Lions haunt the seven long over the fields of Harbona. It has been a century and more since the last long feline summer closed — not in blood, or in fear, but in a quiet dusty corner deep in some nameless alley on the north end of town. Control came and cleared away the mouldering heap, mane ratted straw, just one more troublesome body to dispose of; it was only in retrospect that let those who cared pin it as the last big cat the city had seen.

Nowadays it’s only blunt-toothed predators that sit yawning on an August stoop. The Parsimonious Kid and his punk lie sun-mazed, twined together, scabby legs and rotten shorts, teeth browned and foul smelling, fingers stained with tobacco and iodine. The punk is playing with a knife, flicking it open and closed, open and closed. His palms are stiff with the egg white of scars.

Pars levers them off the concrete when the sun threatens to disappear behind the buildings. “C’mon,” he growls, and the punk trails viciously in his wake, innocent of nothing except thought.

Later, in the flat, unmoving midnight light, their hands brush together in the steaming viscera of their latest mark. The Kid sneers at his punk, and the punk stares back, ghosts both, desperate for some piece of life, however found, ghosts and lions both.