He grabbed her thigh roughly. "That doesn't happen here. There's always a way to be useful. If you stop being useful in one capacity, we find a way for you to provide in another. Isn't that right, babe?"

Carmen looked shaky. Twice her eyes lifted toward Phil, but neither time could she hold his gaze. Simon had to pinch her to get her attention. Her eyes went wide, but didn’t seem to focus.

"Uh-huh," she said, rubbing at the red spot on her arm.

"Do you think you could give me an example?" Phil said.

"That’s a great idea." Simon shoved Carmen aside to stand. "Clay," he said, gesturing to one of his men, a short man with wide shoulders and black fingerless gloves.

A hand crashed down on his wrist, an iron grip holding it fast to the table. Clay struck him with his free hand on the side of the head, and Phil saw stars.


The hand grabbed the back of Phil’s neck and forced his face down onto the table with a thump. Dizziness and nausea washed over him, and his mouth watered. Splinters bit into his cheek as it dragged across the rough surface. In a strangely lucid moment Phil realized that the tablecloths that had been there last time were gone.

"You wanted an example?"

He could hear Simon, but he saw only Carmen. Her eyes were huge, filled with horror.

"You're the example, you see? You say you want to help us, but I can't just go have you broadcasting what we're doing to the world. That just wouldn't do. So you're going to be of use in another way."

"Simon, please." It was Carmen.

"Shut up, woman." Simon's face appeared inches from Phil's, obscuring the girl. "I'm sorry it had to end this way." There was a sincerity in his voice that disturbed Phil more than his anger. "I really am."

Phil squirmed and bucked, but all he managed to do was scrape his cheek even more. Something hit him in the back, along his spine, and he went still. A chill went through him, and he moved his legs to make sure they still worked.

"The sheriff," Phil managed to say. It came out a rough squeak. "He knows where I am. He'll be looking for me."

"Not tonight," Simon said. "He's got his hands full tonight."


"Tonight's Last Harvest, you see." He sighed and sat on the edge of the table, half a foot from Phil’s nose. "All of my guys are out there right now, getting ready for full dark. Tonight, anything in Hamilton that's not nailed down is going to be taken. They’re not going to be subtle about it, either. Every bike, every hunk of scrap metal, anything they can get their hands on they’re going to take. So, you see, your sheriff will be too busy to worry about you."

"But he'll be here," Phil said. “Tomorrow at the latest."