Private Contractors, Bounty Hunters and Mercenary Poets

When I was an embedded poet with the Lakewood Rats, a loose confederation of smugglers, dealers, bookies and petty criminals headquartered in East Dallas, conversations occasionally turned to the subject of bounty hunters. The consensus was that it was much more of a strain on one’s underworld style to be pursued by a bounty hunter than to simply be wanted by the cops. Many of the Rats had at one time or another worked for bail-bondsmen as bounty hunters themselves. They knew what the difference was. The cops have to at least make a show of following the rules. Bounty hunters don’t.

It has become a custom in our culture to farm out undignified or unsavory work to sub-contractors. When a government organization doesn’t want their official fingerprints on something, they hire it done by a private contractor. This makes certain practical sense in our age of specialization. We tend to want to leave things to the experts and it doesn’t do to have expensively trained soldiers peeling potatoes and digging ditches like their GI predecessors did when they should be out terrorizing impoverished Afghans door-to-door in Kandahar. Of course soon all of our military work will be done by mercenaries and drones. The nature of warfare is changing and the level of engagement favors strike forces and special tactical units and streamlined corporate squads of specialists because they are less expensive and more effective when operated by good old American free-enterprise businessmen who don’t have to follow so many picky rules and aren’t bound by the Geneva Conventions. Standing regular citizen armies are so 20th Century anyway.

The loudest person I have ever met in my life was an ex-bounty hunter named LeVon. When I say loud I’m not talking about his voice although it was booming. I’m talking about psychic noise. When I met LeVon he was retired from the bounty hunter business and had taken up the lifestyle of a Rastafarian in Jamaica. He had all the money he needed and was now on a spiritual quest. We were sitting in a small grass-roofed bar in Negril when LeVon told me of his former career. He worked for insurance companies mostly. He was the guy that they sent to Argentina to retrieve the odd embezzler or thief who might have not spent all of the loot for which the insurance company was on the hook. His only jurisdiction was what was within range of his Glock. He had no official portfolio or authority but for his sheer presence and size. He was large as well as loud. His usual technique involved locating his quarry and watching them until the opportune moment arrived when he could sit down in a restaurant across the table from the stock-broker or accountant and quietly inform them that they were going back to the States. He would give them a rap on the knee with his Glock under the table to punctuate this declarative sentence. Then, when he had their undivided attention, LeVon would give them the opportunity to out-bid the insurance company and stay in Rio. He said it was a lucrative business for all involved but he also had a couple of bullet holes in his legs as mementos of occasions where his clients had something of their own under the table.

LeVon was so loud that when he walked into a room, everything got quiet. His noise was like white noise. He said it came from the power he derived from his I-tal lifestyle. It was the hum of the Universe. One evening LeVon visited me in my little guest room at Doris’s house. Doris was the Magistrate of Negril, sort of like a Justice of the Peace, but she cheerfully allowed us to smoke big spliffs on her front porch. When LeVon walked in I was smoking and playing my guitar. He sat down and we smoked and then the strangest thing happened. I’ve seen many quasi-supernatural parlor tricks and yogis showing off in various ways but this is the only completely unexplainable para-normal experience that I’ve ever had. LeVon took a deep breath and it felt like all the air went out of the room. He said to me with a gesture to my guitar, “play.” I made a chord on the neck and when I strummed it nothing came out. Dead silence. I struck the chord again. Nothing. LeVon said, “see what I mean?’ and then we resumed talking as if nothing had happened and no more was said about the trick. It has always mystified me.

Aside from his ability to play with your senses LeVon was a charming and overwhelmingly comforting person. It was remarkable to me how a person who was capable of such extreme violence and intimidation should be so completely gentle and assuring in his presence. Even though you knew he could take you from behind without you ever hearing a sound, you just felt safe and comfortable when he was around. LeVon was a person of extraordinary power who lived completely by his own rules. That’s why he was the perfect mercenary or bounty hunter.

Sometimes the job requires a specialist and you don’t need an army to do brain surgery, you just need the right doctor. Maybe it makes sense to sub-contract everything. It certainly would have been a wiser use of resources to hire a corps of assassins to deal with bin Laden and his handful of fanatic adherents rather than spend trillions trying to invade two countries hoping to defeat something as nebulous as an ideology; it was a classic case of burning down the house because mama saw a roach in the pantry. We should have simply hired an exterminator, a specialist, a bounty hunter. I’m sure that bin Laden feels much the same as the Lakewood Rats. He would much rather have the whole US army trying to flog him out of the Himalayas than to have one ninja bounty hunter watching him through a night-vision scope.

Lightning Rod is thinking of hiring a private contractor to write all of his future poetry. They could do all I aspire to as a poet, color outside the legal lines, break all the rules, be ruthless and take no prisoners. Somebody probably has a magic algorithm to churn out poetry that would be better and more perfectly metric and aligned than anything I could do myself with a mere lifetime of tragedies and exaltations to draw from. The critics couldn’t blame me then, yet all the credit would be mine. But the only mercenary that I would want for the job would be LeVon. I can only imagine the poetry he could write when he made everything go silent.

Of course I don`t care who you are
What you`ve done, what you`ve said
I don`t give a damn who you are
I take pride in my work
I`ve done this for ages

–Susperia, The Bounty Hunter

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