Agent Boone’s underlings returned to the DPI when they finished documenting the scene and collecting samples. He and I split off from them to my immense relief. I had no idea what they’d do with everything they collected, but I knew I wouldn’t be much help with it. Instead, we headed to the market as I’d hoped. If we were going to find a new lead, magical gossip traveled fastest in our hidden markets. I needed to slip away from him at some point and find a technomancer. I’d keep my eyes peeled for an opportunity. Without a better understanding of Boone’s habits and mannerisms, I couldn’t make a plan.
“You guys aren’t going to raid this place, are you?” I asked.
“No,” he said.
“They’re a much better resource if they aren’t worried about getting snatched up by government agents,” I continued as if he hadn’t answered.
“I know,” he said.
“And you don’t want them to pack up and move the whole market on us.”
“Believe it or not, I’ve been to a supernatural market before,” he said.
“One trip to find people who wanted to talk shit about me doesn’t count,” I said.
“Where do you think we found Sal?”
“Oh.” I didn’t tell him I’d thought Sal tricked them. The way she’d casually talked about experimenting convinced me she went to work for DPI to get funding. Enchanting takes an investment to get started. If you’re any good at it, you could sell whatever you made for enough to reinvest with a decent profit. With the DPI footing the bill, Sal didn’t have to worry about restocking supplies or getting things right every time. “So, is that why you two are such good pals?”
“Yeah, I recruited her. She wasn’t happy running a booth. Sal’s not big on retail. It worked out nicely. She can focus on creating, and we reap the benefits.”
“So you don’t always use threats and manipulation to get supernaturals to work for you?” I didn’t expect him to answer my sarcastic comment.
“No. I’m sorry for how things went down with you, but trust me, this was the better option,” he said.
“I don’t doubt you believe that,” I said, only slightly less venom in my voice. He sighed.
“I get it, Casper. The situation isn’t fair. I won’t condescend and say the agency will grow on you. It probably won’t, as long as you’re holding a grudge. It’s not all bad, though. You could turn your life around, maybe change things for the better if you give this a chance,” he said. “At the very least, can we call a truce when we’re out on assignments? I’ll watch your back if you watch mine.”
“Fine,” I agreed. The spiteful part of me wanted to keep fighting. Except he’d reminded me of something, my grandma used to tell me. You don’t control the storms life sends your way. But you can grow a garden with their rain. Of course, I wouldn’t be telling him that.
“Good enough. You ready?” Boone asked. He pulled his sleeve over the enchanted bracelet on his wrist. He didn’t want all his cards on the table, and I respected that. His badge might make someone think twice about attacking him, but it never hurt to have a backup.
“Yeah. Let’s do this.”
Crowds of people swarmed from booth to booth at the East Lyndale Farmers Market, except for one. Everyone walked past the custom door knobs booth without even glancing at it. The witches who hid this supernatural market could have made it look like anything. Unless you had some supernatural help, the booth wouldn’t register. They must have liked symbolism a bit too much, though. Door knobs granting access was on the nose, in my opinion. Agent Boone saw through the spell work without my help. I guess his bracelet covered seeing through the concealing and repelling magic that kept the other mundanes out.
No one noticed as we stepped into the tent. The illusion of the door knob salesperson vanished, and a stairway into the earth took its place. I let Boone take the lead. I wanted everyone to see him first, so they thought twice before bothering me. He didn’t display his badge or gun in an obvious fashion, but he carried himself with pride and confidence. I’d let people make what they would of that and see how far it got us.
Walking into the market under East Lyndale took my breath away the first time I saw it. Cormac didn’t breathe, being dead, but he looked awestruck. Ethereal blue and gold orbs of light floated freely in the air above us. They dipped and rose without rhyme or reason. Aisle after aisle of vender filled the space directly in front of us. Rich blue and gold tapestry draped each booth, giving customers a feeling of privacy as they browsed. The same fabrics form wall-like stage curtains on the far end of the marketplace. Beyond it, an arena stood ready for competition. Everything from magical dueling to werewolf cage matches went on there. I used to compete there. I didn’t have the muscles for any of the physical contests, but my gift for sensing and tracking magic made it hard to get the best of me when it came to spell casting.
Elevated bars stood on each side of the arena with seating for those who to watch from a distance. Plenty of people loved to get close to the action, though, so standing room around the fights allowed the brave to step up. Enter at your own risk; anything from blood splatter to wayward spells could come that way. The market organizers paid security to catch as much of that as possible. They didn’t have a perfect record, though. Agent Boone and I made our way to the bar to the left of the arena. Familiar faces tracked me on my way. No one approached us. I wanted to send Cormac to find me a technomancer’s booth but didn’t risk Boone overhearing me.
“Hey, your boyfriend found you!” Freddy said with a smile as I walked up to his side of the polished wooden bar. Freddy was the one person I knew would be happy to see me. I gave him a questioning look, and he looked at Agent Boone.
“My boyfriend?” I asked.
“Is he not?” Embarrassment reddened Freddy’s cheeks. “I guess I should have known you wouldn’t go for a mundane. Nothing personal.”
“If you’re not his boyfriend, why were you really looking for him?” Freddy asked Agent Boone.
“It’s a long story,” Boone said.
“Not really. He’s DPI,” I told Freddy. That information would spread fast. “Is Saphina running her booth today?”
“She’s not in trouble, is she?” he asked.
“No, we’re just looking for information,” Agent Boone answered.
Freddy gave him a dubious look.
“I promise he comes in peace, Freddy. He found me, and I’m all right,” I reassured him.
“She’s down aisle two,” he said.
“Thanks,” I said. I nudged Agent Boone and nodded at Freddy. He took my meaning and tipped the bartender for the information.
“Who is Saphina? And why are we looking for her?” Boone asked as we walked away from the bar.
“She’s an enchanter. She deals in darker stuff. Cursed and dangerous items,” I explained. “I don’t think she made the dagger, but if we’re looking for dark enchantments, she’s the best place to start.”
“Will she help us?” he asked.
“I’m not sure. She’s not likely to be intimidated. How do you feel about charming a wicked witch?”