Dortmunder's lucky ring is stolen in the bungled burglary of a nasty billionaire's Long Island mansion. Now, a series of raids are planned to get the ring back -- and get even.
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From the circumstances, Dortmunder would say it was a missing-heir scam. It had begun a week ago, when a guy he knew slightly, a fella called A.K.A. because he operated under so many different names, phoned him and said, "Hey, John, it's A.K.A. here, I'm wondering, you got the flu, something like that? We don't see you around the regular place for a while."
"Which regular place is that?" Dortmunder asked.
"Oh, yeah," Dortmunder said. "Well, I been cuttin back. I might see you there sometime."
Off the phone, Dortmunder looked up the address of Armweery's and went there, and A.K.A. was at a booth in the back, under the loose lips sink ships poster where some wag had blacked out most of the Jap's teeth.
"What this is," A.K.A. said, under his new mustache (this one was gingery, and so, at the moment, was his hair), "is a deposition. A week from Thursday, 10:00 a.m., this lawyer's office in the Graybar Building. Take maybe an hour. You go in, they swear you, ask you some questions, that's it."
"Do I know the answers?"
"What's in it for me?"
"Half a gee."
Five hundred dollars for an hour's work; not so bad. If, of course. Depending. Dortmunder said, "What's the worst that could happen?"
A.K.A. shrugged. "They go looking for Fred Mullins out on Long Island."
"Got it," Dortmunder said.
"There'll also be a lawyer on our side there," A.K.A. told him. "I mean, the side of the guy that's running this thing. The lawyer isn't in on what's going down, by him you are Fred Mullins, from Carrport, Long Island, sohe'sjust there to see the other side doesn't stray from the program. And at the end of it, in the elevator, he gives you the envelope."
"Easy as falling off a diet," A.K.A. said, and handed him a manila envelope, which he took home and opened, to find it contained a whole story about one Fredric Albert Mullins and an entire family named Anadarko, all living on Red Tide Street out in Carrport between 1972 and 1985. Dortmunder diligently memorized it all, having his faithful companion May deposition him on the information every evening when she came home from the Safeway supermarket where she was a cashier. And then, on the following Wednesday, the day before his personal private show was to open, Dortmunder got another call from A.K.A., who said, "You know that car I was gonna buy?"
Uh oh. "Yeah?" Dortmunder said. "You were gonna pay five hundred for it, I remember."
"Turns out, at the last minute," A.K.A. said, "it's a real lemon, got unexpected problems. In a word, it won't run."
"And the five hundred?"
"Well, you know, John," A.K.A. said, "I'm not buying the car."
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One of the best in the series. Don't steal from a thief. Take this book as a warning, if you annoy John Dortmunder, you will regret it.
This is one of the best stories I've read in Westlake's series about the world's unluckiest thief, John Dortmunder. For one thing, Dortmunder comes out of it a lot better off than in previous stories. Caught burglarizing the house of billionaire Max Fairbanks, Dortmunder is incensed when Fairbanks steals the "lucky ring" right off of his finger just before the police haul him away. Dortmunder proceeds to rob every house and apartment owned by Fairbanks, and (unlike his usual capers) each break-in results in a great haul of swag for the burglars -- but the ring remains in Fairbanks' possession. The action culminates in a brilliantly-plotted Las Vegas casino robbery.I love most of Westlake's comic crime novels, with or without Dortmunder, but he was really at the top of his game when he wrote this one.