MuggleNet Fan Fiction
Harry Potter stories written by fans!

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

[ - ]   Printer Chapter or Story Table of Contents

- Text Size +
The Key to the Problem

‘You three seem to know a lot of strange stuff,’ observed Joe.

‘We’re paid to know strange stuff,’ said Bobbie, trying to reassure him.

Joe Jackson smiled. ‘When you arrived, the uniforms outside radioed me. They told me that Charlie’s Angels were on the way up!’

‘Charlie’s Angels?’ Bobbie laughed and hoped that the Detective Inspector hadn’t noticed Susan and Lavender’s puzzled expressions. ‘I’m flattered, but I won’t ask which of us is which.’

‘You aren’t Charlie’s Angels, but I’m not certain what you really are. Why are you interested in this case?’ Joe asked. ‘I’ve met a few nuclear cops, and you definitely aren’t nuclear cops. They all carry guns, for a start. In fact, although you’re on the job, Bobbie, these two aren’t.’

Bobbie gazed at the wiry detective, and realised that their initial cover had failed.

‘I am Special Branch, Joe. The reason we don’t announce ourselves is because we’re more X-Files than Charlie’s Angels,’ admitted Bobbie. ‘I’ve been a cop since I left school I know how the police rumour-mill works. You’ll be able to find out who we are. I’ve been seconded to a small Home Office Department. It’s called the Auror Office. We deal with the strange stuff. You must have contacts in other forces, just ask around.’ Bobbie knew he would, and she was certain that the Home Office cover story she’d arranged with Harry Potter would hold.

‘That’s not really an answer.’ Joe continued to press. ‘X-Files? I mean…’

‘We investigate strange and unexplained deaths, Inspector,’ said Susan. ‘That’s the only answer you are going to get. If you ask too many questions, we can simply make one phone call and you’ll be pulled from the case.’

‘But I don’t want to do that, Joe,’ Bobbie began firmly, trying to defuse Susan’s threat. ‘You think you can crack this tonight, and I think you’re right. Would you mind giving me a few minutes alone, please? I’d like to talk tactics with these two. We’re on the same side, and I’d really like to keep it that way.’

‘Okay,’ said Inspector Jackson, sighing. ‘Who do you reckon we should talk to next, Bobbie? I’ll go and fetch them.’

‘Thanks, Joe. I think that we should talk to Simon Ryman,’ said Bobbie.

‘I agree,’ said Joe Jackson as he strode towards the door. ‘We should speak to Bill Kenny after that. We need to get the blokes out of the way. If it wasn’t Striggiday, and Helena was playing the field, there’s a chance it’s be a jealous boyfriend. Besides, most killers are blokes.’

The second he left the room, Lavender drew her wand and said, ‘Muffliato’

‘He’s a decent copper,’ Bobbie told her companions. ‘We should be working with him, not annoying him or threatening him, okay?’

‘Okay,’ Susan agreed somewhat reluctantly.

‘Good,’ said Bobbie. ‘We don’t have long. If everyone here is supposed to be a Muggle, there’s an awful lot of magic floating about. What, exactly, do we know? I assume that you’ve been vamping the blokes, Lavender. Have you got anything else for us?’

‘Unless Archie Dark is a much better actor than I think he is, he’s no more than a frightened old lady,’ said Lavender. ‘I really don’t think he had anything to do with it. He had no idea about the key in his pocket and he still doesn’t realise how incriminating it is. Ozzie Striggiday is still my favourite. He actually believes in the curse. I asked him while I was taking him back to the library. He said that he’s never touched the pearl with his bare hands; no Striggiday has, not since the Green Lady. It’s something his father and grandfather insisted on. They keep a pair of leather gloves in the chest with the pearl, and he always wears them. But he rarely even looks at the thing. He seemed genuinely scared of the pearl, but he would, if he’d used it to kill someone and it had worked.’

‘Why not get rid of it?’ Bobbie asked. ‘Did you ask him?’

‘He claims to believe in the prophecy,’ said Lavender. ‘If the pearl leaves the tower, doom will come to the Striggiday family.’

‘We really need to know whether the pearl is still there, or if it has been stolen,’ said Susan.

‘We’ve got the key,’ said Lavender. ‘We can look.’

‘You said –if he’d used it to kill someone”, Lavender,’ said Bobbie. ‘Did you mean it? Do you really think that a Muggle kill another Muggle with a –cursed” pearl?’

Lavender hesitated, and stared at Susan. Susan remained silent and stared back. Each was waiting for the other to answer. Bobbie knew them well enough to know why. Neither of them was certain.

Her colleagues constantly competed against each other; each picked fault with everything the other said. Bobbie remembered a conversation she’d had with her boss, Harry Potter, about them. She’d complained about their bickering. –They’re very different, but they actually do like each other, you know,” Harry had said. –They keep each other right, too. They’re like my old friend’s Ron and Hermione; they rarely agree on anything, but when they do, it’s almost certainly right.”

‘Well?’ Bobbie asked.

‘I don’t know,’ Lavender admitted reluctantly. ‘I believe that, if one Muggle had protective equipment, they could touch someone else with the pearl.’

Susan nodded thoughtfully. ‘I don’t know either, but I think that Lavender might possibly be right. We should check on the pearl, see whether it’s still there. Lavender and I will…’

‘We need to question the others, Susan,’ Bobbie reminded her. ‘And I think one of you two should stay with me. If we’ve missed something, and there is a wizard among the Muggles I could be in a lot of trouble if I’m on my own. I’m sure Lavender can manage to check on the pearl.’

Susan reluctantly handed the key to Lavender.

‘Be careful, Lavender,’ said Susan.

‘Don’t worry, Susie. I’m already cursed, remember?’

‘Being a werewolf won’t protect you from a cursed pearl,’ said Susan.

‘That’s not what I meant.’ Lavender grinned impishly. ‘I have to work with you.’

She opened the door to the corridor to find Inspector Jackson and Simon Ryman approaching from the library. Lavender let them enter. ‘I won’t be long,’ she said as he strode from the room, closing the door behind her.

‘Sometimes, she’s insufferable,’ Susan murmured to Bobbie.

‘You should tell her,’ Bobbie whispered back. ‘She’ll be disappointed. I’m certain she’s trying for always.’

Susan Bones laughed.

Simon Ryman sat, turned his chair at an angle, and smiled nervously at Susan. ‘Hello,’ he said.

‘Inspectors Beadle and Jackson will be doing the questioning,’ said Susan.

‘Okay,’ Simon replied. ‘But they are cops. You aren’t, are you?’

Susan shook her head.

‘Good, you seem like you’re straight,’ he said.

‘Susan? As an arrow,’ Bobbie said.

‘Okay, well, here’s what I know,’ began Simon. He continued to address Susan. ‘We’ve been a team for five years now, and we all muddled along with each other until Helena arrived this year, and spoiled everything. She was a bitchy little tart who enjoyed winding everyone else up.’

‘We all work with someone like that,’ said Susan mildly. Bobbie suppressed a chuckle. She was only sorry that Lavender wasn’t in the room.

‘Tell us what you know,’ Bobbie ordered.

Simon put his hands on the table, his palms uppermost in an expression of openness, as he began to talk them through is day. Apart from a few rather clumsy attempts to flirt with Susan, attempts which made Bobbie even sorrier that Lavender wasn’t with them, he was a straightforward witness. Susan, however, was paying no attention to his blandishments.

According to Simon, Helena had tried to seduce him. She’d failed, because he didn’t like obvious and aggressive girls.

‘I prefer the quiet, intelligent, and elegant ones,’ he told Susan.

‘Stick to the facts,’ Bobbie told him.

‘Helena has been winding up both Archie and Valerie for a few weeks,’ he said. ‘She told Archie that the show needed more glamour, and that she’d soon be taking over as our resident psychic. She always referred to Valerie as –that old children’s television presenter”, which is true, but it still annoys Valerie. I think that Helena had something on Bill Kenny too, because in any argument he would always back her up.’ Simon looked apologetically at his inquisitors. ‘I don’t wish anyone dead, but I think that this team will be better off without her.’

‘So, when did you last see her?’ Bobbie asked. ‘And who do you think killed her?’

‘I’ve been thinking about that,’ said Simon. ‘I saw her in the library, just after the meeting. When Jim finished giving us his usual –this will be the best show ever” speech and told us to go and get ready, everyone left the library. I don’t have much of a script. When we’re on air I simply answer whatever technical questions Valerie asks, keep an eye on my monitoring equipment, and act surprised when the temperature drops suddenly. I spent some time in my room, reading my lines, and then I remembered that I needed to charge the second set of back-up batteries for my gear. I picked up the spares pack from my room and went into the library.’

‘When was that, exactly? Did you see anyone else?’ Joe asked.

‘I can’t be sure of the time. Whenever it was, I saw door into the library close ahead of me, but I didn’t see who had gone in. By the time I got to the library, whoever was in front of me had left. I assume it was Helena, on her way out.’

‘Did anyone else come into the library?’ Susan asked.

‘Yeah, Striggiday walked out from the tower a few minutes after I got there.’

‘When? And when did you set up your sensors on the stairs?’ Bobbie asked.

‘I switched them on at seventeen-oh-six, I checked the readout, and that clock is right, it has to be because we use it to time the programme. Once I’d done that, and checked to make sure they were working, I went back to my room to plug in the emergency back-up batteries.’ Simon continued to address Susan, even though Bobbie had asked the question. ‘Working back from the switch-on, it would have been about five o’clock when I saw Striggiday, and I’d been in the room for about five minutes when he arrived. He nearly jumped out of his skin when he saw me.’

‘And you didn’t see Helena?’ asked Susan. ‘We’ve been told she left the tower a few minutes before Striggiday.’

Simon pulled a face. ‘If that’s where she was, she didn’t come downstairs before him, or after him.

Did you see anyone else?’ Susan asked.

‘No, but when I checked my gear after the meal, I noticed that both the heat sensor and the movement sensor had picked up something. I’ve just checked. The spike was at seventeen-sixteen. Someone moved past the sensors,’ said Simon proudly. ‘That must’ve been the murderer, coming downstairs to join the rest of us for the meal, because there was nothing after that, not until Ruby went upstairs at nineteen-fifty-nine and came back down at twenty-oh-five.’

‘Why don’t you use cameras, instead of movement sensors,’ asked Joe. ‘A video would’ve been bloody useful.’

‘Yeah, but we’re ghost-hunters, and you can’t video a ghost,’ explained Simon. ‘Besides, if there’s no video you can trick the sensors with drafts and fans. It makes a better programme.’

‘Can you be certain that no one interfered with your readings?’ Bobbie asked.

Simon thought again. ‘Not one-hundred-percent certain, no. It’s possible someone fooled the sensors I suppose, but it’s unlikely. Jim and Bill, and possibly Hattie, might be able to do it. Archie couldn’t! Even changing a battery is a major technical challenge for Archie. Not Val, either. Brilliant though she is at –making and baking for the kids”, she is never allowed to do anything technical. I have to fix her mobile phone almost every day. She can accidentally turn it onto silent when she’s expecting an important call, but she can’t figure out how to turn it silent before we go live on air. She’s completely technophobic.’

‘What about the make-up girl, Ruby?’ asked Susan.

‘Ruby? I’ve no idea! She’s never shown much interest in the technical stuff,’ observed Simon.

Lavender burst into the room.

‘You two get out here, now! I’ve solved it!’ she announced triumphantly.

Pulling an apologetic face at Joe and Simon, Bobbie followed Susan into the corridor. Lavender was almost bouncing with excitement. Bobbie closed the door, and they held a hasty conference.

‘I was right; it’s Striggiday,’ Lavender announced. ‘It can’t be anyone else!’

‘Is the pearl missing?’ Bobbie asked.

‘I’ve no idea; I can’t open the chest,’ said Lavender.

‘You can’t…’ Susan began, outraged. She noticed the smirk on Lavender’s face and asked, ‘Why not?’

‘I simply can’t, not even with the key,’ interrupted Lavender. ‘It’s taken me an age to discover exactly why. It’s a personal lock. Only a member of the Striggiday family can open it, and he’s the only one here!’

‘It’s a what?’ Bobbie asked, wondering if the wizarding world would ever run out of new and confusing revelations.

‘A personal lock,’ Susan explained. ‘They are very rare and very expensive magical items. A lot of the old families used them, centuries ago. They are magically tied to a family when they are made. The key will only turn if a member of the family, a direct descendant of the original owner of the chest, turns it. It won’t even work for spouses, only for children. That explains why we couldn’t open it with our spells. Without a key, we’d have to blast it open. But why would Striggiday kill her?’

‘Perhaps he simply showed her the pearl, and she grabbed it,’ suggested Lavender. ‘I suppose that it might have been an accident,’ she added grudgingly.

‘That doesn’t explain the shoes,’ Bobbie pointed out. ‘Why take off your shoes and throw one of them against the wall, if you’re getting what you want?’

‘Apart from that, Lavender, There is an even bigger problem. Simon has just confirmed that he saw Striggiday in the Library just after seven. He said that his monitoring equipment showed that someone else passed the sensors about ten minutes later. Also, Jim Sidney and Striggiday have both told us that they were in here just after seven.’

‘So?’ Lavender shrugged. ‘He did it before then.’

‘So who walked past the movement sensor while Sidney and Striggiday were in their meeting? It can’t have been someone going up, because we know that there was no one hiding upstairs. So, whoever it was went up before the sensors were set up,’ said Susan.

‘Unless there’s no killer, perhaps she went up alone, after the sensors were in place,’ said Lavender. ‘If Helena was really a Striggiday…’

‘Then she slept with her cousin, came downstairs, then went back upstairs later, took off her shoes, opened the chest, touched the pearl, and died,’ said Susan. ‘And after she was dead she locked the chest, came downstairs, and put the key in Archie Dark’s pocket. That’s not your best-ever suggestion, Lavender.’

Lavender lapsed into a sulky silence.

‘The key!’ said Bobbie. ‘Why would anyone put the key in Archie’s pocket? And where is Helena’s mobile phone?’ The killer must be the mysterious person who closed the library door before Simon got there.’

‘Unless it was Simon himself,’ said Susan. ‘He could have been lying about everything.’

Bobbie waved that possibility away for a moment. ‘If we believe Simon, then when Helena left Striggiday’s room, she went upstairs, not down. The killer went up soon after, between Helena leaving Striggiday’s room, and Striggiday himself leaving.’

‘I still think that it’s Striggiday!’ said Lavender stubbornly. ‘We need to get him to open the chest.’

‘No,’ said Susan.

‘We should finish the interviews first,’ suggested Bobbie. ‘There are only three people left to talk to. Let’s see what the cameraman has to say.’

‘But…’ Lavender began.

‘No!’ Susan shook her head firmly and opened the door to Striggiday’s Office.

‘Well?’ Joe Jackson asked.

‘False alarm, Joe,’ Bobbie told him. ‘Lavender gets over-excited sometimes.’

‘You, out,’ Joe told Simon.

Simon left, smiling at Susan as he did so.

‘Is the pearl missing?’ Joe asked.

‘I don’t know. It’s the wrong key, sorry,’ said Lavender.

‘Before we talk to anyone else, let’s agree on what we know,’ Joe Jackson grumbled unhappily. ‘First, are we dealing with a murder?’

‘We think so,’ Bobbie said. ‘We’re still trying to figure out how.’

‘Okay. So, timing?’ Joe asked. ‘We’re bloody lucky with that. They were all in a meeting until half-past four, and she was alive then. They all went for a meal together –not much after quarter past five” or –a bit before half past five” and they weren’t back until six. We haven’t found anyone who saw her after she left Striggiday’s bedroom at about five o’clock, and the Doc reckons that time of death was before six.

‘I agree,’ said Lavender. ‘Helena was definitely dead before they came back up into this part of the hall. I’d say no later than half past five, which means Striggiday...’

‘Striggiday told us that he was on his way downstairs from his room at just after five o’clock, and Simon Ryman has corroborated that,’ Susan interrupted. ‘So, either she was already dead…’

‘In which case it was Striggiday,’ announced Lavender smugly.

‘Or the murder took place within the next fifteen to twenty minutes,’ Bobbie reminded her.

‘So, if it isn’t Striggiday, who is it?’ asked Susan.

‘Jim Sidney claims that he was talking to people in London at the time,’ said Joe. ‘That will be easy to check. He’d be an idiot to give us an alibi we can break in minutes. And Archie Dark was busy sticking pins into a Helena doll. That story is so preposterous that it must be true. We can’t actually discount him, or Valerie, but…’

‘So we shouldn’t,’ said Bobbie firmly. ‘At least, not completely, but you’re right, they should go to the bottom of the list.’

‘Striggiday…’ Lavender began again.

‘Wait!’ Susan held up a hand. ‘If Helena was dead before the meal, how did she manage to tell the sound woman that she wasn’t eating?’

‘Perhaps the sound engineer, Hattie, did it,’ suggested Joe. ‘She lied in order to cover her tracks. She could have been buying herself more time. We haven’t spoken to her yet.’

‘But,’ Susan continued, ‘if she was telling the truth, then someone was in Helena’s room and they spoke to Hattie.’

‘That would have to be a woman,’ said Bobbie. ‘No bloke would risk trying to impersonate a woman’s voice, even a couple of words through a closed door would be too risky.’

‘We need to speak to Hattie,’ declared Susan. ‘If she actually saw Helena, then…’

‘Then we’re buggered,’ Joe stated. ‘Than means she was killed after everyone left and we’re back to square one.’

‘But, if Helena had come down stairs a couple of minutes before Striggiday, Ryman would have seen her, and he didn’t,’ said Bobbie.

‘Unless Ryman killed her and altered his sensors,’ Joe pointed out. ‘But, if she didn’t go downstairs, and she left Striggiday’s room first, that means that she went up. Why would she do that?’

‘She pinched the key to the pearl chest from Striggiday, went up and tried to open it. He followed and killed her,’ said Lavender. ‘It was Striggiday.’

‘That doesn’t explain the shoes!’ Susan said. ‘Or why he did it.’

‘What if the killer pinched the key to the chest?’ Bobbie asked. ‘It’s a robbery gone wrong! The thief steals the key and goes upstairs to steal the pearl. When Helena leaves Striggiday’s room, she hears movement up above. She goes up to investigate and doesn’t come back.’

‘That does explain the shoes,’ said Susan. ‘If she was sneaking up after someone, she’d take those shoes off. But it doesn’t get us any closer to finding who she was following.’

‘Helena must’ve had her room key and phone with her. The killer took them and used the phone to stop people looking for Helena. We need to find her handbag, that’s where the phone and key will be,’ said Bobbie.

‘That’s fine so far as it goes,’ said Joe. ‘So answer this one, if Archie Dark is innocent, and I think we agree that he is, then who put that key in his pocket, and why?’

‘To get rid of the key and incriminate Archie?’ asked Bobbie.

‘If it was Striggiday, he’d want someone, anyone to have the key for the chest. That diverts suspicion from him,’ said Lavender.

‘You just told me that it wasn’t the key to the chest!’ Joe glowered angrily at Lavender.

‘I lied. Sorry,’ Lavender admitted.

‘What else aren’t you telling me?’ Joe demanded. ‘Is that damn pearl missing or not?’

‘I don’t know,’ said Lavender.

‘Then give me that bloody key, and I’ll go and find out!’ snapped Joe.

‘No!’ said Susan.

‘Wait,’ said Bobbie. ‘That’s actually a good idea. Not for Joe to open it, but for everyone to try. We can see if anyone, apart from Striggiday, can open the chest.’

‘Anyone apart from Striggiday?’ Joe asked.

‘It’s complicated,’ Susan said.

‘No it bloody well isn’t,’ said Joe. ‘You’re making it complicated! Do you really think that the killer planted the key on Archie?’

‘Yes,’ said Bobbie firmly.

‘’Right, then we’ve got a decent hand, and it’s time we played it! Follow me.’ He stormed along the corridor and hurled the library door open. ‘Right, you lot,’ he said, addressing the assembled suspects. ‘I’ve had enough of this nonsense.’

Bobbie, Lavender and Susan raced after him.

‘You,’ Joe pointed angrily at Hattie Coates, who looked terrified. ‘Before you went downstairs for your meal, did you see Helena, or did you just speak to her through a closed door?’

‘I didn’t actually see her, sir,’ Hattie squeaked. ‘She spoke to me through the door.’

‘How do you know it was Helena?’ Joe demanded. ‘Did you recognise her voice?’

‘Yes - no - I don’t know!’ Hattie burst into tears.

‘You Bully!’ Valerie glared at Inspector Jackson. ‘How dare you, that’s harassment.’ She strode over to comfort the sobbing sound engineer. Jackson looked sheepish.

‘You,’ Jackson demanded, glaring at Oswald Striggiday. ‘Where’s the key to that chest in the tower room?’

‘It’s in my office, in my desk, but… please … you can’t…’ Striggiday began.

‘Show him the key, Lavender,’ ordered Joe. Bobbie suddenly understood the Inspector’s game. Like Joe, she kept her eyes on the suspects. They both saw the same thing, and Bobbie exchanged a glance with the Inspector. Joe looked puzzled, but for Bobbie, most of the pieces suddenly fell into place. She motioned Joe Jackson into silence.

‘Do it,’ Bobbie advised. Lavender complied.

‘That’s it!’ Striggiday was almost screaming. ‘How did you get it? Where did you get it?’

Susan and Lavender automatically looked at Archie. Almost everyone else followed their gaze.

‘It was in my pocket; I don’t know how it got there,’ Archie protested.

‘I do, Archie. And I think I know who killed Helena.’ Bobbie looked from person to person, everyone looked worried. ‘Mr Striggiday, I want you to come back into your office with us,’ ordered Bobbie.

‘Me? Why me?’ Striggiday asked.

‘But it wasn’t…’ Joe Jackson began.

‘Just do it, please,’ she asked again. ‘I know what I’m doing, Joe.’ She tried to reassure the confused Inspector.

Striggiday shrugged and complied, slouching into his office and slumping into the chair. Joe and the three Aurors returned to their seats.

‘I didn’t kill her; I told you the truth,’ Striggiday protested.

Lavender’s grumble of disbelief was drowned out by Bobbie’s reassuring, ‘I know you didn’t.’

‘But,’ Lavender began. Bobbie waved her into silence.

‘Show him the key, Lavender,’ said Bobbie. Lavender pulled out the key and placed it on the table.

‘This is definitely your key, the key to the chest containing the cursed pearl?’ Bobbie asked.

‘Yes,’ Striggiday nodded. ‘That’s it. Why did Archie Dark have it? How did he get it?’

Bobbie ignored his question. ‘Show us where you keep it,’ she demanded.

Striggiday stood and walked over to his desk. Lavender followed, keeping one hand inside her coat. Bobbie simply watched.

‘It’s kept in here.’ Striggiday pointed to the top drawer. ‘It’s always been kept in here.’

‘Open it, please,’ said Bobbie.

Striggiday reached into the side pocket of his blazer and his face fell. His fingers fumbled in the pocket, and beads of sweat formed on his forehead.

‘Have you lost the desk keys?’ Lavender was almost snarling when she asked the question.

‘No, no,’ Striggiday protested. ‘Here they are.’ He carefully pulled a small bunch of keys from his pocket. He fumbled to find the right key, and when he did, he struggled to fit it in the keyhole. Eventually, he peered carefully at the lock.

‘What’s the matter?’ Lavender asked.

‘The drawer has been forced. Look!’ Striggiday said.

Lavender moved him aside and checked. ‘He’s right,’ she confirmed.

‘Well, that confirms it. It must have been…’ Joe began. Bobbie hissed him into silence.

‘It’s not often that I’m one step ahead of these two Joe,’ Bobbie indicated Lavender and Susan. ‘Please don’t give the game away yet. Now, Mr Striggiday, come back here and sit down please, and then, I’d like you to take out everything else you found in your pocket.’

Striggiday was a pale man, but at Bobbie’s words, his complexion became almost milky white. He began to tremble.

‘I don’t suppose you’ll believe me…’ he began, ‘but, I didn’t kill her.’

‘Huh,’ said Lavender as she followed him back to the table and sat.

He reached into his pocket and pulled out a vibrant pink mobile phone, and a room key. ‘That is the key to Helena’s room, and that, I assume is her phone. I have absolutely no idea how they got into my pocket, honestly.’ He was almost pleading with Inspector Joe Jackson. ‘I’m being set up, but why, who?’

‘I do believe you,’ said Joe. ‘Everything points to the same person. But I don’t know why. This is a crime without motive, so far as I can see.’

Susan, Bobbie could see, was rapidly reviewing the evidence, wondering what she’d missed. Lavender was simply staring at Striggiday in sullen silence.

‘Joe and I both think we know who the killer is. But we have neither motive nor proof,’ Bobbie explained. ‘Do you have any relatives, Mr Striggiday?’


‘Brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles - relatives,’ said Bobbie.

‘No,’ I’m an only child. I’m the last of the Striggidays,’ he said.

‘No one at all?’ Bobbie asked, disappointed.

‘Well, there was my uncle Rod, Dad’s older brother. He was a bit of a rogue, apparently. He fell out with my father and my grandfather before I was born. There was a huge family argument. He stole some valuable books from the library and ran away from home. So far as I know, he’s dead.’

‘Do you know if he had children?’ Bobbie pressed. ‘Is it possible that you might have a cousin?’

‘I suppose so.’ Striggiday shrugged. ‘But what has that got to do with anything?’

‘Inheritance, possibly,’ Bobbie said. ‘When we found the key, Lavender went upstairs and tried to open the chest. She couldn’t. Do you know why?’

‘Granddad and Dad both told me the story. Granddad said that it was the same story that his granddad had told him. It’s a magic key, only a Striggiday can open the chest. I know that it sounds insane, but when I was I my teens, I let my girlfriend at the time try. She couldn’t open it; the key wouldn’t turn.’

‘But any relative, even a Squib, could use it, because they have been doing it for centuries. Your cousin would be able to open the chest,’ said Susan.

‘Squib? What the hell is a Squib?’ asked Joe. ‘A magic key! Only a Striggiday can open the chest? What in the world are you talking about?’

‘Squib is a slang term for a very distant relative. And magic is the wrong word,’ said Bobbie. She pulled on a white glove and picked up the key. ‘I’ll just check to make sure that this is the key to Helena’s room, Joe. Come on, Lavender, I might need help.’ She stood. ‘There might be prints on the phone too, Joe,’ she added.

‘True.’ Joe growled. He pulled out an evidence bag and used his pen to slide the mobile phone into it.

Curious, Lavender stood and followed Bobbie from the room.

‘Who?’ Lavender demanded the moment she closed the door to the study. ‘If not Striggiday, then who?’

‘I’ll tell you an old copper’s trick, Lavender. Inspector Jackson is smart, we can learn from him. He used you to pull the trick for him. He asked you to show everyone the key. When he spoke, almost everyone looked at you. The one person who didn’t looked at Archie instead. Do you know why?’

‘Because they knew where they’d put it,’ said Lavender, as realisation struck. ‘That’s clever, but who was it?’

‘Work it out, Lavender. You heard what Hattie said,’ Bobbie told her friend, smiling. Lavender frowned.

‘Bobbie…’ Lavender began.

‘Look, Lavender,’ Bobbie told her. ‘For once, I’m not out of my depth in magical mayhem; let me have a couple of minutes of fun with you and Susan. Here are some hints. Who had the opportunity to place the key in Archie’s pocket, and the phone and room key in Striggiday’s? Who could have stolen the key to the chest? There is only one name which can be the answer to every question. Think about it.’