Excerpt of Catch Me If You Can by Frank W. Abagnale
(Page 2 of 9)
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His offer was a courtesy gesture sometimes accorded a deadheading pilot from a
competing airline. I dropped my cap on the cabin floor and slid into the command
seat, very much aware that I had been handed custody of 140 lives, my own
included. Austin, who had taken the controls when Giles vacated his seat,
surrendered them to me. "You got it, Captain," he said, grinning.
I promptly put the giant jet on automatic pilot and hoped to hell the gadget
worked, because I couldn't fly a kite.
I wasn't a Pan Am pilot or any other kind of pilot. I was an impostor, one of
the most wanted criminals on four continents, and at the moment I was doing my
thing, putting a super hype on some nice people.
I WAS A MILLIONAIRE twice over and half again before I was twenty-one. I stole
every nickel of it and blew the bulk of the bundle on fine threads, gourmet
foods, luxurious lodgings, fantastic foxes, fine wheels and other sensual
goodies. I partied in every capital in Europe, basked on all the famous beaches
and good-timed it in South America, the South Seas, the Orient and the more
palatable portions of Africa.
It wasn't altogether a relaxing life. I didn't exactly keep my finger on the
panic button, but I put a lot of mileage on my running shoes. I made a lot of
exits through side doors, down fire escapes or over rooftops. I abandoned more
wardrobes in the course of five years than most men acquire in a lifetime. I was
slipperier than a buttered escargot.
Oddly enough, I never felt like a criminal. I was one, of course, and I was
aware of the fact. I've been described by authorities and news reporters as one
of this century's cleverest bum-check passers, flimflam artists and crooks, a
con man of Academy Award caliber. I was a swindler and poseur of astonishing
ability. I sometimes astonished myself with some of my impersonations and
shenanigans, but I never at any time deluded myself. I was always aware that I
was Frank Abagnale, Jr., that I was a check swindler and a faker, and if and
when I were caught I wasn't going to win any Oscars. I was going to jail.
I was right, too. I did time in a French poky, served a stint in a Swedish
slammer and cleansed myself of all my American sins in the Petersburg, Virginia,
federal jug. While in the last prison, I voluntarily subjected myself to a
psychological evaluation by a University of Virginia criminologist-psychiatrist.
He spent two years giving me various written and oral tests, using truth-serum
injections and polygraph examinations on various occasions.
The shrink concluded that I had a very low criminal threshold. In other words, I
had no business being a crook in the first place.
One of the New York cops who'd worked hardest to catch me read the report and
snorted. "This head doctor's gotta be kiddin' us," he scoffed.
"This phony rips off several hundred banks, hustles half the hotels in the
world for everything but the sheets, screws every airline in the skies,
including most of their stewardesses, passes enough bad checks to paper the
walls of the Pentagon, runs his own goddamned colleges and universities, makes
half the cops in twenty countries look like dumb-asses while he's stealing over
$2 million, and he has a low criminal threshold? What the hell would he have
done if he'd had a high criminal threshold, looted Fort Knox?"
The detective confronted me with the paper. We had become amiable adversaries.
"You conned this shrink, didn't you, Frank?"
I told him I'd answered every question asked me as truthfully as possible, that
I'd completed every test given me as honestly as I could. I didn't convince him.
"Nah," he said. "You can fool these feds, but you can't fool me.
You conned this couch turkey." He shook his head. "You'd con your own
Excerpted from Catch Me If You Can by Frank Abagnale, Jr. with Stan Redding Copyright© 2000 by Frank Abagnale, Jr. with Stan Redding. Excerpted by permission of Broadway, a
division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.