I looked up from my hiding spot. Merryl said nothing in response. The coffee was poured from the carafe into a ceramic cup. She set the cup down in front of Sheriff Trill, and returned to her washing behind the bar.

The ogre stared at the drink for a moment. He fumed, waiting for a proper response to his question. He looked like someone who was used to having his questions (and threats) answered immediately. To have this bartender just ignore what he had said must have stuck in his craw.

If Merryl knew this, she didn’t show it. She just filled his drink, setting out a cup of cream and a bowl of sugar cubes with it. She checked in with the golem-like creatures, and returned behind the bar. She made it halfway through the bar before Trill threw the cream to the ground.

“Bitch, are you going to make me ask again?

Merryl returned to looking at the counter. “You haven’t asked me a question tonight, Sheriff Trill. I honestly don’t know what you mean.”

“My money,” Trill said. “You’re late on your taxes, Merryl.”

“Tax day is April 15th,” Merryl said. “It is a sacred day, and one I would not offend for any reason. But I don’t know what taxes you are talking about.”

Sheriff Trill bared his tusks. “I think you do, Merryl.”

Behind the counter, I wished that this was over. This Sheriff didn’t seem to want to do anything more than roll over Merryl. He wasn’t going to leave unless she paid him, and even then he’d stay until he’d had his fun.

I needed to help her out. But the door to the alley was just out of reach. And no way that the ogre wouldn’t notice me without a distraction.

Trill took another sip of coffee. “Merryl, always helpful. You think you can just be a friend to anyone that comes along with a gruff word and some soap scum. Then, Gratitude might just give you a good turn in kind. Well, I have bills to pay myself, and need a little coin as well.

“So why don’t you open the till and help me out? Say…until I say stop?”

The golem creatures stood up.

Trill’s hand slapped his side. Behind the bar, I couldn’t tell what it was. But whatever he reached for didn’t scare the group.

“You’ve got some nerve, Sheriff,” one of the creatures muttered.

“This doesn’t concern you,” Trill said.

“Doesn’t concern us? Doesn’t concern the Half-Men?”

Trill stopped, and squinted at them. He laughed. “Half-Men? Aren’t you a little far out of your territory?”

The Half-Men gang bristled. “I’ll have you know that we are right on the edge of the border. And as every cop west of Pretty Pocus Line should know, Merryl’s bar is the line of our territory.”

His gaze on Trill narrowed. “And anyone who tries to muscle in on our territory is going to get some trouble.”

Trill stood up, and glared at the gang. “Is that so?”

The two regarded each other silently for a moment.

“I could have sworn that Merryl’s bar was the start of cop territory!”

“Sure, last year! But remember we redrew the lines at the annual meeting…”

“No, no, we redrew the docks.”

“Right, with the Mer-derers. That kicked in a clause with us, and compensation was needed. Weren’t you in on those talks, on the twelfth?”

“The twelfth?”

“Dammit, somebody get a map!”

Somebody else had a map. I was out the door without notice, and behind the dumpsters.

I was the Green Witch, and no one was muscling someone I considered a friend.

copyright 2018 Jack Holder

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