It was late on a cold January afternoon when Ginny called.
"Harry, I found someone!" She said as soon as he took the call.
"What? Who? For What?"
"For the cottage. We've been looking for someone to rent it, remember?"
Since the previous November they had been looking for someone to rent the cottage at Gwynafon Park. Like many things, that cottage was just a small part of the estate Harry inherited when he turned 21.
One more surprise from the ghosts of his past.
The manor house itself was built in the 15th century by one John Potter, or Iwan ap Dylan, a wizard of little known ancestry from the Welsh Marches, a sometimes knight, adventurer and privateer in the service of Henry VI, and later Henry VII and the Lancastrians, according to Andromeda Tonks. As a reward, John was given Welsh land full of deer and a knighthood by the latter Henry. John's son, Stephen, would build the actual house, a somewhat rambling Tudor manor with a garden full of peacocks added later. It was named for the small river at the end of the garden, Gwynafon, the white river.
As for the cottage in question, that too was a later addition; added by one of Harry's ancestors for some tenet farmer or gardener to reside in. When Harry inherited Gwynafon, he and Ginny found it derelict on a high hilltop about half hectare from the manor house. It had a very good view, south facing, of the river and the usually foggy valley and forested mountains. Picturesque was the word that came to mind.
Harry originally thought of fixing it up for guests to use, but changed his mind after counting the rooms in the manor proper, and left the cottage to sit for a few more years. It was only after Lily was born when the subject of the cottage came up again, and it was Percy who suggested the restoration and renting it out.
"Who's the renter?" asked Harry.
"Give me a moment," Ginny shuffled around for a bit, looking for the papers, "her name is Lana Winters. Painter by trade. From Ludlow, in Shropshire."
"A painter. Bit gloomy out for landscapes, don't you think?"
"Says the man who never went to an art gallery until his twenties."
"Anyway, Ms. Winters will be taking the cottage this weekend. Currently getting things handled in Hammersmith she told me."
"Alright, that sounds very good," Harry replied, just as Ruqayyah Hamdam entered, "I have to go dear, see you tonight."
Harry put the mirror back on his desk and looked up at Ruqayyah.
"Looks like we've got a murder on our hands."
On Portobello Road, in Notting Hill, there is a small hotel for witches and wizard, not far from where George Orwell had lived in 1927. It was nondescript and very private, called The Shiplake and run by the spinster sisters Dorothea and Isadora Jones. It was mostly a refuge for young wizarding writers and artists. And that late afternoon, the corpse of a young man.
He was a bit above average height, thick brown hair and brown eyes. His throat was cut, arterial spray all on the wall directly across from where the victim was lying, in a pool of blood. Normally, as head of the Magical Constabulary Service, Harry would not be called out to a crime scene. But this was unique.
"His passport says that his name is Konrad Tschida," Ruqayyah said, passing Harry the passport and a few other documents. Tschida, Konrad Friedrich, aged 25, from Celle, German. A writer for Das Krähennest, a Hamberg based wizarding paper from what he could glean. He had learned, not that long ago (after he became head of the MCS in fact) that unlike the UK, Germany seemed to require sixteen newspapers for its wizarding community; one for each of the fifteen states and one specifically for Berlin.
But now he knew exactly why Ruqayyah needed him there. He could already see the international incident coming. Like a speeding train, in fact.
German journalist dead in a Notting Hill hotel. Thank God for Rita Skeeter being in the middle of corruption inquiry and was currently suspended from the Prophet.
"Has the DIMC been notified?" He asked Ruqayyah.
"Good. Have the Joneses and the housekeeper been questioned yet?"
"Eamon is on that, but they're still in a state."
"Good." After a pause, "Is Eddy here yet?"
"I am," came a voice from behind. Edith "Eddy" French was St. Mungo's medical examiner and could be seen a mile off in her purple windcheater, dreadlocks and a piercings. She had been brought in from San Francisco after the last medical examiner retired; apparently because out of all the healers in the British Isles, there was only one ME left, and they were the only one for Ireland as well. And besides, Eddy's credentials were worth it. Not that she was the fastest getting to a scene.
"What took you?" asked Ruqayyah.
"Oh, you know, an overly chatty orderly and typical London traffic," she said nonchalantly as she got to her work, "Can I turn over the corpse?"
"Connie," Ruqayyah called over to one of the forensic team, "Can Eddy turn Herr Tschida over?"
Eddy turned the body over, revealing the deep slash across the throat. She quickly started taking measurements while Connie Carter took photos. Just then another person came in, an auror, and Ruqayyah's current partner, Eamon Moloney, came in.
"Did you get the ladies' statements?" she asked.
"Yes. Neither of the Sisters Jones heard anything; they were having their afternoon tea and listening to the wireless. Housekeeper said that Herr Tschida had been in his room all day, as far as she knew."
"Eddy? Do have a time of death?" Ruqayyah asked, turning to Eddy.
"About two and a half hours ago. Gash is pretty deep, all the way from the external carotid artery to the external jugular vein. And very clean by the looks of it. Would have bled out within a minute, probably less."
Harry looked at his watch. It was 4:30 now, so about 1:30 give or take, "When was he found?" Harry asked Eamon.
Eamon consulted his notes, "The housekeeper said that she went to check on Herr Tschida here at about 3:00 and discovered this."
"Any sign of a struggle?" Harry asked Eddy.
"None that I could find. But I still have to do the autopsy. I'll let you know if I find anything."
Harry nodded then turned back to Eamon,"When did he arrive? At the hotel, initially?"
"The housekeeper said that he arrived six days ago. He would get up early and come back late."
"Do they know what he was up to?" asked Ruqayyah.
"They said that he was rather cagy about it all."
"Cagey?" repeated Ruqayyah.
"Cagey . You know. Dodging questions, didn't really talk to the sisters or the housekeeper. All he said was that he worked for a newspaper in Hamburg. Said nothing about what he was writing about."
Harry asked: "Did the housekeeper see any of Mr. Tschida's notes? Anything he would have needed for … whatever he was looking into?"
"The Housekeeper said that he kept a notebook with him. Small, black, on the nightstand next to the…"
Harry and Ruqayyah looked over at the nightstand. There was no notebook on it, black or any colour. And nothing on the desk either. Ruqayyah put on a pair of gloves as she moved to the nightstand and opened the drawer. She looked up, shaking her head before she went to the matching nightstand on the other side of the bed.
"Connie," she said, turning once again to the younger woman, "You and the others keep searching until you find some of his work, notes, whatever, of the victim's. Kay?"
Harry looked over at Ruqayyah, "Not much more we can do here."
"No. Reports. And meetings with the DIMC. The German ligation. And the Head Girl..."
"Lady Hamilton, yes. She will definitely want to know."
Already Harry was dreading what would be coming. Not just the investigation. Or the paperwork. Or the figuring out who had jurisdiction over what. Or the probable gag order. No, dealing with Lady Hamilton in light of the murder of a German national would be something else entirely. He would have to go back to the office, file the initial report as soon as he could (so that there wouldn't be any surprises tomorrow) and hope that everything would follow smoothly. It never did, but one could hope.
And as they walked out of the room, Ruqayyah asked Harry, "So what do you think happened?"
"Don't know. Likely someone appearated into the room — the sisters and the housekeeper wouldn't have heard because of the radio and the traffic outside — slit Tschida's throat from behind, grabbed his stuff and left. Now the questions are who and why."