1st of 4…
The gangsters grinned behind their masks, though their eorman mark wouldn’t have seen. They were the grins of players of tavern pick-up who saw their opponent make a good, if predictable move.
“Aye,” said one while both stood straight up, off the walls, “those frog-backed sons of shrews have sharp ears indeed for folk straying where they don’t belong, such as, for instance, strangers who slip up alleys between two foreign embassies guarded ‘round against assassins. And they’re not the only ones, are they, brother?” he added to his comrade standing just behind his shoulder.
The second figure made no response but to adjust his weight to the balls of his feet. Both together still filled the alley entirely, blocking both Beau’s exit and view. The speaker’s hand moved over his midriff, over the sash that held his knives.
“This road is owned, friend,” he said, his voice menacing behind the expressionless mask, “No action goes around here without you pay the toll to us who hold the claim. You know the rules. So, quick now, let’s see your gold like a sharp lad. Or you can cry for the guardians, if you’d rather.”
Both of them laughed at that suggestion, though behind their low laughter was a calculation just as risky as the one the eorman was surely making.