By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
Art by Gustavo Vargas
You know the bounty hunter. He’s the tough, macho dude armed with enough firepower to subdue a regiment as he busts down doors and snares degenerates in service of the mighty hand of justice. He’s the last hard-ass cowboy, a Wild West throwback, a living, breathing, noncelluloid Clint Eastwood, but maybe a little reckless, a little crazy. Maybe even a little bloodthirsty.
Well, not our man Joshua, a short, intense-looking fellow with a slightly receding hairline, glasses, and neatly cuffed biker’s jeans and leather. Though Joshua wouldn’t pass muster with Central Casting, he’s nobody’s fool, which is why he’s more invested in the stock market than in shootouts.
On this recent evening, Joshua and his three-man crew are staking out one of those little end of the cul-de-sac shit shacks on the outskirts of San Bernardino. His quarry — Joanne — skipped her court date only two weeks earlier, so her trail isn’t that cold. Ordinarily, that’s too soon to call in Josh; a private investigator or the police would be cheaper. But with 10 prior arrests ranging from drugs to shoplifting to DUI, Joanne has a history of total instability, so there’s no point fooling around. Her stepfather had put up his house as collateral for bail, about 20 grand’s worth. Rather than lose it, he was happy to pay Joshua’s fee.
Two days of intense investigatory work — and the process of elimination — have led Josh to this flat, owned by Joanne’s mother. It makes sense that Joanne, an indigent druggie, would prefer the refuge of home sweet home. Joanne can’t hang out with her lover/old man; he is in Chino detention. So that brings her here, where Joanne’s own neglected young daughter is in residence with her grandmother.
Josh regards fugitives’ families as the "Achilles’ heel" of his prey; either the fugitive can’t stay away, for reasons of sentiment or desperation, or doesn’t have the wit to. But busting in with a child present worries Josh, so he and his boys opt for a different risk. They wait until nightfall, knowing that Joanne will trudge faithfully to a pipe-friendly locale. In anticipation, Josh slips a small tracking device under Joanne’s car. The device, a mere toy by Lo-Jack standards, transmits only a quarter-mile, so the bounty hunter has to stick close by.
He considers grabbing her from her car, but Josh is not sure who’s with her and how well they might be armed, so he waits instead for his ace in the hole to arrive: backup in the form of officers provided by the local police. He doesn’t always have this luxury, but he’s not going to squander this sort of assistance by playing hero.
Joanne’s apparent destination is barely a half-mile away, a drug house that Josh had been tipped off to by a confidential informer just out of Twin Towers. Damn drug houses, thinks Joshua to himself: 6-foot fence, pit bulls prowling the perimeter, the paranoia of the residents. This could be a mess and a half.
If you catch Josh in his office, he’s the first to admit the gray area between the law and what he does. After all, he isn’t a cop or a fed, and picking people up or moving them against their will is basically kidnapping. And certainly, there are no codified rules for what he does; the law is mostly silent. He operates on the basis of an 1873 Supreme Court ruling, Taintor vs. Taylor, which states, "When bail is given is regarded as delivered to the custody of his sureties. They may seize him and deliver him up and if that cannot be done at once, they may imprison him until it can be done." In other, less-cumbersome words, a bail jumper is basically property. Of course, the fugitive also is human, which raises legal and ethical issues, and the fugitive can be dangerous, which raises some practical concerns.
Getting into Joanne’s amphetamine palace could take some doing, but by now four real San Bernardino Police officers have arrived — even though they’re mainly bystanders. Coolly, Josh hops the fence, then moves slowly past the tied-up canines before knocking hard on the door. Nothing. Peering into the window, he sees the place is empty. Part of him is almost relieved, but then, he’s still got a living to make. Joshua knows that Joanne’s car is parked nearby, so she can’t be far away. His senses settle on a house down the street, where he hears loud music and sees lots of parked cars. That’s got to be it.
He scurries that way, then knocks on the door with his right hand, while signaling his crew with his left to get over in a hurry.
Joshua is alone at the front door, and his gut tightens instinctively. As the drug scene has gotten intense and prison sentences longer, so has the possibility of gunplay. Josh has his own piece, and he’s ready for the throwdown as the door opens — and reveals a scraggly-haired, burned-out-looking dude of about 35, who stares at the diminutive bounty hunter with Formica-coated eyeballs that haven’t seen the land of Nod in 48 hours.