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SIYE Time:9:40 on 27th July 2021


Colonel Mustard In The Conservatory With The Candlestick?
By Spenser Hemmingway

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Category: Alternate Universe, Post-HBP, Hogwarts Express Challenge (2006-3)
Characters:All, All
Genres: Action/Adventure, Comedy, Humor
Warnings: Death
Story is Complete
Rating: PG
Reviews: 13
Summary: ** Winner of Best Adventure in the Hogwarts Express Challenge **
Harry and friends recount the events of a certain train ride one spring day. It is murder most foul, and not just of a Death Eater. Will mysteries ever be the same? A one-shot written for the Hogwarts Express Challenge (3-2006).
Hitcount: Story Total: 6564



Disclaimer: Harry Potter Publishing Rights © J.K.R. Note the opinions in this story are my own and in no way represent the owners of this site. This story subject to copyright law under transformative use. No compensation is made for this work.



Author's Notes:
Disclaimer: ♪Dum ba dum bum!♪ This is the city…okay, village…Hogsmeade, Scotland. It’s the home of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, the Shrieking Shack, numerous centaurs, mer-people, one or two Burundian Kowtowing Toadies (cowering behind the espresso bar). It has seen more than its share of Death Eaters, dementors, dragons and dangerously cliché puns. It has been the source of six volumes of Harry Potter’s biographical works written by the great J.K. Rowling, to whom we owe everything, and from whom we claim nothing other than inspiration and a sense of awe at her creations. Hogsmeade is also the terminal station for a certain train…the Hogwarts Express. Sometimes an interesting story pops up there…that’s where I get involved. My writing partner’s name is Luna Lovegood, my bartender’s name is Joe…my name is Hemmingway…I carry a quill. ♪Dum ba dum bum bum!♪




ChapterPrinter


Disclaimer: ♪Dum ba dum bum! ♫ This is the city…okay, village…Hogsmeade, Scotland. It’s the home of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, the Shrieking Shack, numerous centaurs, mer-people, one or two Burundian kowtowing toadies (cowering behind the espresso bar). It has seen more than its share of Death Eaters, dementors, dragons and dangerously clich puns. It has been the source of seven volumes of Harry Potter’s biographical works written by the great J.K. Rowling, to whom we owe everything, and from whom we claim nothing other than inspiration and a sense of awe at her creations. Hogsmeade is also the terminal station for a certain train…the Hogwarts Express. Sometimes an interesting story pops up there…that’s where I get involved. My writing partner’s name is Luna Lovegood, my bartender’s name is Joe…my name is Hemmingway…I carry a quill. ♫Dum ba dum bum bum! ♪



Colonel Mustard In The Conservatory With The Candlestick?

By Spenser Hemmingway


“We solve crimes. I blog about it, he forgets his pants. I wouldn’t hold out to much hope.”–Doctor John Watson, Sherlock




Inter view between Mr. Fergus Trackworthy, Engineer for the Hogwarts Express, and Spenser Hemmingway, October 10, 1997. Luna Lovegood recording (and checking my spelling).


I certainly do remember that day last June. It was the morning of Professor Dumbledore’s funeral, and a dark day it was indeed. A consummate gentleman he was. He always took the time to visit me at the station when his duties allowed it. Always with a quick compliment about how shiny we kept our engine, or how we were always on time, even that once when those dementors boarded us. Well…there was the time in nineteen sixty-seven when we were held up for an hour by a migratory herd of hedgehogs crossing the tracks.

As I was saying though, I do recall that trip for a number of reasons. It seemed as if there were far fewer children boarding that day, and I even spotted one or two that didn’t look as if they were students. I remember we had the makings of a thunderstorm brewing as well, although no one seemed to believe me with the cloudless spring weather we were seeing at the moment. Almost forty years, man and boy, I’ve been working this train, and I’ve come to be able to read the weather like a book. My, you have lovely handwriting young lady. What…weather is spelled w-e-a-t-h-e-r? Well bless me.

Anyway, it was also the day that Professor McGonagall brought the Minister of Magic, Mr. Scrimgeour, down to speak with me. “Fergus,” says he, calling me by my first name, “Fergus, we have arranged for some special security to return these students to London. There will be a number of Aurors flying their brooms overhead along your route to ensure there’ll be no complications encountered. Neither you nor anyone else will be able to see them for obvious reasons but rest assured if there is a problem all you’ll need to do is fire off a red flare. The staff at Hogwarts, as well as my own have emphatically vouched for you sir, but I am afraid that your conductors and porters weren’t properly scrutinized in time. After the train has loaded, you will be the only full-adult aboard. We will need to rely upon the school’s prefects to maintain order during the journey.”

Well naturally I thought this was odd, I did. Some of the crew had been with the Hogwarts Express almost as long as I had. Matty, she’s the one that runs the food cart, even she stayed…went into early labor and delivered her baby son in one of our compartments back in fifty-nine. Strange boy…ran off to join the circus when he was ten…human cannonball. My point though is that everyone who worked with me was a hundred percent reliable.

The other thing he told me, and the professor emphasized this as well, was how I was not to stop the train for anything. If the devil and You-Know-Who themselves appeared aboard, I was just to keep on going at full speed. I wasn’t to worry about it they said. There were anti-Apparation spells in place to keep people off, and the flying Aurors would clear the way of downed trees, cows, and those miserable hedgehogs.

We were all loaded by half past ten, and the last off were the school’s house-elves that had brought everyone a box lunch. My lead conductor gave me the all-clear, and, as we pulled out, I couldn’t help but see how miserable he was. He hadn’t missed a single trip since he was hired twenty-five years ago. I’ll tell you, his wedding night and honeymoon were a bit of a challenge.

The first forty-five minutes out of Hogsmeade were smooth enough. The old girl was running like a Freedonian-made watch (just as always), and we were making excellent time. I did see that the sky was starting to darken some, and I only wished I could have been there to rub the fact in the faces of those naysayers. I leaned out my side window, and was enjoying the passing landscape, even though I had seen the same picture hundreds of times. I didn’t care. The fields were in full bloom with wildflowers, the trees were at their greenest, and the air was full of the freshest, loveliest smells just before the storm. Everything was wonderful now…what could go wrong?

“Excuse me sir, one of the Gryffindor prefects has asked me to inform you that we have a slight problem in the baggage car.”

I turned to see a very pretty dark-haired girl that I guessed to be about fifteen-years-old…well maybe sixteen. I never did learn her name. “What exactly do you mean by a slight problem my dear?” I asked. I didn’t think much of it at the time and proceeded to light my pipe.

“We seem to have found a Death Eater in the baggage car…a dead one.”

I bit clean through my pipe stem. “What? Wait now…what did you say? Come on, you’d better show me luv. Thaggy old girl, you’d best keep the steam up until I get back…and stay away from my box lunch. No wait, what am I saying? I’m taking it with me. It’s not that I don’t trust you…no actually that’s exactly it.”

Now the baggage car on this trip had been placed exactly behind the locomotive, and it was the only car between it and the passengers. As we entered, I saw the girl disappear through a small hole in the stacked crates and luggage. It seemed the crew had been a bit too quick in loading that morning and hadn’t offered a man of my size a way through all of it. Pulling my wand, I winced at the deafening sound they made as some of the crates were moved to one side. It was just enough to allow me space to get through.

Sure enough, there was Mr. Harry Potter, Miss Granger, and a redheaded lad that I thought to be one of the Weasley clan. I had met his older siblings a few times, and just that morning had purchased an amusing item at the station from his twin brothers. I saw the dark-haired girl, the one who had fetched me, quietly excuse herself, and next turned my attention to the Death Eater. Sure enough, there he was, complete with the robes and ugly-looking mask, exactly as I had seen in a sketch someone put in the Daily Prophet.

“Well, well…he appears to have been hung from the neck (a fairly strong rope too), stabbed repeated, he has a hatchet in his back, a crossbow bolt through his heart, and what looks to be a Muggle bear trap on his left leg…” I walked up and removed the mask to reveal a middle-aged man with a gray handlebar mustache, blackish rings about his eyes, and odd-smelling foam emanating from his mouth. “…and if I were a guessing man, I would say that whatever that is he ate probably didn’t agree with him much. Yeah it’s pretty cut and dry…natural causes.”

Now young Spenser…you’re going to hurt yourself blowing pumpkin juice out of your nose like that, and you almost put it all over Miss Luna and your parchment. Let’s see now, I was…oh yes…natural causes. Actually, I suppose for a Death Eater it really was, but the others reacted fairly much the way you did just now. I did tell them, however, that I was definitely not a detective…far from it in fact.

“So how come you have those handcuffs, then?” the Weasley boy asked, indicating the pair I had draped over the front of my belt.

“Oh these? They’re a novelty item I bought this morning just before we left. You see…you just clamp them on someone’s wrist like this…” I attached it above the curious young Weasley’s right hand, and, before she could react, to a very surprised Hermione Granger’s left.

“What are you doing? Take these off at once please,” she demanded.

“No worries luv. I just place my hand over them like this and… No, wait a minute, let me try that again. Well bless my butterbeer! They are supposed to turn into a large bouquet of roses when I do that. I don’t understand…they did it for me several times back in Hogsmeade.”

“Oh good heavens! Alohamora…Alohamora!” the Granger girl repeatedly called out, but with no effect.

“Let me try,” the Potter boy told her, but again nothing seemed to make a difference. The two were stuck together. I thought it might be a good time to take my leave. “Mr. Trackworthy, you didn’t buy these from Fred and George Weasley, did you?”

“Um…well, yes I did. They told me that they were going to be a discontinued item, and then gave me an excellent price. I should have known better considering what they tried to do to the Express their fourth year…tried to attach rockets to speed us up. They might have gotten away with it too if that Irish boy, Seamus something, hadn’t prematurely blown them up.”

“That explains quite a bit. Ron…Hermione, I’m afraid that you’re attached to each other for a bit…perhaps for quite a while,” Potter said then. The girl just shook her head in disgust, but then seemed to notice something strange about the corpse. She walked over to it, forcefully dragging her friend along, and then, lifting the Death Eater’s hand, pried something loose that had been wadded up inside.

“What do you have there, Hermione? What did you find?”

“I’m not sure Harry,” she said. “No, yes I am. It’s a clue…it’s evidence.” Still holding whatever it was, she walked over to where I had set my boxed meal earlier and proceeded to open and examine it.

“Miss Granger…that’s not evidence, that’s my lunch!”

“Actually sir, it’s both.” From the box she pulled out half of a sandwich. Walking up to her, I saw the other half, as well as my pickle and apple were missing. Why hadn’t I noticed it before?

“Fried banana, liverwurst, sauerkraut, and anchovies with chocolate sauce on pumpernickel?” she asked.

“Right…it’s my own invention. The house-elves make them special for me. Is something wrong?” I asked. She held up the other half of my sandwich.

“I just found this in his hand.”

“No, hold on I really don’t know how that got there. I’ve been up in the locomotive since we left the station. I didn’t have anything to do with any of this. Please believe me!”

“Hey…wait half a moment.” Weasley’s voice gurgled a tad, and his eyes were a tad wide just then. “May I ask a really crazy question? If you’re back here with us, and there are supposedly no other adults on the train, then…well, who’s driving this thing?” That caused a very scared look to appear on all their faces.

“Oh, that would be our mascot–-a Dalmatian named Thaggy…rides along once in a while. She’s pretty competent but does love to nudge the engine speed up a bit. Oh…and there was the time with the boiler pressure gauge a few years back. Maybe I should go relieve her now.”

“Mr. Trackworthy, do you have a way to signal our escort to join us?” Potter asked.

“Yes…yes I do. I’ll shoot off the flare as soon as I’m back up there. Maybe I’ll send Thaggy back to help you. Dogs make astonishing detectives I understand. In fact, there’s this one American Great Dane…no never mind.” I worked my way through the crates again, and as soon as I was out the door I saw the storm had finally begun. It was obvious that it was going to be a fierce one too, and I wondered how anyone could be dodging lightning bolts on a broom up there. I also wondered how they would be able to see our signal.

Well younglings, that’s about all that I can tell you. I shot up the flare, sent Thaggy back to help them, and didn’t hear how things went until after we arrived at Kings Cross Station. Actually, I don’t think I heard about everything that happened on the train…if you know what I mean. You might want to talk to the others about all that.


*****



Interview between Hermione Granger, prefect for Hogwarts’ Gryffindor house, and Spenser Hemmingway, November 15, 1997. Luna Lovegood recording (and being overly critical now about my grammar).


Really Spenser, I do not have time for all of this. I have a Runes examination tomorrow, and I’ve only spent sixty-three hours this month studying for it. I’m simply doing this as a favor to Harry and Luna here. Luna, I don’t know how he keeps talking you into helping him with these stories. No…I’ve only read the one, and I don’t know if I appreciate your telling the world about my being tossed into a lake that way. Oh, very well…if we must.

Ron, Harry, and I had taken the last compartment, two cars behind the baggage and locomotive. Harry looked extremely upset, and we had no doubt it was about having lost Professor Dumbledore and the emotions associated with his funeral and final tributes. I whispered as much to Ron, and he indicated to me that he thought there was something else happening as well.

We had been underway for approximately ten minutes, and I don’t think Harry had said five words to us. Instead, he continued to stare out the window, not watching the scenery, but rather simply using it as an excuse not to speak to us. I was about to ask him where Ginny was, when she actually appeared at our door. It was obvious that she had been crying. She then asked…no told us that she needed to speak to Harry in private.

I grabbed Ron’s arm, tried to give her a supportive look, and rushed us out of the room. The slamming door barely missed us, and the curtains were instantly thrown closed, concealing the two. A moment later we could hear a very heated argument going on. We couldn’t make out exactly what was being said, but it was clear that Ginny was alternating between yelling and crying again.

“What is that all about Hermione? What’s he doing with my sister?”

“I’m not sure, but I think they may have broken up at the funeral. Ginny isn’t taking it well apparently. I hope that they can work matters out between them,” I said.

Ron became very quiet and thoughtful then, and all at once he did one of those stupid, noble things that I love about him. He drew his wand and proceeded to fuse the lock. “There, that should hold them until they work things out. No one can get in or out until I personally release the charm. Want to go play prefect?”

On the trip that day, Gryffindor had drawn responsibility for the first two passenger cars, then Ravenclaw the two behind us, and so on. As we worked our way forward, giving a cursory check to each compartment, we immediately became aware that there were no more than a score of students in our area. Those who had not already left school before the funeral had predominantly departed with their parents afterward. I had not considered it before, but, as overprotective as Mrs. Weasley generally was, it was remarkable that she had consented to Ron and Ginny riding the train home.

Occasionally, we would stop to talk with a friend, and the subject was always the same…the battle that one night, and whether the school would indeed close. Naturally, we were both more polite than candid with them, and, by our fourth stop, we were dreading having to be asked again about it. Finally, we took refuge in one of the forward compartments where Luna and Colin were playing Exploding Snap with Kitty Fletcher and Neville.

“Hello Hermione…Ron. Would either of you like to play?” Colin asked. Luna and Kitty won’t let either of us win. Maybe you can beat one of them.”

“I am very sorry, but you are making quite a few mistakes,” Luna told him. “I did tell you that I’ve played in international competitions as well. They even nicknamed me Lucky Knuckles Lovegood. I really was the terror of my kindergarten class.”

“You’re kidding right? Aren’t you? Blimey! Well Hermione, would you mind if I played a few rounds with them.”

“I suppose not Ron, as long as you keep an ear open for any problems in our area. I believe I’ll go and see Crookshanks in the baggage car.”

“Would you mind if I came with you Hermione?” Kitty asked. “I saved a treat for him from breakfast.

“That would be wonderful…as long as it isn’t any more dragon jerky. That gives him the hives.”

I did not know Kitty at all well then, but I had long before decided I very much liked her and considered her a friend. Like Luna, she belonged to Ravenclaw, but there was not an ounce of competitive jealousy between us. When we arrived at the baggage car, I was very frustrated to find it locked, and Alohamora ineffective. Kitty then produced her wand and muttered a spell I did not recognize. After several seconds, the door finally opened for us. I was very impressed.

“In point of fact, opening locks is sort of the family business. My father is a retired jewel thief…or at least an alleged one. Please don’t tell anyone about this.”

“You can trust me. I would never tell anyone about your father.”

“What? Oh no, that seems to be common knowledge now thanks to the newspapers. What I meant was, please don’t let anyone know it took me fifteen seconds to do that just now. I am horribly out of practice, and I am very embarrassed.”

“I was wondering if you were related to Mundungus Fletcher.”

“He’s my uncle, a petty thief, and, I’m afraid, the black sheep in our… Oh no…Hermione!”

There before us was the Death Eater, and it was exactly the way that Mr. Trackworthy described it to you. I immediately sent Kitty up to the locomotive with the news, and then ran back to find Ron. After quickly explaining what we had found, I asked Neville, Colin, and Luna to stop anyone from entering that car, while Ron and I ran back to free Harry from the locked compartment.

Opening the door, we immediately saw that the two had…well, come to a form of agreement. Ron was once again surprised by the scene, but he had long before accepted the fact that the two were good together. I repeated my explanation about what we had found and sent Ginny after the other prefects. The three of us then ran forward again, arriving just as Mr. Trackworthy squeezed out from the tightly packed luggage blocking the front door.

Now I see that you’ve already described how I found the sandwich. This was significant for two reasons: the first being that someone else had very likely brought him the lunch; the second being that everything inflicted upon him had probably occurred after he was poisoned with it. It was hardly something you would hold onto if you were being attacked with a knife and axe. Dragging Ron along by those ridiculous handcuffs, I further pointed out that, despite the seriousness of the various wounds, there was nowhere near the amount of blood that would have resulted if those had been the killing blows. That was when Harry pointed out something else very strange. There was no blood whatsoever from the crossbow bolt in his chest.

Upon closer examination, Harry then found that it had not in fact been shot into the body, but rather…a book. Pulling it loose, he extracted a newer, hardbound copy of Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express. Harry, Ron, and I all exchanged understanding looks. Someone was trying to send a message. I picked up a bag that was sitting atop someone’s trunk, put the book and crossbow bolt inside, and then took the engineer’s lunch box, placing it in there as well. A moment later, Ginny and Kitty returned with the other prefects.

“Well Potter, you never do anything halfway, do you?” the boy from Hufflepuff said.

“I didn’t kill him. We haven’t even been introduced yet,” Harry replied.

“He’s also got the perfect alibi, which is more than most of us can say,” Ron added.

“Hold on, what alibi?” the Slytherin girl asked then. Her male counterpart had suddenly departed Hogwarts days earlier, having decided that he preferred You-Know-Who’s company.

“He was locked in a rear compartment with my sister Ginny since a few minutes after we left.”

“What? You locked us in!” Ginny said, more surprised than angry about it.

“You didn’t notice!” Ron said in an exasperated tone. “Didn’t you two do any talking in there? Crum Ginny! Anyway, since Harry here does have the alibi…and the most experience with Death Eaters, he’s clearly the only choice to figure this out.”

“We had best do that before we get to Kings Cross as well. If you thought the Ministry made a stink when Dumbledore was killed, you can imagine what this will bring about.” It was clear to all of us that Harry’s comment made perfect sense, and that he was not at all comfortable with once again being thrust into the role of leader.

I am afraid that I cannot spare you any more time Spenser. As I said, I have a great deal of studying to do. Ginny is expecting me in the library in…oh blast…ten minutes ago. I am quite sure than Harry, Ron, and Ginny will be more than able to finish the story. Now if you will excuse me.


*****



Interview with Ron Weasley, prefect for Hogwarts’ Gryffindor house, December 10, 1997. Luna Lovegood still recording (and attempting to utilize a Muggle ballpoint pen)


Yeah it sounds as if you have it pretty accurate so far Spense. Do you have to include the part about Harry and my sister snogging like that? Well I suppose it does have something to do with the alibi, doesn’t it?

Right…the prefects had just agreed to let Harry run the investigation. We explained to them what we had in the evidence bag, and, after discussing the matter, concluded that no one had entered the Ravenclaw area from the first two cars. This narrowed down the investigation quite a bit. We also agreed to keep it quiet from back cars for the time being. Of course, it had to happen that some crackpot would find out and want to help. In this case it was a ferret-faced little man with too much cologne and mustache wax forcing his way into the car.

“Let me through! I have everything under control. Never fear…Clouseau has arrived!”

“You’re not Clouseau,” Hermione immediately pointed out.

“You’re not even French,” I added, “and put that magnifying glass away!”

“I’ve seen pictures of him. He is older than you, has a much better mustache…much, much better, and you’ve been in the room for almost a minute and haven’t broken anything or injured anybody,” Harry said then. “Wait…aren’t you Professor Sprout’s Squib nephew? Right…the one that dropped out of barber college…”

“…in order to become the world-class detective you see before you! Seymour Clouseau at your service.”

“Seymour? Well Seymour, first off Harry here is in charge of figuring this mess out. Then there’s the fact that we don’t know you, or where you’ve been since we left Hogsmeade. You’re a suspect too mate,” I explained to him. He didn’t bat an eye.

“Suspect indeed!” he finally said. “I am not the one in handcuffs.”

“Oh yes, of course. Kitty would you please…?” Hermione asked with a pleading expression. “Alohamora didn’t work earlier on them. Oh, thank you. Very good Kitty…two maybe three seconds I would say. Ron perhaps you could use Seymour’s help questioning the people in the two cars.”

“What?! Are you as mental as Clouseau?” I asked, taking Harry and her aside.

“That’s exactly why I want someone with him,” Harry explained. “You take the first car. Hermione and Kitty can take the second one. Talk to everyone and see what they heard or saw…if anything. Try to get a feel for what they might know. Oh, and Ron…let the dog go with you. Maybe she really can sniff something out.”

I hadn’t noticed when she came in, but the engineer’s dog had sat down beside us, and actually seemed to be studying Crookshanks in his cage. For some reason this bothered me, but I wasn’t sure why. She appeared to be quite old, with grizzled hair about her snout, bloodshot eyes, and a very tired, droopy expression. Well, why not? The dog had to be at least as useful as Clouseau, I thought to myself.

“Ginny…could you help me search in here?” Harry asked her.

“As long as searching is all you do,” I told them both, but I was grinning when I did. I grabbed Seymour by the arm and followed the other prefects out. They indicated that they would come up with some song and dance about why the other students shouldn’t come forward. I hoped we could get the whole thing cleared up fast, and that it didn’t involve any of our friends on the train.

I took a minute to stick my head inside the first compartment to assure Luna, Neville, and Colin that everything was all right, at least where it involved them. They had been together since Hogsmeade, and then I was with them as well. They had as good an alibi as Harry, and I wasn’t going to let Clouseau give them trouble. Perhaps it wasn’t the right thing to do, but I decided to concentrate on questioning those passengers in the car that I didn’t know first. They were the people riding with us as a courtesy after attending the funeral.

The next compartment was empty, but the one after it held a girl who appeared to be maybe thirteen or so, and a nervous looking guy about my age. Before I could hold him back, Seymour pushed past me, entered, and stormed up to the two of them.

“We are here to question you about the killing,” he blurted out.

“Real subtle Seymour!” I yelled at him. I couldn’t tell which of the other two were the more upset now.

“How did you find out about the killings?” the girl asked. “They really were accidents. I had no way of steering the house before it dropped on the one Witch, and how was I supposed to know that the other one hadn’t bathed in ninety-six years, and that bucket of water would melt her.”

“What?” I stammered out. What was she talking about? Ninety-six years! Bugger that!

“Of course, the fact that she was green should have given me some clue I suppose. Am I in trouble?”

“Yes…yes you are! You have just admitted to murder!” Seymour told her. “Weasley…that is your name isn’t it…I believe this case is closed. I am good aren’t I?”

“Murder? I never said it like that! Those two times really were accidents!

“Seymour, don’t you listen? I think you need to go back to cutting hair. Miss do you know anything about a Death Eater that was killed on the train today?” I asked her.

“What’s a Death Eater?” she asked me then. I could instantly see that she was serious.

“You really don’t know do you? A Death Eater is an evil Wizard or Witch that works for You-Know-Who,” I explained.

“I’m sorry…I’m afraid that I don’t know who. You see, I’m not a Witch. Professor Dumbledore was a very old friend of my grandparents. I was in England with my school for an international spelling bee when…you may not believe this…an owl brought me a message about the funeral.”

“You’re a Muggle…I mean not a Witch. Crum! Seymour, there’s no way a young Muggle girl could have done it.” I could tell that the detective want-to-be wasn’t at all happy with what I was saying. Oh well! “I’m sorry…we’ll have someone come around and try to explain all of this to you. Clouseau…wait!”

Again, I wasn’t fast enough. He turned on the other passenger. “Where were you on the night of August the eleventh, nineteen sixty-two?”

“What? I wasn’t even born until nineteen seventy-nine. Who are you?”

“I am the famous detective Seymour Clouseau. No relation–-we’ve already established that. Who might you be?”

“Fredrick Butler.”

“Butler? You did it! You are under arrest. Weasley where are those handcuffs?”

That was enough! I grabbed Seymour by the collar, put my wand to his head, and pulled him out of the room and into an empty utility closet nearby. “What in the name of Sherlock Holmes makes you think that you are a detective?”

“I’ve read every one of Robert Parker’s Spenser mysteries. The detective spells it with an “S” like the poet and the famous American fan fiction writer.”

I sealed him in there and took the Dalmatian to finish the interviews alone.

I really didn’t learn anything important Spense…except where you got your name. No one had seen or heard anything. No one else had received an odd sandwich such as the engineer had. No one had been alone long enough to have been able to get in there, kill him, and then somehow put that weird padlock on the inside of the door. Hermione and Kitty didn’t have any better luck than I had. If we were going to solve the mystery, it was up to Harry.


*****



Interview with Harry Potter, hero, Quidditch star, and all-around nice guy, January 6, 1998. Luna Lovegood once again recording (using a quill now after discovering that you do not dip ballpoints into inkwells).


That’s right Spenser, I didn’t believe for a minute that any of the students had been involved. Even if they had Kitty Fletcher’s skill with locks, there was no possible way for anyone to attach it on the inside and then get out. The large cargo doors were sealed, as was the roof hatch. The engineer had already demonstrated the difficulty and the noise involved with getting through all the luggage and crates that blocked the front door. Even if someone had rearranged them, that person would have been seen, or heard from the locomotive.

I first examined the padlock, and, not knowing much about them, placed it inside the evidence bag to show Kitty later. After thoroughly searching the room, Ginny and I turned our attention to the body, and found a number of items, which, fortunately, included a wallet with several business cards. The man’s name, if the cards were indeed his, was Worthington Palisade Finster, and you will love this Spenser, they identified him as a writer. Yes, I am serious.

We didn’t find a wand, but there was a pouch containing several Galleons. There was also a broken pocket watch (showing the exact time we left the station), an expensive handkerchief with monogrammed letters supporting the name, a small brown envelope containing acrid-smelling flowers, and a small red address book. I examined that, and, at first, couldn’t find any names that I recognized, let alone associated with Voldemort. In fact, the only entry that even looked vaguely interesting was one for a Muggle book publisher. That tended to confirm his profession as well. Finally, on the very last page, I saw something that made my heart sink. It was Neville Longbottom’s name.

I handed Ginny the book, and she had a similar reaction to mine. We both knew that Neville had nothing to do with the murder, but it was beginning to look as if there might be some association between him and the Death Eater…if that was what he really was. I was beginning to doubt most everything I saw, and each new discovery provided us with more questions.

“Harry, why is the evidence bag floating like that? It’s heading for the back door.”

“Quick…grab it,” I told her. She did, and we both saw the lock sail out. The bag immediately dropped, and I had to make a quick dive to keep the padlock from reattaching itself to the door once again. One question was possibly answered. The lock had a charm on it allowing it to secure the door behind someone by itself. Suddenly we had all manner of suspects again.

Then something new occurred to me. If the back door could be rigged to seal itself that way, what about the cargo door or the roof hatch? I began to reexamine the room to see if we might have missed anything. All at once it hit me, and it was obvious how we could have missed it.

“Ginny could you help me gather up some of the rope that’s securing the crates there. I want to rig a safety line. I’m going outside.”

“Harry are you serious?! Do you hear that storm out there?! It’s an electrical storm! If something happens, the anti-Apparation wards will stop you from reentering the train that way, and the lightning will prevent you from transporting yourself elsewhere.”

“I realize that Ginny, but we’re out of options. I think I know what I’ll find up there. Please trust me.” I gave her a quick hug, and, without another word, we made up the rope harness and moved some crates across the floor to provide the means to get up to the hatch. If her words hadn’t told me about how foolish this was, the heavy rain, wind, and lightning I immediately encountered would have. I gave her a brief glance, attempted a grin, and then climbed out.

Foolish…is that the word I used? Suicidal would be more appropriate. I pressed myself as flat as I could against the roof and inched along toward where I thought I would find the broom he had used to approach the train. I wasn’t sure how he had gotten past the Auror escort, or why he didn’t bring the broom inside, but, if I was correct about how he arrived, then several other matters would fall into place. If I was wrong, then even more things made sense.

Four feet to the left of the hatch, near the edge of the train was my target. It was the chimney for the car’s unlit stove. Reaching it finally, I pried loose its cap, and wasn’t at all amazed to find what I was looking for. I lashed my safety line about the chimney and pulled the broom from its hiding place. It was a rather small, decrepit-looking piece of junk that had seen much better days. Just then, I decided I had as well. The chimney suddenly gave way, sending me flying over the side of the car.

Grabbing the broom with both hands, I immediately tried to take it into the air. I was completely dumbfounded when I discovered it wouldn’t work for me. It had been disenchanted! A trap perhaps? I was hanging off the train by only the flimsy rope, and I had no illusions about it supporting my weight for much longer. It was my great fortune that I had fallen on the side opposite to the cargo door, so, even if she had known I was in trouble, Ginny couldn’t have let me in that way. The storm and the motion of the train were beating me fiercely against the outside wall, and, as I expected, I saw the rope was beginning to fray.

Of course, I didn’t die…I wouldn’t be telling you this story Spenser. Just as I was beginning to consider the possibility of being able to throw myself away from the train, and which bones I was likely to break doing so, an arm reached around me, and pulled me onto another broom. Releasing the rope around my waist, we shot backward, wrestling the wind that threatened to separate us from the train. Slowly we began to regain some slight speed and control, and, at the last possible second, we were able to drop onto the rear platform of the final car.

“Harry what the blue blazes were you trying to do up there?” It was Tonks! I immediately hugged her, and then motioned for her to follow me back inside.

“Would you believe I’m trying to solve a murder?” We ran all-out back up the length of the train, and, as we reached the front passenger cars, I called out for a number of people to follow me forward to the murder scene. “Are there other Aurors with you Tonks? Did you see our red flare?”

“I haven’t seen anyone for a bit. That bloody Scrimgeour has us all over the countryside. I didn’t see any flare either, but, in this storm, that’s not surprising.” She stopped in her tracks as I threw open the last door. “Blimey…that’s a Death Eater. What’s going on around here?”

Murder most foul, as she wrote in this book,” Hermione said. “Look what else I found Harry.”

As people began to enter the car, I opened the jacket and saw that the book we had found on the victim had been autographed. I also noticed two other things that suddenly cleared matters up quite a bit. I now had figured out how the man had been killed, how he arrived there, and I also strongly suspected why he had come, the motive behind the crime, and who the killer was (although not their real name yet).

“Everyone, thank you for coming so quickly. You are no doubt wondering why I called you here tonight. In a way it was fairly obvious,” I said, pointing to the corpse. “Before I explain further, allow me to drop the first bombshell. The killer is…”


*****



“Hey everybody, why don’t we break for lunch?” I said then, setting down the manuscript Luna and I had recently completed. I started heading for the door, but all my friends intercepted me at the portal. “What…I’m hungry. You all know how it ends anyway. You were there.”

“Spenser…you’ve already changed a dozen details. How do we know it’s even the same killer in your story?” Ron asked with an accusing tone.

“What details? Okay, I did get Harry and Ginny back together a few weeks early, but we had to have a little romance for the story. Who wants to hear that they were both brooding and miserable for the whole trip, and wouldn’t even speak to each other? All the other little changes were really minor. I would never alter the identity of the killer just to make sales. On the other hand, though…hmm? Can we at least have some sandwiches brought up?”

“Spenser…I really think we need to have you finish reading,” Luna said with a pleading look. “I’m very anxious to see if it has a happy ending.”

“Luna, you helped me write the thing!”

“I know, but I worry about you and a story when you grin like that.”

“Okay, okay, okay! You win. Where was I? Right…interviewing Harry for the story. By the way Ron, what did Seymour say and do when you released him from that closet. What? You did let him out, didn’t you?”

“Oi…excuse me. I need to go take care of something.”

“Ron, you didn’t!? It’s been nine months since that trip!” Hermione was as white as Ron at the moment.

“It was an honest mistake, and I’m sure someone was able to counter my spell and release him. I just need to… Well, just go on with the story without me. I’ll be back in a bit. Spenser…Harry was about to reveal something important.”


*****



“Before I explain further, allow me to drop the first bombshell. The killer is…in this room with us. Let me go over the clues, the real and the misleading ones, and then provide the logic behind my conclusions.

“The first thing I want you to remember is how we were told yesterday that the entire train crew, except for the engineer, had been left behind. There were no other adults on board, no Aurors, no teachers, staff, or any form of security. Why would the Minister allow this…and, for that matter, why would Professor McGonagall agree to it? After having talked to Rufus Scrimgeour, it was obvious that he intended to use us as bait to trap someone. The killer must have figured this out as well. The Death Eater costume and mask were a ruse to help confuse us. Voldemort wouldn’t have needed the poison, nor would have any Death Eaters I’ve encountered. The Ministry would never sanction a killing either–-Scrimgeour wants the good publicity associated with an arrest. Yes, the poison was what killed Mr. Finster. He could not…would not…ingest the sandwich we found if he was already dying from everything else.

“The next clue for me was the curious fact that while the Minister insisted the train crew (which has worked here for years) be removed, there are a number of strangers being permitted to return to London with us. Initially, we felt one of them might be a prime suspect, but again, I have far too much regard for Professor McGonagall. She would never permit what Mr. Scrimgeour had planned to go forward unless she was certain we would be safe. Isn’t that right Professor?”

I walked over to the young Muggle girl to whom I knew Ron had spoken earlier. I saw that he was very confused about why she was there with us at the moment. She drew a wand, and then, tapping her forehead, removed the simple Chameleon Spell she had been using. As she peeled the voice disk from her throat, the headmistress turned and repeated the process for…Remus Lupin. With Tonks nearby, I should have known he would be here as well.

“How did you know Mr. Potter?” she asked.

“Professor, even with the more elaborate Polyjuice Potion, you can’t disguise your scent. You are wearing the Essence of Spring Cauldron perfume Mrs. Weasley gave you last Christmas. Is she aboard?”

“She and Arthur both are in the Slytherin car keeping an eye on them. I do not believe that they know about this yet.”

“Well, thank you for that. As I was saying however, some of the clues we discovered were meant to be misleading. The envelope with what Neville has now identified as an herbal poison…conveniently left on the body, along with a telephone address book. I don’t know how many of you have any experience with these, but they generally are alphabetized. We discovered Neville’s name hastily written not under “L” for Longbottom, but rather on the final page of the book where we would be more certain to see it. The charmed lock allowed the possibility that a student committed the murder and escaped that way. The killer fully expected a Ministry Auror to find the clues, not Neville’s friends. This is why the killer made the point of remaining with us as much as possible to try to find an opportunity to shift the focus back to him.” I paused there to let my point sink in.

“Harry what about all the things that were done to the body, and the book with the crossbow bolt in it. Were those meant to mislead us as well?” Ron asked.

“No, they were what this was all about. It was a legitimate assessment we made about the killer wanting to make a statement to someone Ron. The person really hated Mr. Finster here, and I was extremely puzzled about why. Then I remembered that the man was an author. Why would someone hate a person who writes? I came up with three possible reasons: the story is very bad; the story is very damaging; or the story was stolen. If the murder is also an author, then I believe that the third option is the true one. The man was a plagiarist!”

Everyone gasped at the thought.

“What about the broom Harry? Why was that so significant?” Ginny asked me.

“That was very important, and it told me who the killer had to be. At first, I truly believed it was how they both had come aboard, but there were a couple problems. The first was that the broom didn’t work. Also, they didn’t make allowances for the storm. I will tell you it is extremely treacherous on the roof and in the air at this moment. That told me it was most likely hidden in the chimney before we left. Don’t you see…it was an insurance policy. If framing Neville didn’t work, a broom would suggest that the killer had already departed on another one. The person didn’t cache it inside the car just in case the original plan succeeded. It was a last resort for them.

“I also remembered then that Finster’s watch had been broken at exactly eleven o’clock–-the time we left the station. It was a classic clue, but an effective one. The damage must have happened when he was being stabbed…after he was dead from the poison. He came aboard on foot before we left Hogsmeade. He had to have. Even with a functioning broom, he couldn’t have flown to the train with the whole station watching…and he wouldn’t have needed to do so.”

“Two questions mate…how do you know the murderer was still on the train when it left the station, and, if they were, why couldn’t they really have had that other broom, and taken off later?” Ron asked.

“She wouldn’t have had time to do all that to the body, and then get off at Hogsmeade. You’re right though about the second broom though. She could easily have flown off before the storm hit in earnest. I don’t believe she did though. Not only did she want to see if anyone got the message she was sending, she is really far too old to be flying around England on a broom.”

“You said she Mr. Potter. You know who the killer is?” Professor McGonagall asked.

“Yes ma’am. There have been rumors around the castle for years, but the book we found on the body confirmed my suspicions. It was really a puzzler when I started eliminating the ways in and out of the car. Two entrances had been locked from the inside, and a third with that charmed lock led to passengers who might well have noticed her. That left the front door leading to the locomotive, and it was fairly well blocked with the luggage and boxes. You saw the trouble Mr. Trackworthy had getting through there, and if someone had moved the crates he would have heard the noise it made. I’m surprised that they didn’t hear him in the next car when he had to do it.”

“Harry, if it wasn’t humanly possible to get into or out of the baggage car…”

“Exactly Ron…humanly possible, but you’re not exactly human at the moment are you Thaggy?” The dog stared at me for several seconds before reverting back to human form. “Ladies and gentlemen, I would like to introduce you to our murderer…Agatha Christie.”

“What? That’s impossible! Agatha Christie has been dead since nineteen seventy-six!” Hermione blurted out in total disbelief.

“No my dear, merely retired, and living a very quiet life near Hogsmeade. Even before magic is utilized, a Witch’s lifespan is considerably longer than a Muggle’s. Tell me Mr. Potter, how did you know I was an animagus?”

“I started wondering about it when Mr. Trackworthy explained your proficiency with driving the train. Everyone knows Dalmatians make terrible engineers, and they are generally only found driving fire trucks and beer wagons. Then there was how you interacted with Crookshanks. He hates dogs and dogs hate him, yet the two of you didn’t so much as snarl at one another. What really started making sense, however, was the fact that only you could have squeezed through those boxes with ease; even Kitty had trouble and she’s not that big of a girl. Only you had access to some of Mr. Trackworthy’s lunch, which you later offered to Mr. Finster. Finally, my godfather was able to turn into a dog as well. In the short time we were together, I learned a little about what to look for in an animagus. I will admit that I wasn’t certain of your identity until just now.”

“You had strong suspicions about me however, didn’t you?”

I went and picked up the copy of her Murder on the Orient Express. “You got Mr. Finch to come to the train this morning with this autograph to him inside the jacket. If you really were long dead, how could you sign a book, with his name included, printed in nineteen ninety?”

“A fatal mistake on my part. You are very clever young Harry Potter. I did not intend for you and your friends to find the body…that much is true, as is your suspicion of the plagiarism. Yes, I did kill him. The man has been stealing from my books, as well as a number of other great works of literature, for decades. Sometimes it was merely a plot device, other times it was the actual verbatim dialogue. I lured him here with the offer of a future joint project. I explained that my current life required a quiet meeting in this unusual setting…a place that offered privacy, security, and convenient transportation back to London. The fool graciously accepted the sandwich I provided, and that was his undoing. I am not sorry I did it, and I hope the message that I send will be a lesson to those who would plagiarize others’ hard work. Can you believe it? He was going to use the very book you are holding to assemble a murder mystery story set on this very train. It was for some manner of challenge.”

“It was a clever plan, I must admit,” I finally conceded.

“I would have gotten away with it too…if it weren’t for you meddling kids!”


*****



“Spenser, if you publish that you will be the most hated man in England the very next day. They’ll dip you in molasses and feathers again for it,” Hermione emphatically told me, but I could see the traces of a grin there as well. “I have never heard such absolute rubbish. Agatha Christie was an incredible mystery author, not a Witch, and certainly not a murderess. Mr. Finster was killed by an itinerate plumber from Bristol.”

“My version is much more interesting, and it’s mostly true…pretty much true…okay at least some of it is true. I spelled your names right at least. Okay, my apologies to mystery fans everywhere, to the memory of Miss Christie, and a tip of the hat to her incredible novels. I’ll make it up to you though…I promise. I have this great idea for another story! William Shakespeare travels forward in time to the Twentieth Century. There he’s recruited by Al Capone to be a Chicago hit man, but he’s finally busted by Harry posing as a retired shoe salesclerk turned… Ouch! No, not the Bat Bogey Hex! Ouch! Ow! Hermione put down that torch…I was kidding. Talk to them guys…please. Ron what are you doing with that hot poker? Ouch! I said I was kidding. Ouch! Ouch! Hold that door.”

Mischief managed!



A/N: My Spenser was named after Spenser Avenue, a place where I lived as a small child. I was a great fan however of Robert Urich’s portrayal of the Boston detective in the television series Spenser For Hire.
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