Tuesday Sampler: When the Starlings Fly Again by Sue Joslin
October 29, 2019
All he had foreseen was one quick, perhaps dangerous raid, followed by a lifetime’s ease as a rich man.
In a triumph of optimism over experience, the Starlings are off on holiday again.
Not that they are going to make the same mistakes as before, not with so many new possibilities on offer.
But seriously, what can possibly go wrong on a package holiday in Egypt or on a quiet cruise to Oman?
As for Inspector Warwick, will he finally get his man?
Sampler for When the Starlings Fly Again
It was dark in the shack, and Cawaale strained his eyes, trying to see the face of the man now seated in front of him. The man was obese, his heavy dark jowls greased with sweat.
“So, gentlemen, you are looking for an investor for your little enterprise…” The voice was as deep and cold as the ocean.
“Perhaps you could go over your business plan with me?”
The two standing before the table shuffled their feet nervously and looked at each other in confusion.
“I mean, gentlemen, what exactly do you intend to do once you have the money, what returns do you foresee, and how soon can I expect to see my investment repaid?”
“Buy guns…” stated Cawaale, blankly. Still not sure of what `The Fat Man’ wanted to hear.
“You want us to return the guns to you after we take a ship?” Amiin looked crestfallen; he had assumed they were buying the guns, not just hiring them.
The big man sighed heavily,
“No, gentlemen, I don’t want your guns.
Now that we have established that you intend to seize a vessel. I want to know what sort of vessel you are intending to take, and what do you intend to do once you have it? Are you going to sell it off, or ransom off both the vessel and its crew? In short, gentlemen, how can I be sure that I will get my money back with enough extra to make it worth my while lending it to you in the first place?”
Understanding dawned on Cawaale’s face and he grinned eagerly. “It’ll be a motor boat. A big, rich man’s motor boat from Oman. We catch it at the mouth of the Red Sea. We bring it back to our village, and sell the boat to the highest bidder and hold the Arabs for ransom. The Omani’s are rich; they will pay much for the return of one of their sheiks. You will get much money back and I will become an important man in my village, maybe even more than my grandfather.”
“Me also,” Amiin nodded, emphatically.
There followed a long pause during which both Cawaale and Amiin grew increasingly anxious; what would they do if The Fat Man refused to help? They had not forgotten the halwa dealers threat.
“…Yes, gentlemen…” The answer, when it came, was clipped and decisive. “You will have your gun money….”
Cawaale let out an audible sigh…
“In exchange for half of all you earn on your little enterprises.”
“Half!” Amiin squeaked
“What do you mean, enterprises?” Cawaale was quick to pick up on the plural, even if he wasn’t too sure what the word meant.
“Half,” The Fat Man reiterated firmly, “on every raid you carry out. You see, the way I look at it, I am paying for those guns, without which you would not be able to conduct your business, therefore those guns are mine. It is only fitting, therefore, that I should earn money each time they are used.”
“How long for,” demanded Cawaale, desperately.
“Permanently,” The voice was mild as it continued remorselessly, “and you will undertake no fewer than four ventures each year. After all, I wouldn’t want my investment sitting idle. I require a regular return.”
“But…” Cawaale was horrified. All he had foreseen was one quick, perhaps dangerous raid, followed by a lifetime’s ease as a rich man. Now he was faced with a future which involved a new career as a full time pirate. His thoughts were interrupted.
“Those are my terms, gentlemen, take it or leave it. If you think you can raise the money somewhere else, that is?”
“We take it,” Amiin gulped, before Cawaale could say anything more to upset The Fat Man.
“We’re agreed then, the moneys will be paid directly to our mutual friend, and you may collect your merchandise as arranged.”
Grabbing Cawaale by the arm, Amiin turned to leave the room.
“Just one more thing, gentlemen. If you should prove industrious in your newfound line of work, please don’t let any of your ventures slip your mind, when it comes to settling up. And do try not to forget exactly how much you made in each instance. I have my sources, and these little misunderstandings do have a tendency to cause grief to both family and friends… Literally” the last word dropped into the silence like a tombstone.
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