OFF TO MARKET
The fortnightly market took place in the car park of an old Sheffield steel mill, which had closed down years ago. The building was an L-shape and the car park and market sat in the right angle of the L, closed in on two sides by corrugated iron.
Sammy stood on the edge of the market and watched her mum elbow her way into the crowd. She tightened her already tightly crossed arms and rocked back and forth on her heels. She should be smacking a ball around the park, not freezing her butt off at some lame market in the middle of nowhere. She’d got her own way, in that they’d gone to the market, but what did she actually expect was going to happen now that they were here? Would the old woman even be here today? She let out a long, weary breath and wondered whether she should just wait on the street until her mum was done. She wanted to demonstrate how little interest she had for shopping, but her problem was that Mama loved having her around. Even if she was completely immersed in shopping she still liked Sammy being there. And she couldn’t upset her. Not after everything she’d been through with Dad.
Still. The old woman could be in there somewhere, so there was no point dwelling on the missed kick-about. The mission was on and Sammy was ready. She’d tackle it like a ‘Double O’ agent. Constantly aware of her surroundings, treat every civilian as a potential threat. She should’ve arrived in the early hours of the morning to do a recce, but her mum wouldn’t have gone for that. And it was too late now. The one ace she had up her sleeve was that the old woman wouldn’t know what time she’d be coming. Perhaps she’d get the drop on the old girl.
The market stalls were the old wooden variety with red-and-white or green-and-white striped canopies. They were piled high with goods and jumbled together in no particular order, with all the free space in between packed with people. Sammy watched those people. And a lot of them looked like they could handle themselves in a fight. But none of them took any notice of her, so she rated them as low threats.
A teenager in a baseball cap and England shirt hurtled past, making her jump. He shouted something at a group of others behind him, but kept going. The others jeered without breaking stride and continued to patrol the outskirts of the market aggressively, perfecting their best gangster walks. Sammy walked quickly on without making eye contact. Not because she was scared, but because she had to remain inconspicuous for the mission. She could have them. Probably.
There were mostly clothes on sale at the market. Novelty t-shirts, jeans, hats and coats. But also dotted about were stalls selling other items, the most unusual of which lurked in the dark far corner, bordered on two sides by the corrugated iron cliff faces of the old warehouse and, on the other two, by heavily laden clothes stalls. It was a knick-knack stall, piled high with old junk, under a frayed canvas canopy covered in black mildew spots. And it was deserted.