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To Live and Die in L.A.

by Gerald Petievich

Rick Masters is a big time counterfeiter with big problems. For one thing, one of his dealers, Max ("the Money Man") Waxman, has just ripped him off. For another, his partner, Carmine Falcone, is in jail and threatening to cooperate with the government unless Masters gets him out fast.

Then there are the Feds who have been trying to nail Masters for years. Two Treasury agents, John Vukovich and Richard Chance, are breathing down his neck. Chance is a reckless hotshot who doesn't believe in playing by the rules; he'll get evidence anyway he can. If he catches Masters and makes it stick, he's a hero. But if Chance is caught he's finished - unless he's willing to sacrifice Vukovich to save himself

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The MGM motion picture "To Live and Die in L.A." was released in 1984. Starring William Dafoe and William Peterson made from a screenplay penned by Petievich and Director William Friedkin, met with rave reviews and became a film noir cult classic.


"Petievich, who is himself a Treasury agent, brings a wonderful sense of reality to his work." - Los Angeles Herald-Examiner

"Petievich has a sure hand, a fine ear for dialogue and a canny feel for plotting." - The New York Times Book Review


Excerpt

By midnight the press was tolling, its train-like clatter reverberating of the cement floor and walls in the rented cubicle. Rick Masters picked up a rag and wiped green ink of his hands. He grabbed one of the 8" x 11" sheets as it snapped from under the tray and held it up to a fluorescent light fixture hanging in the middle of the room. Using a jeweler's loupe, he examined the portrait of Andrew Jackson on each of the three images because he knew this was what the banks looked for first. The meshwork of vertical and horizontal lines, which made up the background of the portrait, was clear and distinct.

"All right," he said out loud.

It was 4 A.M. by the time he'd finished trimming the images of the bill to size with a large paper cutter. I wasn't till then that he realized he'd he had nothing to eat or drink since he'd arrived there… he was beginning to feel light-headed.

After carefully wrapping and packing the trimmed twenties, he placed them in the suitcase. Then he painstakingly gathered up every scrap of paper in the cubicle and stuffed everything into a black plastic trash bag. Using a screwdriver, he removed the thin aluminum lithographic plate from the plate cylinder on the printing press. Using tiny snips he cut the plate into inch sized pieces and tossed the pieces into the trash bag. He tied the bag securely with a piece of wire.

He phoned for a taxi and then made one final check in every corner of the plant. Satisfied hat everything was in order, he left carrying the trash bag and suitcase, locked the door behind him. Masters tossed the trash bag into a brimming commercial trash receptacle that was next to the fence. As he waited for the taxi, he thought about the first time he'd printed counterfeit money. He's rented a shop less than two blocks from the Los Angeles Federal building where the treasury agents had their office. As the press had been rolling, he'd phoned their office and held the receiver next to the clacking press. Youthful horseplay.

The taxi arrived a few minutes later. The driver was a middle-aged man with red cheeks and thick glasses.

"Caesars Palace," Masters said as he climbed into the cab.

"You got it," the driver said. He had liquor on his breath. "What are ya doing out here in the middle of the night?" the driver asked as he made an extra-wide turn onto Las Vegas Boulevard.

"My car broke down."

The driver hiccupped. "Oh," he said closing the matter.

At Caesars Palace, Masters went immediately to the registration desk, signed the register as Arthur Truman and headed directly for his room. After showering he turned on the television (a talk show featuring an actress talking about a book she'd written on reincarnation) and made himself comfortable on the bed. He awoke seven hours later in the same position. The television was tuned to a children's program.
Masters staggered from the bed and dialed room service. After eating a double breakfast, he changed clothes and, carrying the suitcase containing the counterfeit money, he strolled along the corridor to the registration desk. He paid his room bill with a few of the phony twenties, and then headed for the door. Before leaving, he stopped at a roulette wheel, which was manned by a young female croupier with peroxide blonde hair. There was no one else at the table. As he set a phony twenty on the red, he felt a tightening in his loins. The woman spun the wheel. Red it was. She pushed two twenty-dollar chips toward him. He picked them up and dropped them in his pocket. As he headed out the door and across the street to where he'd parked his car the day before, he felt satisfied: as emptied of energy as if he'd just screwed for three hours straight.

Masters drove the speed limit all the way back to Los Angeles.