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Title: Respectfully mine

Author: Randall Garrett

Illustrator: John Schoenherr

Release date: November 17, 2023 [eBook #72147]

Language: English

Original publication: New York, NY: Royal Publications, Inc, 1958

Credits: Greg Weeks, Mary Meehan and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team at


Respectfully Mine


Illustrated by JOHN SCHOENHERR

Leland Hale was undoubtedly the cleverest
crook in the universe. But how could even he
crack that closely-guarded time capsule?

[Transcriber's Note: This etext was produced from
Infinity August 1958.
Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that
the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.]

Thieves respect property. They merely wish the property to become their property, that they may more perfectly respect it.—The Man Who Was Thursday, by G. K. Chesterton.

Tracing the path of a human being over a million parsecs of space and a half century of time isn't easy, even when the subject makes no effort to conceal his route or confuse his contemporaries. The difficulty increases by a factor of at least ten when the subject is a wily, clever, and thoroughly ruthless scoundrel like Leland Hale. If it was difficult for the Interstellar Police to track down Hale a century ago, it is easy to see why it would be almost impossible today. The records are too sketchy.

But while it is virtually impossible to give any coherent chronological account of the life of Leland Hale, it is certainly possible to deduce what did happen during those periods of his life which are accurately documented. Modern psychometric analysis enables us to pinpoint his character down to the seventieth decimal place, and that, in turn, enables us to see what he must have done in a given circumstance, being the kind of man he was.

Folk legend has a tendency to make heroes of even the vilest of villains, provided they are colorful enough, and no amount of fact ever quite smothers the romantic legend. Such mythical or semi-mythical characters as Robin Hood, Jesse James, Billy the Kid, John Dillinger, Captain Hamling Fox III, and Hilary Boone were all rascals to the core, but even today they have their practicing cults. But the cultus peculiar to Leland Hale seems to outshine them all, and for the singularly perverse reason that he was worse than all the rest rolled together. Indeed, he has been touted throughout the galaxy as a sort of super Simon Templar, who "robbed from the rich and gave to the poor." Rob from the rich he did, but the recipient was Leland Hale, who was rarely, if ever, in penurious circumstances.

If there is any way in which the legends of Leland Hale do not exaggerate, it is in the descriptions of his physical size. Here, there is no need to exaggerate; Hale stood six feet six in his bare feet and had an absolute mass of some one hundred thirty-eight kilograms—very little of it fat. His hair was black and his skin was deeply tanned; his face was hard, blocky, and handsome. Mentally, he was brilliant; morally, he had one philosophy—"Leland Hale deserves to own the galaxy." He knew the goal was unobtainable, but he worked steadily at it.

What he wanted, he took, and if it wasn't available, he took the next best thing—all of which brings us around to the peculiar incident on the planet Apfahl.

A century ago, Apfahl was just one of those little backwater planets that cluttered the fringes of the main streams of galactic trade. During the early colonization of the planet, the great southern continent was the only section of the new world that seemed worth colonizing. By the end of the first three centuries, it was fairly well covered with people, and those people had divided themselves into two groups.

The southernmost part of the continent, being closer to the pole, and higher in altitude, was occupied by semi-nomadic herdsmen who kept animals that could graze on the almost untillable tundra. The northern peoples, on the other hand, became farmers.

As a result, the Apfahlians quarrelled over the rightful seat of the colony government, and, after much strife, two capitals were set up, and the country of Sudapfahl and the country of Nordapfahl glared at each other across the boundary that separated them.

Just where the name Apfahl came from, no one is quite sure. Since it was originally colonized by people from Vega IV, which in turn was colonized directly from Earth by people of Old Germanic stock, an attempt has been made to trace the name through that language. The attempt has resulted in two schools of thought.

One school contends that the word comes from the Old Earth German word Apfel, which means "apple"; the other school, with an equally sound basis, insists that the name is derived from Abfall, meaning "garbage." Which school of thought one follows seems to be entirely dependent on whether one is an inhabitant of the planet or has merely visited there.

Leland Hale was, perhaps, an exception to that rule; the first time he saw it, hanging in the blackness a couple of hundred thousand miles out of the forward plate of his expensive private ship, the planet looked very much like an apple—ripe and ready for plucking. Naturally.

Now, about all the average galactic citizen knows about Apfahl these days is that it was the birthplace of Dachboden; as a matter of fact, that's all anybody thought of it as a hundred years ago. Someone says: "R. Philipp Dachboden, the Painter of Apfahl," and everyone nods knowingly. But it would be worth your while to give five-to-one odds against any given person being able to tell you what sector it's in. And, actually, that's as it should be; aside from the fact that R. Philipp Dachboden was born there, Apfahl has no claim whatever to galactic prominence.

But it almost did. If it hadn't been for Leland Hale—

In order to understand exactly what happened, we'll have to look over our cast of main characters. Aside from Leland Hale himself, there are two gentlemen who played no small part in the Apfahlian farce.

Hinrik Fonshliezen was a tall, dark, lean specimen with a corvine nose, a vulpine mind, and a porcine greed. Lest this list of characteristics smack too much of the animalistic, let it be said that Fonshliezen's memory was not elephantine, which was too bad for him.

Hinrik's great grandfather, one Villim Fonshliezen, had managed, through dint of much hard labor and much underhanded business, to amass one of the biggest ranches in Sudapfahl. By the time Hinrik's generation rolled around, the Fonshliezen holdings were great enough to make it worth Hinrik's while to enter politics—which, of course, he did. In what is known as due time, he reached the position of State Portfolio, a chancellorship second only to the Prime Chancellor himself.

It is easily understandable that his ambitions included the Primacy itself. He knew, however, that his chances of actually getting the office were slim. He was efficient; he could handle any of the Portfolios in the File with ease. He had been elected to the File from his own country because he had financial control of that country, but winning a General Election was something else again, because he was not a popular man.

That is not to say he was unpopular; probably he was no more generally disliked than any other politician. But he simply didn't have the knack of attracting favorable attention to himself; he was not, to put it bluntly, a lovable man. He had very carefully avoided doing anything that would make the public angry with him, but avoiding hatred is not the same thing as attracting love.

Having come to this realization, Hinrik Fonshliezen found himself looking for either a good deed to do or a good press agent—or both.

Let's leave him looking for the moment, and skip up above the border into the country of Nordapfahl. In the city of Grosstat, we will find the Museum of Cultural History, and within that museum, seated in a comfortable, book-lined office, we find the museum's director, Dr. Rudolf Mier.

Physically, Dr. Mier was easily distinguishable from Fonshliezen. To parallel the previous trope, Mier was porcine in build, bovine in manner, and lupine in business matters.

Mier liked the good things of life—food, liquor, women, fine art, good music, and well-tailored clothes. He overindulged in all of them except liquor and women. He was moderate in his use of the former because he found drunkenness repulsive, and of the latter because women found him repulsive.

The Museum of Cultural History was his great love, however; as long as he had it and his work, he could dispense with many of life's little luxuries—if it became absolutely necessary to dispense with them. The Museum wasn't much by galactic standards. It had only been in existence for a couple of centuries, and, in a scanty civilization such as that of Apfahl, two hundred years isn't much time to pick up a museum full of really valuable and worthwhile exhibits. The faded uniform of Field Marshal So-and-so might excite the beating, patriotic heart of an Apfahlian, but it was of very little worth as a cultural relic.

But to Dr. Mier, the Museum was one of the great landmarks of human history. He envisaged a day, not too far distant, when his small collection would be known as the Apfahlian Division of the Interstellar Museum of Natural and Cultural History. According to the records of the Interstellar Museum, Dr. Rudolf Mier actually made tactful, cautious reaches toward such a goal. He was tactfully reminded that it would be necessary to "improve the general standards" of the Apfahlian museum before any such recognition could be granted.

Dr. Mier did not actually think that such recognition would come in his own lifetime; he was somewhat of an idealist, and we must give him credit for that. But one day certain papers—very old-looking and yellowed papers—came to his attention, and he sent off a hurried spacegram to the Board of the Interstellar Museum.

In view of the fact that the Interstellar Museum's directors did not get around to considering the spacegram for nearly two months, it is unusual that Mier got an immediate reply to his communication. But Mier didn't know that, and he was very pleased to hear that an art expert, Dr. Allen H. Dale, was being dispatched immediately to appraise the situation.

The eminent Dr. Dale had some trouble in reaching the planet; big space liners did not—and still do not—make regular stops at Apfahl. Dr. Dale did, however, manage to get the captain of the I.S.S. Belvedere to veer aside from his predetermined course and drop his passenger to Apfahl in a small flitter. It cost Dr. Dale a goodly sum, but it was worth it.

When they were near the planet, the Belvedere stopped, and Dr. Dale went aboard the flitter with the pilot.

Dr. Dale, the art expert, had a full, graying beard that covered half his face, and a large shock of graying hair. He might have been a muscular man, but the cut of his clothes made his six and a half feet of body seem fat and clumsy. He gave the impression of a man who could neither fight nor run, but who depended on superior pomposity to stare down his opponents.

The flitter pilot strapped himself down and said: "Not much money on Apfahl. Still, I hear there's something stirring." He adjusted Dr. Dale's seat. "Something about art, eh?" He looked at his passenger as if expecting some comment.

He was not disappointed. Dr. Dale cleared his throat and said: "Yes. There has been some excitement in artistic circles of late. Of course, the news only came out a few weeks ago, and it takes time for anything like that to spread around the galaxy, even among the civilized planets."

The pilot twiddled switches and control knobs as he eased the little ship into a landing orbit. "Well, whatever it is, it must be important for a man to lay out all the extra cash it costs to get Captain Gremp to stop the Belvedere and drop you off." Again he glanced at his passenger.

"Young man," said Dr. Dale, "if you are trying to pump me for information, that is no way to go about it; on the other hand, if you are merely trying to keep a conversation going, there is no need to be coy. I am not on a secret mission for the Interstellar Police, nor am I normally a close-mouthed man. If you are curious, say so; I can give you a full explanation before we land."

The pilot reddened a little. "Well—uh—yes. I was sort of wondering what's supposed to be so important about a piece of wood." Gingerly, he applied power as the ship dropped toward the cloud-flecked surface of Apfahl.

"Piece of wood!" Dr. Dale seemed in agony. His gray beard bristled in indignation. "Young man, I presume you have heard of R. Philipp Dachboden?"

The sarcasm in his voice was light, but even so the pilot reddened more deeply. A hundred years ago, the brilliant genius of Dachboden was perhaps not quite as widely appreciated as it is today, but even then, two centuries after his death, the name of R. Philipp Dachboden ranked with those of Da Vinci and Matisse.

"You are aware, I think," continued the pompous doctor, "that Dachboden did all his sculpture in the wood of the dynak tree, which is native to Apfahl?"

"Sculpture?" asked the pilot. "I thought he was a painter."

"He was," said Dr. Dale sourly. "His paintings are worth tens of thousands. But his carvings are worth hundreds of thousands. There are only eighteen examples of his work known to be in existence. Now there is reason to believe there may be a nineteenth."

"Oh yeah," said the pilot. "He left one in the time capsule, eh?"

"Presumably. We'll know in a few weeks."

"I guess there'll be a lot of art experts coming in pretty soon, then, huh?" the pilot asked.

"I expect my colleagues to arrive on the Quinsen, out of Denebola. It's the next scheduled liner to make a stop here at Apfahl. I, however, wanted to get the jump on them. Get in on the ground floor, so to speak," the doctor told him.

"I getcha," said the pilot. It didn't occur to him to wonder what good it would do to get in early when the time capsule wouldn't open until the scheduled time, anyway, and by then all the art experts for a thousand parsecs around would be clustered on the spot.

When the flitter landed, the self-important Dr. Allen H. Dale supervised the unloading of his luggage at the third-rate little spaceport near the city of Grosstat, a few miles from the shores of the Kaltvosser Sea. It hadn't been grounded ten minutes before a big, black, newly-made automobile of quaintly antique design rolled up to the edge of the landing pit. Two uniformed men got out and stood at attention at the rear door, which opened to disgorge a third man, a civilian. The civilian was almost as broad as Dr. Dale, but not nearly so tall; he looked well-fed, almost oily, and he had a smug expression on his round face.

Flanked by the two uniformed men, the portly civilian moved ponderously toward the heap of traveling bags and the gray-bearded man who was standing beside them.

"Dr. Allen Dale?" he asked respectfully.

If, by this time, the astute reader has begun to suspect that Leland Hale might perhaps be lurking behind that gray beard and that anagrammatical alias, that reader may give himself a small pat on his back. Leland Hale was perfectly capable of posing as an art expert for the very simple reason that he was an art expert. Therefore, it was with perfect and utter aplomb that he turned to the fat civilian, evinced moderate surprise, and said: "I am Dr. Dale, sir. And whom have I the honor of addressing?"

The civilian bowed very slightly, a mere angling of the spine and a slight bob of the head. "I have," said the chubby one in slightly accented Standard, "the honor to be the director of the Grosstat Museum of Cultural History, Dr. Rudolf Mier."

Leland Hale looked pleasantly surprised. "Ah! Dr. Mier! A very great pleasure to meet you, sir."

"We received your subradiogram, Doctor," said Mier. "Naturally, I, myself, came to meet you."

"Naturally," agreed Leland Hale.

"We get very few extra-planetary visitors here," Dr. Mier continued apologetically. "Apfahl is, I fear, a little off the—ah—beaten path. Of course, we expect—"

"—to be more widely recognized after the opening of the time capsule," Leland Hale finished for him. "Of course. And it's only right. The galaxy must give due respect to the birthplace of the great Dachboden—and they shall, never fear."

The Director looked like a freshly-petted cocker spaniel.

"We have arranged for your stay here, Dr. Dale. The Kayser Hotel is holding a suite for you. Your instruments—" He gestured toward the pile of luggage. "—will be taken there. I wonder if you would honor me with your presence at lunch?"

"By all means, my dear Director—but the honor will be entirely mine."

Within three minutes, Leland Hale was firmly planted in the rear seat of the car beside the Director of the Museum of Cultural History, while the uniformed men sat in front, one of them tooling the vehicle off down the narrow concrete roadway toward the city of Grosstat.

"Tell me," said Leland Hale, "how did all this come about? The news releases were very sketchy."

Rudolf Mier leaned back comfortably in his seat and allowed a look of semi-concentration to envelope his face.

"Well, it all began a couple of centuries ago—back during Dachboden's lifetime. That's when the Museum was founded, you know." Then he stopped and looked at Hale. "Ah—do you know? I mean, are you acquainted with the history of Apfahl?"

Hale looked properly embarrassed, "I'm afraid I know very little, Doctor. In spite of Dachboden's fame, Apfahl has not shared that fame as it properly should. Let us say that, although Apfahl basks in the glory of her renowned son, she doesn't reflect too much of it. You will have to assume I know absolutely nothing, I'm afraid."

"I see," said Mier. "Well, then, at any rate, the Museum was founded by a group of our forefathers for the purpose of preserving the unique heritage that is Apfahl's. In accordance with this ideal, they proposed to bury a time capsule containing contemporary artifacts. You are acquainted with the practice, I assume?"

"It's quite common," said Hale.

"As it should be. Each age should take pains to be sure that the ensuing age does not lose its heritage."

"Of course." Hale honestly didn't see why it should—if Hale could ever be said to do anything honestly. Anything worth preserving was not the sort of junk that was usually put in a time capsule. Oh, well—

"The capsule is of the standard type," Mier continued. "Hermetically sealed, with a tamper-proof time lock activated by a radio-decay clock. It's set to open at ——" He rattled off a string of numbers, and then went on to explain the Apfahlian calendar, winding it up with: "Our calendar is very scientific."

"Very," said Hale.

"At any rate, the capsule was buried underneath the Museum and then practically forgotten. Oh, we knew it was there, but little notice has been taken of the fact over the past century and more. We don't even know what is in it—that is, not in detail. The official list, for instance, simply says that 'various objects of art' are included, but it makes no mention of Dachboden. That's not too strange, really, since the great man's contemporaries didn't recognize his genius.

"But recently we have uncovered a book—a very old book, which we believe was owned by Dachboden himself. Inside it, there was the beginning of a letter addressed to a friend, in which Dachboden mentioned that one of his dynak-wood statues had been picked to be put in the time capsule, and had been sealed in just the day before the letter was written.

"Naturally, as soon as we heard of that, we of the Museum exhumed the time capsule to check again the exact date upon which it is due to reopen. It is now under careful guard within the Museum itself."

As the car rolled into the outskirts of Grosstat, Hale looked around and remarked: "So this is the birthplace of the famous Dachboden."

The expression on the face of the Director changed slightly; he looked a little flustered.

"Well, not exactly," he said.

Hale turned on him, surprise showing in his eyes. "Not exactly? Oh, come now, my dear Director; either it is or it isn't—eh?"

"Ah—well, yes. It isn't. Uh—what I mean to say is that, although Dachboden spent most of his life in Grosstat, he was actually born in Grunfelt."


"Yes." He waved a hand in a little nervous circle. "You must understand that Apfahl is, as I said, a rather—ah—well, backward is too strong a word, but—" He stopped, swallowed, began again. "You see, Dr. Dale, Apfahl does not yet have a united planetary government. We have—ah—two sectors, each independently governed. Of course, we who are more enlightened deplore such a state of affairs, but—" He stopped again and smiled weakly. "However that may be, Dr. Dale, it so happens that R. Philipp Dachboden was born, not in this nation of Nordapfahl, but in the country of Sudapfahl."

"But he came here to work, eh?"

Mier bobbed his head in an emphatic yes. "Of course! No man of his brilliance could have been expected to stay in the art-smothering atmosphere of Sudapfahl as it was two hundred years ago. Or even, for that matter, as it is today."

"Well, well," boomed Leland Hale with pompous heartiness, "you are certainly fortunate. Very fortunate indeed, Dr. Mier. To think that there, in your museum, you have an art treasure worth many hundreds of thousands of stellors—possibly a million. Marvelous!"

Dr. Rudolf Mier positively glowed. "Well—yes—I suppose we are pretty lucky at that." A slight frown came over his face. "It has always been—ah—somewhat of a thorn in the side of Apfahl—especially Nordapfahl—that Dachboden was a little ungrateful in not allowing us to keep at least one example of his art."

Leland Hale placidly refrained from pointing out that Dachboden would have starved to death trying to sell his material on Apfahl two centuries before. In the first place, no one there appreciated him, and in the second place, there wasn't much money to be spent on art. Even the little amount Dachboden got for his work off-planet was a tremendous sum as far as Apfahl's economy was concerned.

The luncheon was typically Apfahlian fare—rough, tasteless, but nourishing. Hale ate it stolidly, neither liking nor disliking it; he was merely indifferent to it. Dr. Mier on the other hand, complained that it wasn't properly cooked and still managed to put away enough for three men.

"Tell me, Doctor," said Hale, when he found a lull between courses, "have you considered the idea that someone might steal such a valuable object?"

Mier finished chewing a bite, swallowed it, and shook his head. "There is not much chance of that, Dr. Dale. In the first place, it is locked within the capsule. Oh, I'll admit that the entire capsule could be stolen; it is big, but not so big that it couldn't be taken by someone with the proper equipment.

"However, that kind of equipment isn't available to the average man here on Apfahl. And besides, it is thoroughly guarded. After we dug it up from the basement, our government provided the Museum with a full battalion of armed troops to surround the building day and night. No unauthorized person can get in, and they certainly couldn't get the time capsule out."

"Wouldn't it be possible to break into the capsule?"

Dr. Mier chuckled deeply. "You have not seen this capsule. Oh, I'll grant that it might be broken into, but doing so would involve so much damage that the contents would be ruined, rendering the attempt useless. No, Dr. Dale; no one will steal our little treasure." He chuckled again, and, as the next course was brought on, he began shoveling it in. The silence was unbroken save for the sounds of eating.

After a few moments, Leland Hale glanced casually at his watch and compared it with the big mechanical clock on the wall of the hotel cafe. He hoped his timing was correct.

It was. Seven minutes later, a man wearing the uniform of a Museum guard scuttled into the room as though he were being followed by a fleet of hornets. He stopped near the door, glanced rapidly over all the diners, located Dr. Mier, and made his way hurriedly toward the table.

"Dr. Mier! Dr. Mier!" His rasping voice was about as secretive as a stage whisper. The other diners swiveled their heads to look.

Mier, startled, glanced up at the messenger.

"Yes, Mooler? Speak up, man; what is it?"

The uniformed man put a single sheet of paper on the table. "This just came over the teletype wire from our correspondent in Sudapfahl, sir! Read it!"

Dr. Mier read, and, as he did so, his eyes widened. "Good Heavens!" he said at last, "This is terrible!"

"What?" asked Leland Hale, in all innocence.

"This!" Mier shoved the teletype sheet across the table.

Grunfelt, Sudapfahl: The excellent Hinrik Fonshliezen, Portfolio of State, announced today the discovery of a time capsule similar to that in the Museum of Grosstat, Nordapfahl. The capsule, set for a date approximately one day later than that of the northern capsule, is said to be buried beneath the capitol building, according to official records disclosed to the public this morning. Excavations will begin immediately, according to his excellency's statement, it is expected that the capsule may contain some examples of the work of R. Philipp Dachboden.

Leland Hale read it carefully and shook his head. "Dear me," he said mildly.

"It may mean nothing to you, an outsider," said Dr. Mier bitterly, "but do you realize that to us this is a matter of national honor and prestige?"

"Oh, yes. Of course. Naturally. Believe me, Dr. Mier, I certainly appreciate your position." He spread his hands slightly. "But, of course, you realize that, as a representative of the Interstellar Museum, I will have to check on the Sudapfahlian claim." Before Mier could voice any objections, Leland Hale silenced him with a wave of his hand. "You have nothing to worry about, Dr. Mier; as you know, the Interstellar Museum only allows one branch to a planet. Naturally, your museum would certainly have priority over that of Sudapfahl."

"Sudapfahl doesn't even have a museum," Mier said, looking fatly superior.

"Besides," Hale continued mollifyingly, "I shan't go there until after I have seen what your own time capsule has to offer. It seems to me that the Sudapfahlian government actually doesn't know what's inside their capsule. Their statements seem to be made out of pure jealousy."

"You're probably quite right, Dr. Dale," said Mier.

"Oh, I know I'm right," said Leland Hale truthfully.

After lunch, Dr. Allen H. Dale informed Dr. Mier that, as he was a bit fatigued from his trip, he would like to rest for a few hours. Mier agreed whole-heartedly, and the two men made an appointment to meet later in the afternoon for a tour of the Grosstat Museum of Cultural History, and perhaps dinner and a few drinks afterwards.

After seeing his guest into his room, Dr. Mier strolled out of the hotel, stepped into his car, and ordered the driver to take him to the Museum. There were big things to be done. This new threat from the south was not to be taken too lightly.

At the Museum—a huge, cold-looking, blocky granite structure—Mier climbed out of his car, toiled up the broad stairs to the entrance, and strolled rollingly in. On every side, flunkies, both in uniform and out, bowed and scraped as the Great Man passed by. Dr. Mier reached his book-lined office just as the telephone rang.

He picked up the instrument, a mechanism of ancient design possessing no vision equipment, and announced that he was Dr. Rudolf Mier.

"This is Lieutenant-Marshal Dilon, State Police. You have just returned from lunch with a Dr. Allen H. Dale, purporting to be from the Galactic Museum?"

"Why, yes; I just—What do you mean, purporting?"

"We have reason to believe, Doctor, that this man is wanted by the Interstellar Police. We have received a communication from I.P. headquarters warning us that Dr. Allen H. Dale is actually a man named Leland Hale."

"Who is Leland Hale?"

"A criminal, Doctor. He is wanted so badly that the I.P. is actually sending a contingent of men here to apprehend him," said the lieutenant-marshal.

"A criminal, yes—but what kind of a criminal?"

"I gather," said the lieutenant-marshal drily, "that he steals things. I imagine he's after the Dachboden original."

"That's ridiculous! He couldn't possibly get into the Museum! It's surrounded by—" His voice choked off as he realized that he, himself, had already extended an invitation to "Dr. Dale" to come to the Museum. "But—but—I spoke to Dr. Dale for over an hour! He can't be a thief."

"Possibly not," agreed Lieutenant-Marshal Dilon. "The Interstellar Police aren't always right, and I must say I don't care for their high-handed manner at times. Nevertheless, we'll have to take proper precautions. I'll see that the guard around the Museum is reinforced, and send out a pickup order on Dr. Dale. If there's been any mistake made, it will be the fault of the I.P. Meanwhile, I would appreciate it Doctor, if you would come to my office. We've got to make better arrangements for the protection of the time capsule."

And thus the call went out for Dr. Allen H. Dale.

He wasn't found, of course. By the time the police got to the hotel, he had "mysteriously" vanished. By the simple expedient of shaving off his beard and removing the gray from his hair had changed his appearance enough so that a mere change of clothing was all that was needed to completely dispose of Dr. Allen H. Dale. Leland Hale was never one to be caught napping; he was never one to be caught at all.

Naturally, a planet-wide alarm went out. Even Sudapfahl, warned that the "arch-criminal" might attempt to steal the contents of their own time capsule, sent out word to all local police forces to be on the alert.

Two days later, a fast, fully-armed Interstellar Police cruiser settled to the landing pit of the spaceport in Grosstat, Nordapfahl, and disgorged a squad of eighty I.P. troopers under the command of Captain Bradney W. Whitter, a tough, shrewd law officer with twenty years of experience behind him.

Whitter had been up against Leland Hale before; he still carried a white, puckered scar on one leg, a reminder of Leland Hale's ability to use a megadyne handgun. If Leland Hale was actually on Apfahl, Captain Whitter intended to get him.

In the office of Dr. Mier, the captain called a conference. Present were himself, Dr. Mier, Lieutenant-Marshal Dilon, and several others, high officers of the I.P., the museum staff, and the Nordapfahlian State Police.

"Gentlemen," Captain Whitter said determinedly, "we are going to get Leland Hale this time. We've got him."

Lieutenant-Marshal Dilon lifted a heavy eyebrow. "I'm afraid I don't quite see how, Captain." He made an all-inclusive gesture toward the window. "He has a whole planet to hide from us in. A great part of it is still wilderness, jungle, desert, and arid mountains."

The captain's granite face turned toward Dilon. "My dear Marshal, it is obvious that you don't know Leland Hale. He is not the type of man to hide out in the hills forever. I doubt that he even took off for the hinterlands; I wouldn't be surprised if he were right here in Grosstat."

The marshal shrugged heavy shoulders. "I'll admit it's possible. This is a city of three-quarters of a million people. He might be difficult to find."

"The galaxy is a damned sight bigger than that," Whitter pointed out. "Hale could have hidden out long ago if that were the way he operated. But he doesn't. He hits and runs and then comes back to hit again. A louse he may be, but I never underestimate an opponent; he's smart and he's got guts. And he's got pride. And that's what will catch him."

"I'm afraid I don't understand you," said Dr. Mier.

Whitter glanced down at the director. "Your time capsule seems to have aroused quite a bit of interest in certain parts of the galaxy, Dr. Mier. That Dachboden carving, especially, has made news on the older worlds—even on Earth, I understand. And now that it is known that Leland Hale has practically announced that he wants that Dachboden, the news services will be watching to see if he gets it." He grinned sourly. "And believe me, Leland Hale won't turn down a challenge like that."

Marshal Dilon looked more than mildly skeptical. "Do you mean that you think he will attempt it in spite of the precautions we have taken?"

"I do." He looked at the quiet group around him. "We'll have to lay a trap—one that will get Leland Hale when he tries to steal that statue. And he'll try, believe me. I know Leland Hale."

The captain was right, as far as he went. Pity he didn't know Leland Hale a little better.

Leland Hale, smooth-shaven and black-haired, leaned back in a comfortable chair and blew a large smoke ring into the air. He watched it swirl in on itself and slowly dissolve into nothingness.

"Your Excellency," he said, "I must admit that your southern tobacco has more flavor than the milder northern type. This is an excellent cigar."

Hinrik Fonshliezen glared down his long, pointed nose at the big man in the overstuffed chair. "I'm glad you enjoy them, Mr. Hale," he said bitterly. "You may not get them in prison."

Hale glanced up mildly. "Prison? Oh, but I never go to prisons—at least, not for long. I'm allergic to them. They give me a pain—here." He patted his hip pocket.

"If I don't get that statue in time for the opening of our time capsule," said the State Portfolio coldly, "I will at least collect the not inconsiderable reward for your capture."

Leland Hale stood up leisurely and stepped toward the other man. He pointed a finger at Hinrik's face, stopping with the fingertip a scant eighth of an inch from the other's nose.

"Now, listen," he said softly, "I don't care for threats of that kind. Not that they bother me; they don't. But they make me suspicious of my confederates, and that makes me uncomfortable, and I don't like to be uncomfortable. Is that clear?"

Hinrik Fonshliezen backed up a step to remove his nose from the vicinity of the finger. "Don't try to bully me, Hale," he said. But there was a slight waver in his voice.

"Fair enough. I don't bully you, you don't bully me.

"And don't call me your confederate," added Fonshliezen, somewhat encouraged by Hale's manner.

"I'm damned if I'll call you a comrade-in-arms," said Hale. "Would 'assistant' suit you better?"

Fonshliezen reddened. "One of these days you'll push me too far, Hale!"

"When I do, you'll fall," said Hale, in a voice like chilled steel. "You and I have made a deal. I get that Dachboden for you, and you pay me half a million stellors. That's all there is to it."

The Portfolio of State was not a man to be pushed around easily, but he also had sense enough to know when he was up against a stronger opponent than himself.

Shortly after the original announcement about the time capsule had come from Grosstat, Leland Hale had come to Fonshliezen to offer his services. If Hale stole the Dachboden original, and gave it to Hinrik Fonshliezen, then Sudapfahl could steal the glory from its northern neighbor by claiming that a second capsule had been found. When the northern capsule was discovered to have no statue in it, the pride of Nordapfahl would suffer a serious blow.

But now Fonshliezen was worried.

"But how can you get it now?" he asked. "The planet is full of Interstellar Police agents; the time capsule is tightly guarded. If only the secret of Dr. Dale's identity hadn't leaked out!"

Hale chuckled and settled himself back into the chair.

"Hinrik, old toad, do you know how the I.P. learned about the bogus Dr. Dale?"

The Portfolio had stepped over to a highboy to mix himself a stiff drink. "No," he said, glancing at Hale. "Do you?"

"I do. They got an anonymous message. Of course, they traced it; they know that it was actually sent by an acquaintance of mine on Vandemar, a chap who might have good reason to inform on me."

"How do you know all this?"

Hale blew another smoke ring. "Because I had him send it."

"What? Why?"

Hale shook his head slowly. "You just aren't very bright, Hinrik. Not bright at all. See here; what would have happened if my name had never come into this at all?"

"I should think—"

"I agree. You should. But you don't." Hale dropped the remains of the cigar in an ashtray. "Just suppose that no one knew I was here on Apfahl. On the day the time capsule is due to open, the Nordapfahlians find no original Dachboden in it. The next day, you open a capsule that no one has ever heard of before, and you find a Dachboden. Wouldn't that look rather suspicious? It certainly would."

Fonshliezen considered that point, then asked: "And how do you propose to do it?"

"It's all set up, Hinrik. Now they know that I am here. They know that I will try to steal the carving. If I succeed, why should they suspect you? You will demand a troop of I.P. men to guard your own capsule, too. You will issue a statement saying that all national differences must be submerged in order to capture Leland Hale. And, in the end, you will have the carving, and Nordapfahl will not—which will prove that Sudapfahlians are better guards than the northerners."

Hinrik Fonshliezen nodded slowly, and a faint smile crossed his pointed face. "I see. Yes—I see. Very clever, Mr. Hale, very clever." Then the smile vanished again. "But I don't see how you're going to get at the capsule with that guard around it."

"I managed to plant that capsule of mine under your capitol building without being detected by the local citizens. Don't worry, I'll manage."

Hinrik snorted. "There was no guard around the capitol when you planted your bogus time capsule; there most definitely is a guard around the one in Grosstat."

"Let me worry about that," said Hale. "All you have to do is have that half million ready. And remember, I can always sell the Dachboden elsewhere. I won't get as much, I grant you, but I'll still make a tidy profit."

Hinrik Fonshliezen grimaced. "Suppose—just suppose—that you don't get the carving. Where will that leave me?"

Hale shrugged. "No better off, and no worse. You'll simply have a time capsule of no importance. After all, you haven't claimed that there actually is a Dachboden in it, while Dr. Mier has definitely made the claim that there is one in his capsule."

"Such a thing would not make me popular with the people of Sudapfahl, however," Fonshliezen pointed out. "And that is what this whole thing is supposed to do."

"It wouldn't make you unpopular, either," Hale said. "And neither would it cost you five hundred thousand stellors. You'd come out even." Hale stretched elaborately. "But you don't need to worry; you'll get your statue."


"On the day the capsule is due to open. Not a minute before. Meanwhile, I shall make myself comfortable here in your home, where the I.P. won't look for me, and I'll go on making myself comfortable until I'm ready to pull off my little job. Mix me a drink, Hinrik; there's a good fellow."

The Museum of Cultural History in Grosstat, Nordapfahl, positively bristled with arms and men. Its stone walls looked like those of a fortress instead of a museum.

Captain Whitter had taken every precaution. No guard over six feet in height was allowed within a block of the building; Hale couldn't disguise his height. Inside the building, technicians with sensitive equipment hovered over dials and meters.

"It's possible that he may try to tunnel under the building," the captain explained. "It wouldn't be too difficult with modern equipment. But if he tries it, we'll have him."

Around the capsule itself stood an honor guard of a dozen picked I.P. men; around them stood a second ring of Lieutenant-Marshal Dilon's men. All through the building, lights blazed brightly as the guard kept on a round-the-clock watch.

Precision detectors scanned the skies for any sign of flying craft after a State Police order grounded all aircraft within five miles of the Museum. Special illumination projectors were set up all over the area to pick out anyone wearing an invisibility suit, although the I.P. didn't mention anything about that, since at that time the invisibility suit was supposed to be an official I.P. secret. Nevertheless, Captain Whitter didn't bypass the possibility that Leland Hale might have laid his hands on one of them.

Captain Whitter surveyed his work and found it good.

"We're ready for him," he said. "All we have to do is wait for him to come."

They waited.

And waited.

Eventually, the spaceship Quinsen, out of Denebola arrived and several genuine staff members of the Interstellar Museum disembarked, followed by reporters of a score of news services. They were carefully checked and kept well beyond the outer perimeter of the guard.

And the guard went on waiting.

Came the eve of the day of the Grand Opening, the day when the radio-decay clock would release the lock on the time capsule. Captain Whitter was in a nervous sweat by this time, as were the others.

"He'll have to try it tonight," the captain stated positively. "We'll double the guard and sweat him out."

But only the guard did any sweating. The night passed peacefully, if somewhat tensely, and the sun rose on the most jittery bunch of men this side of the Lesser Magellanic Cloud.

And still nothing happened.

When the hour came for the lock to open, the representatives of the Galactic Museum demanded to be let in, but Captain Whitter was as adamant as cast tungsten. No one would be allowed near the capsule until Leland Hale had been captured.

At the final hour, the guards stood nervously around the big metallic cylinder. Within the ring of armed men, Captain Whitter, Lieutenant-Marshal Dilon, and Dr. Rudolf Mier stood, looking at the capsule and waiting.

Something inside the time capsule clicked softly. A door in its side slid neatly open.

Dr. Mier gasped and ran forward. "It's empty! It's empty!"

Whitter and Dilon were practically on his heels.

A look inside showed that the Director was not quite correct: the capsule wasn't absolutely empty. Inside there was a single sheet of paper; printed on one side was the following message:


I'm sure that the late R. Philipp Dachboden appreciates the trouble you have gone to. If it wasn't successful, don't blame yourselves; you tried.

As for the statue and various other objets d'art, I'm afraid they are now

Respectfully mine,
Leland Hale.

A short time previous to the flamboyant opening of the capsule in Grosstat, and several hundred miles away, His Excellency, Hinrik Fonshliezen, State Portfolio of Sudapfahl, sat nervously in his office. If the I.P. men were sweating, Fonshliezen was absolutely soaked in his own juices. He sat at his desk, looking from his watch to the telephone and back again. He was expecting a call.

Even so, when the phone rang, he jumped. Then he grabbed the instrument. "Hello! Fonshliezen here!" he barked hoarsely.

"Hinrik, old spirillum, I have your merchandise. You know where to meet me. And—ah—remember what I told you."

"You got it? Where have you been? You've been gone for two days! What—"

"That's none of your business, Hinrik; just come on. And remember—none of your clever foxiness."

"I'll remember," Hinrik said.

There was a click as the instrument was hung up.

Hinrik Fonshliezen frowned worriedly and glanced at the briefcase on his desk that held half a million stellors in Interstellar Bank drafts. How could he be sure that Hale actually had the carving? He glanced at his watch again. The news should come through soon. Hale had told him to wait for the news from Nordapfahl.

He was well prepared for any tricks on Hale's part. He had put a special lock on the briefcase; if Hale just tried to take the money, it would be too bad for Hale.

On the other hand, Hinrik Fonshliezen was well aware that he, himself had better not try anything foolish. If Hale were killed or reported to the police—in other words, if he didn't make a clean getaway—certain audio-video recordings would go to the I.P., disclosing Hinrik's complicity in the deal.

The whole thing had to be on the up-and-up.

The phone rang again. His Excellency picked it up and identified himself. He listened. A broad, wolfish smile spread itself over his face.

"So Hale actually did it?" he said. "Well, that's too bad, my dear fellow. Of course, we must take the utmost precautions ourselves."

He hung up, and, whistling softly to himself, he picked up the briefcase and left his office.

For all of half a day, there was great rejoicing in Sudapfahl when it was discovered that the time capsule in Grunfelt had opened and had disclosed a marvelous collection of two-century-old artifacts, including a Dachboden original. His Excellency, the Portfolio of State, was the man of the day.

But it didn't last more than half a day. When the art experts pronounced the Dachboden a phony, the popularity of Hinrik dropped; when it was proved that the whole time capsule, with contents, was actually the one that belonged in Grosstat, Hinrik's popularity collapsed completely. He was held by the I.P. for questioning and confessed all.

By that time, Leland Hale was a good many parsecs away in his own private ship.

An excerpt from the report filed by Captain Whitter contains some enlightening information.

"What happened became obvious after the fact," the captain wrote. "The whole buildup was a phony from beginning to end. Hale had heard of the time capsule in Grosstat, so he went to Apfahl with a duplicate time capsule, which contained his note. He tunneled underneath the Museum and switched capsules. It was not until after he had made the switch that he planted the forged Dachboden note for Dr. Mier to find.

"There never had been a Dachboden carving in the capsule; that was all a figment of Leland Hale's imagination.

"Dr. Rudolf Mier couldn't understand why Hale had done it. 'Why did he make me think there was a statue in there?' he kept asking me. 'Why did he do this to me?'

"I think the answer is simple. The records show that Hale was on Kessin IV three years ago, during the war there. I believe that he actually was swindled himself; someone sold him a bogus Dachboden. Remember, the art-swindler Fenslaw was killed at that time.

"Hale, therefore, had a phony Dachboden on his hands that he had to unload to save his pride. More, he had to make a very big profit on it.

"He knew that he couldn't just try to sell it anywhere. Even if he found a sucker who would accept it as real, there wouldn't be enough money in it to make it worth Hale's time.

"He couldn't have sold it to Fonshliezen without the big buildup. If he'd just produced the carving from nowhere, Fonshliezen would have been suspicious. A few simple tests would have shown that the dynak wood was less than ten years old.

"Obviously, Hale had to get Fonshliezen into a position where he would accept the carving without testing it.

"Hale, therefore, planted an empty time capsule, with his note inside, under the Museum and took the real capsule with him. By bombarding the time lock with neutrons, he managed to increase the radioactivity enough to keep the lock closed for an additional twenty-four hours, so that he could palm the real capsule off on Fonshliezen as a phony which he had presumably set himself.

"Then he arranged for Dr. Mier to discover the forged note which Dachboden presumably wrote two centuries ago. He had no reason to suspect a forgery, since there was no obvious way for anyone to profit by such a thing.

"What followed from then on was as automatic as the clockwork in the time capsules."

If the Captain was a little bitter, he had a right to be; he'd been made a fool of, just like the others. But he was luckier or hardier than they. He didn't blow his brain to bits with a handgun, as Fonshliezen did; he didn't die, broken and disgraced, as Mier did.

On the other hand, he didn't get off scot-free with a half million stellors to spend, as Leland Hale did.