...Or Your Money Back

#Fiction #Science Fiction
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Excerpt There are times when I don't know my own strength. Or, at least, the strength of my advice. And the case of Jason Howley was certainly an instance of one of those times. When he came to my office with his gadget, I heard him out, trying to appear both interested and co-operative—which is good business. But I am forced to admit that neither Howley nor his gadget were very impressive. He was a lean, slope-shouldered individual, five-feet-eight or nine—which was shorter than he looked—with straight brown hair combed straight back and blue eyes which were shielded with steel-rimmed glasses. The thick, double-concave lenses indicated a degree of myopia that must have bordered on total blindness without glasses, and acute tunnel vision, even with them. He had a crisp, incisive manner that indicated he was either a man who knew what he was doing or a man who was trying to impress me with a ready-made story. I listened to him and looked at his gadget without giving any more indication than necessary of what I really thought. When he was through, I said: "You understand, Mr. Howley that I'm not a patent lawyer; I specialize in criminal law. Now, I can recommend—" But he cut me off. "I understand that, counselor," he said sharply. "Believe me, I have no illusion whatever that this thing is patentable under the present patent system. Even if it were, this gadget is designed to do something that may or may not be illegal, which would make it hazardous to attempt to patent it, I should think. You don't patent new devices for blowing safes or new drugs for doping horses, do you?" "Probably not," I said dryly, "although, as I say, I'm not qualified to give an opinion on patent law. You say that gadget is designed to cause minute, but significant, changes in the velocities of small, moving objects. Just how does that make it illegal?" He frowned a little. "Well, possibly it wouldn't, except here in Nevada. Specifically, it is designed to influence roulette and dice games." I looked at the gadget with a little more interest this time. There was nothing new in the idea of inventing a gadget to cheat the red-and-black wheels, of course; the local cops turn up a dozen a day here in the city. Most of them either don't work at all or else they're too obvious, so the users get nabbed before they have a chance to use them. The only ones that really work have to be installed in the tables themselves, which means they're used to milk the suckers, not rob the management. And anyone in the State of Nevada who buys a license to operate and then uses crooked wheels is (a) stupid, and (b) out of business within a week. Howley was right. Only in a place where gambling is legalized is it illegal—and unprofitable—to rig a game. The gadget itself didn't look too complicated from the outside. It was a black plastic box about an inch and a half square and maybe three and a half long. On one end was a lensed opening, half an inch in diameter, and on two sides there were flat, silver-colored plates. On the top of it, there was a dial which was, say, an inch in diameter, and it was marked off just exactly like a roulette wheel. "How does it work?" I asked....
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