Elliott crouched down at the foot of a crumbling, sun baked wall and watched the daily market assemble itself around him. He rearranged his filthy rags, set out his battered wooden begging bowl and spat noisily into the dust.
Before him was a mad cramped jostling space, a brief release from the dark labyrinthine alleys whose complexity made the Souk virtually unnavigable. Traders, whose hovels opened onto the tiny square, opened their shutters and drew out wares from dark interiors. Others arrived carrying their goods on their heads. Each had an appointed place, and each wanted a little bit more, so the air was filled with imprecations and appeals to the Almighty.
Nobody paid attention to the scrawny beggar from the hill country, and Elliot prided himself on his disguise. His own mother wouldn’t have recognised him. He had an eye for detail, an instinctive appreciation of local colour and fifteen years with the Colonial Police had provided him with plenty of opportunity to study those he was spying upon.
If there were any truth in the rumours of unrest and insurrection, they would manifest themselves here, amongst the gossiping tongues of the marketplace. All he had to do was remain unnoticed and alert.
A fat man padded past, and then drew himself up before returning to Elliot and standing in front of him, looking down affably.
“Baksheesh,” croaked Elliot in perfect hill tones.
The fat man sat beside him, and mopped at the sweat running from beneath his turban. He fixed Elliot with an ingenuous smile, displaying an impressive array of gold teeth. Then he leaned in closer. Elliot’s nerves were taut. Was this to be the confidence that completed his mission?
“God be with you, Engleesh,” the fat man said warmly. “You want to buy some feelthy postcards?”