Jahan stretched up on tiptoes a moment, peering at white-clad figures sauntering out of the dawn fog. “Ah. And now the captain will deal with the real port authorities.”
The real-? Alibaba peered through the mist, and froze. Thick locks of dark hair. Narrow yellow eyes, sly as a fox. Taller, older, but the same dangerous smirk, as he led no less than ten of his gang to the foot of the Shadow’s gangplank.
“Captain Aden.” Cassim’s tone gave the title a wry twist. “I was beginning to think you didn’t want to see us again.”
“Really.” Aden’s hand was on a harpoon. His wasn’t the only one. “Shove off, you thief. The dock-master’s already plucked us bare. We can’t afford your rates.”
They’re still talking. Alibaba hung back in the shadows. This isn’t a fight. Yet.
But it was going to be. He could see the crazy gleam in Cassim’s eyes. That was the hungry gleam, the one that said, my gang is starving, and you have what I want.
Three years, and he still remembered that look.
“Oh, I think you’ll find we’re cheap, at the price.” Cassim waved a lazy hand. “After all, you’ve still got something to trade. It’d be a shame if-”
Break his rhythm. Now! “Captain Aden!”
Behind him, Alibaba heard Jahan’s bitten-off curse.
No time to explain. “Captain.” Alibaba pulled back his hood, walking across the shifting deck to the rail by Aden’s side. “The organ meat from the island whale’s perishable, even with oil on it. The faster we get it to the market and sold, the more we all make.” One heartbeat, so the gang could focus on that prized word, meat. “I think you could use some extra hands taking it up to town. If they didn’t want to be paid in Fan, but maybe some of the casks that need to be cooked today, if they’re going to be any good.”
Eyes were staring at him. Not just Cassim. There was one-eyed Hassan, Zainab fingering a cigar tucked into her bosom, and at least three or four more he vaguely knew from his time on the streets.
But Cassim’s still the leader. Good.
“Alibaba.” Cassim was looking him up and down; in shock or calculation, Alibaba couldn’t tell. “It’s been a long time.”