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Danger by Moonlight

The waters of the Grand Canal glitter fiercely in the sun. I shield my eyes as Carlo moves us further and further across the water. Normally we would have hugged the shade of over-hanging buildings. But there were serious matters to be discussed and Carlo said we must not be overheard.

“What can we do?” I asked feebly. “How can we…?” I falter, full of anxiety.

Carlo looked grim. “The Musulman says we must find at least 3,000 florins. Such money would keep our family for a lifetime. It’s impossible… except.”

“Except — except… Carlo! He knows!” I burst out.

“Knows what?” Carlo looks at me puzzled.

“He knows about The Ocean of the Moon. He recognised it in the painting when he came prowling round the house last night. Did Father tell him about it? Ask him to bring it? Then why didn’t he tell us? Is that what he was looking for in the workshop? If he had found it, I bet he would have stolen it from us and vanished into thin air — the low-down, good-for-nothing…”

“Shh!” Carlo shuts me up. “I’m trying to think.”

He lifts the pole and begins to move on again, as if by exerting himself physically, his brain would also be invigorated and find a solution.

Carlo stops poling. “We must give it to him.”

“We can’t!” I gasp in horror. “And Father wouldn’t want us to — surely!”

“Not even if it means his life?” asks Carlo.

We are silent. He is looking away from me, and I am staring at the reflections in the water.

“But what about him? The Musulman? I don’t trust that man!” I burst out fiercely. “How can we give him any money or jewels, let alone The Ocean of the Moon?”

“He knew our names, though, and where to find us,” murmurs Carlo. “Only Father could have told him that. But I agree. That doesn’t mean we can trust him. He brought no direct message from our father. Who knows how he learned of our existence? That’s why one of us must accompany him. One of us must go with him to Afghanistan.”

“With The Ocean of the Moon?” I can hardly speak the words.

Carlo nods.

“Will you go with him?” I whisper.

“No, Filippo, you must,” he says firmly.

“Me?” I cry, aghast. “Me? I’ve never even been to Verona.”

“You’re the only one who can,” says Carlo. “If I go, how will you keep the business going? You’re a good little nipper, but not yet good enough. The rest of the trade will make mincemeat of you. And if I ran into trouble like Papa — and didn’t come back for years — what would happen to you and Mother?”

“But what about The Ocean of the Moon?” I ask fearfully.

“This?” Carlo puts his hand into his jerkin pocket and pulls out a leather pouch tightened with a drawstring. Casually, he tosses it to me.

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