When I was a little girl I used to dress Barbie up without underpants. On the outside,
she'd look like the perfect lady. Tasteful plastic heels, tailored suit. But underneath,
she was naked. I'm a bail enforcement agent now --also known as a fugitive apprehension
agent, also known as a bounty hunter. I bring 'em back dead or alive. At least I try. And
being a bail enforcement agent is sort of like being bare-bottom Barbie. It's about having
a secret. And it's about wearing a lot of bravado on the outside when you're really
operating without underpants. Okay, maybe it's not like that for all enforcement agents,
but I frequently feel like my privates are alfresco. Figuratively speaking, of course.
At the moment I wasn't feeling nearly so vulnerable. What I was feeling at the moment was desperate. My rent was due, and Trenton had run out of scofflaws. I had my hands palms down on Connie Rosolli's desk, my feet planted wide, and hard as I tried, I couldn't keep my voice from sounding like it was coming out of Minnie Mouse. "What do you mean there are no FTAs? There are always FTAs."
"Sorry," Connie said. "We've got lots of bonds posted, but nobody's jumping. Must have something to do with the moon."
FTA is short for failure to appear for a court date. Going FTA is a definite no-no in the criminal justice system, but that doesn't usually stop people from doing it.
Connie slid a manila folder over to me. "This is the only FTA I've got, and it's not worth much."
Connie is the office manager for Vincent Plum Bail Bonds. She's a couple years older than me, which puts her in her early thirties. She wears her hair teased high. She takes grief from no one. And if breasts were money Connie'd be Bill Gates.
"Vinnie's overjoyed," Connie said. "He's making money by the fistful. No bounty hunters to pay. No forfeited bonds. Last time I saw Vinnie in a mood like this was when Madame Zaretsky was arrested for pandering and sodomy and put her trained dog up as collateral for her bond."
I cringed at the mental image this produced because not only is Vincent Plum my employer, he's also my cousin. I blackmailed him into taking me on as an apprehension agent at a low moment in my life and have come to sort of like the job ...most of the time. That doesn't mean I have any illusions about Vinnie. For the most part, Vinnie is an okay bondsman. But privately, Vinnie is a boil on the backside of my family tree.
As a bail bondsman Vinnie gives the court a cash bond as a securement that the accused will return for trial. If the accused takes a hike, Vinnie forfeits his money. Since this isn't an appealing prospect to Vinnie, he sends me out to find the accused and drag him back into the system. My fee is ten percent of the bond, and I only collect it if I'm successful.
I flipped the folder open and read the bond agreement. "Randy Briggs. Arrested for carrying concealed. Failed to appear at his court hearing." The bond amount was seven hundred dollars. That meant I'd get seventy. Not a lot of money for risking my life by going after someone who was known to carry.
"I don't know," I said to Connie, "this guy carries a knife."
Connie looked at her copy of Briggs' arrest sheet. "It says here it was a small knife, and it wasn't sharp."
"That isn't small!"
"Nobody else will take this," Connie said. "Ranger doesn't take anything under ten grand." Ranger is my mentor and a world-class tracker. Ranger also never seems to be in dire need of rent money. Ranger has other sources of income.
Reprinted from HIGH FIVE by Janet Evanovich, a St Martin's Press publication, by permission of St Martin's Press. © 1999 by Janet Evanovich.
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