There's only two types of people in the world,

The ones who entertain and the ones who observe,

-Britney Spears' Circus

I looked around at my new room.

I liked it.

There was a desk, a simple desk with a simple chair. The single drawer in the desk locked, and I had the only key. The light bulb on the ceiling was a fresh, and lit up the small room. There was a plain dresser, and a hook. I'd brought clothes for being a spymaster, all sorts of clothes. Newsie clothes, gutter rat clothes, rich clothes, middle class clothes, immigrant clothes, all sorts. I had tucked these into the dresser. On top, I had my brush, my pocket mirror, a pocket knife I'd stolen, and a few dollars in a small wallet.

In the center of the room was my bed, and I eyed it warily, because it was late, but I couldn't go to bed yet.

No, I had interviews to conduct.

I'd handpicked a couple of likely recruits, and they were to come in one by one so I could interview them and give them assignments.

The first person wandered in, looking nervous.

It was a girl, a few years younger than me. Good, she would get into one of the more sentimental boroughs with no trouble.

She looked about ten, maybe eleven.

"Hello," I said. "What's your name?"

"Nickel," She said. She had large eyes, pale blue and sharp, each about as big as a nickel themselves.

"Well, Nickel, tell me about yourself."

In the end, I assigned Nickel to Staten Island, because I knew that Staten Island took in the runaways, the orphans, the forgotten, the young, the disabled, anyone who needed a home. I told Nickel to report to me in three weeks, with whatever she could find. Then I would decide what for her to specialize in.

In two hours, I assigned people to nearly all the districts.

Vaudeville to the Bowery, Rank to the Bronx, Doll to Midtown, Shoeshine to help Nickel at Staten Island, a pair of twins called Flick and Nick to Harlem, and a newsie called Cockerel to help Vaudeville in the Bowery. Coney Island was taken by a boy called Thorn, and East Side was covered by two girls, Lil' and Scurry. A boy called Romeo took West Side, and that left only one district.


But I was out of recruits.

But, as I scribbled down the names of my new birdies, I made a mistake.

I assumed. And that, readers, is what you must never do.

Never assume something, never take anything for granted.

Because I was scared out of my wits when one more girl entered.

I jumped.

"Spymastah?" The girl asked.

I settled in my seat again. "Yeah?"

"I wanted to be a birdie,"

The girl sat down on the bed, across from the desk. "M'name's Laurel." She had a touch of innocence about her, something that made me think she would listen and look, and keep quiet, and get in good with her targets. "I'm fourteen, an' I've been a birdie afore."

I raised an eyebrow. "Really?"

Laurel nodded. "I was Harlem a couple years before the strike, and I spied on Queens. Majesty caught me and let me join."

"Why were you caught?" I asked her. I didn't want a spy who'd get caught easy.

Laurel shrugged. "Majesty had a couple of her newsies follow me. Queens is sneaky like that."

I grinned. "You're hired."

She grinned right back at me. "What's m'signment, boss?"

I told her, "I need you to go to Manhattan, and spy on them there. Report anything that might be of interest, anything at all, and come back somehow or other in exactly two weeks. I don't care how you get in or out, just do it."

Laurel nodded, and just like that, she was gone, disappeared out the door.

I smiled. I was satisfied now, because I'd finished my birdies, and I wrote on a sheet of paper, Manhattan-Laurel.

Here, I put the sheet here for you to see.


Staten Island-Nickel, Shoeshine



Bowery-Vaudeville, Cockerel

East Side-Lil', Scurry

West Side-Romeo

Harlem-Flick, Nick

Coney Island-Thorn

Meet my spy network. For now.

I grinned wider, and flopped into bed. I was asleep before I hit the sheets.

My birdies were in place. All they had to do now was watch the show and wait.