Sorry gang, but this is the last post until the novel is published. It gets better!
Wait 'til you see what the Secret Service, FBI, CIA, IRS, the Mafia and the KGB have in store for them.
© 2012 Boyd Norton
Before we could launch our scheme we had some work to do. First, Sam had to print more bills. We wanted to have a good supply on hand. But we also had to make sure that we could find a secure hiding place for all that money. In case we got caught and had our houses searched. You know, just to play it safe.
For the latter problem we decided on safe deposit boxes. Not in the local bank, but in a bank in the Denver metro area. Sam opened one in a particular bank, and I did the same in another different bank. We figured that safe deposit boxes wouldn’t be traced easily, not like a bank account, and hiding a key to the boxes would be a lot easier than hiding bags of twenties.
The printing went well and we spent an evening cutting the separate bills from the sheets. I had one of those rotary paper cutters I used for cutting photo prints. It was fast and precise. The only problem was, we ran out of paper. There were only 25 sheets in the box and we used two of those to get test prints. So with 23 sheets, at 18 bills to a sheet, we had a little over $8000 in twenties. Sam went online and ordered three more boxes of the paper. When he came back from the computer I was just finishing the cutting of the last few bills from a sheet.
“Holy shit,” he said.
“What? What’s wrong?
“Do you know how much that paper costs? Thirty fucking dollars a sheet. A box of it goes for $750 bucks. I just spent $2100 bucks on my credit card, which is nearly maxed out, by the way. Fine art paper, it’s called. Christ, no wonder Epson does so well. They can give away their printers and make a ton of money on paper and ink. And, oh yeah, I just checked on it and a set of 12 ink cartridges, which is what this printer takes, is another six hundred bucks.”
“That’s outrageous. Isn’t there anything cheaper?”
He laughed. “Yeah, there is, but it’s not the quality of paper we need for this. This is one thing we can’t cut corners on, unfortunately.”
I grabbed a pencil and paper and made some quick calculation. “Jeezuz, at that price each bill is costing us about a buck seventy for the paper alone.”
“Don’t forget the ink. It’s probably close to two bucks it’s costing us to print a twenty dollar bill.”
There went ten percent of our profit right there.
“Maybe we ought to go for a bigger denomination. How about fifties?”
“Are you outta your mind? Bigger bills get more scrutiny. Remember what Cat said. It would just increase the risk of getting caught. No, we gotta stay with twenties.”
“Yeah, I guess you’re right.” This was not a good start and I began to have that awful feeling again about the whole scheme. Sam must have picked up on that.
“Jake, we can still make this work. It’ll take a little more work on our part - maybe hitting a few extra stores.”
I nodded but I still had a knot in my stomach.
The next part of our preparation required some creative thinking. We needed to give the bills the look and feeling of having been in circulation. A crisp new bill attracts attention. I’ve noticed that whenever I’ve gotten one of those new bills. Even real ones cause you to think it’s gotta be phony so you look at it more closely.
At first we tried just crumpling several of them repeatedly but that didn’t work. Most people don’t crumple their money. New bills eventually get folded and handled and passed around a multitude of times and eventually that newness is lost. But how do we duplicate that? Folding and refolding those bills was just too time consuming. Then I hit on an idea.
“Hey Sam, you got any quarters? Like about twenty or so?”
“Yeah, I’ve got a change jar where I toss odd coins from my pocket each night at bedtime. Why?”
“I’ve got a way to age our money. We go to the laundromat and put a bunch of our bills in with some clothes and let them bounce around for a while. That should take away that crispness and make them look like they’ve been in circulation for a while. It’ll save us a lot of time and effort.”
“You don’t mean washing them, do you?”
“No no. Just put ‘em in a dryer and let them tumble around for a while.”
“Well, okay. We can give it a try.”
The only laundromat in Sprucehaven could, at certain times of day and certain days of the week, be a busy place. Weekends were especially crowded. Two guys stuffing money into a dryer might attract attention. So we chose a weeknight and very late in the evening. The place was supposed to close at midnight. We got there at eleven thirty.
There was one older lady in there when we arrived. She seemed to be just finishing up, folding her clothing on one of the counters. We waited a little. She kept looking up at us, eyeing us with some suspicion. We had two garbage bags. One of them had half of our twenty dollar bills in it - about two hundred of them. We didn’t want to put all four hundred through this test until we were sure it would work. The other bag had some T shirts and underwear and a pair of Levis. I hadn’t intended to do a wash - I didn’t think there would be time and I usually do mine at home. All I wanted was some clothing to put in the dryer to cushion the bills and maybe help in the aging process by putting them in contact with clothing. I mean, a lot of paper money gets stuffed into and pulled out of pockets.
To make it look like we were doing laundry, I went to one of the washers and opened the lid. It was full of clothes.
“Those are mine.” The old lady came scurrying over and rescued her laundry from the presumed laundry robbers.
“Sorry. I didn’t …”
“This machine over here is empty,” she said pointing to another.
Now I had to go through with it so I began piling some T shirts and underwear into the maw of the machine. She went back to folding. It was taking her forever. I was about to suggest to Sam, quietly, that we bail out and come back another evening, when the lady put all her clothing into a big basket and headed for the door. When she was gone, I turned to Sam.
“Quick, let’s get this stuff into a dryer.”
Three of the four dryers had “Out of Order” signs on them. I tossed the Levis into the working one and Sam began emptying the bills into it as well. A few went fluttering to the floor and I quickly rescued them and tossed them in with the pants.
It took a few minutes before we closed the door, then we had to pull out enough quarters.
“Let’s see. I think twenty minutes oughtta be enough. No, better yet, let’s try forty minutes. Let me have eight quarters.”
“Uh Jake, we’ve only got about fifteen minutes.”
“Oh yeah. Well let’s see. If we do it for that short a time, I’d better turn up the heat on this.”
I turned a dial on the heat selection then dropped the coins into the slot one by one and pressed the start button. The pants and the twenties began whirling around inside. Through the glass door it looked bizarre, a storm of money and a pair of Levis in some kind of ballet. We went over and sat in one of the plastic chairs and grabbed some magazines.
Just then the door opened and a cop walked in! He was one of the local sheriffs and he had a basket of damp laundry in his hands. He looked at us, then at the dryer.
“Damn. They still haven’t fixed those other dryers.” Then he looked up at the clock. Quarter to twelve.
“Guess you guys have got the only working dryer. Any chance you’re almost done?” He looked like he was going to walk over and look into that whirling dryer.
“Uh, well, I think ours will run right up ‘til closing time.” My voice had suddenly gotten an octave higher in my fright.
He shot me a quick glance and then headed for the door. “Guess I’ll have to try tomorrow night.” And he was gone.
Talk about an adrenaline rush! As casually as I could I looked out the window and watched as he backed out and drove away.
“Sam, I may need a pair of that underwear in the bag. The ones I’m wearing need changing.”
Just then Sam looked up and said, “Hey, what’s that smell?”
I laughed. “It’s not me, man. I was only kidding about shitting my pants.” And then I smelled it too. Something was burning!
We both got to the dryer at the same time. I opened the door and we were hit by the smell of charred paper. The bills had turned a sickening brown color.
“What the fuck.” And just then the front door opened and the little old lady returned.
“Say, don’t you boys know how to run a dryer,” she said, sniffing the air. “You must have set the heat too high. What’s burning anyway?” She came closer. By now both Sam and I were scooping handfuls of crispy brown twenty dollar bills into the garbage bag.
“Well no wonder. Didn’t you think to remove any money from your pockets before putting your pants in there? Say, you must carry around a lot of money.” That last was spoken when she stood in front of us, jaw agape as we piled those bills into the bag.
“Uh, well, ma’am, we just got here from my store in Denver and the bank was closed so I couldn’t make a deposit before coming here to do laundry. When we put our clothes in the dryer I guess the bag with today’s take got tossed in accidentally. Sure is a mess. Hate to lose this money.” As Sam spoke he kept stuffing money into the black garbage bag.
“Well, don’t you worry about it. My son works for the bank here. He’ll help you out. They can exchange that money for you. They do it all the time for folks when money gets burned or torn. Just so long as most of the bills are intact.” She turned and walked over to the countertop where she had left a batch of her folded laundry. She put it in her basket and then headed for the door. Just before leaving, she said, “You ask for my son at the bank. His name is Jason. I’ll tell him about your accident. I’m sure he can help you.”
Then she was gone.
Back at Sam’s house we were commiserating over a large bottle of Bombay gin. We sat at the bar in the rec room of his basement. I was on my third martini. My hands and clothes smelled of burnt paper. And my only pair of Levis had big scorches all over them.
“Well, aside from burning up four thousand dollars and my best pair of Levis, I’d say things went pretty well today. On the bight side, we weren’t dumb enough to put the whole batch of money into that goddamned furnace.” I took another sip of martini.
Sam sat with his chin cupped in his hands, elbows on the bar. When he spoke his head bobbed up and down. “Jake, I’ve been through a lot of ups and downs in my former business, but I gotta tell ya, today takes the prize for all time downers.” He actually smiled when he said it. “Someday we’ll look back on this and laugh.” He took another sip of his own martini. “But not today.”
By my fourth martini I was not in any shape to drive. I called Cat. I knew she was a night owl, often staying up to read. She agreed to pick me up and was there in twenty minutes.
“Whew, you been burning garbage or something?” she said when I got in the car.
“I don’t wanna talk about it.”
Later, at her place, and after I scrubbed for an hour in the shower to rid myself of the eau d’ burnt twenty dollar bills, I told her everything after I climbed into bed with her. She laughed. And, eventually, so did I.