Gnarly cracked open a bottle of Brosia and poured the frothing mixture into a pair of empty glasses. He lifted one up in his grubby, mole bedecked fist to pass to the tall drink of water who’d poured herself into his office. Of course, Gnarly was a gnome, so just about anyone could be a tall drink of water compared to him. Even so, this skyscraper of a human woman could put any of the high elves in Manhattan to shame.
Her eyes were dusky brown under long, curly lashes. Full, pink lips sat perfectly above a small, pointed chin. A cascade of curly black hair framed her heart-shaped face. She was a looker, and she knew it.
“Please,” she begged, blinking down at him through tear-soaked eyes. “You gotta help me, Detective Gnarly. They said you were the only one who could.”
Gnarly pressed the glass of Brosia into the woman’s hands and downed his own glass in one gulp. “I don’t do that no more, sweetheart. Hadn’t you heard? I’m retired.” He gestured with the empty glass toward the framed page of the New York Times that held a position of honor on his wall.
“Little Person Detective Caught Fencing Ancient Artifacts.”
“Little person,” Gnarly muttered. “Pah! If only they knew.” He kicked the leg of his chair, jerking it out from under the desk, and hopped on. He settled in with a disgruntled growl. “This city don’t believe in people like me.”
The woman clutched the glass of Brosia desperately to her chest and got down on her knees in front of him. “I believe in you,” she said, her voice a mere whisper. “I believe. Please, you gotta help me.”
“Help you with what?” Gnarly was nearly at the edge of his patience, which was actually considerably high for a Goblin.
“It’s the Wanderkin,” the woman whispered, her eyes wide like saucers. “The Wanderkin took my sister.”
Gnarly sat bolt upright in his chair. “Don’t you dare say that name out loud,” he said, his voice trembling in terror. “Don’t you dare.”
The woman whimpered. “It’s back. It’s back.”
“No. It’s not. It can’t be.”