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´╗┐Title: ...Or Your Money Back
Author: Garrett, Randall, 1927-1987
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "...Or Your Money Back" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.

                       ... OR YOUR MONEY BACK

                          BY DAVID GORDON

                       Illustrated by Summers

[Transcriber note: This etext was produced from Astounding Science
Fiction, September 1959. Extensive research did not uncover any evidence
that the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.]

[Illustration: There are lots of things that are considered perfectly
acceptable ... provided they don't work. And of course everyone knows
they really don't, which is why they're acceptable.... ]

There are times when I don't know my own strength. Or, at least, the
strength of my advice. And the case of Jason Howley was certainly an
instance of one of those times.

When he came to my office with his gadget, I heard him out, trying to
appear both interested and co-operative--which is good business. But I
am forced to admit that neither Howley nor his gadget were very
impressive. He was a lean, slope-shouldered individual, five-feet-eight
or nine--which was shorter than he looked--with straight brown hair
combed straight back and blue eyes which were shielded with steel-rimmed
glasses. The thick, double-concave lenses indicated a degree of myopia
that must have bordered on total blindness without glasses, and acute
tunnel vision, even with them.

He had a crisp, incisive manner that indicated he was either a man who
knew what he was doing or a man who was trying to impress me with a
ready-made story. I listened to him and looked at his gadget without
giving any more indication than necessary of what I really thought.

When he was through, I said: "You understand, Mr. Howley that I'm not a
patent lawyer; I specialize in criminal law. Now, I can recommend--"

But he cut me off. "I understand that, counselor," he said sharply.
"Believe me, I have no illusion whatever that this thing is patentable
under the present patent system. Even if it were, this gadget is
designed to do something that may or may not be illegal, which would
make it hazardous to attempt to patent it, I should think. You don't
patent new devices for blowing safes or new drugs for doping horses, do

"Probably not," I said dryly, "although, as I say, I'm not qualified to
give an opinion on patent law. You say that gadget is designed to cause
minute, but significant, changes in the velocities of small, moving
objects. Just how does that make it illegal?"

He frowned a little. "Well, possibly it wouldn't, except here in Nevada.
Specifically, it is designed to influence roulette and dice games."

I looked at the gadget with a little more interest this time. There was
nothing new in the idea of inventing a gadget to cheat the red-and-black
wheels, of course; the local cops turn up a dozen a day here in the
city. Most of them either don't work at all or else they're too obvious,
so the users get nabbed before they have a chance to use them.

The only ones that really work have to be installed in the tables
themselves, which means they're used to milk the suckers, not rob the
management. And anyone in the State of Nevada who buys a license to
operate and then uses crooked wheels is (a) stupid, and (b) out of
business within a week. Howley was right. Only in a place where gambling
is legalized is it illegal--and unprofitable--to rig a game.

The gadget itself didn't look too complicated from the outside. It was a
black plastic box about an inch and a half square and maybe three and a
half long. On one end was a lensed opening, half an inch in diameter,
and on two sides there were flat, silver-colored plates. On the top of
it, there was a dial which was, say, an inch in diameter, and it was
marked off just exactly like a roulette wheel.

"How does it work?" I asked.

He picked it up in his hand, holding it as though it were a flashlight,
with the lens pointed away from him.

"You aim the lens at the wheel," he explained, "making sure that your
thumb is touching the silver plate on one side, and your fingers
touching the plate on the other side. Then you set this dial for
whatever number you want to come up and concentrate on it while the ball
is spinning. For dice, of course, you only need to use the first six or
twelve numbers on the dial, depending on the game."

       *       *       *       *       *

I looked at him for a long moment, trying to figure his angle. He looked
back steadily, his eyes looking like small beads peering through the
bottoms of a couple of shot glasses.

"You look skeptical, counselor," he said at last.

"I am. A man who hasn't got the ability to be healthily skeptical has no
right to practice law--especially criminal law. On the other hand, no
lawyer has any right to judge anything one way or the other without

"But that's neither here nor there at the moment. What I'm interested in
is, what do you want me to do? People rarely come to a criminal lawyer
unless they're in a jam. What sort of jam are you in at the moment?"

"None," said Howley. "But I will be very soon. I hope."

Well, I've heard odder statements than that from my clients. I let it
ride for the moment and looked down at the notes I'd taken while he'd
told me his story.

"You're a native of New York City?" I asked.

"That's right. That's what I said."

"And you came out here for what? To use that thing on our Nevada

"That's right, counselor."

"Can't you find any games to cheat on back home?"

"Oh, certainly. Plenty of them. But they aren't legal. I wouldn't care
to get mixed up in anything illegal. Besides, it wouldn't suit my

That stopped me for a moment. "You don't consider cheating illegal? It
certainly is in Nevada. In New York, if you were caught at it, you'd
have the big gambling interests on your neck; here, you'll have both
them _and_ the police after you. _And_ the district attorney's office."

He smiled. "Yes, I know. That's what I'm expecting. That's why I need a
good lawyer to defend me. I understand you're the top man in this city."

"Mr. Howley," I said carefully, "as a member of the Bar Association and
a practicing attorney in the State of Nevada, I am an Officer of the
Court. If you had been caught cheating and had come to me, I'd be able
to help you. But I can't enter into a conspiracy with you to defraud
legitimate businessmen, which is exactly what this would be."

He blinked at me through those shot-glass spectacles. "Counselor, would
you refuse to defend a man if you thought he was guilty?"

I shook my head. "No. Legally, a man is not guilty until proven so by a
court of law. He has a right to trial by jury. For me to refuse to give
a man the defense he is legally entitled to, just because I happened to
think he was guilty, would be trial by attorney. I'll do the best I can
for any client; I'll work for his interests, no matter what my private
opinion may be."

He looked impressed, so I guess there must have been a note of
conviction in my voice. There should have been, because it was exactly
what I've always believed and practiced.

"That's good, counselor," said Howley. "If I can convince you that I
have no criminal intent, that I have no intention of defrauding anyone
or conspiring with you to do anything illegal, will you help me?"

I didn't have to think that one over. I simply said, "Yes." After all,
it was still up to me to decide whether he convinced me or not. If he
didn't, I could still refuse the case on those grounds.

"That's fair enough, counselor," he said. Then he started talking.

       *       *       *       *       *

Instead of telling you what Jason Howley _said_ he was going to do, I'll
tell you what he _did_ do. They are substantially the same, anyway, and
the old bromide about actions speaking louder than words certainly
applied in this case.

Mind you, I didn't see or hear any of this, but there were plenty of
witnesses to testify as to what went on. Their statements are a matter
of court record, and Jason Howley's story is substantiated in every

He left my office smiling. He'd convinced me that the case was not only
going to be worthwhile, but fun. I took it, plus a fat retainer.

Howley went up to his hotel room, changed into his expensive evening
clothes, and headed out to do the town. I'd suggested several places,
but he wanted the biggest and best--the Golden Casino, a big, plush,
expensive place that was just inside the city limits. In his pockets, he
was carrying less than two hundred dollars in cash.

Now, nobody with that kind of chicken feed can expect to last long at
the Golden Casino unless they stick to the two-bit one-armed bandits.
But putting money on a roulette table is in a higher bracket by far than
feeding a slot machine, even if you get a steady run of lemons.

Howley didn't waste any time. He headed for the roulette table right
away. He watched the play for about three spins of the wheel, then he
took out his gadget--in plain sight of anyone who cared to watch--and
set the dial for thirteen. Then he held it in his hand with thumb and
finger touching the plates and put his hand in his jacket pocket, with
the lens aimed at the wheel. He stepped up to the table, bought a
hundred dollars worth of chips, and put fifty on Number Thirteen.

"No more bets," said the croupier. He spun the wheel and dropped the

"Thirteen, Black, Odd, and Low," he chanted after a minute. With a
practiced hand, he raked in the losers and pushed out Howley's winnings.
There was sixteen hundred dollars sitting on thirteen now. Howley didn't
touch it.

The wheel went around and the little ball clattered around the rim and
finally fell into a slot.

"Thirteen, Black, Odd, and Low," said the croupier. This time, he didn't
look as nonchalant. He peered curiously at Howley as he pushed out the
chips to make a grand total of fifty-one thousand two hundred dollars.
The same number doesn't come up twice in succession very often, and it
is very rare indeed that the same person is covering it both times with
a riding bet.

"Two thousand limit, sir," the croupier said, when it looked as though
Howley was going to let the fifty-one grand just sit there.

Howley nodded apologetically and pulled off everything but two thousand
dollars worth of chips.

The third time around, the croupier had his eyes directly on Howley as
he repeated the chant: "Thirteen, Black, Odd, and Low." Everybody else
at the table was watching Howley, too. The odds against Howley--or
anyone else, for that matter--hitting the same number three times in a
row are just under forty thousand to one.

Howley didn't want to overdo it. He left two thousand on thirteen, raked
in the rest, and twisted the dial on his gadget over a notch.

Everyone at the table gasped as the little ball dropped.

"That was a near miss," whispered a woman standing nearby.

The croupier said: "Fourteen, Red, Even, and Low." And he raked in
Howley's two thousand dollars with a satisfied smile. He had seen runs
of luck before.

Howley deliberately lost two more spins the same way. Nobody who was
actually cheating would call too much attention to himself, and Howley
wanted it to look as though he were trying to cover up the fact that he
had a sure thing.

He took the gadget out of his pocket and deliberately set it to the
green square marked 00. Then he put it back in his pocket and put two
thousand dollars on the Double Zero.

       *       *       *       *       *

There was more than suspicion in the croupier's eyes when he raked in
all the bets on the table except Howley's. It definitely didn't look
good to him. A man who had started out with a fifty-dollar bet had
managed to run it up to one hundred seventy-four thousand two hundred
dollars in six plays.

Howley looked as innocent as possible under the circumstances, and
carefully dropped the dial on his gadget back a few notches. Then he bet
another two thousand on High, an even money bet.

Naturally, he won.

He twisted the dial back a few more notches and won again on High.

Then he left it where it was and won by betting on Red.

By this time, of course, things were happening. The croupier had long
since pressed the alarm button, and five men had carefully surrounded
Howley. They looked like customers, but they were harder-looking than
the average, and they were watching Howley, not the wheel. Farther back
from the crowd, three of the special deputies from the sheriff's office
were trying to look inconspicuous in their gray uniforms and white
Stetsons and pearl-handled revolvers in black holsters. You can imagine
how inconspicuous they looked.

Howley decided to do it up brown. He reset his gadget as surreptitiously
as possible under the circumstances, and put his money on thirteen

"Thirteen, Black, Odd, and Low," said the croupier in a hollow voice.

The five men in evening dress and the three deputies moved in closer.

Howley nonchalantly scraped in his winnings, leaving the two thousand on
the thirteen spot.

There was a combination of hostility and admiration in every eye around
the table when the croupier said, "Thirteen, Black, Odd, and Low" for
the fifth time in the space of minutes. And everyone of those eyes was
turned on Jason Howley.

The croupier smiled his professional smile. "I'm sorry, ladies and
gentlemen; we'll have to discontinue play for a while. The gentleman has
broken the bank at this table." He turned the smile on Howley.
"Congratulations, sir."

Howley smiled back and began stacking up over three hundred thousand
dollars worth of plastic disks. It made quite a pile.

One of the deputies stepped up politely. "I'm an officer, sir," he said.
"May I help you carry that to the cashier's office?"

Howley looked at the gold star and nodded. "Certainly. Thanks."


The other two deputies stepped up, too, and the three of them walked
Howley toward the cashier's office. Behind them came the five men in
dinner jackets.

"You'll have to step into the office to cash that much, sir," said one
of the deputies as he opened the door. Howley walked in as though he
hadn't a care in the world. He put his chips on the desk, and the
deputies followed suit, while one of the dinner-jacketed men closed the

Then one of the deputies said: "I believe this gentleman is carrying a

He had his own revolver out and had it pointed at Howley's middle.
"Carrying a concealed weapon is illegal in this city," he went on. "I'm
afraid we'll have to search you."

Howley didn't object. He put his hands up high and stood there while his
pockets were frisked.

"Well, well," said the deputy coolly. "What on Earth is this?"

It was Howley's gadget, and the dial still pointed to Thirteen--Black,
Odd, and Low.

       *       *       *       *       *

The next morning, I went down to the jail in response to a phone call
from Howley. The special deputies had turned him over to the city police
and he was being held "under suspicion of fraud." I knew we could beat
that down to an "attempt to defraud," but the object was to get Howley
off scott-free. After Howley told me the whole story, I got busy pushing
the case through. As long as he was simply being held on suspicion, I
couldn't get him out on bail, so I wanted to force the district attorney
or the police to prefer charges.

Meanwhile, I made sure that Howley's gadget had been impounded as
evidence. I didn't want anyone fiddling with it before the case went to
court--except, of course, the D. A. and his men. There wasn't much I
could do to keep it out of _their_ hands.

After throwing as much weight around as I could, including filing a
petition for a writ of habeas corpus with Judge Grannis, I went over to
Howley's hotel with a signed power of attorney that Howley had given me,
and I got a small envelope out of the hotel safe. It contained a baggage

I went over to the bus depot, turned over the check to the baggage
department, and went back to my office with a small suitcase. I locked
myself in and opened the case. Sure enough, it contained three dozen of
the little gadgets.

Then I sat down to wait. By noon, Judge Grannis had issued the writ of
habeas corpus, and, rather than release Jason Howley, the police had
booked him, and District Attorney Thursby was getting the case ready for
the grand jury. There was over a quarter of a million dollars at stake,
and the men behind the Golden Casino were bringing pressure to bear. If
Howley wasn't convicted, they'd have to give him his money--and that was
the last thing they wanted to do. A quarter of a million bucks isn't
small potatoes, even to a gambling syndicate.

It wasn't until early on the morning of the third day after Howley's
arrest that I got a tip-off from one of my part-time spies. I scooped up
the phone when it rang and identified myself.

"Counselor? Look, this is Benny." I recognized the voice and name. Benny
was one of the cabbies that I'd done favors for in the past.

"What's the trouble, Benny?"

"Oh, no trouble. I just got a little tip you might be interested in."

"Fire away."

"Well, the D.A. and some of his boys went into the Golden Casino about
ten minutes ago, and now they're closin' up the place. Just for a little
while, I understand. Hour, maybe. They're chasin' everyone out of the
roulette room."

"Thanks, Benny," I said, "thanks a lot."

"Well, I knew you was working on that Howley case, and I thought this
might be important, so I--"

"Sure, Benny. Come by my office this afternoon. And thanks again."

I hung up and started moving.

Within ten minutes, I was pulling up and parking across the street from
the Golden Casino. I locked the car and dodged traffic to get across the
street, as though I'd never heard of laws against jaywalking.

There were still plenty of people in the Casino. The bar was full, and
the dice and card games were going full blast. The slot machines were
jingling out their infernal din while fools fed coins into their
insatiable innards.

But the roulette room was closed, and a couple of be-Stetsoned deputies
were standing guard over the entrance. I headed straight for them.

Both of them stood pat, blocking my way, so I stopped a few feet in
front of them.

"Hello, counselor," said one. "Sorry, the roulette room's closed."

I knew the man slightly. "Let me in, Jim," I said. "I want to see

The men exchanged glances. Obviously, the D.A. had given them orders.

"Can't do it, counselor," said Jim. "We're not to let anyone in."

"Tell Thursby I'm out here and that I want to see him."

He shrugged, opened the door, stuck his head inside, and called to
District Attorney Thursby to tell him that I was outside. I could hear
Thursby's muffled "Damn!" from within. But when he showed up at the
door, his face was all smiles.

"What's the trouble?" he asked pleasantly.

I smiled back, giving him my best. "No trouble at all, Thursby. I just
wanted to watch the experiment."

"Experiment?" He looked honestly surprised, which was a fine piece of
acting. "We're just checking to see if the table's wired, that's all. If
it is, your client may be in the clear; maybe we can hang it on the

"And get a conspiracy charge on my client, too, eh? Well, if you don't
mind, I'd like to watch that table check myself. You know how it is."

Thursby hesitated, then he scowled. "Oh, all right. Come on in. But stay
out of the way."

I grinned. "Sure. All I want to do is protect my client's interests."

Thursby just grunted and opened the door wider to let me in. He was a
shrewd lawyer, a good D.A., and basically honest, even if he did have a
tendency to bend under pressure from higher up.

       *       *       *       *       *

They were checking the table, all right. They had three specialists
going over it with everything from fine tooth combs to Geiger counters.
They found nothing. No magnets, no wires, no mechanical gimmicks.

It took them an hour to take that table apart, check it, and put it back
together again. When it was all over, Thursby glanced at me, then said:
"O.K., boys; that does it. Let's go."

The men looked at him oddly, and I knew why.

"Aren't you going to test my client's gadget?" I asked innocently.

Thursby looked angrily baffled for a moment, then he clamped his lips
grimly. "As long as we're here, I guess we might as well."

I knew perfectly well it was what he had intended to do all along.

"One of you guys spin that wheel," he said to the technicians. One of
them gave the wheel a spin and dropped the ball. It clattered on its
merry way and dropped into a slot. Forty-two.

Thursby took the gadget out of his pocket. It was still set at Thirteen.

The men who had surrounded Howley on the night of his arrest had been
keeping their eyes open, and they had seen how Howley had handled the
thing. Well--_almost_ how. Thursby had the lens opening pointed at the
wheel, but his thumb and fingers weren't touching the silver plates

"Spin it again," he said.

Everyone's eyes were on the ball as it whirled, so I had time to get my
own copy of Howley's gadget out and set it at Thirteen. I hoped the
thing would work for me. I concentrated on Thirteen, making sure my
thumb and fingers were placed right.

Evidently they were. The ball fell into Thirteen, Black, Odd, and Low.

A huge grin spread over Thursby's face, but he was man enough not to
turn and grin at me. "Try it again," he said.

Thirteen, Black, Odd, and Low.

"I wonder how the thing works?" said Thursby, looking at the gadget in a
sort of pleased awe.

"You'd better be able to prove that it _does_ work, Thursby," I said,
trying to put irritation into my voice.

This time, he did grin at me. "Oh, I think we can prove that, all
right." He turned back to the technician. "Spin it once more, Sam, and
show the defense counsel, here, how it works."

The technician did as he was told. "Thirteen, Black, Odd, and Low," he
chanted, grinning.

"Let's try another number," Thursby said. He turned the dial to One. And
this time, when he pointed it, his fingers were touching the plates in
the right places.

"Just a minute," I said. "Let me spin that thing."

"Be my guest, counselor," said Thursby.

I spun the wheel and scooted the ball along the rim. It dropped into a
slot. One, Red, Odd, and Low. I looked as disappointed and apprehensive
as I could.

"Co-incidence," I said. "Nothing more. You haven't proved anything."

Thursby's grin widened. "Of course I haven't," he said with a soothing,
patronizing tone. "But I don't have to prove anything until I get to

Then he looked at the technicians and jerked his head toward the door.
"Let's go, boys. Maybe the counselor wants to look over the table for
himself. Maybe he thinks we've got it rigged."

There was a chorus of guffaws as they walked out. I just stood there,
scowling, trying to keep from laughing even harder than they were.

       *       *       *       *       *

Jason Howley sat next to me at the defense table, just inside the low
partition that divided the court from the public. There weren't many
people in the auditorium itself; listening to some poor dope get himself
sentenced for cheating at gambling is considered pretty dull
entertainment in the State of Nevada.

Thursby had managed to push the indictment through the grand jury in a
hurry, but, as he sat across the room from me at the prosecution table,
I thought I could detect a false note in the assumed look of confidence
that he was trying to wear.

Howley tapped me on the shoulder. I turned around, and he whispered:
"How much longer?"

I tapped my wrist watch. "Couple minutes. Judge Lapworth is one of those
precisionists. Never a moment late or early. Getting jumpy?"

He shook his head gently and smiled. "No. You've handled this even
better than I'd have imagined. You thought of things I didn't even know
existed. I'm no lawyer; I can see that."

I returned the smile. "And I don't invent gimmicks, either. So what?"

His eyes looked at me from behind the distorting negative lenses. "I've
been wondering, counselor--why are you so interested in this? I mean, I
offered you a pretty good fee, and all that, but it seems to me you're
taking an unusual interest in the case."

I grinned at him. "Mr. Howley, my profession is Law--with a capital L.
The study of the Law isn't like the study of physics or whatever; these
are manmade laws--commands, not descriptions. They don't necessarily
have anything to do with facts at all. Take the word 'insanity,' for
instance; the word isn't even used by head-shrinkers any more because
it's a legal definition that has nothing whatever to do with the
condition of the human mind.

"Now, any such set of laws as that can't possibly be self-consistent and
still have some use on an action level. A lawyer's job is to find the
little inconsistencies in the structure, the places where the pieces
have been jammed together in an effort to make them look like a
structured whole. To find, in other words, the loopholes and use them.

"And when I find a loophole, I like to wring everything I can out of it.
I'm enjoying this."

Howley nodded. "I see. But what if something--"

I held up my hand to silence him, because the door to the judges'
chambers opened at that moment, and Judge Lapworth came in as the
bailiff announced him. We all stood up while the bailiff intoned his
"Oyez, oyez."

Thursby made a short preliminary speech to the jury, and I requested and
was granted permission to hold my own opening statement until the
defense was ready to present its case.

Thursby was looking worried, although it took a trained eye to see it. I
was pretty sure I knew why. He had been pushed too hard and had gone too
fast. He'd managed to slide through the grand jury too easily, and I had
managed to get the trial date set for a week later. Thursby's case was
far from being as tight as he wanted it.

       *       *       *       *       *

I just sat still while the prosecution brought forth its witnesses and
evidence. The croupier, the deputies, several employees of the Golden
Casino, and a couple of patrons all told their stories. I waived
cross-examination in every case, which made Thursby even edgier than he
had been.

When he called in the head of the technicians who had inspected the
table at the casino, I made no objection to his testimony, but I made my
first cross-examination.

"Mr. Thompson, you have stated your qualifications as an expert on the
various devices which have been used to illegally influence the
operation of gambling devices in this state."

Thursby said: "Oh, if the Court please, I should like to remind counsel
for the defense that he has already accepted the qualifications of the

"I am not attempting to impugn the qualifications of the witness," I

Judge Lapworth frowned at Thursby. "Are you making an objection, Mr.
District Attorney?"

Thursby pursed his lips, said, "No, Your Honor," and sat down.

"Proceed with the cross-examination," said the judge.

"Mr. Thompson," I said, "you have testified that you examined the table
at the Golden Casino for such devices and found none. Is that right?"

"That's right," he said positively.

"Have you seen the device labeled People's Exhibit A, which was found by
the officers on the person of the defendant?"

"Well ... yes. I have."

"Have you examined this device?"

Thursby was on his feet. "Objection, Your Honor! This material was not
brought out in direct examination!"

"Sustained," said Judge Lapworth.

"Very well, Your Honor," I said. Then I turned back to Thompson. "As an
expert in this field, Mr. Thompson, you have examined many different
devices for cheating gambling equipment, haven't you?"

"Yes, I have."

"How many, would you say?"

"Oh ... several hundred."

"Several hundred different _types_?"

"No. Several hundred individual devices. Most of them are just
variations of two or three basic types."

"And you are familiar with the function of these basic types and their

"I am."

"You know exactly how all of them work, then?"

He saw where I was heading. "Most of them," he hedged.

Thursby saw where I was heading, too, and was sweating. I'd managed to
get around his objection.

"Have you ever examined any which you could not understand?"

"I ... I don't quite know what you mean."

"Have you ever," I said firmly, "come across a device used in cheating
which you could not comprehend or explain the operation of?"

Thursby stood up. "Same objection as before, Your Honor."

"Your Honor," I said, "I am merely trying to find the limitations of the
witness' knowledge; I am not trying to refute his acknowledged ability."

"Overruled," said Judge Lapworth. "The witness will answer the

I repeated the question.

"Yes," Thompson said in a low voice.

"More than once?"

"Only once."

"Only once. You did find one device which didn't operate in any fashion
you can explain. Is that right?"

"That's right."

"Can you tell me what this device was?"

Thompson took a deep breath. "It was People's Exhibit A--the device
taken from the defendant at the time of his arrest."

There was a buzz in the courtroom.

"No more questions," I said, turning away. Then, before Thompson could
leave the stand, I turned back to him. "Oh, just one moment, Mr.
Thompson. Did you examine this device carefully? Did you take it apart?"

"I opened it and looked at it."

"You just looked at it? You didn't subject it to any tests?"

Thompson took a deep breath. "No."

"Why not?"

"There wasn't anything inside it to test."

       *       *       *       *       *

This time, there was more than just a buzz around the courtroom. Judge
Lapworth rapped for order.

When the room was quiet, I said: "The box was empty, then?"

"Well, no. Not exactly empty. It had some stuff in it."

I turned to the judge. "If the Court please, I would like to have the
so-called device, Exhibit A, opened so that the members of the jury may
see for themselves what it contains."


Judge Lapworth said: "The Court would like very much to see the internal
workings of this device, too. Bailiff, if you will, please."

The bailiff handed him the gadget from the exhibit table.

"How does it open?" asked the judge. He turned to Thompson. "Will the
witness please open the box?"

Reluctantly, Thompson thumbed the catch and slid off the top.

The judge took it from him, looked inside, and stared for a long moment.

I had already seen the insides. It was painted white, and there were
inked lines running all over the inside, and various pictures--a ball, a
pair of dice, a roulette wheel--and some other symbols that I didn't
pretend to understand.

Otherwise, the box was empty.

After a moment, Judge Lapworth looked up from the box and stared at
Thursby. Then he looked at Thompson. "Just what tests _did_ you perform
on this ... this thing, Mr. Thompson?"

"Well, Your Honor," Thompson said, visibly nervous, "I checked it for
all kinds of radiation and magnetism. There isn't anything like that
coming from it. But," he added lamely, "there wasn't much else to test.
Not without damaging the box."

"I see." His honor glared at Thursby, but didn't say anything to him. He
simply ordered the box to be shown to the jury.

Thursby was grimly holding his ground, waiting.

"Have you any more questions, counselor?" the judge asked.

"No, Your Honor, I have not."

"Witness may step down," said his honor to Thompson.

       *       *       *       *       *

Thursby stood up. "If the Court please, I would like to stage a small
demonstration for the members of the jury."

The Court gave permission, and a roulette wheel was hauled in on a small

I watched with interest and without objection while Thursby demonstrated
the use of the gadget and then asked each of the jurors in turn to try
it. It was a long way from being a successful demonstration. Some of the
jurors didn't hold the thing right, and some of those that did just
didn't have the mental ability required to use it. But that didn't
bother Thursby.

"Your Honor, and Gentlemen of the Jury," he said, "you are all aware
that a device constructed for the purpose of cheating at any gambling
game is not necessarily one hundred per cent infallible. It doesn't have
to be. All it has to do is turn the odds in favor of the user.

"You are all familiar with loaded dice, I'm sure. And you know that
loading dice for one set of numbers merely increases the probability
that those numbers will come up; it does not guarantee that they will
come up every time.

"It is the same with marked cards. Marking the backs of a deck of cards
doesn't mean that you will invariably get a better hand than your
opponent; it doesn't even mean that you will win every hand.

"The device taken from the defendant at the Golden Casino does not, as
you have seen, work every time. But, as you have also seen, it certainly
_does_ shift the odds by a considerable percentage. And that, I submit,
is illegal under the laws of this state."

He went on, building on that theme for a while, then he turned the trial
over to the defense.

"Call Dr. Pettigrew to the stand," I said.

I heard Thursby's gasp, but I ignored it.

A chunky, balding man with a moon face and an irritated expression came
up to be sworn in. He was irritated with me for having subpoenaed him,
and he showed it. I hoped he wouldn't turn out to be hostile.

"You are Dr. Herbert Pettigrew?" I asked.

"That is correct."

"State your residence, please."

"3109 La Jolla Boulevard, Los Angeles, California."

"You are called 'Doctor' Pettigrew, I believe. Would you tell the Court
what right you have to that title?"

He looked a little miffed, but he said: "It is a scholarly title. A
Doctorate of Philosophy in physics from Massachusetts Institute of

"I see. Would you mind telling the Court what other academic degrees you

He reeled off a list of them, all impressive.

"Thank you, doctor," I said. "Now, what is your present occupation?"

"I am a Professor of Physics, at the University of California in Los

I went on questioning him to establish his ability in his field, and by
the time I was finished, the jury was pretty well impressed with his
status in the scientific brotherhood. And not once did Thursby object.

Then I said, "Dr. Pettigrew, I believe you came to this city on a
professional matter?"

"Yes, I did." He didn't hesitate to answer, so I figured I hadn't got
his goat too much.

"And what was the nature of that matter?"

"I was asked to come here by Mr. Harold Thursby, the District Attorney,
to perform some scientific tests on the ... er ... device ... the device
known as People's Exhibit A."

"Did you perform these tests?"

"I did."

"At the request of District Attorney Thursby, is that right?"

"That is correct."

"May I ask why Mr. Thursby did not call you as a witness for the

Thursby, as I had expected, was on his feet. "Objection! The question
calls for a conclusion of the witness!"

"Sustained," said Judge Lapworth.

"Dr. Pettigrew," I said, "what were your findings in reference to
Exhibit A?"

He shrugged. "The thing is a plastic box with a dial set in one side, a
plastic lens in one end, and a couple of strips of silver along two
other sides. Inside, there are a lot of markings in black ink on white
paint." He gestured toward the exhibit table. "Just what you've seen;
that's all there is to it."

"What sort of tests did you perform to determine this, Dr. Pettigrew?" I

He took a long time answering that one. He had X-rayed the thing
thoroughly, tested it with apparatus I'd never heard of, taken scrapings
from all over it for microchemical analysis, and even tried it himself
on a roulette wheel. He hadn't been able to make it work.

"And what is your conclusion from these findings?" I asked.

Again he shrugged. "The thing is just a box, that's all. It has no
special properties."

"Would you say that it could be responsible for the phenomena we have
just seen? By that, I mean the peculiar action of the roulette wheel,
demonstrated here by the prosecution."

"Definitely not," he stated flatly. "The box could not possibly have any
effect on either the wheel or the ball."

"I see. Thank you, doctor; that's all. Cross-examine."

Thursby walked over to the witness stand with a belligerent scowl on his
face. "Dr. Pettigrew, you say that the box couldn't possibly have had
any effect on the wheel. And yet, we have demonstrated that there _is_
an effect. Don't you believe the testimony of your own senses?"

"Certainly I do!" snapped Pettigrew.

"Then how do you account for the behavior of the roulette wheel as you
have just seen it demonstrated in this court?"

I suppressed a grin. Thursby was so mad that he was having trouble
expressing himself clearly.

"In several ways!" Pettigrew said sharply. "In the first place, that
wheel could be rigged."

Thursby purpled. "Now, just a minute! I--"

I started to object, but Judge Lapworth beat me to it.

"Are you objecting to the answer, Mr. District Attorney?"

"The witness is insinuating that I falsified evidence!"

"I am not!" said Pettigrew, visibly angry. "You asked me how I could
account for its behavior, and I told you one way! There are others!"

"The wheel will be examined," said Judge Lapworth darkly. "Tell us the
other ways, Dr. Pettigrew."

"Pure chance," said Pettigrew. "Pure chance, Your Honor. I'm sure that
everyone in this courtroom has seen runs of luck on a roulette wheel.
According to the laws of probability, such runs must inevitably happen.
Frankly, I believe that just such a run has occurred here. I do not
think for a minute that Mr. Thursby or anyone else rigged that wheel."

"I see; thank you, Dr. Pettigrew," said the judge. "Any further
questions, Mr. District Attorney?"

"No further questions," Thursby said, trying to hide his anger.

       *       *       *       *       *

"Call your next witness," said the judge, looking at me.

"I call Mr. Jason Howley to the stand."

Howley sat down and was sworn in. I went through the preliminaries, then
asked: "Mr. Howley, you have seen People's Exhibit A?"

"I have."

"To whom does it belong?"

"It is mine. It was taken from me by--"

"Just answer the question, please," I admonished him. He knew his
script, but he was jumping the gun. "The device is yours, then?"

"That's right."

"Under what circumstances did this device come into the hands of the

He told what had happened on the night of the big take at the Golden

"Would you explain to us just what this device is?" I asked when he had

"Certainly," he said. "It's a good luck charm."

I could hear the muffled reaction in the courtroom.

"A good luck charm. I see. Then it has no effect on the wheel at all?"

"Oh, I wouldn't say that," Howley said disarmingly. He smiled and looked
at the jury. "It certainly has _some_ effect. It's the only good luck
charm I ever had that worked."

The jury was grinning right back at him. They were all gamblers at
heart, and I never knew a gambler yet who didn't have some sort of good
luck charm or superstition when it came to gambling. We had them all in
the palms of our hands.

"What I mean is, does it have any _physical_ effect on the wheel?"

Howley looked puzzled. "Well, I don't know about that. That's not my
field. You better ask Dr. Pettigrew."

There was a smothered laugh somewhere in the courtroom.

"Just how do you operate this good luck charm, Mr. Howley?" I asked.

"Why, you just hold it so that your thumb touches one strip of silver
and your fingers touch the other, then you set the dial to whatever
number you want to come up and wish."

"_Wish?_ Just _wish_, Mr. Howley?"

"Just wish. That's all. What else can you do with a good luck charm?"

This time, the judge had to pound for order to stop the laughing.

I turned Howley over to Thursby.

The D.A. hammered at him for half an hour trying to get something out of
Howley, but he didn't get anywhere useful. Howley admitted that he'd
come to Nevada to play the wheels; what was wrong with that? He admitted
that he'd come just to try out his good luck charm--and what was wrong
with that? He even admitted that it worked for him every time--

And what was wrong, pray, with _that_?

Thursby knew he was licked. He'd known it for a long time. His summation
to the jury showed it. The expressions on the faces of the jury as they
listened showed it.

They brought in a verdict of Not Guilty.

       *       *       *       *       *

When I got back to my office, I picked up the phone and called the
Golden Casino. I asked for George Brockey, the manager. When I got him
on the phone and identified myself, he said, "Oh. It's you." His voice
didn't sound friendly.

"It's me," I said.

"I suppose you're going to slap a suit for false arrest on the Casino
now, eh, counselor?"

"Not a bit of it, George," I said. "The thought occurred to me, but I
think we can come to terms."


"Nothing to it, George. You give us the three hundred grand and we don't
do a thing."

"Yeah?" He didn't get it. He had to fork over the money anyway,
according to the court order, so what was the deal?

"If you want to go a little further, I'll tell you what we'll do. We'll
give you one of our little good luck charms, if you'll promise to call
your boys off Howley."

"Nobody's on Howley," he said. "You ought to know better than that. In
this state, if we get whipped in court, we play it square. Did you think
we were going to get rough?"

"No. But you kind of figured on lifting that gadget as soon as he gets
it back from the D.A., didn't you? I saw your boys waiting at his hotel.
I'm just telling you that you don't have to do that. We'll give you the
gadget. There are plenty more where that came from."

"I see," Brockey said after a long pause. "O.K., counselor. It's a

"Fine. We'll pick up the money later this evening, if that's O.K."

"Sure, counselor. Anytime. Anytime at all." He hung up.

I grinned at Howley, who was sitting across the desk from me. "Well,
that winds it up."

"I don't get it," Howley said. "Why'd you call up Brockey? What was the
purpose of that 'deal'?"

"No deal," I told him. "I was just warning him that killing you and
taking the gadget wouldn't do any good, that we've covered you. He won't
bother having anything done to you if he knows that the secret of the
gadget is out already."

Howley's eyes widened behind those spectacles of his. "You mean they'd
kill me? I thought Nevada gamblers were honest."

"Oh, they are, they are. But this is a threat to their whole industry.
It's more than that, it may destroy them. Some of them might kill to
keep that from happening. But you don't have to worry now."

"Thanks. Tell me, do you think we've succeeded?"

"In what you set out to do? Certainly. When we mail out those gadgets to
people all over the state, the place will be in an uproar. With all the
publicity this case is getting, it'll _have_ to work. You now have a
court decision on your side, a decision which says that a psionic device
can be legally used to influence gambling games.

"Why, man, they'll _have_ to start investigating! You'll have every
politico in the State of Nevada insisting that scientists work on that
thing. To say nothing of what the syndicate will do."

"All I wanted to do," said Howley, "was force people to take notice of
psionics. I guess I've done that."

"You certainly have, brother. I wonder what it will come to?"

"I wonder, myself, sometimes," Howley said.

That was three and a half years ago. Neither Howley nor I are wondering
now. According to the front page of today's _Times_, the first
spaceship, with a crew of eighty aboard, reached Mars this morning. And,
on page two, there's a small article headlined: ROCKET OBSOLETE, SAY

It sure is.


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