Chapter 41 - Contacts
“Do you trust him?” Alena asked with a small amount of disbelief in her voice, Marcus was not a man to trust easily; he indicated Rowan.
“I don’t care if he takes the boat. It won’t affect our fate one way or another, but if you need an answer to your question, then ask Rowan,” he bothered to explain himself, and Rowan shrugged.
“Byron was sincere,” Rowan confirmed, and Alena shook her head.
“His accent disappeared,” Alena remarked with amused doubt, and Marcus suddenly adapted a quaint brogue.
“Please milady, a copper for bread,” he mocked with his whole manner that of a beggar and a rogue. The devilish charm under his tone proved unexpected, and Alena looked at him oddly.
“Sometimes we meet the people we were; when the world threatens to shatter,” Marcus mused into the night. Around the next corner, they spotted a patch of deep darkness and used it to don their disguises.
They found their destination with ease, and it matched Byron’s description, but when they knocked, nothing happened. They glanced at each other and the surrounding darkness with unease. The wind carried no scent, and the shadows could hide nothing from them.
Marcus backed away from the door, but then caught the sound of movement inside. Someone small of build and light of tread shuffled along in the dark and stubbed their toe. The female struggled with the wooden bolt that held the door in place, released a sturdy chain and opened the door. She looked startled to see three strangers at their door and spoke in a barrage of fluent Arabic; they were at a loss.
“Byron,” Marcus interrupted, and her words came to an abrupt halt. She studied them with more attention from behind her veil, then nodded as her eyes scanned the street. Her whole manner changed, and the good Arabic wife turned into someone much different.
“Come,” she urged in broken English and motioned for them to follow her inside. She shut the door behind them and bolted it before leading them deeper into the house.
“Wait,” she commanded when they entered a small empty room. Outside the night air had turned acquired a chill, but the warmth of the day remained trapped there. She disappeared for a little while and then returned.
“Come,” she invited again, and they followed her deeper into the oddly built house, they were no longer above ground. They walked until they came to a room with real tables and chairs, where an Arabic man dressed in dark robes awaited them. Byron was right about the crescent scar that resembled a quarter moon. It rested above his dark, long beard. His eyes were as black as night, and piercing in their intensity.
“You know Byron?” He had a perfect grasp of their language.
“Byron sent us to you with a message. He said it was time,” Marcus responded, and the man smiled to himself as if he awaited those words for a long time.
“Byron is well?” He asked, and Marcus nodded. He remained expectant, and Marcus obliged him.
“We found him on a pirate ship as their prisoner,” he explained. The Easterner displayed concern and unhappiness.
“Unhurt?” He asked sharply.
“I think his ego suffered more,” Marcus reassured him, and that seemed to please the Egyptian.
“Byron is a good man,” he remarked with some conviction.
“Anything you wish, even my life: if that is what Byron wants. I am Talmud,” the man offered with a low salaam and earnest eyes.
“You may wish you hadn’t said that. I am Marcus,” Marcus replied, and the large man laughed.
“A debt is a debt, no matter the cost,” the look in his eyes was that of a man that believed in his word.
Marcus spoke to Talmud at some length, and he watched them with interest as they explained their needs saying nothing outright, but he asked no questions.
“This will be expensive,” Talmud said finally, and Marcus let the coin pouch slide across the surface of the table. Talmud only drew apart the string and nodded. It wasn’t the pouch Byron gave him, but it wasn’t much smaller. Marcus slid the second pouch across the table, and Talmud caught it with capable hands.
“That is for you,” Marcus informed Talmud, and surprised the man.
“Your trust is unusual Sahib,” Talmud stated with both consideration and slow respect in his eyes.
“Byron’s trust,” Marcus replied with mild satire and intent. Talmud considered those words for a long moment. Marcus rose, and when he smiled, he displayed an intensity that would have cowed another man.
“Would you cross me?” Marcus asked, and this time Talmud smiled without reserve.
“My wife has prepared rooms for you according to your needs, you will rest, and by nightfall tomorrow, we will be ready,” he left them with a low bow.
They realized that by leaving them with his wife; he trusted them with his most precious possession. It was there in the way he touched her hand and the way their eyes seemed to speak a language of their own, as he passed her.