Eustace Dench, master criminal, paid the cabby with a legitimate five pound note, accepted his change, gave the man a twenty pence tip—not enough; the chap did not touch his cap—and turned away to take the delectable Lida’s slender arm. It was not raining, but otherwise it was unmistakably London—Belgravia, Herbert Way, a curving street of magnificent ivory-colored houses, several of them still private residences, the others all converted into embassies, offices, clubs or oil-sheiks’ pieds-à-terre. Number nine, with a large black "9" painted on the pillars flanking the entrance, was Eustace’s destination: the Tobacco and Artillery Club, founded 1711. "Come along, my dear," he said to the lovely Lida, and they crossed the flagstones.

Inside, Eustace asked for Sir Mortimer Maxwell, identified himself as "Eustace Digby," and was shown up the broad staircase—mahogany and maroon carpeting everywhere—to the members’ dining room, where Sir Mortimer was seated by himself at a table, crumbling rolls onto the snowy linen napery and sipping at a glass of gin-and-it, an abysmal cousin of the martini, reeking of vermouth. Sir Mortimer, a stocky broad-shouldered well-dressed man with white hair and moustache, red cheeks and nose, had the look of a former military man and present sot, and his eyes were appropriately bleary when he lifted them to say, "Ah, Eustace."

"Sir Mortimer." The men shook hands, and Eustace said, "May I present Miss Lida Perez, Sir Mortimer Maxwell."

Lida curtsied, as she’d been taught in the convent. Most of the men in the room were looking at her by now, except for those who were looking at the perky new busboy.

"D’je do," Sir Mortimer said. He was too weary for sex.

Eustace and Lida sat at the table, Eustace turned to the waiter to order gin-and-water for himself and rum-and-Coca-Cola for Lida, and then he turned back to explain to Sir Mortimer. "Lida is Yerbadoroan."

Sir Mortimer managed to look sympathetic.

Forcefully, rather more loudly than the setting suggested, Lida said, "My people are oppressed!" Her eyes flashed, her coal-black hair flashed, her teeth flashed. She was the true Latin beauty, fire and ice.

Sir Mortimer looked at her in exhausted surprise. "I beg your pardon?"

"My people are oppressed!"

"Ah." His expression wistful, Sir Mortimer nodded, saying, "If only I could say the same for mine." To Eustace, he said, "On the phone, you suggested you had something useful for me."

"Oh, you’ll like this," Eustace said, smiling cheerfully and rubbing his hands together."I certainly hope so."

They paused while the waiter delivered their drinks, and then Sir Mortimer went on: "To be frank, old man, I’m on my uppers. You’ll see what I mean when the food arrives. Worst sole in London, but this’s the last place’ll take my signature."

"This little caper’s going to change all our luck," Eustace assured him.

"Tell me at once."

"The story begins in Yerbadoro," Eustace said. "Lida’s brave little nation," he added, patting the girl’s forearm.

Lida, fortunately, was drinking rum-and-Coca-Cola at the time, and so couldn’t speak. She contented herself with a quick flash of the eyes.

"The president of Yerbadoro," Eustace went on, "is a chap named Lynch. Escobar Lynch."

Sir Mortimer reared back: "You’re having me on."

Placing her glass on the table, Lida explained, "In the early nineteenth century, Irish pirates liberated my country from the Spanish."

"Ah hah," said Sir Mortimer.

"This fellow Lynch," Eustace went on, "the president, he’s in trouble. Days are numbered. Army coup from the right, urban guerrillas on the left."

"Viva Yerbadoro!" Lida announced, raising a clenched fist.

Eustace patted her arm again, to soothe her. "Yes, yes, Lida, that’s right." To Sir Mortimer, he went on, "Lynch wants to get out of the country."

"Can’t say I blame him."

"But he can’t get his money out, you see."

"Ill-gotten gains," Lida announced, while gentlemen at neighboring tables hunched over their hock. "Blood from the veins of the peasants!"

Sir Mortimer’s head shook at the phrase.

"They’re watching Lynch too closely," Eustace went on, ignoring Lida’s outburst with the readiness of long practice. "Not the guerrillas. The Army, and the right wing. As far as they’re concerned, he can leave, but not his profits. If he tries to open a Swiss bank account, or travel with all his wife’s jewelry—" Eustace slid a graphically illustrative finger across his neck.

Sir Mortimer winced. "Sounds a difficult position."

Leaning closer, lowering his voice, Eustace said, "But he’s found a way out."

"Good for him!" Then Sir Mortimer frowned, somewhat baffled. "An Irishman, you say?"

"A Yerbadoroan," Eustace corrected. "A rich Yerbadoroan."

"Oh, I see. And these ill-gotten gains of his—"

"Exactly." Broadly beaming, Eustace whispered, "Soon they shall be ill-gotten gains of ours."

"Tell me more."

"I intend to. You know this exposition coming up soon in Paris?"

Sir Mortimer looked disapproving. "They’re always exposing something in Paris," he said.


"Every country involved in the exposition is building a pavilion," Eustace explained, and popped a delicious shrimp into his mouth. "All over the city," he said, and waved an arm to indicate Paris, teeming just beyond the restaurant windows. He was here with Lida, ingesting magnificent bouillabaisse in this tiny Left Bank restaurant on the Quai des Grands-Augustins, in order to tell his story to Jean LeFraque, a charming debonair middle-aged conman with a sinfully tiny moustache. "Each nation’s building," he went on, "will reflect the style and thinking of that nation."

Jean paused briefly in his admiring perusal of Lida to sigh, shake his head, and say, "How I despise architecture."

Peeling the sweet meat from the carapace of a lobster fragment, Eustace said, "Lynch is having a building in Yerbadoro dismantled and shipped here to Paris. A small castle."

Jean permitted himself to look startled. "Importing a building to Paris? From South America?"

"Just as London Bridge was transported to Arizona. Just as other buildings and monuments have been moved from place to place."

"The man’s mad," Jean decided, and shrugged.

"No, he isn’t," Eustace said, and paused to savor his lobster. So much better than the Tobacco and Artillery Club sole. "What Lynch has done," he went on, "he’s hollowed out a dozen stones, large building blocks from the outer walls of this castle, and he’s filled the hollow spaces with cash, jewels, stocks, his entire fortune. Then he’s disguised the openings so the stones look exactly as before. But inside them are valuables worth millions!"

"The rape of my people!" Lida announced, brandishing her bouillabaisse spoon.

Jean considered her thoughtfully. "Mm, yes," he said.

"Lida’s cousin," Eustace went on, "was one of the stone-masons on the project. He was sworn to secrecy, of course, but he told Lida the whole story."

"Before he disappeared," Lida said grimly.

"There’s millions in it, Jean," Eustace said.

"Mmmm," Jean said. Behind his dark eyes his brain could be seen ticking away faster than a taxicab meter in Milan. "One sees the possibilities," he acknowledged.

Lida, her expression and posture valiant, clutched Jean’s forearm to say, "You shall save my people from destitution!"

Jean looked at her askance. "What’s this?"

"Half," Eustace said, "That’s the arrangement I have with Lida."

"What arrangement?" Storm clouds were crossing Jean’s face now, and his moustache was at half mast.

"We take half the profit for our work and expenses," Eustace explained, "and the other half goes back to Yerbadoro with Lida." But simultaneously, behind Lida’s back, Eustace was briskly waving his hand back and forth, to let Jean know he was lying.

"Ah," Jean said, with a large nod and a small smile, "I see. Well, that sounds fair." To Lida, pouring on the charm, he said, "You are a stirring spokeswoman for your people."

Her response was violent: "I am a fiery furnace for my people!"

Taken aback, Jean retreated into his chair a few inches. "Yes," he said. "Yes, I can see that."

"Now," Eustace said. "The only problem is—"


"Of course there’s a problem," Rosa Palermo said. Stuffing scungilli and spaghetti into her mouth, she went on talking just the same: "There’s always a problem, Eustace."

"A small problem, Rosa," Eustace said, with a casual shrug of the shoulders and an airy gesture with his fingers. There was something about lunch at an outdoor restaurant on Rome’s Via Veneto that made him more than usually expressive with his body and his hands. "A minor problem," he said. "Nothing that need stop us."

Rosa, a hefty beauty in her mid-forties, aggressive and excitable, swigged down a mouthful of Bardolino and said, "Tell me about this problem, this minor problem."

"It’s nothing at all," Eustace assured her. He was aware of the male passerby frowning at him, wondering by what system of punishments and rewards a fellow like Eustace Dench deserved to be at table with such a fiery pair of beautiful women; so different from one another but both so desirable. "It’s merely," he said, "that we don’t know exactly which stones we want."

In sudden anger, Rosa flung her fork onto the table, sat back in her chair, squared her shoulders, aimed her breasts at Eustace, and said, "What? Then it’s useless, we can’t do a thing!"

"Of course we can—"

"You take me away from a perfectly fine shoplifting operation, you—"

"Rosa, Rosa, wait. It’s simple, really, I promise you it is."

"You promise me, do you?" Glaring mistrustfully, Rosa picked up her fork, stuck it into the spaghetti, bore down, and twisted. "Tell me about it," she said.

"We steal the entire castle."

"Steal—?" Rosa’s fork halted. She stared at Eustace’s smiling confident face, and slowly shook her head. "This girl," she said, with a quick glance at Lida, "has scrambled your brains."

"It can be done, Rosa," Eustace assured her. "You know me, you know my history, I only organize capers of the highest character."

Dubious, Rosa filled her mouth with spaghetti, and chewed. "A whole castle," she said.

"We need more help," Eustace told her. "That’s the only thing."

"Oh, yes," Rosa said. "Oh, surely."

"Think of it," Eustace said, leaning toward her, unmindful of his tie in the tomato sauce, "think of it. The best criminal brains in Europe, the masters, and each bringing in his own assistants."

Still dubious, Rosa pondered the idea, saying, "Who, for instance?"

"Well, you and me, of course. And from Germany, Herman Muller."

With a judicious nod, Rosa said, "Yes. Yes. I’ve heard of him."

Eustace checked the names off on his fingers. "From England," he said, "Sir Mortimer Maxwell."


"Sir Mortimer," Herman Muller said, "Yes, I worked with him once, in a counterfeiting scheme."

"A good man," Eustace said.

Herman, a skeleton-thin smooth and eerie man with a long pockmarked face, shrugged: "A trifle unsocial," he suggested.

"None of us is perfect," Eustace said, and peeled a slice from the large white radish on the side dish. Chewing it, swallowing it with a mouthful of beer, he returned his attention to his bratwurst. Here in the sunny tree-filled central courtyard of Munich’s Hofbräuhaus, he and Lida were lunching with their German connection.

Who now said, "Who else?"

"From France," Eustace said, around a pillow of bratwurst, "Jean LeFraque."

Herman considered. "I don’t think I know the name."

"A very good man," Eustace assured him. "He’s been working American widows recently, in a sort of semi-retirement, but he’s been responsible for some of the finest outrages in the files of the Sûreté."

"Widows can ruin a man for serious work," Herman said sternly. "Particularly American widows."

"You don’t have to worry about Jean."

Dispassionate, Herman said, "If you say so. Anyone else?"

"From Italy, Rosa Palermo."

Herman stopped with his beer stein halfway to his mouth. For the first time, a bit of color came into his cheeks. He said, "That madwoman?"

"Ah," Eustace said, with his blandest smile. "You’ve heard of her."

"Heard of her? On a clear night, you can hear her, the other side of the Alps."

"She’s a bit excitable," Eustace admitted, "but she’s the best."

Herman considered that, frowning, "The best? In Italy, you mean."

"Of course."

"That’s possible, I suppose," Herman said, and drank his beer.

"Then you’ll head the German contingent," Eustace told him, "and I will serve as liaison among the groups."


"Well, that’s the situation," Eustace said, smiling around at his guests. Here in the garden of his little château outside Zurich, with the high privet hedge to guarantee privacy, Eustace and Sir Mortimer Maxwell and Jean LeFraque and Herman Muller and Rosa Palermo and Lida Perez were seated around the white-painted iron lawn table, eating potato pancakes and drinking chablis. The sun shone down, the grass was a rich dark green, the mountains were comfortably massive above the privet hedge, the wine was good, the potato pancakes were as light as clouds, and Eustace basked in a glow of well-being. Not one of his first-choice assistants had turned him down, and he knew full well it wasn’t because the caper itself seemed such a sure thing, but because of him, his unarguable skill, his enviable reputation. Only Eustace Dench could pull off a heist of such magnitude! To steal an entire castle! Smiling, beaming, already feeling the warmth of the victory to come, he said, "Any questions...?"

Copyright © 1980 by Donald E. Westlake

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