The M.E.'s assistant finished photographing the area, and turned the body over, and Lennie's good humor faded.
"She's a kid," Rey said. "She can't be more than sixteen."
"If that. Let's find out what's going on." Lennie straightened up and headed over to where they'd been keeping the woman who found the body. She was in her mid-twenties, and a scared-looking little boy was clinging to her skirt and sucking his thumb.
A younger man--who was wearing chain mail--stood up and extended his hand. "Roland Cabot," he said. "My sister found the girl."
"She's not in your club, is she?" Lennie asked.
Roland shook his head. "Never saw her, but there are a lot of people coming in."
"This is, what, Dungeons and Dragons?"
"No, it's really different. It's called--"
The young women held up her hand. "Ro, they don't want to know." She turned to Lennie. "It's like D&D. No one other than these geeks knows the difference."
"It's a big difference," Roland grumped.
"Where's the con?" Rey asked.
"It's at the Sheraton."
"You wanna be more specific?" Lennie asked, pulling out his notepad.
Rey tried shaking his head, but the place was still there when he finished. The cloaks had started looking normal, though.
A woman wearing bondage gear, a studded collar, and a leash (no one was holding it) wandered past him, carrying a sword. She tipped her head and frowned at him. "You lookin' for something?"
Lennie flashed a badge, then pulled out a picture of their victim. "You ever seen this girl?"
The bondage-girl took the picture and looked at it carefully. "No, sorry. She looks really young. Is she dead?"
"Yeah, she is."
"That's awful! Why are you asking here?"
"She was wearing a cloak," Rey told her. "We thought it seemed like a good place to start."
"Well, like I said, she's young, right?"
"There's a teen track, up on the fifth floor. We're supposed to keep the wilder stuff off there. Someone there might know her."
"Yeah, thanks," Lennie said. "Can we get your name and number, in case we need to follow up?"
Rey took the information, then followed Lennie to the elevators. The fifth floor was loud and smelled of popcorn. It was a conference area, and instead of guest rooms, was lined with large spaces for speakers. Most of these were filled with teenagers shouting things like, "Yo! Someone wanna help me hit this troll?"
Lennie raised his eyebrows; Rey shrugged. They went into the largest room, where about forty kids were perched feverishly over cups of dice. About half of them were in costume, which seemed as good a place as any to start off. Rey headed toward a group of boys (well, there was one girl) who were wearing cloaks vaguely like the vic's. He flashed his badge at one of them. "Can I talk to you?"
"Yeah, whatever, man." The kid poured out his dice and groaned, slapping himself in the head.
"Who's the GM around here?" Rey asked.
"Chanaza," one of the boys said. "She's the one who's got me dungeon crawling."
The girl raised her hand. She was thickly built and wore glasses, but had made an exotic costume, and her hair was done in an intricate net of braids. "Sherry Cohn," she said. "My uncle's at the four-six."
"Gary Cohn?" Lennie asked.
"No, my mom's brother. There's a Gary Cohn, too?"
Lennie smiled. "We can play Jewish geography later. For now, have you seen this girl?" He gave her the picture.
Sherry's eyes widened. "Yeah, she's a freshman at my school. I don't know her name. You guys, do you know her? Isn't this the girl from study hall?"
One of the boys plucked the picture. "Don't know her name, but yeah, that's her. She tried to get in the game, but we've had a mission going on since July. There wasn't any place for her to get in. I told her to come to the con. We're doing a few short games here." He shook his head. "Man, she's dead? That sucks. She was kinda hot."
"Yeah," Sherry said, "if she was ugly, it'd totally be okay."
Rey fought a smile. He could think of worse people for his daughters to be like... though he'd prefer they didn't hang out with people who walked around casually in bondage gear. "Can you tell me the name of your school?" he asked.
They took down the information, but they couldn't head over there to check it out--it was the weekend, and they'd get quicker results hitting the computers, maybe going to talk to other freshmen, to see if they knew her. They grabbed a couple of dogs from a pushcart outside the hotel, and headed back to the precinct. Van Buren got people started looking for the school records.
Rodgers had left them a note to meet her in the morgue; Rey swilled the last of his Coke before tapping Vicks under his nose. He wasn't looking forward to seeing that little girl on a table.
To his relief, the body was mostly covered, except for the face, which was unmarked.
"There's nothing wrong with her," Rodgers said. "I mean, other than being dead."
"Well, we can all go home then," Lennie said.
Rey shook his head. "What does that mean? You don't know the cause of death yet?"
"No, I'm telling you--there is no cause of death."
Greater New York Bureau of Magical Law Enforcement
Kingsley Shacklebolt broke the Transfiguration spell on his robes as soon as he got past the magical barrier. The building looked one of many largely empty office buildings--they'd even put an "Office Space for Rent" sign on it, though he suspected that calls were never returned--but inside, the magical security was as high as the security around the Ministry building in London. The detection spell recognized that he didn't have proper identification, and stopped him flat in the outer lobby.
A door opened beyond, and a short man with a bushy, but receding, shock of black hair on his head came out, hand extended.
"Kingsley!" he said, smiling. "Good to see you, bro!"
"Hello, Antonio," Kingsley said, then pointed at the detectors. "D'you mind? We've got a problem." He flashed his Auror's badge, now showing its true appearance, rather than the obscure London Police division he masqueraded as among Muggles.
Antonio DiNucci ran forward, pointing his wand around with exuberant flourishes. Once Kingsley was free of the blockade, he came through quickly, following Antonio to his office. Antonio closed the door. When he turned, his face was dead serious. "Don't tell me," he said. "The dead girl at Grand Central."
"You've heard, then."
"Oh, yeah. Me and everyone else in the northeast. I hear it's working its way down to Washington already. Middle of a damned crowd. They know how to work it--body was never alone long enough for us to take care of things."
"You could just Obliviate the crowd."
"Never tried to run a case here, huh? Muggle rights laws. We're not allowed to Obliviate crowds. Took us some doing to get permission to do a couple of cops and the occasional M.E."
"Yeah, well, that's New York. We've had to work a couple more connections than you guys have. The D.A.'s in things, and I've got a girl planted at One P.P. to spot records."
"The District Attorney? A city official?"
"That's New York," Antonio said again, more slowly, as if it would, by itself, make all things clear. "Anyway, Schiff's not hot on letting us take things out of the district once they get in Muggle hands. We've been pretty good at catching them first, but some people are wise to us. They pull stuff like this."
Kingsley sighed and sat down. "Do we know who the girl is?"
"You don't? I figured that was why you were here."
"I had lead on a Death Eater called Yaxley, who escaped during our last... troubles."
Antonio snorted and started shifting through his papers. "Your troubles are my headaches. What was that war of yours, ten years ago?"
"Right. Hell of a lot of people just Apparating in without bothering to go through channels. Then there are the others. I guess you know who they are."
"We did manage to capture quite a few."
"Not just the crazy violent ones. You got your basic snobs, too. They did come through channels, and they spend half their time coming down here and telling me what a lousy job I do, and how it's uncouth around here. Uncouth." He shook his head, disgusted, and pulled out a folded bit of newsprint. "Now, they got their own newspaper. Talking about heading back your way and 'clearing out the mudbloods.'" He tossed the paper over to Kingsley. "Take down names if you want; we did."
Kingsley glanced at the rag in his hand. "They allow this to be printed... never mind. Just never mind. I can't say I'm in favor of our press, either, at the moment." He waved his wand and Conjured an image of the dead girl at Grand Central Station. "Do you recognize her?" he asked.
Antonio looked. "No. Pretty thing, though."
"She may be a Muggle victim," Kingsley said. "But I listened to the witnesses, and it sounds like a planned attack. Several wizards must have gathered around her to hide it. It wasn't random."
"Like I said, a bunch of yours came over without going through any channels," Antonio told him. "And when they show up, most of the time, they've been living as Muggles. It's a mess. Someone's secret might be out."
"Then it would be a good idea to find out precisely who."
Lennie's feet were killing him by the time they got to upper Manhattan.
"In my day," he said, "you went to school in your neighborhood. You knew who your neighbors were. Now, you get the magnet schools, and I may as well hike to Brooklyn Heights. These kids don't have the slightest idea who lives in their neighborhoods."
"Yeah," Rey said, "but they're getting an education. Fair trade-off." They checked the list, checked an address against it. "This is the place."
There was no doorman, so they let themselves in and went up to the fourth floor. Apartment 4C was at the end, but no one answered when they knocked.
"Police," Lennie called. "We just need to talk to you."
No answer. Lennie heard footsteps on the stairs below, but they were in no hurry.
The door to 4D, beside them, cracked open, and a girl peeked out from under the chain. "What do you want with the Dearborns?" she asked. "Did they do something?"
"We just need to ask them something," Rey said, and took the picture. "Have you ever seen this girl before? I think she may go to school with the Dearborns' daughter."
"It's just Mr. Dearborn and Delia. Mr. Dearborn is English." A brown hand came out and took the picture, and then there was a strangled sound. "Oh! Oh, this is her! Mama, look, this is Delia Dearborn!"
"What are you..." A woman came up behind her, looking concerned. Her eyes went wide. "This is Delia! What happened?"
The footsteps on the stairs sped up, and a tall, pale man with brown hair pounded down the hall, his eyes wild. "What's going on?" he said. His voice was clipped and British. "Joy, what is it?"
The woman undid the chain. "Keith," she said, "I--"
The man spotted the picture before Lennie could reach for it. He grabbed it, looked at it, and collapsed to the floor.
"Oh, God," he whispered, rocking back and forth. "Oh, dear God. Delia. They found us."