Chapter 7

“You’re late,” Mickey says, standing with his arms crossed against an iron gate.

“Sorry,” I reply. “Can’t shake off this hangover.”

Mickey flashes his teeth and grins with self-satisfaction. “Guess I have something to do with that.” He pats me on the back. “Come on, I’ll give ya a tour.”

Empty ticket booths line both sides of the park as we pass through the gates. Stuffed rabbits, penguins, turtles dangle from the walls above the carnival games. Mickey stops to a lob a softball into a narrow red vase. It drops in, rattling the bottom. Mickey snatches an oversize, inflatable baseball bat and hands it to me.

“Years of practice,” he says, shrugging.

An idle Ferris wheel arcs high above the park, marking its perimeter. The tamer rides and waterslides fan out behind it. “Takes a lot to run a place like this,” Mickey says. “But it pays off. The kids are pretty scared when they get here, but they see the rides and they stop crying. We give em free reign — all the candy and prizes they want for a few days. Get ‘em comfortable. Make ‘em feel safe.”

Mickey pauses, surveying the park with a faint smile.

“Then what?” I ask, interrupting his trance.

“Then we get to play.”

I return his smirk. “How long do we get to keep them?”

“Till we’re done with ‘em. Least that’s how it used to be. The boss has been takin’ a lot more for himself lately. Won’t say why. Not that I’d ever question him.”

“I won’t say anything.”

“Figured as much, but I better keep my mouth shut. Else he’ll shut it for me.”

Mickey glances at a black dome mounted to a metal pole. “We should get to work,” he says.

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