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by Andrew Vachss

   Why anyone would order a prostitute from a website was almost beyond my imagination. But I had learned there were people who trusted "The Internet" with unrestricted idolatry.

   And centuries before there was an Internet, there were always those so certain they could turn any situation to their advantage that they never concerned themselves with risk.

   For them, everything was a sure thing.

   The other side of that coin had always been there, too. Those who were only truly themselves when they took risks.

   All idols—even reflections in a mirror—share one characteristic; they demand sacrifice.

   No elaborate ruse was required. My cyber–ghost accessed the target's laptop with the ease of an apex predator—at one with the environment that held both him and his food supply in eternal suspension.

   The target was in Los Angeles for less than an hour before he ordered off the pull–down menu, methodically placing his checkmark under the choices offered under the "preferences" tab.

   Very conventional choices, all well within his belief–system. Countless young, blonde, toned, do–whatever girls were within miles—perhaps even blocks—of his hotel.

   They weren't all as young—or young–looking—as the target wanted. And they weren't all blondes. But they all had given up on whatever dreams brought them to this City of Seconds.

   No more waiting to be discovered for these girls. Even the ones who looked twelve years old had already aged out. The porn industry likes to talk about its shining stars, but never reveals that they all burn out.

   What gets used will always get used up—the only variable is how long that takes.

   The feeder–stream that carried them in would eventually reverse itself—dreams travel much faster on the way down. At some point, they all exchange their never–happen fantasies for the always–would reality. Juggling pulled–pin grenades, promising themselves that they'd go back home as soon as they caught enough cash in one hand before the grenade exploded in the other.

   If there was one acting skill they finally mastered, it was lying to themselves.

© 2015 Andrew Vachss. All rights reserved.

Excerpted from the novel Signwave by Andrew Vachss.


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