This is the bottom, I think, getting up the nerve to leave my car. The old woman, Madame Ming, is standing at the end of the block in the afternoon sunlight, right where the email told me to find her. I drove two circles before I parked, to check that no one else was waiting for me. Portland isn’t New York City, but it’s Old Town, so I have to be careful.
Finally I step out of my car, one hand sweaty on my keys and the other buried in my pocket with the roll of cash. Madame Ming turns at my approach. She is a head shorter than me with cropped gray hair. Her blue tang suit is faded, her arms folded into the deep sleeves.
I stop a yard from her, and she eyes me. I’m wearing my Lewis & Clark College hoodie. So much for being anonymous.
“You have the money?” she asks in accented English.
I look around and nod, not ready to pull out the wad. She moves her hands and displays a bottle, bulbous at the base with a tapering neck, stoppered. Exactly what I imagined a potion bottle would look like. The glass is clear and the mixture inside is a deep, honey-amber like mead.