Chapter 32: Grateful

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"We are a team, Toby. You and me, friend. You did a great job scrounging us up a meal today. You are reliable and you appreciate my protection." Corbin turned his head and gave Joseph a hard look before continuing. "Joseph is no one. He asked me for some advice, and you know me. I can't say no to someone in need. You know, I thought I was helping him, but turns out he is the very ungrateful type. Can you imagine that, Toby?"

"I don't know what you're talking about," Joseph had began to protest, but then he stopped. It all started to make sense. Of course Corbin was just using him. How could he have been so stupid? Why had he assumed that he was the only boy who Corbin "taught" about the streets? "I just wanted to let you know that I'm leaving town. Good luck with everything," he had said with steel in his voice, turning away to return to the ports.

In that moment he had decided that he was definitely returning home one way or another, even if he had to swim all the way to Venice. Thankfully, he just had to sleep on the docks for a few nights until Lorenzo and Pascual brought him aboard their ship.

"We're almost there." Pascual's ever-cheery voice shook Joseph from his reverie.

"Are you still thinking about that man?" Lorenzo asked, concerned.

"What? Oh no. I was thinking about how grateful I am to be away from Tyre," Joseph answered honestly. "And how happy I am to be having a hot meal this evening."

"Pascual's mother is a very good cook. You are in for a treat," the tall man smiled.

"Yes, she is. Oh, I dream of her stews when I am at sea."

"Well, the slop they serve aboard the ship can barely be considered food. It's not even in the same category as your mother's cooking."

"I'm sure my mother would appreciate that compliment," Pascual laughed.

"That wasn't a compliment. It was the truth." Both men were laughing now.

Joseph was glad that he wasn't a sailor. His short time at sea had been a miserable one. It had been cramped and uncomfortable, and while he was surely treated worse than the crew, they didn't seem to have it substantially better.

Joseph had been forced to survive on the scraps that Lorenzo and Pascual brought to him. Even though the captain was aware of his presence, he felt like smuggled cargo. As a non-paying passenger with no useful skills, Joseph had done his best to keep out of sight. After weeks living on the street, being invisible was something he was getting good at. He stayed in corners, in shadows, beneath the deck, and away from any activity. At night he would slip out to grab some fresh air. He watched as the voluminous moon slowly shrunk into a faint silver crescent and finally disappeared. The moon was almost half way back towards its full girth when they reached Venice. And, before he had even spent a full day exploring this city of islands, he had run into Grimbert. What could this possibly mean?

"Stay close," Pascual warned as they approached a large bridge that spanned the main canal.

The bridge was unlike anything Joseph had ever seen before. Shops lined the walkway and merchants hawked their goods to the people streaming past. Many of the stores seemed to be jewelers, and Joseph couldn't fathom why anyone would be housing such precious goods on a property that literally hung over running water.

"Good deals!" one merchant shouted.

"We buy and sell!" come another voice. This one seemed to be directed right at Joseph. For a moment Joseph was distracted by a set of eyes that seemed to linger on the necklace that he wore, but then he saw Lorenzo and Pascual's heads bobbing away in front of him and he hurried to catch up.

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