“I am so tired, Stephen,” Robert said as he stopped and leaned against a merchant’s stall in the marketplace. “We have searched every quarter of this city and have still not found a trace of Leigha or the men that captured her. I am beginning to wonder if she is still alive!”
“Don’t give up hope yet, Robert,” Stephen said, placing his hand on Robert’s slumping shoulders. “Even the most barbaric of men would not kill a woman as beautiful as you say Leigha is. Your father’s right, they must have brought her here. We will just have to keep on trying all the harder!” Avoiding Robert’s dark eyes, he ventured an idea that seemed to show concern, but his concern lay only with his evil plans as he spoke again, “There are some places that have not been searched. Perhaps we should look there among them.”
Robert stood up straight and waited tensely for Stephen to continue. Stephen knew that he had attained Robert’s interest and paused to look about him before finally shaking his head and speaking again.
“Ah, but I’m sure that we would not find her there. Someone that we have already talked to would have at least heard of her before she could have been sold to such a place as that.”
“What are you talking about? What kind of place?” Robert asked intent on following any possible lead that could help him find Leigha. “We have searched everywhere that I can think of. Perhaps you’re wrong… perhaps she is in one of these places you speak of.”
Stephen feigned a sad expression and looked into Robert’s eyes as he answered him, gaining pleasure from the response he saw there as he spoke. “There are the opium dens and the houses of, ah, ill repute.”
“No!” Robert yelled and turned away in disgust at such a thought. Fear and disbelief tightened in a band about his heart as he vehemently denounced the suggestion. “They would have had to have reduced Leigha to almost nothing to sell her to such places as these, and she would not have allowed that! She would have killed herself first!”
“You are forgetting that slaves have no say in what happens to them, and well, it was a group of pirates that took her after all and you’ve heard about how savage that breed can be. I know it sounds cruel, but well, perhaps these places were the only ones left that would buy Leigha after they had finished with her.”
Robert turned and faced Stephen squarely, his anger and shock showing clearly on his ashen face. With a breaking heart and in an attempt to cling to what he felt was his last hope of finding his wife, he lowered his head in despair and nodded in agreement to Stephen’s words.
“If you truly feel that you can handle this, we will go there now. If not, we can discuss this with the others tonight, and they can search these places tomorrow.”
“No, I’ll be all right.” Robert shook his head and drew a deep breath to steady himself, then looked into Stephen’s eyes with a steely determination as he said, “I just want to find my wife, and I don’t care where I have to go to do this. I will find her!”
“Then let’s be off, the afternoon is half gone, and we have many places to see before we are due back at the ship,” Stephen said as he turned and walked away, knowing that Robert followed close behind. “We should be able to cover at least some of the places before nightfall. If God is with us, we will find Leigha before we have to return.”
“I say the hell with returning to the ship even then!” Robert exclaimed. “My wife is more important to me than my safety. If she is in any of those places, she is in danger, and we have to save her!”
“Hold on now!” Stephen turned and spoke sharply. “I know what you are saying, and I understand how you feel, but we cannot be so foolhardy, especially not where we are going! It’s not safe there even in the daytime, and you would have to have an army with you to be safe at night! What good would you do Leigha if you get yourself killed before we find her, or worse, after we have found her?”
“All right, you’ve made your point,” Robert replied tersely. “We will search only until sunset, then return to the Harrington.”
“That’s better. Now, let’s be off.” Stephen smiled and began walking in long strides towards the district he had spoken of with Robert following close behind.
Both men were silent and intent on their search, but the thoughts that went through their minds were quite different. Robert’s mind was filled with hopes of finding his wife and returning her to their home. Stephen was busy scheming in his mind for a way of trapping Robert far from any help and stealing the amulet that hung about his neck. He laughed to himself as he thought how easy it had been to make Robert follow him to the bad part of the city, where whatever evil that might befall him could not be blamed on Stephen. Once there, he planned to take the amulet and leave Robert to die; the how and where of his plan had yet to be worked out, but he knew that today was his day to gain what he had traveled halfway across the world to possess. Not knowing Stephen’s thoughts, Robert searched with him through the backstreets and buildings of Constantinople, his heart alternating between hope and despair as they went through every place that they came to. Leigha was nowhere to be found among them. Robert had an increasingly tight, dreadful feeling of disaster that kept pushing at the corners of his mind but he chalked this up to his fear and anguish for Leigha. Never did he realize that it was a warning that his own life was now at stake.
Virginia Lee ~ Dagon’s Blood excerpt ~ Kindle Edition