(1938-10-04) To Catch a Thief: Seeking Assistance
Details for To Catch a Thief: Seeking Assistance
Summary: Phil asks Astoria for some help with a lead.
Date: 4 October 1938
Location: {$location}
Related: To Catch a Thief

During the weekdays the office of the Dail Prophet is a bustling hive of activity with occasional shouts from the editor's office breaking up the din with swathes of silence. Today however, the editor is out at a meeting and things are calmer. A few people have put their feet up on their desks and are reading the muggle press. A couple of wizards stand near the tea dispenser gossiping about the upcoming quidditch season. Now that summer is over Phil is no longer responsible for the work experience (apprentice) students and has been revisiting some old leads. She gathers up a thick folder and looks around then makes her way to the desk allocated for Astoria to use whenever she comes in.

Astoria sits at her desk, which is impeccably clean. There is one neat stack of papers on the left side, an ink fountain, a few quills, and a framed picture. One of the quills hovers in the area, rotating slowly with gentle waves. Astoria, meanwhile, sits with her chair tilted back and a book in front of her face. The title is, "1705 - The Most Interesting Year."

"Pardon me, Astoria…" begins Phil. "I was wondering if I might ask your advice on a story I have been working on for some time? It needs to be kept quiet though, but maybe you might be able to give me tips on where to take it next and what to do?" The younger woman seems to be unusually lacking in her normal level of confident buoyancy at the moment, her body language a little deflated.

Astoria looks over the top of her book for a moment before setting it down. She closes the pages quietly and offers Phil a slight smile. "I may be able to offer some assistance," Astoria answers. She crosses one leg over the other and leans forward. "Why don't you have a seat and tell me about the story?"

Phil looks around and then pulls another chair over. She sets her folder on Astoria's desk. "A few months ago I had a tip off that a man was using magic to rob women, muggle woman mostly. A few witches too. Nobody wealthy. He chose women who were at the low end of society." She taps a finger against the top of the folder. "I did some digging and tracked him down and now the Ministry are on it and have told me I cannot do more — at least I am not allowed to hunt for him. I can't print it until they catch him for fear of a tip off. I have a few more leads, women who were victims. But one of them is an older witch, she is nervous."

Astoria listens to the tale quietly, nodding when Phil mentions Ministry interference. Her eyes narrow a little when the older witch is mentioned. Her jaw sets before she says, "The nerve of that scoundrel," in a low hiss. Afterward, Astoria quiets so that Phil can continue.

"I was wondering if you might be willing to approach her for me Astoria? To help me with this story?" Phil slides the folder towards the older woman. "Her name is Mrs Millicent Gardner. She works for a milliner's shop in Godric's Hollow. I think she would recognise your name and respect you more than she would someone like me."

Astoria continues to listen quietly. After Phil's question, Astoria says, "I can speak with her, or at least give it my best effort. I think a story like this one warrants some rule bending." She offers the other woman a wink. "I will send Misses Gardner an owl, and approach her at the earliest convenience." Astoria pauses for a moment. Her expression softens a little and her hands steeple together. "Do you have a list of questions prepared?"

Her dark head bobs in the affirmative. "I have a few based on what I have learned so far." Phil opens the folder and on top, above a few other notes are the questions. "After the editor did not like my last articles I have been nervous about this one. I've spent months working on it, Astoria. I feel like my heart will break if it doesn't get published."

Astoria scans the questions, and apparently reads rather quickly. A moment later she looks up and re-focuses on Phil. Eyes intense, Astoria answers, "I think it is a delicate matter. We certainly do not want to tip off the thief, but at the same time I do not think, ethically, that we can ignore his victims. His actions are, indeed, important news." She pauses again. "If Misses Gardner knows the thief's name, and she reveals it, will you turn it over to the authorities?"

Phil blushes a little and leans in to whisper to Astoria. "I know his name. I gave it to them already. I…ah…bent a few rules." Leaning back she says in a normal tone, "What I do not know is the story of the victims. I asked a healer what he thought the man did. He thinks it is some kind of memory charm. I was very good at charms at school but I cannot remember one like that. He said if we could get one of the victims to speak to a healer we might learn more." Her chin juts towards the folder. "I was hoping Mrs Gardner might be that woman."

Astoria nods and listens to Phil quietly. Her eye narrow at the mention of a memory charm of unknown power and origin. She leans forward, nodding a few more times. "That may be very difficult. I think it will depend on the tenacity of Misses Gardner, and you have already stated that she is nervous about coming forward." Astoria inhales deeply. "But, I will do my best." She closes Phil's folder and places it in the center of her desk. "Is there more than I should know?"

"Mrs Gardner is not the usual type of victim." Phil glances at the file again. "I think she was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Most of his victims are girls who work the pubs and streets hawking wares or themselves. She is a decent woman. It may be that she was the first victim and something went wrong. I am hoping if that is true she might remember more."

"She certainly does not fit the profile," Astoria agrees. "It is a hope." She moves to grab a piece of parchment as well as the floating, rotating quill. The quill, seemingly delighted, escapes her grasp and dabs itself in ink. It swirls about, tossing little ink splatters into the well (and around it). "I will see to the letter post haste. Do not hesitate to contact me if plans change - I am adaptable."

Phil looks relieved. "Thank you, Astoria." She rises slowly and leaves the folder with her. "I really appreciate the help."

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