In the middle of a pursuit, it’s easy not to think about what I’m chasing. Remembering it, reminding
myself how it all works and why, connecting all the dots that add up to a picture of a society that needs
someone to do what I do—that’s the hard part. That comes later. Right now, I am focused. I need to be
as inescapable as the harsh realities that put me here. I’ve followed the busboy since he left the
restaurant, first from a distance on my quickbike, then another three blocks on foot, into this crumbling,
stripped-bare tenement in the Dust Pit. He’s glanced back at me twice. He sees me, sees my blue-and-
black Collections Agent uniform. I’m closing in on him as he enters the stairwell, and the tension is
palpable in his stiff, quick pace, in the sweat stains on his white shirt, in how tightly he’s gripping the to-
go bag he’s carrying. So far he’s been smart enough not to break into a run. I should have stopped him
sooner, but I wanted to see where he was going. He’s gone far enough.
Peeking into the stairwell, I don’t see an ambush, just the busboy’s feet hitting the stairs fast and light. I
bolt after him.
By the sixth floor I’m closing in. At the seventh, he throws open the door for the hallway. And then I’m on
I lean a shoulder in and hammer him into the wall. He deflates and falls in a crumple, but he’s still
clutching the to-go bag, trying to keep it and its precious contents away from me as he struggles to
squirm free. I hit him with a deliberate but hard right elbow to the nose. There’s a crack, and his nostrils
are smeared with blood.
The fight goes out of him. I whip a zip-cuff out of a pouch on my belt, slip one end over his wrist and the
other over the door handle, and pull them tight.
Suddenly he’s not a fleeing criminal any longer, just another poor, malnourished kid who took a bad risk.
Rising to my feet, I snatch the to-go bag away, open it up, and look inside. Just what I expected. The
restaurant’s manager was right. The busboy was stealing.
Inside the bag are little gray bones. Probably from chickens, or maybe ducks.