the table. "Belgezad is a Noble of the Realm," he
said slowly. "He'll be at the Coronation. You know he's going to wear
the Necklace of Algol as well as anyone, and you--"

Suddenly, he leaned forward a little farther, his right hand stabbing
out toward Drake's leg beneath the table.

But Anson Drake was ready for him. Dobigel's hand was a full three
inches from Drake's thigh when a set of fingers grasped his wrist in a
viselike hold. Steely fingers bit in, pressing nerves against bone. With
a gasp, Dobigel opened his hand. A small, metallic cylinder dropped out.

Drake caught it with his free hand and smiled. "That's impolite, Dobbie.
It isn't proper to try to give your host an injection when he doesn't
want it."

Casually, he put the cylinder against the arm which he still held and
squeezed the little metal tube. There was a faint pop! Drake released
the arm and handed back the cylinder. Dobigel's face was white.

"I imagine that was twelve-hour poison," Drake said kindly. "If you
hurry, old Belgezad will give you the antidote. It will be painful,
but--" He shrugged.

"And by the way, Brother Dobigel," he continued, "let me give you some
advice. The next time you try to get near a victim with one of those
things, don't do it by talking to him about things he already knows. It
doesn't distract him enough."

Dobigel stood up, his fists clenched. "I'll get you for this, Drake."
Then he turned and stalked off through the crowd.

* * * * *

No one had noticed the little by-play. Drake smiled seraphically and
finished his drink. Dobigel was going to be uncomfortable for a while.
Twelve-hour poison was a complex protein substance that could be varied
in several thousand different ways, and only an antidote made from the
right variation would work for each poison. If the antidote wasn't
given, the victim died within twelve hours. And even if the antidote was
given, getting over poison wasn't any fun at all.

Reflecting happily on the plight of Jomis Dobigel, Anson Drake paid his
bill, tipped the waiter liberally, and strolled out of the Flamebird
Room and into the lobby of the Royal Gandyll Hotel. The Coronation would
begin early tomorrow, and he didn't want to miss the beginning of it.
The Shan's Coronation was the affair of Thizar.

* * * * *

He went over to the robot newsvender and dropped a coin in the slot. The
reproducer hummed, and a freshly-printed newsfax dropped out.

He headed for the lift tube, which whisked him up to his room on the
eighty-first floor. He inserted his key in the lock and pressed the
button on the tip. The electronic lock opened, and the door slid into
the wall. Before entering, Drake took a look at the detector on his
wrist. There was no sign of anything having entered the room since he
had left it. Only then did he go inside.

With one of the most powerful financiers on Thizar out after his blood,
there was no way of knowing what might happen, and therefore no reason
to take chances.

There were some worlds where Anson Drake would no more have stayed in a
public hotel than he would have jumped into an atomic furnace,
especially if his enemy was a man as influential as Belgezad. But Thizar
was a civilized and reasonably well policed planet; the police were
honest and the courts were just. Even Belgezad couldn't do anything
openly.

Drake locked his door, sang to himself in a pleasant baritone while he
bathed, put on his pajamas, and lay down on his bed to read the paper.

* * * * *

It was mostly full of Coronation news. Noble So-and-So would wear
such-and-such, the Archbishop would do thus-and-so. There was another
item about Belgezad; his daughter was ill and would be unable to attend.
Bloody shame, thought Drake. Too bad Belgezad isn't sick--or dying.

There was further mention of the Necklace of Algol; it was second only
to the Crown Jewels of the Shan himself. The precautions being taken
were fantastic; at a quick guess, about half the crowd would be
policemen.

The door announcer chimed. Drake sat up and punched the door TV. The
screen showed the face of a girl standing at his door. Drake smiled in
appreciation. She had dark brown hair, brown eyes, and a smooth, tanned
complexion. It was a beautiful face, and it showed promise of having a
body to match.

"Who, may I ask, is calling on a gentleman at this ungodly hour, and
thus compromising her reputation and fair name?"

The girl smiled, showing even, white teeth, and her eyes sparkled,
showing flickers of little golden flames against the brown. "I see I've
found the right room," she said. "That voice couldn't belong to anyone
but Anson Drake." Then she lowered her voice and said softly: "Let me
in. I'm Norma Knight."

Drake felt a tingle of psychic electricity flow over his skin; there was
a promise of danger and excitement in the air. Norma Knight was known
throughout this whole sector of the Galaxy as the cleverest jewel thief
the human race had ever spawned. Drake had never met her, but he had
definitely heard of her.

He touched the admission stud, and the door slid silently aside. There
was no doubt about it, her body did match her face.

* * * * *

"Do come in, Norma," he said.

She stepped inside, and Drake touched the closing button. The door slid
shut behind her.

She stood there for a moment, looking at him, and Drake took the
opportunity to study the girl more closely. At last, she said: "So
you're Anson Drake. You're even better looking than I'd heard you were.
Congratulations."

"I have a good press agent," Drake said modestly. "What's on your mind?"
He waved his hand at a nearby chair.

"The same thing that's on yours, I suspect," she said. "Do you have a
drink to spare?"

Drake unlimbered himself from the bed, selected a bottle from the menu
and dialed. The robot bellhop whirred, a chute opened in the wall, and a
bottle slid out. Drake poured, handed the tumbler to the girl, and said:
"This is your party; what do you have in mind?"

The girl took a sip of her drink before she answered. Then she looked up
at Drake with her deep brown eyes. "Two things. One: I have no
intention or desire to compete with Anson Drake for the Necklace of
Algol. Both of us might end up in jail with nothing for our pains.

"Two: I have a foolproof method for getting the necklace, but none for
getting it off the planet. I think you probably have a way."

Drake nodded. "I dare say I could swing it. How does it happen that you
don't have an avenue of disposal planned?"

She looked bleak for a moment. "The man who was to help me decided to
back out at the last minute. He didn't know what the job was, and I
wouldn't tell him because I didn't trust him."

"And you trust me?"

Her eyes were very trustful. "I've heard a lot about you, Drake, and I
happen to know you never doublecross anyone unless they doublecross you
first."

"Trade about is fair play, to quote an ancient maxim," Drake said,
grinning. "And I am a firm believer in fair play.

"But that's neither here nor there. The point is: what do you have to
offer? Why shouldn't I just pinch the gems myself and do a quick flit
across the Galaxy? That would give me all the loot."

She shook her head. "Belgezad is on to you, you know. He knows you're
here. His own private police and the Shan's own Guard will be at the
Coronation to protect all that jewelry." She cocked her pretty head to
one side and looked at him. "What's between you and Belgezad, anyway?"

"I stole his toys when he was a child," said Drake, "and he hasn't
trusted me since. How do you propose to get the Necklace of Algol if I
can't?"

She smiled and shook her head slowly. "That would be telling. You let me
take care of my part, and I'll let you take care of yours."

Drake shook his head--not so slowly. "Absolutely not. We either work
together or we don't work at all."

* * * * *

The girl frowned in thought for a moment, and then reached into the belt
pouch at her side and pulled out a square of electro-engraved plastic.
She handed it to Drake.

Underneath all the flowery verbiage, it boiled down to an invitation to
attend the post-Coronation reception. It was addressed to "Miss
Caroline Smith" and was signed and sealed by the Shan of Thizar
himself.

"I'm 'Caroline Smith'," she said. "I've managed to get in good with the
family of Belgezad, and he wangled the invitation.

"Now, the plan is this: Right after the Invocation, while the new Shan
is being prepared in his special Coronation Robes, the Nobles have to
change their uniforms from red to green. Belgezad will go into his suite
in the Palace to change. He'll be accompanied by two guards. One will
stay on the outside, the other will help Belgezad dress. I've got the
room next to his, and I've managed to get the key that unlocks the door
between them. I'll use this--" She pulled a small globe of metal from
her belt pouch. "It's a sleep-gas bomb. It'll knock them out for at
least twenty minutes. No one will come in during that time, and I'll be
able to get the necklace and get out of the palace before they wake up."

"They'll know you did it," Drake pointed out. "If you're still missing
when they come to, the thief's identity will be obvious."

She nodded. "That's where you come in. I'll simply go out into the
garden and throw it over the wall to you. We'll meet here afterwards."

Drake thought it over and smiled devilishly. "It sounds fine. Now let's
co-ordinate everything."

They went over the whole plot again, this time with a chart of the
palace to mark everything out and a time schedule was arranged. Then
they toasted to success and the girl left.

When she was gone, Anson Drake smiled ruefully to himself and opened a
secret compartment in his suitcase. From it, he removed a long strand of
glittering jewels.

"A perfect imitation," Drake said. "And you're very pretty. It's a shame
I won't be able to hang you around the neck of Belgezad in place of the
real Necklace of Algol."

But his original plan had been more dangerous than the present one, and
Anson Drake was always ready to desert a good plan for a better one.

* * * * *

Coronation Day dawned bright and clear, and the festivities began early.
There were speeches and parades and dancing in the streets. A huge fleet
of high-flying rockets rumbled high in the stratosphere, filling the sky
with the white traceries of their exhausts. For all of Thizar, it was a
holiday, a day of rejoicing and happiness. Cheers for the Shan filled
the streets, and strains of music came from the speakers of the public
communications system.

Anson Drake missed most of the fun; he was too busy making plans. The
day passed as he worked.

Thizar's sun began to set as the hour for the actual Crowning of the
Shan approached. At the proper time, Drake was waiting in the shadows
outside the palace walls. There were eyes watching him, and he knew it,
but he only smiled softly to himself and waited.

"Sssssst!"

It was the girl, on the other side of the wall.

"I'm here," whispered Drake.

Something that glittered faintly in the soft light of the twin moons of
Thizar arced over the wall. Drake caught it in his hands. The Necklace
of Algol!

He slipped it into a small plastic box he was carrying and then glanced
at the detector on his wrist. The screen showed a pale blue pip which
indicated that someone was hidden in the shadows a few yards to his
right.

Drake didn't even glance toward the spy. He put the plastic box
containing the necklace into his belt pouch and strode away from the
palace. He had, he figured, about twenty minutes.

He headed directly for the spaceship terminal. Never once did he look
back, but the detector on his wrist told him that he was being closely
followed. Excellent!

Inside the terminal, he went directly to the baggage lockers. He found
one that was empty, inserted a coin, and opened it. From his pouch, he
took a plastic box, put it in the locker, switched on the lock with his
key, and strolled away.

* * * * *

He glanced again at his detector. He was no longer being followed by the
same man; another had taken up the trail. It figured; it figured.

He went straight to the Hotel Gandyll, making sure that his tail didn't
lose him. Not until they were in the lobby did he make any attempt to
shake the man who was following him. He went into the bar, ordered a
drink, and took a sip. He left his change and the drink on the bar and
headed out the door in the direction of the men's room. Whoever was
following him wouldn't realize for a minute or two that he was leaving
for good. A man doesn't usually leave change and an unfinished drink in
a bar.

Drake took the lift tube up to his room, attended to some unfinished
business, and waited.

* * * * *

Less than three minutes later, the door was opened. In walked Viron
Belgezad and his lieutenant, Jomis Dobigel. Both of them looked
triumphant, and they were surrounded by a squad of Royal Police.

"There he is," said Dobigel. "Arrest him!"

A police officer stepped forward. "Anson Drake, I arrest you in the name
of the Shan," he said.

Drake grinned. "On what charge?"

"The theft of the Necklace of Algol."

Drake looked directly at Belgezad. "Did old Fatface here say I took it?"

"You can't talk that way," Dobigel snarled, stepping forward.

"Who says so, Ugly?"

At that, Dobigel stepped forward and threw a hard punch from his
shoulder--straight at Drake's face.

It never landed. Drake side-stepped it and brought a smashing uppercut
up from his knees. It lifted Dobigel off his feet and sent him crashing
back against old Belgezad, toppling them both to the floor.

The policemen had all drawn their guns, but Drake was standing placidly
in the middle of the room, his hands high above his head regarding the
scene calmly.

"I'll go quietly," he said. "I've got no quarrel with the police."

One of the officers led him out into the hall while the others searched
his room. Belgezad was sputtering incoherently. Another policeman was
trying to wake up Dobigel.

"If you're looking for the Necklace of Algol," Drake said, "you won't
find it there."

The captain of the police squad said: "We know that, Mr. Drake. We are
merely looking for other evidence. We already have the necklace." He
reached in his belt pouch and took out a small plastic box. He opened
it, disclosing a glittering rope of jewels. "You were seen depositing
this in a baggage locker at the spaceship terminal. We have witnesses
who saw you, and we had it removed under police supervision."

Viron Belgezad smiled nastily. "This time you won't get away, Drake!
Stealing anything from the palace of the Shan carries a minimum penalty
of twenty years in Thizar Prison."

Drake said nothing as they took him off to the Royal Police Station and
locked him in a cell.

* * * * *

It was late afternoon of the next day when the Prosecutor for the Shan
visited Drake's cell. He was a tall, imposing man, and Drake knew him by
reputation as an honest, energetic man.

"Mr. Drake," he said as he sat down in a chair in the cell, "you have
refused to speak to anyone but me. I am, of course, perfectly willing to
be of any assistance, but I am afraid I must warn you that any statement
made to me will be used against you at the trial."

Drake leaned back in his own chair. One thing nice about Thizar, he
reflected; they had comfortable jails.

"My Lord Prosecutor," he said, "I'd like to make a statement. As I
understand it, Belgezad claims he was gassed, along with a police guard
who was with him. When he woke up, the necklace was gone. He didn't see
his assailant."

"That is correct," said the Prosecutor.

Drake grinned. That was the way it had to be. Belgezad couldn't possibly
have bribed the cop, so they both had to be gassed.

"If he didn't see his assailant, how does he know who it was?"

"You were followed from the palace by Jomis Dobigel, who saw you put the
necklace into the baggage locker. There are several other witnesses to
that."

Drake leaned forward. "Let me point out, my Lord Prosecutor, that the
only evidence you have that I was anywhere near the palace is the word
of Jomis Dobigel. And he didn't see me inside the palace. I was
outside the wall."

The Prosecutor shrugged. "We admit the possibility of an assistant
inside the walls of the palace," he said. "We are investigating that
now. But even if we never find your accomplice, we have proof that you
were implicated, and that is enough."

"What proof do you have?" Drake asked blandly.

"Why, the necklace itself, of course!" The Prosecutor looked as though
he suspected Drake of having taken leave of his senses.

Drake shook his head. "That necklace is mine. I can prove it. It was
made for me by a respectable jeweler on Seladon II. It's a very good
imitation, but it's a phoney. They aren't diamonds; they're simply
well-cut crystals of titanium dioxide. Check them if you don't believe
me."

The Lord Prosecutor looked dumbfounded. "But--what--why--"

Drake looked sad. "I brought it to give to my good friend, the Noble
Belgezad. Of course it would be a gross insult to wear them at the
Shan's Coronation, but he could wear them at other functions.

"And how does my good friend repay me? By having me arrested. My Lord
Prosecutor, I am a wronged man."

The Prosecutor swallowed heavily and stood up. "The necklace has,
naturally, been impounded by the police. I shall have the stones
tested."

"You'll find they're phonies," Drake said. "And that means one of two
things. Either they are not the ones stolen from Belgezad or else
Belgezad has mortally insulted his Shan by wearing false jewels to the
Coronation."

"Well! We shall see about this!" said the Lord Prosecutor.

* * * * *

Anson Drake, free as a lark, was packing his clothes in his hotel room
when the announcer chimed. He punched the TV pickup and grinned. It was
the girl.

When the door slid aside, she came in, smiling. "You got away with it,
Drake! Wonderful! I don't know how you did it, but--"

"Did what?" Drake looked innocent.

"Get away with the necklace, of course! I don't know how it happened
that Dobigel was there, but--"

"But, but, but," Drake said, smiling. "You don't seem to know very much
at all, do you?"

"Wha--what do you mean?"

Drake put his last article of clothing in his suitcase and snapped it
shut. "I'll probably be searched pretty thoroughly when I get to the
spaceport," he said coolly, "but they won't find anything on an innocent
man."

"Where is the necklace?" she asked in a throaty voice.

Drake pretended not to hear her. "It's a funny thing," he said. "Old
Belgezad would never let the necklace out of his hands except to get
me. He thought he'd get it back by making sure I was followed. But he
made two mistakes."

The girl put her arms around his neck. "His mistakes don't matter as
long as we have the necklace, do they?"

Anson Drake was never a man to turn down an invitation like that. He
held her in his arms and kissed her--long and lingeringly.

When he broke away, he went on as though nothing had happened.

"Two mistakes. The first one was thinking up such an obviously silly
plot. If it were as easy to steal jewels from the palace as all that,
nothing would be safe on Thizar.

"The second mistake was sending his daughter to trap me."

* * * * *

The girl gasped and stepped back.

"It was very foolish of you, Miss Belgezad," he went on calmly. "You
see, I happened to know that the real Norma Knight was sentenced to
seven years in Seladon Prison over a week ago. Unfortunately, the news
hadn't reached Thizar yet. I knew from the first that the whole thing
was to be a frame-up. It's too bad that your father had to use the real
necklace--it's a shame he lost it."

The girl's eyes blazed. "You--you thief! You--" She used words which
no self-respecting lady is supposed to use.

Drake waited until she had finished, and then said: "Oh, no, Miss
Belgezad; I'm no thief. Your father can consider the loss of that
necklace as a fine for running narcotics. And you can tell him that if I
catch him again, it will be worse.

"I don't like his kind of slime, and I'll do my best to get rid of them.
That's all, Miss B.; it was nice knowing you."

He walked out of the room, leaving her to stand there in helpless fury.

His phony necklace had come in handy after all; the police had thought
they had the real one, so they had never bothered to check the Galactic
Mail Service for a small package mailed to Seladon II. All he'd had to
do was drop it into the mail chute from his room and then cool his heels
in jail while the Galactic Mails got rid of the loot for him.

The Necklace of Algol would be waiting for him when he got to Seladon
II.





Next: The Highest Treason

Previous: Hail To The Chief



Add to del.icio.us Add to Reddit Add to Digg Add to Del.icio.us Add to Google Add to Twitter Add to Stumble Upon
Add to Informational Site Network
Report
Privacy
SHAREADD TO EBOOK


Viewed 455