I heard the clatter of dice on wood as I walked into the back. Sounded like I found the right place. I threw back my hood just as I got to the table. The gambling stopped pretty quickly after that.

“Whatchu want, tin-star?” one of them asked. He had a black beard that could have hidden a small dog, except it would have drowned in the amount of beer soaked in it. “We ain’t doin’ nothin’ illegal.”

“Yeah,” said his scrawny companion. “Just some dice between friends. Why you gotta interrupt?”

“I’m looking for someone,” I said. “Another one of your regular ‘friends’. Barman said he sees him here sometimes. Last time was last week.” I was slightly disappointed I didn’t get to flash my badge, but it seemed redundant at this point.

“He gotta name?” Beer-beard asked.

“He goes by Jessom Gadfly,” I said. “But if that’s his real name, his parents should be arrested.”

“Yeah, I know Jessie,” Scrawny said. “Came in last week to pick up on an IOU. Haven’t seen him since.”

The man was lying. Damn it. Why did they always have to lie? I took a deep breath and sized up the two of them. Beardy would be a tough knock-down. The liar looked like the kind who would snap like a twig. Easy choice.

Left hand up, flicker the fingers, and Beardy collapsed to the floor. He’d be out at least ten minutes. And Scrawny didn’t need to know that was just about all the magic I knew.

I brought up my right hand, the one used for battle magic, and turned to my soon-to-be snitch.

“Bad answer. Try again. And remember I can cast a whole lot faster than you can grab that knife under the table.”