The great city of Constantinople never slept; its traffic of humanity from the great and powerful during the day to the lowest that crept out into the darkness of night made it a living thing. A dirty, rag-covered boy was on his way home for the night after having spent all day out in the marketplace attempting to beg or steal whatever he could to help his family survive. He had been unsuccessful this day, so his stomach growled, and tears fell with his every step. His hands and pockets were empty. He prayed that Allah had shown more mercy to his brothers and sisters and that perhaps they would have some food waiting for his return. Tanhea searched along the old buildings and alleys that he passed on his way home, hoping that he might find some refuse that would be edible or usable for his family. It was well after dark, and he knew that he must get home quickly for the others would be getting worried about him. Coming to the small alley where Robert lay unconscious, the boy decided that he should stop his search for the day and return home. Just as he passed by the crevice, he heard a low moan and turned to peer into the darkness beyond to try to discover its source. Seeing nothing there, he stepped in closer. Suddenly, something grabbed a hold of his leg with a grip of iron, and Tanhea screamed in fright, kicking and yelling as he battled the unseen man that held him.
“Help me, please help me,” Robert moaned to the boy, his voice low and filled with pain.
“Let me go! Let me go!” Tanhea screamed, not understanding the foreign words that came out of the darkness.
Reaching down, Tanhea struck out at the unseen body beyond the gripping hand, causing Robert to lose his hold and groan in agony, for the boy had hit one of his many knife wounds. Tanhea pulled his hand back at the sound, startled by the tone of the voice that still pleaded to him for help. There was something warm and sticky all over his hand, and Tanhea ran quickly to the light to see what it was. He was shocked to find that it was covered in blood from the man that now lay soundless beyond Tanhea’s sight.
Now that he was free, Tanhea turned and began to run away in fear, but something about the sound of the man’s voice stopped him and made him run towards the nearby tavern instead for help. It was always best to stay as small and out of sight as you could to survive on the streets here, but the desperate sound of the stranger’s voice echoed in Tanhea’s head, and he could do nothing but obey its plea.
The serving girl that had waited earlier on Stephen and Robert sat fanning herself in the doorway of the small tavern as Tanhea approached. Seeing the small boy come running into the light of her building, she stopped and stood now in his way. Reaching out, she grabbed the boy as he attempted to push past her through the doorway and held him at arm’s length as she scolded him.
“You cannot come in here,” she jeered at him. Looking at him closely, she smiled a toothless grin as she said, “Wait until you are a few years older, then come see Kalo. I take good care of you then!”
“No, let me go!” Tanhea kicked out at her, trying to make her release him. “There is a man down there, just off the street in the alley. He speaks in words I cannot understand, but I know that he is hurt bad! See, here is his blood!” Tanhea exclaimed as Kalo glared down at him.
“A foreign man, you say?” she asked as she looked in the direction the boy was now pointing in. Speaking half to herself, she said, “There were two strangers here a while ago, perhaps he is one of them. Wait here, boy,” she ordered as she turned and went into the bistro. “I’ll get someone to help us bring the man here. Mayhap if he is still alive, we might get some reward for saving him!”
Tanhea waited as he was bid, thinking of the reward Kalo had mentioned. He had not thought of helping the man for that reason, but now that she had spoken of it, his eyes glowed as he thought that perhaps Allah had thought well of him after all.
“Come, show us where this man is,” Kalo spoke behind him suddenly, surprising the lad as she came outside, followed by one of her frequent customers.
The man had a look of greed about him as he stared at the boy and then back into the tavern as if wondering if leaving his drinking would be worth following the tale of a street rat. Shaking his head, he decided that it would not hurt anything to find out if the boy spoke the truth and so followed after the woman and the boy as they hurried down the street ahead of him.
“Hurry, Samul!” Kalo called as she reached Robert’s crumpled body and knelt down beside him. “It is one of the Englishmen, and he’s still alive!”