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Spike's junkyard dogs.
You're the guy that owns the business, you're responsible for him."
Rosen had never had such a thing drilled into him, or at least so deeply. He felt as though his mind and bones were made of porcelain, and the words had gone right through his skin, and were still inside him, and his bones were on the outside of him, and blood had been splattered in a million directions.
Spike said, "We don't know who the next dog is, you know, like with the man down the block. What if you were to hire some dogs to help you? Dogs to watch for other criminals? Dogs to work with your employees on the side?"
Rosen thought about it, but didn't answer right away.
Spike said, "You wouldn't even need to, to keep the business running. You could hire people in, and they could keep an eye on things, and you would just let Spike and his crew keep the business going, and it would be fine."
Rosen felt as though his heart had turned into a bucket of blood.
Spike said, "You can make more money doing things the old way than you ever could by hiring some help."
"No," Rosen said, staring down at the table. "We're going to do things the right way. And that way is no help. This way is the best way. A good way. The only way."
Spike nodded, and looked like a little boy that had been offered a bike for Christmas.
Spike stood up, and his hands were folded across his chest. "The offer is simple: I'll never tell anyone. I promise. I mean, even a guy who doesn't take care of his own dog can be trusted not to give the information, right?"
Rosen thought about it. He didn't trust anyone. Not anymore. But he remembered all the men from the old days who had kept their word, and all the cops he'd met over the years who hadn't given anything away.
He said, "Fine. But I've got a couple of other conditions."
"What?" Spike said.
Rosen looked up at the ceiling, and said, "One. This can't leave my sight. Not one fucking move until I can lock this down."
Spike seemed to understand that Rosen wasn't kidding. "Done," he said.
Rosen stood up and walked to the living room.
He said, "I'll be back in a minute. I want to talk to Spike alone."
Spike looked like he was going to complain, but he seemed to get the idea, and he followed Rosen to the living room.
Rosen sat on the couch, facing the fire. Spike sat on the floor in front of the couch.
Rosen said, "Do you know why I asked you not to come to my house?"
"You didn't want to see me."
Spike looked worried. "But why?"
"A guy like you is dangerous," Rosen said. "To me, to yourself. A guy like you could ruin my life."
"What are you talking about?"
"Nothing. Never mind. Just give me your word, and we'll be done."
"What do you want me to say? I'll never tell anyone anything."
Rosen made an impatient face. "You don't even know what I'm talking about."
"It doesn't matter. I'll swear on a Bible, on anything you want. I'll never tell anyone. That's a promise."
Rosen didn't seem to hear him. He was staring at the wall. "The guy who hit you," Rosen said, "he was following me."
"What do you mean, following you?"
"I told you I don't want to see you anymore. But that guy... he was trailing me, in a car."
"He was in a car, in the neighborhood. I'm sure of it."
"What did you do?"
"Nothing. I just... I didn't pay any attention. Just like I tell you, he's a guy like you. To him, I'm nobody. A woman. A friend. I'm the most important thing in his life."
"How do you know it was a woman?"
"He's a big guy, heavy-set. I recognized him. It's because of his weight. He's not from here. If he'd been from around here, I would have said something, but this guy... he just came out of nowhere. He saw me and began to follow me. I never looked back. I don't know where he was going. But I'm pretty sure he was following me."
Fina took out her phone.
"What are you doing?"
"I'm calling the police."
"You can't! What would they think? That I'm an idiot who gets hit by a woman? I'm trying to help you here, but I can't if you're calling the police."
"You can help me by telling me what you're going to do. You'll go to the police, won't you?"
Rosen didn't answer right away. Then, "I won't hurt you. I know who you are, what you do, and I want you to leave me alone."
"If I get hurt, I'll sue you and your wife."
"You couldn't sue me, and you wouldn't win. I don't have a dime." He took a drag of his cigarette. "What I need is an easy, easy money."
"And you won't talk to the police about this?"
"No. But I'm looking for a quick payday. I'm not looking for a long-term arrangement."
"Fine. I'll leave you alone. That's the best I can do for now."
"Thanks. Thank you."
Fina hung up and waited until her phone buzzed. She called her mother and asked her to bring her father's car to work, so Fina could use it to get to her next appointment. That was when she called Mandy and told her she'd just had a run-in with a stalker.
"Don't do anything!" Mandy said when Fina described the man and the situation. "Call your father."
"Because I don't want you alone."
"He left me alone before. It didn't do any good."
"It might today," Mandy insisted. "Don't do anything."
Fina put down the phone and stared at it, wondering if she had the nerve to do what Mandy suggested. Then she remembered that she'd already called in sick. She decided to take her chances.
Fina drove to the address on the business card. It was a single-story tan brick building with yellow siding and an ornate entrance that looked like it could be from the fifties. The sign in the window read, FINE FURNITURE. Fina stepped inside. The air was cool and damp, and a thick musty odor emanated from the walls. The walls weren't simply dirty, they were also discolored and cracked. The fixtures and furnishings were dated as well, with faded floral wallpaper, chipped paint, and an