The Magic Quill #51: Tricycle Treadmarks

by Robbie Fischer, concept contributed by: Misheal, KT, and Jack Blanton

As Merlin reached the thrilling moment in his story when he and his companion Rigel were sealed into the Pit in the depths of Gringotts Wizarding Bank, a deep, sonorous voice called out from the corridor outside the little parlor: “Is there a wizard ‘ere named Albus Quirky?” Everyone in the parlor jumped. “I say!” the voice continued, passing by the door. “Albus Quirky!”

“Do you mean Albuquerque?” said Joe of that name, poking his head out the parlor door.

“That’s what I said,” the growling voice replied, and at once the proprietor of the bar and two burly figures shoved their way into the cramped parlor. Between them they were carrying a limp figure swathed in robes. “When we found him, he was barely awake an’ askin’ fer yer honor,” the grimy publican added as he squeezed past Joe.

“Good heavens!” Endora squeaked. “It’s Spanky! What happened to him?”

The unconscious wizard was unceremoniously rolled onto the table, scattering full and empty goblets, and causing an unopened packet of crisps to explode and shower Merlin with crumbs.

“Seems to ‘ave been run down by summat,” the proprietor observed grouchily. “This an’t an ‘ospital. If he needs more’n a warm goblet of Nuclear Punch, you’d best take him to St. Mungo’s. Mind you, ours is a pay fireplace, an’ the floo powder an’t free.” And with a whirl of long gray hair and whiskers, he departed.

“What a fine citizen,” Harvey remarked quietly.

“Spankison,” Joe Albuquerque muttered, alternately pinching and slapping the cheeks of his supine friend. “Spanky. Hello?”

“Look at his robes,” Sadie gasped. They were covered in muddy tread marks that criss-crossed him in parallel groups of three. “It’s as if he was run down by a lot of tricycles!”

“What? Those toys Muggle children drive around on?” Merlin whispered. “In Hogsmeade? Wizarding kids these days! I wonder what their parents think they are doing?”

“Shush,” said Joe. “He’s starting to come around.”

“That’s good,” said Harvey. “In another minute I was going to turn this table into a portkey straight to the artifact-related injury ward…”

“Dandelionel Ethelbaldricson,” muttered Spanky, his eyelids fluttering. “Detective Inspector, First Grade. RMB Agent Number Disjuncto Engorgio Six Eight Four Five Five One Four. Age 38. Attached to the British Region, Blokebury-on-Rye Office, Magical Theft Division. All classified knowledge has been secured in a pensieve prior to this assignment. I will cooperate fully with your questioning.”

He began repeating this statement over and over.

As he went into the third repeat, Merlin snapped his fingers. “Dandelionel Ethelbaldricson must be his real name. No wonder he went by Spanky instead!”

“I’ve never known him as anything but Spanky,” Joe remarked. “And I’ve known him since the Penguarts Affair all those years ago.”

“I think the name Spankison suits him better,” said Endora, huskily, as her fingertips poked from under her invisibility cloak to smooth Spanky’s mud-spattered hair away from his face. Sadie smacked her hand away.

“He’s a married man,” the veiled witch hissed.

“I was only…”

“Shush,” Joe said again. Spanky had stopped repeating his name, rank, and serial number and was blinking up at everyone in a dazed way.

“Do you know where you are?” Harvey asked calmly.

“In a puddle of firewhisky that is slowly dissolving my knickers,” Spanky replied.

After everyone had a relieved chuckle, Harvey asked, “Do you know where the puddle is?”

“It’s on a table in the back parlor of the Hog’s Head,” said Spanky. “Hogsmeade, County of-–”

“That’s all right,” said Harvey. “How’s your head? Are you in pain? Can you sit up?”

Spanky slowly sat up. A few moments later he was hunched over a corner of the table, inhaling the fumes from a goblet of—no, not firewhisky—butterbeer that Harvey had conjured up.

“Can you remember what happened?” Joe asked, trying to keep the eagerness out of his voice.

“I think so,” said Spanky. “But it seems so strange, I’m not sure it wasn’t all a figment of my bruised brain.”

“Well, it had to get bruised somehow,” Sadie snapped, emphatically rapping her pipe on the table. Glowing bits of ash flew out of it and caught in some of the spilled firewhisky, resulting in a few moments of frantic slapping and flapping to put the flames out.

“Yes, well, get on with it,” Joe said, when the commotion had died down.

“Well,” said Spanky, no longer seeming to care that the hood had fallen away from his lean face. “I was coming out of the Three Broomsticks after completing my business there, and I heard a strange noise coming from the end of town near the edge of the forest. I decided a quick look wouldn’t cost me too much time. As I came out of the circle of light from the town, I shined my wandlight into the woods and–well, it’s ridiculous…”

“Go on,” said Merlin. “You know anything is possible in that forest!”

Spanky nodded thoughtfully, grinned, and went on, “It was hard to see, but I thought it looked like a beaten up old Ford Anglia…”

“A what?” Sadie coughed, choking on her own smoke.

“A Muggle-made automobile,” Merlin explained.

“I know that,” Sadie replied irritably.

“It was motoring around in the woods without a driver, covered in scratches and dents and streaks of mud, with all its windows broken out. It reminded me, somehow, of a large feral cat that had been chewed up in a lot of fights. Then, just when I was about to follow it to see where it went, it stopped. I quickly dimmed my wandlight, hoping the wild car hadn’t noted my presence. And then I saw a huge motorcycle…”

Sadie went into another fit of coughing. After waiting until she calmed down to only an occasional hack, Spanky continued:

“The motor bike moved up alongside the car and then moved backward and forward, so that they rubbed against each other with a horrible scraping noise. I thought it was some kind of attack, but then I realized the two vehicles seemed to be enjoying the contact. Then, as they moved off together, I saw a crowd of little tricycles following them…”

Harvey covered his face and murmured, “Oh, no…”

“And before I could take a half-dozen steps back toward the town, they spotted me and chased me down. I think they were only playing, but they tripped me up and the last thing I knew, their pedals had snagged on my robes and I was being dragged over cobblestones…”

“Very well,” Harvey said with sudden decisiveness. “Tonight’s tale-telling has gone on long enough. Joe, you will take Mr.—er—Spankison back to his flat and tuck him into bed. He needs his rest more than any of us. Shall we adjourn?”

“Now wait half a mo,” Merlin cried. “I want to know what those tricycles had to do with…”

“Catch,” said Harvey, and he tossed a delicate, painted china egg at Merlin. The latter caught it and disappeared with a pop. “Portkey,” said Harvey.

“I did that trick once,” Spanky said, blinking.

“I know,” said Harvey. “I thought it was a good one. Now off with the rest of you, unless you want to see what else I have learned from Mr. Spankison.”

A series of pops echoed off the close, grimy walls of the parlor, until only Harvey remained behind. He tugged the handkerchief off his face with a sigh, finished Spanky’s half-empty butterbeer, and disapparated.

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