The terrorist and the policeman both come from the same basket. Revolution, legality–counter-moves in the same game; forms of idleness at bottom identical. - Joseph Conrad
“You’ve done quite well the past few years, Simon,” said Andrew, looking around the apartment at the expensive furnishings. “Honestly, I’ve always agreed with Dad; I never thought you’d amount to much.”
“Thanks for the vote of confidence.”
“I’m only trying to say that I was wrong. Not everyone’s good at study, very few have what it takes to succeed at politics, and none of our family has a head for business. But you’ve really managed to capitalize on these new laws.”
Though he lacked Andrew’s intellectual brilliance, Simon was by no means stupid when it came to people; he knew his older brother was sneering at him. “We can’t all be college professors.”
“No, that’s true. And though you started much later, it looks like you’ve passed me in the income department. But aren’t you afraid of getting caught?”
“What do you mean, ‘caught’?”
“Well, bounty hunting is technically illegal; a felony, in fact. And that means you’re just as vulnerable under the Citizen’s Law Enforcement Act as anybody.”
“Not really; they have to tolerate it or the whole system falls apart. You know as well as I do why they passed CLEA: crime rates were skyrocketing while revenues were tanking, and all the available police manpower is tied up suppressing riots and fighting the big crime gangs. Polls show it’s a very popular program; the bounties cost far less than police salaries and benefits, and they’re more than covered by the seized assets of captured criminals.”
“Some people call those riots ‘protests’, and point out that the crime rates wouldn’t be soaring if the government didn’t keep inventing new crimes. Some even say that the program is nothing more than a way to rob the citizenry under color of law.”
“Whatever. You and I both know that’s not going to change anytime soon, and I’m going to get mine while I can. As you pointed out, I haven’t exactly succeeded at any other kind of work.”
“No, you haven’t.” Simon thought for a moment he was going to say something else, but apparently he thought better of it and kept his mouth shut for a change. The conversation turned to the wars in Nigeria and Venezuela, the upcoming Super Bowl and their mother’s health, and after he left Simon got himself a snack and looked over the evening’s plans on his phone. He then showered, shaved and dressed and headed out for his appointment.
He was really looking forward to this one; it had involved considerable research, and as Andrew would happily point out that wasn’t his strong suit. But it looked like the tip would prove worth the money he had paid for it; there was a high bounty on sex traffickers, and his cut of her assets would be worth much more than that. Best of all, he would be able to get the kind of sex he liked best before bringing her in, with no chance of getting in trouble for it.
As arranged, he met “Regina” at an exclusive restaurant and he immediately paid her by bumping phones. The fee was high and the dinner would be as well, but one had to be willing to spend money up front to succeed in this business. For instance, he could never have passed her screening without the pricey undercover alias service to which he paid out four figures a month, nor could he have been reasonably sure she was the woman he was after without expensive software to crack the distortion all escorts now used to protect against facial recognition programs. And the miniature DNA analyzer was vital for ensuring he didn’t open himself up to a ruinous lawsuit by bringing in the wrong person.
But none of this would be worth a damn without the natural skills his pompous ass of a brother could never recognize as such: the hunter’s instinct that helped him track his quarry, and the gambler’s poker face that now allowed him to chat charmingly with a beautiful woman without giving as much as a hint of a sign that he was planning to rape her, abduct her and turn her over to the police for years of prison followed by a lifetime of Registration.
Everything so far had gone according to plan, and when she went to the ladies’ room after dinner he took the opportunity to activate the app which interfaced with the DNA analyzer; it was a positive match. Her surprisingly-flattering mug shot came up on the screen, along with her real name and criminal record: Dorothy Jenkins, born September 29, 1988; convictions for pandering, money laundering and conspiracy. That gave him his threshold; she was fair game.
They returned to her incall, where he was pleased to see that she trusted her screening methods; there was neither bodyguard nor maid, which would make his job even easier. They relaxed for a while, had drinks on the sofa, continued the conversation, and then when the time seemed right headed for the bedroom. She undressed him, caressed him, and massaged his back with a fragrant oil; she then slid off the bed, removed her earrings and did something on her nightstand…and suddenly Simon felt searing pain tear through his entire being. He tried to scream, but couldn’t; every muscle in his body seemed frozen in place. The pain came again, and once more, and then through blurry, watering eyes he saw her bending over him, reading from the screen of her phone. And he heard her voice as though it were at the far end of a tube:
“Simon Bailey, born April 18th, 1985; convictions for assault on a police officer and illegal gambling; suspected of 67 counts of human trafficking for the purpose of exploitation of the Citizen’s Law Enforcement Act. Bounty hunting’s a felony, smart guy, and that makes you fair game.”