The clock was ticking, and she had to make it right. Carrie had been working on her book for over a month and her deadline was really close. And if she didn’t finish it soon, her whole editorial deal would be in jeopardy.
Rushed and stressed, her eyes ran across the pile of titles she had just bought in a books sale. One of the books had something about it that caught Carrie’s attention; she grabbed it to take a closer look. But among its pages, she found something that made her heart skip a beat.
Deal Of A Life Time
Born and raised in Barstow, California, Carrie had always been working towards her purpose. She was an aspiring writer, and she dreamed of the day when she would make it big. Carrie was a mature when all her efforts started bearing its fruits: a publishing company was interested in her work!
Her short stories had caused a great impression in a well-known editor. She was asked to write a full-fledged novel. That was the chance she had been waiting for since she started writing. She signed the deal with no seconds thought. However, she failed to predict what else woul come with it.
All For Him
Aside from a writer, Carrie was a loving mother to her son Damian, who was eighteen years old. He was the most important thing in her life, even more than her literary dreams. Everything she had ever done was centered around him: even the compilation of short stories that landed her a deal had Damian and Carrie’s experience of motherhood as a main theme.
Despite Carrie’s own financial difficulties, she had always worked hard to make sure Damien had the best life he could. And when the big publishing deal came, it seemed like a reward to all those efforts. Immediately, she started working on the novel. This was their big chance.
All About Rome
The publishing house had asked Carrie to write a historical fiction novel. This was a genre that Carrie had always been fond of, and she knew what would be the setting of her story right away: ancient Rome.
The ancient Romans had always been a powerful influence in Carrie. She was already knowledgeable about their history, but she needed to get some details nailed down if she wanted to craft the perfect story. So she got all the books on the subject that she could find, and started her investigations. Little did she know that her research would not only make her more informed about Rome; it would also change her outlook on her entire life.
She started gathering books and pieces of information about ancient Rome to make her story as accurate as possible. First, she went through each and every source she could find on the Internet. Next, she ventured into the local library.
But nothing really caught her attention. But suddenly, some place came to her mind: the warehouse book sale down the street. She went over there and came out with a bag full of books. She had no idea that books weren’t the only thing she was bringing home with her.
Something Was Missing
Afte getting home, she scattered the pieces of her loot over the living room table. The books were victims of the passing of time and weren’t in the besst state, but that didn’t matter to Carrie. She went through their pages, trying to gauge how could they help her with her story.
After a while, she felt confident enough to start the first draft of the novel. Those books would help her create a setting that was historically accurate, and even give her some inspiration for the plot. But something was missing.
Something was lacking in her writings, and it wasn’t hard to tell for Carrie. It was missing immersion. Carrie had spent a lot of time making sure that the plot was historically accurate and a fair representation of life in ancient Rome; but it still didn’t have that little something that would keep the readers intrigued and fascinated.
She came back to the antique books she had bought. For some reason, one of them called her attention like it was imbued with a mysterious power. She grabbed it, unaware of what really was inside its pages.
She Was Excited
It was Gibbon’s famous “The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire”. It was a classic first published in 1776; however, this particular copy was a more recent edition.
For some reason, Carrie felt like the answers to all of her worries wold be found in that book. Excited, she went through its pages, eager to absorb all the ideas that they may suggest her.
At first, nothing about the book suggested anything out of the ordinary. It was an antique book and its pages had faded to a yellowish tone, but that seemed to be all.
She kept turning the pages. But she noticed something unusual: the book’s weight felt weird. It was way lighter than what one woul expect, considering how thick it was. It was almost like it was hollow. Maybe it was? She flipped to the middle of the book; and what she saw there made her drop it to the ground.
What Was Inside?
The book was actually hollow, but that wasn’t all. What the book kept in its interior was what left Carrie bewildered. It was filled with thick rolls of hundred dollar bills!
She was so surprised that she dropped the book in the floor. The money scattered all over the floor. What was she going to do know? Who did that money belong to? She called one of her friends to tell her about what she had just found, and she went over to Carrie’s place right away.
Her Friend Speaks
When she knew the details of Carrie’s discovery, Liza immediately knew what was going on. “This is mob money”, she said. Apparently, it was a common practice for crime families to hide money inside hollow books.
“It has to be,” said Liza. “This is how they make sure the money stays hidden from everyone else and how they pay their associates.” But there was a possibility creeping in the back of Liza’s mind. So she asked Carrie a question.
“What are you gonna do with the money?” Liza asked. “Find its owner,” Carrie answered almost immediately, shocking herself.
She’d considered buying her son something nice or maybe going for a trip. But wouldn’t it be more wholesome to return the money to its rightful owner? Liza’s response to her answer made her lips part.
A Good Heart
“Your good heart is a blessing to society, my dear,” Liza said. “I’ll help with anything you might need: checking in on Damien, running errands. Let’s find whoever this money belongs to!”
Carrie’s lips curved, and she held out a hand to her friend. “I just had the wildest idea,” she squeezed Liza’s hand then dashed to her laptop.
A Priceless Gift
“What are you doing?” Liza asked after her. “Updating my novel’s outline,” Carrie spat out as her fingers flew all over the keyboard, so fast they were a blur. “I think the idea of hidden treasure in Roman scrolls from a crime family will give this story the oomph it requires!”
She turned around, grinning at Liza, “Thanks to you and that book, this story is going to be mindblowing!” Although they celebrated that night, Carrie wondered if they’d find the cash’s owner.
Searching For The Owner
Carrie and Liza spent the next week scouring the internet for the book’s previous owner. They liaised with the book sale where Carrie first acquired it.
The last owner had left no contact information while donating the book. Stuck with the cash, Carrie still had no idea what to do. The book had given her a concept more valuable than anything but the cash made her feel uneasy like something terrible would happen.
Her Own Research
Carrie decided to look up Liza’s theory about the cash being mob money. She had watched movies where things like this happened, but this was real life. “Surely not,” she thought. Her research fascinated her more and more.
Mob history in the U.S was well documented. After all, who hadn’t heard of Al Capone? Carrie thought she was clued upon this world until she dug deeper. She realized there was much more to the stories than she ever knew.
They Were Everywhere
The deeper Carrie dived into the history; the more intrigued she became. She realized how sheltered she had been. The mob didn’t only feature in history but had many syndicates still alive and well today.
There were so many notable ones over the years. The list was endless. Names like Capone, the Rizzutos, Gambino, and Bonanno jumped out. Carrie was beginning to worry now. Could the cash really have belonged to actual mobsters?
The Hunt For The Truth
Carrie was becoming a little obsessive about her research. Her fascination with the book owner’s original owner was at a fever pitch now. She just had to know.
Now that she was an amateur mob-history aficionado, Carrie learned a new fact. There was a famous mob museum in Vegas, and it wasn’t that far away from Barstow. Carrie excitedly called Liza and asked, “Are you up for a road trip?”
The two old friends were both over fifty, an age when most people start thinking about slowing down. Instead, the pair giggled like a couple of schoolgirls as they spontaneously hit the road for Vegas.
Like one of the detective novels she had loved as a child, Carrie was thrilled by the notion of uncovering a real-life mystery. Reaching sin city, the pair had no idea what awaited them as the museum came into view.
A Fascinating Place
The museum itself was a treat. Neither Carrie nor Liza had ever thought to visit an attraction like this before. The exhibits spanned historic courtroom settings, authentic mob outfits, a gallery of “made men,” and so much more.
By the time the tour was done, the ladies were both enthralled by the fascinating history it contained. Carrie listened closely to the curator’s narration of the exhibits, searching for a clue to the mysterious cash.
Still No Answers
The ladies visited the museum three times over the next few days. Staying at a casino hotel, Carrie used her evenings to keep writing to not fall behind with her book.
With so much extra knowledge swimming around in her head, the book was writing itself. She had never been more inspired as a writer, which showed in her work. She decided to speak to the curator directly the next day.
The museum’s senior curator was a pleasant woman named Jessica Campos. After confiding the story of the cash to her, Jessica confirmed that it indeed sounded like something the mob would do to evade tax.
It was time for the ladies to head home, but Jessica promised to check in with all her “contacts” to see if they could find a lead. Jessica was excited and felt they had likely stumbled across something more significant than they knew.
Carrie Completes Her Book
After all the excitement of hunting down the cash’s owner, life back home felt a little bland. To compensate, Carrie put all her energy into her book. The words were flowing, and she found creative ways of weaving her real-life adventures into the story.
When she was done, she had never been more proud of her work. It was finally complete and ready for submission to her publishers. Carrie was a bag of nerves as she awaited their response.
The Big Break
After years of working as a freelance writer, Carrie dreamed of being published. When her publisher contacted her with the news that they loved her manuscript, she was ecstatic.
She had finally made it and secured her future as a writer. She owed the mysterious book of cash so much. It had set her on an inspired path. She thought that the mystery would never be solved until things all changed.
Out Of The Blue
Carrie and Liza had been celebrating the success of her book one evening. They hadn’t thought of the mysterious book and the cash or heard back from Jessica. They had given up on finding its owner.
As the ladies reveled the evening away, the book was suddenly thrown back into their minds. It started with an ominous knock on the door.
This Was Big
When the ladies heard the knock, they immediately exchanged nervous glances. It was too late for visitors. Liza instinctively looked towards the mystery book that sat atop Carrie’s bookshelf the whole time.
They both wondered who could be calling at that time of night and if it had anything to do with the book. As the women froze for a moment, the knock grew louder.
A Frightening Experience
Carrie nervously approached the door. When she opened it, she gasped. They were two official-looking agents wearing navy jackets. The visitors were already intimidating enough.
They each had hardened jawlines and stone-faced expressions. Carrie couldn’t believe what was happening. When she saw the famous words “Federal Agents” in yellow, she turned cold with fear.
The Mystery Solved
After letting the men in, they explained that they were from the fraud and counterfeit unit and were following up a lead. Carrie and Liza’s nerves finally settled when the men told them they were not in any trouble.
It turns out that Jessica had contacted them after finding a lead on the mysterious cash. As Carrie and Liza listened, the tale of the money was as dramatic as they could have ever imagined.
It turned out that the book and the money had belonged to a notorious counterfeiter named Harold Dumont. Last year, he had passed away, and his family members had discovered the operation he was running.
While most of the fake money had been recovered, Harold had stashed lots of it in various hiding places. Examining the book, Carrie was surprised when an agent showed her a dent in the spine where an old letter had been wedged.
The Case Was Finally Closed
After conducting some tests on the bills, it was confirmed that they were indeed counterfeit and bore Harold’s signature marks. The money was taken away as evidence, and Carrie was glad to be rid of it.
The book and letter had been a gift from Harold’s uncle, a former mob member arrested in the 1980s for money laundering. The last piece of missing evidence traced, the case was closed; Carrie and Liza’s detective adventures finally ended too.