Hey kids. Been reading again (it's been awhile since I've been doing any real reading) and it kicked off something in my head. Nothing to do with Davey, but relates back to a way older character. It's too late to tell if it's any good, but, shit, it'll be nice to post something.
So, sometimes, you get a tough one. Some guy who knows that there’s paper out on him, who’s maybe in denial about the situation or who’s just trying to buy some time, scrape together the cash to buy off the lawsuit or just jet his ass down to Rio until the whole thing blows over. And these guys, it’s like they’ve been planning for years to be ducking out on paper, dodging servers, laying as low as low can be. So they’ve got condos in those giant beehive arcologies, the places where you need a keycard or an escort to get anywhere near one of the residential levels, where there’s private cops running scans at every elevator, neighbor kids and janitors paid off to keep an eye out for anyone nosing around.
These guys, I’ve seen ‘em hole up for two, three months at a time, peeking out their windows at night, looking for you and your video gear down on the skywalk, on the rooftop café of the building across the avenue, sipping coffee and just waiting around.
But that shit just doesn’t work out for anyone, right? You’ve got a guy holed up and a guy waiting for him to bolt and that’s two guys not doing anything really productive with their lives. And on top of that you’ve got the wheels of justice refusing to grind along at all, what with the potential defendant sitting around on his couch, flipping channels and listening for running footsteps in the hallway.
I personally like to cut right past all that shit when I can, and I’ve learned a couple of tricks that work pretty well. The easiest, and this is what I’m trying tonight, is to figure out where the guy’s eating out of. That’s something you find, pretty much across the board. These fuckers don’t cook for themselves. I dunno what it is, but they just don’t. They order in everything. Three squares and midnight snacks, endless greasy bags and steaming boxes heading up the elevators and down the hallways.
And those arcologies, they’ve always got some kind of food court down on the lobby levels. A high end place with a bar and cloth napkins, a couple of places where you can take your kids on Saturday afternoon and a whole buncha automated stalls selling falafel, burgers, pad thai, whatever. Crap food, but fast takeaway food.
Not that the fast part matters so much. It’s the takeaway that matters, right? ‘Cause these guys, they pay some neighbor kid to play runner for ‘em. Give ‘em a couple of bucks to run downstairs and pick up some provisions. And so, yeah, you stake out the food court for a couple days, a week. You look for the same kid or same couple of kids to hit the stalls in the morning, in the afternoon after school, hitting the machines right before curfew. Kids taking away armloads of full steak dinners, rubbery western omelets, burgers with pickles and onions and diet cokes on the side. ‘Cause kids don’t eat like that. Kids eat French toast sticks and cheeseburgers and candy bars and chocolate shakes. A lot of the guys I’ve clipped would be free right now if they’d just think of things like that.
Yeah, so you just watch and that kid just jumps out at you. Maybe he’s got a funny haircut or wears the same sneakers all the time or has a chipped front tooth. Something that sticks in your head. And you see him working the machines at the Mediterranean place for a plate of lamb kebobs with rice, at the barbeque joint for ribs and coleslaw, punching up orders of pork egg fu yung, meatloaf and green beans, pizzas with black olives and broccoli. And that’s your boy.
This one is pretty young, maybe ten or twelve. Honestly, they all the same to me ‘till they hit twenty or so. He’s blonde with blue eyes, a deep summer tan and that kind of prepubescent energy that flings him from point to point like he’s getting fired out of a slingshot. He orders up a Cobb salad and an iced tea and drums on the order screen with his index fingers while the timer counts down. Two minutes for the machine to boil an egg, fry some bacon, chop some lettuce, dump it into a bowl and bag it. I get up from the table I’ve been nursing a cup of coffee at and walk up behind the kid. I pull out my Recovery badge, hold it open at ten-year-old eye height and clear my throat. The kid whips around, stares at the badge for a second and then looks up at me. The screen counts down to a minute forty-five.
I try out a smile that feels a little rusty. “Hey there.”
The kid just stares up at me. Fair enough.
“What’s your name, man?” The kid holds the stare, looking not so much scared but more like he’s trying to gauge whether or not I’ll try to grab him if he bolts. I shake the badge at him. “I asked you your name, kid. You got a name?”
“Is that a real badge?”
Fucking kids. “Why don’t you read it and tell me whether or not you think it’s real.”
The kid squints at the badge and the countdown timer clicks down to a minute thirty. The guy upstairs has gotta know to the minute how long his order’s gonna take, and if the kid dicks around too long it’s gonna be a red flag.
“It says you’re a Recovery Agent.”
“And that’s what I am.” I squat down and get eye to eye with him. “You know what that means?”
He stares at me with clear, clear blue eyes. “It means you’re a bounty hunter. Like Taybach.”
Fucking kids. TV’s the only reality. “Yeah, like Taybach.” Except Taybach flies around in a Porsche, bangs 18-year-old fashion models and spends most of his time drinking martinis and shooting fleeing murderers. I shot a guy once and they took away my license to carry for a year and a half “You like Taybach, huh?”
He nods. “Me and my brother watch him.”
I push up the smile a little more. “Yeah, I like him too. He’s a good guy. You like the good guys, right?” The timer hits a minute even and goes to double digits.
He nods again. “Sure.”
“Well, I’ll tell you, man, I’m one of the good guys, too. Like Taybach And I’m trying to get my hands on a bad guy, and I think you know him.”
He gets a little scowl going. “I don’t know any bad guys.”
I hold the smile on him. “I think you do, though.” I point at the ordering machine with my chin. “You’re ordering up for a guy who lives on your floor, right? Mr. Taylor?”
The kid’s eyes go wide. “He’s a bad guy?”
I nod. The timer hits forty-five seconds.
The eyes get bigger. “Did he kill someone?”
I force out a chuckle. “No, nothing like that. He took something that didn’t belong to him.”
The kid lets all his breath out in a whoo. “Like a bank robber?”
“Something like that.” Or not. Intellectual property infringement, which I’m not about to try to explain to a ten-year-old.
“Yeah.” I turn the smile into my best avuncular grin. “And I could really use your help to get him.”
He frowns at me. “Like how?”
I pull the Summons out of my pocket, the clear plastic catching the overhead lights. “You know what this is?”
He shakes his head. The timer hits thirty seconds.
“It’s called a Summons, and it’ll make it so Mr. Taylor has to come down to the police station to get arrested.”
He cocks his head at me. “Really? How come?”
I smile. “It’s kind of complicated.” I just let it hang there, but the kid just keeps looking at me. “Well, okay, if he gets this and he doesn’t come down to the station, then the Tac guys get to bust into his apartment and haul him away. And he probably wouldn’t like that very much, right?”
“Probably not.” He cocks his head the other way. “How come you don’t just go up to his apartment and give it to him yourself?”
Because there’s twenty well-paid private cops who’d love to taser me for trying to get to his apartment, kid. “Because if I did that, he’d try to get away and might hurt somebody. Might even hurt your brother, or your mom.” The timer hits fifteen seconds.
“My mom lives in California.”
“Or your dad, then.”
“I don’t know my dad.”
Jesus. “Okay, then your brother. You don’t want your brother to get hurt, right?”
The kid shrugs. “My brother’s got a gun. He won’t get hurt.”
Fuck. The timer hits ten seconds and starts to beep. The kid starts to turn. “Hang on,” I say and dig in my pocket. I come up with a wad of cash, fives and tens and a fifty sticking out of the middle. I pull it out and hold it up. “Help me out and this is yours.”
He snags the bill out of my hand and steps back as the delivery port hisses open. A plastic bag sits on a tray inside, holding a white pasteboard box, a plastic-wrapped spork and a sheaf of paper napkins. I slip the Summons into the sheaf of napkins and hand the bag over to the kid. He takes a couple of steps and then looks at me. “Next time, you should probably just open with the cash.” He smiles and runs off to the residential elevators in the back of the lobby.
I head outside and grab a cigarette in the smoking zone next to the lobby. I keep an eye on my watch. Years and years ago, a server had to put a Summons into a defendant’s hand, skulk around, sneak up on the guy, stuff it into his palm and then bolt before the guy punched him or shot him or whatever. And even then it was the server’s word against the defendant’s word as whether or not the summons was actually served. Ended up with a lot of yelling and screaming, a lot of bullshit clogging up the courts. Technology changes things.
The Summons tucked into those napkins was tagged with Taylor’s DNAprint and dusted with happy little nanomachines who just loved to sample every bit of skin that came their way, run a fast sequence, and check the markers against the print in the tag. So far they’d only tasted the county clerk’s DNA, my DNA and probably the kid’s, who more likely than not had peeled back the napkins to take a look at the Summons while he rode up in the elevator. No matches, and those little machines just keep looking. But as soon as it gets a 90% positive…
My portable beeps at me; new mail coming it. I flip it open and smile. Jonathon Richman Taylor, tagged at 9:57 p.m., radio flare sent out to Municipal Center, Summons served. I flip my smoke into the ashtray and dial up Taylor’s number. It bounces straight to voicemail. Hey it’s Jon, sorry but I’ll be out of contact for a little while. Leave a message and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can. And the beep.
“Hey Jon. My name’s Paul Peter, and I’m the guy that just served you. It’s…” a quick glance at my watch, “…just about 10 o’clock and I’m standing at the north entrance of your building. I’ll give you ten minutes to get down here before I put out a bulletin. And trust me, I’m a lot gentler than the Tac guys are.” I fold the portable shut.
He’s quick, which I appreciate. Seven minutes after I kill the call, he walks out of the building. Dressed in running shorts, tank top and sandals, he’s got about a week’s worth of beard and the pallid complexion of someone who hasn’t felt daylight in a while. I smile and he walks straight up to me. It’s not his first voluntary arrest. I pull out the zipstrips.
“That fucking kid. How much did you give him?” He puts out his hands and I zip his wrists together.
“Fifty. How much were you paying him?” I spin him around and give him a quick pat down. He’s just skin under the shorts and tank top.
“Dollar a run.” He sighs. “Fuck. I knew it wasn’t gonna be enough.”
I pull out a smoke and suck on it ‘till it lights. “Yeah, well, live and learn.” I walk him over to the valet bay and type in my plate number. There’s the grinding of gears and the hum of hydraulics and after a minute my Buick rises up on a stained aluminum launch plate. I unlock it with the portable and swing open the holding cell door.
“Okay, hold up.” Taylor stands there while I punch up his Miranda on the portable. “All right, listen up.” I hold it up next to his ear and the big bass voice rolls out. You, sir or madam, have been placed under voluntary arrest. If you require this notice in a language other than English, please indicate that now. A pause, during which someone who doesn’t speak English is supposed to know to tell me they don’t speak English, and then back into it. The agent to whom you have surrendered is not a police officer, but a private contractor who is licensed to perform certain peacekeeping actions under the Revised Public Protection Act. To better understand your rights, the agent is required to provide a hard copy of the Revised Public Protection Act upon request. Do you need a hard copy of the Revised Public Protection Act? Please respond now.
Taylor sighs. “No, I don’t.”
Thank you, sir or madam. Please wait while we verify your voiceprint and retrieve your file.
The portable plays light orchestral for longer than usual. It’s the end of the month and a lot of people are getting busted tonight, clogging up the Muni servers. Taylor shuffles his feet and flexes his wrists inside the zipstrips. I tap ash from my smoke and realize that I’m fucking starving. I always forget to eat on stakeouts.
The music fades out. Thank you. Your voiceprint indicates that you are Jonathon Richman Taylor. Is this correct? Please respond now.
I’m sorry, that response was unclear. Please answer yes or no now.
“Yeah, I’m Jonathon Taylor.” He clears his throat and shuffles his feet some more.
Thank you. You are currently under warrant for suspicion of Intellectual Property Infringement, a Class B felony. The contractor to whom you have surrendered is required to deliver you to the Municipal Holding Facility within twelve hours of this notice. Records indicate that the agent is Recovery Specialist Paul Peter, license number one-one-ess-kay-five-vee-queue-four-four-six-four. Please make a note of the agent’s license number for future reference.
“Got a pen?” I snort and take a drag off my smoke. We’re starting to gather a crowd. Always happens when you take someone downtown. Out in the ‘burbs they don’t even look twice.
In the event you are not in Municipal custody by…10:13 a.m…you will be considered a fugitive and a Municipal Tactical Team will be detailed to retrieve you. Do you understand that condition? Please respond now.
“Yeah, I got it.” He twists his head over his shoulder and looks me out of the corner of his eye. “So, okay, better not take the scenic route, okay?” I actually laugh at that one and then pitch my smoke into the gutter.
Thank you, Jonathon Richman Taylor. Your processing has been initiated at Municipal Holding and will be completed when you are taken into Municipal custody. Thank you for your cooperation in this matter.
The portable clicks off and I stuff it into my inside pocket. Taylor’s already stepping into the holding cell, leaving me with nothing to do but strap him to the flight table. Guy’s a real pro.
“Hey,” he says, as I’m stepping back to seal the door.
“I never got to eat my dinner. What are the odds of stopping off for a burger on the way?”
I laugh and seal the door. Funny fucker.