Author's Note: Before anyone gets snippy, I KNOW I'm a writer who's not even a hundredth as good as that superb author. I just wanted to do something to pay back all the laughter I got from his works. There's a Hollywood anecdote that pertains to this:

After the funeral of Ernst Lubitsch (the director of numerous pre-WWII sophisticated movie comedies that still brilliantly hold up decades later), Billy Wilder is reputed to have ruefully said, "No more Lubitsch." William Wyler responded, "Worse than that. No more Lubitsch pictures."

Donald Edwin Westlake passed away December 31, 2008.


Dortmunder had been glowering for a solid five minutes at the thick envelope on top of the stained, green felt surface of the round wooden table. Remaining in his sunken posture in his battered chair, arms folded, and his chin resting on his chest, with deep shadows mostly hiding his face, the man hadn't moved an inch, remaining as still as the empty beer and liquor cases behind him reaching nearly to the ceiling of the back room of the O.J. Bar and Grill. Only the slow blinking of his eyes during the man's morose stare showed any indication of life by that career criminal.

Another fine example of said felonious species, in his own armless chair on Dortmunder's right side finally cleared his throat, and cautiously asked, "Uh, John, is there a problem?"

The man seated in the prime position of being able to face the room's door had his lips compress to absolute thinness over the sheer idiocy of that question, only then opening his mouth to answer in a distant, flat voice, "It just seems….wrong."

"Wrong?!" After disbelievingly blurting that out, the second speaker leaned forward into the light of the overhead lamp dangling from its cord. This redheaded man with an eager, cheerful face now said firmly, "John, this is what we do! We're crooks, we rob and steal and take what isn't ours--"

"Andy, I didn't mean wrong as in bad!" snapped Dortmunder, giving his partner a grouchy look, and then continuing, "No, more like….off. Hinky. Suspicious."

Baffled, Andrew Octavian Kelp argued, "What the hell's so suspicious about it? We get paid to steal something from a third-rate history museum, and we can maybe grab a few more little items along the way, since we've got full details of the locks, security systems, the guards' schedules, and….oh." The man subsided back into his seat, a thoughtful look now on his face.

"Yeah," Dortmunder nodded. "If the guy who just left had all that, why does he need us? Particularly when he told us exactly what he wanted taken."

From the darkness on the left side of the room, an enormous shadow moved, and from this there came a growling rumble that would have caused the bravest of men to contemplate the need to change their underwear. "Ya really are thinkin' about what else the guy said, aren't ya, Dortmunder?"

A glum look, consisting of mostly patient resignation instead of what should have been fear and dread by virtually everyone else in the world, was sent by the addressed crook towards what now revealed itself as a man-monster, leaning forward into the light and making their chair creak in unheeded protest under the shifting of immense weight. A strange grimace appeared among the front features of this creature's skull on what might have been termed a face, with a fang or two being exposed by the sideways lift of its lips.

Heaving a depressed sigh, Dortmunder had to acknowledge the truth of that. "Yeah, Tiny, it did make me pretty nervous on being told nobody but me could actually do the snatch, and we wouldn't get the other half of our money if anyone else even touched it."

Deep wrinkles now furrowed Andy's brow, as that man joined in. "You think it's some kind of frame, or otherwise setting you up?"

The narrow shoulders of the gloomy man rose and fell in a single shrug. "I don't KNOW, Andy! But everything about it feels….bad."

Tiny Bulcher, leaning back and producing another anguished creak of pure agony from his chair, said dismissively, "Dortmunder, all I wanna feel with my fingers is the cash in the envelope there. Sixty g's for us to pull the job, and then the same again when we turn over the loot. Plus, like Andy said, anything extra we might collect. That's a nice hunk of change, so make up your goddamn mind. Take the job or not, but do something before I get….irritated."

All over the North American continent, seismographs shivered in reaction to Tiny's weighty delivery of that last word.

Dortmunder's gaze went back again to the table, where the envelope was stuffed full of money that was his just for the taking. IF he actually decided to perform a rather profitable instance of larceny, anyway.

After a few more seconds of dragging it out, the extremely reluctant man lifted his right hand, and dropped this onto the envelope, signaling his acceptance of the deal and his agreement to rob some place filled with old junk and that he'd never heard of before in his entire life. Not to mention making right now a clear profit of twenty thousand dollars.

So why did John Archibald Dortmunder feel like someone had just walked over his grave?