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The Penal Cluster   By: (1927-1987)

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[Illustration: Their combined thought force hit him like a thunderbolt.]



Tomorrow's technocracy will produce more and more things for better living. It will produce other things, also; among them, criminals too despicable to live on this earth. Too abominable to breathe our free air.

The clipped British voice said, in David Houston's ear, I'm quite sure he's one. He's cashing a check for a thousand pounds. Keep him under surveillance.

Houston didn't look up immediately. He simply stood there in the lobby of the big London bank, filling out a deposit slip at one of the long, high desks. When he had finished, he picked up the slip and headed towards the teller's cage.

Ahead of him, standing at the window, was a tall, impeccably dressed, aristocratic looking man with graying hair.

"The man in the tweeds?" Houston whispered. His voice was so low that it was inaudible a foot away, and his lips scarcely moved. But the sensitive microphone in his collar picked up the voice and relayed it to the man behind the teller's wicket.

That's him , said the tiny speaker hidden in Houston's ear. The fine looking chap in the tweeds and bowler.

"Got him," whispered Houston.

He didn't go anywhere near the man in the bowler and tweeds; instead, he went to a window several feet away.

"Deposit," he said, handing the slip to the man on the other side of the partition. While the teller went through the motions of putting the deposit through the robot accounting machine, David Houston kept his ears open.

"How did you want the thousand, sir?" asked the teller in the next wicket.

"Ten pound notes, if you please," said the graying man. "I think a hundred notes will go into my brief case easily enough." He chuckled, as though he'd made a clever witticism.

"Yes, sir," said the clerk, smiling.

Houston whispered into his microphone again. "Who is the guy?"

On the other side of the partition, George Meredith, a small, unimposing looking man, sat at a desk marked: MR. MEREDITH ACCOUNTING DEPT. He looked as though he were paying no attention whatever to anything going on at the various windows, but he, too, had a microphone at his throat and a hidden pickup in his ear.

At Houston's question, he whispered: "That's Sir Lewis Huntley. The check's good, of course. Poor fellow."

"Yeah," whispered Houston, "if he is what we think he is."

"I'm fairly certain," Meredith replied. "Sir Lewis isn't the type of fellow to draw that much in cash. At the present rate of exchange, that's worth three thousand seven hundred and fifty dollars American. Sir Lewis might carry a hundred pounds as pocket money, but never a thousand."

Houston and Meredith were a good thirty feet from each other, and neither looked at the other. Unless a bystander had equipment to tune in on the special scrambled wavelength they were using, that bystander would never know they were holding a conversation.

"... nine fifty, nine sixty, nine seventy, nine eighty, nine ninety, a thousand pounds," said the clerk who was taking care of Sir Lewis's check. "Would you count that to make sure, sir?"

"Certainly. Ten, twenty, thirty, ..."

While the baronet was double checking the amount, David Houston glanced at him. Sir Lewis looked perfectly calm and unhurried, as though he were doing something perfectly legal which, in a way, he was. And, in another way, he most definitely was not, if George Meredith's suspicions were correct.

"Your receipt, sir." It was the teller at Houston's own window.

Houston took the receipt, thanked the teller, and walked toward the broad front doors of the bank.

"George," he whispered into the throat mike, "has Sir Lewis noticed me?"

"Hasn't so much as looked at you," Meredith answered. "Good hunting."


As Houston stepped outside the bank, he casually dropped one hand into a coat pocket and turned a small knob on his radio control box... Continue reading book >>

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