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M.I.T.: Haunted House: Dead by Northumbrian

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The Haunted Tower

Roberta –Bobbie” Beadle poured herself another cup of jasmine tea. Lavender was sipping hers and smiling, Susan, however, had decided that she didn’t like the weak perfumed tea and was drinking coffee.

‘You haven’t asked me about Oliver,’ Bobbie said. The restaurant was busy and noisy and she leaned across the table to ensure that she could be heard.

‘Susan’s too polite, and I’m simply waiting for you to tell us,’ said Lavender. ‘It’s been two months since Ron and Hermione’s wedding, since he asked you out. Are you shagging him yet?’

‘Really, Lavender,’ said Susan severely.

‘He’s never tried it on with me,’ said Bobbie. ‘We’ve kissed, but that’s all. I don’t know whether it’s because he doesn’t really fancy me…’

‘No, it’s because he’s a gentleman,’ said Susan.

‘Susan’s probably right,’ confirmed Lavender. ‘Alicia reckons that Katie made the first move. She made the last, too, when she jumped on Leanne at New Year. If you want Oliver, you’re going to have to seduce him, Bobbie.’


Bobbie got no further. Her mobile phone began to ring. At the same moment, the mirrors Susan and Lavender carried rang too. The three young women looked at each other, and smiled knowingly.

‘I’ll get the bill, we can settle up later,’ offered Bobbie, waving urgently to a passing waiter. She knew that a quick credit card transaction would take a lot less time than trying to calculate Muggle cash with two witches.

‘Susan Bones,’ Susan held her mirror to the side of her head and spoke into it as though it were a mobile phone. ‘I’m with Lavender and Bobbie.’

‘Auror Bones, we have a suspicious Muggle death at Owlglass Hall, forty miles from the Rheged Sheriff’s Court. The information is now being scrolled to Carlisle. Auror Protheroe has been contacted; she has activated the Muggle Interface Team protocols. Auror Brown, Inspector Beadle, please confirm that you are aware.

‘Beadle here, we’re on our way,’ Bobbie announced as the waiter hurried over with the bill.

‘We’re leaving now, Martha,’ Lavender added.

‘Where on earth is Rheged? Is it in Wales?’ asked Bobbie.

‘No, it’s Cumbria, more or less,’ said Susan. ‘There was a Magical Sheriff of Rheged long before there was a Cumbria. We’ll be able to pick up a car in Carlisle. How soon do you think we can get to the scene, Bobbie?’

‘We’ll be flying forty miles from Carlisle? That should take us less than twenty minutes,’ said Bobbie as she paid.

Susan nodded and again spoke into her mirror. ‘Martha, please contact Cumbria Constabulary and tell them to expect us at Owlglass Hall in half an hour. No one is to leave the scene, and nothing is to be moved. Make that clear.’

‘Yes, Auror Bones.’

The three young women left the restaurant as quickly as they could. They found a secluded alley and Lavender Disapparated immediately.

‘Ready, Bobbie?’ Susan asked.

‘Not really,’ Bobbie replied. ‘But let’s go.’

Susan nodded, pulled a paper bag from her jacket pocket, and handed it to her companion. Bobbie prepared herself. Susan firmly grabbed her around the waist and Bobbie held her friend’s arm tightly. With a crack, Susan Disapparated.

The experience was as bad as it always was. The pressure made Bobbie feel like her insides where being squeezed out and, as usual, she was sick. Fortunately, the bag Susan provided had succeeded in catching Bobbie’s partially digested Chinese meal.

The duty Bailiff looked up in surprise when three young women in Muggle clothing, one of them retching, Apparated into the reception area of the Sheriff’s Court. Bobbie, gasping for breath, mumbled her thanks as Lavender conjured a glass and a bowl and filled the glass with water. Unable to cope with Side-Along Apparition, Bobbie simply had to cope with the nausea.

‘Auror Office, you’re expecting us,’ Susan said, while Bobbie rinsed, gargled and spat into the bowl. Once Bobbie was done, Lavender Vanished both the sick bag and bowl. The Bailiff directed the women to a changing room, where they quickly put on their Auror uniforms, black skirts, white blouses, grey cravats and long black coats. After picking up the information scroll from the Bailiff, they were given directions to the car and left.

‘So, what do we know, Susan?’ enquired Lavender as they flew over the moonlit summit of Skiddaw and headed rapidly towards the lights of Keswick. Bobbie still felt a little queasy, so she said nothing as she steered the car a little to the west. She simply chewed her second Toothflossing Stringmint and bemoaned the loss of what had been a delicious Chinese banquet.

‘You can read this report when I’m done, Lavender,’ said Susan.

They zoomed over Derwent Water and were heading towards the summits of Haystacks and Great Gable. Bobbie concentrated on keeping the car heading towards their destination. An invisible flying car capable of travelling at two hundred miles an hour was, in her opinion, much better than Side-Along Apparition.

‘You’re a much faster reader than me, Susan, so we’ll have arrived before I finish it,’ said Lavender. ‘Besides, Bobbie can’t read and fly the car at the same time. So if you tell me, you’ll be telling her to. That will save us time when we get there.’

‘Good idea,’ Susan agreed.

‘Plus, I’m lazy and simply can’t be bothered,’ added Lavender. Bobbie stifled a chuckle and swallowed the Stringmint; she was beginning to feel better. Susan simply sighed.

‘You might as well tell both of us, Susan, please,’ Bobbie said.

‘There’s a dead girl, a tv presenter called Helena Anncart, at Owlglass Hall. The hall is a medieval building and it’s owned by a man named Oswald Striggiday,’ Susan began. ‘Mr Striggiday invited a television crew in to film. The Muggles claim that the place is haunted, although –Magical Creatures” have no ghosts registered as haunting that address. The family also own something they call –the Green Pearl” which is supposed to be cursed. It apparently kills anyone who touches it, which is why we’ve been called in.’ Susan rapidly read through the rest of the report and gave her colleagues the details.

‘How would a real cursed pearl end up in Muggle hands? And why has no one been killed by it before now?’ asked Lavender curiously.

‘It’s probably just a Muggle story,’ said Susan. ‘Perhaps this is another false alarm.’

‘We have been getting a lot of false alarms,’ Bobbie agreed.

‘We don’t know enough about where we’re going, we never know enough about what we’re being sent to investigate,’ Lavender complained to her companions.

‘Because it’s our job to find out, Lavender,’ said Susan. ‘What sort of television programme is –Haunted House: Live,” Bobbie?’

As they flew onwards, Bobbie explained the concept of a –ghost hunting” television show to her companions. Lavender was still laughing as they began their descent. The dark forbidding screes of Wast Water were a fearsome moonlit mass flickering past on their left as they headed down the valley towards the main road. When she found a clear stretch of road Bobbie slowed, dropped the car onto the black tarmac, turned off the invisibility booster, and turned on the lights and sirens.

After only five minutes on the road, they turned sharp right through a stone arch and sped down a gravel driveway. Bobbie waited until the last moment to brake. The black Range Rover slid to a halt in a rattle of scattering stone chippings. There were already several other vehicles standing outside the huge old manor house.

The ivy-clad stone frontage of Owlglass Hall was floodlit; it was also illuminated by flickering blue flashes of light from the emergency services vehicles. There were four police cars, an ambulance, and an emergency doctor already on scene, Bobbie noted.

Between the emergency vehicles and the sweep of steps leading to the grand entrance doors stood a couple of uniformed constables, one young and lean, the other old and weather-beaten. The two men strolled towards the car.

‘At least the local police are expecting us,’ Bobbie observed. ‘It’s always easier when we’re expected.’

Bobbie unbuckled her seatbelt, opened her door and stepped out. Slamming the door she strode rapidly towards the two policemen. She had discovered that identifying herself, and implying that Susan and Lavender worked for the security service was usually enough. Her fellow police officers were surprisingly lax about identifying security personnel.

‘Detective Inspector Beadle, Metropolitan Police, Special Branch,’ she announced, showing them her warrant card. ‘I’m on secondment to the Auror Office, these are my colleagues; you don’t really need their names. You can call the blonde –Miss Bones” and the brunette –Miss Brown”. Who’s in charge?’

‘D.I. Jackson from Workington arrived five minutes ago, Inspector.’ The older man spoke warily, examining her warrant card carefully. ‘You were bloody quick getting here,’ he said sharply.

Bobbie had her answer ready. ‘We were at Sellafield, dealing with an incident for the UKAEAC,’ she told them. ‘This may be related.’

She watched their faces turn pale. One of Bobbie’s duties was to provide a believable reason for their presence; she’d been working on one en route. The relative proximity of Owlglass Hall to the Sellafield nuclear reprocessing plant was a good one. UKAEAC, the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority Constabulary, were the only fully armed national police force in the UK.

As she expected, the two men simply stepped aside and allowed her to ascend the wide stone stairs to the building. Susan and Lavender followed closely behind. The police rumour-mill would already be starting. If this wasn’t an Auror Office case, they could simply say –false alarm”, and if it was, the word atomic would definitely be enough to clear the local police from the scene, especially when combined with an unexplained death and a few hints.

‘Not quite up to Hogwarts standards, but not bad,’ said Lavender appreciatively. The iron-studded oak double doors were fixed open. The two witches followed Bobbie under the Tudor arch and into a glass box. The box surrounded the ancient wooden doors, creating a modern entrance to an ancient building. They entered the echoing wood-panelled entrance hall via automatic glass sliding doors built inside the hall. The hotel reception desk stood at the bottom of a long red-carpeted flight of stairs leading up from the hall. A third policeman stood relaxing at the desk, chatting to the receptionist. He stood up straight when they entered.

‘Special Branch, they’re with me,’ Bobbie again flashed her warrant card. ‘Where’s the body?’

‘Up these stairs, take a left and all the way to the end of the corridor, Ma’am. You can’t miss it.’

The corridor was wide, and crossed pikes and spears lined its stone walls. At the far end of the corridor was another large arch, this one was Norman and most of it had been walled up centuries ago, creating a much smaller, but still substantial doorway. The dark quarter-panelled door at the far end was closed. Bobbie tried the handle, but the door was locked.

There was an old-fashioned and thumb-worn brass bell-push in the wall next to the door. Susan pressed it. Within moments the door was opened. Bobbie flashed her warrant card at the dumpy mousey-haired woman who had opened the door.

‘Detective Inspector Beadle, Special Branch,’ announced Bobbie as she strode past the woman, through a stone wall which was several feet thick, and into the room. The woman pushed the door closed the second they entered. It was a Yale lock, Bobbie noticed, and the door closed with a very solid click.

Bobbie looked around with interest. The well-lit room was a library. Ancient books lined the walls and imbued the room with the unmistakeable odour of ancient words. The room was also cluttered with television equipment. Monitors, cameras, microphones, and all manner of other things which Bobbie did not recognise stood on every available surface.

There were two sofas, an armchair, and several chairs in the room, too, and all were occupied. Nine people watched her as she entered; Bobbie rapidly assessed them all.

Eight were seated; these were obviously the television people. In the armchair nearest the door sat dark-haired and immaculately dressed former children’s television presenter Valerie Mallory, she’d been crying. Her make-up had run and she looked a lot older than she had when Bobbie used to watch her as a child. As she would, Bobbie thought wryly, that would be twenty years ago. Sitting on arm of her chair, a comforting arm on Valerie’s shoulder, was a balding man with a large nose and a face like a wrinkled prune.

‘Blimey,’ was all the prune-faced man said as Susan and Lavender swept into the room behind Bobbie, their coats flapping. He was the only one who spoke; everyone else simply stared at the three young women wearing long black coats who had arrived in their midst.

Bobbie recognised the pale and sweating man sitting at a desk, too. The man wore a brightly coloured waistcoat and was nervously fiddling with a plastic bubble full of lights and smoke. Psychic investigator and fortune teller, Archie Dark’s forehead gleamed and his chins trembled. Dark was the only other one of the television people who Bobbie recognised, so she turned her attention to the two who were standing. They were obviously police. The dumpy, woman who had opened the door had gone to stand next to a small, wiry man whose black hair was greying at the temples. The woman wore a rather shabby trouser suit, her companion wore a brown overcoat and his badly knotted tie was slightly askew. He would be the local police Inspector, Jackson.

The only way to do their job was to be professional, to look like they knew what they were doing. At this point, –first contact” as they called it, Bobbie always took control. She would defer to Susan, or Lavender, if the magic started, but when dealing with Muggles, she always took the lead.

‘I’m Detective Inspector Bobbie Beadle, Special Branch. These are my colleagues, Susan Bones and Lavender Brown. I assume you’re Detective Inspector Jackson?’ Bobbie addressed the wiry man, who nodded.

‘Aareet,’ he said.

Bobbie assumed that his meaningless drawl was some form of greeting.

‘Yon’s DC Tyson,’ the man added, nodding towards the dumpy woman.

‘I assume that you’re expecting us?’ Bobbie continued.

‘Aye. The lads on the door reckon you’re working with the nuclear cops,’ Jackson said. ‘Is that right?’

‘Yes,’ it will only take us a few minutes to establish whether we want to take over jurisdiction. Where’s the body, Inspector?’

‘Through yon door and up to the top of the tower,’ Jackson jerked his thumb in the direction of one of the two other doors in the room. ‘I’m Joe, by the way, Bobbie, If you’re a DI and I’m a DI there’s no point in this Inspector nonsense. The doc’s up there with a couple of paramedics and my sergeant. They can’t figure out what killed her.’

Jackson then pointed to the two other doors from the library. ‘That door leads to the bedrooms in the south wing, where this lot are staying.’ Mr Striggiday’s office is down there, too,’ he said.

‘Cause of death, undetermined? Interesting,’ said Susan. ‘We’ll take a look. Are these the witnesses?’

‘If this is a murder, lass, and the doc hasn’t decided yet, then one of this lot is the killer,’ Jackson said. The eight looked at each other in alarm.

‘This is Mr Striggiday, the hotel owner.’ Jackson indicated a slender man with thinning dark brown hair and aquiline features who was sitting apart from the others. ‘He kept this wing o’ t’ hotel locked for security reasons. This is where he lives. Apart from the fire door, which is alarmed, that door is the only way in and out of here.’ He pointed at the door through which they’d just entered.

‘How many keys are there for that door, Mr Striggiday?’ Susan asked.

‘Just the one, I’ve already told the Inspector,’ Striggiday looked nervously at Jackson. ‘Like Inspector Jackson said, this is the private wing of the house. I live here. Mr Sidney and his team are my guests. They have a lot of expensive equipment in here; we wanted to keep it safe.’

‘D’you want to see the body first, or shall we question this lot?’ Jackson asked.

‘We’ll see the body,’ said Susan.

‘I’ll take you upstairs then,’ said Jackson. ‘Keep an eye on this lot, Tyson.’

The dumpy woman nodded.

Jackson opened the door and led the three women up the curving tower stairs. He stopped on the first landing, where various pieces of electronic equipment, sensors of some kind, were arranged against the wall opposite the door. Jackson looked up and down the curving stairs and then opened the only door on the landing and ushered them inside.

It was a bedroom. The room had green-painted walls and a green carpet. The furniture was all ancient and solid-looking beech. The ornate four-poster bed was bedecked in green curtains and bedclothes. The three young women looked curiously around.

‘The body is on the top floor,’ observed Susan sharply.

‘Aye, lass, that it is,’ admitted Jackson. ‘But I wanted a word in private. I reckon that I can crack this tonight. Striggiday is adamant that no one could have got into the tower. You came through the door, you’ve seen how solid it is. You should’ve seen their faces when I told ‘em that if he was right, then one of them must’ve done it. I haven’t questioned any of them, yet. I haven’t had time. But if it weren’t one o’ them, then one o’ them must’ve let the killer in.’

‘Is there any obvious motive?’ Bobbie asked.

‘Nah,’ Jackson shook his head. ‘They all –loved the girl!” O’ course they did, she was a –valuable member of the team”, so they reckon. It’s a load of bollocks! The bald, fat old psychic, Dark, hated her, and so did Valerie, that’s obvious. I was just going to start on Striggiday when you turned up. He doesn’t really know them, so he seems the least likely…’

Jackson stopped talking mid-sentence and stared at Lavender. She had walked away from her companions, drawn back the curtains on the four-poster bed and was sniffing the pillow and bedclothes.

‘Someone has been indulging in a bit of horizontal jogging in here, very recently,’ Lavender announced. She pointed at the bedclothes, they were certainly rumpled.

‘Are you sure, Lavender,’ Susan asked.

‘Yes,’ Lavender confirmed. ‘I can smell perfume, here.’ She pointed to the top of the bed. ‘And, er, bodily fluids, here.’ She pointed to the most rumpled section of the bedcovers. ‘They weren’t between the sheets they were on top, so it wasn’t –sleeping together” it was simply a quick bang.’

‘But…’ Jackson began.

Bobbie leant over the bed and sniffed the pillow. ‘I can smell perfume, too,’ she confirmed. ‘But it could just belong to whoever sleeps in this room, Lavender.’

‘My nose is not simply cute, Joe.’ Lavender smiled as she addressed the Inspector. ‘It’s very sensitive, too. We really need to see the body. I didn’t smell this perfume downstairs. If it doesn’t belong to the victim, then we need to find out whose perfume it is; if it is hers, then we need to find out who the mystery man is. Who do you reckon, Bobbie? Old prune-face seems unlikely and the overweight old guy isn’t interested in women. So that leaves Striggiday, the fair-haired young guy, and the dark-haired man.’

‘The fair-haired guy is Simon Ryman, Lavender. He operates all of their technical equipment, like the stuff outside the door to this room,’ said Jackson. He’s got movement and heat sensors set up. We might be able to get something from them, unless he’s the killer. The dark haired guy is the cameraman, Bill Kenny.’

Lavender continued her search of the room. Opening the wardrobe she discovered that it was full of clothes. She rifled quickly through the jackets. ‘This is Striggiday’s bedroom,’ she announced. ‘If he was our shagger then he should be a lot higher up your list, Joe.’

‘Aye, reet.’ Jackson agreed.

‘I definitely think that it’s time for us to take a look at the body,’ said Susan.

‘We haven’t even got SOCO on scene yet,’ Jackson grumbled as they strode upstairs. ‘I assume that you know what you’re doing.’

‘We’ve seen quite a few corpses, Inspector,’ said Susan.

They climbed another flight, reaching another landing and another door. Jackson continued upwards.

‘Hold on a minute, Joe,’ Bobbie said. ‘Have you checked this room?’

‘Yes, it’s empty, but take a look, if you want.’

Bobbie opened the door and peered inside. It was another bedroom, this one, however smelled cold and unused. Susan stepped into the room and moved behind the door, out of sight from Inspector Jackson. She pulled out her wand.

‘Homenum revelio,’ she murmured. ‘All clear,’ she added loudly as they left the room and continued upstairs.

The stairs ended at an open door. Just inside the door a bald man with a broken nose and cauliflower ears stood talking to two green-uniformed paramedics.

‘She’s no further forwards, boss,’ the man said, nodding towards the white-suited doctor kneeling down in the centre of the room. He stepped aside and allowed Jackson and the three Aurors to enter.

The room was large and almost empty. An ancient and solid-looking table stood against the wall on one side of the room. On the wall opposite was an ancient iron-bound trunk.

The woman’s body lay in the centre of the room; a small pool of blood had oozed out from beneath it. The young woman wore a short red dress and was barefoot. Her blonde hair was a halo framing what must once have been a pretty face. The woman’s beauty had fled with her life; what remained was a disconcerting shell. The body lay like a marionette whose strings had been suddenly cut, a crumpled heap with eyes wide, and an expression of excruciating pain on her rictus-distorted skull-white features.

‘What’s up, Doc?’ Jackson asked.

‘What-ho, Joe,’ she replied. ‘This the lot from Scotland Yard then?’

‘Apparently so. This is DI Beadle. These two are Susan Bones and Lavender Brown. No ranks, nothing.’

Emergency doctor, a pinch faced woman with iron-grey crew cut hair glared at them. Lavender sniffed.

‘The body is fresh, very fresh,’ Lavender began before the doctor could speak. ‘Rigor is just beginning to set in. She’s been dead about four or five hours, which puts time of death at about two to four hours before the broadcast started.’

‘What?’ the doctor spluttered.

‘Show off,’ said Bobbie.

‘I haven’t finished,’ said Lavender. ‘She’s the one. That was her perfume downstairs. She had sex within the last three or four hours, too. Not long before she died, probably. Perhaps she went out with a bang; though judging from her expression, that’s unlikely.’

‘You can’t possibly know that without an internal examination,’ the doctor protested.

‘I can, and I do,’ said Lavender smugly. ‘You’ll discover that I’m right when you get her back to your mortuary. If we let you take her. Have you established a cause of death? Where’s the blood from? It doesn’t look like it’s come from a fatal wound, there isn’t enough of it. Are there any other marks on the body? The perfume she’s wearing is nice; do you know what it is?’

The doctor glared.

‘I’d like to know about the wound, too,’ said Jackson.

‘The blood is from a wound to her buttock. She was stabbed with a stiletto heel, that’s a new one on me. You never know what you’ll find in this job. But it didn’t do any major damage and it certainly didn’t kill her,’ said the doctor. ‘In fact, given the lack of blood, I’d say that the injury was probably post-mortem.’

The three Aurors exchanged puzzled looks.

‘We need a few minutes alone in the room, Inspector,’ said Susan firmly. He looked at the young women appraisingly.

‘We won’t contaminate your crime scene, Joe,’ Bobbie promised.

‘Ten minutes, no more,’ Jackson insisted.

‘Acceptable,’ Susan agreed.

Susan escorted Jackson and the protesting doctor from the room. Susan’s black stilettos tapped across the floorboards as she ushered them out. The moment Susan closed the door and magically sealed it, the three began their investigations.

‘If you see a green pearl anywhere,’ began Susan.

‘Don’t touch it!’ Lavender said. ‘We’re not stupid, Susan.’

Susan nodded and then spent several minutes fiddling with her Dark Detector. Lavender examined the body, while Bobbie carefully searched the room.

‘There’s something damping my Dark Detector,’ announced Susan eventually, with obvious annoyance. ‘A Concealment Charm of some kind, I think. There seem to be faint traces of Dark Magic in here, but the Dark Detector is almost useless. What have you found, Lavender?’

With a wave of her wand Lavender lowered the body back onto the floor and refastened the woman’s clothes.

‘This is definitely the woman who shagged somebody downstairs in the green room, Susan. I might be able to recognise him from the smell, but I doubt it. Especially not if he’s showered. The doctor is right about the wound. She was stabbed in the bum with a stiletto heel. She was hit hard enough to break the shoe. The sole is lying under the small of her back. I’ve left it there. There is hardly any blood, so her heart had stopped before she was stabbed and I can’t find another mark on her. This must be a curse-death,’ said Lavender. ‘I’ve put her back exactly where she was,’ she added, answering Bobbie’s unspoken question.

‘Curse death! Is there no alternative?’ asked Bobbie.

‘She might have been poisoned,’ admitted Lavender. ‘But I can’t smell any poison, and there’s no sign of foaming or burning in her mouth. I think it’s unlikely.’

‘The matching shoe is over here, and she’s barefoot. Are they her shoes, Lavender?’ Bobbie asked. Lavender walked to the iron-bound chest, on which a second red stiletto lay. She sniffed it, and waved her wand over it.

‘Yes, it’s hers.’

‘It looks like this shoe hit the wall here and fell onto the chest.’ Bobbie pointed to a faint red mark on the white plaster wall. ‘Either she kicked it off with some force, or she took it off and threw it.’

‘The sole of the other shoe was very near the wound,’ observed Lavender.

Susan was looking up. An old iron chandelier was attached to one of the beams spanning the walls. The circular structure hung from chains in the centre of the room. Susan conjured a set of stepladders and climbed up to examine it.

‘There are hairs caught on here,’ Susan said.

Using her wand, she carefully removed a single strand of hair, descended, and Vanished the ladders. One quick wave of her wand was enough. ‘It’s our victim’s hair,’ Susan confirmed.

‘But that chandelier is fifteen feet in the air,’ said Bobbie.

‘Some cursed items lift the person high into the air while they are killing them,’ Lavender explained. ‘Harry told us about an opal necklace, it lifted the victim at least six feet into the air, cursed her, and then dropped her.’

Susan’s heels clattered as she walked across the floor. The blonde always wore heels, it was her one eccentricity. Bobbie and Lavender invariably wore sensible flat soles when working, because they were easier to run in. Bobbie looked down at her Susan’s feet and was immediately struck by an idea.

‘What about this as a theory, Susan,’ suggested Bobbie. ‘Your heels make a lot of noise on this floor. What if the victim took her shoes off in order to sneak across the room? Because … because someone was trying to break into the chest. She got hit by this curse and then flew up into the air…’

‘She dropped a shoe when the curse hit her,’ suggested Lavender.

‘Yes,’ said Bobbie. ‘And then she dropped onto her stiletto from a height of six feet or more, it stabbed her and broke. Would that work?’

It’s certainly one explanation,’ said Susan. ‘But why was the other shoe on the chest?’

‘The killer is Striggiday,’ said Lavender with certainty. ‘He was checking on the pearl for some reason when Helena sneaked into the room. He turned, with the pearl in his hand, she threw a shoe at him, he threw the pearl at her. She floats up, dies and drops on the shoe. He puts the pearl back and pretends nothing has happened. Case solved!’ Lavender sounded pleased with herself.

‘Why?’ Susan asked. ‘First, if the pearl is cursed, he can’t touch it either. Second, what is his motive? If they had just … done it … downstairs, why did he kill her?’

‘Done it?’ Lavender teased. ‘Shagged, bonked, boffed, bumped bellies, got their rocks off, fornic…’

‘Enough, Lavender,’ Susan snapped. ‘Don’t try to change the subject. There are a lot of holes in that theory. Your killer doesn’t have a motive, and you know he doesn’t!’

‘True, it’s a good theory, apart from the problem of the pearl, and the complete lack of motive. Why don’t we see if the pearl is in this chest,’ said Lavender. She pointed her wand at the lock. Nothing happened.

‘Alohomora,’ she said, sounding annoyed. Still nothing happened. She began passing her wand carefully over the chest.

Susan, curious, joined Lavender. She knelt down in front of the lock and examined it closely. Bobbie stood and watched them for a moment. It was at times like these when she felt useless. With nothing better to do, she methodically searched the room again.

‘This chest is seven or eight hundred years old, and it’s absolutely covered in enchantments,’ said Lavender.

‘So is the lock,’ announced Susan. ‘It will take me hours to figure out what all these spells do. I think that we should get Striggiday up here to open the chest, if he can. We need to see what’s inside; we need to see the pearl.’

‘There’s nothing else here,’ said Bobbie, disappointedly finishing her search. Then she realised. ‘There’s nothing else here! No handbag or purse or mobile phone or makeup.’

‘They weren’t in the green room either,’ said Lavender. ‘Perhaps the killer took them.’

‘Or perhaps they are in her room,’ said Susan.

‘I think that we should question the suspects,’ Bobbie suggested. ‘I can do it, if you like. I can’t help with any of the enchantments, but I might be able to find the killer.’

‘We’ll all go,’ said Lavender. ‘I want to hear what Striggiday has to say about Helena.’

They opened the door to find both Jackson and the doctor waiting impatiently.

‘Well?’ Inspector Jackson asked.

‘She’s dead and we don’t know why,’ said Susan.

‘Perhaps she touched the cursed green pearl,’ Lavender added mischievously.

The doctor snorted in disbelief.