Little bones clacked together as the woman lifted the skeletal teddy bear down from the shelf. Grimmerie, the toy-maker, smiled and nodded.
"Ah yes," he said, "that's the remains of a teddy-bear. Suitable for a lost childhood, or perhaps just a child with a morbid disposition. If they wear black too much, like to play in the graveyard, and recite lists of demons instead of nursery rhymes, then that's the toy for them."
The woman jiggled the teddy bear, listening to the bones clack against each other, watching the yellowed skull loll indolently. "It's got a odd kind of attraction to it," she said at last, one hand slipping towards her handbag. "How do you make it? The bones are quite convincing."
Grimmerie laughed, a melancholic sound with an odd reverberation. "They're plaster of Paris," he muttered, sounding embarrassed and ducking his head.
"They're not." The woman sounded pleasant but her eyes were hard and her mouth was a thin blue-lipped line in her alabaster face. Grimmerie started.
"I can assure you--" he started.
"I am a forensic pathologist, and I am very certain that these are real bones. They are the wrong weight for plaster of Paris, they have the wrong sound when they jiggle together, and they have tiny imperfections where tendons and muscles have attached in the past. These are real bones, but they are not the bones of any human or creature that I recognise. I want to know how you achieve this."
Grimmerie was silent for a long time, so long that the woman finally slipped her hand into her handbag and started to draw something from it.
"That's a knife, isn't it," said Grimmerie softly, his eyes glistening with unshed tears.
"It's a Brinchev Kris, I suppose?" he said.
"Of course not. I have done my research, toy-maker. It is a Sukhev Da."
"I see. Then I have no choice do I? The bones are real because they are real. I trap and kill teddy-bears in their natural habitat. Then I skin them and stuff the skins and sell them as high-quality collector's bears, and occasionally I wire up a skeleton and sell it as a curio."
"And how do I find their natural habitat?"
"I have amulets that will open doors. I assume you'll be wanting one?"
"Naturally." She smiled, showing some pointed teeth. "And where are the doors?"
"The amulet will find them. You'll see them change when you look at them."
"Then give me an amulet."
Grimmerie opened a drawer and removed a seven pointed star carved from chalcedony and suspended on a brass chain. He placed it silently, reverently, on the counter and nodded towards it. She took it, weighing it thoughtfully in her hand for a moment, and then slipping it over her head. She tucked it inside her blouse.
"Thank-you," she said.
"I'd find yourself a Brinchev Kris if you're going after what I think you're going after," said Grimmerie. "Brinchev was trusted by many factions, most of whom survived to regret it."
She looked at him with an expression he couldn't puzzle out, and left, taking the amulet and skeletal teddy bear with her.