Need at least one more item to make a good show. And I think I’ve just about got a line on where to get it.
Yep, there was a little scritch of movement, a shadow just about to-
“Hi there,” Alibaba smiled.
The little urchin holding the knife looked totally nonplussed.
“You’re holding that wrong, you know,” Alibaba went on. “The way you’re gripping it, if you try to cut me, you’ll cut up your fingers, too. And that makes robbing people a lot harder. If you live through the fever from getting all this dirt in your fingers.” He nodded toward the nearest roof. “And what’s going to happen to the little ones following you if you’re out of your head with a fever for days, huh? Won’t be good, especially with that crowd of toughs two streets south just itching to take more turf.” He shrugged. “Why start up a mess like that, when we could make a deal instead?”
That had an interested rustling around him. But the dark-eyed leader wasn’t convinced. “Nobody makes a deal with us.”
“That’ll make things tricky, for you and your gang,” Alibaba said plainly. “Did you hear about the pass being closed? Maybe it’ll be clear in a month. Maybe it won’t. Until it is, a lot of caravan guards are going to be stacking up here. I’m a driver; I know those guys. On the road they’re sober, they’re mostly okay. In town they get drunk. And when they get drunk, they get mean. And there’ll be a lot of them.” He gave the kid – maybe ten, maybe just a hungry twelve – an obvious measuring look. “Life around here is going to get a lot harder. But if you had a deal with people who wanted to trade with you….”
Louder whispers. Just a trace of uncertainty in the leader’s eyes. “Trade? We’re not merchants. We don’t have anything to trade.”
“You do right now,” Alibaba shrugged. “I’ve got a business proposal. You back down, I back down. You tell me where there’s a place to eat that doesn’t try to poison travelers, and maybe answer a few questions, and all of us get a bite to eat.”
Oh yeah. He definitely had the attention of all the others. He could catch glimpses of them peeking out of the shadows.
The knife lowered, just a little. “There might be a lot of us.”
“Even better.” Alibaba grinned. “I might have a lot of questions.”