The hunters find their prey one clue at a time, fishing addresses from an ocean of data, plotting social networks like the spokes of a wheel, gauging the speed of an electrical meter, reading cigarette burns on the venetian blinds. Betrayal is their friend. In every case, there is something they call the Judas Factor.
Neal McWhorter and Raymond Matthews are bail recovery agents, which is to say they hunt people for money.
“Think that’s her?” says McWhorter, white, thickset, thirty-four, diamond wedding band catching the sun. He eyes a woman with platinum braids outside a cosmetics shop in South Atlanta.
“Nah,” says Matthews, black, forty-eight, church deacon, flecks of gray in his beard, wearing a T-shirt that shows a father and son going fishing. “I don’t think that’s her. Nose looks a little pointy.”
McWhorter yanks the wheel and chugs north on Metropolitan Parkway in his Crown Victoria. This is a popular conveyance for authority figures in the neighborhood, including police officers and drug dealers alike. They all play a part in the justice system. When someone is arrested and gets out on bail and fails to appear for court, the bail agents are the ones most likely to bring them in. Unlike police officers, they have money riding on the hunt. If they catch the fugitive, they get paid 10 percent of the value of the bond, or $200, whichever is greater. If the fugitive gets away, the bail agent goes home with nothing.