Peculiar Branch Chapter 3b

[HORRIBLY unhappy with the prose here — this needs totally rewriting when I come to publish the whole thing as a novel — but I’ve posted it because it’s an important plot point for those who are following the story. The next bit is better-written]

Charlie, meanwhile, was having to do P.E.

Now, I quite liked P.E. at school myself — have a bit of a kickabout, bit of an ogle of the girls in their short skirts, that sort of thing — but you’re a reader, so you probably hated it. Charlie was a proper sporty type, captained the local five-a-side team and all that, so he didn’t have any problems with it, and for the first time that day felt like he could relax a bit.

The nerdy kid, however, looked petrified in the changing rooms. He came over to speak to Charlie.

“You’re new here, too, aren’t you?” the nerdy kid asked.

“Yep. Just arrived in town from Liverpool yesterday. You?”

“Yeah, my parents died and I’m staying here with my aunt.”

“Oh, I’m so sorry…”

“Don’t worry. It was a while ago. Toby Cartwright.”

“Sorry?”

“My name. Toby Cartwright.”

“Pleased to meet you. I’m Charlie Briggs.”

“I hate P.E.,” Toby said, taking off his shirt to reveal a skiny, scrawny, torso, and pulling on a T-shirt that was two sizes too big for him. “Mr. Dawson’s a real bully.”

“Him? But he seemed harmless.”

“You’ll see.”

In truth, Dawson still seemed ineffectual to Charlie, being one of those P.E. teachers who tries to jolly the pupils along, rather than one of the musclebound cretins who pick on the smallest or fattest kid to boost their own egos. But even so, he could still see why Toby thought of him as a bully. Toby was so utterly inept in everything, and Dawson so ‘encouraging’, that almost every sentence he spoke was along the lines of “Oh come on Cartwright, you can do better than that!”

After about ten minutes, it was very obvious to everyone that Cartwright couldn’t do better than that — that the poor lad was just useless at sport — but Dawson kept pushing him on. He came last in the hundred metres sprint, he almost dropped the shot putt on his own foot, and he barely hit the sand on the long jump.

Charlie, of course, was at an unfair advantage against the kids — when you spend your days chasing after escaping crooks, you get pretty good at sprinting, and Charlie was in pretty decent shape — and won everything comfortably. A bit too comfortably — he decided he’d have to do much worse at the javelin, in order to avoid standing out any more than he already was.

Just as the children were about to start the javelin throwing, Charlie noticed Mr Simpson, the sarky bugger who’d been picking on him earlier, walking up to the edge of the field and watching the kids intently.

Toby picked up the javelin — he’d decided to go first, so no-one would be able to compare his throw to any better ones that came before — and threw it.

And as he threw it, Simpson pushed his glasses up his nose and muttered something.

Toby tripped as he threw, and the javelin went flying out of his hands, much faster than anyone would have believed possible, right at Charlie’s chest.

But just as it was about to hit him, it dropped to the floor, as if it hit an invisible wall. Charlie realised three things very quickly — someone must have cast some sort of anti-magic defence on him, and the javelin itself must have been enchanted for the anti-magic defence to work.

And most importantly, his cover must have been blown. Whoever the dealer was who’d been selling fairy dust to little kids, they must have realised Charlie was a copper.

Mr. Simpson strode off, his face red with fury, as the children clustered round Charlie.

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