Clayton kept his eyes closed and breathed evenly until sure that the other migrant farm workers in his filthy bunkroom slept. When he heard their cacophony of snores, he slipped quietly out into the moonless night and looked about quickly to see if any of Lee’s henchmen were around. Seeing none, he walked briskly but quietly past the bunkhouses towards the road to what he hoped would be freedom from the labor camp. But, before he could turn out of sight, he happened to kick a beer can, and it scuttled noisily among the stones. He froze for a second, then heard the barking of Lee’s pit bull shattering the stillness. Part of his brain told him to drop to the ground and accept the whipping he knew would come for trying to run away while supposedly owing Lee money. But Lee’s shout galvanized Clayton to abandon the rutted lane and dash into the tobacco field.
The tall plants provided cover, yet the earth gave way with each step, making it impossible for Clayton to run well. Within seconds, he gasped for air. Disoriented in the darkness, he heard the barking of Lee’s dog closing. He dodged left and right in the hope of evading his pursuers, and as he brushed the tobacco leaves he scratched his arms and face. Now, the sounds of Lee and his henchmen were both in front of and behind him. He kneeled to catch his breath, then tried to launch himself up too quickly. Blood drained from his head and he toppled.
Lee stood over Clayton, holding a shotgun. The pit bull grabbed one of Clayton’s legs, biting through his jeans. Lee kicked Clayton heavily in the side and pushed him over onto his back.
“I warned you, man. No one leaves my camp owin’ me money.” Lee spat on Clayton and kicked him again. He pointed towards a nearby copse of trees, then handed the shotgun to his chief lieutenant, nicknamed Dread. “You know whatcha gotta do. Do it quick.” He leashed the pit bull, and marched off muttering.
“Come on, asshole.” Dread hauled Clayton to his feet.
Clayton thought about trying to run again, but knew that he couldn’t get away. He had given escape its best shot and had to accept that his life had run its course. Dread pushed Clayton down to his knees near the pines. Clayton felt the cold press of steel against the back of his neck. He …