“Make a sound and I’ll kill you.” Pike tightened his grip on the boy’s shoulder. He tried to keep silent but couldn’t contain a whimper of terror.
“You seem surprised. Why?” he asked. “Did you think they’d kill me?”
The boy’s voice cracked. “I- I don’t…”
“Mind you, I’m a little confused at that myself. God knows, they did give me a good workout. But it was like they already knew I wasn’t the one they wanted.” Pike’s thoughts trailed off a bit. “Honestly, I think I learned more from them, than they from me.”
“P-… Pike… how did you know… ?”
Pike smiled. “Oh, that was so easy that you’re gonna be a little embarrassed. All I had to do was keep an eye on all of your homes, and see who was throwing out the most food scraps.”
The boy hung his head silently.
“So,” Pike continued, “you do know you’re basically dead, yeah?”
“Okay then. Here’s the deal. You seem to be very good at serving as someone else’s eyes and ears. I need some right now, and you owe me a favor. You are gonna talk your little friends into joining you on this job, and you might want to be very convincing.”
“What will I do?”
Pike smiled reassuringly. “Not much, really. You’re gonna watch a certain place for me, and report back with what you see. The First National. You know the place.”
Confused, the boy blinked. “The whorehouse? What am I looking for?”
“Ah, well, that’s the point. If I tell you that, you’ll come back and tell me what you think I want to hear. Much better you not know, and so you’ll just come back and say what you see.”
“I don’t understand,” the boy said, shaking his head.
“Just. Watch. The place,” repeated Pike. “Who comes; who goes; what happens. C’mon, not like you’ve never peeked in a bedroom window before. You may even have fun with it; might as well.”
“What if I’m caught?”
Pike grinned that grin that made people’s stomachs turn. “If you’re caught, will they really do any worse to you than I could do right now?”
Not a chance, thought the boy, shaking his head.
“Good,” Pike nodded. “So do this for me. Start right away. Do it right, and I’ll owe you a favor. And I always pay my debts.”
He released the kid and patted his shoulder. As he started to walk away, the boy called after him. “You can’t tell me anything about what I’m supposed to see?”
Pike turned to him, looking sad and doubtful. “The reason I can’t tell you, is because I’m praying you won’t see.”
He sighed and strode off.