by Gerald Petievich
Charles Carr is a relentless, hardboiled Treasury Agent with a grim mission. A young agent gets violently gunned down during an undercover operation, and it's Carr's job to hunt down the counterfeiter who pulled the trigger. From the seamy sunset Strip to Chinatown's shadowy underworld, from a daring plot to steal counterfeit money from counterfeiters themselves, to facing brutal blood-drenched confrontations, Carr will stop at nothing to crack the depraved scheme that took his friend's life.
In 1992, "Money Men" was released as the United Artists motion picture "Boiling Point," starring Wesley Snipes, Dennis Hopper and Lolita Davidovich.
"Gritty! Realistic! Petievich's tough, lean prose races with action... the dialogue snaps and crackles." - Washington Post
"An impressive achievement! A sure hand, a fine ear for dialogue, and a canny feel for plotting!" - The New York Times
Carr's mind wandered as he drove on the Pomona Freeway toward Chino. He pictured Norbert Waeves (known as No Waves), the pipe-smoking Los Angeles special agent-in-charge, puffing smoke and reading aloud the one-inch newspaper article about Howard. "Howard Dumbrowski, a special agent of the U.S. Treasury Department, pleaded guilty to manslaughter today in Superior Court. Accused of murdering his wife after finding her with another man in their Glendale apartment, Dumbrowski declined to make any statement in his own behalf before being sentenced to two years in state prison. Jumping for joy, the SAIC had tossed the newspaper in the air. "Hooray! He pleaded guilty! No trial! No more bad publicity!" The visiting-hour trips to Chino were rough at the beginning -- forced laughs followed by embarrassing silences.
Carr turned off the highway at the green overhead sign CALIFORNIA CORRECTIONAL INSTITUTE, CHINO. ONE MILE.
The visitors' area was in the open. Metal picnic tables surrounded by a high chain-link fence. It reminded Carr of a grammar-school lunch area. At the tables sat blacks and Chicanos talking with sadly dressed wives. Restless children in T-shirts and tennis shoes wrestled on the yellow grass like bear cubs.
Howard, with a gray crew cut and starched denims, still looked like a cop: stocky, blue-bearded, piercing blue eyes. During the past year his eyes had seemed to become more deep-set.
Carr sat down. Howard smiled. He began dealing gin rummy, a ritual that started as a compromise to avoid the hurt of conversation. Howard had nothing to talk about any more, and Carr knew that shoptalk, even about the old days, brought sadness to Howard's eyes.
"I got a letter from my daughter yesterday. She told me about Rico de Fiore." Carr hesitated. "I was his cover. The guy who did it got away from me. He jumped out the motel-room back window."
"Rico was a sharp kid. He had the tough," said the prisoner. Carr nodded. They looked at each other for a moment.
Howard shuffled and dealt the cards. "Pick up your hand," he said.
At the end of the hand Carr took a small notebook out of his sports-coat pocket, turned to a fresh page, and recorded the score of the fiftieth game.
"I'm going to Eugene, Oregon, when I get out," Howard said. "Lumber-mill job. With the conviction, I figure that's the best I can do. I know I would have beat the rap if I'd gone to trial. Catching her in the sack and all, you can imagine how the press would have played up the whole thing, how it would have looked to her college friends."
Nothing was said for a long while. Eventually Carr took over as dealer, Howard as scorekeeper.
"Partner, there's something I must say," Howard said. The blue eyes flashed. "There were rough times in here, particularly the first few months. I had to fight every day. Once, I found out they were going to put ant poison in my chow. I didn't eat until I found out who it was. A big husky guy. I caught him in the yard and kicked his teeth out. Got almost all of 'em." He hesitated. "I guess what I'm getting at is that I don't know if I would have made it without the card games. I know I can make it now."
"Pick up your cards," Carr said.
"There's something else," Howard said. "Since the day I was arrested, you're the only one who's stuck by me, and you've never asked me one question about it. I really appreciate that...But I want you to know. A year ago I walked into my apartment with a few drinks under my belt and my old lady is fucking the next-door neighbor. I killed her because I had my gun on. I was a federal cop and my gun was right there in a holster on my belt. Now I'm in the joint for it...but I'm the same now as I ever was, and like you and everybody else in the whole goddamn world, I'm never going to change...My wife is dead and I'm alive and one year older. It's as simple as that. A set of circumstances."
A bell sounded. A guard opened a gate in the chain-link fence, and visitors began to depart. Howard stood up and put the deck of cards in his shirt pocket. They shook hands.