The thick silence which had settled between Kick and the little man was broken by the sound of the front door opening and closing. Kick remained slumped and unresponsive in his chair. To the little man he appeared stoned. His hands rested heavily in his lap and his eyes stared off into space- utterly expressionless as though fixed on a distant point. Kick made no effort to rise and greet whoever had entered the shop. The sound of voices, muted and indistinct through the walls, and the scuffing of feet on the old floor boards carried to the back bedroom.
A man’s voice, with a high and nasal tone called out “Hello. Anybody here?” Kick didn’t move. He just stared. After several minutes and several more “hello’s” the door opened and closed again and the shop fell silent.
Kick’s head turned and he looked blankly at the little man who was still imprisoned in the pretzel barrel.
“I guess I’ll let you go then.”
The little man looked at Kick as though he were sizing up a wounded raccoon on the side of the road. There was pity in the look but also a detached nonchalance.
“I think you’re confused, Kick. At this point, you are more my prisoner than I am yours. Even if you let me go I doubt my betters would let me leave. This arrangement, though unexpected, may prove very helpful to my people. We have needed the help of a Dindi proxy for some time, and now we have the means to leverage you into compliance. Personally, I find this sort of work very disagreeable, but I know the mind of the people above me and this plays right into their hands.”
“You’re blackmailing me,” said Kick without emotion.
“I’m not…I mean…I wouldn’t if it weren’t for my betters. I’m confident they will make me use what we know about you to ensure your cooperation.”
“Maybe, I’ll just kill myself,” said Kick matter of factly.
“Go ahead,” said the little man evenly.
After a long silence Kick unscrewed the lid of the pretzel barrel, poured the little man out onto the bed, and said “…looks like you’re at the wheel. What do you want from me?”