The roof entrance for the Ministry of Magic was infrequently used, even during the day, so Rhiannon was not surprised to find herself alone as she descended the gilded stairs. Most Ministry employees preferred direct entrances, such as the Floo Network. Even most of the Special Broom Service of the Magical Law Enforcement Patrol, of which Rhiannon was a member, preferred to apparate in and out. However, she had always preferred using her broom whenever possible and had been happy to discover the roof entrance years ago, in her first few months working at the Ministry. This immediately set Officer Gillford off from her fellow Patrolwitches and wizards, but it was one fact among many that did so. Indeed, she had long since made a name for herself as a very different breed of patrol officer, much to the chagrin of her superiors, much to the delight of Rhi, as she was called by her friends, which were few.
She took the stairs to the top floor of the Ministry, where a bank of grated lifts stood. She took the nearest and descended to level two.
The Ministry itself, naturally, was all but deserted at this hour. Most of the Night Patrol was out on assignment, and any other Ministry official had long since gone home. So it was Gillford alone with the occasional house elf scurrying here and there, part of the maintenance staff.
Rhi preferred the solitude. It gave her the space to work free of distraction, which seemed too often to be something her coworkers did not value. She stepped out of the lift onto an empty floor, walked down an empty hallway, and stepped out into a vast room with row after row of desks. Rhi made her way past the endless rows, finding her desk, which wasn’t hard as it was by far the neatest. The nearest desks were piled high with files and general clutter, but Rhi’s was the picture of tidiness. The in and out bins with their files neatly stacked, each itself squared against the corners of the desk. Her inkpot and several quills, laid out neatly, not a spot of ink on her blotter. The one personal item she allowed herself was the framed photo of her parents, which, unlike many of the photos that were littered over her coworkers’ desks, did not move.
Rhi took a seat at her desk, hanging her broom on a hook off the side and her helmet on a similar hook next to it. She smoothed her hair down, which, despite being unmoved, Officer Gillford was ever self-conscious about. Confident not a single strand of moon-bright hair was out of place, she set herself to work.
From a drawer in her desk, Rhi pulled out three files. She set two down and opened the third, which bore the label “Kyle Corden”. She fished out her pad and pencil from her pocket and, suddenly remembering, pulled out the headphones from another pocket in her robes, dropping them into a silvery, translucent bag she took from another drawer of the desk.
With the pad open to the appropriate page, she began to transcribe her notes onto a paper in the file. She checked other pages, referring back to her previous research as she continued to write.
She opened up the other two files, labeled “Richard Grissom” and “Marcus Attenborough” respectively, and began to compare her new findings. Her initial suspicions seemed to be supported. Something was definitely not right. Still, she had to wonder if it would be enough.
She worked the rest of the night, reviewing the evidence over and over again. It was monotonous, but she didn’t mind, and she had to be thorough. It was the only way they’d believe her. So the rest of the Magical Law Enforcement Patrol Officers found her still working steadily at her desk when they trickled in the next morning. Gillford working all night was not so surprising, but it was clear to all who glanced her way that she was working on a very different level and was not to be disturbed.
At half-past nine, Rhi checked her pocket watch and glanced up to one end of the room, to an office door. She quickly gathered up her files, tucked them under her arm, and marched off towards the door at the far end of the room. Her coworkers quickly took notice. It was never a good sign when Gillford was walking towards the office of the Head of Magical Patrol, especially when she had that look on her face. The still, determined one. Everyone focused on their work just enough to look like they were working, but everyone strained an ear towards the door.
Rhi was aware of their sudden interest, but she was undeterred. When she reached the door she rapt it quickly twice and waited patiently for an answer.
“Come in,” came a voice on the other side. Rhi opened the door and quietly let herself in, closing it behind her.
Vincent Freeman sat with his head resting securely between his palms as he surveyed the collection of memos that had been waiting for him this morning.
“What can I do for you?” he replied absentmindedly when the door closed, then looked up and immediately groaned when he saw who it was.
“Mr. Freeman,” Rhi immediately began and held the files out towards the Head of Magical Patrol, who did not reach for them. “I think I have something serious here,” she added.
“Do you now, Gillford?” Vincent sighed, eyeing the files but leaving them in the patrolwitch’s hand. “Is it as serious as the last one?”
“Far more serious, sir,” she replied in all sobriety. She motioned with the files, still held out in front of him. After a minute, he sighed and reluctantly took the files from her and set them on the desk. Slowly, he thumbed through them. He seemed to be waiting for her to start talking. That is certainly how it had gone before. Rhi was usually too eager to launch into an explanation of the case.
Only she didn’t. Instead, she stood quietly, arms behind her back, and waited for him to read the files himself. He gave her a suspicious look but then turned to the files in earnest. There was a lot there, as was Rhi’s habit. She was thorough, a little too thorough for Vincent Freeman’s liking, which had been communicated to her early on. It had been further suggested that Mr. Freeman, being the one who inevitably had to read through her work, considered this trait of hers unforgivable.
Still, he read through each file. He seemed to be looking for something specific; only he never found it. At last, though, he seemed to find something else, which he did not expect.
“These are Muggles!” he exclaimed finally, casting his gaze towards Rhi.
“Yes, sir,” she replied matter-of-factly.
“How is this Ministry-related?”
“Well, sir,” Rhi began, pointing towards one section of the files. “If you’ll notice-“
But Vincent shut the folder abruptly.
“Muggle deaths are a matter for the Muggle Police, Gillford,” he said as he tried to pass the files back to her. It was her turn not to take them.
“Not when they are precipitated by magical means,” Rhi said and pushed the files back towards him.
“You think these deaths magical in origin?” he asked, opening the top file again to skim its contents.
“Were these men murdered?”
“Strictly speaking, no,” Rhi replied and continued on without full consideration, “They were suicides.”