The Catfish Burglar
Contest Winners: budd2nd and Shadow Phoenix
The job what made my first fortune, Sadie began her tale, didnt come my way till I had been workin in the property transferin line for
several years. I had worked me way up, like, from charmin galleons out of the pockets of patrons at Axel Exums Exhibition of Muggle
Marvels, and sellin unlicensed commemorative earmuffs in the neighborhood of any Nasal Drip concert. Through a combination of steady effort,
skill, daring, and a bit of luck, I had earned a solid reputation as one of the most dependable fetchers of hard-to-fetch things in the
country. Not that this reputation helped me get along with the Ministry of Magic. Those blokes just dont understand that rescuin valuables
from slobs as dont want em enough to protect em, and givin em to folks as want them enough to pay top galleon for em, is as worthy a
use of magic as any.
But apart from them, my business was startin to flourish. Clients were comin to me, beggin me to nick things for em. My share of the
take, I mean, my fee went up. I was actually able to get choosy about which jobs to take...
Actually, what happened was like this....
SECURITY GUARD: Oi. I say! Where do you think youre going?
SADIE: I have an appointment with Madam Hardbiscuit.
SECURITY GUARD: Not so fast, there. Whats your name?
SADIE: My name? Hildegard Van Bingen. [Wiggles wand concealed in handbag.]
SECURITY GUARD: There aint any Dutch witches on the list.
SADIE: Are you sure? [Wiggle, wiggle.]
SECURITY GUARD: Ive only looked at it ten times to-- Merlins beard. Where did that come from?
SADIE: May I go up now?
SECURITY GUARD: Hold on a sec. Whats with the veil?
SADIE: Little mishap last week. Invisibility charm went bad. Made the front half of my head transparent. Its very icky to look at, but if
SECURITY GUARD: No, no. Never mind. Can I at least see some identification?
SADIE: Will this do?
SECURITY GUARD: You wore a veil for your apparition license photo, did you?
SADIE: They didnt want to allow it, but after strip-searching me to confirm that I am female, it was the least they could do. Good times.
SECURITY GUARD: I say, when did you say that invisibility charm backfired? Only, this photo was taken eight years ago.
SADIE: Oh, that was different. I was married to an Egyptian flying-carpet dealer at the time. This was taken either during our marriage, or
during my period of mourning after his favorite Persian unravelled over the Black Sea. Either way, my husbands religion required...[Gets
SECURITY GUARD: [Shuffles awkwardly] Im so sorry. May I say, you hardly have any accent at all, for a Dutch-Egyptian woman.
SADIE: Why, thank you. Ive always been good at learning languages. Now may I go up?
SECURITY GUARD: Right this way, Madam Van Bingen.
SADIE: One born every minute....[Whistles a chorus of Que será, será while going up the stairs.]
RECEPTIONIST: I beg your pardon, Madam....?
SADIE: Thatcher. Margaret Thatcher.
RECEPTIONIST: Madam Thatcher, you cant go in there without an appointment.
SADIE: But I had an appointment for an interview, at two oclock.
RECEPIONIST: But its only...well, Ill be hexed from here to next week! Its five to two already! But thats neither here nor there. You
SADIE: But I got an owl. Heres one of its droppings. Im sorry I dont have the original memo from Madam Hardbiscuit, but I had to send it
back with my acceptance of her offer. Didnt the owl come?
RECEPTIONIST: Im sorry, but no one sends owls out of this office except me, and I would remember...
SADIE: Oh, look. The owl is at the window now. [Zaps receptionist with wand when her back is turned.]
RECEPTIONIST: I beg your pardon, Madam Thatcher. Madam Hardbiscuit will be right out to see you. Would you like me to take your veil for you?
SADIE: No, thank you. I got some potion in my eyes this morning. Anyone who looks directly at my eyes turns into a teacup full of tepid
Darjeerling. Its been such a bother wearing it all day, but if you dont mind...
RECEPTIONIST: Not at all. Not at all. By all means, keep it on. [Uses her wand to pipe her voice into Madam Hardbiscuits office] Extremely
important caller to see you, Madam.
MADAM HARDBISCUIT: [Coming out of office] Whos this?
SADIE: I think we had best discuss it in private. [Pushes Madam Hardbiscuit back into her office and closes door.] Now, then, about that job
you advertised for in Wizard of Fortune...
M.H.: What job? Who advertised? And who, pray, are you?
SADIE: Eleanor Roosevelt is the name. Before you ask about the veil, I might as well tell you that it was stuck on me with a permanent
fixing charm when I was eight years old. Broke my parents heart, it did, but Ive gotten used to it. Now lets get down to galleons.
M.H.: Excuse me, but I still dont understand what this is about.
SADIE: [Pulls out a crumpled piece of paper, which in better days was used to wrap cheap tobacco.] That reminds me, do you mind if I smoke?
M.H.: Yes, I do. Aaargh! You mean THAT advert. Wait a moment. [Performs an imperturbable spell on each of the doors, windows, and air ducts
in the room.] Now see here, Madam Roosevelt, you cant just come...
SADIE: Time is of the essence, isnt it, though?
M.H.: Yes, yes, but this is a PRIVATE matter, a very...
SADIE: No better cover for our meeting than a regular job interview.
M.H.: Well! Erm! Be that as it may, I asked for a very athletic WIZARD, not a...
SADIE: I can give you excellent references. Satisfied customers, outraged victims, baffled coppers...
M.H.: But this is DANGEROUS, and it involves a good deal of swimming, much of it underwater; and it also requires a head for herbology.
SADIE: Its all in me ray-zoo-may. Learnt everythin I know about plants from Miles ORoughage himself. Certificates in bubble-head
snorkeling and underwater apparition.
M.H.: Can you speak Norwegian, then?
SADIE: Tolerably well. Cant understand a word of it, though. I was a test subject for those language-in-seven-seconds spells, but they
never worked both ways for me. The stipend paid my way through tobacco rehab, though.
M.H. All right, you have all the qualifications. But you must never come here again. Take this. [Conjures a thick envelope out of thin air.]
It explains what we want, where you can find it, and what to do once youve got it. You neednt open it here...[Sighs as the contents of the
envelope pour out on the floor.]
SADIE: [Gawking at a moving picture of a flat, undulating fish.] Crikey! A ripply? Is that what Im to nick for you, then?
M.H.: No, thats something you will need to accomplish your mission. As you can see, the ripply almost seems to disappear into the
surrounding water as it moves. Its a combination of its distinctive way of swimming, and the magical skin. Catch enough of those to sew
their skins into a wetsuit, and youll not only be protected from the cold, but also virtually invisible as you attempt your assignment. Im
sure you can appreciate that, being as obsessed with concealment as you are.
SADIE: I beg your pardon?
M.H.: Never mind. No, your assignment is to penetrate the Hidden Fjord of Haakon Tran. It is well guarded by Haakons spells, fierce
creatures, and diabolical illusions. Then, come away with at least twenty of these reedy stalks, that grow along the banks of just that one
fjord. These are sannheten, highly valued for a potion that enables one to see through disguises and lies.
SADIE: [Shudders.] Why on earth would you want that?
M.H.: That is none of your concern. I could just as easily ask you why you want this job so badly.
SADIE: Well, actually, I just need tobacco money...
M.H.: Very well. Bring me a nice, thick bundle of sannheten, and I will make sure you have enough tobacco to die a happy, though early,
SADIE: Thats good enough for me! And when I return from Norway...
M.H.: Dont be silly. The Hidden Fjord of Haakon Tran is in Scotland.
SADIE: Oh. But arent all the fjords in Norway?
M.H.: [Wearily] All but the hidden one, yes. Now if you would be so kind as to disapparate, we can avoid advertising our conspiracy to
everyone in the building.
SADIE: But I mean, how will I know where to...?
M.H.: My people will find you, dont worry. Good day.
And now we rejoin Sadies narrative...
'And thats my final offer, she says, looking so desperate that my heart went out to her. So I says, All right. It goes against my better
judgment, but since its got to be done, and no one else can do it, you have my word.
Excuse me, said an assistant healer, shifting from one foot to the other as Sadies tale came to the end of a paragraph. Excuse me, but
the patient is starting to talk.
Oh! said Endora, beginning to rise from her seat.
I will see him alone, said Harvey, firmly.
And so will I, Spanky added. Harvey shrugged, and the two of them followed the assistant healer out of the wating room while Endora sank,
sulkily, back into her seat.
Should I wait until they come back? Sadie wondered, as she stuffed tobacco into her pipe.
Bother them, said Endora. Keep talking. It keeps my mind off...you know.
All right then, said Sadie. So as soon as I chivvy her out of my office, the first thing I do is..
+++ DOUBLE CHALLENGE for The Magic Quill #83 +++
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The SURVEY: Under her veil, is Sadie (A) too pretty to be taken seriously as a criminal; (B) too ugly or weird-looking to get away
unrecognized; (C) has coarse, mannish features and a bit of a mustache; or (D) looks completely ordinary, but has really sensitive skin.
The CONTEST: Give the name and symptoms of a magical malady or injury.
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