The Project

20 years earlier

"Mr. Hawkins, if you don't mind me saying, I simply cannot grant you this. You see, I'm rather strapped at the moment. As important as this may be, I simply don't have the money to fund another project. Really, I'm sorry."

Thomas stared stonily at Mr. Alastor White. He swept a single strand of dark hair back behind his ear.

"You had money to fund Oliver's little experiment," he said quietly.

"Yes, well now I've run out," said Mr. White, pouring himself another glass of wine. "Really, it sounds fascinating, but I can't fund another project at the moment."

"I don't think you understand, Alastor," pressed Thomas. "This isn't just another project. It's the project. It's going to change the world. It's bigger than anything anyone has ever done." Thomas rose out of his armchair and crossed to the bookshelf that stood against the wall. "You see, Alastor, this is all that matters to me now. I don't care what happens as a consequence. But it needs to be done."

Thomas turned back to Mr. White, who looked somewhat alarmed.

"I think you had better tell me the combination to the safe, Alastor. I knew you wouldn't lend me any more money, not after last time. The wine I brought contained lethal amounts of cyanide in it. This means that in a little more than two minutes we will both be experiencing the adverse effects of cyanide poisoning. In less than five minutes we'll both be dead."

Mr. White blanched. Thomas smiled with about as much warmth as a glacier, then pulled a tiny, glass vial from beneath his coat.

"Amyl nitrite," Thomas explained before uncapping it and downing its contents. "The antidote that will save me. Now I happen to have another one. . ." He produced a second vial. "If you tell me the correct combination to your safe, I may be willing to give it to you."

"Damn you," spat Mr. White.

"That's hardly going to change my mind," said Thomas callously. "But the combination might." Thomas pushed the bookshelf aside, revealing a hidden safe behind it. "Time's a ticking," sang Thomas as Mr. White grimaced and clenched his stomach.

"Five oh six five," said Mr. White grudgingly.

Thomas punched it into the combination pad. The safe clicked open.

"What do you know," muttered Thomas, emptying the safe's contents into his briefcase.

"Now the antidote, if you will, Hawkins."

"Oh yes." Thomas tossed the vial to Mr. White, who caught it.

"It's empty!"

"Oh dear," said Thomas without concern. "Yes, I suppose it is. Terribly sorry, Alastor. I really didn't want a witness. Good-bye. I won't be seeing you."

And then he strode from the room, leaving the poisoned man to die behind him.

The End

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