“I know where you can get cheap materials,” Daiyu offered. “I’d go with you if I didn’t have to see to Grandfather and prepare for patients this afternoon.”
“It’s fine, your family comes first,” I threw the strap of my bag over my shoulder. “Where am I going?”
“On the south side there’s this sprawling indoor market that was built during the war. I guess it was pretty popular for a while? But it trickled off until eventually there was only one wing occupied by a handful of businesses. They’re pretty much the same places you see in every market, you know, a nail place and that place that sells phone cases and knock-off purses and that place that sells factory irregular clothes.
“According to my grandfather, when it got really bad one of the shop owners tried to get in touch with the landlord to arrange something. She got no response, so she went ahead and called in some favors and set up a kind of farmer’s market, the sort of sellers that would have been in the old open-air market that got replaced by the indoor place. And when the produce and seafood sellers started getting traffic, the cheese and preserved meat guys came, and then the craft people who weren’t yet making enough money for the really nice markets, and the place was busy again, and if the landlord had a problem, nobody said anything. The organizer was careful to get everybody’s fee and turn it in with her rent.
“Now back at the end of that one open wing, there’s a metal grate covering the hallway, but it’s not quite closed all the way. Don’t look shifty about it, just act like you know what you’re doing. You go through and to the left and past the empty fountain, you start running into shops again. Secondhand stores, at first. Clothes, books, electronics. I don’t think most of those people pay rent, or if they do it’s not to the landlord. There’s antiques and curiosities and miscellaneous stuff, which is why my grandfather used to go down there, and eventually started taking me.”
I nodded. “Yeah, that sounds like his kind of thing.”
“I guess some Anglo called it the Goblin Market and the name stuck. He says you can find anything down there, in one direction or another. There are people who do tattoos and magic items and the kind of spellwork it’s hard to find up here, if you don’t know somebody. Places that sell stuff that’s “new” and maybe fell off the back of a train, and people who will jailbreak any cell device without checking the numbers on it, and lots of electronics of questionable origin, basically, anything you want from a factory floor. There’s scrap dealers too, if you need more raw material. Just careful you don’t go too far back, you’ll get guys “encouraging” you to go back the other way, unless you have an appointment with somebody.”
The walk across town was just long enough for me to relax, and Daiyu’s directions were good. I didn’t have much trouble finding the market at all, and I didn’t hesitate when I walked up to the metal grate and slid through the opening. I saw a few people coming back the other way as I went, so there wasn’t much chance of getting lost. I stopped at the fountain, impressed by the way the decorative trees around it had gone wild.
My heart beat a little faster as I walked into the first shop and the next. It really did seem like anything might be hiding down here, and old habits die hard. I made myself track down the memory and circuitry I needed first, and I did my best to network a little, in case I needed more specific pieces some day.
Then I let myself wander through the antique shops and apparently random item stores. I told myself that I would need bloodstones for power sources anyway, so this was useful hunting. A few inexpensive magical devices with stones tucked inside made it into my bag for later dismantling.
One of the shops had both paper lanterns and green twinkle lights in the window, and inside there were mostly displays of charms and spelled jewelry. There were some statues and icons, just as artfully disarrayed as any of the other stores I’d been in. The back wall of the store was full of a garish shrine that would put my aunt Macy to shame, with more twinkle lights and silk flower garlands for the four-foot plastic statue. I looked at the little figures, just in case any of them had a stone or a spell.
“Looking for some money blessings?” The clerk asked as I picked one up. “Mara’s good for that.”
“Mara, huh?” I laughed. “I wish, but first I need the money to buy in.”
The clerk just shrugged. “If it’s meant to be, she’ll make sure you find a way.”
That sounded like something Grandmother Dee might have said. Maybe it wouldn’t hurt to come back later, if I had the money.
On my way out, I hesitated at the fountain, thinking about the rest of what Daiyu had said.
So you know, if you take a left at the fountain, and you don’t look too hard at the walls, suddenly you’re in a busy mall again. An active mall, a mall with lots of stores whose signs you can’t quite read. An arcade with all kinds of games, and a food court where you can’t quite figure out what half the people are eating. And if you walk out of that mall’s entrance, you’re in some weird city where time doesn’t work right. Grandfather only took me there a few times, but that was where I met Jian.
I shook my head. I had work to do.