It is 2005, and the Unsolved Crimes and Open Cases (UCOS) unit of the London Metropolitan Police, founded in 2003, now has several successful investigations to their credit. The original team, headed by Detective Superintendent Sandra Pullman, is still in place, but she now reports to Deputy Assistant Commissioner Robert Strickland.
SCENE 1 Day 1 morning, the UCOS room
It is early morning, and Jack Halford and Gerry Standing are chatting inconsequently while waiting for Detective Superintendent Sandra Pullman. She comes in, closely followed by DAC Strickland.
Strickland: No Brian Lane?
Sandra: Brian's on leave sir.
Gerry: They're staying with some cousins of Esther's near Edinburgh.
Strickland: Then let's get on shall we? Sandra…?
She turns to face them, brandishing a buff folder.
Sandra: November 1st 1981: a massive explosion on a London street, and I mean on the street: no building was damaged beyond the odd broken pane. Yet at least twelve people were killed. It was pretty clear that a high explosive was detonated, but a cover story was put out that it was a 'gas explosion'.
Strickland: It was thought that the public would be spooked by the thought of suicide bombers on London streets. And a delegation from Israel was on its way to discuss peace in the Middle East.
Gerry: And this could have scuppered the talks?
Jack: You said 'at least twelve people.' Don't we know?
Sandra: I was coming to that. There were witnesses who did survive the blast. None had serious injuries, but they must all have been very shaken because none of them could remember much when interviewed. But some could recall seeing two men in a furious argument just before the blast. One of those men may have survived the explosion, but has never been traced. All that was found of the other was a severed finger; it was thought he might have been carrying a bomb.
Jack: What, no other body parts?
Sandra: No. But things were not properly handled. Instead of declaring it a crime scene and sending in forensics the mess was cleared up as quickly as possible. The gas people turned up, declared the area safe and a clear-up squad from the local Council set to work.
Sandra: I agree.
Strickland: Special Branch took charge almost at once, but it seems likely that MI5 wanted investigation suppressed for reasons of their own.
Gerry: And the supposed bomber, has he been 'fingered'?
Sandra (pulling face): Yes. The finger was identified as that of a Peter Pettigrew. We have copies of his birth and death certificates but nothing else, not even a photo.
Jack: If Special Branch and or MI5 have been sitting on this for nearly twenty-five years, why has it come our way now?
Strickland waves for Sandra to carry on.
Sandra: Special Branch had the theory that Peter Pettigrew was a courier for the Provisional IRA. They've now decided that he was not.
Gerry: Any ideas on who the other man was: the one that hasn't been traced?
Sandra: He was described as between twenty and thirty with dark, shoulder-length hair and a moustache. There's a photo fit here somewhere.
Sandra rifles through the folder and produces a photo-fit picture of a man with a bushy moustache and masses of long ringlets.
Jack: He'd only have to have a haircut and a shave and nobody would know him.
Sandra: True enough. Well, that's it! We have been tasked with finding out what was behind that explosion, and who or what organization might be involved. There is little chance of getting anybody to court.
Strickland: I know you've done wonders in the past, but this is a tall order. Nobody, least of all me, will think less of you if you draw a blank.
Strickland walks to the exit.
Strickland: Oh, Sandra, I'm to be kept informed if you do find anything, understood?
Strickland exits. The other three stare after him.
Jack: Well! Anybody else get the feeling we are not being told everything?
Sandra: OK, let's make a start. Jack, you've got the birth and death certificates; see what you can find on Peter Pettigrew. Gerry, come with me and we'll view the scene of the incident.
Sandra passes the dossier to Jack while Gerry puts his coat on. They exit together.
SCENE 2 Day 1, two hours later, the UCOS room
Jack is just putting down the 'phone as Sandra walks in.
Sandra: I've left Gerry to ask around for eye witnesses. There are plenty of office windows looking down onto that street. Nobody thought to take statements from office workers at the time.
Jack: Incompetence doesn't cover it: someone high-up wanted this incident covered up.
Sandra: Which begs the question: why have we been asked to look into it now?
Jack: The investigating officer was a Barty Crouch, no rank given.
Sandra: 'BARTY!' He must have had a rough time at school!
Jack (deadpan): Barty is short for Bartemius; he died in 1995.
Sandra: Any other officers named?
Jack (consulting notes): There is a Shacklebolt; the file on him is restricted. Whatever he was then, he must be in the Security Services now.
Sandra: I'll speak to Strickland about him. Anything else?
Jack: Peter Pettigrew is quite the mystery man: no form; no bank accounts; no income tax record; nothing in social security, not even a National Insurance number; nothing in army records; nothing in the DVLA. Not even a library ticket that I could find.
Sandra: A false name?
Jack: Perhaps. According to the birth certificate his family lived in a small village in Wiltshire. I've contacted the village school and they have written records going back to the 1950s. They are going to 'phone me back.
Sandra: Good. What about the other victims, the known twelve?
Jack: I'm starting on those now; we have their names and addresses.
SCENE 3 Day 2 morning, the UCOS room
Jack Halford is already at his desk, working on his laptop; Sandra Pullman is in her inner office. Gerry Standing breezes in and hangs up his coat on the hat stand. The three congregate around the low table with cups of coffee.
Sandra: Well, what do we have? Gerry?
Gerry: I found one witness; she heard the bang and went to the window. She said that she could see clearly – there was very little smoke or dust – and there was one man standing on the edge of the blast area. He just stood there not moving. His back was towards her, all she can remember was his shoulder-length hair. Three men appeared in less than a minute and surrounded him. She turned to speak to someone behind her and when she looked back all four had gone. Only after that did the emergency services arrive.
Sandra: Is that it?
Gerry: Just about. Only one company remains in those offices from twenty five years ago. I got the names and addresses of two other possible witnesses, but I haven't been able to make contact yet. I called in at the local nick, but nobody has been there more than ten years – not even the desk sergeant.
Jack: The twelve victims seem blameless, not even a parking ticket between them. The cause of death is given as 'death through injuries consistent with an explosion' on all death certificates. I am still trying to track down the post mortem reports.
Sandra: And what about the coroner's report?
Jack: Glad you asked me that. A hearing on all twelve together was opened and adjourned. It is still adjourned, so no report!
Gerry: Why am I not surprised? What about your Peter Pettigrew? Did the coroner sit on his death?
Jack: No, nothing, and his death certificate is a whitewash also: 'dead as the result of an explosion.' I ask you!
Sandra: How was Pettigrew identified? A single finger isn't much to go on.
Jack: I'll look into that. Do we have the finger?
Sandra: I've not seen any mention of it. I'll follow that up. Gerry, I want you to try and find some pictures of the scene. Try newspapers, local and national, all the news media. A gas explosion in London with several fatalities should have had the whole media circus down on it. Jack, you try the emergency services: fire, ambulance, whatever. Oh, and don't forget the gas people – they did send a van.
Jack: One thing more: I've heard back from that school …
Jack: There was a Peter Pettigrew with the same DoB who went to the school.
Sandra: Well done. Any chance the family is still in the area? Or friends of the family?
Jack: If it's OK with you I thought I would go out there tomorrow.
Sandra: OK Jack. Put the twelve other victims on hold for the moment.
Jack nods in agreement.
SCENE 4 Day 2 evening, the UCOS office again.
Jack and Gerry are getting ready to leave for the day. Sandra comes out of her office to catch them before they leave.
Sandra: Is there anything to tell Strickland yet?
Gerry: Have a heart guv'nr. We're about twenty five years too late on this investigation.
Sandra (sardonic grin): Still, early days yet, eh Gerry?
Gerry pulls a face; he is not happy.
Sandra: Turned up any pictures, anything? There must be some out there.
Gerry: There was no TV coverage; it didn't even make the local news. However, a photographer for an evening paper did get some stills, they're sending them over.
Sandra: Good. Strickland is arranging for an explosives expert from the military to give us an opinion. I'll need something to show him.
Jack: Or her.
Sandra: Or her. Thank you Jack. Did you get anywhere with the emergency services?
Jack: Nothing from the fire brigade. Nothing from the local police. I've got the names and addresses of some former ambulance drivers who may have attended. All the bodies were taken to the one hospital. If autopsies were performed, the hospital has no record of them. I do have the names of the pathologists on the books at the time; they faxed them over.
Sandra: Perhaps we'll make more progress tomorrow. Jack, pass that stuff on to Gerry and go and get some country air. Gerry, see if you can't learn something from that Council clear-up squad; if there were body parts lying around they are not likely to have forgotten it!
SCENE 5 Day 3 midday, a telephone box outside a village post office.
Jack Halford feeds coins into the box, holding the receiver to his ear.
Jack: Hello Sandra, it's Jack. …. There's no signal here, very remote. I think I've found something. The school records cover 1946 to 1994, and Peter Pettigrew is in there alright, and the address agrees with that on the birth certificate. … No, no other Pettigrews mentioned, so probably an only child. … No, the staff are new and not locals. … I thought I'd ask around the village, see if anyone remembers the Pettigrews. … The records say that young Pettigrew went on to a 'Hogwarts Academy.' … No, me neither, and it's certainly not local. But get this: he is not the only one: over that period at least six other children went on to this Hogwarts. …Bye.
SCENE 6 Day 4 early morning, the UCOS office
Jack is making a coffee; Sandra and Gerry come in together. Sandra goes straight into her inner office and then comes out to talk to them both.
Sandra: Jack, did you find out anything yesterday?
Jack: A few people remembered the Pettigrews. Peter was an only child. The family moved out of the area in the 1970s, nobody knows where.
Sandra: Did you ask about Hogwarts School?
Jack: I did, and got blank looks.
Gerry: Could I interrupt here?
Sandra: Go ahead Gerry.
Gerry: This line of enquiry started from the birth certificate. Why aren't we using the death certificate?
Jack: Because there is nothing useful on it. The informant was the Bartemius Crouch who led the investigation.
Gerry: Fair enough. We must find someone who worked on this case at the time.
Sandra: Agreed. Strickland is still trying to get hold of Shacklebolt for us. Gerry, have you got anything?
Gerry: I drew a blank on the pathologists. Most have since died; the one I spoke to had no memory of bodies from a 'gas explosion.'
Gerry pauses to light a cigarette, then thinks better of it and puts them away.
Gerry: The gas board say they have no record of any major incident on that day. They emailed me a list of staff on their rapid-response teams in 1981 and I've been working through it. So far nothing.
Sandra: And the Council?
Gerry: They have no detailed records going back that far. They do have a record of repair work being done that day, but no names at all. They said they would compile a list of personnel from that time for me, but nothing so far.
Sandra: So right now the only lead we have is the name of this school: Hogwarts?
Gerry: There is one other line I'd like to try. We have a lethal explosion blamed on something else: 'gas' when that doesn't fit the facts. I'd like to find if there have been any others, odd explosions that is.
Sandra: It's worth a try. I've spoken to my contact in the Department of Education: Hogwarts Academy is in Scotland. It's a private school for children with special skills.
Gerry: Like a circus school?
Sandra: Something like that. I think it's worth following up.
SCENE 7 Day 4 morning, a small municipal park somewhere
Brian and Esther are alone, sitting close together on a bench.
Brian: Yes, they are nice enough, but they can't help but rub it in as to what I am – what we both are.
Esther: Which is?
Brian: You know what I mean: we are squibs: neither wizard nor muggle. We don't fit in in either world. I reckon that's what made me like I am.
Esther (softly, with a 'here we go again look in her eye'): Oh Brian.
Brian's mobile rings, he looks to see who the caller is.
Brian: It's Sandra, do you mind?
Esther (with resignation): Go ahead; work is the only thing that makes you happy.
Brian stands and puts the 'phone to his ear.
Brian: Sandra? … No. … Saturday. … Could you repeat that? … Got it. … No, no. … Well I can try. … Bye.
Brian slumps back into the seat and takes a deep breath.
Brian (to himself): Now what do I do?
Brian (to Esther): You'll never guess.
Esther: Brian, I don't want to know.
Brian: Yes you do: Sandra wants me to find out about Hogwarts! She is trying to trace someone who went there.
Esther (suppressing a grin): What, the school? Well you always wanted to go there.
Esther: Is it someone we know?
Brian looks puzzled.
Esther: The person they are trying to trace.
Brian: Everybody's heard of him: Peter Pettigrew!
Esther: The one who betrayed the Potters to you-know-who?
Brian: Who else?
Esther: Then we had better get back; the Ministry need to know.
They leave the park arm-in-arm, Esther dragging a reluctant Brian forwards.
SCENE 8 Day 4 late morning, the UCOS office
Sandra and Jack are talking together, Gerry Standing sits staring at his laptop.
Gerry (loudly): Jack, Sandra, I've got something!
They come to his call.
Gerry: I've been looking for other suspicious explosions and I've found one.
Sandra: Are you sure?
Gerry: The previous evening, 31st October 1981, a cottage in a small village out west was partly demolished. The cause remains unknown and the bodies of a young couple were found in the wreckage.
Sandra: If there is a connection then we have to prove it.
Gerry: I'll start digging.
Sandra: Get Jack to help you.
SCENE 9 Day 4 late afternoon, the UCOS room
Jack is sitting at his desk and Gerry is behind him looking over his shoulder. Sandra comes in.
Gerry (triumphantly): GUVN'R!
Jack: The couple who died in Godric's Hollow was a James and Lily Potter. I've just checked their educational records, and get this: both went to 'Hogwarts Academy.'
Sandra (grinning broadly): This calls for a celebration. First though, I must call Brian.
Sandra speed dials Brian and puts the 'phone to her ear. After listening for a couple of seconds she pockets it.
Sandra: Brian's mobile is off. I'll try again later. Who's for the pub?
Jack: What about Strickland?
Sandra: Can't we keep it to just the three of us?
Jack: He asked to be kept informed, remember?
Sandra: Bugger! Wait for me.
Sandra exits rapidly.
SCENE 10 Day 5 early morning, the UCOS room
The room is empty. Strickland puts his head round the door and then opens it wider to let his companion see in. It is a man aged between twenty and thirty. They stand in the doorway.
Man: So this is it?
Strickland: This is the UCOS base.
They leave again. About a minute passes and Jack comes in. He goes to make himself a cup of coffee. Gerry comes in, shortly followed by Sandra.
Jack: Sandra, did you get to talk to Brian?
Sandra: His 'phone is still off.
Gerry: Maybe Esther put her foot down and told him not to work when they're on holiday.
Sandra: I can't blame her, but it is a nuisance, now we're getting somewhere.
Sandra tries 'phoning again.
Sandra: It's still off.
They all get cups of coffee. The door opens and Strickland and the same man come in again.
Strickland: Morning everyone. This is Harry, he has full clearance from the Home Office. You are all to tell him everything you found in this 'gas explosion' investigation, as complete a briefing as you can manage. That is your absolute priority.
Sandra (annoyed): Sir?
Strickland: No Sandra, this comes first. And I don't want any of you leaving the building. Once Harry is up to speed we shall have a meeting. Over to you Harry.
Harry (giving a nervous little wave of the hand in place of a handshake): Hi, Harry is my real name, I can't reveal more just yet. May I use your first names? You must be Sandra; which of you is Jack?
Jack silently raises his hand.
Harry: I'll want to know from each of you not just what you discovered, but how. Your means of investigation, your sources of information, any blind leads you've followed, everything. Please don't ask me questions back, we'll try and fill you in at the meeting later.
Jack and Gerry make eye contact with each other. Their body language signals annoyance and bemused acceptance.
SCENE 11 Two hours later, a plush meeting room with a central table and high-backed chairs.
One man sits still and silent at the head of the table, facing the door. He is the Head of the Ministry of Magic, Kingsley Shacklebolt. The door opens and Harry comes in and carefully closes it behind him. He sits down at the Minister's right hand.
Harry: They'll be along in a few minutes.
Shacklebolt: They have done rather better than you expected.
Harry: Yeh, they soon found a connection with my parents' deaths. And I didn't think they might contact Brian Lane about Hogwarts.
Shacklebolt: He is the squib you had to get out of the way?
Harry: We asked his wife's cousins to invite them up to Scotland. She is a squib too.
Shacklebolt: Have you got what you wanted?
Harry: Oh yes! My own department can learn a lot from the way these people work. I'll be recommending changes right away.
Shacklebolt: And the primary goal?
Harry: How we hide from muggles and tidy up after magical incidents? Yes, there are many lessons to be learnt. I'll discuss what I've picked up with Hermione Grainger and we'll bring you some proposals. She is the one who can write a convincing case. We are both 100% with you that the casual way the Ministry meddles with the minds of muggles has to change.
Shacklebolt: We start with UCOS: we use muggle means to keep ourselves secret.
Harry: Agreed. May I ask, how did you persuade them to do this for us?
Shacklebolt (with the hint of a smile): By muggle means: we offered the police a large sum of money 'to meet a budget deficit'.
There is a knock at the door. It is opened by Strickland who waves in Sandra ahead of him, followed by Jack and Gerry. He closes the door behind them. Kingsley rises to his feet, gives Sandra a little nod in salute and signs for everyone to sit down.
Harry: Sandra, everyone, this is my superior, Kingsley Shacklebolt.
Shacklebolt: Thank you Harry. I am Kingsley Shacklebolt, and I am here to explain what this has been about. I regret that I cannot be completely frank with you. However, I will not lie to you, and I will try not to mislead.
Sandra (puzzled): I understand.
Strickland: Sandra, as you must have guessed, this was not an ordinary investigation.
Shacklebolt: It was more of an experiment: a very valuable one, one which will affect policy and security in this country. I have used your team's valuable time in investigating a crime which has already been solved, but lessons have been learnt which are of the greatest significance.
Harry: The blame is with me; I persuaded the, err, Kingsley that we should play this trick on you.
Shacklebolt: No, Harry. You can take the credit for the idea, but the decision to go ahead was mine, and I take responsibility.
Sandra: Have I got this straight: you know more than was in the dossier?
Harry: A lot more, but the dossier you got was the entire Special Branch file from twenty years ago; we didn't remove anything. You were right that there is a connection between the, err, crime in Godric's Hollow and that so-called 'gas explosion.'
Sandra: And Hogwarts Academy?
Harry: We didn't expect you to turn that up. It is connected, but only tangentially.
Shacklebolt: That is correct. You have my assurance that there is nothing sinister about Hogwarts; it is an educational establishment of the highest reputation and standing in its field.
Sandra: So what happens now?
Strickland: The investigation ends now. You will all sign the Official Secrets Act before leaving this room.
Sandra: What about Brian, I asked him to investigate Hogwarts.
Shacklebolt: My people will sort that out. I think that is all. Harry?
Harry (rising from his chair): I do hope you won't resent being used. I didn't like doing it, but the world will be a slightly better and safer place as a result.
Sandra: Before you go, you might at least tell us what did happen in 1981.
Kingsley gives Harry the nod.
Harry (awkwardly): The twelve people killed were indeed innocent victims. The man with the hair and moustache was there to kill Peter Pettigrew. He failed to do so; Pettigrew only died many years later.
Jack and Sandra (together): And the explosion?
Shacklebolt (rising to his feet): That is a secret we cannot reveal.
Harry and the Minister bow slightly to Strickland and the others and leave the room. Strickland sits fidgeting with the papers in front of him. Sandra sits quietly with pursed lips.
Jack: I think we all feel 'used,' and I certainly resent it.
Jerry: Supercilious, jumped-up young whippersnapper! 'The world will be a slightly safer place.' How, err …
Jerry: That's it! What a prig!
Strickland (slowly and with emphasis): They don't know I know this: his real name is Harry James Potter; he was one year old in 1981; and it was his parents who died in Godric's Hollow that night.
Jerry gives a low whistle.
Strickland: The investigation is over, but the work is not. Once you have signed the Official Secrets Act there are some gentlemen from Special Branch downstairs who want to know all you can tell them about young Harry's visit. You will hand over all the case files to them. Kingsley Shacklebolt may have been studying us, the police, but we study his lot too.
Author's Note: Review this as harshly as you like, but no spoilers I beg you.