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Finders Keepers: The Story of a Man Who Found $1 Million by Mark Bowden

 

Rating: (Mildly Recommended)

 

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Stupid Addict

Mark Bowden’s account of a week in the life of Joey Coyle, who found $1 million that fell off the back of an armored car, reads like a series of long newspaper articles. That makes sense, since that’s what Bowden does as his day job. Finders Keepers is a depressing story about a down and out drug addict who tries to get away with keeping the $1 million he found on the street by invoking the schoolyard dictum, “finders keepers, losers weepers.” The story is somewhat addictive, but by the time a reader reaches the end, we realize there’s little in the story of Joey Coyle that we really wanted to know. It’s a sad story about somebody who couldn’t think straight. Here’s an excerpt, all of Day Four, Chapter One (pp. 89-91):

Sleep just toyed with Joey Coyle through Saturday night at the Four Winds Motel. He had been going full tilt since Thursday afternoon, through night and day, injecting speed every hour or so in an effort to calm himself. He would like down on the bed in the motel room and close his eyes and feel his tired muscles twitch. He would awaken from what seemed like sleep and look at his watch and only ten minutes had gone by. Then Joey would crush some more white powder on a spoon, mix it with water, heat it with a match, draw it into a syringe, and inject himself yet again. The ritual required little thought or effort because he had done it so often.

Joey had dreams. He would turn his million into multi-millions with big drug deals. It was not so much that he was already greedy for more money. That dream had more to do with pride, with status. Joey’s life of addiction for the past year had been a humiliating ordeal of abject dependency, of scrounging for a few more dollars to pay off the dealer, of begging for credit when his wallet was empty and ducking the creditors when bills came due, of falling further further and further behind … Joey’s million would admit him to the other side of the business. He would be the man with all the money and all the drugs. Users would come to hirn. Joey would use his wealth to send his ailing mother to the best doctors in the world* Instead of being the wayward baby brother, the family bum, he would be the provider, the patriarch, showing up Billy, with his supervisor job on the waterfront. Joey was still stung by the rebuke he had received from Billy's wife. He would use his riches to set up the best forklift repair shop on the Delaware River, He would be the boss.

But Joey's dreams just got tangled up in confusion and fear. In his pocket was about two hundred dollars left over from the check he had received Thursday from the Marine Terminal for the work he had done over Christmas and New Year's. The Purolator money was scattered all over Philadelphia and New Jersey-Joey no longer even knew where most of it was. He could hardly keep track of where it had all gone: $400,000 to Masi and another $400,000 to Sonny Riccobene, How much chance was there that he'd ever see that money again? The more he thought about it, the more convinced he was that the mob would be coming after him for the rest of the find. He had left about $240,000 (Joe wasn't sure exactly how much) with Mike DiCriscio in Clementon, New Jersey, hoping that Mike would sink it in some kind of business deaL About $150,000 was hidden under a broken stereo cabinet in the basement of his girlfriend's sister's house on Rosebeny Street. He had handed out hundred-dollar bills—how many? Joe couldn't keep track,

Could he trust all these people? Could he trust any of them? People were sometimes gunned down on the street in disputes over twenty bucks! Should he expect all these people to help him keep more than a million!

Four days into his windfall, the money weighed on Joey like a great curse« But the dreams were also strong. This was the one real, God-given opportunity of his life. If he could just see it through.

Very early Sunday morning, Joey called the Masi house and got Dee to drive over the Walt Whitman Bridge in darkness to meet him. Dee took Joey out to a drugstore and bought him black hair dye. Then she took him to the house of his cousin, Joe “Bucky” McCall, a longshoreman who lived in Gloucester.

Bucky had always been Joey's closest relative outside his immediate family. They were the same age, the same size, and their family resemblance was so strong they looked more like brothers than cousins. Joe told Bucky that he had found the Purolator money. He borrowed a clean pair of jeans and a fresh flannel shirt, shaved off his wispy blond mustache, and then treated his thin blond hair with the black dye.

Later in the day, Dee drove him back to her house. Joey sat in the kitchen talking to Carl and Dee. He hoped his fears about Masi were wrong. He found himself returning again and again to the older man's row house for coffee and reassurance. Masi said he had none of the money at his house. He had hidden his portion, and he had not heard from Sonny. Joey learned that Sonny had taken his cut to Las Vegas, where large amounts could be transferred and broken down rapidly.

'Don't worry so much," Carl told Joey. "These things take time.

For a stranger than fiction alternative as a total diversion and distraction, pick up Finders Keepers.

Steve Hopkins, February 28, 2003

 

ă 2003 Hopkins and Company, LLC

 

The recommendation rating for this book appeared in the March 2003 issue of Executive Times

URL for this review: http://www.hopkinsandcompany.com/Books/Finders Keepers.htm

 

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