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55

It was such a temptation to make off with the sleeping guards handgun, but Herman resisted the impulse. He was here on reconnaissance only, and would be coming back later, so pilfering pistols would not be a good idea.

Herman Jones, formerly Herman Makanene Stulumbnick, formerly Herman X, finished stage one of his reconnaissance, thanked Max Fairbanks for his patience, and was ushered out of the cottage by the same brother whod admitted him. Two more guards, one a brother and one not, escorted him from the cottage to the main path, where he thanked them for their courtesy, assured them theyd see him later, and moved jauntily away, toward the main building of the hotel.

For Herman Jones, subterfuge at this level was childs play, was barely deception at all. Back in the old days when hed been actively an activist, when hed been X and most of his jobs had been selfless heists to raise money for the Movement, so that he barely had time left to steal enough to keep his own body and soul together, hed constructed an entirely false cover life to live within, full of nice middle-class friends of all races who believed he was something important and well-paid in communications, a word that, when he used it, sometimes seemed to suggest book publishing, sometimes the movies or television, and sometimes possibly government work.

Later, when hed been in politics in central Africa, vice president of Talabwo, a nation where your Swiss bank account was almost as important as your Mercedes-Benz and where the only even half-educated person within five hundred miles who was not trying to overthrow the president was the president, and where if the president went down the vice president could expect to share with him the same shallow unmarked grave, Herman had learned a level of guile and misdirection that Americans, had they been able to observe it, could only have envied.

So now that he was home, no longer devoted to turning over the proceeds of all his better heists to the Movement (mainly because the Movement seemed to have evaporated while he was away), and no longer having to deal with politicians and army men (most of them certifiably insane) day and night, Herman was ready to turn his hard-earned expertise to for-profit crime.

Which was why he was here. Hed only worked with John Dortmunder twice before, but hed enjoyed both jobs. The first time, hed been brought into the scheme by Andy Kelp, whom hed met in the course of various non-Movement enterprises, and the scheme was an interesting one, in which theyd stolen an entire bank, which had given him plenty of leisure time to work on the vault. The job hadnt wound up to be an absolutely perfect success, but the group had been nicely professional and the experience basically a good one. The second time hed been included into a Dortmunder job, it had been a scam, a little favor like this current one, but with less potential return.

Pilots say that any landing you walk away from is a good landing, and Hermans variant on that was, any crime you walk away from unhandcuffed is a good crime. With that criterion, all of Hermans experiences with John Dortmunder had been good ones.

So now he was back in the States, and he wanted people in the profession to know he was here, he was available, and thats why hed phoned Andy Kelp. Then, when Andyd told him what was going down here, and why, he could see it was a caper he had to be part of. However large or small the profit on this one, it would get him noticed in the right places. Herman is back, people would say to each other after tonight. As good as ever.

No no no. They would say, Herman is back. Better than ever.


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