Chapter 5 Summary

The next day, Prosper and Riccio go to Barbarossa’s junk shop. The interior of the shop is a dimly lit labyrinth of shelves full of glass insects, candlesticks, and so forth. On his way in, Prosper sees a shopper holding a statuette Barbarossa bought from Mosca not long ago. It is now on sale for a hundred times as much money as Barbarossa paid for it.

Barbarossa is a bald man with a bright red beard. He ushers the boys into his office. He pretends not to care that they are there, but Prosper can tell how excited he is to see what they have in their bag of loot. He leaves the boys in his office for a moment while he waits on some customers. The members of the gang have long speculated about whether Barbarossa dyes his beard, so Prosper takes the opportunity to inspect the man’s bathroom. Sure enough, he finds a tube of red hair dye next to the aftershave.

When Barbarossa is finished with his customers, he and the boys begin their negotiations. Barbarossa starts by telling Prosper that Bo broke a glass beetle on his last visit to the shop. Prosper protests, but Barbarossa insists that the boys will have to pay for the destroyed merchandise. Prosper gives in and grimly lays the loot on the desk. Barbarossa looks it over and says that the Thief Lord has done a good job this time. He offers one hundred thousand lire for everything.

To Riccio, this is an enormous sum of money—so he is confused and a little frightened when Prosper demands five hundred thousand. Barbarossa acts furious. He says he will kick Prosper out of his shop for making “outrageous demands.” Prosper does not argue. He just gets up and begins packing the loot back into the bag. When he reaches for the sugar tongs, Barbarossa stops him and says he will pay four hundred thousand for everything. Prosper agrees.

Before the boys leave, Barbarossa tells them to ask the Thief Lord if he would like a job. An important client of Barbarossa’s wants something stolen, and it should be easy—“child’s play” to the Thief Lord. Prosper does not say so, but he thinks this is a bad idea. Barbarossa is dishonest and dangerous, and he is probably unaware that Scipio is just a child. Riccio says they will pass on the message. Prosper pretends to agree, but privately he resolves to withhold the message from Scipio.