The Lightning Letters II: Internal Affairs.
A Mystery -filled Sleuth's Idea of Heaven in 2 Parts.
A/N: This is the continuation of the Lightning Letters, and if you haven't read that I would really recommend you do before its sequel, or it won't make any sense at all. Thanks, and please review!
Michael Thomas was early for work that day. He entered his office, sat down, took out his glasses and looked in despair at the pile of papers spread over his desk. Before he could even get slightly stuck in however, there was a knock on his door and his assistant Franz Hobbes stuck his head around the frame. Michael looked up.
"Yes, Franz? What is it?"
"Pardon me for interrupting," said Franz, "but I didn't know if you'd remembered- you've got an early appointment...Miss Rena Hepburg? She's on the Harry Potter Remembrance Society Board. She's waiting in reception. Should I let her in?"
Michael took off his glasses and rubbed his forehead. Not Hepburg. Not today, and certainly not this early in the morning. "Yes Franz, please do," he mumbled.
A few minutes later, Hepburg was herded into his office. Michael plastered a fake happy-to-see-you smile onto his face. He noticed immediately that the woman still had the same unfortunate haircut she had had the last time he had had the pleasure of her company.
"Miss Hepburg," he said cordially. "So nice to see you again. Won't you take a seat?"
Hepburg sat down gingerly onto the offered chair, looking round rather disdainfully at the messy office. She clutched her large square purse to her chest as if she was afraid someone would wrestle it off her at any moment.
"How can I help you today?" Michael continued.
Rena got straight to the point. "I trust you have heard of an author called Iris Henderson?" she asked him.
Michael leaned back in his chair, touching the tips of his fingers together. "Indeed I have," he answered. "Alan Henderson's daughter. Quite young, but has written several books already. Popular with the general public. The books are rather good, actually. I've also heard that she's been seeing quite a bit of a young man from the office- Roy Deayton. Interesting to see what she'll get up to in the future."
Miss Hepburg was trembling with pent-up emotion. "I already know what she's getting up to," she said passionately.
"Really?" said Michael. "Anything of note?"
"She's investigating who wrote the Lightning Letters."
"Really. That's ambitious of her. I wonder if she's made any headway with it yet. I'll have to ask Roy..."
Rena burst in. "She believes she HAS made headway, Mr Thomas! That's what I'm trying to tell you! She's already written most of the book- and she must be put right! She's making some... outrageous, preposterous claims! I immediately thought that you could talk to her about it... quietly, on the side, you know- before she thinks of actually publishing this nonsense. I thought she might listen to you- Head of the Ancient Artefacts Office..."
"Right," Michael said slowly. "And, er- just what are these claims, if you wouldn't mind expanding...?"
"Nevertheless, Miss Hepburg- if I'm going to refute the claims, I need to know..."
Rena sank down into her chair. "She's saying that- that Harry Potter was a..." here she leaned forward to Michael, and whispered reluctantly, "a homosexual."
"Ah," said Michael. After a minute he added, "how interesting..."
"We must stay together on this, Mr Thomas!" Rena exclaimed. "Us Older Generations have to put up a united front! You know I am a member of the Harry Potter Remembrance Society- and we are committed to recognising Harry Potter as he truly was- a real hero! We don't want his name tarnished!"
"Well, does Miss Henderson have any actual proof to back up these claims?" Michael asked.
"Apparently so," said Rena, looking less than pleased. "However, I am sure that it is all falsified..."
"Well, Miss Hepburg- I'm not sure exactly what you want me to do on the matter- I really can't stop her from publishing her book..."
"But you must!" said Rena forcefully. "Or I'll just have to find someone who will." She stood up. "I'm quite serious about this, Mr Thomas. We are prepared to go to the very top if that is what it takes. I trust you'll talk to the girl. Good day to you."
With that, Miss Rena Hepburg swept out of the door.
That morning, Roy Deayton got very, very quietly out of bed. He immediately stubbed his toe on a large book laid across the floor, and spent the next few moments hopping around, silently cursing. Then, dressed in his boxer shorts and vest, he opened the door of the room and limped as quietly as he could to the bathroom. Just as he reached it however, it opened itself and Will Self came bowling out, hitting him chest-to-chest.
"Oh," said Will, not looking in the least surprised to see him, as well as covertly looking him up and down. "You stayed over, then."
Roy immediately flushed. "Well. Um," he said.
Will rolled his eyes. "Oh for God's sake, I'm not her mother," he said. "And you needn't look so embarrassed either. I'm not sure anybody's told you, Roy, but it's actually perfectly natural. I know that a certain young woman is wholly and incomprehensibly embarrassed about the whole idea of S- E-X but you needn't be. I'll bet she told you that I'll ask you endless questions and completely humiliate you, didn't she?"
"Er..." Royal couldn't deny it.
Will rolled his eyes again. "It's hard to believe she's actually 24," he said. "She's perfectly ridiculous. And I won't completely and utterly humiliate you, I promise. Come on, help me make some breakfast."
About ten minutes later Iris emerged from her bedroom to find a sheepish- looking Roy sitting at the table, clutching a mug of tea. Will was cooking a mess of bacon, eggs and sausages in a pan.
"Oh, don't look at me like that, Irie," said Will. "Now why don't you sit down. I'm sure you're both absolutely starving."
"Roy," Michael Thomas stuck his head out of his office, nodding to the youngest member of his team. "I'd like to have a word with you, please."
Roy jerked at the sound of his superior's voice, scattering papers onto the floor. He got up hurriedly, knocking his mug of tea into his bin.
Michael made a mental note to remove everything remotely breakable from the office as soon as possible.
"I had Miss Rena Hepburg in the office this morning, before you got in," Michael said, as Roy took a seat. Seeing Roy's puzzled look, he elaborated. "She's quite a prominent member of the Harry Potter Remembrance Society."
"Oh yes," Roy said, his face clearing. "My mum donates to them."
"Right," said Michael. "Well, she was kicking up quite a fuss. About Iris Henderson, and this book she's supposedly writing."
Roy looked slightly alarmed. "But no-one's supposed to know about it yet- Iris hasn't even finished it!" he exclaimed.
"Well, you know these people," Michael said. "They have their ways and means of finding out things. She actually wanted me to have a word with her, and when I explained I couldn't, she was really quite put out. I know you've been seeing quite a bit of Miss Henderson recently..."
Roy blushed. Michael stifled a smile.
"...so I just thought I'd give you a heads up."
"Thank-you, sir," Roy said, rather shyly. "I'm, er- meeting her for lunch, actually. I'll let her know." He got up to go.
"And Roy," Michael added. "Do get her to sign a copy for me when it's published. It sounds like an absolutely fascinating read."
"What I'd like to know," Iris said, as they walked down the Council Building's corridors, "is how she found out anything about it at all."
"Me too," Roy said. "It's very really strange..."
"Iris!" a third voice called out.
"Dad," Iris answered quickly, looking around. Her father Alan Henderson was walking towards them, a smile on his face. "What are you doing here?"
"Just popped up to ask Daniel Partridge if he'd like a spot of lunch, but he's a bit busy," Alan answered, gesturing towards the door marked Committee for Foreign Diplomacy. He was now looking at Roy, who was standing up very straight and tall, with a nervous smile on his face.
"I don't believe we've been introduced," Alan added. He was tall and balding, with a kind face and the same dark blue eyes as his daughter.
"Dad. Sorry. This is Royal Deayton," Iris said, as the two men shook hands. "Roy, this is my father, Alan."
"Very pleased to make your acquaintance, sir," Roy said ridiculously formally, pumping Mr Henderson's hand far too enthusiastically.
Alan looked at Roy, eyes twinkling. Iris relaxed. It was quite obvious that Alan had realised immediately that Roy wasn't an evil boy hell bent on leading his daughter to ruin.
"Don't look so worried, Roy," he said. "You look like you're about to face the Council. I don't know what Iris has been telling you..."
"Oh!" exclaimed Roy, flushing. "Nothing, honestly Mr Henderson..."
"...because what she should have told you," Alan went on relentlessly, "is that her mother's really the one you've got to look out for. I mean, the scowl on that woman alone..."
Roy's smile of nervousness was now frozen solid on to his face. He not only looked unsure as to whether Mr Henderson was joking or not, but also just quite what he was getting himself into.
"Dad!" Iris growled.
"So what do you do, Roy?" asked Mr Henderson, as if he hadn't heard his daughter at all.
"I work for the Ancient Artefacts Office..."
"Ah yes, of course! I thought you looked a bit familiar. I'm sorry- my mind isn't what it used to be. You were in the paper with Iris a few months ago. Her mother's ever so proud. She's framed the article and everything. I'm in Internal Affairs, myself. Very boring. You don't mind if I join you for a bit to eat, do you?"
"Oh no," said poor Roy, looking even more nervous than ever. "Of course not."
The three of them walked through the Transportorium and found Diagon Alley, busy and bustling and warm in the early afternoon sunlight. They strolled along, chatting about what they'd like to eat when a voice interrupted their conversation.
"Are you Iris Henderson?"
"Yes, that's me," Iris said, looking around. A woman was standing there, glaring at her. She had very strange hair and an overlarge handbag.
"I thought it was," she said. "I recognised you from your book sleeve. Not that I would ever buy the trash you write, of course!"
"Er," said Iris.
"I am Rena Hepburg," the woman continued, drawing herself up and pushing out her chest.
"Ahh," Iris said. This was all making a lot more sense now.
"I've heard all about you, Henderson!" Hepburg continued, her voice rising. "I know what you've been up to! And I will put a stop to it!"
"Come on Iris," Roy muttered, tugging at her sleeve. "Let's just go."
"Not until you hear what I have to say!" Hepburg screamed. "How dare you spread such malicious lies about such a great man! And how dare you write them down!"
"To be fair, Madam," Alan Henderson put in, "they're not lies if they can be proven."
"I don't want to hear such nonsense!" Hepburg screeched. Absolutely everybody was staring at them now.
"Well, you won't have to hear such nonsense for much longer," Iris said, losing her temper. "Soon you'll be able to read it, and I'll send you a bloody free copy!"
Iris held a hand up to her smarting cheek, her mouth open in surprise. She could not believe she just been slapped, especially by such an old witch! Roy was now grappling with Hepburg, who kept trying to hit him over the head with her handbag. Since the bag was so large, she was being very successful. There was an expression of extremely real pain on Roy's face.
"Oh, for Potter's sake," Alan snapped. He waved his wand hand at Hepburg. It must have been a paralysing spell, because she froze up immediately, her eyes furious slits. Roy stepped away from her, looking extremely grateful.
"There," Alan said. "That'll keep you quiet. How dare you hit my daughter!"
"And you'll see," Iris glared, still rubbing her cheek, "that the Lightning Letters don't lie."
"Ow," she muttered, as she hurriedly walked away from the frozen woman. "That really hurt!"
"It's so interesting that you get to handle the original copies of the Lightning Letters, Iris!" Alan said, when they were safely eating their lunch. He had always been interested in historical subjects, Iris knew.
"Well, I'm sure you could look at them, if you came with me to the Hogarth Museum tomorrow afternoon," Iris said. "Both Roy and I are doing research there- they'd probably let you in. They've almost got used to me by now. And I'm not quite sure, but I think I've almost been forgiven for that article in the newspaper."
"Excellent," Alan said, eyes twinkling.
The following afternoon, Iris and Roy met Alan in the entrance hall of the Hogarth Museum. Alan looked very excited; he was beaming, brushed what was left of his hair very carefully and had put on his nicest tie.
"Good afternoon," Iris said to the goblin on the desk, "just me again. As usual. You must be sick of me by now!" She smiled, hopefully winningly.
The goblin did not look amused. Iris hastily turned the smile into a strangled cough.
"Er, I booked to view the Lightning Letters today. Please. I would also like to bring my, ah- associate, Alan Henderson, in too."
The goblin stared at her suspiciously, just as he had done every time she had come here for the last four months.
Alan and Roy fidgeted.
"I am afraid that is not possible, Miss," the goblin said. "The Lightning Letters have been... misplaced."
"Misplaced!" Iris gaped. "But- they're the Lightning Letters!! How on earth could they have been misplaced?!"
"That is what we are trying to ascertain," the goblin answered her, in a very deadpan manner.
"Have you contacted the Ancient Artefacts Office?" Roy put in. "Or the Crimes Committee?"
The goblin looked sour. "Not yet," he said. "We hoped they might have been incorrectly put away."
Iris forgot that she was talking to a goblin. "These are the LIGHTNING LETTERS!" She yelled, angrily. "You should have contacted someone right away!"
"When we are sure they are not on the premises..."
"Oh, for Potter's sake," Iris snapped. She stuck a hand across the desk, and grabbed the Museum's ledger book. "Let's see who came in recently, that's a start..."
Her eyes immediately strayed to one name, from the previous afternoon:
3.45pm: Miss Rena Hepburg. 46, Woodyates Court.
"Ooh! That horrible woman!" Iris hissed. "She knows that if I don't have the original letters to back up my research, there's no solid evidence at all! She's going to try and discredit me! And she wasn't even clever enough to cover her tracks! We're going over there right now!"
"Iris, perhaps we should wait a moment," Alan said. "Call up someone official, like it's been suggested. We can't go charging in there..."
"We have to, Mr Henderson!" cried Roy. "Every moment we waste could be a moment more she's got to destroy the Lightning Letters!"
Both of them rushed out of the Museum, Alan hot on their heels.
"Contact the Committees!" Iris called over her shoulder to the goblin. "Contact all the Departments! Contact everyone!!"
After hastily consulting a map, all three of them appeared outside Woodyates Court. Iris looked up at number 46, her eyes narrowed. Then she raced up the steps, intent on banging on the door.
But it was already halfway open.
"Hepburg?" Iris yelled, swinging the door open. "I have to talk to you!"
Suddenly she gasped, taking a step backwards.
There was a body on the floor, and Iris would recognise that hair anywhere.
It was Rena Hepburg.
END OF PART 1.