Judith was running a down-at-the-heels jewelry store-cum-pawnshop in the largest city on Haman, which wasn’t saying much. It wouldn’t have been so much as spit in the ocean back home, but she was doing all right. Mostly she was honest, these days, or at least as honest as Haman demanded, though she had a profitable little sideline in fencing.

She was scrupulously fair, and they knew it, and she let her yes be yes and her no be no, and so she had less trouble than she might have otherwise. She underpaid them — fence’s fee — but didn’t gouge them too much. She kept a pot of beans at the boil throughout the long winter nights ready against any smash thief or boxersman that came in.

The wind brought two rail bums to her on an unsettled autumn night. “Hey, Jude,” said the older one, the Parsimonious Kid.

“Hey, Pars. Help y’self to some beans.” They ate in silence until their faces lost something of that lean, hunted look. “Who’s the suckling?”

“Just some punk I picked up out of Harbona. He’s all right. Say hi, punk.”


“He got a name?”

“Nah, he ain’t earned one yet. We thought we’d come here, get the lay of the land, see what there was to do.”

The punk had a vicious, dull cast to his face; he was born to go blood simple. She marked him down, and gave Pars no better than even odds to be dragged down with him. Neither need fear drowning.