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Looking for an old told-by-lawyer short story told in a semi-humorous tone. It's a similar kind of author-voice to "The Curious Profession" by pen-name Leonard Lockhard.

I think the story is set in the early 1950s, possibly 1940s.

The lawyer practices in a desert gambling town, not Las Vegas, possibly Reno? A new client comes to him, basically looking to set up legal protection for a roulette fix he wants to pull off in order to draw attention to his ability to influence the wheel by mind power. He isn't trying to steal from the casinos; he wants to get publicity. The story is the lawyer battling the prosecutor and the casinos in court and getting it established that using psi power isn't against the law. The client says he won by using a "lucky charm" and wishing. It's a similar concept to lawyer Maragon's Psi Lodge, but it's definitely not a story written by Randall Garret or John Berryman or Laurence Jannifer or a "Walter Bupp" story. It was written by another author about a different set of characters, but it's a similar "psimen are not criminals" kind of concept that goes into a lot more depth about legal process and courts.

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  • I know the accepted answer did reveal that it was Reno, but I have to point out that Reno and Las Vegas aren't the only desert gambling towns in Nevada. For example, there is also West Wendover on the NV side of the border with Utah (and directly on I-80 from Salt Lake City)
    – Peter M
    Commented Jun 24 at 15:39
  • yes, Peter M, absolutely. That's why I put the ? after Reno. I was certain it wasn't Vegas but not certain whether it was Reno or not, and as you say, there are other desert gambling towns Commented Jun 24 at 17:09
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    @PeterM In the 1940s or 50s, I'm not sure there were other desert gambling towns in Nevada large enough to have a lawyer. Even today, West Wendover wouldn't be a good setting; the courts would be in Elko. Literarily, only Reno or Las Vegas would make much sense; even in fact, a person looking to take such legal actions would do so in Reno, Vegas or Carson City, then or even now.
    – prosfilaes
    Commented Jun 24 at 20:21

1 Answer 1

21

Randall Garrett's "Or Your Money Back"

Available on Gutenberg here

Lawyer and roulette:

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?"


Arrested:

The next morning, I went down to the jail in response to a phone call from Howley. The special deputies had turned him over to the city police and he was being held "under suspicion of fraud." I knew we could beat that down to an "attempt to defraud," but the object was to get Howley off scott-free. After Howley told me the whole story, I got busy pushing the case through. As long as he was simply being held on suspicion, I couldn't get him out on bail, so I wanted to force the district attorney or the police to prefer charges.

Meanwhile, I made sure that Howley's gadget had been impounded as evidence. I didn't want anyone fiddling with it before the case went to court—except, of course, the D. A. and his men. There wasn't much I could do to keep it out of their hands.

Good luck charm:

"Just how do you operate this good luck charm, Mr. Howley?" I asked.

"Why, you just hold it so that your thumb touches one strip of silver and your fingers touch the other, then you set the dial to whatever number you want to come up and wish."

"Wish? Just wish, Mr. Howley?"

"Just wish. That's all. What else can you do with a good luck charm?"

The goal - to make psionics respectable:

"In what you set out to do? Certainly. When we mail out those gadgets to people all over the state, the place will be in an uproar. With all the publicity this case is getting, it'll have to work. You now have a court decision on your side, a decision which says that a psionic device can be legally used to influence gambling games.

"Why, man, they'll have to start investigating! You'll have every politico in the State of Nevada insisting that scientists work on that thing. To say nothing of what the syndicate will do."

"All I wanted to do," said Howley, "was force people to take notice of psionics. I guess I've done that."

"You certainly have, brother. I wonder what it will come to?"

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    Thank you so much! I would have sworn this wasn't a Randall Garrett story, but you are 100% correct, this is the story. I really appreciate the help! Commented Jun 23 at 17:09

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