Page 82 of The Moneychangers

LaRocca stopped, his eyes suspicious, as they had been a week ago. "Ya askin' questions again, kid. Whadid Tony Bear and Ominsky tell ye?" "Nothing, except the old man's name is Danny." "If 'n they wanna tell ya more, they'll tell ye. Not me."

When LaRocca had gone, Miles set up a sunlamp in the cubicle and sat Danny under it for half an hour. Through the remainder of the day, the old man lay quietly awake or dozed. In the early evening Miles brought dinner from downstairs, most of which Danny ate his first full meal since arrival twenty-four hours ago.

Next morning Wednesday Miles repeated the steam room and sunlamp treatments and later the two of them played chess. The old man had a quick, astute mind and they were evenly matched. By now, Danny was friendly and relaxed, making clear that he liked Miles's company and attentions.

During the second afternoon the old man wanted to talk. "Yesterday," he said, "that creep LaRocca said you know a lot about money."

"He tells everybody that." Miles explained about his hobby and the interest it aroused in prison.

Danny asked more questions, then announced, "If you don't mind, I'd like my own money now." "I'll get it for you. But I’ll have to lock you in again..

"If you're worrying about the booze, forget it. I'm over it for this time. A break like this does the trick. Could be months before I'll take a drink again."

"Glad to hear that." Miles locked the door, just the same.

When he had his money, Danny spread it on the bed, then divided it into two piles. The new twenties were in one, the remaining, mostly soiled, assorted bills in another. Prom the second grouping, Danny selected three ten dollar bills and handed them to Miles. "That's for thinking of some little things, son like taking care of my teeth, the shave, the sunlamp. I appreciate what you did." "Listen, you don't have to."

"Take it. And by the way, it's real stuff. Now tell me something." "If I can, I will."

"How did you spot that those twenties were homegrown?"

"I didn't to begin with. But if you use a magnifier, some of the lines on Andrew Jackson's portrait show up blurred. "

Danny nodded sagely. "That's the difference between a steel engraving, which the government uses, and a photo offset plate. Though a top offset man can come awful close."

"In this case he did," Milesisaid. "Other parts of the bills are close to perfect."

There was a faint smile on the old man's face. 'How about the paper?"

"It fooled me. Usually you can tell a bad bill with your fingers. But not these."

Danny said softly, "Twenty-four-pound coupon bond. Hundred percent cotton fiber. People think you can't get the right paper. Isn't true. Not if you shop around."

"If you're all that interested," Miles said, "I have some books about money across the hall. There's one I'm thinking of, published by the U. S. Secret Service."

"You mean Know Your Money?" As Miles looked surprised, the old man chuckled. "That's the forgers handbook. Says what to look for to detect a bad bill. Lists all the mistakes that counterfeiters make. Even shows pictures!" "Yes," Miles said. "I know."

Danny continued chortling. "And the government gives it away! You can write to Washington they'll mail it to you. There was a hot-shot counterfeiter named Mike Landress who wrote a book. In it he said Know Your Money is something no counterfeiter should be without." "Landress got caught," Miles pointed out.

"That was because he worked with fools. They had no organization." "You seem to know a lot about it."

"A little." Danny stopped, picked up one of the good bills, one of the counterfeits, and compared them. What he saw pleased him; he grinned. "Did you know, son, that U.S. money is the world's easiest to copy and to print? Fact is, it was designed so that engravers in the last century couldn't reproduce it with the tools they had. But since those days we've had multilith machines and high resolution photo-offset, so that nowadays, with good equipment, patience, and some wastage, a skilled man can do a job that only experts can detect."

"I'd heard some of that," Miles said. "But how much of it goes on?"

"Let me tell you." Danny seemed to be enjoying himself, obviously launched on a favorite theme. "No one really knows how much queer gets printed every year and goes undetected, but it's a bundle. The government says thirty million dollars, with a tenth of that getting into circulation. But those are government figures, and the only thing you can be sure of with any government figure is that it's set high or low, depending on what the government want to prove. In this case they'd want it low. My guess is, every year, seventy million, maybe closer to a billion."

"I suppose it's possible," Miles said. He was remembering how much counterfeit money had been detected at the bank and how much more must have escaped attention altogether. "Know the hardest kind of money to reproduce?" "No, I don't." "An American Express travelers check. Know why?" Miles shook his head.

"It's printed in cyan-blue, which is next to impossible to photograph for an offset printing plate. Nobody with any knowledge would waste time trying, so an Amex check is safer than American money."

"There are rumors," Miles said, "that there's going to be new American money soon with colors for different denominations the way Canada has."

"'Tain't just rumor," Danny said. "Fact. Lots of the colored money's already printed and it’s stored by the Treasury. Be harder to copy than anything made yet." He smiled mischievously. "But the old stuff'll be around a bit. Maybe as long as I am."

Miles sat silent, digesting all that he had heard. At length he said, "You've asked me questions, Danny, and I answered them. Now I've one for you." "Not saying Ill answer, son. But you can try." "Who and what are you?"

The old man pondered, a thumb stroking his chin as he appraised Miles. Some of his thoughts were mirrored his face: A compulsion to frankness struggled against caution; pride mingled with discretion. Abruptly Danny made up his mind. "I'm seventy-three years old," he said, "and I'm a master craftsman. Been a printer all my life. I'm still the best there is. Besides being a craft, printing's an art." He pointed to the twenty-dollar bills still spread out on the bed. "Those are my work. I made the photographic plate. I printed them."

Miles asked, "and the drivers' licenses and credit cards?"

"Compared with printing money," Danny said, "making those is as easy as pissing in a barrel. But, yep I did 'em all."

13

In a fever of impatience now Miles waited for a chance to communicate what he had learned to Nolan Wainwright, via Juanita. Frustratingly, though, it was proving impossible to leave the Double-Seven and the risk of conveying such vital intelligence over the health club's telephone seemed too great.

On Thursday morning the day after Danny's frank revelations the old man showed every sign of having made a full recovery from his alcoholic orgy. He was clearly enjoying Miles's company and their chess games continued. So did their conversations, though Danny was more on guard than he had been the day before.

Whether Danny could hasten his own departure, if he chose to, was unclear. Even if he could, he showed no inclination and seemed content at least for the time being with his confinement in the fourth-floor cubicle.

During their later talks, both on Wednesday and Thursday, Miles had tried to gain more knowledge of Danny's counterfeiting activities and even hinted at the crucial question of a headquarters location. But Danny adroitly avoided any more discussion on the subject and Miles's instinct told him that the old man regretted some of his earlier openness. Remembering Wainwright's advice "don't hurry, be patient" Miles decided not to push his luck.

Despite his elation, another thought depressed him. Everything he had discovered would ensure the arrest and imprisonment of Danny. Miles continued to like the old man and was sorry for what must surely follow. Yet, he reminded himself, it was also the route to his own sole chance of rehabilitation.

Ominsky, the loan shark, and Tony Bear Marino were both involved with Danny, though in precisely what way was still not clear. Miles had no concern for Russian Ominsky or Tony Bear, though fear touched him icily at the thought of their learning as he supposed they must eventually of his own traitorous role.

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