Nervous Devices

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The door swung open silently. Mark was waiting down the street for David as the latter entered the store. They could not be seen together again or it would risk ruin to the plan.

"Good morning, sir." It was Sañi.

There was a lack of surprise at seeing him again that caused David to wonder if she remembered him. He pushed the thought to the back of his mind. "¿Where's the owner?"

"In the back." A look of worry flashed over the woman's face and was gone. "¿Did you want to talk to him?"

"Yes, please."

While she was off looking for him, David began to look around again. It had only been a few hours since his last visit but he needed to be doing something when Auk'a came in. He resisted the urge to examine the pipes that he had looked at the night before and found a row of carved statues. The art portrayed men and dogs hunting or doing other various things. It was not a style he had seen before and none of the symbols meant anything to David. He was saved from dwelling on them too long as Auk'a's large frame entered through the door right then. It was followed by Sãni's somewhat smaller form.

"¿What can I do for you?"

"Yes. I was impressed yesterday with how..." David's voice trailed off. He could not remember the word for "helpful," and "good" just did not seem appropriate. He quickly changed thoughts. "I would like to buy this girl for my cousin."

The eyebrows of the other shot up in surprise but David continued.

"He is quiet and I think she would be good for him." There was his place to use the word "good."

Sañi's face showed something that was a combination of horror and relief. Had the situation not been so serious, David would have been tempted to laugh at the odd mixture of emotions.

Auk'a quickly hid his surprise and shifted to a look of amusement. "Why would I sell her? She keeps the store cleaner than the last one did and I got her for a good price."

"Then she'll make a good housekeeper for my cousin, Ynti." He borrowed the name. It might as well be a personal story if he was going to tell one. His dad would probably roll over in his grave if he ever knew that his son was making up a story even for this reason. Oh, well.

The other man was speaking. "And if he doesn't like her? You give these slaves some room and they get lazy. In fact, this one already is."

In a resolute manner, David answered, "If she isn't good for him, I'll put her somewhere else."

"This one was married before. You don't want her. Trust me, she's better suited for working in this shop."

"Are you trying to talk the price down?" David smirked. There was half an opening.

"No, I don't want to sell." Auk'a glanced at Sañi for a moment.

"Not even for... what would she be worth? 30 gold coins?"

"No, no. I couldn't sell her."

"How much?"

"You don't want this girl."

"My offer is high for what you say she is worth, even to you. You can find another for less." David turned as though he was starting to lose interest. He hoped this would work. If it didn't, he would come off as pleading.

After a short moment, Auk'a gave in. "35, no less."

David had to stifle a sigh of relief. It was what they had expected. Even so, this was a negotiation. "I'll give you 32."

Auk'a grunted. "You are uma sinchi. I'll give her to you for 34."

David wasn't sure what the first part meant and he was afraid to anger the other too much. He sealed the deal. "If you insist on 34 gold coins, I will need a couple weeks to get them here. It was only supposed to be a short trip and I hadn't planned on this."

The store owner's face showed a little anger at this news. Apparently two weeks was a long time, and there was still one condition to go.

"Don't be angry. I'll bring 10 by next week. Some of my coins should be here by then. Oh, but I do have one more condition." David didn't dare try to read the store owner this time. He turned to Sañi and asked, "¿Has he touched you?"

The store owner started to protest, but David clearly heard Sañi's quiet voice say "no."

He waited for the owner to stop protesting and then said, "If you touch her in the next two weeks, the deal is off." With that he turned to leave the store.

The voice behind him asked quickly, "What's your name?"

David thought fast. "You can call me 'Auk.' I'll be back by." He pushed the door open and walked out into the more direct sunlight.

The door swung shut behind him before he finally released a big sigh of relief. Auk'a had not sounded upset. He hoped the woman would be alright. For now, he needed to tell Mark about exactly what he had agreed to. It was going to be a busy week.

When he arrived at the alley where Mark had said he would be waiting, David didn't see him. He looked around at the crowds that were walking the street but there was no sign of his friend. "Not again," he moaned.

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