He waited for an hour.
Seated on the sidewalk in front of the supply shop he had a good view of everyone approaching long before they arrived. He had found that to be a very good thing in his new line of work. Even if the concrete was hard on old bones.
Passers-by made an effort to walk around him – no one wanted to get too close to an old man in worn clothes slumped against the front of the building. He wore a rumpled hat to ward off the solar reflections and caressed a faded backpack every so often as if to make sure it was still there. Next to him lay a dead weasel.
After an hour a well dressed woman crossed the wayfare, weaving between the hovercraft and only once actually touching the surface. The dead weasel sat up and watched her.
She approached the old man and looked both ways before addressing him.
“Do you have it?” she asked.
“Depends on who’s askin’,” he answered.
She sneered just the slightest bit. “I am,” she said.
“The person you have been waiting for.” Her exasperation escaped in a sigh.
The old man studied her silently then glanced down at the weasel sitting beside him.
“Play dead,” he ordered and the weasel dropped dead with a grin.
“Behind you,” he said to the woman, but she took too long to turn and they got her before she could become invisible.
The leader of the pack bent down to face the old man on his level. “What did she say to you?” he demanded.
“The agent – the humanoid we just killed. What did she want?”
“She asked if I had any spare change,” the old man said.
The android stared at him. “Your weasel is dead,” he said.
There was a disturbance farther along in the marketplace and the droids left him in order to deal with it. The dead weasel sat up and chattered at him.
“I told you, learn English or don’t bother,” the old man said and turned to peer into the window of the shop behind him. It was well-lighted, neatly organized and oddly deserted for the weekend before school started.
A small group of children were gathered around the apothecary counter at the back where the robot in charge was rearranging an assortment of poisons. Two middle-aged men were comparing turret grips and photon pipelets underneath a banner — Sale! Thieves Supplies, 33% Off! — and a mother and son stood in the school supply aisle examining pyro cylinders and pulsar navigators. No one looked like a prospective contact from the Undercover Retirement Mage Association.
When the old man looked back out to the street he noticed the weasel had disappeared. A rustling from the backpack gave away its location.
“Git out of there, Jep. I told you we ain’t got any more food until we sell this thing – Hey! Wait jist a mintue you golderned varmint!”
He yanked the weasel out of the backpack by its tail, only just preventing it from sinking its teeth into the large turnip clutched between its paws.
“I told you a million times – this here is a enchanted turnip and we ain’t eaten’ it – we are sellin’ it!”
The weasel spit at him then looked just beyond his shoulder, opened its eyes very wide and dropped dead in his hand. The turnip plunked back into the backpack.
The old man turned in time to see the androids approaching again and rose hastily to his feet.
“Guess it’s time to move on,” he muttered. “Where else in this god-infested galaxy do you suppose someone is willing to buy an enchanted turnip?”