Chapter 2 : A Sense of Urgency
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The pig-like eyes of the man narrowed as he examined Newts paperwork and the auburn walrus mustache under his nose twitched as though he was preparing to sneeze. But no explosion came from his face and Newt was able to breathe a sigh of relief that at least he was to be spared this inconvenience.
“Is this your first time in America, Mister Scamander?”
“Uh, no, sir, I have visited your country before.”
Newt knew that he was rolling his eyes at the man’s statement of the obvious given the facts that he had examined Newt’s paperwork and also heard his accent and he tried to hide his annoyance, but failed miserably.
“Is something troubling you, Mister Scamander?”
“No, sir, nothing is troubling me in the least.”
The stout man snorted and then turned his attention to the case that Newt had placed on the table between them. He turned it so that he could unlatch it and then abruptly stopped to look at the traveler before him.
“What is the nature of your visit to America, Mister Scamander?”
“I am here on business.”
“What would that business be, Mister Scamander?”
Newt could sense the annoyance of the people behind him as the official continued to question him. The line beside them was proceeding at a rather fast clip as the obviously bored officer at that station gave the paperwork and luggage a perfunctory glance before waving the new arrival through. Obviously, this man was efficient at what he did and was relishing the shiny badge on his uniform that gave him the right to make the lives of new arrivals difficult.
“Mister Scamander, what would the nature of your business in our country be?”
Newt shook himself out of his daydream and then answered the question.
“I work with exotic animals.”
“What sort of exotic animals?”
“I work with the sort that you might find in a zoo.”
The man’s face blanched as he looked down at the case that he was about to open. Obviously he was wondering if some monstrosity was going to jump out of the case at him like some insane jack-in-the box to sink fangs into his flesh.
“Mister Scamander, I have to ask this, would there be any of these exotic animals in this case that I am about to open?”
“Are you daft? Those things can be dangerous. Of course there are not any of them in my case. Do you take me for a mad man?”
The man was nearly trembling and was bathed in a cold sweat as he thumbed the latches and then carefully lifted the lid of the case. Only when mundane articles that a traveler might pack were revealed did he begin to breathe normally once again. He gave the items a careful poke and refused to dig beneath the surface as he seemed to become more like his fellow officer. The lid was soon closed and latched once again as the case was spun so that its handle faced Newt once again. He watched as his paperwork was stamped and then pushed back towards him.
“Thank you, Mister Scamander, I hope that your business in our country is successful.”
“As do I,” Newt responded as he pushed his papers into his breast pocket and then grasped the case handle to pull it off of the table. He nodded to the official once again and then walked past the table and out into the port building to make his way onto the streets of New York.
A small boy met him at the door with a Muggle newspaper in his hand.
“Five cents, sir.”
Newt reached into his pocket and grasped a Muggle coin. He had no idea what the denomination of the item was, but obviously it was larger than what had been requested of him for the eyes of the boy widened as it was handed to him.
“Will this cover it?”
“You can keep the change.”
The young boy nearly fell over with disbelief as Newt Scamander walked away with the newspaper and quickly stuffed the coin into his pocket. Nothing like this had ever happened before nor was it likely to happen again, he had never received a gold coin for a paper and been told to keep the change. The money would go a long way for his family. Newt paid him no attention as he glanced down at the paper in his hand and his eyes took in the headlines.
Mysterious Happenings Plaguing City Blamed on Unknown Hoodlums!
A story below the headlines announced the strange thefts of green balls of all varieties from all over the city. This story meant nothing to Newt, it was the headline story that held his attention as he walked towards an alley where he could be not be observed. Once he had vanished into the shadows he disappeared with a POP! to reappear in an alley outside the Woolworth Building. He glanced around to be certain that he had not been seen by non-magical eyes and failed to see the vagrant who lay under sheets of newspaper and watched him with rheumy eyes. He hurried out of the alley as the man glanced at the half full bottle next to him for a moment before lifting it and dumping it out on the ground beside him. The man would rise and hurry out of the alley to make his way to one of the institutions that helped down and out folks make something of their lives.
Newt hurried through the revolving door at the front of the building, and it was this revolving door that took him to the entrance of the headquarters of MACUSA.
This entry into the equivalent of the Ministry of Magic was much different than his first. Memories of being arrested by Portpentina Goldstein for “activities which had threatened to expose the existence of the Wizarding World“ to the No-Maj residents of New York flooded his mind and he hoped that this visit would be quite different. This, however, was not to be.
He could still see the letter marked “MOST URGENT” that had appeared in his home only days before. It had told him that an unusual number of strange occurrences had been plaguing the city and that MACUSA suspected that it was the work of magical creatures. It had gone on to state that it was thought that some of the responsible creatures might have escaped from his case and never been re-captured. He knew that this was not true as all of the beasts that had been freed accidently had been accounted for and were now safely contained in their enclosures. Obviously this was something different and it had been handed to him to determine just exactly what was going on before the No-Maj population became aware of the nature of their tormentors.
As he walked through the corridors towards the office that he needed he thought about the large number of magical and fantastic beasts that made their home here in America. Certainly, there was a vast variety of them, which made them worthy of a book of their own. The students at Ilvermorny were quite tired of reading about the beasts that their European counterparts were studying when they had fantastic beasts of their own to consider.
He turned at the sound of his name being called and brightened when he spotted a wizard that he had made acquaintances with on his previous trip. The problem was, he couldn’t remember the name of the man and that was certain to produce an awkward moment.
“How are you doing, Newt? I imagined that they would call upon you to get to the bottom of this mess before the No-Majs become wise to whatever is going on.”
“Well, I have never thought them as dull as most do.”
“Quite, well anyway, it is good to see you again.”
The pair shook hands and Newt was about to breathe a sigh of relief when the departing wizard spoke to him once again.
“The name is William Shackleton, you absent minded wonder.”
Newt managed a weak smile and then hurried on toward the MACUSA equivalent to the Ministry’s Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures. A glance up at the clock that indicated the magical threat level revealed that the office he sought was operating at a level of four. This meant that an emergency was underway and he had arrived none too soon.
He arrived at the door that he sought just as a loud squawk sounded from beyond it and he cautiously opened the door. A glance inside revealed a large green bird which resembled an ostrich but had a duck-like bill. The human-like eyes of the creature regarded him with curiosity and he carefully entered the room to stand before it as a witch next to it spoke to it in a manner normally reserved for a obstinate child.
“Ralph, I am going to tell you one last time to sit down and be quiet! You do not want to disturb these very kind people who are trying to help you, do you?”
Newt looked at the beast before him and then at the witch that had spoken. Obviously there was much more going on here than he realized. He looked around the room and was astounded to see a number of fantastic beasts that he was unfamiliar with. Some he thought that he recognized from books that he had read, but others were totally alien to him and he wondered where they had originated. Certainly, the large bird was the most curious of the lot and he carefully made his way to the desk of a harried looking witch who regarded him with exasperation.
“What sort of beast do you have that you cannot control and is it registered?”
Newt paused for a moment at the question as a wizard stepped out of a room with a large serpent like creature. The snake was unusual in that it had brilliant orange fur and wings, a collar kept it close to the wizard despite the efforts of the creature to get free. A tug at his coat brought his attention to the goblin that was attempting to bring his thoughts back to the witch.
“Oi, shes talkin to ye, she is!”
“Oh, I apologize, Madam, I have just never seen some of these beasts. Is this the office for the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures?”
“Well, it certainly is not the Department of Magical Law Enforcement! What do you need?”
“I am Newt Scamander and I was summoned by this office to deal with whatever is going on in New York.”
“You are Newt Scamander? I thought that perhaps you were the latest in a line of cage cleaners. We cannot keep them, they take one look at the size of the messes that they have to clean and run out the door. Come with me then, Mister Scamander.”
The witch led Newt out of the crowded room just as the door opened and a very young witch, certainly no more than eleven or twelve years old, led a large gorilla-like beast which continuously changed color in. Newt could not keep his eyes off of the beasts and nearly walked over the witch that had suddenly stopped to open a door for him.
“It is a very good thing that you came on a slow day! Normally there would be twice the traffic as what you saw today.”
“What was that thing that the young girl led in?”
“I take it that you have never seen a Rocky Mountain Chameleape. They are quite common and I would have assumed that an esteemed Magizoologist would be familiar with them.”
“I do not believe that I have ever even seen a reference to them in any of the books that I have read. And, what was that snake with wings and fur?”
“That is a juvenile Arctic Snow Serpent!”
“Juvenile? That thing was nearly ten feet long.”
“The adults are nearly two hundred feet long and pure white. That one was hatched only three days ago. They are quite docile as hatchlings, but very aggressive once they reach mating age.”
“And the green bird, what was that?”
“That, Mister Scamander, is the result of an unfortunate accident. Be careful what you put into a potion or you might wind up looking like that. His wife does not know whether to take him to St. Mungo’s or register him as a beast. Frankly, given his appearance as a wizard, if I were his wife I would register him.”
The door before them opened and Newt found himself being ushered in to a large office. He stepped through the portal and was not surprised when the door closed behind him. A large desk sat in the center of the room and the wizard behind it rose to meet him as he approached.
“You have to be Newton Scamander, the Magizoologist that saved our world from discovery by the No-Majs.”
“I am Newt Scamander,“ he responded as he shook the offered hand, “and who might you be, sir?”
“I am Bartholomew Stewart-Craig, Head of this department.”
“I see then perhaps you can tell me why I am here in New York once again. All of the escaped beasts are accounted for and I am a bit confused as to why my presence was demanded.”
“We have a bit of a situation and you were highly recommended to us.”
“Over the last several days a number of occurrences have troubled the city. These have been obvious magical occurrences and, for right now, have been explained by the No-Maj government as the work of hoodlums or occult manifestations. But they put us in a tight spot for, once the No-Maj population determines their origin, the existence of our world will be revealed.”
“Perhaps it is the work of errant young witches and wizards who are having a bit of fun with the Muggles. It has happened before, I assure you of that.”
“I believe you that it has, but the No-Maj government is becoming suspicious and the Second Salemers are beginning to pry where they ought not. It is only a matter of time before our worlds collide and it will not be good for anyone when they do.”
“What do you want of me?”
“I need you to determine what is going on and who or what is responsible.”
“And if I do?”
“If it is a magical beast I need you to capture it and get it into containment.”
“And if it is the work of witches or wizards unknown? What do I do then? I deal with fantastic beasts not witches or wizards who have decided not to follow our laws.”
“Then then Aurors shall get involved.”
“No, Mister Scamander, you do not. This must be done with all speed and focus by the end of the month.”
“But that is only twelve days away! What is the urgency?”
“Because, Mister Scamander, in thirteen days the Second Salemers shall petition the No-Maj president to order an investigation into the situation and that could very well expose our world.”
“But surely we have people within their government who can slow this process down.”
“We do, but they can only hold off the inevitable for so long. There is simply no way to obliviate their entire world! We would have done that already if it were possible.”
“Then I should imagine that I must get started immediately.”
“You have a gift for stating the obvious, Mister Scamander.”
“How many incidents have there been?”
“There have been nearly twenty, and they are all hauntingly similar. The first was at a school not far from here. Quite understandably the children and staff are reluctant to return to the building. The next was at a rather seedy pub down near the docks, that one was easily explained away by its location but the next is not.”
“Where did that one happen?”
“The New York Stock Exchange Building, it interrupted a day of trading and nearly brought the system to a complete standstill.”
“I shall need a map with the occurrence locations marked on it.”
“It is already prepared and, should there be any more occurrences, they will instantly appear on your map.”
“I read something about green balls vanishing all over the city, is that connected to the occurrences?”
“I have no idea, Mister Scamander, but what I do know is this, you must get to the bottom of this before the end of the month. This situation must be treated with a sense of urgency and as quietly as possible, we do not need anything else to jeopardize our world.”
“Then I suppose that I shall start at the place where this began.”
“Good luck and Merlin speed, Mister Scamander.”
Newt turned and left the office to walk back through the crowded outer office where more fantastic beasts had been gathered. The witch behind the desk held out a folded piece of parchment to him and he accepted it before leaving the noisy environment. He gave the beasts a last longing look before he closed the door behind him and walked back out onto the concourse to make his way to the room that he knew was waiting for him. This was going to be a much different trip than the last and only Merlin knew what would happen should he fail in his mission.
Far from the headquarters of MACUSA, a shopkeeper glanced at the jar on his counter that held the hard round candies that children were so fond of. He looked away from it and then immediately back as he noticed that something was quite different about it. Approaching it slowly, he was astounded to see the level in the jar severely depleted. Anger filled him as he remembered that he had added to the contents only that morning, but just the same it was now partially empty. It did present a rather strange sight as he realized that only one color of hard candy ball was missing. There was not a green one to be seen anywhere in the jar and he wondered why any thief would take just those items.
He was looking at the jar and turning it around to examine it from all sides when he became aware of a small voice that was repeating the same thing over and over again. What was frightening was the fact that the volume of the voice was increasing as though it was more than one person speaking.
“No Me! No me! NO Me! NO ME! NO ME! NO ME!”
It was at this point that the light fixtures above began to swing wildly and items began to fly off of the shelves as though thrown by wanton children. The shopkeeper and his few customers hurried from the building to stand in the streets and look back into the store that they had just vacated. Inside the structure a virtual tornado of activity was happening as the air was filled with flying objects of all descriptions. Above it all, a thunderous voice repeated the same phrase over and over again.
“NO ME! NO ME! NO ME! NO ME! NO ME! NO ME!”
On the map that Newton Scamander carried, another building was noted and on the clock in the great hall of MACUSA the hands advanced to the next level.
Severe Unexplained Activity
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