"They don't appear until the sun goes down, and they disappear when it's fully dark, but they're real, I tell you. Out in the twilight. They walk quiet, desperate and alert. I don't leave the house. Sometimes I see bloodstains out in the field in the morning."
His store is closed from sundown until dark.
But I had learned the language of lions. I smeared my coat with lion fat, and spent the day practicing my lion walk. I was anointed and I spoke the words of lions and I wandered out among them.
The beasts were wary, ready for a rumble. They stomped proud as they stalked quiet. Once you're among them, you can see it. They don't dare to look afraid - it's too dangerous. They don't make peace with each other there, in the light of the setting sun.
And there's a lonely beauty in that.
I stalked out among them, step by sullen silent step. I hunched my shoulders and arched my back and walked a rambling pack until I was face to face with the lion I was seeking.
My neck was drowning in sweat in the sky's oven. I was slippery and delirious, and my strength was sapped away, baked off. A toll for crossing the desert.
I paid my way and I met him. His mane was black, and his skin the color of the sand. He was old and mean and feral.
"You know who I am," I said in the language of lions, "and you know why I am here."
"Don't expect me to be fooled by your clever dance," he said in response, "You're not one of us, no matter how hard you study. I can see that you walk on two legs. You're a prey animal. You shouldn't have left your roads and caves, human."
I stretched in contemptuous relaxation, and watched the sky. The best way to diffuse a threat is to disregard it, "Good," I said, "Then you know who I am. Are you ready to hear how I can help you?"
"We still haven't finished the part of the discussion where I decide whether to eat you," he said, watching my eyes.
I met his gaze casually, "Yes we have. Now, let's talk business." I knew he might still rip me to shreds with his claws and and teeth and hunger, but it was unlikely. He was three times my size, but he was curious.
"You have my attention," he said. He intended a threat - I'd die if I failed to keep his interest - but it came out hollow. It fell to the ground, like a balloon thrown with ignorant force. He'd passed the torch to me.
"Patent licenses," I said, "for pharmaceuticals. They have R&D departments that sit on their discoveries, because the discoveries aren't lucrative. They don't want to lose opportunities in the future, but the truth is that they'll never use them. I'm planning to buy the ideas, and promise them a split share. All the good ideas that don't seem profitable (to them) in the short term."
He was losing interest. Patent law and pharmacy has no meaning to a predator.
"You can double your investment in a year," I added, "I'll give preferred bonds. Four hundred thousand dollars investment and I'll pay you eight hundred thousand, in twelve monthly increments."
I had his attention to be sure.
"Prove it," he said, and so I showed him the map.
I knew his ways before I walked into the desert, of course. You don't stumble into danger without at least three plans; I didn't even call on Plan Two.
And in this way the desert is navigated.