|The Flawless Caper
Author: chromeknickers PM
In retrospect, he probably shouldn't have taken the case... But when a pretty dame offers Theodore Nott the unsolvable case of the century, he takes it. What happens when the danger begins to outweigh the thrill of the hunt? Is the price worth being paid? *ON HIATUS*Rated: Fiction T - English - Mystery/Crime - Theodore N. - Chapters: 5 - Words: 23,485 - Reviews: 26 - Favs: 3 - Follows: 4 - Updated: 06-28-11 - Published: 05-18-11 - id: 7001917
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
NOTT CAME AROUND the corner from the lift at a few minutes past six in the morning. Seeing yellow light glowing through the frosted glass of his office-door, he came to an abrupt halt. He set his lips together and looked up and down the corridor before advancing to the door with swift quiet strides.
Curling his long fingers around the knob, he turned it with care that permitted neither rattle nor click. He turned and turned until the knob would turn no farther. It was locked. With his free hand he reached down to the holster inside his jacket and withdrew his wand, soundlessly unlocking the door. Balancing himself on the balls of his feet, he filled his lungs with air and clicked the door open, bursting inside.
There in front of him sat Tracey Davis, sleeping at her desk with her head resting on her forearms. She was wearing one of his extra, heavy-set jacket wrapped cape-like around her shoulders.
Nott blew his breath out in a muffled laugh and shut the door behind him, holstering his wand. He crossed to the inner door where the office was empty and went over to where Tracey sat, putting a large hand on her shoulder.
She stirred, raised her head drowsily, and her eyelids fluttered. Suddenly, she sprang up in her seat and opened her eyes wide. In an instant, her wand was pointed at Nott's face. When she saw that it was him, she relaxed a little and then scowled at him, leaning back in her chair as she placed her wand on the desk. She brought her hands up to her face and sighed into them, rubbing at her tired eyes with her fingers.
"What time is it?" she asked, before covering her mouth to stifle a yawn.
"Six o'clock. "What are you doing here so early?"
She shivered and drew Nott's jacket closer around her. "When you left the hospital I decided to call the repair man to come fix our network, which, by the by, still isn't working." She gave him a withered look as though it were somehow his fault. "They said they'd try to make it before closing; if not, they'd be here by seven this morning."
"So, you decided to wait for them here until morning?"
"It wasn't just that." She stood up and let his jacket slide down onto the chair behind her. "I thought you might have dropped in after your visit with Blai—" She broke off the moment her dark blue eyes focussed on Nott's face. "Oh, your head! What in Merlin's name happened to you?"
His right temple was dark and swollen and a large blue and purple bruise ran along the length of his right jaw.
"I was attacked on my way out of the Ministry last night." Nott barely touched his jaw with his fingers before flinching at the pain.
"You look terrible." Tracey grabbed her wand off the desk and muttered a few soothing spells to ease his discomfort. "Do you know who did it?"
Tracey's eyes widened considerably. "Our client's niece?"
She shook her head and reached up to gently touch Nott's chin. He hissed at the pain and took a short step back, but he let her continue with her work.
"One and the same. She managed to get away using a non-verbal spell on me. I chased after her, but I must have still been blinded from the attack because I ended up falling down the stairs, which is how I got these." He waved his hand over his bruised face and grimaced.
"I guess I bet on the wrong niece," Tracey said glibly, before slipping her wand into her pocket. "Why didn't you go straight to St Mungo's or here?"
Nott shrugged and took a seat at one of the chairs in the waiting room. "After the warning from that house-elf I decided to go back to the flat and do a little solitary thinking."
"Solitary thinking or solitary drinking?"
Tracey sat down, taking the seat next to him, and Nott made a negligent gesture with the fingers on his right hand before bringing them to the inside of his left elbow, scratching distractedly. Tracey twisted her lips into a frown as she watched him rub his arm, as though she could see the pinprick through the fabric of his jacket.
"So, a house-elf warned you—warned you against what or who? Mary?"
Nott palmed his face with a wince before drawing it away with a tired sigh of exhalation. "Warned me against looking into matters above my own ken."
"Sounds like one messed up household." Tracey slowly rose to her feet and walked back over to her desk. "Did you want some tea?"
He lowered his hand and offered her a weary smile. "I'd love some, ta."
As Tracey went about making tea, Nott made his way down the hallway into his office. Sinking down into the plush leather of his chair, he leaned away from the desk and opened the top drawer. He rummaged around until he found his notebook. Taking it out, he skimmed through the pages—notes of his interviews with Matilda Burke and Garblox the Goblin—until Tracey came into the room with the tea.
"So . . ." She set the tray down on one of the small tables near Nott's desk. "Are you going to turn the older niece in?"
Nott glanced up and closed his notepad, slipping it into his inner jacket pocket. "There's nothing to turn her in for right now. I haven't any proof that she attacked me. Furthermore, I'm not even sure why she attacked me."
"What I'd like to know is how she figured out where you were." Tracey poured the tea, dolling out the allotted cream and sugar. "Did you have a Tracking Charm on you?"
"No, all my clothes are warded against such charms, and I checked last night when I got back to the flat." He took the proffered cup of tea and sat back in his chair. "You are well-founded in your suspicions, though. How did she find me—and at that particular entrance into the Ministry? Hardly anyone enters through Piccadilly Circus."
Tracey frowned and took the seat across from his desk. "What will you do, then? You can't exactly follow her around if she's following you." Her eyes suddenly brightened. "Want me to trail her, incognito?"
Nott chuckled, placing the rim of the cup at his lips. "Shall I get you a pair of dark glasses and a wig? Oh, and maybe a moustache? I'm thinking Fu Manchu for you."
Tracey's thin lips compressed into a frown and she narrowed her glacier blue eyes on him. "I really do detest your humour when you've returned from visiting with Blaise." She brought the teacup to her lips and drank. "You always fancy yourself a comedian."
Nott laughed again and lowered the cup onto the saucer before placing it on his desk and taking out the cigarette case from his breast pocket. "Don't be such a killjoy, Trace."
The brunette rolled her eyes but did not respond. Instead, she continued sipping her tea in dejected silence.
"I have a meeting with the representative of Highland Security today," Nott announced somewhat casually, surreptitiously lighting the fag dangled between his teeth. "The company of Curse-Breakers that Matilda had hired."
"You got a hold of them?" Her icy demeanour temporarily vanished. Scheduling meetings was normally tasked to her.
"Yes, I owled them last night when I got home." He shook out the match, took in a deep drag and coughed. "I received a response at an ungodly hour this morning."
Tracey smirked into her teacup. "Which was?"
"I'm meeting the man—I believe his name is Caulders, Haldron Caulders—for lunch at Café La Mode in Diagon Alley."
Tracey wrinkled her nose and set her cup and saucer on the edge of his desk. "I loathe setting myself up for further ridicule and embarrassment, but what about this business with Mary Burke?"
"Ah." Nott raised a finger triumphantly in the air. "I plan to observe her in her natural habitat at her aunt's—to properly suss out her motives, if you will." With the cigarette jutted between his teeth, he fiddled with his tie and fixed his collar. "I'm going to send Madam Burke a rush owl at a more reasonable hour this morning and ask if Mr Caulders and myself can join her at her manor to discuss my progress, as well as the security there."
"Brilliant," Tracey said mildly, and Nott removed the fag from his lips with a grin.
"And if that doesn't field any results, I'll just sic you on her."
Tracey rolled her eyes. "Brilliant."
"I'd also like to find out what this house-elf, Kip, knows and is unwilling to tell me."
"The only way you'll dig information about a family member out of a house-elf is by having it emancipated, and even then . . ."
"Yes, I know." Nott scowled, waving a dismissive hand. "It will be terribly difficult to ascertain information and it might not even prove to be facilitatory to the case."
"But on the other hand?"
"On the other hand—" Nott swivelled around on his chair to face the window "—it may prove to be most useful and fortuitous for us." He tented his fingers together in contemplation. "Most fortuitous, indeed."
Tracey snorted. "Keep your hair on, Theo, you look like Dr Moriarty plotting Sherlock Holmes's demise."
Nott looked befuddled for a moment before a look of clarity washed over his features. "You've been reading my books again, haven't you?"
"When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth, my dear Theodore."
Nott leaned back in his chair and chortled. "Cheeky bugger."
Tracey offered Nott a sly wink before resuming her tea. It was already turning out to be an amusing morning for Nott, and he only hoped that it would become more productive and less painful than the night before.
SUNLIGHT FLOODED IN through high mullioned windows, throwing watery patches of colour from the stained glass. The dark panelling glowed like bronze in the golden rays that trickled in through the lush green foliage outside.
At a table in the south-west section of the expansive room sat Matilda Burke and her guests: Theodore Nott, Haldron Caulders, Garblox the Goblin, and Lizzy and Mary Burke. Nott had received word back from Matilda straight-away that morning, with invites for both himself and Caulders to attend afternoon tea at the manor.
Apparating to the given destination point, Nott arrived at Burke Manor where he was properly introduced to Mr Caulders, and the two sized each other up as competing businessmen do. Caulders was a clean-shaven, prim-faced sort of man with flaxen hair and a lean jaw. He looked to be between the ages of thirty and forty, neither old-looking nor young. Dressed in a dull grey suit and matching robes, he was rather short with a slim build bordering on wiry.
On his face were small rounded spectacles, which, in addition to his thin features, made him appear unimposing and plain, yet business-like. He had the look of man more predisposed to running books than curse-breaking, yet perhaps such subtlety was an advantage in his line of work. Either way, he did not appear imposing or shady, just utterly dull. It didn't help that his voice was low and monotonous—the kind of voice that put an audience to sleep.
Shortly after tea, Nott politely excused himself outside onto the gardens to have a smoke. He was not alone for long before the house-elf was beside him, offering him a snifter of Cognac brandy and making sure Nott wasn't dropping any ashes on the ground.
"Master Nott." Kip conjured a tall tripod table and a bronze ashtray to set on top, which Nott shortly made use of before taking a sip of his Cognac.
"Kip." Nott briefly inclined his head, noticing the attire the elf wore. "Nice gloves." With snifter in hand, he pointed to the pristine white gloves on Kip's thin yet rather long hands.
"Thank you, Master Nott." The house-elf beamed. "Kip made them all by Kip's self." The elf glanced down and admired its own handiwork with what looked like a smile on its dour face. "Miss Elizabeth suggested Kip should wear them while serving tea."
"I'll bet she did," Nott said mildly, setting his snifter down on the table and turning. "Hullo, Miss Elizabeth."
Lizzy had entered the gardens soundlessly behind them and must have not expected to be noticed, for a lovely shade of rose tinted her cheeks. She looked down bashfully.
"Hello, Theodore." She smiled shyly, meeting his dark green eyes. "I came to tell you that I'm afraid that I cannot stay for the rest of tea. I have an appointment at the salon."
"Wouldn't want you to miss that." Nott stubbed out his cigarette and glanced down at Kip, who was looking as subservient as ever. "Although—" he turned to look into Lizzy's soft brown eyes "—I have to admit that I can't see a single thing on you in need of improvement."
"You are too kind." Her blush deepened and she met his eyes demurely before they suddenly widened. "Oh my, your face!" She reached forward to tenderly touch the swollen knob just above his temple. "What happened?"
Nott instinctively reached out to close his fingers around Lizzy's slender wrist, lowering her hand from his face. She inhaled sharply at the physical contact, her cheeks burning brightly, and Nott dropped her hand before stepping back. He had asked Tracey to apply a Glamour Charm to hide the bruises, but apparently Lizzy could still see the bump on his head.
"This here's nothing," he lied, pointing to his temple. "I fell is all."
Lizzy regarded him with critical brown eyes for a moment, her cupid bow mouth curving downward into a frown. She didn't seem to believe him, but at the same time she didn't press him. Instead, she chose to move on with the conversation.
"Aunt Tilda told us—Mary and I—that you and Mr Caulders here, and that horrid goblin, are holding a meeting about the curse on the diamonds." Her mouth softened. "Is that true?"
Nott nodded, feeling the pain in his back and shoulder return, joining the pain in his head and jaw. "Yes, it would help for me to understand the nature of the curse—in the event that I locate the diamonds."
The detective picked up his glass and drained it of its contents in one large gulp before setting the snifter down on the table. He lifted his fingers in the air in a dismissing manner and the house-elf, trained to observe such cues, vanished the table and its contents, along with itself.
"Mary's been asking about you." Lizzy took a step closer, worrying her delicate hands down the bodice of her frock. "She seems to think you're an admirer of mine."
Nott slipped his hands into his pockets, smiling suavely. "Well, your sister's not half."
This time Lizzy's blush grew a bright red, blooming to the tips of her ears, and she let out a soft, breathless laugh. "Well, I'd love to find out what you know, Theodore. About the case, that is—what leads you have so far. I'm very curious about who could have stolen the diamonds." She glanced up at him, her almond-shaped eyes shining brightly in the light. "Would it be possible for me to visit you sometime soon?"
"Sure, darling. The network's fixed, so you can visit the office whenever you like."
"That's marvellous. She gave him a somewhat strained smile, making Nott wonder if she wanted to meet with him in private. Vanishing away any worry lines on her face, Lizzy tucked a lock of curly auburn hair behind her ear and coyly bit at her lip. "Well, I must be going now."
"Of course." Nott gave a brief bow, still smiling. "Until next time."
Lizzy returned his smile and nodded, still looking back at Nott as she retreated into the manor. Nott watched her disappear down the hall and wished that he had time for another cigarette. Unfortunately, everyone was still gathered inside and waiting for him.
When he re-entered the museum, Matilda rose to her feet and clapped her hands together once for attention. Everyone immediately gazed up at her, and she ceremoniously cleared her throat for effect.
"Now that tea is over, I will leave you gentlemen, and Mr Garblox here, to discuss the details of the security." She smiled genially and then signalled for her niece with a snap of her fingers. "Mary, come along now."
"Thank Merlin," Mary sighed, sounding both relieved and utterly bored.
Nott watched as the eldest niece followed her aunt out of the room. Mary didn't once look back at the detective, nor did she appear to notice him at all since he had been there. In fact, she didn't seem to take notice of anyone or anything. She had acted bored throughout the entire affair, like she was waiting for a bus. She couldn't wait to leave.
Once the women had left, the men immediately got down to business. Garblox once more went over the security of moving the diamonds from Gringotts to Burke Manor and Caulders went into detail of how they set up security in the manor itself. Nothing seemed amiss.
"What about the curse?" Nott looked from Caulders to Garblox.
"The Burke Curse is rather simple, yet ingenious," Caulders answered. "Only someone of the Burke bloodline can handle the diamonds directly."
"Directly?" Nott's brow furrowed into a deep V.
"Yes, to be able to actually hold them," Caulders clarified. "If the diamonds were swaddled in something, then you or I could touch them. However, with regards to the security that we had set up, no one could have taken them out of the house, concealed or not, unless it was a blood relative, and even then the manor itself has security wards placed within and without."
"So, Mary and Elizabeth can handle the diamonds, even though they're not full-blooded Burkes, as it were."
"Yes, of course the curse has to compensate for progeny." Caulders laughed somewhat nervously. "It follows the family through many dilutions—again, only by blood and not by marriage." He put his hands on his lap and smiled. "Elizabeth, for example, could handle the diamonds, but her mother could not."
"And what happens when someone else outside of the bloodline handles the diamonds?" Nott asked, quill poised. "What exactly does the curse do?"
"It renders the thief into a comatose state," Garblox answered tersely.
"No." Caulders laughed that nervous laugh of his again. "But it has some rather unpleasant side-effects. Dark magic and all that."
Nott frowned thoughtfully as he scribbled down his notes. "So, you're basically saying that only a Burke family member or someone from the Burke bloodline can safely handle and transport the diamonds?"
"What about house-elves?"
Caulders paused for a moment. "Well, house-elves belonging to the family can definitely handle the diamonds. I'm unsure if any house-elf can do it. Elf magic is much different from our own. The curse may not apply to elves, as they are magical creatures in their own right."
"Thank you,. Nott finished his scribbling and slipped the notepad and quill into his pocket. "Do you mind walking me through your security?"
"Not at all. Please, follow me."
All three rose and went about investigating the scene once more. As Nott had suspected, no new evidence could be gleaned from his thorough inspection of Caulders's security. However, Caulders's and Garblox's information on the Cordalis Diamonds' curse had helped fill in some of the blanks, and matters no longer appeared to be as black and white as they once were.
WHEN NOTT REACHED his office earlier that evening, Tracey Davis was at her desk opening mail and sorting through papers with an extremely irritated look on her face. Blaise Zabini was standing beside her, leaning on the desk and trying to engage her in conversation. The sound of the door closing alerted both to Nott's presence, and Tracey looked up with a sense of relief etched across her face as she tightly clutched the letter in hand.
"Hullo, Teddy," Blaise greeted with a half-smirk, pushing himself up into a standing position.
Nott nodded a silent greeting and lit the cigarette he already had in his hand. He pulled up a chair and sat in front of Tracey's desk, too exhausted to make his way to his own office.
"What's the news?" Tracey set down the opened mail. "How'd it go with the aunt and niece — and the house-elf for that matter?"
Nott leaned back in the chair, the fag still dangling from his lips. "My suspicions have been compounded with even more suspicions."
"You sound like my ex-wives," Blaise said, sitting on the edge of Tracey's desk, causing the young woman to roll her eyes.
"Needless to say I haven't told the client yet." Nott took in a slow drag, allowing the smoke to pool into his lungs. "If Mary is the one who stole the diamonds, I'd like to be able to prove it."
Blaise lifted a dark eyebrow. "You going to tail her?"
"Yes, I think I'll put Tracey on the job." Nott lifted a finger at Tracey with a grin. "You free tomorrow, darling?"
Tracey gave Nott a two finger salute before crossing her arms over her breasts and scowling fiercely at her boss. Nott, in turn, winked at his assistant and then turned his attention to the tall and darkly handsome man sitting on her desk.
"So, what news have you?"
"Glad you asked, Teddy boy." Blaise slapped his palm down on the desk, causing Tracey to glower. "After work last night I sent out some feelers in the underground, spreading word about the diamonds. This afternoon I was contacted by an associate of mine who informed me that some idiot Muggle is trying to fence the diamonds on the wizarding black market."
Nott's brow furrowed into a deep V. "The Cordalis Diamonds?"
"No, the Mona Lisa." Blaise lifted his palms upwards in frustration. "Of course the Cordalis's. He gave the same description; however, he called them the Tavernier Blue."
"I'll explain it on the way there," Blaise said, standing up. "That is, if you'd like to join me." He looked up at Nott, who immediately nodded and rose to his feet. "I've arranged a meeting for later this evening, at eleven. We can grab some dinner before then."
Nott raised a hand, indicating that Blaise should wait, while he headed into his office to grab his extra jacket. When he returned, Blaise was leaning over Tracey again, whispering something in her ear. It obviously wasn't sweet-nothings because Tracey didn't look remotely seduced. In fact, Nott saw her reaching for the letter opener again.
"What about the painting?" Nott asked, and Blaise turned his attention away from Tracey.
"Unfortunately, I was unable to get much information on that, other than what you already know."
"Leave the photographs with me," Tracey ordered, causing both men to turn to stare at her. She shrugged nonchalantly. "I have a class this evening with a professor who is a bit of an expert on seventeenth century magical art."
"A bit of an expert on seventeenth century magical art?" Blaise repeated. "Well, that's convenient."
Tracey glowered at Blaise before turning her attention to Nott. "Do you want me to ask him or not?"
"I'd appreciate it, Trace." Nott pulled on the heavier jacket and gave Tracey a quick peck on the cheek. "Ta, love."
"Mhm," Tracey murmured with closed eyes, before dramatically flipping her hair over her shoulder.
Blaise just scoffed, pulling out the manila envelope filled with the photographs and placing it on the desk. "Smugness is an entirely unattractive look on you, Davis."
Tracey opened her ice blue eyes and trained them on Blaise like a heat-seeking missile (or, in this case, a prat-seeking missile). "Funny. It seems to be a natural look on you, Zabini, like ignorance."
Tracey gathered the envelope and Blaise's carefully composed face fell for a moment. Nott laughed.
"Point and match, mate."
"Oh, shut it!" Blaise hissed at Nott, staring Tracey down before heading out the door.
Still laughing, Nott waved to Tracey before exiting after Blaise. "See you tonight, angel."
AFTER DINNER, NOTT and Blaise had made their way to the rendezvous point: a seedy area in the south-east end of London known as Hackney. It wasn't the most ideal place to meet, but both men were armed and not too worried about meeting up with a Muggle. When they finally approached St Augustine's Tower, Blaise settled himself against the wall and looked up at the night sky while Nott lit a cigarette.
"Why does Davis despise me so?" Blaise asked out of the blue, causing Nott to hold onto the match a little longer than usual, burning his fingertips.
"Can't say," he replied, quickly shaking out the match with a hiss.
"She's always been so impenetrable to my scintillating personality." Blaise scratched his chin, looking thoroughly annoyed. "Is she seeing anyone?"
"I heard she was seeing that tosser, Adrian Pucey."
Nott took a drag from his cigarette and shrugged. "If you heard, then why ask me?"
"Because it warms the cockles of my heart to listen to you deflect my every question with a slack-jawed 'can't say'." Blaise shook his head and slipped his hands into his pockets. "Look, she's your assistant and best mate, is she not? Plus, you're a bloody detective. You should have all the answers."
Mute, Nott just stared at Blaise before taking another drag.
"You know, Teddy, you're about as exciting and informative as a dish rag."
Nott shrugged, unaffected. "So, you want to tell me about the Tavernier Blue?"
Blaise's golden eyes darkened. "The Tavernier Blue was a large violet-coloured diamond discovered in India in the early 1600s, taken by a French merchant-traveller by the name of Jean-Baptiste Tavernier. He sold the crudely cut yet flawless diamond to the French monarchy where it was set in the French Crown Jewels, becoming known as the French Blue.
"It was said to have been stolen in 1792 during the turbulence of the French Revolution. Several Muggle historians believe that the diamond was taken to London where it was cut into two—one of those diamonds being the famous Hope Diamond, which is believed to be cursed."
"And the other diamond?"
Blaise shook his head and shrugged. "Unknown. It's still thought to be floating around England somewhere, or Scotland."
Nott dropped his cigarette and crushed it under his heel. "Thank you for the history lesson, Blaise."
"Hey, you asked." Blaise brought his thumb to his right eye and rubbed tiredly. "Besides, you needed the lesson since you're so unimaginative, Teddy."
Nott rolled his eyes and crossed his arms over his chest. "Fine. Go on."
"Wizarding history details that the Tavernier Blue had a much older brother—a smaller but more refined and better cut blue diamond."
"The Cordalis Diamonds?"
"The Cordalis Blue," Blaise corrected, offering Nott an arrogant smirk. "The 'merchant-traveller'—" he made air quotations "—Tavernier was also a wizard and a Treasure Hunter, as was his mother and father and his grandfather before him. They were what you would consider the precursors to Curse-Breakers.
"Anyway, Jean-Baptiste's great-great grandfather on his mother's side, né Jean-Baptiste Cordalis, was under the hire of a notorious goblin merchant guild led by Ragnox the Despoiler. It is believed that Cordalis deceived Ragnox by keeping the larger diamond hidden in India and giving the goblin the smaller diamond, which was later cut into the Cordalis Diamonds in the early 1500s."
"Why didn't Cordalis go back and retrieve the diamond?"
Blaise shrugged. "He died of syphilis on the voyage back home and had only managed to chronicle vague accounts of where the diamond was hidden. It wasn't for more than a hundred years later that his descendant was able to retrieve it."
"Interesting." Nott reached into his jacket pocket for his flask.
"Yes, I thought that would kill some time before our mark arrived." When Nott's brow rose inquisitively into his hairline, Blaise pointed to a solitary figure approaching. "This looks to be our rube over there."
The Muggle who slowly approached them was thin and very tall, almost as tall as Nott. His nose was long and narrow, jutted out between two keen blue-grey eyes set closely together. He was clad in a professional but rather slovenly fashion, for his jacket was dingy and the hems of his trousers were frayed. Though young-looking, his long back looked bowed, and he carried himself with a sort of peering benevolence. Upon closer inspection, however, Nott could not register any sort of recognition in this Muggle stranger's handsome eyes. Instead, he held a glazed expression, as though lost or held in a deep trance.
"You Zabini?" The Muggle's voice was mellifluous and light, as though he hadn't a care in the world—as though Hackney was the most respectable place in London for a business transaction.
"I am. I can assume you are Mitchum?"
He nodded and straightened his back, his limbs relaxing. "I hear you're looking for the Tavernier Blue."
"Do you have the jewel on you?"
"I have it secured. It's set on a necklace encrusted with white diamonds."
"Does it look like this?" Blaise reached into his pocket and pulled out a photograph of the Cordalis Diamonds, which he handed to the Muggle.
Mitchum took the picture and nodded again. Handing it back to Blaise, the man glanced over at Nott and frowned. His eyes, still glazed over as though he had just spiked, shifted a little and regarded the tall detective with suspicion.
"Don't you worry about him," Blaise said with a bit of an edge to his voice. "You're dealing with me."
Mitchum's brow slowly knitted together, as though trying to fight an idea forming in his mind. He looked sceptically from Nott to Blaise and then back to Nott again.
"I'm his protection," Nott informed the Muggle, glancing down at Mitchum's jacket. "Just like that hand-gun you're holding in your pocket."
Mitchum looked down at his own jacket in surprise, his right eyebrow twitching softly.
"How much?" Blaise asked, getting down to business.
Mitchum turned his attention back to Blaise and answered without hesitation, "Ten million."
"Pounds or Galleons?"
Mitchum's puzzled look turned completely lost. "Galleons?"
"Never mind," Blaise said impatiently, before turning to look at Nott. "He's Imperius'd."
Nott nodded. He already knew. The Muggle, however, had no clue and could only stare at the two wizards, confused and in a daze.
"Why aren't you nervous, Mitchum?" Nott asked, taking a slow step forward, unafraid of the gun in the Muggle's pocket. "I mean, it's clear that you're on your guard, but you seem fearless right now. Why is that?"
Mitchum took a step back and shook his head. "I dunno." He looked genuinely confused. "You seem like nice blokes."
Blaise snorted. "Do you meet many nice chaps at St Augustine's Tower at the witching hour?"
"You don't know much, do you, Mitchum?"
Mitchum swallowed hard, licking his dry, cracked lips. His handsome eyes darted from side to side but kept returning to the corner where he came from: the wall of the church with a neat pile of stones in front of it.
"Why do you keep looking over there?" Nott followed the Muggle's actions with keen green eyes.
"O'er where?" Mitchum lied.
Nott kept his eyes fixed on the small pile of stones and spoke softly to Blaise, "You see it."
"I do." Blaise immediately started walking over to the stone wall.
"Now wait right there!" Mitchum ordered, but Blaise ignored him.
Bending down over the pile, Blaise began to pick through the stones. After rummaging around for a few seconds, he pulled out a piece of swaddled cloth and began to unwrap it. Mitchum suddenly lunged forward, his hand in his pocket now.
"Leave it out, or I'll—"
Nott's wand was out of its holster before Mitchum could even sense the movement behind him. Disarming the Muggle with a flick of his wrist, Nott sent Mitchum's gun sailing across the way towards the wall where Blaise stood. Before Mitchum could move or yell out, Nott already had him in a Body-Binding Curse while Blaise unravelled the cloth, revealing the stolen diamonds within.
"Who did you get these from?" Nott asked, pressing his wand to the Muggle's throat.
Nott dug the wand in deeper and barked at Blaise, "Don't touch the diamonds directly! They're cursed."
Blaise nodded, wrapping the diamonds back up in their swaddling and carefully slipping them into his pocket.
"Now, I'll ask again," Nott's lips were against Mitchum's ear; his voice dangerously low. "Who did you get these from?"
Just then a flash of red light soared past Nott's left ear, and he felt the distinct feeling of déjà vu wash over him as he dove to the ground, taking Mitchum down with him. Blaise already had his wand drawn and was firing spells in the air, hoping to inadvertently hit his target. During the commotion, Nott picked himself and Mitchum up and ran for cover behind the wall of the church. Blaise covered them as they made their way across, ducking and dodging the spells that seemed to come from every-which direction.
Once at the wall, Nott lost his grip on Mitchum and turned just in time to feel the Muggle's pistol dig into his back. He must have picked it up along the way. Cursing to himself, Nott raised his arms and intertwined his fingers, placing them behind his head. Blaise was too busy fending off curses to notice what was going on behind him, so Nott had to think fast.
As Mitchum leaned forward to reach for Nott's wand, Nott dropped his elbow and spun to the right. Mitchum jerked back, but not far enough; Nott's right heel dug into Mitchum's toes and anchored the Muggle in the elbow's path. Nott struck him just beneath the cheekbone, causing the Muggle to yell out and stagger backwards. As Mitchum went to fall back, Nott straightened his elbow and struck his hand down at the pistol. Mitchum let go the instant Nott's fingers touched it and fell unconscious to the ground.
Pocketing the pistol, Nott stepped over the body and joined Blaise at the corner of the wall. Blaise was swearing loudly, flinging himself back against the wall, as a spell shot past his head.
"It's a woman?" Nott withdrew his wand and peeked around the corner. A curse whizzed past his ear, almost blinding him, and he threw his back against the wall beside Blaise. He hadn't seen much, but he had seen enough to know that their attacker was a woman with the same body type as Mary Burke.
"She must be the one who Imperius'd the Muggle." Blaise wiped the sweat from his brow with his free hand. "We have to get out of here, now. This is a crowded Muggle area, and she's gone completely nutters!"
Nott nodded in agreement and glanced down at Mitchum. The Muggle's eyes were closed and he looked almost peaceful lying there unconscious on the ground.
"You have the diamonds?"
Blaise patted his breast pocket. "All we need to do now is get rid of the evidence." He pointed his wand at Mitchum. "Obliv—"
"No!" Nott reached out to lower Blaise's wand.
"You can't Obliviate him in the state he's in," Nott chastised, lowering Blaise's hands. "It could wipe his mind completely, and permanently."
Nott knelt down beside the unconscious Muggle and began to go through his pockets until he found what he was looking for. Flipping open the mobile phone, Nott dialled 112 and reported the unconscious man to the operator, along with his whereabouts before hanging up and wiping his prints from the phone and dropping it on Mitchum's lap.
"Let's just go before she comes back or the police get here," he said, wiping the dirt and rubble off his trousers.
"All right. I've got a place nearby. Hold on."
Blaise held out his free arm and Nott took it, Side-Along Apparating to terrace of a large building. Spluttering, Nott spit out a branch and stepped out from behind a small planted tree. The entire veranda looked like a small garden, and Nott had to watch his footing as he stepped around and followed Blaise inside the second story flat through the large glass doors.
"I'm afraid this is the only safe Apparating point with Side-Along Apparation," Blaise informed Nott as a way of apology. "Wards and all that security rot."
Blaise led Nott into the beautifully furnished flat and pointed to a seat in front of the fireplace while he grabbed a bottle of Cognac from his liquor cabinet. Pouring the honey-coloured liquor into a wide snifter, Blaise handed the glass to Nott, who had settled into plush leather chesterfield with a weary sigh.
Reaching into his jacket pocket, Blaise carefully pulled out the swaddled cloth and set it on the table. Nott leaned forward and carefully folded the cloth away so that he could get a better look at the diamonds. They looked exactly like the photographs Matilda had given him. Of course, Nott was no expert, not like Blaise.
"She Imperius'd a Muggle to fence the diamonds for her and tried to trade it for Muggle money since it wouldn't be traced back to her," Nott mused aloud.
"Nothing skew-wiff about your deductive powers, Teddy," Blaise stated dryly, pouring himself a snifter of brandy.
"Remind me again why I enlist in your services."
Blaise smiled and settled into a plush high-back Queen Anne chair with drink in hand. "I've always suspected that you enjoy my wit and stunning good looks." He raised his glass in mock cheer. "They bring a small amount of pleasure and satisfaction to your otherwise dull and dreary existence."
Nott's right eyebrow lifted ever so subtly. "That's what you suspect?"
"Of course. I brighten your disposition."
Nott laughed despite himself. "Sure you do." He shook his head and took a sip of his drink. "Tracey was right: you are a horrible influence on me."
"Tracey's jealous." Blaise waggled both eyebrows. "She just wishes she were as spiffing as me."
"S-spiffing?" Nott managed to sputter as he choked on his brandy. Setting down the glass, he began to laugh, which quickly turned into a coughing fit.
Blaise leaned over and thumped Nott's back soundly, which caused Nott to cough even harder. As the coughing and the laughter died down, Nott finished his drink without incident and, after a moment's rest, rose to his feet.
"Well, I had better be off to Burke Manor to see if I can get some answers." He pulled out his pocket watch and frowned. "Be damned the hour."
Blaise, still seated, withdrew his wand and lifted the anti-Apparation wards as Nott pocked his watch.
"Going to confront horse face, then?" Blaise swirled his drink in the snifter. "She's more skilled with the wand than I would have given her credit for. But I suppose ugly girls must try harder, nay?"
"You are so crude." When Blaise only smiled in return, Nott pointed at the swaddling of cloth on Blaise's centre table. "When can I get an answer from you about the diamonds?"
"I suspect I'll be spending the whole night examining this beauty, so I will have an answer for you by tomorrow sometime."
"Excellent." Nott took out his wand. "When and where shall I meet you?"
"Here." Blaise raised his glass and gestures to their surroundings. "Six Upper Belgrave Street, Flat Two, Belgravia. Come visit me around noon."
Nott nodded curtly and tipped his index and middle finger to his forehead. "Thanks, Blaise. G'night, mate."
Without further words exchanged, Nott Disapparated from Blaise's flat back to St Augustine's Tower. There was no sign of Mitchum or Mary or the police, so Nott decided to set off to Burke Manor forthwith. On his way, many questions swam through Nott's mind: why ask for Muggle money and why sell to a wizard and not another Muggle? And how was Mary Burke able to smuggle the jewels out of the manor with no detection or trace of magical evidence left behind?
Nott would have the answers he sought, and he would have them soon.
Author's notes: The quote, "When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth . . ." is from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's "Sherlock Holmes 'The Crooked Man'" in The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes (1893); Doubleday Publishing, p. 416.