RICHARD A. LOVETT “A Pound of Flesh.” Alex Copley #1. Novella. Analog SF, September 2006. Never reprinted.

   A tale of the not-too-distant future, but if the author is to be believed, PI’s are always destined to be down on their luck and work in dingy offices in the bad part of town. Alex Copley, who tells his own story is one such, and speaking on down on his luck, here’s the way his life is going. He is behind on his rent, no surprise there, but here’s the thing, and it’s the thing that makes his a science fiction story.

   Nanotechnology has made it possible to avoid having to call in bill collectors when tenants cannot come up with the rent. When a contract is signed, the signee agrees to be injected with nano bots that, if/when the time comes and a loan is not paid, the defaulter is automatically infected with a pre-specified ailment or disease, which lasts until a antidote nano is taken. No more bail bondsmen, in fact no more lawyers. A brand new way of conducting many a business or financial attraction.

   Or in other words, Copley has a lot to worry about. Until, that is, a beautiful lady client comes knocking on his door. She needs his help, and what’s more, she has money, and she’s willing to spend it. What she needs Copley for is to find a former partner in formulating a another type of nano that can tell if a person, once infected, is telling the truth or not.

   It’s a great beginning, but the rest of story is wasted on finding the former partner, who has gone off hiding in deep backwoods country, and far too many pages are spent with Copley’s adventures in tracking him down, including traveling down a river in a kayak over several whitewater rapids.

   The initial concept is good, but the follow through failed to grab me. It’s still nice to know that you can find PI stories almost everywhere. (This is apparently Alex Copley’s only recorded case.)