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The week passed slowly, and Alan did poorly at his nightly work. His mind was anywhere but on the flashing games board, and the permutations and combinations eluded him. He lost, though not heavily.

Each night the ten members of the Syndicate met at Hawkes' apartment and planned each step of the crime in great detail, drilling and re-drilling until it was second nature for each man to recite his particular part in the robbery. Alan's was at once the simplest and most difficult; he would have nothing to do until the others had finished their parts, but then he would have to board the armored car and outrace any pursuers. He was to drive the car far outside city limits, where he would be met and relieved of the cash by Byng and Hollis; then he was to lose the truck somewhere and return to the city by public transit.

The day of the robbery dawned cold and clear; an autumn chill was in the air. Alan felt some anticipatory nervousness, but he was calmer than he expected to be--almost fatalistically calm. By nightfall, he would be a wanted criminal. He wondered whether it would be worth it, even for the million credits. Perhaps it would be best to defy Hawkes and make some sort of escape try.

But Hawkes, as always a shrewd judge of human character, seemed obviously aware that Alan was wavering. He kept a close watch over him, never allowing him to stray. Hawkes was taking no chances. He was compelling Alan to take part in the robbery.

The currency transfer was scheduled to take place at 1240, according to the inside information that Hollis had somehow obtained. Shortly after noon, Hawkes and Alan left the apartment and boarded the Undertube, their destination the downtown section of York City where the World Reserve Bank was located.

They reached the bank about 1230. The armored truck was parked outside, looking sleek and impregnable, and four massive roboguards stood watch, one by each wheel. There were three human policemen too, but they were strictly for effect; in case of any trouble, the roboguards were expected to handle the rough work.

The bank was a mighty edifice indeed--over a hundred stories high, rising in sweeping setbacks to a point where its tapering top was lost in the shimmering noonday sky. It was, Alan knew, the center of global commerce.

Armed guards were bringing packages of currency from within the bank and were placing them on the truck. Alan's heart raced. The streets were crowded with office workers out for lunch; could he get away with it?

It was all precisely synchronized. As Hawkes and Alan strolled toward the bank, Alan caught sight of Kovak lounging across the street, reading a telefax sheet. None of the others were visible.

Webber, Alan knew, was at this moment sitting in an office overlooking the bank entrance, staring out the window at the scene below. At precisely 1240, Webber was to throw the switch on the wave-damper that would paralyze the four roboguards.

The instant the roboguards froze, the other conspirators would go into action. Jensen, McGuire, Freeman, and Smith, donning masks, would leap for the three human guards of the truck and pin them to the ground. Byng and Hawkes, who would enter the bank a moment before, would stage an impromptu fist-fight with each other just inside the main entrance, thereby creating confusion and making it difficult for reinforcement guards to get past them and into the street.

Just outside the door, Hollis and Kovak would lurk. As the quartet pounced on the truck's guards, they would sprint across and yank the driver out of the cab. Then Alan would enter quickly from the other side and drive off, while the remaining nine would vanish into the crowd in as many different directions as possible. Byng and Hollis, if they got away, would head for the rendezvous to meet Alan and take the cash from him.

If it went off properly the whole thing should take less than fifteen seconds, from the time Webber threw the switch to the time Alan drove away with the truck. If it went off properly.

The seconds crawled by. The time was 1235, now. At 1237 Hawkes and Byng sauntered into the bank from opposite directions. Three minutes to go. Alan's false calm deserted him; he pictured all sorts of possible calamities.

1238. Everyone's watch was synchronized to the second.

1239. 1239:30.

Thirty seconds to go. Alan took his position in a crowd of bystanders, as prearranged. Fifteen seconds to go. Ten. Five.

1240. The roboguards were in the act of directing the locking of the truck; the loading had been carried out precisely on schedule. The truck was shut and sealed.

The roboguards froze.

Webber had been right on time. Alan tensed, caught up in the excitement of the moment and thinking now only of the part he was to play.

The three policemen glanced at each other in some confusion. Jensen and McGuire came leaping out at them---- And the roboguards returned to life.

The sound of blaster shots was heard within the bank; Alan whirled, startled. Four guards came racing out of the building, blasters drawn. What had happened to Hawkes and Byng--why weren't they obstructing the entrance, as it had been arranged?

The street was a scene of wild confusion now; people milled everywhere. Alan saw Jensen writhing in the steel grip of a roboguard. Had Webber's device failed? Evidently so.

Alan was unable to move. He saw Freeman and McGuire streaking wildly down the street with police in keen pursuit. Hollis stood staring dumbly inside the bank door. Alan saw Kovak come running toward him.

"Everything's gone wrong!" Kovak whispered harshly. "The cops were waiting for us! Byng and Hawkes are dead. Come on--run, if you want to save yourself!"

Chapter Fifteen.

Alan sat very quietly in the empty apartment that had once belonged to Max Hawkes, and stared at nothing in particular. It was five hours since the abortive robbery. He was alone.

The news had been blared out over every form of communication there was; he knew the story by heart. A daring robbery had been attempted, but police detection methods had yielded advance warning, and the robbers had been frustrated. The roboguards had been specially equipped ones which could shift to an alternate wavelength in case of emergency; they had blanked out only momentarily. And special guards had been posted within the bank, ready to charge out. Byng and Hawkes had tried to block the doorway and they had been shot down. Hawkes was killed instantly; Byng died an hour later in the hospital.

At least two other members of the gang had been apprehended--Jensen and Smith, both trapped by the roboguards. It was known that at least two other men and possibly more had participated in the attempt, and these were being traced now.

Alan was not worried. He had not been within a hundred feet of the crime, and it had been easy for him to slip away unnoticed. The others had had little difficulty either--Webber, Hollis, Kovak, McGuire, and Freeman. There was a chance that Hollis or Kovak had been recognized; in that case, they could be tracked down by televector. But Alan was not registered on the televector screens--and there was no other way of linking him with the crime.

He glanced around the apartment at Hawkes' bar and his audio system and all the dead man's other things. Yesterday, Alan thought, Hawkes had been here, alive, eyes sparkling as he outlined the plans for the robbery a final time. Now he was dead. It was hard to believe that such a many-sided person could have been snuffed out so soon, so quickly.

A thought occurred. The police would be investigating the disposition of Hawkes' property; they would want to know the relationship between Hawkes and Alan, and perhaps there would be questions asked about the robbery. Alan decided to forestall that.

He reached for the phone. He would call Security, tell them he had been living with Hawkes and had heard of the gambler's sudden violent death, and in all innocence ask for details. He would---- The door-announcer chimed.

Alan whirled and put down the receiver. Reaching out, he flicked on the doorscreen and was shown a view of a distinguished-looking middle-aged man in the silver-gray uniform of the police. So soon? Alan thought. I didn't even get a chance to call---- "Who is it?" he asked, in a surprisingly even voice.

"Inspector Gainer of Global Security."

Alan opened the door. Inspector Gainer smiled warmly, walked in, took the seat Alan offered him. Alan felt tense and jumpy, and hoped not too much of it showed.

The Security man said, "Your name is Alan Donnell, isn't it? And you're a Free Status man, unregistered, employed as a professional gamesman Class B?"

Alan nodded. "That's right, sir."

Gainer checked a notation on a pad he carried. "I suppose you've heard that the man who lived here--Max Hawkes--was killed in an attempted robbery this morning."

"Y-yes, sir. I heard it a little while ago, on the newscasts. I'm still a little shaken up. W-would you care for a drink, Inspector?"

"Not on duty, thanks," Gainer said cheerfully. "Tell me, Alan--how long did you know Max Hawkes?"

"Since last May. I'm an ex-starman. I--jumped ship. Max found me wandering around the city and took me in. But I never knew anything about any robberies, Inspector. Max kept his mouth pretty well sealed most of the time. When he left here this morning, he said he was going to the bank to make a deposit. I never thought----"

He stopped, wondering whether he sounded convincing. At that moment a long jail sentence or worse seemed inevitable. And the worst part of it was that he had not wanted to take part in the robbery, indeed had not taken part--but in the eyes of the law he was undoubtedly as guilty as any of the others.

Gainer raised one hand. "Don't misunderstand, son. I'm not here as a criminal investigator. We don't suspect you had any part in the attempt."

"Then why----"

He drew an envelope from his breast pocket and unfolded the papers it contained. "I knew Max pretty well," he said. "About a week ago he came to see me and gave me a sealed envelope which was to be opened only in the event of his death on this particular day, and to be destroyed unopened otherwise. I opened it a few hours ago. I think you ought to read it."

With trembling fingers Alan took the sheaf of papers and scanned them. They were neatly typed; Alan recognized the blocky purple characters of the voicewrite Hawkes kept in his room.

He started to read.

The document explained that Hawkes was planning a bank robbery to take place on Friday, October 3, 3876. He named none of his accomplices. He went on to state that one Alan Donnell, an unregistered ex-starman, was living with him, and that this Alan Donnell had no knowledge whatsoever of the intended bank robbery.

Furthermore, Hawkes added, in the event of my death in the intended robbery, Alan Donnell is to be sole heir and assign of my worldly goods. This supersedes and replaces any and all wills and testaments I may have made at any past time.

Appended was a schedule of the properties Hawkes was leaving behind. Accounts in various savings banks totalled some three quarters of a million credits; besides that, there were scattered investments, real estate holdings, bonds. The total estate, Hawkes estimated, was worth slightly over one million credits.

When Alan finished, he looked up startled and white-faced at the older man. "All of this is mine?"

"You're a pretty rich young man," Gainer agreed. "Of course, there are formalities--the will has to be probated and contested, and you can expect it to be contested by somebody. If you still have the full estate when the courts get through with you, you'll be all right."

Alan shook his head uncomprehendingly. "The way he wrote this--it's as if he knew."

"Max Hawkes always knew," Gainer said gently. "He was the best hunch-man I've ever seen. It was almost as if he could look a couple of days into the future all the time. Sure, he knew. And he also knew it was safe to leave this document with me--that he could trust me not to open it. Imagine, announcing a week ahead of time that you're going to rob a bank and then turning the announcement over sealed to a police officer!"

Alan started. The police had known about the robbery in advance--that was how Max and the dreamduster Byng had been killed. Had Gainer been the one who had betrayed them? Had he opened the sealed envelope ahead of time, and sent Max to his death?

No. It was inconceivable that this soft-spoken man would have done such a thing. Alan banished the thought.

"Max knew he was going to be killed," he said. "And yet he went ahead with it. Why?"

"Maybe he wanted to die," Gainer suggested. "Maybe he was bored with life, bored with always winning, bored with things as they were. The man was never born who could figure out Max Hawkes, anyway. You must have found that out yourself."

Gainer rose. "I'll have to be moving along, now. But let me give you some suggestions, first."


"Go downtown and get yourself registered in Free Status. Have them give you a televector number. You're going to be an important person when you get all that money. And be very careful about who your friends are. Max could take care of himself; you may not be so lucky, son."

"Is there going to be an investigation of the robbery?" Alan asked.

"It's under way already. You may be called down for questioning, but don't let it worry you. I turned a copy of Max's will over to them today, and that exonerates you completely."

It was strangely empty in the apartment that night; Alan wished Gainer had stayed longer. He walked through the dark rooms, half expecting Max to come home. But Max wasn't coming home.

Alan realized he had been tremendously fond of Hawkes. He had never really shown it; he had never demonstrated much warmth toward the gambler, especially in the final days when they both lived under the pressure of the planned robbery. But Alan knew he owed much to Hawkes, rogue and rascal though he was. Hawkes had been basically a good man, gifted--too gifted, perhaps--whose drives and passions led him beyond the bounds of society. And at thirty-five he was dead, having known in advance that his last day was at hand.

The next few days were busy ones. Alan was called to Security headquarters for questioning, but he insisted he knew nothing about the robbery or Hawkes' friends, and the document Hawkes had left seemed to bear him out. He was cleared of all complicity in the robbery.

He next went to the Central Directory Matrix and registered in Free Status. He was given a televector transmitter--it was surgically embedded in the fleshy part of his thigh--and he accepted a drink from fat old Hines MacIntosh in remembrance of Hawkes.

He spoke briefly with MacIntosh about the process of collecting on Hawkes' estate, and learned it was a complex process, but nothing to be frightened of. The will was being sent through channels now.

He met Hollis in the street several days later. The bloated loansman looked pale and harried; he had lost weight, and his skin hung flabbily over his bones now. Little as Alan liked the loansman, he insisted on taking him to a local restaurant for lunch.

"How come you're still hanging around York City?" Alan asked. "I thought the heat was on for any of Max's old buddies."

"It is," Hollis said, wiping sweat from his white shiny forehead. "But so far I'm in the clear. There won't be much of an investigation; they killed two and caught two, and that'll keep them happy. After all, the robbery was a failure."

"Any notion why it failed?"

Hollis nodded. "Sure I have a notion! It was Kovak who tipped them off."

"Mike?--but he looked okay to me."

"And to everybody. But he owed Bryson a lot, and Bryson was anxious to dispose of Max. So Kovak turned the plans of the robbery over to Bryson's boys in exchange for a quitclaim on the money he owed, and Bryson just forwarded it all on to the police. They were waiting for us when we showed up."

That cleared Gainer, Alan thought in some relief. "How did you find all this out?"

"Bryson himself told me."


"I guess he didn't know exactly who besides Max was in on the deal. Anyway, he certainly didn't know I was part of the group," Hollis said. "Old man Bryson was laying off some bets with me and he let something slip about how he tipped the police to Max. Then he told me the whole thing."

"And Kovak?"

"Dead," Hollis said bluntly. "Bryson must have figured that if he'd sell Max out he'd sell anybody out, so Kovak got taken care of. He was found yesterday. Heart failure, the report said. Bryson has some good drugs. Say, kid--any word yet on what's going to happen to all Max's dough?"

Alan thought a moment before replying. "I haven't heard a thing. I guess the government inherits it."

"That would be too bad," Hollis said speculatively. "Max was well loaded. I'd like to get my hands into some of that dough myself. So would Bryson and his bunch, I'll bet."

Alan said nothing. When he was through eating, he paid the check and they left, Hollis heading north, Alan south. In three days, Hawkes' will would go through the courts. Alan wondered if Bryson, who seemed to be York City's major criminal syndic man, would try to angle some share of Max's money.

A Bryson man did show up at the hearing--a slick-looking operator named Berwin. His claim was that Hawkes had been affiliated with Bryson a number of years ago, and that Hawkes' money should revert to Bryson by virtue of an obscure law of the last century involving the estates of professional gamblers killed in criminal actions.

The robocomputer who was in charge of the hearing pondered the request a few moments; then relays clicked and the left-hand panel on the computer face lit up with a bright red APPLICATION DENIED signal.

Berwin spoke for three minutes, ending up with a request that the robocomputer disqualify itself from the hearing and allow itself to be replaced by a human judge.

The computer's decision was even quicker this time. APPLICATION DENIED.

Berwin tossed Alan's side of the courtroom a black look and yielded ground. Alan had engaged a lawyer recommended once by Hawkes, a man named Jesperson. Briefly and concisely Jesperson cited Alan's claim to the money, read the terms of the will, and stepped back.

The computer considered Jesperson's plea a few moments, reviewing the brief which the lawyer had taped and fed to the computer earlier. Time passed. Then the green panel lit, and the words, APPLICATION GRANTED.

Alan smiled. Bryson had been defeated; Max's money was his. Money that could be turned toward intensified research on the hyperdrive.

"Well, son?" Jesperson asked. "How does it feel to be a millionaire?"

Chapter Sixteen.

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