Page 95 of The Moneychangers

He could see the first one now wide, busy with traffic, divided by a center boulevard.

Then he saw something else on the far side of the boulevard a long black Cadillac with dark windows, cruising slowly. Marino's.

As the car crossed the street which Miles was on, it seemed to hesitate, then speeded up, passing quickly out of sight. There had been no time to try to hide.

Had he been seen? Had the car gone on to switch lanes and come back, or had he stayed lucky and been unobserved? Again fear struck him. Though he was sweating, Miles shivered but kept on. There was nothing else to do. He moved close to buildings, slowing his pace as much as he dared.

A minute and a half later, with the intersection only fifty yards away, a Cadilla~the same car nosed around the corner. He knew that luck had run out.

Whoever was in the car most likely Angelo, for one could not fail to see him, probably had already. So was anything to be gained by more resistance? Wouldn't it be simpler to give up, to allow himself to be taken, to let what was going to happen, happen?

No! Because he had seen enough of Tony Bear Marino and his kind, in prison and since, to know what happened to people who incurred their vengeance.

The black car was slowing. They had seen him. Desperation. One of the stores Miles had noticed moments earlier was immediately alongside.

Breaking his stride, he turned left, pushed open a glass door and went in. Inside, he saw it was a sporting goods store.

A pale, spindly clerk, about Miles's own age, stepped forward.

"Good day, sir. Is there something I can show you?" "Er… yes." He said the first thing that came into his head. "I'd like to see bowling balls."

"Certainly. What kind of price and weight?" "The best. About sixteen pounds." "Color?" "Doesn't matter." Miles was watching the few yards of sidewalk outside the street door.

Several pedestrians had gone by. None had paused or looked in. "If you come this way, I'll show you what we have."

He followed the clerk past racks of skis, glass cases, a display of handguns.

Then, glancing back, Miles saw the silhouette of a single figure, stopped outside and peering in the window.

Now a second figure joined the first. They stood together, not moving from the storefront. Miles wondered: Could he get out through the back?

Even as the thought occurred to him, he discarded it. The men who were after him would not make the same error twice. Any rear exit would already have been located and guarded. "This is an excellent ball. It sells for forty-two dollars." ;

"I'll take it." "We'll need your hand measurement for the…"

"Never mind." Should he try to phone Wainwright from here?

But Miles was sure if he went near a phone the men outside would come in instantly.

The clerk looked puzzled. "You don't warn' us to drill…" "I said never mind." "As you wish, sir. How about a bag for the ball? Perhaps some bowling shoes?" "Yes," Miles said. "Yes, okay." It would help postpone the moment of returning to the street.

Scarcely aware of what he was doing, he inspected bags put in front of him, chose one at random, then sat down to try on shoes. It was while slipping on a pair that the idea occurred to him.

The Keycharge card which Wainwright had sent through Juanita… the card in the name of H. E. Lyncolp… H-E-L-P.

He motioned to the bowling ball, bag, and the shoes he had chosen. "How much?" The clerk looked up from an invoice. "Eighty-six dollars and ninety-five cents, plus tax." "Listen," Miles said, "I want to put it on my Keycharge."

He took out his wallet and offered the LYNCOLP card, trying to stop his hands from trembling. "That's okay, but…" "I know, you need authorization.

Go ahead. Phone for it." The clerk took the card and invoice to a glassed-in office area. He was gone several minutes, then returned. Miles asked anxiously,

"Get through?" "Sure. Everything's okay, Mr. Lyncolp." Miles wondered what was happening now at the Keycharge Center in FMA Headquarters Tower.

Would it help him? Could anything help?… Then he remembered the second instruction relayed by Juanita After using the card, dawdle as much as possible. Give Wainwright time to move.

"Sign here, please, Mr. Lyncolp."

A Keycharge account slip was filled in for the amount he had spent. Miles leaned over the counter to add a signature.

Straightening up, he felt a hand touch his shoulder lightly. A voice said quietly, "Milesy." As he turned, Jules LaRocca said, "Don't make no fuss. It won't do no good and you'll get hurt the worse."

Behind LaRocca, their faces impassive, were Angelo and Lou, and a fourth man another bruiser type whom Miles hadn't seen before.

The four moved around him, seizing him, pinioning his arms. "Move, shitass." The order was from Angelo, low-voiced. Miles considered crying out, but who was there to help him?

The milquetoast clerk, watching open-mouthed, could not.

The hunt was ended. The pressure on his arms tightened.

He felt himself propelled helplessly toward the outer door. The bewildered salesclerk ran after them. "Mr. Lyncolpl You've forgotten your bowling ball"

It was LaRocca who told him, "You keep it, buster.

This guy don't even need the balls he's got."

The black Cadillac was parked a few yards down the street

They pushed Miles roughly into it and drove off.

Business in the Keycharge authorization center was near its daily peak.

A normal shift of fifty operators was on duty in the semidarkened auditorium-style center, each seated at a keyboard with a TV-like cathode ray tube above it. To the young operator who received the call, the H. E. LYNCOLP credit query was simply one of thousands dealt with routinely during a working day.

All were totally impersonal.

Neither she nor others like her ever knew where the calls they handled came from not even which city or state. The credit sought might be to pay a New York housewife's grocery bill, provide clothing for a Kansas farmer, allow a rich Chicago dowager to load herself with unneeded jewelry, advance a Princeton undergrad's tuition fees, or help a Cleveland alcoholic buy the case of liquor which finally would kill him. But the operator was never told details.

If really needed later, the specifics of a purchase could be traced back, though it seldom happened. The reason: No one cared.

The money mattered, the money changing hands, the ability to repay the credit granted; that was all. The call began with a flashing light on the operator's console. She touched a switch and spoke into her headset mike. "What is your merchant number, please?" The caller a sporting goods clerk attending to Miles Eastin gave it.

As he did, the operator typed the number. Simultaneously it appeared on her cathode ray screen. She asked, "Card number and date of expiry?" Another answer. Again, details on the screen. "Amount of purchase?" "Ninety dollars, forty-three." Typed. On screen.

The operator pressed a key, alerting a computer several floors below. Within a millisecond the computer digested the information, searched its records and flashed an answer.


AUTH.No.7416984 ~





"The purchase is approved," the operator told the caller. "Authorization number…" She was speaking more slowly than usual. Even before she began, she had flashed a signal to an elevated supervisors' booth. Now in the booth another young woman, one of six supervisors on duty, was already reading her own duplication of the cathode ray tube display.

She reached for a card index, seeking emergency instruction 17. The original operator deliberately stumbled over the authorization number and began again.

Emergency signals were not flashed often, but when it happened there were standard procedures which operators knew. Slowing down was one. In the past, murderers had been caught, a kidnap victim saved, disappearances solved, stolen art treasures recovered, a son brought to his dying mother's bedside all because a computer had been alerted to the possibility that a particular credit card might be used, and if and when it was, prompt action was essential.

At such moments, while others took the needed action, a few seconds' foot-dragging by an operator could help significantly. The supervisor was already implementing instruction 17 which informed her that N. Wainwright, v/p Security, was to be advised immediately by telephone that the special Keycharge card issued in the name H. E. LYNCOLP had been presented, and where.