“Suicides!” Mr. Freeman spat back so loud the rest of the office was sure to have heard it. “What the bloody hell are you thinking, Gillford?”
“I’m thinking the mysterious deaths of three otherwise healthy, sane Muggles should warrant the concern of Magical Law Enforcement,” she nearly shouted back. She took a deep breath, trying to regain her composure, which was sorely tested whenever she had an interaction with Mr. Freeman.
“Muggles die, Gillford,” was his only reply, and Rhi’s hands suddenly squeezed into tight fists. She breathed again. “It’s tragic, but it happens,” he continued.
“If you will allow me to explain,” she started again. Being patient, it seemed, hadn’t worked. Now it was time to be direct. “These men were not suicidal.”
“How exactly does one tell that?” he shot back to her frustration.
Still, Rhi held her tongue. Mr. Freeman’s usual sarcasm was not helping, but she soldiered on.
“And the manner of their suicides was most unusual,” she continued.
“It says this one was hit by a…” He looked through the top file again. “What’s a ‘truck’?”
“It’s a large vehicle Muggles use to transport goods.”
“And getting run over by them is uncommon?”
“Not entirely, but-“
“And this one jumped off a building?” He pointed to another of the files. “Working late, you say so yourself. Overworked is more like it.”
“Perhaps, still the first man ran into a lake,” Rhi said insistently, nearly losing her dispassionate tone. “Ran, Mr. Freeman.“
“Gillford, I’m waiting to be convinced.”
Frustrated, she yanked the headphones, in their bag, out of her pocket and practically slammed them on his desk.
“What are these?” he asked.
“They’re called headphones,” Rhi replied, desperately trying to hold her temper in check. “Muggles use them to listen to music.”
“And they are important because?”
Out of another pocket, Rhi fished out her crystal and held it out towards Mr. Freeman.
“What is that?”
“It’s an occulometer,” Rhi sighed. “It can detect the presence of strong magic.” And she added, for good measure, “I sent you a memo about it months ago. I recommended all Patrol Officers be equipped with them.”
Vincent gave her a look that told her he recalled the memo only for the time it had taken him to toss it into the bin. In answer to this and his original question, she turned her hand over and let the crystal drop from her palm and dangle by its cord, right over the headphones.
The crystal immediately began to glow and spin, with that blue green flash.
“Nice trick,” was Mr. Freeman’s reply. “What does it mean?”
“It means something very magical was used on these headphones.”
“They’ve been cursed?”
“I’m not sure. But something has definitely been done with them, and it’s a sure bet it has something to do with the death of the Muggle boy who wore them.” And before he could raise another objection, Rhi cut in, “And I had the same reaction with the occulometer at each of the other scenes, which means they are related.” She pointed at the headphones. “This is the first piece of hard evidence and the strongest reaction I’ve seen from the crystal yet. Something is going on here. Something magical, Mr. Freeman.”
Vincent looked up at her as she stood back, breathing hard, clenching her fists. This is what always happened. Gillford came in with some case that demanded his attention, only to get worked up when he didn’t agree with her assessment. He sighed and shook his head.
“If it’s something with these, (headphones did you say?), then it’s a matter for Misuse of Muggle Artifacts. I’ll send it over to them.”
Rhi groaned. This was also what always happened. The best she could ever expect from Mr. Freeman was to have her work passed off to another office. It was his favorite pastime: leaving work for someone else.
“And in three months, when they finally get around to investigating,” Rhi replied. “The trail will have gone cold.”
“What trail, Gillford?” he began, but Rhi was having none of it.
“We need to investigate further,” she insisted. To hell with being dispassionate.
“What would you have me do, Gillford?” he snapped back, rising from his chair. “What do you suspect? Dark Wizards? That’s the Auror’s office. Some murderous beast? That’s Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures. Some unfortunate accident? Magical Accidents and Catastrophes. We are Magical Patrol, emphasis on Patrol. We patrol and refer on. We do not investigate.”
“I just feel that there is more going on here, sir,” Rhi tried patience again, hoping to convince the man. “The witnesses reported nothing out of the ordinary. The latest victim’s own mother claimed he had been behaving normally.”
“And how would you know that?”
“I asked her, sir,” she replied, again before she could think better.
“You did what?!?” the man stammered.
“As part of the investigation. I took witness statements. It’s all in the file.”
“You talked to Muggles about this?” he asked, more astonished at her lack of concern than anything else.
“About the incidents. Yes, sir.”
“And you at least had the good sense to wipe their memories after you did?” he asked, hoping against hope that she had the good sense.
“No,” Rhi replied, somewhat surprised. Honestly, it had been the last thing on her mind.
“Bloody hell!” Vincent screamed, again, more than loud enough for the whole office to have heard, as he dropped back into his chair. “I’ll have to get the Obliviators out there, at once.” He grabbed a sheet of paper and began to furiously write up a memo, only for Gillford’s hand to suddenly fall on it, blocking his quill.
“You can’t erase their memories!” she cried.
“Why the bloody hell not?”
“Because they have information pertinent to the case,” she replied. “What if they recall something? You could jeopardize the whole investigation.”
“There is no investigation, Gillford,” Vincent hissed under his breath, aware now of the volume of his voice. “We are not in the habit of letting Muggles know about magic and not erasing their memories of that fact.”
“They don’t know about magic.”
“I didn’t tell them magic was involved,” she said suddenly calm. “I only questioned them about the victims. As far as they are concerned, I was just another muggle police officer asking questions.” It surprised Rhi to no end how so many wizards seemed to not know how little most Muggles questioned the world around them.
After a minute, Vincent set the memo aside. Taking this as a good sign, Rhi continued.
“I believe, Mr. Freeman, that this case warrants further investigation,” she said. She paused to take a deep breath, and now for the really hard-to-swallow bit. “And I respectfully request that I be allowed to do so.”
Vincent’s eyes went wide and then narrowed, as if he had expected all along.
“I see,” he replied. “So that’s your game is it, Gillford? Looking to move up in the world?”
“No, sir. I simply think there is value in maintaining continuity with the investigation. That way another officer doesn’t have to start over from scratch.”
Vince drummed his fingers on the table, casting a judgmental eye on Rhiannon, which she refused to return.
“Well, Gillford, that’s not up to you,” he said and tossed the files aside. “I’ll consider your notes and assign the case to the necessary office.”
“Sir,” she began, in dismay.
“That’s enough, Gillford.”
“Sir!” she shouted as if it really wasn’t.