Page 68 of The Moneychangers

"Everywhere I could think of. And I haven't been fussy either."

The closest Miles had been to a job in three weeks of searching had been as a kitchen helper in a third-rate, crowded Italian restaurant. The job was vacant and the proprietor, a sad whippet of a man, had been inclined to hire him. But when Miles revealed his prison record, as he knew he had to, he had seen the other glance at the cash register nearby. Even then the restaurateur had hesitated but his wife, a female drill sergeant, ruled, "No! We can't afford to take a chance." Pleading with them both had done no good.

Elsewhere, his parolee status had eliminated possibilities even faster.

"If I could do something for you, maybe I would." Wainwright's tone had softened since the beginning of the interview. "But I can't. There's nothing here. Believe me." Miles nodded glumly. "I guess I knew anyway." "So what will you try next?"

Before there was time to answer, the secretary returned, handing Wainwright a paper sack and change. When the girl had gone, he took out the milk and sandwiches and set them down as Eastin watched, moistening his lips. "You can eat those here if you like."

Miles moved quickly, removing the wrapping from the first sandwich with plucking fingers. Any doubts about the truth of his statement that he was hungry were banished as Wainwright observed the food devoured silently, with speed. And while the security chief watched, an idea began to form.

At the end, Miles emptied the last of the milk from a paper cup and wiped his lips. Of the sandwiches, not a crumb remained.

"You didn't answer my question," Wainwright said. "What will you try next?"

Perceptibly Eastin hesitated, then said flatly, "I don't know."

"I think you do know. And I think you're lying for the first time since you came in." Miles Eastin shrugged. "Does it matter any more?"

"My guess is this," Wainwright said; he ignored the question. "Until now you've stayed away from the people you knew in prison. But because you gained nothing here you've decided to go to them. You'll take a chance on being seen, and your parole."

"What the hell other kind of chance is there? And if you know so much, why ask?" "So you do have those contacts."

"If I say yes," Eastin said contemptuously, "the first thing you'll do when I've gone is telephone the parole board."

"No." Wainwright shook his head. "Whatever we decide, I promise you I won't do that." "What do you mean: 'Whatever we decide'?"

"There might just be something we could work out. If you were willing to run some risks. Big ones." "What kind of risks?"

"Leave that for now. If we need to, we'll come back to it. Tell me first about the people you got to know inside and those you can make contact with now." Sensing continued wariness, Wainwright added, "I give you my word I won't take advantage without your agreement of anything you tell me."

"How do I know this isn't a trick the way you tricked me once before?"

"You don't. You'll take a chance on trusting me. Either that, or walk out of here and don't come back."

Miles sat silent, thinking, occasionally moistening his lips in the nervous gesture he had exhibited earlier. Then abruptly, without outward sign of a decision, he began to talk.

He revealed the approach first made to him in Drummonburg Penitentiary by the emissary from Mafia Row The message relayed to Miles Eastin, he told Wainwright, had originated with the outside loan shark, Igor (the Russian) Ominsky and was to the effect that he, Eastin, was a "stand-up guy" because he had not disclosed the identity of the shark or the bookmaker at the time of his arrest or afterward. As a concession, interest on Eastin's loan would be waived during his time in prison. "Mafia Row's messenger boy said that Orninsky stopped the clock while I was inside."

"But you're not inside now," Wainwright pointed out. "So the clock is running again."

Miles looked worried. "Yes, I know." He had realized that, and tried not to think about it while he searched for work. He had also stayed away from the location he had been told of where he could make contact with the loan shark Ominsky and others. It was the Double-Seven Health Club near the city's center, and the information had been passed to him a few days before leaving prison. He repeated it now under Wainwright's probing

"Figures. I don't know the Double-Seven," the bank security chief mused, "but I've heard of it. It has the reputation of being a mob hangout."

The other thing Miles had been told at Drummonburg was that there would be ways for him, through contacts he would make, to earn money to live and begin paying off his debt. He had not needed a diagram to know that such "ways" would be outside the law. That knowledge, and his dread of a return to prison, had kept him resolutely removed from the Double-Seven. So far.

"My hunch was right then. You would have gone there from here."

"Oh, God, Mr. Wainwright, I didn't want to! I still don't." "Maybe, between us, you can cut it both ways." "How?" "You've heard of an undercover agent?" Miles Eastin looked surprised before admitting, "Yes.. "‚ÄĚThen listen carefully." Wainwright began talk ng.

Pour months earlier, when the bank security chief viewed the drowned and mutilated body of his informer, Vic, he had doubted if he would send anyone undercover again. At that moment, shocked and with a sense of personal guilt, he had meant what he said and had done nothing since to recruit a replacement. But this opportunity Eastin's desperation and ready-made connections was too promising to be ignored.

Equally to the point: More and more counterfeit Keycharge credit cards were appearing, in what seemed a deluge, while their source remained unknown. Conventional methods of locating the producers and distributors had failed, as Wainwright knew; also hampering investigation was the fact that credit-card counterfeiting, under federal law, was not a criminal offense. Fraud had to be proven; intention to defraud was not enough. For all these reasons, law-enforcement agencies were more interested in other forms of counterfeiting, so their concern with credit cards was only incidental. Banks to the chagrin of professionals like Nolan Wainwright had made no serious effort to get this situation changed.

Most of this, the bank security chief explained at length to Miles Eastin. He also unfolded a basically simple plan. Miles would go to the Double-Seven Health Club, making such contacts as he could. He would try to ingratiate himself, and would also take whatever opportunities occurred to earn some money.

"Doing that will mean a risk two ways, and you'll have to realize it," Wainwright said. "If you do something criminal and get caught, you'll be arrested, tried, and no one else can help you. The other risk is, even if you don't get caught and the parole board hears rumors, that'll put you back in prison just as surely."

However, Wainwright continued, if neither mischance happened,, Miles should try to widen his contacts, listening hard and accumulating information. At first, he should be wary of appearing curious. "You'd take it easy," Wainwright cautioned. "Don't hurry, be patient. Let word get around; let people come to you."

Only after Miles was accepted, would he work harder at learning more. At that time he could begin discreet inquiries about fake credit cards, exhibiting an interest for himself and seeking to move closer to wherever they were traded. "There's always somebody," Wainwright advised, "who knows somebody else, who knows some other guy who has a rumble of some action. That's the way you'd weasel in."

Periodically, Wainwright said, Eastin would report to him. Though never directly.

The mention of reporting was a reminder to Wainwright of his obligation to explain about Vic. He did so bluntly, omitting no details. As he spoke, he saw Miles Eastin go pale and remembered the night in Eastin's apartment, the time of the confrontation and exposure, when the younger man's instinctive fear of physical violence showed so clearly.

"Whatever happens," Wainwright said sternly, "I don't want you to say or think, later on, that I didn't warn you of the dangers." He paused, considering. "Now, about money."

If Miles agreed to go undercover on the bank's behalf, the security chief stated, he would guarantee a payment of five hundred dollars a month until one way or another the assignment ended. The money would be paid through an intermediary.