I woke up this morning to the loud beeping sound of a large truck backing up. I would have gone back to sleep except that the next sounds were of a car being loaded onto a flatbed truck. My car payments were three months overdue. I hopped out of bed and ran to my bedroom window, yanking viciously at my curtains. Sure enough, my dark blue sports car was being loaded onto a truck by Jack Hallet. I went to high school with Jack, he even dated one of my cousins for a while. He looked up and saw me flattened against my window and waved.

"Hey, mornin' Hilde. It's nothin' personal, you know?" He yelled over the sound of the motor.

I nodded and rested my forehead against the cool glass, fighting the urge to cry.

"Say hello to your cousin Sally for me!" He yelled before he secured my former car and hopped into his own.

I waved at him bleakly and continued to stare at my empty parking space long after he had left. What a shitty way to start my morning.

My name is Hilde Schbeiker. I'm 24 years old, and up until four months ago, my life was just peachy. See, I used to work as a middle management drone. Yeah, spare me all the drivel about selling my soul to a corporation. I did a little work, I got paid and I was happy. Then my company suddenly announced that it was totally bankrupt and everyone was laid off. Five thousand people suddenly flooding the job market has made pickings slim, which is why, after four months, I'm still unemployed. I'd rather die than move back in with my parents, so, I've been living off my credit cards, selling clothes and furniture and generally feeling pretty low. Now my car's gone, my rent's due, the credit card companies are calling, or at least they would be if my phone hadn't been disconnected. I'm starting to feel a little desperate. And desperation is a stinky perfume.

My mother must be psychic. Maybe it's that mother-daughter bond she's always harping about. She saw it on a talk show and now she claims that she knows when I'm in trouble. Once, she even claimed that she had felt me having a nightmare. I hadn't had one, and she was mad at me for weeks after that. But anyway, back to her psychic-meddling abilities.

I was sitting on my bed, dressed in jeans and a t-shirt and feeling like I had finally hit rock bottom, when a key rattled in my locked front door and my mother burst in.

"Hilde?" She spied me in the bedroom and came to the doorway, looking stern. "I was at the beauty parlor getting my roots touched up when Serena Hallet came in. She has this dreadful looking hair cut.never put short hair and bangs on a fat woman. Anyway, she sat next to me and while Tony was doing her hair she mentioned that Jack had told her that he had repossessed your car this morning. Is it true?" She crossed her arms and looked at me with the same expression she had used when I was a kid and had been caught doing something bad, which was often.

I sighed. "Yes, he did. I couldn't make the car payments." I said in a slightly sullen tone. My mother always managed to make me feel like I was ten again. Not a pleasant feeling, believe me.

She threw her hands up in the air. "Honestly! Your father and I spent good money to send you to a decent college so you could make a living for yourself. What are you doing with your degree? Using it to patch holes in your ceiling? You are qualified for any number of jobs. You could get one if you didn't spend all your time moping around, feeling sorry for yourself."

I pouted. See what I mean about her making me feel like a kid? "It's not easy." I said, tartly. "Everyone else got laid off at the same time I did and all the good jobs are taken."

"I wouldn't be so picky, if I were you, young lady. I see that your television is missing. You're running out of things to sell."

She leveled me with another stern gaze before dropping down on the bed next to me. "I think I might have gotten you a job." She said, her expression turning from stern to smug. Mom to the rescue. Sort of..

I turned to her, wide eyed. "What?"

"Well, after Serena told me that, I went to go see your cousin Sally. She's married to that little Chinese guy, you know, the one with the shifty eyes?"

I nodded.

"Well, he's a bail bondsman and he's currently looking for someone to do filing and other office stuff like that for him. I asked your cousin to put in a good word for you."

I closed my eyes and took a deep breath. Filing was definitely a step down from what I'd been doing, but at this point, I'd do just about anything to pay the rent. I was a little nervous about Sally's husband, though. He was an unpleasant little guy with shifty eyes, slicked back black hair and an imperious attitude. Once, I'd asked my cousin why she had married him and her rather clinical and detailed response made me blush clear down to my toes, and believe me, I don't blush easily. To this day, I can't look the man in the eye.

"What's his name again?" I asked, throwing pride to the wind. Hell, pride didn't pay the bills.

"Wufei Chang, remember? You met him at your cousin's wedding."

I nodded. I had spent the three minutes of our awkward conversation staring squarely at his crotch, thanks to my cousin Sally and her rather extensive and colorful vocabulary.

"Now that we've got that cleared up, why don't you put on something nice and I'll take you down there?" She suggested in a tone that was the furthest thing from suggestive.

I raised my eyebrow at her. "What did you do?" I asked suspiciously.

She gave me an innocent smile. "Not much, except get you an interview in about forty-five minutes."

Ack. "Ack! Mother! I'm not prepared for an interview!" I wailed, jumping to my feet and running for my closet where I knew I still had at least one suit left.

My mother clucked and nagged at me while I dressed and did my hair. Her long missives on why I wore too much make-up were nearly enough to send me screaming down the hall, except that I had no car and twenty minutes to get to a job interview.

Say what you will about my mother (and I have), she's a demon on wheels. She got me to Wufei's office with time to spare. The normally fifteen minute drive had only taken about eight minutes. I think I've got a few new gray hairs.

Wufei's Bail Bonds was in a slightly seedy neighborhood about two blocks down from the courthouse and jail. It was located in an office complex of sorts that also housed two lawyers and a Mexican restaurant. I suspected that the building had once been white, but it was now a dingy gray. A neon sign in Wufei's window advertised his business and assured us he was open. I stared at the building and felt a sudden urge to cry. How the hell had I ended up here? Oh yeah, corporate corruption had sent my company into the ground.

"It's not much, but it's a beginning." Mom whispered as she pushed me through the door. "I'll be waiting in the car."

A bell tinkled as I walked in and I was immediately in the sights of a heavy set middle aged woman wearing too much makeup and not enough clothes sitting behind a battered desk.

"Can I help you?" She asked in a low voice as she absently patted her bright red hair.

"I'm Mr. Chang's wife's cousin, Hilde Schbeiker. I have an interview with him." I said, still slightly shell-shocked.

She raised a painted-on eyebrow. "Really? He didn't mention it to me." She said, glancing down at a desk calendar.

I fought the urge to run out of the building. "Well, I think it's a pretty recent development."

"Hmmm." She said. She pressed a button on the phone and an irritable voice that I instantly recognized came on.

"What?" The voice said.

"Someone claiming to be Sally's cousin is here to see you." She said. My grip on my purse became white knuckled.

Wufei let out a stream of expletives. "Crap. I forgot. Send her in, Dannie."

The woman known as Dannie gave me another glance and waved me in the direction of his office. I nodded my thanks and walked to the door, pushing it open with some reluctance.

Wufei was as small and irritable as I remembered, and I still couldn't look him in the eye. I concentrated on his nose, instead. Better than his crotch. Then again, he was sitting down.

"Sally said that your mom said that you needed a job." He said. No small talk, straight to the point.

I nodded. "I have a lot of experience in offices. I can file, type, use computers." He cut me off.

"Frankly, toots, as long as you can recite the alphabet in the correct order, you can do this job. It's yours. Sally would kill me if I sent you home jobless."

I didn't like being called toots, but he was hiring me so I magnanimously forgave him.

His speakerphone buzzed. "What?" He said.

Dannie's voice came over the intercom. "Jules Teegarden was just sent to the hospital with a bullet wound." She announced.

In what was beginning to become a theme, Wufei let loose with a large number of curse words, some of them new to me. When he was through, he questioned his secretary. "Did it happen on the job?"

Dannie sounded slightly amused. "Nope. His wife caught him in bed with her sister."

Wufei rolled his eyes. "Stupid man. Do we have anyone else who can take his FTA?"

"I called Maxwell, but he said $2,000.00 was chump change. Everyone else is busy."

"That asshole. Dannie, you've got to find someone. If this guy isn't picked up by the end of the week, then I forfeit his entire bond. I'll be out $20,000.00"

I perked up at the mention of $2,000.00.

"What are you talking about?" I asked my cousin-in-law.

He glanced at me. "Teegarden was a bounty hunter for me. He picked up people who miss their court dates . If I bail them out and they run, then I don't get my money back. Teegarden found them and delivered them to the cops."

"And what was this about $2,000.00?" I asked.

Wufei raised an eyebrow. "It's the finder's fee for that particular guy."

With $2,000.00 I could pay my rent, my electricity and get my phone turned back on. Hell, I could even buy food.

Wufei was looking at me strangely. "I don't like that look on your face." He said, sourly.

I snapped out of my daydream and glared at him. "What? You don't think I could be a bounty hunter?"

Wufei snorted. "You? A woman? Please. Go and file. Stay in the office where you belong."

That raised my hackles. "I could do it." I said angrily. "I could haul this guy in. Besides, I need the money now. I don't have time to wait for a paycheck."

Wufei rolled his eyes. "Don't be stupid, woman. You're weak. You probably can't even shoot a gun."

"Weak? Weak?" I stood up. "I'm hardly weak. And I can shoot a gun. Give me the job, Wufei."

"Or what?" He said dangerously, standing up behind his desk and leaning forward on it.

I hesitated. "Or I'll tell Sally about Dorothy."

That got his attention. "Where did you.?" He broke off and glared at me.

"I hear things." I said.

"This is blackmail." He said.

I shrugged. "Give me the job, Wufei. I can do it. I'll bring this guy in and get you back your money. And if I don't.well, you'd be out $20,000.00 anyway because you can't find anyone else."

He sat back down and considered it. "Fine." He said shortly. "You won't bring him in anyway, and at least this'll keep you and Sally out of my hair." He pushed the intercom button. "Dannie? Hilde here is going after Marquez. Give her the file." Dannie's snort of laughter didn't improve my mood.