by Trevor Hopkins

One of the reasons that Urquhart Garrick found it necessary to hide himself away from Goblin society is that he applied his very considerable intellect to problems that certain very powerful individuals and organisations would much rather remain unsolved. Magical locks and barriers, and security glamours of all sorts, had been considered inviolate for millennia, mainly because, it seems with hindsight, that nobody had really understood how they actually worked.

As a much younger person, Professor Garrick had become fascinated in an intellectually curious kind of way with some of the less well understood areas of magic. He had established a new way of thinking, an intellectual framework, a unifying theory, if you like; one which was not, as I understood it, accepted by the general establishment. Nevertheless his approach was one which had the unlikely advantage of correctly predicting certain rather curious results, observations not easily explained with the more widely-accepted theories.

All this might have remained nothing but an academic curiosity; the kind of thing debated earnestly by the more studious of undergraduates - I was never one of those - or with more understanding by the seven or eight specialists that actually comprehended the details. But it turned out that the one area where Garrick's theories really showed their worth was in interactions between magic and the mind. Specifically, it showed in the kind of magic which either deluded the observer or interacted powerfully with them, in a fashion determined beforehand, unless the observer was specifically recognised as an exception. Of course, this meant illusions and glamours of all kinds, a class of spells which were - and still are - widely used to hide objects and individuals from prying eyes and to protect property from thieving fingers.

When the University authorities finally realised just what the brilliant young researcher's work really implied, a certain amount of pressure was rapidly yet discreetly applied to both him and his academic superiors. By all accounts, the younger Garrick was initially rather shocked by the suggestion that he desist from his endeavours in his understanding of the theoretical principles behind this abstruse technical subject. Eventually, however, his reaction was to set aside the contentious research, and to apply himself elsewhere. For many years, he concentrated his very considerable intellect on other areas, publishing numerous papers and reports that led to his meteoric rise to the rank of full Professor at the unprecedented young age of one hundred and thirteen.

Now it seemed that when he reached a position where he felt secure - a tenured Professor at a respected University - Garrick began to drop hints in the detailed sections of his more recondrite papers and the seminars at other research institutions. It turned out that the Professor had never really abandoned his ideas about the metaphysics of glamours and that he was determined to return to his speculations and equations on the topic.

Over the next dozen decades or so, it seemed that Garrick's behaviour became increasingly erratic. He was shunned by most of the students and almost all of his so-called academic colleagues. He was eventually forced from his chair at the University and, soon afterwards, disappeared from the public view.

What very few people knew was that, in later years, he had turned from pure theory to practical, experimental descriptions of the processes his equations suggested, techniques which he had once hinted to me in one of the wide-ranging tutorials I had attended, being one of the few students that found Garrick's reputation attractive. Not that it did my own academic achievement any favours, of course, but then, who ever heard of a Private Investigator with a good degree?

*

"So where is this expensive case?" the Professor asked, with not quite the right degree of casualness.

"Oh, it's in a lock-up," I said, toying with my drink, "Somewhere out of the way, somewhere few Goblins would think to look. I have the key right here."

I pulled out him the flat piece of metal which I had used as a decoy when I deposited the briefcase and waved it in his direction. He inspected it closely.

"Hidden on the surface, I suppose? A railway station locker, I’d guess. You astound me, old son. Well out of the way, indeed."

There was another creak from the doorway behind me. It took all of my willpower not to twist my head or my ear in the direction of that slight sound.

"Well, I'd better go and get the thing," I said, draining the last of the Scotch and standing up, and taking my hat from the side table.

"Fair enough, dear boy. But don't rush back. I'm off to bed soon; promised myself an early night."

I smiled without feeling, setting my hat on my head at a rakish angle.

"I'll be back soon enough," I replied.

Garrick showed me to the door with exaggerated politeness. Once outside, I shrugged my coat collar up against the cool evening breeze and made my way down the overgrown path to the rickety gate when I had entered. It was all quiet and still. As I slipped though the gap between hedge and gate, a dark figure appeared behind me. I spun around but before I could turn more than a fraction, the figure reached up and struck me with some heavy object, a sap of some kind. I had the stunned moment of shock when the lights danced and the visible world went out of focus but was still there. Then there was nothing, just darkness and emptiness and a rushing wind and a fall as of great trees.


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