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Never Too Late: Chapter 2

“And why are you sharing this with me? Why don’t you tell my master?”

S

himon traveled as far as he could from his family. He wanted no reminders of his community or the evils he had perpetrated against them. He settled in a busy city and worked as a lowly delivery boy for an Arab merchant who sold carpets.

One day, Shimon was approached by someone his age who wore a very friendly smile and oozed charisma and charm.

“Greetings, brother, my name is Falik. I noticed you are new to our beautiful city and wanted to personally welcome you.”

“Thank you. I appreciate the greetings, Falik. My name is Shimon.”

“Oh, a Jew.” Falik’s smile faltered. “I didn’t know… You don’t look like the Jews I’ve seen around here.”

“There are Jews who live nearby?”

“Yes, why? You actually look disappointed.”

“I have abandoned my faith. I was hoping to settle somewhere far from other Jews.”

“Don’t worry about them.” Falik shrugged. “Look, allow me to get to the point. I noticed that the carpets your master is selling contain rare material. He is clueless, but I just wanted to let you know that his wares are worth a hundred times more than what he’s selling them for.”

“Really? How does he not know this?”

“Because he’s a dimwitted peasant, that’s why. You think he makes these rugs himself? No, his elderly grandfather weaves them, and he’s too old to know their value. All he knows is how to weave beautiful rugs and give them to his grandson to sell.”

“And why are you sharing this with me? Why don’t you tell my master?”

“Are you mad? Why would I do such a silly thing? I’m telling you because we’re entering a business partnership together. You’re going to meet me tonight down the road, after everyone has cleared out of the marketplace. I’ll explain everything to you then. Together, we’re going to be rich.”

“Are you a thief?”

“Are you?”

Shimon thought for a moment.

“I’ll see you tonight.”

 

 

**********************************

That night, Falik and Shimon met underneath a full moon.

“Here’s the plan. We’re going to convince your master that there’s a wealthy businessman who wants to purchase an enormous amount of his carpets. You’ll be tasked with the delivery, and of course you’ll just bring the carpets to me. We’ll sell them all at exorbitant prices and then part ways, richer than our wildest dreams.”

“I don’t understand. My master may not be as smart as the Sultan’s advisers, but he’s not exactly as dumb as a mule. Nobody has ever bought a large shipment of rugs from him before. Won’t he suspect something is suspicious?”

“I’ve already thought that through, my brother. Just listen. I’m going to dress up as an aristocrat and I’ll make up a false identity. Over a period of time, I’ll build the trust of your master, and then, when the time is ripe, I’ll put in the enormous offer for all of his merchandise. However, I’ll insist that I can’t travel with so much money, and that he must send you, his servant, to deliver everything to me. Of course, at that point we’ll just run away with the goods!”

“What if we’re caught?”

“We won’t be.”

“But if we are?”

“Our hands will be chopped off by the authorities.”

“Lovely.”

“We won’t be caught, though. Trust me.”

***********************************

The next day, Shimon was talking with his master when a man dressed in an elegant turban and robe approached them with a huge smile.

“Greetings, my brothers! My name is Achmed. I was strolling past your merchandise and couldn’t help but notice how beautiful your carpets are. May I take a closer look?”

“Certainly. My name is Ali. I am very pleased you noticed my carpets. My grandfather makes them himself.”

Shimon’s master beamed with pride as Achmed (a.k.a. Falik) whistled with an impressed expression as he ran his fingers across the carpets.

“How much for the red one?”

Ali named his price.

“That’s a hefty price for a carpet, friend. But then again, the craftsmanship is very, very nice.”

“Yes, my grandfather works very hard on his craft.”

“Yes, I can tell. Okay, here is your payment. Kindly accept these three extra coins as a token of my respect for your grandfather’s handiwork.”

“Thank you!” Ali’s eyes grew wide as Achmed’s hand descended into a seemingly bottomless purse and rattled the coins inside loudly until he finally withdrew a few and handed them over.

When Achmed strolled away, Ali turned to Shimon excitedly.

“Did you see how big his money purse was? He looks extremely wealthy, doesn’t he?”

“Oh, yes,” Shimon replied quickly. “Hopefully he’ll be back to make more purchases. If he keeps coming back, one day you’ll be a rich man yourself!”

“Yes, yes!” Ali rubbed his hands together greedily. “That would be a dream come true. But honestly, what do you think? Do you believe he’ll return? After all, a man with such means doesn’t need to come to my little stall with my few products. He can go anywhere he wants…”

“He’ll be back. I just have a feeling.”

***************************************

Achmed did come back. Again and again. Soon Ali’s pockets were filled with coins and he trusted Achmed completely. Achmed/Falik knew the moment had come to implement the last stage of the plan.

One bright afternoon, Achmed presented Ali with the offer of a lifetime.

“I want everything in your stock, Ali. Every last carpet in your possession.”

“I-I have fifteen carpets, my dear friend! You’re going to buy all of them?”

“Yes, certainly. In fact, fifteen isn’t enough. Ask your grandfather to prepare fifteen more for me.”

“Y-yes, of course! I will tell him at once!”

“Good, good. Thank you. Oh, and one more thing. I won’t be able to pick up the order myself. My physician has advised me to cut back on traveling. Can you deliver the carpets to me?”

“I’ll do it myself!”

“Ah, well… I live across the river. You’re an older man and bringing such an enormous amount by yourself is simply too risky. How about if your assistant brings it for you? He’s healthy, young and strong.”

“I’m not so sure…” Ali twisted his fingers together nervously. “That’s a lot of merchandise.”

“I can do it, master.” Shimon smiled assuredly. “You know you can trust me with anything.”

“We’ll do it together.” Ali smiled. “Yes, that’s the best solution.”

Achmed concealed his frustration behind a nervous smile.

“Why not just send it all with your servant?”

Ali’s eyes narrowed. “Why do you feel it would be safer for him to travel alone? Surely, it would help if I accompanied him on the journey, would it not?”

“I suppose you are right. Perfect. In fact, I would love for you to come to my home. That way I can invite you inside and we can enjoy a meal together. I feel like we are friends after all of this time, anyhow.”

“Yes.” Ali beamed. “Friends.”

Achmed turned to leave. As he did, he slipped something out from the folds of his robe and pressed it into Shimon’s hands. Shimon felt the cold metal.

“Come alone,” Achmed whispered.

TO BE CONTINUED…

(Originally featured in Mishpacha Jr., Issue 807)

 

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