Part 6

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CHAPTER ELEVEN

"Good morning. First American. How may I help you?"

I was using the phone in Ryder's office to make the call. Morrell must have been ordered to discontinue the surveillance; no tail had followed me to work, but that didn't mean that the phone in the apartment wasn't still tapped.

I had my story prepared. "Hi. I'm a cashier at a McDonald's outlet and we've taken in a one hundred dollar bill with a suspect serial number. Is there any way of checking it?"

"One moment please. I'm transferring you now."

A chirpy sounding woman came on the phone and I repeated my cover story. I read her the first number on Andy's list. She was able to tell me almost immediately that the serial number was not in use and never had been. She warned me that I would be committing an offence if I tried to pass the bill and suggested I phone the Secret Service and report it. I thanked her for the advice.

Over the next twenty minutes I contacted eleven more banks and received the same answer on each of the numbers. I had been right. For some reason Andy had been printing bad money. For nine months we had spent every free minute in that vault, making plate after plate. Testing and testing. The right ink and top quality paper. All that effort to end up with three thousand bills that wouldn't have made it past a bank teller on their first day on the job.

Ryder appeared when I was replacing a drum of traffic film remover in the carwash. He watched me for a few minutes, then called me into his office. I dried my hands and followed him. His breakfast, a box of doughnuts, was sitting on his desk. He took a long swallow from a bottle of cherry Coke, wiped his mouth with the back of his hand and belched.

"Shut the door," he said. "I want to talk."

"What about?"

"I've been seeing your face a lot on tv. What's your side of the story?"

"It's like the reporter said − the Secret Service made a mistake."

"They don't make mistakes."

"Yesterday they did."

He lifted a doughnut and bit into it. "What's with you and Fridays? That's twice you've been a no show on a Friday."

"It won't happen again."

"Damned right," he said, spitting crumbs over himself. "Your ass is canned. Leave the overalls and get the fuck out of my filling station."

I was still burning over the serial numbers, but Ryder had it coming to him. I reached down and hauled him out of his seat. A smack to his gut had him choking on the bun, and a knee into his groin ruined any plans he had for the weekend. As he sprawled on the floor, I emptied the bottle of cherry Coke over him. I flung open the door and left. The startled cashier backed away from me as I stormed past.

The phone was ringing as I let myself into the apartment. It was Janene Kove. "My mother passed on your telephone number. I hope you don't mind my calling."

I assured her that I didn't.

Her voice was hesitant. "I caught the late news last night. Why have the Secret Service been following you?"

"They've got it in their heads that I'm a counterfeiter."

"Are they right?"

"Nothing could be further from the truth."

"I don't believe you. Is that why you've been trying to contact Andy?"

"No."

"Why did you rush off the other day without saying goodbye?"

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