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60

The deal was, Dortmunder had organized the heist, and he would participate in any profit from it, but he had no part to play in the actual operation itself. This was another of the advantages of having a string of twenty instead of a string of five.

Of course, Dortmunder had not only organized the job, hed also made it possible. This entire casino/hotel had changed its normal operations, had introduced a lot of uniformed personnel who didnt know the territory and didnt know one another and werent known by the regulars, had shifted their whole emphasis from guarding the casino to guarding this single individual in cottage one, and that made the robbery possible. Without Dortmunder, this caper couldnt fly. So he could be left alone to do his own little transaction, and would make his move in the confusion following upon thesuccessful, they all hopedcompletion of the main event.

Four-ten A . M . The lights behind the drawn drapes in cottage one had finally switched off twenty minutes ago, but Dortmunder continued to sit in his own semidark in cottage three and watch. There wasnt a chance he would fall asleep at the wrong time tonight, he was too keyed up, he was too ready, he knew this was the end of it. Tonight, he would get back his lucky ring.

So all he had to do was sit here and watch that cottage, to be sure that nothing happened to change the equation. He didnt want Fairbanks to sneak out under cover of darkness, or sneak reinforcements in, didnt want any changes that he didnt know about. So hed just sit here, and watch, and meantime the heist would go down.

Four-ten A . M . The side door of the Invidia opened and six men stepped out, five of them dressed as guards and carrying under their arms small cardboard cartons that used to be in a storage shed at Nellis Air Force Base. The sixth was dressed as a Gaiety doorman, which came as something of a surprise to the actual doorman when this group approached him, showed him a variety of weapons, and explained he was going to be replaced for a while.

In the limo, Herman saw the group coming, and was pleased that the time was finally here. Hed been getting bored inside this vehicle, with nothing to do but think about the good old days in Talabwo, not getting killed by his nearest and dearest political friends.

The substitute doorman sat where the original doorman had been seated, and fixed his face into an identical expression of brain-dead somnolence. The five pseudo guards with the boxes under their arms escorted the original doorman into the casino, where more surprises awaited him, including three men in gas masks who took him into the guards dayroom and hog-tied him with duct tape. The five new guards, who included the two lockmen, Ralph Winslow and Wally Whistler, put on gas masks of their own from those cardboard cartons theyd been carrying and proceeded through the sleeping casino to the cashiers cage at the back.

Herman got out of the limo, leaving his cap on the seat. He also entered the casino, but veered off the other way, around the unmanned check-in desk and into the empty coffee shop, and out its interior door to the bare concrete corridor leading to the kitchens. The kitchens were open for business, for room service or any food the customers in the lounge might wantthough on this particular night there hadnt been any orders from the lounge for quite some timebut the kitchen staff paid no attention to the black man in the tuxedo who marched with such confidence through their territory. Out of the kitchen Herman went, and past the garbage room, and veered right into the hallway where Tiny and Jim and Gus were loitering.

Who looked at him with relief. About time, Tiny said.

The song begins, Herman told him.

The four of them went off to the loading dock to relieve the guard in the little windowed office there of his duties, Jim taking his place, and then did the same service for the guard at the vehicle barrier, Gus taking his place. Tiny and Herman escorted the two now unemployed guards back to the air room, where they were immobilized and placed next to the sleeping technicians.

Across town, Stan awoke, yawned, stretched, and started the garbage truck.

Wally Whistler and Ralph Winslow bypassed several alarms to unlock their way into the cashiers cage, where the three cashiers on duty slept peacefully. The two lockmen worked together, cursing quietly inside their gas masks, to countervene even more difficult locks and alarms to get from the cashiers cage back to the counting room, where the cash intake was constantly counted and sorted and stacked, and where the two employees with the rubber fingers on their fingers slept like babies amid messy piles of unsorted greenbacks. And finally, just as difficult as the door to the counting room, was the door to the money room, where the metal shelves were lined with trays containing the neat stacks of money; but they got through that one, too.

And now the lockmen were finished, at least in here. They made their way back out to the main casino area, past doors carefully propped open, and the other six guys in gas masks nodded and went on in. Wally and Ralph walked away through the casino, tossing their gas masks under blackjack tables, and went back out the front door, giving the OK sign to the doorman on their way by, who grinned and forgot for just a second to look stupid.

The six now in the counting room and the money room took black plastic garbage bags out from under their uniform shirts and began stuffing them with money.

Wally and Ralph made their way to the Invidia and entered it, and from inside came a small but rousing cheer. Then Wally and Ralph came out again, each carrying a big plastic gallon bottle of spring water, and they walked from the parking lot around the side of the casino, past the swimming pool and the kiddie pool to the Battle-Lake, where they found Ralph Demrovsky pacing slowly along, looking exactly like a cop on the beat. Wally and Ralph grinned at the other Ralph, and then went on about their business, while Ralph Demrovsky turned and made his deliberate way to the cottages, paused on the path between cottages one and three, and took off his hat. He scratched his head, and put his hat back on.

Dortmunder, in the window of cottage three, lit a match and blew it out. Then he checked the glowing numbers on the dial of the watch hed borrowed for this evenings work.

Ralph Demrovsky strolled back to the Battle-Lake, in time to see Wally and the lockman Ralph reunite, neither now carrying a bottle of spring water. Ralph Demrovsky took a little machine from his pants pocket, pressed a button on its top and tossed it into the lake, where it floated inobtrusively. Then Wally and Ralph and Ralph all strolled off to the Invidia and climbed aboard. Laughter sounded from within. Then the door opened, and an extremely trussed and irritated Earl Radburn was carried out and laid gently on the tarmac between two parked cars, his head cradled by his hat. His eyes shot sparks, but nobody seemed to care.

Herman had some doors to unlock. The first led from a corridor near the kitchens to a side corridor that angled around behind the casino to a second door that needed his services, which led to the casino managers office, where the night-shift manager slept cozily, head on desk. There were two other doors in this office. The one leading via the managers secretarys office to the casino floor was not locked, nor was it of interest. The other one was of interest, since it led to the cashiers cage.

This last door was the only one Herman had to deal with while breathing tonights enriched air, though he wouldnt be in here long enough to feel any real effect. The knowledge, however, did make him a little nervous and caused him to slip slightly and take a few seconds longer than he should have, which annoyed him. He thought of himself as cooler than that.

When Herman opened this last door, it was to find the six guys in guard uniforms and gas masks standing there waiting for him, now all holding full and heavy black plastic bags. There were muffled greetings, and Herman led the others back the way hed come.

In the security offices, the monitors showed all this activity, none of which disturbed the sleepers at all, though the two recently inserted guards, being still awake, did stare at the monitors, and at one another, goggle-eyed.

Stan Murch steered the big garbage truck onto Gaiety property and around back, where Gus waved from his post at the barrier. Stan waved back, drove on in, made a U-turn, backed up against the loading dock, and Herman and the six guards came out. All the plastic bags and all the gas masks were thrown into the back of the garbage truck. Jim and Gus joined Stan in the garbage truck cab, and he drove them away from there.

Most of the people whod come here in the Invidia, except the substitute doorman, went back to the Invidia, and Fred and Thelma drove them away.

The three guys whod dealt with the security offices joined Herman and they walked through the hotel and past the check-in desk, and the other three went on out the front door while Herman paused at the house phones, dialed Anne Maries room, and let it ring once.

Anne Maries phone rang once. She and Andy Kelp turned away from the window. Im off, Kelp said.

You must be, Anne Marie told him.

They kissed, and Kelp said, Will I see you in the city?

Ill phone you.

Okay.

He left, and she went back to the window, to look at the nothing outside and think some more, while Kelp took the elevator down to the lobby and stepped outside. The limo waited, with Herman at the wheel, in his chauffeurs cap. The side windows of the limo were shaded dark, so nothing could be seen inside there. The doorman came over to open the door for Kelp to get aboard, which he did. Then the doorman got aboard after him, and pulled the door shut behind him. Herman put the limo in gear, and it hummed away into the night.

Five minutes later, Dortmunder looked at his watch. Theyre done by now, he told himself, and went over to the cottage phone. He dialed 9 for an outside line, and then dialed police headquarters. I want to report a robbery, he said.


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