The Curse of the Green Pearl

Making certain that the corridor was empty, Lavender opened her Auror wallet. Reaching deep into its Undetectably Extended depths, she pulled out her Dark Detector and activated it. Wand in her right hand and Dark detector in her left, she nodded to her companion.

Bobbie carefully fitted the key into the lock turned it, and pushed open the door. 'Auror Office,' she shouted.

The device remained silent, nor was there any other sound. Nevertheless, the two Aurors entered the room cautiously, leaving the door open. Lavender took the lead.

'Anything?' asked Bobbie.

Lavender moved into the centre of the room. 'No, it's completely clear.'

'So, it's possible that the killer still has the pearl,' said Bobbie. 'We need to check that chest Lavender.'

'The make-up girl, Ruby Lipscombe!' announced Lavender suddenly. 'Jim Sidney told us that she was in Striggiday's room, sitting at the desk when he entered. And we know that everyone went into make-up before the show, even Striggiday. Dropping items into someone's pocket while they're sitting in a chair having make-up applied would be easy.'

'Well done,' said Bobbie.

'Yes, well done,' said Susan from behind them.

Lavender and Bobbie looked turned and stared curiously at Susan as she stepped into the room behind them. She was carrying Helena's mobile phone, still inside its evidence bag.

'Joe has just found the last piece of the jigsaw. This is a—talk mail—I think he said it was called. I told him that I'd collect you both so that we can carry out the arrest together. But the moment I left Striggiday's office I magically sealed the door. I don't want Joe and Striggiday confronting Ruby, not until we're certain that she isn't carrying the pearl,' said Susan. 'We need to get her away from the others, out of the library.'

'What did Joe find?' Lavender asked curiously.

'Listen to this,' said Susan. Holding the pink mobile phone as though one wrong move might make it explode, and with an expression of intense concentration on her face, Susan carefully pressed a button on the phone. To her obvious delight, she succeeded in mastering the Muggle technology. A male voice rang across the room.

'Helena, darling, it's Toby; we really must meet up soon. I've done that research you asked me for. Ruby Lipscombe's parents are registered as Anthea Lipscombe and Roderick Striggiday, unmarried. I don't know why you need to know, but if this is a juicy story and it gets your name in the papers, you owe me a big favour. You know what I like, dear.'

As the message ended, the three Aurors heard a door creak. Instantly alert, they dashed into the corridor. Ruby Lipscombe stood at the other end, just outside the open door to the library. She was opening the door opposite Striggiday's study. Behind her, the stocky Constable Tyson was watching from the library.

'This is my room,' she called. 'I'm desperate for the loo! The police woman said it was all right for me to go into my room.'

Susan and Lavender reached inside their coats for their wands. Seeing their hands move, Ruby squealed and dashed through the open door into her room. Detective Constable Tyson, who'd been watching the exchange, moved to step out into the corridor, but with a flick of her wand Susan pulled the library door closed and secured it. Tyson and the others were now trapped in the library.

Lavender dashed along the corridor and was first to reach the door to Ruby's room. Bobbie buttoned up her hex-proof coat and kept well back; she always did when the spells started flying.

'Auror Office,' announced Lavender as she peered into the room. She hastily dived aside, her coat flapping as a small green pearl was thrown from the room, missing her by the narrowest of margins. It bounced off the wall and skittered across the floor like a malevolent marble. As Bobbie watched, it seemed to be trailing green smoke behind it. The Aurors waited, allowing it to roll to a halt next to the door frame. Lavender's Dark Detector was making an urgent screaming noise, so she shut it off.

'You missed me,' said Lavender. 'You killed Helena with that. Why?'

'Don't be ridiculous,' said Ruby, shouting from inside the room. 'It's just a prop. A bit of trickery for the viewers, will you pick it up for me, please?'

'It's cursed,' snapped Lavender. 'Are you trying to kill me?' She moved quietly across the corridor, trying to get a good view into the room.'

'Cursed?' Ruby laiughed. 'Don't be ridiculous! No jury would believe that I killed the nosy cow with a cursed pearl.'

'We would,' Susan said quietly. 'That's what we do, that's why we're here. Give yourself up!'

'Never!' snarled Ruby from within her room. 'My parents died penniless. Dad was the eldest, the first born. This place was his by right! They stole it from him. I had it all planned. It would have worked, too, if Helena hadn't started snooping. Striggiday would have died when he handled the pearl. I was putting holes in his protective gloves when she sneaked up on me. It should have been perfect, a curse death on live television, but Helena caught me in the tower room.'

As Ruby spoke Susan, like Lavender, began edging forwards, cautiously manoeuvring in an attempt to get a clear view into the room. As the two Aurors advanced, a latex-gloved hand reached out from the room and grabbed the pearl. Ruby Lipscombe's cry of triumph changed instantly into an ear-shattering scream. She flew into the air, bouncing off the high ceiling. She was rigid, glowing green, and floating up against the ceiling.

Lavender took a wary step forwards, but Susan grabbed her coat and pulled her back.

'There's nothing we can do now, Lavender,' she said.

Ruby's screams stopped suddenly and she thudded to the floor with a fatal finality. The pearl flew from her hand, and the Aurors were again forced to step back until it stopped its random dance across the floor. It finally skittered to a halt against a skirting board, but it continued to glow malevolently at them.

The three Aurors ignored the hammering and shouting coming from both the library and study doors. Lavender cautiously examined Ruby's body while Susan pulled a pair of long tweezers, some thick leather gloves and a black dragonhide bag from her Auror wallet.

'She's dead,' Lavender announced. 'The gloves she's wearing are made of thin plastic, like the police evidence gloves. She's put a fingernail through them.'

Meanwhile, Susan, wearing the thick leather gloves and holding the tweezers firmly, picked up the pearl and, holding both at arms' length, dropped it into the bag. The black bag magically sealed itself and a warning began flashing on it. Beneath the flashing skull and crossed bones was the message: "Cursed item, DO NOT OPEN".

'So, that's what a curse death looks like,' said Bobbie. She was still shaking.

Susan nodded seriously. Lavender stepped forward and hugged Bobbie.

'We need a Muggle-worthy excuse and a cause of death,' Susan reminded her friends.

Bobbie thought for a minute.

'We tell them the truth,' Bobbie suggested. 'Ruby wanted to kill Striggiday for the inheritance. Helena found out, and Ruby killed her. We found out and Ruby killed herself.'

'How did they die?' Susan asked.

Bobbie thought carefully. 'Morphine injections. We'll need to plant some Morphine on Ruby and add a needle wound to both bodies. And we might need to modify everyone's memory a little. Making them forget that scream will probably be enough. We should make sure that Inspector Jackson gets the credit, too. After all, he was the first to identify her.'

'True, we will. We've got a lot to do, let's get busy, Susan ordered.

'He wasn't first,' said Lavender straight-faced. 'It was me. I was right from the very start; it was a Striggiday that did it!'

Susan rolled her eyes and shook her head in disbelief.