Cughell’s cupiditous ciosc
In the Friday mosque at Firuzabad they tell of a bold, ingenious and prolific thief, who would set himself up in front of another merchant’s stall in the market and sell their goods, magicked up for him by an enchanted shop-front he plastered over his victim’s. The wares he sold would crumble to dust or melt into smoke hours after their purchase – when the gulled buyers returned to confront the thief he would inevitably be gone or, so wilder rumours claim, might be seen folding his trick shop-front up into a little wooden case, before running off into the tangled crowd. Those repeatedly tricked added details to the story: the shop-front was only paper thin but it looked just like the closed shop it covered over – some claimed they had even been allowed into back rooms for tea, or to examine rare and valuable items. It could be recognised by the dove that always cooed from a cage at the front. And the wares always closely resembled those of the real, closed shops that the thief had obscured, so that many distinguished old hajjis have been banned from the market for fighting with shopkeepers that they insist have swindled them. Stories from other cities and markets differ in small details: one centres on the thief’s distinctive turban, another on his parrot, a third on the curious lightness of the bogus goods. Some storytellers purport to be the thief’s erstwhile friends – they say the thief was himself a respectable, upstanding man but that after he acquired the shop-front his mind turned to greed and trickery. In Firuzabad the thief has now not been heard of in a month. There is a rumour that the vizier has him imprisoned, and has confiscated his remarkable kiosk.