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The day Garai went after the Running Girl was a day like any other.

The shantytown lay on a rocky slope leading away from the main road. None of the houses were legal, and neither were the inhabitants. They had all, like Garai, come here from poorer countries. They had crossed the border one way or the other, knowing that the pay of an illegal day worker here was far better and much more steady than whatever they could hope for working the barren soil of their own lands or trying to get honest work without connections in their corrupt home cities.

Much of that work was construction and demolition, and that was how the materials for the town were provided. Demolition waste was a perk of the job, really. Garai had build one wall for his home out of discarded blocks of gas concrete, and a particularly nice pair of floorboards held up his roof of broken plastic sheets. The remaining walls were filled out by sheets of whatever Garai could get his hands on; the cardboard in particular needed replacement fairly often.

There was no electricity and no sewers in the shantytown. Food was made over fires of woodcuttings, paper and cardboard. Water had to be carried from afar and was hard to come by. Except during the rain season where there was all too much of it and it would come rushing down the slope to wash away the more poorly constructed huts. It was during rain season in particular that Garai took pride in his gas concrete wall and the care with which he had patched his plastic roof together like a giant jigsaw puzzle.

The town owed its existence to the main road. In the early morning the flatbed trucks of foremen would drive by this, and other towns like it, to collect labour gangs for whatever work was offered. Garai and his fellows would bargain their day there on the side of the road, and the foremen would in turn bargain their truckload of workers to construction sites, big farms and on rare occasions medical trials and paid blood donations. After nightfall, the trucks would return the workers to their homes, a bit of cash in hand.

Of course Garai and others like him did not work these 16-hour days every day. Not that they wouldn't want to, after all that was why they were here, but sometimes it just wouldn't work out that way. Maybe the foremen would not offer a decent wage that morning. Maybe there would be no jobs to be had. Maybe the whole system had hid a snag; a foreman had abandoned a load of workers somewhere or a foreman had been cheated by his workers or the employer, and everything grinded to a stop until some sort of base trust could be rebuild. On such a day the men would stay in their shantytown, maybe repair their huts, maybe hike into town for special supplies, maybe just take a day off.

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