Money for Nothing
Donald E. Westlake
Josh Redmont was 27 when the first check arrived, and he had absolutely no idea what it was for. Issued by 'United States Agent' through an unnamed bank with an indeterminate address in D.C., someone seemed to think Josh was owed $1,000. One month later, another check arrived, and then another, and another...and Josh cashed them all. Month after month, year after year, never a peep from the IRS, never an explanation for all this seemingly found money; the checks even followed Josh from one address to another as he moved through life. Now, after a full seven years, we find him on his way to meet the wife and kids for a summer vacation. Puzzled by the approach of a smiling stranger, Josh's stomach seizes with dread when the unwanted greeting begins with, 'I am from United States Agent.' Dumbstruck, Josh attempts to feign ignorance until he hears the words, 'You are now active.'
made Josh try another approach to the sofa, rolling over onto his back, stretching his legs out — aaahhh — and resting his ankles on the sofa arm. This position tried to bend his knees the opposite way, downward, which they couldn’t do, but it was better at least for a while, so he lay there, now looking not askant at his possessions but upward at his light–striped ceiling; a different view. Which somehow gave him a different view, as well, of his situation. He’d been bemoaning his fate, on the
could be found. Robbie paused at a bench on the station platform to delve into his backpack once more, bringing out a thick manila envelope scrawled with addresses and rubber stamps and postage stamps, all messily wrapped in thicknesses of clear tape, with bits of ragged envelope sticking hairily out at the corners. It looked to Josh, seeing it briefly and at an angle, that it was addressed to Ellois Nimrin at some incomprehensible location over which the ink had run or the paper worn away.
showtime, hit your mark! You can do it. I’ve watched you, Josh, and you have talent.” That was a secret belief of Josh’s, but he’d never told anybody. He said, as though in disbelief, “I do?” “Absolutely,” Robbie assured him. “Almost forty–eight hours to prepare? As smart as you are? You’re gonna go out there, and you’re gonna give an Obie–level performance. And you know why you are?” “Why?” “Because you’re thinking about the alternative.” That was a bucket of cold water. “Oh,” Josh said.
the door.” Mr. Nimrin hesitated. He looked through the windshield toward Levrin, then gave Josh a questioning look. “What has gone on here?” Josh showed his right palm. “I have fired a pistol.” Mr. Nimrin considered that, then nodded and slid into the Land Cruiser, shutting the door. “You do not have the air conditioner on.” “They don’t let me have the key.” “No, of course.” Even–toned, moderate, Josh said, “How long have you known?” “You told me the target,” Mr. Nimrin pointed out. “When
finding a cab. Josh marched to the curb, where other people stood and waved their arms at cabs, and he waved his own arm, and eventually his turn came and the yellow car angled to a stop in front of him. He opened the door, slid in, and somebody slid in right behind him. One of the other people who’d been waving at taxis; got right in after him, shoved him over. “Hey!” Josh cried. “This is my cab.” “I am Mr. Nimrin,” the man said, low and fast, still pushing Josh leftward on the seat so he