Have you seen the new US 100 dollar bill? Compared it to the old bill of the same denomination?
Money and Mystery
The changes in the $100 bill drive the plot of “The Cliff,” a short story from MADE IN ACAPULCO: The Emilia Cruz Stories. “The Cliff” later became the beginning of the full length Emilia Cruz novel, CLIFF DIVER.
In the story, Emilia meets Kurt Rucker and together they discover that a vehicle seized by the Acapulco police for a traffic infraction is loaded to the hubcaps with counterfeit money.
Three hours later they were staring at six million green Estados Unidos dollars piled on the floor in her uncle Raul’s auto repair shop. The rear body panels of the Suburban were off, exposing the ingenious system welded into the car frame to accommodate brick-sized packages. Even the four-wheel drive mechanism had been cannibalized to create more hidden hauling capacity.
“Money in, cocaine out,” Emilia said. “The Hudsons are mules.”
Rucker fingered one of the dollar bills, his forehead furrowed with thought. The hotel manager had worked side-by-side with Tío Raul as if he repaired cars in a greasy garage every day. His beautifully starched shirt had been cast aside, revealing a white singlet undershirt and muscular arms. Both the white undershirt and khaki pants were now as dirty and oil-spotted as Tío Raul’s coveralls.
“These are brand new bills,” he said.
“So?” Emilia got him a glass of water from the big jug of Electropura purified water. Tío Raul had gone to the one-bedroom apartment over the shop to tell Tía Lourdes to make them all some breakfast.
“A couple of years ago they changed the design of American money.” Rucker spread several bills on the tool bench. “Made the image bigger. Added a tint. New watermarks.” He took a swallow of water. “But these are the old design.”
Emilia ran her finger over the crisp paper. “You think it’s counterfeit?”
But I have a confession to make: I wrote the story before I ever held both an old and new $100 bill in my very own hands. This week, however, I was finally able to compare them side-by-side. I actually scanned two bills in order to create a featured image for this post, only to get a SERIOUS warning from Photoshop about altering scanned images of currency. Yikes. Hence the “Specimen” images from newmoney.gov, the website set up to tell the public about the changes to US currency.
The new bill, which entered circulation October 2013, “incorporates new security features to deter counterfeiters and help businesses and consumers tell whether a note is genuine,” according to the newmoney.gov website. According to a newmoney.gov press release, “The redesigned $100 note includes two new security features: a blue 3-D security ribbon with images of bells and 100s, and a color-changing bell in an inkwell” to help Washington “stay ahead of counterfeiting threats.”
The US Secret Service has a great page on detecting counterfeit money, which you can read here. You can also read more about the changes in the US $100 bill in this 2010 USAToday article.
It worked in the story
But not the way you’d expect.
Of course not, because the story is set in Emilia Cruz’s Acapulco. It’s the Acapulco that tourists know; the sweep of the most beautiful bay in the world, the majesty of the clear blue Pacific, candlelit nights on the beach, and luxury hi-rises. But it is also the Acapulco that is a prize to be fought over by drug cartels–the city that is home to hookers and thieves, the streets where life is cheap and poverty is as pervasive as the wind off the ocean. Both of these versions of Acapulco claw at each other and force Emilia to survive between them. No investigation will be easy, no crime will be simple.
But there is one thing Emilia can always count on when she is investigating: money is involved.
In other news
Last week I reported that the Writing for Water team has now provided 10 people with clean water for life so far in 2014 with donations to Water.org based on book sales. Our goal is 25 for the year.
All this is made possible by readers like you. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.
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All the best, Carmen