by Gerald Petievich
Charlie Carr, Petievich's unforgettable T-man in the hardboiled, street-smart tradition of Hammett and Chandler, is scouring the underbelly of Los Angeles once again.
When sheets of government security paper are stolen, Charlie is there, working to grip the lid of an intricate scheme to print 10 million in U.S. Treasury notes.
For Charlie, the high-pressure, the wild chase, and everything else that can pit one ruthless cop up against a bunch of high stakes, plenty to lose counterfeiters won't end until his .357 speaks. This authentic hard-hitting novel is an edge of the seat detective fiction at its best.
"An author writing out of real experience and with the gift of transforming it into real art! - Los Angeles Times
Larry Phillips, a diminutive man who in attire other than Leavenworth Federal Prison denims might look like a bespectacled young college professor, had been waiting in line for two hours signing forms, turning things in. He was holding a small cardboard box that contained the contents of his cell.
A hound-jowled guard with a jagged scar circling one of his eye sockets stood behind a metal counter. He gave a little nod. Phillips stepped forward to a white line on the floor. The guard's lips barely moved as he spoke.
"Put the box down on the counter. Take off your trousers and blouse and drop 'em in the hamper behind you."
He slammed a plastic bag down on the counter. "These are the civvies you came in with. Put 'em on."
Phillips set the box on the counter and undressed.
The guard poured the contents of the box out on the counter and examined each item. He barely looked at the books: A Collector's Guide to Chinese Porcelain, Clinical Hypnosis: Fact and Fiction, and a dog-eared copy of A Stock Broker's Guide to U.S. Government Securities, and tossed them back in the box. He examined the bathing suit photograph of strawberry-blond Melba rivers carefully and tossed it in along with a letter with an American Embassy postmark.
The letter was from Phillip's red-faced mannequin of a father, the only one he had received from him during the eighteen-month stretch. He knew its wishy-washy phrases by heart. In his cell Phillips had visualized his father standing behind his portable mahogany bar mouthing words stronger than "down-to-earth." The glass rod tapped the edge of the martini glass like a deafening chime…
Phillips tossed the stenciled denims and shirt in the canvas hamper. He pulled a black polyester sports shirt of the plastic bag (it was probably out of style by now) and put it on. He zipped up his pants.
The guard initialed a form and shoved it across the counter with a pen. "Sign-the-form-first-name-first," he mumbled.
Phillips signed his name and picked up the cardboard box.
"Step to the door," the guard said, "If you don't have a ride, there's a bus to Kansas City at the road stop in two hours. Don't loiter in front."
Phillips stepped to the door. The guard pushed a button, and the door lock made a violent snap. The door creaked open, and Phillips got goose bumps that were electric, uncontrollable. He strode out the door and along a sidewalk to the parking lot.
A car horn sounded, and a station wagon pulled op next to the curb. Melba was driving. She was wearing jeans and a sweatshirt, though somehow he had expected her to be in a bathing suit, like the photograph. With a sort of squeal, she rushed out of the car into his arms. He dropped the box as she kissed him hungrily, her tongue flicking deeply to find his. Their mouths parted.
"Mercy" she said with a Texan twang. "A year and a half's a long time.' They hugged.
"Did you bring the package?" he whispered.
She lifted her head off his shoulder. "Mercy," she said again. "Same old Mr. Business First."
They got in the station wagon, and Melba started the engine. "It's in the glove compartment," she said accelerating onto the main highway.
Phillips opened the compartment and pulled out a package the size of a bar of soap. He tore it open and removed business cards that read INTERNATIONAL PAPER INCORPORATED, a California driver's license with his photograph, a Social Security card, and an assortment of credit cards. Everything had the name Lawrence T. Porter.
"I kept it in a safe-deposit box…just like you told me to" Melba said.
He put the identification in his pocket and leaned back in the seat.
"Should I stop in a motel?" she said. "Or if you want, I can just pull of to the side and give you a…
"Let's get some miles in," he interrupted. "It's a long way to Washington, D.C." He was staring at the road.
Nothing was said for a while.
"I know how you feel," she said sympathetically. "You think about everything and then one day they set you free and you don't know whether to shit or go blind… I felt the same way when I got out of Terminal Island."