The bar was dimly lit and quiet. Places like this usually fill up as the night gets longer, but not here. The only people that frequent this nameless bar were people who needed a particular sort of help and the people who provided such services. Or people who were lost. Julia hadn’t been here in several years.
The illumination behind the bar was from one of the few overhead lamps. A middle-aged, burly man was tending bar. Drinking was not the primary reason people came here, so he had a bored look about him. He barely looked at Julia as she walked over.
“Is Lou here?”
Before the bartender could respond, another patron approached her.
“I haven’t seen you before. Something I can help you with?”
She barely glanced at him. “I don’t think so.”
He clasped her arm to turn her towards him. “Hey, now. I’m just trying to be friendly.”
She widened the portal inside the sleeve of her leather jacket so that a knife could fall into her hand. Raising the blade closer to his neck, she said in a low voice, “No one comes here looking for friends.”
Immediately, he let go of her and raised his open hands as he backed away. “No problem. Sorry to intrude.” Sitting down at a table across the room, he blended back in with the gloom.
“That’s a dangerous person to piss off.” The bartender gestured towards her knife. “And put that away. Weapons aren’t permitted in here.”
The knife slid back up her sleeve. “Fine. Now, Lou?”
“He’s not here.”
“Look, lady, I don’t know you. You’ve already threatened one of my best customers. Lou isn’t here. Hasn’t been for awhile. Now I think it’s time you leave.”
Julia hesitated. He was clearly not going to be helpful, but she hated the idea of just walking away. Still, she didn’t want to draw any more attention to herself, so she turned around and left the bar.
Halfway down the block, several figures emerged from the shadows of an alley. In front was the man who had approached her at the bar.
“We meet again.”
“Seriously? Are you just a walking cliché?”
She tried to walk past the group, but the man grabbed her arm and spun her around.
“So rude. And after I offered my help.”
Whatever small bit of patience Julia had was gone. A quick spell opened a portal beneath him. He was halfway down the hole when she shrunk the portal so that he was stuck with only his torso sticking out of the pavement.
“What the hell!”
She bent down closer to his face. “Do I have to hurt you to get through to you? When someone tells you no, you leave them the fuck alone.”
One of the men who had accompanied him took a step towards her. Opening a portal beneath herself, she dropped down behind him and hit him with the hilt of her knife. The man crumpled to the ground. Everyone else took the hint and quickly left.
Julia walked back over to the man who was still trapped. “Now. What should I do with you?”
“What are you?” His terror was obvious.
“Who. Not what. People are not things. Didn’t anyone teach you that?”
“Someone who doesn’t give third warnings. If I ever even hear about you, I’ll return. And you do not want to see me again.” Julia stood and began to walk away. Without looking back, she said, “Looks like it might rain. Don’t look up. I don’t want you to drown. You should be able to get out in a few hours.” She still needed to find Lou.