'I'm telling you guys,' Matt said, looking up from the casino's brochure. 'This place is fucking crazy. You want to play blackjack with a topless dealer? You got it. You want room service to bring you up a little coke before you hit the tables? No problem.'
'That's nothing,' Quinn said, looking out the window at the sparkling ocean below. ' Tara told me it's perfectly legal to deal in body organs.'
Matt looked confused.
'You know,' Quinn said, 'for kidney transplants and stuff like that.'
'No shit,' Matt said softly, shaking his head in wonder. 'You mean you walk into the store and pick out a kidney?'
'Maybe you can get a bigger dick,' Jim said without looking up from his newspaper. Matt ignored the comment, and looked inquisitively at Quinn.
'Well I don't know'no, it must be through the hospital,' Quinn answered. 'I don't think kidneys have a long shelf life.'
'Longer than his dick,' Jim mumbled.
'Ha ha, let's all laugh it up,' Matt said to no one in particular. 'I'm white, and I speak with proper diction, so that means I must have a small wee-wee.'
'That's a good name you picked for it,' Jim said, turning the page.
'Anyway,' Matt said, putting the brochure back in the seat jacket, 'this place looks amazing. Too bad it'll be gone in a year.'
* * *
The men buckled their seat belts as the plane began its descent. They looked with awe at the scene below. The lights of the financial sector were concentrated on the lower half of the tiny island. Matt was especially pleased to see the manmade airport off the eastern coast. The night sky was clear, and the huge, floating runways provided a comforting beacon. He had never flown internationally before, and Matt had grown a bit uneasy seeing nothing but ocean out his window.
* * *
'Well that wasn't so bad,' Matt said as the plane taxied to the terminal. 'Who's ready for some serious debauchery?'
'We're here to see Tara 's baby,' Quinn reminded him.
'Okay, you're right,' Matt said with sarcasm. 'First we bounce the kid on our lap, then we go find the hookers.'
'Sounds good to me,' Jim said, taking his suitcase down from the overhead compartment.
A few moments later, the men walked into the airport terminal carrying their luggage. As Tara had warned, they immediately encountered a formidable security checkpoint. Passengers from other planes were already in line at the numerous metal detectors.
'What de fuck is dis?' Jim said softly, looking at the dozens of uniformed security officers.
They were all women.
* * *
'But I still don't understand why they don't just hire men,' Quinn said, reaching for more potato salad. 'Wouldn't that be easier?'
'Yes, it would be cheaper,' Mason answered, 'but then no one would buy the product. What you have to remember, Mr. Quinn, is that the people of Minerva are a very suspicious bunch. If a certain security agency gained market share, serving more and more clients, people would get anxious. The financial district alone requires hundreds of full-time, professional security employees. Now if they were all armed men, nobody would trust one company with that much power.'
Mason paused to take a bite of his burger.
'And that's why Reliant's move was so brilliant,' Mason continued after swallowing. 'They were the first to have unarmed personnel. Once that caught on, they upped the ante by phasing in a completely female roster.
'You see,' Mason said with a grin, 'the average Minervan is fearful of concentrated power, and this attitude hindered the security industry early on. But no one can object to the thousands of Reliant employees that now cover the island. Who wants to admit he's afraid of unarmed women?'
'Wait a minute,' Quinn said. He had the feeling this Mason was spinning a yarn at his expense. 'Let's say, just for example,' Quinn flashed a look at O'Toole, 'that Jim and I rob a jewelry store. What happens to us?'
'Probably what would happen is that the silent alarm would be triggered, and Reliant personnel would start arriving within two minutes.' Mason took another bite of his burger.
'And they don't have any guns?' Jim asked.
'No, they don't have any guns,' Mason responded.
'So . . .' Quinn began, still waiting for Mason to admit his ruse, '. . . what happens when Jim and I pull out our Uzis and start wasting rent-a-cops?'
'The initial response team would quickly run away,' Mason said, without the faintest hint of irony. 'They would notify their headquarters, and armored units would be dispatched. The subways and piers would be notified and given your descriptions. And obviously,' Mason said with a smile, 'the sizable bond the O'Tooles put up for your gentlemen's trip would be forfeit.'
'So don't hold up any jewelry shops!' Tara said. Her bond had ensured that, unlike most visitors to the island, Quinn and the others could move about freely without applying for an insurance policy at the airport.
'But still,' Quinn persisted. 'Why can't I just live off robbing people? You say I couldn't get hired, okay. But I don't need a job if I take whatever I need at gunpoint.'
'Well, just because the professional security personnel are unarmed doesn't mean every store owner is,' Mason clarified. 'But even so: What do you do with your impressive automatic weapon when the power and water are turned off in your apartment? The utility companies have doors with locks, and I don't think they'll let you in to discuss the matter.'
Quinn remained silent, but he was obviously unsatisfied.
'Look, Mr. Quinn,' Mason said, becoming frustrated. 'Are you and your friend going to remain together at all times? What happens when you need to use the bathroom? What happens when you sleep? If you really tried what you're suggesting, Reliant would have dozens of agents'in full body armor'following you around, warning everyone in your path. I'm sure you didn't notice it, but one of the clauses in the contract you signed at the airport gave your permission to be taken into custody in these situations. It very rarely happens, but occasionally Reliant teams corner suspects and bring them in with nets.'
Mason paused and smiled. There had actually been a brief upswing in petty crimes when lonely shoplifters realized this would lead to tackling by groups of women. Reliant had quickly changed its procedures to deter this type of behavior.
'And that works?' Matt asked.
'Minerva has the lowest crime rate in the world, at least for cities with over one thousand people,' Mason said with pride. 'Criminals are rational; they know it's relatively easy to commit a crime on this island, but almost impossible to get away with it.'
''Reliant officers always get their man,'' Tara said, repeating the obnoxious slogan, which was usually plastered on advertisements featuring particularly photogenic women in Reliant uniforms, often holding handcuffs.
Tara 's head suddenly snapped up.
'Oh, I think Danny's awake!' she said eagerly and left the table to run inside.
* * *
'Ohh, how's my little guy?' O'Toole asked, bouncing Danny on his knee. 'Can you say hello to the nice Americans?'
Tara looked at Peter holding Danny and smiled. When Peter had first suggested moving to Minerva, in order that their son would be born on the island, she had been very skeptical. Beyond the difficulty of arranging for proper prenatal care, the thought of leaving New York to live on an island in the middle of nowhere seemed terribly boring.
But her perspective had changed the day Danny was born. Suddenly Tara had not felt the absolute need to see the latest musicals or attend the most exclusive cocktail parties.
'And here he is, Mom,' the nurse said, handing tiny Daniel O'Toole to Tara . 'A healthy baby boy.'
Tara hugged her son and then held him up to look in his face.
Mason tried to calm Danny when he began to cry. Tara walked over and took him back.
'Aww, it sounds like someone needs to be fed,' she said, leaving the patio and heading back inside.
'How do I get on that list?' Matt asked. He glanced at O'Toole, who did not seem to mind Matt hitting on his wife.