you’ve been in the upper crust for a long time. So I guess the first question is, why do you need a job at all?”
He looked pleased. “Indeed, you cut to the heart of the matter. I do, as you surmise, have quite considerable wealth in various locations and institutions around the world. However, this is not as simple to access as you might think. Until recently, you see, there was little ability to examine the flow of funds from one country to another, and thus it was relatively easy for a man such as myself to move from one place to another and bring my fortune with me, needing only a rather simple cover story to explain why I had so much.”
“Gotcha. Transferring significant sums around, making formerly inactive-for-a-century accounts active, dragging in large quantities of gold or whatever, tends to draw the notice of the IRS and other agencies interested in potentially shady activities.” Having grown up in an era where the government was already well in place with computers monitoring any significant transaction, this was an issue I hadn’t previously considered. Oh, it had become more pervasive in areas since I was born, but the basic idea that income was watched by the IRS had been taken as a given. Someone like Verne, who had been living for hundreds of years in civilizations which didn’t communicate much between countries and who had, at best, spotty ways of tracing assets, would indeed find the new higher-tech and higher-monitoring civilizations a bit daunting, to say the least.
“As you say. In addition . . . I am accustomed to doing some form of work. I have been many things in my time, but even as a nobleman, I tried to busy myself with the responsibilities such a position entailed. I would feel quite at a loss if I had nothing at all to do.” He waited for me to acknowledge this second point, then continued. “Now, my former profession, while illegal, has the advantage of being paradoxically expected. When the government sees large sums of unexplained cash, it expects drugs are the source. If it finds what it expects, then it digs no farther. And if I can deny the government admissible evidence and have . . . connections who pay the right people, it is unlikely to do more than try to harass the suppliers. Supplying drugs also, as I understand you deduced, has the advantage of no set hours. If I wish to be eccentric and meet people only at night, well, this is no more strange than some of the other people involved in this business.”
I rubbed my chin, thinking. “Uh-huh. You have this double problem. Not only do you have money of unknown provenance—and thus, from the point of view of any cop, probably crooked somewhere—you can’t afford to have people look at you too closely because there’s some aspects of your own existence that you have to keep hidden.
“So what you need is a job or profession which permits you to communicate with people exclusively, or nearly exclusively, during darkness hours, which has the potential to earn very large sums of money, and which you can at least fake having the talents for. Either that, or you need a way to get a huge sum of money here where you can use it openly and have an ironclad reason for getting that money.”
“I think you have summed it up admirably, yes. I also have something of a philosophical objection to the rates of taxation applied to certain sources of income, but that’s a different matter.”
“And way out of my league; finding more acceptable employment is one thing, convincing the federal government that it shouldn’t tax income is another.” Verne smiled in acknowledgement. I went on to the next item of business.
“And what are you doing about your soon-to-be-former business associates?” At a glance from him, I hastily added, “No, no, I’m not asking if you’re going to turn them in or anything. Just when and how you’re going to get out of the business, so to speak.”
“I have, in point of fact, already