Human trafficking was never something I approved of, and slavery I actively avoided at all costs. It went against my fundamental beliefs as Fenrir and in all honesty, I was probably going to burn the whole market down anyway at some point. But for now, I was simply trying to locate a certain James Hemmingway.
The slave market was set at the base of one of the concrete towers, a semi-circular affair which reminded me of a football stadium, with tiers of seats around the outside and a stage in the middle, where the slaves were paraded. As it turned out, the slave market was only open for two hours a week, but we were lucky enough to arrive at the appropriate time. I tried to avoid looking at the people sitting in the seats around me and Cat with disgust, but failed. You couldn’t barter for human life. If anything, it was worthless.
The market was set up like an auction, with each slave being shown off and then bought by whoever offered the largest price. Cat blushed and looked away when the first slave was brought onstage, because they were stark naked. After giving each slave a courtesy glance-over to check that they weren’t James, he looked away, trying to give the poor people at least a little bit of privacy.
Slaves sold for a lot, with every price being in the thousands. After counting, I realised each one of the money bundles I had been given was worth £1000NB, which made my total money just under £5000NB, which was around the average price for a slave. Hopefully, I would be able to buy James back and wouldn’t have to go through the messy business of breaking him out of the slave pens near the back of the arena.
Seven slaves were brought up and haggled over before James was dragged onstage. Without his clothes, my jailer looked far less threatening and a heck of a lot more awkward.
“Now, we have £1000NB” called the announcer.
It was time to do some haggling. I raised my hand.
I tried again, hoping whoever the other guy was they ran out before £5000NB.
I held my breath.
Son of a bitch. I looked over the seats to see who had bought him. It was a portly man wearing a gold chain around his neck, sitting near the top of the arena and flanked my two muscle-men. My guess was either a crime lord or the mayor.
“Going, going, sold! To the mayor himself, no less!”
Well, that answered that question. Just my luck to have to pick a fight with the most powerful man in the city.
“They just sold him” said Cat, horrified.
“Don’t worry about it” I assured her. “If anything, it will be easier to bust him out of some rich guy’s mansion that that slave pit”
“But that’s the mayor. He’s in charge of the whole town”
I flashed her a grin. “I never had much respect for authority. Come on, let’s go and find out as much as we can about him”
Cat paused, looking back over her shoulder as James was dragged away. The poor guy must have seen us haggling, because he had the most horrible look of sadness on his face. He must think that we gave up on him. Still, at least this way he would get some clothes.
I led Cat out of the arena and back into the street, which was full of people doing whatever people in towns did with their lives. It wasn’t killing zombies, I can tell you that much. Cat was getting odd looks from people in the streets, but honestly I didn’t blame them. The girl was eye-candy. Now, where to go to get information? I hadn’t seen any info brokers advertised, but I had a feeling that the lady in the bartering shop would know. It was worth checking out, anyway.
The door chimed as we walked in. Peering at us, the lady behind the counter smiled.
“I honestly was not expecting you back so soon” she told us.
“Neither was I” I replied. “Do you trade in information?”
Her eyes narrowed. “No, I try to avoid that. If you want to trade information try the third bench on the right side of the bar. There’s usually someone there. Good day”
Eh, she wouldn’t be the first one to claim that selling secrets was a bad practise. I left the shop with as much courtesy I could muster, before heading off towards the pub.
“Do you drink alcohol?”
She paused for a second.
“I’ve never tried. We don’t have it at the bunker”
“Perfect,” I grinned, “I’ll have to get you thoroughly drunk”
She gave me an awkward look. I replied with my most winning simile.
“One glass, that’s it”
The pub had a nice wooden sign over the entrance with a picture of a zombie having its brains blown out and the name proudly displayed in gold paint, ‘The Humble Headshot’. Interesting choice of name, I was beginning to like it already. The door opened with a soft creak and instantly we were assaulted with the smell of stale sweat, puke and beer. Okay, maybe not so nice.
“People go in here voluntarily?” wondered Cat.
“Seems like it” I replied, gesturing at the tables full of people merrily drowning their sorrows.
The bar was dark and gloomy, lit with mostly candles. Indeed, it was a wonder the place hadn’t burned down yet. Eager to keep my promise of making Cat thoroughly drunk, I slid up to the bar.
“Vodka Martini, shaken, not stirred” I ordered, in my best Bond voice.
“Sorry, luv, we’re all out” called the barmaid.
“So much for suave. I’ll get a lager for me and one for the lady”
I pulled a note from my pocket as the barmaid poured the glasses and handed it to her, before taking a drink and passing one to Cat. Taking a sip, I was pleased to find that the beer was both not moonshine and drinkable, which meant this pub thrived off looting the ruins of civilisation for lager.
Third bench on the right side of the bar. Sure enough, a figure was sitting there, hunched, their beer almost flat. Taking another sip of my drink, I sat down.
“Hello, I heard you dabbled in the noble art of information brokering?” I asked.
“I do indeed” said the figure. I was surprised to hear that the voice was female, which makes me sexist, I know. Add it to the list of other crimes I’m guilty of.
I slid a few notes onto the table. “What can you tell us about the mayor? Especially information regarding his slaves.”
The woman fingered the money. “The mayor is the one who built this town. The town guard answer directly to him, as do all the major business owners. He lives in the modern building at the end of the main street. You can recognise his slaves by the golden bracelets they wear. They are designed to be unable to be removed without a key or a smithy.”
Or a pair of bolt cutters, I thought to myself.
“His slaves have their own wing of the building, the right side as you look at it from the town square” the broker continued. “Although if you were looking to free one, I suggest you get in touch with a man called Manuel. He cannot be found by looking, but if you ask for him, he will find you. I hope that was helpful”
“Very” I assured her, adding another note to the pile, which swiftly vanished from the table.
I downed the rest of my beer and stood up, returning the glass to the bar. Cat was leaning against the doorframe, looking decidedly ill.
“That’s the last time I drink any of that stuff” she told me.
Dammit. I was hoping to at least see what she would do when she was drunk. But oh well.
“I’ve gotten some information. Your brother will be in the right wing of that modern building we saw when we came in. And I got a name of someone who might help us, Manuel”
“Wow, you work fast” she murmured.
“Years of practise” I assured her.
“So, are we going to find my brother?”
“Nope, we’re going to find Manuel”
And hope the broker wasn’t lying to us.