Friendly fire

A halfling walks into a bar …

Well – maybe not a bar. Certainly, beverages are being served. But the bill of fare was a trifle more varied than that. Perhaps the best word would be “establishment”. A halfling walks into an establishment. He walks painfully, chewing on something medicinal-smelling. A blood-soaked pad of cloth around a broken-off arrow shaft protruded from his shoulder. Human sized. And for those observant types with a bit of an interest in the subject (and there were a few such at this particular establishment), a tell-tale white and blue chequered band near the head.

He steps up to the counter (literally – steps put there for the purpose). The – shall we say – barman looks at the shaft, and asks “Well then! What would you be looking for today?” The halfling replies in the time-worn phrase, “I’m just looking for a friend” and drops two large heptagonal copper coins in the tip jar. After a beat, the barman says “Well, you’d be looking for Old Bob then. Over there in the corner. Hands shake like the devil when he’s on the sauce, but he’s only just got started today. You’re in luck.”

Old Bob looks up from his rum and water and sees a customer – no! A patient! It’s important to remember these things. He sees a patient approach. They do not exchange words. Old Bob glances briefly at the arrow shaft, and motions the halfling upstairs. A flight of steps, an unmarked door, and they arrive at a cramped but functional surgery and office.

Once in private, the halfling breaks the silence first. “Got it two hours ago doc. How much to fix it?” “It’s pretty deep”, replies Old Bob, “extraction, stitches, you’ll need some painkillers – say 15 silver the lot. If you can’t afford the lot now, you can borrow down at the bar.

“Right”, says the halfling, and the glamer altering his features ripples away, leaving in it’s place – well – a slightly different halfling. “Practising medicine without a license are we, Doctor Old Bob? Tsk tsk.”

Doctor Old Bob says nothing, although his face says a great deal. Mainly “Shit.” After a second, he asks – “And you would be?” “Flatfoot”, replies the halfling, “that’s Officer Flatfoot to you. EIS.”, and flips open some ID. “EIS? What the hell does EIS want with me?”

“You know, doc, I have nothing against you. Not a problem. Sure it’s illegal, you being an old drunk and all, but even if the locals found out about you – I reckon they’d be good enough accept a bribe. In fact, I reckon they’d insist on it. A pretty considerable one. Frequently.” He let that sink in for a second. “I’m looking for a human or elf. Wizard. Powerful. Old. Probably wearing nice duds, too. One Acid Arrow to the head – right side, I think, and a real beauty right on the liver. About two hours ago. He’ll want to keep it quiet.”

“Sorry Officer, I can’t help you.”

“Sure, doc. Wasn’t expecting it right away. If he does come in, take his money, overcharge him as much as you usually would, patch him up and then call it it. Oh – and even if you don’t normally take advice from the likes of me, you should take this: I think he’s the kind to tie up loose ends. Call it in, and don’t mention me. If we don’t catch him, he’ll take care of you at some point in the future.”

“Sure officer. No problem. Anything else? I could extract that arrow on the house.”

The halfling barked a laugh. “Not a chance, doc. But I do need a sign of you bona fides. I need two second opinions. Two names, doc, or I’ll arrest you right now.”

Old Bob considered his options for a second. “Jeff Cutter, Arm and hammer; and there’s a pox doc out back of the Bearded Clam, does some surgery. Ladies things, mostly. Ex-Gyno, got himself in a bit of trouble. Lost his balls and his license.”

“Thanks doc. Already know about one of them, but good enough. Take my advice about the wizard.”

And with that, the halfling recast his glamer and let himself out.

Old Bob went downstairs. Ordered a mug and two gallon jugs of watered rum. “Guess you won’t be seeing any more patients today, doc”, said the barman with a smirk. “That’s the idea”, thought Old Bob to himself. He sat down at his usual table, and began drinking like a man whose life might depend on it.

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