asked JK Rowling in an interview how the goblins get the Muggle money
back into circulation, after it is exchanged at Gringotts.
Her reply intrigued me - she stated that the goblins were rather crafty,
and in fact sort of 'fenced' the money back. We know the goblins to
be rather testy and shady characters anyway - exactly how many 'goblin
uprisings' have they been forced to write about in 'History of Magic'
DISCLAIMER: I am not, by any
stretch of the imagination, JK Rowling, and all that are hers belong
to her, and I thank the gods for her continued good humour that all
of us who love those things may play with them. Other quotes used in
the chapter headings are attributed as appropriate.
This has got to
be the stupidest thing I ever agreed to do.
Billy Stockwell crushed
his cigarette out with a vengeance even as he pulled his coat more tightly
around him. He had envisioned life as part of Europe's most prestigious
gem cutting organization to be a little more, well, upscale, than waiting
on a decidedly foggy and getting-colder-by-the-second corner somewhere
in The City late at night in the heart of winter. The street where he
stood was practically deserted at this hour. Some rather dingy looking
tiny old pub across the street was open and seemed to be doing some
business, but judging by the rather eccentric look of the customers
he'd seen, Billy highly doubted that he would want to go in and have
a look about. He'd seen at least three men enter wearing, well, dresses
of some sort, he was sure of it.
Maybe it's just
an English thing; don't they seem to have this weird obsession with
'fancy dress' parties?
After living in London for a year Billy had been invited
to approximately 4 cocktail parties but 6 of the dreaded 'fancy dress'
parties. He shuddered at the memory of spending four hours making small
talk with people dressed in mermaid and frog costumes while resisting
the urge to throw his wig into the fire with his painfully goofy 'breeches'
right behind. He wasn't even sure what a footman was, but it seemed
the most harmless outfit he could find.
Billy sighed, and
decided that in fact this situation was the perfect coda to a long and
wretched day. His cutting was improving, but this morning he had misjudged
the lie of a crack on a rather large and nice sapphire, and had subsequently
destroyed it. Certainly they would get two or three smaller stones,
but they had hoped to have a nice three-carat emerald cut, not a few
half carat 'chips' as his teacher had pointed out testily. Billy felt
so awful as he went to explain what had happened
to the Master Cutter, he could barely speak. But the Master had just
smiled and commented that they all made mistakes. Then he asked if Billy
was busy that evening. Billy had shaken his head miserably, and the
Master had asked if that were the case, would he mind very much running
an errand for him. Billy had agreed without asking what the errand was,
desperate to redeem himself slightly. He didn't really take heed of
the smirk on the master's face at the time, but now he understood.
Billy lit another
cigarette and leaned back against the wall again. He actually had no
idea when this buyer was going to show up. He had been stunned when
it was explained to him that he was going to be meeting a buyer that
evening and delivering him his latest order. The Master had assured
him that the buyer was an eccentric and always did his business late
in the evening, and always sent a car to the same corner to pick up
the seller and take him to whatever hotel he happened to be staying
at that visit to London. Billy couldn't help but think this was all a little shady, but opted
to keep his mouth shut and took the parcel handed to him. It was wrapped
in standard brown parcel paper, but it was sealed with a red ribbon
and a rather dodgy looking piece of metal with a strange looking symbol
that had reminded Billy of the 'love medallion' his uncle had worn during
his unfortunate mid-life crisis in the seventies. He had run a finger
over the small circle, but instantly pulled his hand away as it strangely
seemed to fill him with a strong sense of dread. The parcel was quickly
dropped it into an inside pocket of Billy's greatcoat where it sat for
the rest of the day.
patted his chest to check once more that the package was there, wondering
exactly what gems might be inside. None of your business; just wait
here like a good doggie and get this over with. With nothing better
to do besides defy the increasingly intense and obnoxious health warnings
on the effects of tobacco, Billy examined the strange and ancient looking
pub across the street in more detail.
It didn't seem particularly
large, but Billy kept getting the odd feeling that he was missing something
as he looked at the old plastered walls shimmering in the sulphur glow
of the nearest streetlight. Only the right side of the front was really
visible, the left cast in shadow as the light sort of seemed to fade
away just before it cleared the small wooden front door. Billy dragged
on his cigarette and huffed out a large cloud of smoke and chill.
A tall man came out
of the pub without a sound, wrapping a long black cloak tightly around
him as he moved into the night. The man seemed to almost prowl down
the opposite side of the road, out of the glare of the streetlight.
Billy watched him, feeling an odd chill come over him and all the hair
on the back of his neck stand up, despite the fact that the figure seemed
completely uninterested in him and was moving quickly away. Billy blinked
for a moment, and then the figure vanished completely into the fog.
Great. Not only am I freezing, I have now managed to give myself a serious case of the creeps.
Wonderful job; excellent life. What's next?
Billy continued to
stare nervously in the direction the man had disappeared, and actually
found himself hoping that someone else came out of the pub and soon,
dress or no dress. He tired to make out some of the advertisements in
the window of the record shop across the way, but it was too dark. Billy
couldn't help but be drawn back to look at the pub, and glanced up at
the small windows of the upstairs rooms. A few were lit, but most were
dark. As his eyes came to rest on the very top window in the darkest
corner of the building, he thought, for a moment, that he saw two little
bald heads and four little red eyes staring back down at him. He did
jump back this time, and flattened himself against the wall. He closed
his eyes tightly for a few seconds, silently vowing never to watch 'The
Amityville Horror' ever again, then looked
back at the window. Nothing.
Exactly how old
are you, idiot?
He started to pace
now, straining to hear if any of the distant traffic noises were going
to come his direction. Billy supposed he was expected to stand
here all night if necessary, but was becoming less and less confident
by the minute that this was something he was up to.
he turned to pace back in the direction of the pub, he thought for an
instant that he saw the door opening, but it closed and nobody emerged. Someone decided not to leave just
yet, I guess. His heart rate had almost settled back down completely
when a voice behind him nearly finished him on the spot.
"A very good,
good evening, Sir," came a little growling voice.
Billy tripped over
himself as he turned and staggered on the pavement, slipping off the
curb and landing hard in the gutter. He ignored the fact he was now
soaked in the remains of that afternoon's rain shower, and tried to
see who had spoken to him.
In the shadow he himself
had been standing in most of the night he could just make out two small
figures. They each wore absurdly large hats pulled low over their eyes,
and black coats with high collars that covered most of their faces.
He could make out two identical grins, faintly, and four eyes twinkling
at him. I'm just imagining that those teeth look…sharp….
"I do believe
you have something we want."
Billy decided being
mugged by two psycho midgets really was going to be the low point of
his existence. Without argument, he reached into his pocket and held
out his wallet. The two figures looked at it curiously, then
giggled. It was an atrocious sound.
"No, no. We've
no need of that. Your other possession, yes?"
Billy managed to get
to his feet.
"Oh, oh, I'm…sorry.
Yeah, um, I thought you were coming here in a car…."
They shook their heads
vigorously in tandem with each other, then halted as one, as if on cue,
and stared at him again. There was silence for a few moments, until
Billy felt compelled to reach into his coat again, and this
time bring out the package with its odd wrappings. He held it
towards them, but was surprised to see they drew back slightly, and
their grins faded a bit. Billy was certain he heard one of them mumble
something that had to be a curse from the inflection, but he couldn't
place the language.
"Would you mind,
very much, removing that silly little bauble from the package for us?"
Billy stared at the
dark figures again for a few moments, and then in somewhat of a daze
reached to untie the ribbon and remove the disk it held. As before,
the metal felt like ice when he brushed it and filled him with a dreadful
feeling, but he continued. The two little men leaned towards him now,
staring at the package and their grins returning.
Just as he managed
to untie the last of the knots, Billy heard the low hum of a car coming
from the distance. He hesitated a moment, but let out a gasp as the
two men leapt forward just as the ribbon fell away from the package,
taking the medal with it. Long fingers reached out and snatched the
package, then vanished back into the shadows, even as the headlights
of the approaching car became visible.
came the voice once more, giddy with laughter, then the two figures
seemed to simply vanish. Billy reached forward and tried to grab them.
Not to save the package, but to ascertain that they really hadn't simply
disappeared into thin air. He was actually groping at the wall behind
the spot where they had stood when the car came to halt next to him.
Billy turned and gaped as three men wearing black dresses emerged from
the car, followed by another little man, dressed in the same funny hat
and coat as the other two had been. The little man immediately looked
down at the medallion and the ribbon lying on the sidewalk and gave
an enraged shriek.
Billy turned as he
felt someone grab his arm. He stared into the face of one of the men
in the dresses.
"Well, Mr. Stockwell,
you haven't had a good day, have you? Stupefy…."
The last thing Billy
remembered before he passed out was the freak in the dress waving a
stick in his face.