Wednesday, June 1, 2016

"The Company Never Gives Up"

"Delayed Action."
By Charles V. de Vet (1911-97).
First appearance: Galaxy, September 1953.
Short story (19 pages).
Online at Project Gutenberg HERE, HERE, and ManyBooks HERE.
"This planet gave him the perfect chance to commit the perfect crime — only he couldn't remember just what it was he had committed."
While it may take a thief to catch a thief, as the old saying has it, in this situation it'll take a man with a blue ribbon case of amnesia:
"You know that Interplanets has branches on more than a thousand worlds. Because of this widespread operation it's particularly vulnerable to robbery. But it would cost more than the Company's earnings to post adequate guards on every station. And it would be impractical to depend on the protection of the local governments, many of which are extremely primitive. On the other hand, allowing themselves to be robbed with impunity would be financial suicide. That is where the Company's Secret Service comes in. It never lets up on the effort it will make to solve a robbery and bring the perpetrators to justice. And it never quits, once it begins an investigation."
Principal characters:
~ Donald Johnson:
   "Twenty minutes later Johnson took the job—and twenty years later he was still working for the Company. He worked for them until..."
~ The store manager of Interplanets Trade Company:
   "The manager was an old man. Old and black, with the deep blackness only an Earth-born Negro possesses. But his eyes retained their youthful alertness."
~ The black-bearded stranger:
   "The gun in his hand was aimed at Johnson."
~ Alton Hawkes:
   "He held the pistol like a man who knew how to use it."
- Info about Charles V. de Vet can be found HERE (the SFE) and HERE (the ISFDb).
- A Möbius strip plays an important part in our story; you may recall how another one, featured in a different story, did the same (HERE).

The bottom line: "A clear conscience is the sure sign of a bad memory."
   ― Mark Twain

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