The entire bail process was uniquely American. There were only two countries in the world that allowed a private businessman to pay to secure a prisoner's releaseAmerica and the Philippines. Criticism of the idea lay in the fact that defendants paid a nonrefundable sum to get out of jail, presenting an unfair burden on the innocent. Adam wasn't interested, and never had been, in the moral merits of his profession. What he was interested in was the promise made with every bond he posted: he'd see that his wards faced their day in court. It was a small role, maybe, and hardly glamorous, but it counted. He knew just how much it counted.
Any curiosity he had over April Harper faded as the week progressed. On Thursday, which was a busy day on the Chambers County criminal court dockets, two of his own failed to show up for their hearings. One was facing his third round of charges for drunk driving. The second had a more serious charge, prison time likely, for selling OxyContin and Vicodin. Many people couldn't fathom the idea of simply failing to appear for a court date in a criminal case. They expected that the police would come after you then, expected SWAT teams kicking in doors and detectives sitting in surveillance vans, everyone vigorous and vigilant until the missing offender was caught. Much of the time, though, that would never happen. There were too many warrants, too many inmates, too many active cases. Police were overworked, prisons were overpopulated, and if you didn't show up for your court date, law enforcement wasn't necessarily going to come looking for you unless you were a high-profile offender. Enter Adam Austin, owner and operator of AA Bail Bonds.
He'd come for you.
The class of people Adam posted bond for didn't work nine-to-fives and didn't own alarm clocks. They didn't go to sleep; they passed out. They didn't fear missing a court date, because they were in no hurry to listen to their public defender explain why a plea bargain was the best option. Most of them simply paid their surety and walked out the door, and then they either showed up for court or they didn't. When they didn't, Adam got the call, and went hunting. Like with most forms of hunting, you had your best luck if you understood your prey and knew their territory. Adam was an excellent hunter. He'd float between bars and trailer parks and he'd intimidate when he could and open his wallet for bribes when he could not and he would work every angle until he got a lead that counted. It was a game of diligence, and Adam had diligence to spare. That had been put in him long ago, and it hadn't faded over time.
On Friday after April Harper's visit, Adam learned that he had one skip missing, a painkiller-dealing gent named Jerry Norris. It was the third time Adam had held a bond for Jerry and the third time he'd gone missing. Adam wasn't overly worried about tracking him down, but he did know it would make for a late night, because he wouldn't be able to start until after the football game. The last place he wanted to be was at Chambers High School, but tonight was a playoff game, the first, and he would not miss a playoff game for his brother. He had never missed one before and he would not start now. Marie wouldn't let him. Marie might not have approved of what Adam was, but he attended to the things he knew she'd have demanded, and watching her little brother's team take a run at the state championship was one of them. Marie wouldn't allow Adam to miss the playoffs, no matter the circumstances. He'd tried it once, but he'd felt her ghost heavy around him, and the most frightening of ghosts is a disappointed one.
When the lights came on, he'd be in the stands.
One of Kent's preferences for a football game was that the kickoff be handled routinely. Big plays to open the game excited the fans, but not him, not even when they went his way. He'd just as soon see the ballgame get its start with a first and ten from the twenty every time out. High school kids were emotional atom bombs, and it was good to settle them down early.
Excerpted from The Prophet by Michael Koryta. Copyright © 2012 by Michael Koryta. Excerpted by permission of Little Brown & Company. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
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