Chapter I: Jack Be Nimble
In a monsoon-ravished meadow, for some inexplicable reason, there was a hospital bed.
A sturdy, metal-framed hospital bed, with mud-caked wheels and a rain-soaked mattress and the motionless body of a twelve-year-old boy. One arm hung over the edge of the bed, pale and malnourished, with a thin white band fastened around the wrist.
Mungo’s Intensive Care unit, floor six.
A pulse restarted. A finger twitched. For the third time in as many days, the boy came back to life. And beyond him, in the twelve other bizarrely placed beds scattered haphazardly across the grass, not a living thing moved.
However, twelve dead ones did.
~ _/*/_ ~
Fourteen years later
“Down right irresponsible, that’s what this is! The abortion of civic duties within the Ministry, and I will not be held accountable when the time for judgement comes. It’s absolutely outrageous, Nickelworth! Outrageous, wouldn’t you agree?”
Jack Nickelworth didn’t even both commenting. Vice Chancellor Spitfire of the Rare Magical Creatures office was too irate to even realise he had spoken; the best thing to do was to let him continue ranting until he either ran out of breath or ran out of things to rant about. Bored out of his mind, Jack slouched further back in Spitfire’s chair and planted his booted feet on the polished desk surface.
“I say though, word on the streets is that you’ve met these devils!” Spitfire added, dumping an armful of rolled parchments onto the desk and looking down at the young man in his chair. “Is it true? Have you…” he lowered his voice to an eager whisper. “Have you spoken to them?!”
Jack’s fingers flexed with the desire to wrap themselves around the man’s throat. “It’s true.” he replied steadily.
“My brother is fortunate enough to have contacts in their underworld.” Morgan Nickelworth stepped out of the shadows by the door, resplendent in a stainless white suit. Spitfire jumped slightly. “Vice Chancellor, good to see you again.”
“Aah yes, Morgan. Good to see you, jolly good. Er… come in will you? Wasn’t expecting the two of you today. I suppose you’ve heard the news?”
Inclining his head gratefully, Morgan moved to sit on the desk in front of his brother. “You refer to the motion passed in the Ministry this morning to permit hunting rights to the world and his wife? I was present, Vice Chancellor. We spoke briefly of how ludicrous the whole thing was.” he said idly.
Spitfire paused halfway through relocating a stack of antique books onto his desk. “Oh so we did. Memory fails me, Morgan, take no offence. Help me with these would you…?”
“I’d really rather not.” Morgan said, his tone hanging like ice in the library air. Spitfire looked over at him, visibly surprised, and the young man gave him a forced smile. “New suit.”
Nodding, the Vice Chancellor disappeared into one of the many storerooms leading out of his library and the two brothers glanced at each other. “What do you think?” Jack asked, plucking a circular glass paperweight from Spitfire’s desk and rolling it around his palm.
“I think…” Morgan said slowly, running his tongue over his teeth like a predator surveying a clueless doe. “Jack be nimble, Jack be quick…” he got to his feet and smoothed down his suit shirt. “Jack do away with this lunatic.”
He marched out of the room, leaving his polar brethren to sit up and root a silver Zippo lighter from the pockets of his leather jacket. Spitfire re-emerged from the storeroom and looked around, confused. “Did Morgan leave?” he asked, glancing back at Jack.
The young man nodded wordlessly, balancing a cigarette between his lips.
Clearly unnerved by his gaze, Spitfire busied himself rearranging the many stacks of parchment that he had just brought in from his office. There was something about the Nickelworth brothers that had always unnerved him… for one thing, they had both appeared out of nowhere six months ago to plant themselves firmly in the Ministry’s inner workings. No-one was entirely sure where they lived - as a matter of fact, this was the first time Spitfire had seen them both outside of the Ministry.
Turning away from the papers with a slightly suspicious frown on his ruddy face, the Vice Chancellor straightened up to face the younger man. “What did you say you wanted, Nickelworth?” he asked into the silence. “Something I can do for you?”
Jack’s pale blue eyes bored relentlessly into Spitfire’s features. “Actually there is. You’re in luck, Vice Chancellor.” he rose to his feet and strode around the desk, flicking the cigarette into a plant pot he passed. Spitfire coughed out the thick smoke that Jack exhaled into his face. “You’ve been selected to go onto my list.”
“List?” the Vice Chancellor managed, still spluttering. “What list? What are you talking about?”
Smiling, Jack reached into his back pocket and pulled out something that glinted in the late afternoon sunlight.
“Of lucky people…”
He stepped forward so that his face was inches from the look of shock frozen on the Vice Chancellor’s large head, and twisted his wrist slightly so that the dagger in his hand sliced expertly through the man’s chest. Dark red began to soak through an expensive white shirt, pooling over the hand that still rested on the hilt. Jack stared into Spitfire’s eyes until the last spark of life had faded. He then yanked out the knife, splashing three or four small droplets of blood onto his own face, and strode calmly out of the library.
It was a brilliant day outside. Morgan was waiting by the door, looking relaxed without actually leaning against anything. “How many times do I have to tell you not to come out until you’ve cleaned yourself up?” he sighed, exasperated, and reached over to wipe the blood from his brother’s cheek.
“How long are we going to keep this up?” Jack snarled, brushing his dark hair away from his forehead and scowling at his brother. “Killing wizards like this is so chicken-shit.”
Morgan clipped him upside the head. “Don’t start this again, Jacky.” he snapped. “How many times do I have to tell you?! We do as we are told. When it happens, you’ll be rewarded with the blood of as many wizards as you can get your filthy teeth into, but until then you need to learn to control yourself.”
He exhaled and straightened his suit. Standing side by side at the top of the steps, just outside the three-storey home of the Vice Chancellor Spitfire, the two brothers glanced at one another… and vanished, leaving nothing but four black footprints.
~ _/*/_ ~
“Oh fuck my mother
Harry Potter blinked. Then he sighed. Then he dragged himself out of the last clinging grip of slumber and went to turn off the siren.
“SHUT THE FUCK UP ALREADY!”
Clearly Midas had no intention of turning it off himself.