*This is a fictional transcription and was inspired by recent world events.*
This is the transcription of an interview with one of the young men they call “Hunters”. We asked him how he got into this business and what makes tracking these young women so appealing to him. He has asked to remain anonymous.
I have never been good at much.
But when I was a kid, my momma would always ask me to help her find things. She was a forgetful woman. She would put her keys down by the computer, go make tea, and then panic ‘cause she had no idea where her keys were. She forgot where she left her purse, her favorite white tennis shoes, and even sometimes her second son- my baby brother. I wouldn’t do much but think about who my momma was as a person; her habits, the things she liked to eat, the places she’d rather be. I always knew where her things were and when I didn’t, it never took me long to find ‘em.
So I guess that’s how I got here. I work at the grocery store. Still do, yeah. The one on Sixth, across the street from the shopping center with the bank and the nail salon. It used to have one of them Planned Parenthoods in there too, but that’s gone now, of course. I mean the money is good but I don’t think no one is surviving off just this, you know? But it’s made me the richest man in my family, the richest person I know, you know?
I guess you could say I kind of fell into it. One of my co-workers was around my age, married, and had a baby already. Her husband was in school, I think she once told me. She never wore make-up and always had her hair in a ponytail that sat right on the very top of her head. I remember all that, but you know for the life of me I cannot remember her name. Got her picture in one of my filin’ cabinets here too and still- I think it started with a “B” or somethin’. Yeah, I always keep the records of ‘em just as insurance I guess. I don’t know it seemed like a good idea when I started so I just kept filin’ them away.
But, the main thing you need to know is we weren’t friends. We worked a couple of shifts together and she was nice and all, but we kept it pretty surface level.
Anyways, they made that state law here. If you knew someone getting an abortion, call your local authorities, and collect a reward. Simple. A lot of folks were talking about it when it first came up. This was three years ago now. All over the social media. I’m not on Twitter or nothin’, just Instagram and that’s for work, and I don’t care for politics, but I still heard about it. Some people were mad, but I think most of the folks around here were grateful. You know, make the sluts and whores pay for their intended crimes. Save the kids.
So my little brother calls me up and tells me one of his friends just made one hundred bucks by calling in this girl he slept with and thought was knocked up since she was acting funny and ghosting him a bit. And so I ask, well, was she knocked up, and how did his friend know if she was going to try to kill it? My brother says that the cops didn’t even ask, they just processed her, and a week later his boy got a check in the mail. Now Imma thinkin’ that’s the easiest 100 bucks I’ve ever heard of. But that’s it. I didn’t think I would ever know how to spot a pregnant woman, especially one that isn’t gonna keep the baby, you know? Like how could you ever tell?
Anyways, I was sitting on the patio table outside where the truck come in the morning. Just mindin’ my business, eatin’ my second tuna sandwich, and there goes my young co-worker with a bag of hot Cheetos in hand. I remember she had the bag sandwiched between her middle finger and her thumb. Her thumb and pointer finger were all stained with Cheeto spice dust. I don’t know how anyone eats that shit, man. Burn a hole in your ass downright. She must’ve not seen me cause she was talking on the phone and her eyes were red and wet. She held the phone away from her face and an angry male voice was barely comin’ out the other side. Something about “how this happened”, “they were so careful”, and they can’t do another one so soon”. She was crying for sure. But then the voice asked if she was alone and she whirled around and saw me there. I took a bite of my sandwich so she’d look away. She took the man off speaker phone and practically ran back inside.
I may have never been good at much. But I’m not dumb. I figured I had a good idea of what she was talking about and the man on the phone was her husband. But see I’m not like my brother or those goons he messes around with. I gotta know all the facts before I do nothin’. So for about a month, I hang around, pick up extra shifts, and even ask her to have lunch with me one day. That was a shit idea cause then the meat guys just kept making jokes, sometimes in English sometimes in that Spanish, about how I had a new crush. I even eavesdropped on her and the big woman, who is always a cashier, she done nothin’ else- damn what is her name? Well, anyways I watch. I wait. I listen. I’m just waiting for one word.
It’s different now. You can’t just wait for that one word anymore. The girls have gotten a little smarter. Using code words and slang to hide the sin they plan to commit. They even got underground organizations to help you travel outside this grand old state, where folks are a bit less scared of Hell and God’s retaliation. It’s crazy. But I could go on about that, you and I both know what’s wrong and what’s right, so that will be the end of it.
What was I saying? Oh, yeah, you really gotta pay attention. You gotta watch. Wait. Listen. And I got time.
Well, I finally hear that one magic word late one night while she and the big girl are cashing out the registers for the night. They don’t think I’m there, but if anyone saw I’d just say I forgot my hoodie, and it’s the only one I got and that ain’t a full lie.
I don’t call. I march my ass straight to the local police station. I tell them what I know. A smallish woman with hairy arms takes notes while a balding man listens to what I gotta say. And he is really listenin’. He asks for her address. I don’t know that, but c’mon this was my first time. I was an amateur. I tell him where we work and at that time I did know her name. He smiles, shakes my hand, and is about to dismiss me. But like I said I need to know all the facts. What happens to my young co-worker, whose name must start with a “B”? He scratches the back of his head and then talks like he is readin’ something out of a pamphlet from the DMV. I call the authorities, I get paid, that’s what’s important. The girls get filed into the system, and sent to classes, pay a pretty hefty fine, and then get put on house arrest until the babes are brought to term.
I shrug and leave. One week later I get my check. The same week I don’t see my young co-worker at work anymore. A year later, I hear from the big woman that miss ponytail is waitressing at the Italian place by the elementary school and she had a baby boy. You know thank God for that, I guess. After that, I guess, I wasn’t particularly looking, well maybe I was. But it almost became a hobby to just watch, wait, and listen. Waiting for that magic word to pop up. I’m not complaining about the extra cash either.
Then, folks started coming to me, asking me to find some runaway, someone who went underground to get it “taken care of”, or parents knowing that their kid is thinking about it, but don’t have the heart to report it themselves. Those are the easiest, obviously. Now they’re saying the checks might be for more, which would be great. But I’m not gettin’ my hopes up, can’t trust the government you know? So for now it’s just a side-hustle, I guess you’d call it.
You know, now that I’m thinkin’ about it, I don’t really remember any of their names. But like I said I’ve never been good at much.
© ariannairwin.com June 2022