A few other stories by Harry Bunn
Man’s Best Friend?
This was a writing exercise in which I was tasked with writing a complete story in just 150 words or less....
Jeb was not a very nice man. He had been abusive to his wife and children. The children had left home as soon as they could, and his wife finally gave up and died. Jeb’s dog, whom he refused to call anything other than “Dog”, was his only companion and Jeb now took out his drunken rages on the dog.
While cutting wood one day, his chain saw hit a particularly hard part of the tree and bouncing back, severed his leg badly. He screamed in agony and realized that he was alone and would die without rapid assistance.
“Dog, go and get help”.
Dog looked at him through his deep brown eyes and settled down on the ground to watch Jeb’s distress and pain.
“Dog, I said get help. Now!”
A Very White-Collar Crime Penitentiary
The governor looked at his council members and sighed.
"We are broke," he said.
"St. Nobbill has been broke for the past twenty years," reminded his first minister.
St. Nobbil was a small Caribbean island that had always been independent. Most of the islands had been owned by large nations like the UK, France, Spain, or the Netherlands and had built infrastructure before being granted independence. They had prospered over the past two centuries. An island like St. Martin is still a French "department", uses the Euro as its currency, and despite the annoyance of people in France, was still provided financial aid when needed.
This was not the case with St. Nobbil. It was a small atoll with a population of 2,000 and a size of just eight square miles. It had one nice beach and two restaurants but no airline runway. Getting there required a flight to St. Vincent and a small ferry (once per week) or a private yacht charter. There were few tourists since the only hotel was well below expected standards for even the most adventurous visitors.
There was no industry on the island so the local Nobbilians had a subsistence lifestyle relying on local fish, coconuts, and other vegetables grown on the island as well as the chickens and goats they had raised over the years.
Outside St. Nobbil, the government would have been regarded as a joke. Of the 2,000 inhabitants, over 1,000 were "employed" by the government. Based on their reading of other countries, roles had been mirrored. For example, there was a Minister of Foreign Affairs although the joke was that the only foreign affairs that this man had were with ladies in St Vincent. There were no taxes and, as such, no one in government was ever paid a salary.
St. Nobbil, however, did have excellent local and international communications thanks to an error that France Telecom made in thinking it was a French island.
One day, which was to go down in St. Nobbil history, the governor received an email requesting a meeting. The sender was a lawyer from New York, who wanted to explore "an interesting business idea" that could be advantageous to St. Nobbil.
Over the years, the governor had received a series of similar requests, but they had been either scams or would have required illegal activities. Still, he had nothing much else to do so he agreed to the meeting.
The lawyer arrived by a chartered launch from St Vincent and walked the short distance to Government House.
"I am a senior advisor in the US Department of Justice. To set the scene, do you know of the Chateau D'If?" the lawyer said to the governor after the usual pleasantries.
"Are you referring to the island off Marseilles in France? The old prison?"
"That's the one"
"So, what of it? Did you come all the way here to talk about the Count of Monte Cristo?"
"The Chateau D'if was an island prison from which escape was thought to be impossible. In the US we have indicted people on fraud, money laundering, and other charges which have currently resulted in about twenty billionaires serving time in the federal penitentiary system. Accommodating these people has been difficult and expensive for the taxpayer and these billionaire felons have wanted to use their wealth to make their sentences more pleasant. The federal system in the US does not allow this, whereas, in places like Switzerland, white-collar criminals can have fine meals cooked and delivered from the best restaurants in Zurich, and Geneva. And they can bring in better beds and chairs to replace the prison issue. And TV sets and the like.
"It seems that St. Nobbil has a revenue shortfall problem and the idea which I have floated to the US government is that these high-net-worth individuals, pay a significant amount and are transferred to an open prison in, a place like St. Nobbil. The "prison" that they are transferred to needs to be so isolated that escape is impossible, or at least extremely difficult. They would buy or build attractive homes on the island and live openly. High-end restaurants will flourish providing the best cuisine and wines to the "inmates". There will be the best and highest-priced gift shops.
"The economy will grow rapidly and require few local sacrifices. The details will need to be worked out but that is the gist of the idea. The reception that I have received from the US government so far has been positive; I think they see they can also extract some fees from the inmates for this arrangement.
"St. Nobbil would become the most prestigious, Chateau D'If ever. And these people while they are indicted of white-collar crimes are not thugs nor are they violent and they will not find any scope for committing further crimes which involve the island." He stopped talking, sat back, and crossed his legs.
"May I offer you some refreshments? Tea, coffee or some of our excellent local rum?" the governor was licking his lips as his mind churned.
The visitor left the governor's office and walked to his hotel. The governor summoned his council and relayed what had been discussed.
"It's not like we would need to build a prison. These billionaires will live in the best villas we can offer, and the local builders will make out like bandits. Oops, sorry about the pun."
Two years later, St Nobbil was a very different island. The twenty inmates had been transferred, had settled in, and were enjoying their freedom, the Caribbean weather, and the comradery of liaison with their fellows. Most of the locals had sold their homes for outrageous sums and left the island. Four high-end restaurants, all of which had a chef's delivery service had been established and were prospering. There had been no attempts to escape since the "inmates" could not envision a better place to be. "Just like the Gold Coast in Florida," one said.
There were a few issues, mainly logistical but the main one which the governor and his council needed to address was the potential for overcrowding. A large number of crooked billionaires had recently confessed their crimes early with a plea bargain that their sentences would be carried out in St. Nobbil. The overcrowding on the island was not like the overcrowding in the US penitentiary system but it was a challenge.
The governor sat back in a new, expensive, leather armchair in his large, new office and sighed.