Chapter 10: The Midnight Market
Marcus drove straight home from the pawn shop and went to bed. He arose at nightfall and ate a big meal. It was essential to be well rested and energized, prior to stepping into the midnight market. Marcus knew from his last foray that at some point, he would have to use defensive magic. That always took a toll on the mind and body.
He left early, in order to find a good parking space; a spot close enough for him to get to his car fast, if someone followed him out of the market. It also needed to be far enough away, to anyone waiting to enter the market from seeing which car was his. You never knew who might sell you out. There was no honor among thieves.
In darkness, Marcus drove to the outskirts of the city. He hated going there at night. It was a desolate place with blocks of empty lots piled high with the rubble of collapsing and bulldozed buildings. Houses were few and far between, relics of a more prosperous past, their previously fancy facades now dusty and timeworn. It took several circuits around the neighborhood, to find a parking spot that wasn’t exposed.
Eventually, Marcus found a spot on a tree lined block full of houses with tightly drawn curtains. He parked and turned off the engine, taking a few moments to scan the area in order to ensure that no one was lurking in shadows. Opportunistic muggers were always waiting to take advantage of some unsuspecting mark with a pocket full of cash, headed for the midnight market.
Seeing that the coast was clear, he checked his watch. It was 11:50 P.M. Ten minutes until the portal for the midnight market opened. Marcus got out and made his way to the crossroads. The streetlamp cast a feeble pool of light on the sidewalk. Already waiting in the dim circle of illumination was the usual assortment of freaks and lowlifes. The gatekeeper was barely visible on the darkened sidewalk in her black vestments and dark skin. To Marcus the wizened old crone resembled a vulture with her hooked nose, beady eyes and the black cape hanging from her stooped shoulders.
Ordinarily, her frailty would make her a target for the more ruthless members of the group to prey upon. Conjure folk were the exception to the rule. Appearances could be deceiving. Even the most ruthless criminals knew better than to try anything underhanded with them. No amount of money was worth bringing down an unbreakable curse on their heads or being struck dead. At her advanced age, Marcus reckoned the crone must be a formidable practitioner of magic. Her body might be weak, but those eyes radiated power. All conversation abruptly halted, when she raised her arms to begin the ritual piercing of the veil, to open a portal into the midnight market.