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ISFDB.org Magazine Entry



Worlds of IF Vol. 11, Number 4 SEPTEMBER 1961

Criminals, beware; the Scorpion is on
your trail! Hoodlums fear his fury — and,
for that matter, so do the cops!

CALL HIM NEMESIS

By DONALD E. WESTLAKE

THE man with the handkerchief mask said, "All right, everybody, keep tight. This is a holdup."

There were twelve people in the bank. There was Mr. Featherhall at his desk, refusing to okay a personal check from a perfect stranger. There was the perfect stranger, an itinerant garage mechanic named Rodney (Rod) Strom, like the check said. There were Miss English and Miss Philicoff, the girls in the gilded teller cages. There was Mister Anderson, the guard, dozing by the door in his brown uniform. There was Mrs. Elizabeth Clayhorn, depositing her husband's pay check in their joint checking account, and with her was her ten-year-old son Edward (Eddie) Clayhorn, Junior. There was Charlie Casale, getting ten dollars dimes, six dollars nickels and four dollars pennies for his father in the grocery store down the street. There was Mrs. Dolly Daniels, withdrawing money from her savings account again. And there were three bank robbers.

The three bank robbers looked like triplets. From the ground up, they all wore scuffy black shoes, baggy-kneed and unpressed khaki trousers, brown cracked-leather jackets over flannel shirts, white handkerchiefs over the lower half of their faces and gray-and-white check caps pulled low over their eyes. The eyes themselves looked dangerous.

The man who had spoken withdrew a small but mean-looking thirty-two calibre pistol from his jacket pocket. He waved it menacingly. One of the others took the pistol away from Mister Anderson, the guard, and said to him in a low voice, "Think about retirement, my friend." The third one, who carried a black satchel like a doctor's bag, walked quickly around behind the teller's counter and started filling it with money.

It was just like the movies.

The man who had first spoken herded the tellers, Mr. Featherhall and the customers all over against the back wall, while the second man stayed next to Mr. Anderson and the door. The third man stuffed money into the black satchel.

The man by the door said, "Hurry up."

The man with the satchel said, "One more drawer."

The man with the gun turned to say to the man at the door, "Keep your shirt on."

That was all Miss English needed. She kicked off her shoes and ran pelting in her stocking feet for the door.

THE man by the door spread his arms out and shouted, "Hey!" The man with the gun swung violently back, cursing, and fired the gun. But he'd been moving too fast, and so had Miss English, and all he hit was the brass plate on Mr. Featherhall's desk.

The man by the door caught Miss English in a bear hug. She promptly did her best to scratch his eyes out. Meanwhile, Mr. Anderson went scooting out the front door and running down the street toward the police station in the next block, shouting, "Help! Help! Robbery!"

The man with the gun cursed some more. The man with the satchel came running around from behind the counter, and the man by the door tried to keep Miss English from scratching his eyes out. Then the man with the gun hit Miss English on the head. She fell unconscious to the floor, and all three of them ran out of the bank to the car out front, in which sat a very nervous-looking fourth man, gunning the engine.

Everyone except Miss English ran out after the bandits, to watch.

Things got very fast and very confused then. Two police cars came driving down the block and a half from the precinct house to the bank, and the car with the four robbers in it lurched away from the curb and drove straight down the street toward the police station. The police cars and the getaway car passed one another, with everybody shooting like the ships in pirate movies.

There was so much confusion that it looked as though the bank robbers were going to get away after all. The police cars were aiming the wrong way and, as they'd come down with sirens wailing, there was a clear path behind them.

Then, after the getaway car had gone more than two blocks, it suddenly started jouncing around. It smacked into a parked car and stopped. And all the police went running down there to clap handcuffs on the robbers when they crawled dazedly out of their car.

"Hey," said Eddie Clayhorn, ten years old. "Hey, that was something, huh, Mom?"

"Come along home," said his mother, grabbing his hand. "We don't want to be involved."

"IT was the nuttiest thing," said Detective-Sergeant Stevenson. "An operation planned that well, you'd think they'd pay attention to their getaway car, you know what I mean?"

Detective-Sergeant Pauling shrugged. "They always slip up," he said. "Sooner or later, on some minor detail, they always slip up."

"Yes, but their tires."

"Well," said Pauling, "it was a stolen car. I suppose they just grabbed whatever was handiest."

"What I can't figure out," said Stevenson, "is exactly what made those tires do that. I mean, it was a hot day and all, but it wasn't that hot. And they weren't going that fast. I don't think you could go fast enough to melt your tires down."

Pauling shrugged again. "We got them. That's the important thing."

"Still and all, it's nutty. They're free and clear, barreling out Rockaway toward the Belt, and all at once their tires melt, the tubes blow out and there they are." Stevenson shook his head. "I can't figure it."

"Don't look a gift horse in the mouth," suggested Pauling. "They picked the wrong car to steal."

"And that doesn't make sense, either," said Stevenson. "Why steal a car that could be identified as easily as that one?"

"Why? What was it, a foreign make?"

"No, it was a Chevy, two-tone, three years old, looked just like half the cars on the streets. Except that in the trunk lid the owner had burned in 'The Scorpion' in big black letters you could see half a block away."

"Maybe they didn't notice it when they stole the car," said Pauling.

"For a well-planned operation like this one," said Stevenson, "they made a couple of really idiotic boners. It doesn't make any sense."

"What do they have to say about it?" Pauling demanded. "Nothing, what do you expect? They'll make no statement at all."

The squad-room door opened, and a uniformed patrolman stuck his head in. "The owner of that Chewy's here," he said.

"Right," said Stevenson. He followed the patrolman down the hall to the front desk.

The owner of the Chevy was an angry-looking man of middle age, tall and paunchy. "John Hastings," he said. "They say you have my car here."

"I believe so, yes," said Stevenson. "I'm afraid it's in pretty bad shape."

"So I was told over the phone," said Hastings grimly. "I've contacted my insurance company."

"Good. The car's in the police garage, around the corner. If you'd come with me?"

ON the way around, Stevenson said, "I believe you reported the car stolen almost immediately after it happened."

"That's right," said Hastings. "I stepped into a bar on my route. I'm a wine and liquor salesman. When I came out five minutes later, my car was gone."

"You left the keys in it?"

"Well, why not?" demanded Hastings belligerently. "If I'm making just a quick stop —I never spend more than five minutes with any one customer—I always leave the keys in the car. Why not?"

"The tar was stolen," Stevenson reminded him.

Hastings grumbled and glared. "It's always been perfectly safe up till now."

"Yes, sir. In here."

Hastings took one look at his car and hit the ceiling. "It's ruined!" he cried. "What did you do to the tires?"

"Not a thing, sir. That happened to them in the holdup.

Hastings leaned down over one of the front tires. "Look at that! There's melted rubber all over the rims. Those rims are ruined! What did you use, incendiary bullets?"

Stevenson shook his head. "No, sir. When that happened they were two blocks away from the nearest policeman."

"Hmph." Hastings moved on around the car, stopping short to exclaim, "What in the name of God is that? You didn't tell me a bunch of kids had stolen the car."

"It wasn't a bunch of kids," Stevenson told him. "It was four professional criminals, I thought you knew that. ...

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