Although this story is appearing under my pseudonym, I am responsible for no more than 50% of the words (possibly less, I haven't counted). This seven chaptered tale was co-written by myself and C_A_Campbell, we took alternate chapters and we beta read (and in my case brit-picked) for each other. The story is submitted here with C_A_Campbell's permission.
In deference to my co-author, who wrote this, the first chapter, and in order to keep the story looking vaguely the same throughout, rather than use the UK 'speech marks' in my chapters I have followed her lead and used US "speech marks". She uses UK spellings.
C_A_Campbell is writing "the killer" and I'm writing "the detective".
I hope that you enjoy this transatlantic collaboration.
1. For Justice (by C_A_Campbell)
I sat at his desk, writing a list, as across the room Karl Jugson took his last breaths.
One of my hands held the quill poised in my fingertips, and the other hand twirled the Remembrall round and round. I gazed down upon it. It glowed red, as red as fire, as red as blood, as red as my anger that I had forgotten something. I gazed at the list, reading the names. There was someone missing. I flipped back through the past pages of my journal for any possible clue.
The previous page gave two simple orders. Extinguish the candles. Open the windows. I had done this; this was not what I have forgotten.
The preceding page gave the answer. A newspaper clipping was folded neatly between the pages, and I carefully smoothed it out. The headline took my breath away, but I had the notion that this was not the first time I had read it, nor the first time that it had filled my heart with such vehemence.
Alecto Carrow Released From Prison.
Six years. Six years she had sat in Azkaban. Six years she had lived in the dark. Countless years she had stolen from innocent lives, but what was taken from her? Six years.
I could still remember the first injustice when it came to the Carrows. My heart had slipped into my stomach as I had read how, at their trial, one Carrow, the brother, Amycus, confessed to all the murders the Carrows had supposedly comitted. He would spend his life in Azkaban, but his sister, who only claimed to have done lesser crimes of assault—Lies! Such lies!— received twelve years.
Yet, all she had lost was six. She had been releaseed early because of her good behaviour, because she was truly repentant. As though demons could ever be repentant!
It was so unspeakably unjust, so unspeakably unfair, that it left me breathless. There was only one thing I could do to remedy this.
I wrote her name on the list.
She would be next; she did not belong at the end of the list. She did not deserve freedom. She deserved justice. And so I would bring it to her.
I looked at the Remembrall in my hand, but it still glow red. I still had forgotten something. I looked from the Remembrall to the list, and back again, but I could not will the truth into my cloudy mind. It was as though I stumbled around in the dark, searching for something I did not even know the identity of. For a moment, I could almost touch it. I could almost remember.
The memory was gone, far from my reach. I angrily dropped the Remembrall onto the desk and turned my head.
Jugson pushed himself up on his elbow, his arm shaking with the effort. His voice croaked as he said the name again. "Toni Alden."
I frowned at him, but then I remembered. That was my name.
"Why…" he panted, "Why are the windows open?"
They had been all shut tight when I entered, but of course, I was forced to open them. If I hadn't, I would be in the same sorry state as he was. But now with the windows open, the smell of excrement and urine floated through the window, so strong it took my strong stomach to keep me from being sick on the stained wood floor. The only relief I received from the horrific scent was the knowledge of why the stink went through there. The dragon keepers had put the dung heap close to his house, because they knew what he had done. I smiled. Now that was justice.
"It was necessary," I said.
"Will not be relit," I said firmly. I had already Vanished them all from the room.
"You…" he struggled angrily. He reaches toward the bedside table, to where his wand had lain, but that, too, I had made disappear. I had rolled it under the bed, far from his reach, for he had lost his ability to walk long ago.
Completely spent, he slumped back on his pillow. "What…" he asked, "what is happening to me?"
There was a note of fear in his voice, and I wondered if it sounds like the fear that was in the voice of those he killed before he stole away their lives forever.
I stood and moved towards the edge of bed. The putrid smell of his vomit staining the sheets combined with the reek of dung, and I nearly added my own sick to his bedclothes. But I swallowed hard and held myself together.
"You are dying," I said. My voice was so cool, so unconcerned that it alarms me.
But the thing about watching people die was it got easier after time.
The first time I watched someone die, I had screamed and screamed and screamed, until someone had told me to be quiet and to run...run...run...run. Then there were more deaths, one after another. All of them were horrible, all of the people too young and too innocent, and I had felt as though I died with each one. But those last four had been different, hard at first, but not in the same way. Because none of the four had been innocent.
The first of the four I had watched intensely. My heart had raced as I watched her chest rise, then fall, then become completely still. I had held my breath to see if it would rise again, and when it didn't, a sob of terror broke past my lips. I ran and Apparated away. I landed in my safe flat, far away from those eyes that stared at nothing. I had fallen to the floor, sobbing, terrified, shaking. I had been so sure someone would know what I had done, but no one ever knew. No one ever realized. And when I had known I truly succeeded, my heart raced again, but this time with joy. Justice had been brought, and it had been my hands that brought it.
The second time, my hands had shaken as I began to explain why I was watching him die, why I would not help him as the blood pooled in his brain. But as the words continued to leave my mouth, my hands had ceased their trembling. The sweat that had trickled down my forehead dried. When at last he had slipped from this world, I closed his eyes with still hands and peace in my heart. Justice had been served; the world was more right than it had been moments before.
The third time, I did not get to watch him die, and, somehow, I had been disappointed. When I couldn't watch justice at work, I comforted myself knowing that it had worked. The fourth time had been the easiest one yet. I had no time for speeches, no time to explain why he deserved this. But he would not have understood anyway. That had been made clear as I watched him tumble to the ground, his world coming to an abrupt halt as his body landed, broken and askew. I had almost smiled as I gazed down upon him. The world was an unjust place, but that…that had been proof it may become just once more.
Now, here I stood, the fifth time and there was no fear, no regret, not even the racing of the heart. I was calm and cool and practised. I was ready to watch him die.
"How did this…" he began to ask. Yet, he already knew. He turned to me, the knowledge hot in his eyes. "You!" he cried in his last bit of strength and passion.
"Yes," I responded, with no measure of regret. "Yes, I did this."
He cursed me, cursed me straight to hell, but that was where he was going, not I. His ranting was weak, and rather pathetic, but the use of all this energy was speeding along his death. His rant ended with a retch, and he barely turned to vomit over the side of his bed. When he was finished, he faced me again and demanded the question they all have demanded, "Why?"
I saw in the way his eyes went wide that he understood completely. The memories of all his unspeakable acts, the ones he thought he got away with, drifted through his mind, and I hoped for the sake of his own soul that he felt regret. "I don't…" he struggled, "I don't deserve to die."
"You know what you've done, Jugson!" I hiss. "You know your sins. And the wages of sin is death!"
The wages of sin. The years of human life they had taken, years when those victims would have lived and loved, paid for by the lives of those thieves who had stolen them. A life for a life! That was justice!
"I have…" He moaned with pain the act of speaking caused him, and he clutched at his chest. I wondered if his heart is racing, or if it was fighting a slow, painful battle to keep beating. "I have done nothing."
"You lie," I accused. "You know what you did. The whole world knows what you did. You thought you got away with it. But you are wrong. You are a murderer, and now you will pay for what you have done. You will die, and no one will care that you're gone."
The words seemed to pierce deep. In a panic, he continued to clutch at his chest. His breath was coming quickly now. His eyes were wide with fear, and he did what all cowards do when faced with their death. He begged. "Please…please…"
The first time I did this, she begged as well, and the pity had nearly overwhelmed my heart. Yet, now I felt no sympathy, not even a hint. I felt only justified.
"Tell me," I implored softly. "Did they beg for life before you killed them?" I leaned close to him even though the smell of him was repulsive, but I wanted him to look into my eyes. I wanted him to see that the last eyes he would ever see bear him no sympathy, just as his eyes had been empty when he had killed them.
He stared into my empty eyes and shook. Perhaps it was death that makes him tremble; perhaps it was his fear at finding no mercy. More than likely, it was both. Either way, he would not lie now. He knew it would do him no good.
"And did you spare them? When they pleaded for their lives…when they begged to see their family one last time…when they told you of the mothers and fathers and brothers and friends and sisters," I choked on the last word, and I was not sure why. I took a calming breath and continued, "Did you even hesitate?"
He whimpered. He was a coward who faced his own death and was now forced to look upon his life, and see every dark deed. He was forced to remember my words; no one would miss him now. He would die, alone and without a single tear grief. And all the wickedness of his life that he rejoiced in was now empty and meaningless and terrible.
And this was justice.
"Mercy," he pleaded, his voice scarcely able to be heard. "Mercy."
"Mercy is for God," I said. "I bring only justice."
There was something about the way a pair of eyes, once so wicked, but bright with life,went blank and dim. Something both frightening and intensely fascinating. I watched as his eyes slowly grew dark, as black as his soul that had now left his body. And I knew, Karl Jugson was dead.
I felt relief, even joy, lightening my heart, and I had to press my fingers to lips to withhold a giggle. Justice had been done.
But I could not rejoice yet; there was still much to be done. More justice called, a list awaited, and I would not be free until this obligation was complete.
First, I had to finish here. I used my wand to Levitate his body above the bed, and then changed the filthy sheets. I Vanished them; they could not be found. I cleaned the sick off his body, then closed his sightless eyes, before I laid him back into the bed I had made anew. It I was not for him that I did this, but I had to know that when he was found, no one would suspect that I had played a hand in bringing his just demise.
I considered how people would read this in the newspapers and how they would believe that God or fate or whatever force they believed in, had brought justice. But they had not.
It was I.
When I was done with him, I closed the windows. One stuck and it took force to push it down as far as it would go.
Lastly, I walked over to where I had sat, picked up my quill, and hovered it over my list. A long stroke marks out Karl Jugson's name. Five down; three to go. I was so close now, I could almost taste the sweetness of freedom, like tender kisses upon my lips.
I tucked the book into my cloak pocket and reached for my Remembrall. No sooner had my finger touched it, then it bled red, as though I had pricked my finger before touching it. And as my fingers started to pick it up, I thought, I wonder if she's proud of me. I shook the thought away, because I could not fathom what it meant. But for a moment, the Remembrall had become completely clear.
I had remembered, but now I had forgotten again. The Remembrall was as red as it had always been. I thrust it into my pocket, next to the book. Perhaps, whatever it was, it was better to forget.
I exited the room, leaving Jugson dead behind me. I moved with a purpose; the path was set before me.
And Justice beckoned me on.