by Trevor Hopkins

"Gask, dear boy," Garrick said, deploying his characteristic and patently false bonhomie, "What an unexpected delight to see you again so soon."

I chuckled under my breath, mirthlessly. The gun in my hand didn't waver.

"I'll have none of the soft soap, thank you very much" I replied, "Put your hands up where I can see them, and keep them there."

"There's no need for all this," Garrick replied mildly, making no attempt to move his arms.

Madderfy's eyes followed the firearm in my hand with mechanical precision, unable to look away from the barrel. He seemed zonked, under the influence of some borderline-legal pharmaceuticals, perhaps, or maybe it was just the effect of a couple of stiff whiskies that Garrick had no doubt poured into him earlier.

"I'm sure there must be some silly misunderstanding," the Professor went on. You had to admire the old boy's coolness under the circumstances.

"Okay," I said, clearly and slowly, "Now, here's how it's going to happen. I'm outnumbered here, and I don't trust either of you. I'm jumpy and likely to be trigger happy. And you wouldn't like that."

I paused. Neither Garrick nor Madderfy said anything. The Professor looked at me with curious detachment while Madderfy's attention was elsewhere.

"Carrick, drop the paperwork on the floor and back away," I instructed.

"You wouldn't shoot your old tutor, now would you?" the Professor twittered on, making no move to follow my instructions or even indicate that he had heard them. Sometimes my patience is sorely tried.

The gun went off in my hand. The noise was sudden and immense in this quiet and enclosed space. A thunderclap like the inauguration of the end of the world. The bullet clipped the edge of the manila folder that Garrick was still holding, then embedded itself in the back of one of the heavily padded armchairs that were placed around the fire. Both Goblins jumped. The Professor dropped the folder as if his fingers were suddenly burning, which was very nearly the case.

I'm a good shot. It’s a skill I have put a good deal of effort into honing. But not to the knowledge of Professor Garrick, I knew. It was a skill I had learned at a more rugged school, a more primitive academy. It was a school with a different kind of instructor: equally unforgiving, perhaps, a master of a very different set of abilities and, perhaps surprisingly, human.

To every magic, a magical countermeasure. It was an expression that Garrick used frequently, although I have not been able to track down the original source. Maybe it really was coined by him. My glamour which disabled firearms in my vicinity was still active - it was the single most expensive piece of magic I owned - but this particular weapon had also been expensively treated with a magical antidote to that glamour.

As the pall of gunpowder smoke cleared, I could see Madderfy lying on the floor, his hands over the back of his head, the envelope of money forgotten nearby. He was making a continuous high-pitched sound - not very loud, but penetrating for all that - a piteous wail which I had heard described as "keening".

The Professor was taking me seriously, finally. He backed away from the folder on the floor finally raising his hands. He moved more quickly as I advanced on him with, I suspect, a face like thunder, and of course taking care to stay out of the reach of his long arms.

"Sit down," I instructed as Garrick's calves reached the now bullet-marked chair.

He subsided into the seat, starting visibly as he felt the puckered rent in the leather caused by my shot against his back. I stooped to retrieve the clipped folder, not taking my eyes of Garrick. I wasn't interested in the envelope with the money. It wasn't mine, and accepting it would certainly put me in a difficult position if and when anyone happened to mention this incident to the cops. Better just to let it lie. I kicked it under another of the overstuffed armchairs.

"I'll be taking my leave now," I said grimly.

Part 56 Part 58