The Magic Quill #29: Night Owls By Daylight

by Robbie Fischer, concepts contributed by: Brishea & Jade

“’But first,’” said the wizard known as Harvey, speaking through the handkerchief that covered half of his face, ‘“it is time that you knew a little about the people you may be working with.”’

The figures seated around the back parlor table stirred uneasily. Everyone seemed to prefer staying anonymous.

‘“It’’s all right,’” Harvey added. ‘“I won’t name your true names or ask you to unmask, though our friend Spanky has already taken the initiative of doing so. We already knew that Spanky works for the Rogue Magic Bureau, and most of us remember the mess he made at the Owlympics all those years ago. We are all acquainted with his sometime associate, Mr. Joe Albuquerque, wizard detective. And we all know Sid Shmedly’s real name, though in consideration for Mr. Spankison, it will not be spoken here. Agreed?”’

His cloaked, veiled, and invisible companions murmured assent.

“Excellent,” said Harvey. “Now Sadie here, our veiled companion, has done me many a service in the past. Her talents are invaluable, though a bit of better judgment on her part might be desired now and then. Sadie, to put it delicately, has a special gift for opening locked doors, entering premises by stealth, transferring property from one owner to another without going through a lot of paperwork, and persuading people to make unequal exchanges. Her work often puts her at odds with the establishment, but it has often proved useful to me and other men in my profession.”

“Also,” Sadie whispered confidentially, “I’’m a bit of a thief.”

“Yes, that too,” said Harvey, closing his eyes briefly. “Now, the business plan I have in mind requires the precise gifts and connections of all four of you. It will come to nothing if any of you sees fit to withdraw. So the first thing to be got over is whether Sadie and Spanky can work together, considering that their talents lie in, er, such widely disparate areas.”

“I suppose that depends on what your proposal is,” Spanky said evenly.

“Yes, and I will get to that. But I hope you will keep an open mind. After all, Sadie has never been implicated in dark magic of any kind. I doubt very much that any of her activities would fall under the RMB’s jurisdiction. But strange times make strange bedfellows, and that’s that.

“Our Merlin,” Harvey continued, gesturing toward a seemingly empty corner of the table, “besides being a rescuer of enslaved krups and a world-class long-distance broomstick racer, also has a decidedly unusual career. We’ll have to go into the details another time. For now, let’s stop at saying that he is one of the few people now living, apart from one or two dark wizards, who have first-hand knowledge of the location and configuration of a certain unplottable facility. It is there that our business lies, but since no one can draw a map of the place, or even directions to the place, we will need him to guide us there and back again.

“Finally, we come to Endora,” said Harvey, “whose special gifts include a cast-iron stomach, the most precise tastebuds this side of Land’s End, a long memory for potion formulas, and ready access to any kind of sweet known to the wizarding public–and some that are unknown. Would you share for us where you work, dear?”

Endora cleared her throat nervously. “Well, you see, I don’t like it to be…”

“Go on,” said Sadie. “You know the worst about the rest of us. How bad can it be?”

“Well, you see,” said Endora, her voice blushing though her face remained invisible, “it’s just that I…I’m a sweets tester.” She added hastily, “It isn’t as if I just sit around nibbling sweets all the time, either. I am also a certified confectioner. I hold patents for the formula of 73 flavors of Bertie Bott’s Beans, seventeen different choco-spells, a whole line of blowing gums that form different shapes of bubbles, and six of the varieties on Honeydukes’ Unusual Tastes counter. But I’m best known for being able to spot the tiniest difference between a perfect flavor and a less-than-perfect one. And also, I don’t get sick at my stomach too easily.” By the end of this speech, Endora’s voice sounded proud.

“Which is why you will be as important as anyone else in this operation,” Harvey said firmly. “What I have in mind is thought, by most of my advisors, to be entirely impossible. But a few of them grant that there might be a slim chance, given a combination of the best thief in Britain, a first-hand knowledge of the site to be robbed, a world-class wizard dueler, and someone who can tell, by flavor alone, the precise ingredients of any magical formula. Plus, we will need someone who is a master of disguise.”

At that moment, the greasy, hairy, lanky proprietor of the Hog’s Head pushed his way into the parlor and snarled, “Last call.”

“One more all round,” Harvey said cheerfully. “And also, would you happen to have an American detective on you?”

“At your service,” said the bar man. With one smooth motion, he removed his fake beard and eyebrows, prosthetic nose, and wig, followed by other parts of his disguise. An instant later, where a well-known local character had stood before, appeared a figure that made Merlin groan, Sadie and Endora gasp, and Spanky leap to his feet with a shout of joy.

“Joe!” he cried. “Joe Albuquerque! Is that really you?”

“No, it’s just a disguise,” said Joe Albuquerque, seating himself in a chair Harvey had just now conjured from nowhere. “So when do we get down to business?”

What happens next? Send us your idea in 150 words or less, and tune in next week for another installment of the Magic Quill.

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