Francis X. Conroy was a supremely successful criminal boss, an evil mastermind who specialized in armed robberies and bank raids. His brother, Ignatius L. Conroy, was equally successful. His talent was laundering his brother’s hard-earned, and he was very good at it. Within five years, the brothers each had elaborate mansions in upstate New York and holiday villas in the country to rival anything owned by the innovators of Silicon Valley. 

Their chief enforcer was Danny ‘Dumbo’ Dunphy. A lost childhood followed by a misspent youth had molded him into a fully qualified muscleman. Ten years in the University of Hardscrabble and he graduated summa cum laude with a primary degree in algesiology (pain management) and the martial arts. By his mid-thirties he had shaved his head and gained postgraduate qualifications in the science of torture and weapons technology. 

Working for the Conroy brothers earned Dumbo Dunphy a good screw, good enough for a Madison Avenue bespoke tailored 3-piece suit complete with fob watch on a gold chain. His duties mainly consisted of keeping order among the common members of the gang, the lifters and carriers, the muscle, the persuaders, the middlemen, and the fixers. Life in the gang was a gravy train for Dumbo, and as long as the train stayed on the rails, he was in clover. 

The lifters and carriers were all Autonomic Units. Most were Mark 2 Units, bought by the brothers to replace the much simpler Mark 1 ‘Alphas.’ Then Xenodyne Automation announced the release of the Mark 3, incorporating a ‘vastly improved’ processor providing higher cognitive functions with ‘impressive heuristic capabilities.’ The promotional material claimed that the Mark 3 AU “could be taught anything. It could even learn to play a musical instrument or build a pocket watch from scratch.” Ignatius Conroy had other ideas. 

The gang bought three Units, and Ignatius got to work teaching them the rudiments of the ‘trade’. He started by teaching Gamma-317 how to drive. The exercise was an unqualified success; the android passed its driving test with flying colors. 

Gamma-318 was trained as a safe-cracker by the well-known yeggman, ‘fingers’ Maclew. Maclew was close to retirement, his fingers arthritic. The brothers reckoned training a replacement was about all he was good for. 

The third android, Gamma-319, was placed under Dumbo Dunphy’s tutelage. Within six weeks, it could be relied on to handle most ‘delicate’ situations with appropriate brutality. Dumbo was proud of his protégé; he could even see some of his own moves in the way it functioned and many of his favorite expressions in its verbiage. “Cough up, dummy,” and “Prepare to swallow your teeth,” were two of his favorites. 

When Francis X. Conroy received word through the grapevine that a cash-in-transit collection was scheduled for a high-class Manhattan jewelry store, the brothers began to lay their plans. Armed with precise details of the transit van’s route, Francis picked the ideal spot for the raid. The plan was to take control of the van, open the safe at the side of the road and drive away with the loot. They would allow no more than 15 minutes to open the safe. Ignatius put the raiding party together. Gamma-319 and Dumbo would provide the muscle. Gamma-318 would crack open the safe and Gamma-317 would drive the getaway car. 

The plan was foolproof. Being close to Christmas, the haul would be considerable, and it had the additional benefit of being highly profitable; all but one of the gang members were androids, requiring no payment.

What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

The gang set up a roadblock just around a sharp bed in the road and waited for the van. Dumbo Dunphy carried a chainsaw, Gamma-319 was armed with a shotgun. Gamma-317 and 318 waited in the car.

The armored van arrived on time and screeched to a halt at the roadblock. Gamma-319 waved the gun at the two guards and ordered them out of the cab. The two men climbed down, their hands in the air. Dumbo attacked the rear door with his chainsaw. As soon as he’d gained entry, Gamma-318 climbed aboard and went to work on the safe.

The safe remained stubbornly closed; the training that ‘Fingers’ Maclew had given Gamma-318 was inadequate for the task. Meanwhile, one of the guards recognized the vacant expression on the face of Gamma-319. He lowered his arms and took a step forward.

Gamma-319 waved his shotgun at him. “Cough up, dummy,” he said.

“What are you doing?” yelled the second guard.

“Don’t worry,” the first guard replied, “It’s an android. It’s not going to shoot us.” He took another step closer. “You’re not going to shoot us, are you? Give me the gun, there’s a nice android.”

“Prepare to swallow your teeth,” said Gamma-319 before handing over his weapon.

Crouching beside Gamma-318 in the back of the van, Dumbo looked at his watch. The 15 minutes was up. He jumped down from the van. Gamma-318 followed him and they climbed into the getaway car. Gamma-319 jumped in under a hail of gunshot.

“Go!” yelled Dumbo to Gamma-317 at the wheel. 

Twenty minutes later, F X Conroy received a call from Dumbo Dunphy.

“We don’t have the money. I’m sorry, boss.”

“What went wrong?”

“We couldn’t open the safe. We ran out of time.”

“Why not? The android was trained by Fingers, wasn’t he?”

“I reckon Fingers’ skills are out of date. The technology has moved on.”

“Okay. Why didn’t you force the van driver to open it for you?”

“Gamma-319 lost the gun.”

“You’re making no sense, Dumbo. How could it lose the gun?”

“He wouldn’t or couldn’t use it. The van driver challenged him, and he handed it over.”

Francis swore like a privateer. “Where are you?”

“I’m at the seventeenth precinct. We’ve all been arrested.”

“How did the cops catch you? I gave you my fastest getaway car.”

“I’m sorry, Boss, Gamma-317’s programming wouldn’t allow it to exceed the speed limit.”

(c) Copyright JJ Toner 2020