Terror at the Tower

The gang face a baffling mystery in that spookiest of London landmarks, the Tower of London.

Chapter 1: The Headless Specter

English weather was weird, Velma Dinkley decided. Maybe that’s why the British had such an obsession with it, she speculated. An English winter was a mild one compared with the annual icebox of the American Midwest, but it felt as though it ought to be much colder somehow. Velma shivered despite the warmth of the hooded tweed cape she was wearing and despite the folds of the scarf that muffled the lower part of her face. The heels of her boots beat out a steady rhythm on the wet cobblestones under her feet and echoed sharply off the stone walls on either side of her. The dark of the November evening was further obscured by the fog that swirled around her. Velma knew that the choking smoke-laden London fogs so beloved of film-makers were a thing of the past and that this was merely a sea-fog that had rolled in from the North Sea and up the Thames. Nevertheless, it seemed much foggier than most other fogs. She drew the folds of her cape more snugly around herself and plodded on.

Without any warning a hand clamped itself around Velma’s left shoulder. She froze in mid-stride. With a considerable effort of will, Velma forced herself to turn to face her assailant. She was rewarded with the grinning face of her friend Daphne, framed by the warm fur-trimmed hood of her coat.

Velma released the breath she had involuntarily been holding. She pulled her scarf down, the better to berate her friend. “Daphne Blake, unless you want me to drop dead on the spot with a heart attack, don’t ever do that again!”

Daphne smiled innocently back, well aware that her friend’s smile confirmed that the reprimand was not meant seriously. “Sorry, Velma,” she offered contritely, “but the temptation was just too much.” The innocent smile creased into a wicked grin as the two friends embraced, slightly encumbered by Velma’s voluminous cape.

“How was the conference then?” Daphne asked.

“As good as I hoped,” Velma replied happily. “Well worth crossing the Atlantic for. And how about the shopping?”

“This is London,” Daphne answered with mock seriousness. “The shops are always worth crossing the Atlantic for. Come on, the boys will be waiting for us.”

Daphne attempted to link arms with her friend and settled for clutching a fold of Velma’s cape as they set off into the fog.

After a few minutes’ walk, Velma and Daphne came across Fred and Shaggy deep in conversation with a policewoman. At their feet, Scooby-Doo was cautiously making the acquaintance of an enormous German Shepherd dog almost as big as his handler. They regarded each other with a mixture of curiosity, suspicion and doggy comradeship.

“One of you must be Miss Blake,” the policewoman ventured, breaking off her conversation.

“That’s me,” Daphne confirmed.

“I understand that you had an arrangement with the Governor of the Tower to interview him and to view the Crown Jewels.”

“Had?” Daphne queried.

“I’m afraid we have a bit of a security flap on just now,” the policewoman explained.

Daphne mentally translated ‘bit of a flap’ as an English understatement for a possibly quite serious crisis. “It’s disappointing of course, but I quite understand,” she replied diplomatically. “The interview was preparatory to a possible feature about the Tower of London for my TV show. I’ll contact Sir George tomorrow and see if we can set something up another day.”

“I’m sorry, I didn’t make myself clear,” the policewoman responded. “Sir George would still like to meet you now. In fact, he was quite insistent that it was a matter of some urgency. He feels that there is something mysterious going on that you may be able to help us with.”

“Does this mean that we have a mystery on our hands?” Fred asked, obviously delighted.

“In the Tower of London?” Velma added gleefully.

“Yeah, cool,” commented Shaggy, with a distinct tremor in his voice as he looked up at the ancient stone fortress looming over them.

“Well, we’re not professionals, but we do have a lot of experience of mysteries,” Daphne said, with a hint of pride.

“And we always get on well with the local police,” Velma pointed out, noticing the odd expression on the policewoman’s face.

“You’d better follow me then,” the policewoman replied evenly. Her dog followed smartly at her heel without the need for any spoken command.

In addition to the usual ceremonial guard of scarlet-uniformed soldiers, a number of police were in evidence. Shaggy eyed them warily as the gang passed them. He knew that even a normally unarmed police force occasionally needed to carry weapons, but he found the officers’ bulletproof vests and the Heckler and Koch sub-machine guns that they all carried at the ready across their chests more than a little unnerving.

The roar of London’s traffic was reduced to little more than a distant murmur by the bulk of the stone walls surrounding the Tower. There were occasional patches of illumination where security lights were discreetly placed at gateways, but the majority of the courtyards and passageways through which the gang was led were in darkness lit here and there by small pools of weak light. The soldiers on guard could occasionally be heard by the stamp of their boots as they patrolled up and down. The police officers stood in silence.

At last, the policewoman and her canine companion led the way up a narrow stone staircase to a wooden door. She opened the door and ushered the gang through it.

The room in which the four friends found themselves was small, cozy and surprisingly domestic with an open fire blazing merrily in a fireplace that would not look out of place in a Victorian cottage. A bulky man in a green tweed suit was sitting behind a small oak desk. He had a bald head, a ruddy complexion and a broad grin beneath an immense and impressive mustache. A mental image of an unusually friendly walrus leaped unbidden to Velma’s mind.

The mustached man stood up and extended a hand in greeting. “Ferguson-Smith,” he boomed.

“Hello, Mr Smith, I’m Jones,” Fred replied cheerfully, taking the proffered hand.

“You don’t call him ‘Mr Smith’,” Daphne hissed to Fred.

Fred was confused. “But he just said...”

Daphne cut in smartly. “May I introduce my colleagues, sir? This is Fred Jones, who also acts as my camera operator, our friends Velma Dinkley, Shaggy Rogers and the Great Dane hogging the fireplace is Scooby-Doo. Together, we are Mystery Inc, or at least, we used to be.”

“Delighted,” Ferguson-Smith responded warmly.

“Gang,” Daphne continued, “this is Major-General Sir George Ferguson-Smith, governor of the Tower of London.”

“Sorry, General,” Fred apologized.

“Not at all, my boy, ‘George’ will do fine,” the general replied dismissively.

“You wanted to see us, Sir George?” Daphne inquired politely, not quite being able to bring herself to use the general’s first name without his title.

“You people have a magnificent reputation for solving mysteries,” Sir George explained.

“We do?” Shaggy asked, startled.

“Certainly, you do,” the general continued. “Second to none, I’d say. I was in military intelligence for forty years and I don’t say that without meaning it.”

“I thought I was here to interview you as Governor of the Tower and to film the treasures you oversee for my TV show,” Daphne replied.

“And I hope you’ll do just that, but not tonight. Before I say anything else, I’d like you to see this footage from one of our security cameras.” Ferguson Smith turned back to his desk and turned a small TV monitor round so that the gang could see it.

The image on the monitor was clear and sharp. It showed a large glass case, almost a small room in its own right. Inside it were black velvet-covered stands displaying the most astounding collection of objects: several crowns, ceremonial swords, scepters and other regalia, stunning even on a small TV picture.

“Those must be the Crown Jewels,” Velma commented.

“They are,” Sir George confirmed, “but keep watching.”

As the gang watched, the faintest suggestion of a figure began to appear inside the glass case. Slowly, the figure became more distinct. It appeared to be a woman in an old-fashioned long wide-skirted dress.

“She hasn’t got a head!” Shaggy exclaimed with an edge of panic in his voice. Scooby just whimpered and slunk back to the moral support of his new police dog friend.

Shaggy was absolutely right. The figure was completely clear now. She was wearing a long, rather ornate dress with tightly cinched waist, broad hips and a full skirt. There was a stiff ruff around her neck, but above that, nothing. Although fully resolved, the figure was transparent and the jewels in the case were visible right through her. Her back was to the camera and she could be seen running her right hand over one of the crowns, almost caressing it.

“That’s the Imperial State Crown,” General Ferguson-Smith pointed out, “the one the Queen wears on state occasions.”

The figure on the screen turned to face the camera. Her left arm had been hidden by her body up to this point. It was now fully visible and could be seen to be cradling a lifeless human head, presumably her own, in the crook of the elbow. There was a collective gasp from the gang and the figure on the screen abruptly vanished, leaving a view of the crown jewels in their display case.

“That’s all there is,” Sir George told them.

“Could you rewind to the last view of her please, General?” Velma asked.

Ferguson-Smith manipulated the controls to bring back the view of the ghostly figure facing the camera, with her head tucked under her arm.

“Anne Boleyn?” Fred asked.

“No, the dress is wrong,” Daphne replied.

“How do you know what Anne Boleyn’s dresses looked like?” Fred demanded.

“I don’t, but the period is wrong for her. That dress, and especially the ruff collar, is Elizabethan, 1580s, maybe early 1600s and I know Anne Boleyn was executed in 1530-something.”

“1537,” Sir George informed her. “And Anne Boleyn has never been known to haunt this part of the Tower.”

“You have more than one spook wandering around with her head off?” Shaggy asked, ashen-faced.

“Could the feed from the camera have been tampered with in any way?” Fred wondered.

“I suppose it’s possible,” the general conceded. “There’s a lot of cable between the Jewel House and our control room. It might be possible to tap into it.”

“It would be very hard to produce the effect we’ve just seen,” Velma pointed out. “The ghost, or whatever it is, isn’t just a picture pasted on top of the proper video feed. She looks as though she’s really in there with the jewels. We could see right through her to the jewels, but she passed behind the framing for the glass case.”

“You’re right, Velm,” Fred agreed. “I could take two pictures and just stick one on top of the other in the studio, but here you would need to tap into the cable, feed it into a video mixer to combine it with another video signal, exactly in sync with the real one and then feed the combined picture back to the control without disrupting anything in any way. And that’s before you even try to make the ghost go behind the framing of the case.”

“That sounds as though it would be hard to do unobtrusively,” Sir George commented.

“I think you would notice,” Fred confirmed.

“So we have a perfectly honest video picture of a semi-transparent ghost actually inside the case containing the Crown Jewels of England?” Daphne summarized skeptically.

“Er... it certainly looks that way,” Fred agreed.

“I knew it!” Shaggy cried in despair. “I knew it was a mistake to come here on our own at night and in a London fog!” He slapped his brow for added effect and Scooby whimpered sympathetically.

“No, there’s something wrong here,” Velma remarked distractedly, “but I just can’t put my finger on what’s bothering me.”

“How about a headless ghost?” Shaggy offered. “That’s sure bothering me!”

Velma grinned back at him. “Well, there’s that too,” she conceded.

“We’ve definitely got a mystery on our hands, gang,” Fred concluded cheerfully.

“Would it help to see the scene of the mystery?” General Ferguson-Smith offered.

The gang agreed enthusiastically. Mystery or no mystery, a private viewing of the Crown Jewels of England was not an opportunity to be turned down.

“You’d better come too, Inspector Dudley,” the general remarked to the policewoman, who had been waiting quietly watching the gang’s reaction to the video footage. “I’m just recruiting some extra eyes and brains, not putting the police out of a job.”

Inspector? thought Daphne. That was equivalent to a lieutenant or a captain. Why was she acting as an ordinary police dog handler? And why would a senior officer be wasting presumably valuable time just waiting outside the Tower of London for visitors to arrive?

Major-General Ferguson-Smith led the way back down the narrow staircase from his office and then through a series of gates and courtyards. Police, some of them armed, and soldiers were in evidence at every turn. The fog was even denser now, oddly muffling and distorting the sounds of the city beyond the stone walls of the Tower of London. Somehow the ancient setting made the chill of the damp night air even more penetrating. Daphne and Velma pulled their hoods up and Velma drew the folds of her cape more tightly around herself.

At last, they approached the Jewel House. A soldier stood on guard outside. As it was night-time, he wore khaki green service dress rather than the ceremonial scarlet tunic. Nevertheless, even in the fog, it was obvious that he was immaculately turned out; with creases like knife edges on his trousers and a mirror-like shine on his boots, even despite the layer of condensation that had formed on them. “Who goes there?” he barked, bringing his rifle to the ready.

“Governor of the Tower,” Sir George replied formally.

“Advance and be recognized, Governor of the Tower,” came back the traditional reply.

The general stepped forward. “All well, Perkins?” he inquired in more conversational tones.

“Yessah!” Guardsman Perkins answered him, snapping to attention.

“Good man,” Ferguson-Smith remarked as he unlocked a small postern gate within the massive wooden door that stood behind the soldier.

The gang stepped through and the general switched on the electric lights to reveal a stone passageway. He carefully closed and relocked the door then led the way.

Several twists and turns later they reached another door. This one was a featureless black-painted steel slab, closely set into the surrounding stonework. The general lifted a small metal cover set into the wall beside the door to reveal an electronic keypad and a small red light. He punched in an eight-character code and the light changed from red to yellow. There was a barely-audible clunk from deep within the door then the light changed to green.

Sir George pushed against the black door and it swung noiselessly open. It was evidently of considerable weight. With the door flush against the wall, he stood aside and ushered the gang into the room.

The Crown Jewels had been impressive on the video footage. Close up and in real life, they were breathtaking: gleaming precious metals and enormous gemstones all put together with superb craftsmanship. The objects were gaudy and ostentatious, to be sure, but that is at least part of the function of state regalia.

The room itself was smaller than it had looked on the security video, maybe fifteen feet square. About two thirds of the room was partitioned off by a glass screen enclosing the jewels, which were displayed on a series of black velvet-covered stands. The lighting was cunningly designed to show off the jewels to the best effect. Small but intense spotlights were arranged high up behind the glass screen to cast pools of light that caused the gems to glitter spectacularly. The lighting was minimal on the viewing side of the screen, so as not to create reflections in the glass.

In contrast to the sumptuous jewelry, the room that housed them was starkly austere. The walls were bare stone. There were only two doors in the room: the steel door through which they had entered and an identical one in the wall opposite, which remained closed. The public were presumably expected to enter through one door and leave through the other in their brief encounter with the jewels. The glass screen was equally unadorned. Thick panes of glass, stretching from floor to ceiling were supported by heavy bronze framing at top and bottom and at intervals across the room, dividing the screen into a series of windows.

Fred studied the glass screen for a long moment, obviously puzzled. “I know the queen wears some of this stuff sometimes, so how do you get it out?” he asked. “The back and side walls are stone and I don’t see a door in the glass.”

“How do you get in to clean it, for that matter?” Daphne added practically.

“Excellent questions,” Sir George replied. “The air in there is humidity controlled and filtered and the pressure is slightly higher than out here, so no dust can get in. We only need to do any cleaning about once a year and we usually do it just after the state opening of Parliament each November when we need to get the Imperial State Crown out for the queen to wear. You’re right that there isn’t a door: we take one of the glass panels out by unbolting its frame.”

Fred looked at the glass and metal structure in awe. “Those sheets of glass must be eight feet high and five feet wide. They must weigh a ton!”

“Not quite,” the general corrected. “The glass is armored and about an inch thick. Each pane weighs just over a quarter of a ton.”

“But we saw the ghost actually inside there,” Daphne pointed out.

“Daph, we saw a 500 year old ghost wandering around with her head under her arm,” Shaggy commented. “If she can do that then walking through glass is probably an easy trick!”

“You have a police dog here,” Velma remarked, indicating Scooby’s new friend. “Did he smell anything after the ghost appeared?”

“She,” the police inspector corrected. “This police dog’s name is Princess. But to answer your question, my response is no. The air in the case is vented out here but we get over 500 visitors through the Jewel House every day and they leave a lot of scent, so I don’t think even her nose would stand much chance of catching anything.”

Chapter 2: A Royal Row of Suspects

“Are there any suspects?” Fred asked, hoping for several. He looked forward to the capture and prosecution of the guilty party almost as much as he enjoyed setting a trap… or splitting the group to ‘search for clues’ with Daphne.

Ferguson-Smith looked a bit uncomfortable, rubbing his hands nervously. “Uh, well, yes…” he stammered. “Given that several are prominent members of British society, I had hoped that we could use some discretion in… well… a formal interrogation. Can’t you tell us anything about the ghost without having to ask pointed questions to important guests?”

Velma wrinkled her nose in mild disgust. “I think the implications for this case are too important for us not to use every resource at our disposal.”

The mustachioed gentleman breathed just a little bit easier, despite the obvious position of the Mystery Inc. gang. “Then I trust it that you’ll be discreet?”

“Oh, yeah, we’ll be discreet,” boomed Shaggy throughout the building, leading Ferguson-Smith to readopt the worried expression. He reluctantly guided them down the hall to a large assembly room. Several men and a woman turned from their conversation to regard the new arrivals.

Without waiting for an introduction, a young man with boyish looks that belied an expression as sly as a fox walked up to Fred and began the greetings. “I’m Philip Hanover, journalist.”

“So you’re with the British Broadcasting Corporation?” Daphne said with a worshiping gaze. She made little secret of her desire to work for the prominent media organization.

Ferguson-Smith snorted with disgust. “BBC… hardly. This young lad is a troublemaker for that despicable rag The Rumour Mill. It seems the tabloid’s only interest is in the alleged supernatural aspect of the case, and not the real world protection of a national treasure.” The general managed to deliver an impressive amount of venom in the word ‘alleged’.

“Anything to sell papers… and advertising space!” Hanover beamed. Daphne rolled her eyes when Philip looked toward Shaggy and Scooby, so that he couldn’t see her reaction.

A tall man with thick black hair and a full beard of matching color strode up to shake everyone’s hand. “My name is John Stuart, Member of Parliament and Deputy Home Secretary.” The card he handed out to each member of the gang seemed to confirm this. Surprisingly for a government minister, his cards bore the red rose logo of the Labour party. The gang accepted these unfamiliar items with quizzical expressions.

The third man in the room adopted a sneer toward MP Stuart. His mild build, thinning hair and modest mustache left him well behind Stuart in the looks department, but his assured, almost arrogant, manner hinted at a more patrician background, possibly even nobility. “Edward, Duke of Lancaster at your service,” he added flatly, almost seeming to expect the new arrivals to bow. With a flourish like a stage magician, he offered the gang one of his business cards each. The quality was certainly impressive, with embossed lettering and the Conservative party’s new green tree logo. The reverse side bore a five-point comparison between Conservative policies and the perceived failings of the current Labour government. Slightly embarrassed, the gang pocketed the proffered cards.

Stuart offered a haughty laugh. “Don’t think these folks will need your Tory propaganda pieces, my lord Duke.”

“And unlike you, I can tell by the clothing and dress of several of these fine ladies and gentlemen that they are hardly the lower class ilk of poor breeding that you purport them to be,” Lord Lancaster shot back. “They seem more conservative than radical.”

Velma glanced at her friends’ attire. Daphne was wearing a smart purple suit, but she could see nothing in Fred’s sweater and jeans, Shaggy’s sweatshirt and cords or her own sweater and skirt that particularly supported Lancaster’s assertion.

Shaggy laughed, earning a scowl from the nobleman. Stuart grinned. “You’ll have to forgive my Tory colleague. It seems he is upset with the people’s plans to end the monarchical farce and replace the symbolic leadership roles with an elected nonpartisan president, as our French, German and Irish neighbors in Europe have done.”

“Haw!” Lord Lancaster thundered. “End years of stability and tradition for a commoner as president? As if your Labour Party hasn’t heaped enough shame and scorn on this country with its socialist policies. When we ruled England, the sun never set on the British Empire. In your world, the sun never rises.”

“Stability? Tradition?” bellowed the leftist politician. “It’s your members of royalty like Prince Charles, Prince Andrew, and the whole lot of them, that have humiliated this fine nation to the point that it has prompted the monarchy’s very abolition!”

“And who do you envision to take their place as this president,” the nobleman replied, as if he hated even saying the term. “Perhaps your precious Tony Blair? Maybe you see that as a stepping stone in your own ambition to be the next Prime Minister!”

“And maybe yon Lord Lancaster has a lean and hungry look… perhaps seeing his own family as supplanting the Windsors as the future monarchs of Great Britain?” Stuart shot back.

“Boys will be boys,” beamed the final guest, bringing the politicians’ argument to an abrupt close. “I’m Mary York, Lady in Waiting to Queen Elizabeth II.” But the men hardly noted her words. Her long curly blonde tresses, perfect face, curvy figure, accentuated by her evening dress, seemed to have that effect on nearby males.

“What’s your job here?” Velma asked, being one of the few people in the room not enveloped by her spell.

“What is everyone doing here,” Shaggy wondered aloud. Everyone stopped talking, then stared at the gangly youth. Velma had been thinking the same, but was glad that she was not now the focus of attention. It would give her a chance to gauge the reactions of the others.

The Duke shifted his feet uncomfortably. “The House of Commons…” he said, as though pointing out that the members of the lower house were beneath his nobility “has seen fit to meddle with the affairs of royalty and tradition. They appointed a committee of myself, Mr Stuart, and Miss York to observe the activities of the crown jewels before the opening of parliament.

“The Queen approved of their actions though,” Miss York offered. “and she asked me to look in on the crown on her behalf, just to ensure its safety for the State Opening of Parliament,” York continued, as if the rest of the committee was irrelevant.

“I can assure you that Sir George has the situation well-covered,” Inspector Dudley said, her sarcasm unmistakable. “…as opposed to some things at the Palace,” she said, her eyes fixed on Mary’s ample chest, barely concealed by her dress.

The young woman turned a slight shade of red at the insult, and fired back. “Just following the Queen’s command, Kate.”

“Although, if you ask me…” the Duke droned on, ignoring the interruption.

“Nobody asked you,” Stuart yawned disdainfully. Velma exchanged a glance with Fred. Their presence seemed relatively contrived, her expression seemed to convey. The blond simply shrugged his shoulders. Little about this country seemed to make sense.

“Uh, ladies, gentlemen,” Ferguson-Smith began nervously, hoping to avert several fights that were brewing, “may I introduce Frederick Jones, Daphne Blake, Velma Dinkley, Norville Rogers and… their dog Scooby-Doo?” The British suspects studied the gang with what appeard to be an air of amused contempt. “They are here to solve the mystery of the ghost and the Crown Jewels,” added unnecessarily.

“Good! I can’t wait to interview them,” Hanover said, making it quite obvious that ‘them’ really meant Daphne.

“Oh, joy,” she muttered sarcastically to Velma, who nodded in assent.

“Whoever the villain is, I hope you catch them,” Miss York offered indulgently. Inspector Dudley frowned.

“There are no such things as ghosts,” the Duke declared in response.

“Unless they’re referring to you,” Stuart chuckled, earning a sinister glare from the nobleman.

Velma suddenly cleared her throat. “Sir George, with your permission, my friends and I would like to retire to our hotel to evaluate the facts of the case, so we can develop some theories and use them to devise further lines of investigation.”

“Splendid!” Ferguson-Smith clapped his hands. “I shall meet with you at breakfast to discuss your progress!” The others in the room seemed ready to go their separate ways.

Before Hanover reached them, Velma pulled Daphne aside. “Use your feminine charm on that tabloid reporter,” she whispered.

“Velma,” Daphne hissed angrily. “Why do I have to bat my eyes and flash my thigh at that creepy guy?!”

“We need some dirt on these suspects to crack this case,” Velma said quickly to her friend. “Even if we figure out how someone put the jewels at risk, we won’t know why without your wiles.”

Daphne bit her lip, then smiled sweetly as the reporter kissed her hand. “Why Philip, that’s very gentlemanly of you. Do you know where we can go for a quiet cup of Earl Grey tea?”

As the tabloid journalist led her by the arm, Daphne looked back at Velma and did a mock finger choke into her mouth so that Hanover couldn’t see her. Fred immediately looked more relieved.

“Now Fred, we’ve got to take another look at that film clip from the security camera before we go back to our hotel. There’s something bothering me…”

Chapter 3: Clay For The Bricks

“Data, Dr. Watson. I need evidence! I cannot make bricks without clay!”

“Say what, Velma?” said Fred, halting his yawn.

“Sherlock Holmes,” Velma responded. “Actually in a stage play called Crucifer of Blood… All I mean is that we’re going to need a lot more input before we solve this case.”

“Any ideas?” Shaggy rolled his eyes toward the bespectacled girl, hoping for a break.

“I’m a little vexed by a particular anomaly: selective transparency,” she replied.

Gesundheit?” Shaggy responded in a bewildered fashion. Scooby mimicked covering for a sneeze.

“I think she’s wondering why we saw through the ghost in some places, but not in others,” Fred offered helpfully.

Velma paced the hotel lobby in her best impression of her favorite fictional detective. “Well-put, Fred. We could see the jewels through the ghost, but we couldn’t see the ghost through the ghost.”

“What were we supposed to see?” Shaggy said, looking as puzzled as Scooby-Doo.

“The head in her arms!” Velma snapped, showing her typical agitation at a mystery which seemed to offer little progress. “If the ghost was really see-through, we would have seen the head through her body before she turned to face us! It ought to be like looking at an X-ray not like a transparent picture of a solid woman.”

“But that’s what ghosts look like!” Shaggy protested.

“No, that’s what ghosts look like in films or on TV,” Velma corrected him.

“...because that’s what you get if you composite two images together,” Fred added.

“Exactly,” Velma agreed.

“So we know that this ghost is a fake,” Fred concluded. “But we don’t have a clue about who did it, how they pulled it off, or why?” He immediately helped himself to one of the pads of paper available in most London hotels and began diagramming an elaborate trap.

“Guess we’ll need help from Daphne in that department… and whatever she gets out of that tabloid reporter,” Velma sighed, regretting palming such a creepy guy off on her best friend.

“Daphne can handle herself,” said Fred distractedly in a dull monotone. Velma couldn’t figure out if he was jealous that she left with the smarmy purveyor of junk journalism, or he was more interested in molding a master snare.

As if on cue, Daphne stumbled through the revolving doors that separated hotel from sidewalk, juggling her umbrella, purse, attaché case and at the same time trying to keep the hood of her coat up to keep her hair dry. “I can’t tell which is more of a beast… this weather or that malevolent muckraker!” She struggled to retrieve her belongings.

After a moment, the redhead reporter fixed Velma with an icy stare. “Remind me to thank you for setting me up with that wicked writer, Velma.”

“Just count it for one of those times you made me put the moves on Gibby Norton to get some information,” Velma fired back in response.

Daphne folded her arms in a huff and pursed her lips, but continued, “At least he had some good dirt on our suspects.”

Over the next half-hour, the young reporter documented all that she had learned from the tabloid writer in great detail. “The Duke of Lancaster was born into wealth and nobility. It seems that he can count Henry V as his most famous ancestor… he’s tried to play that up in his quest for political power. He’s always seeking to strengthen the unelected House of Lords and reinforce the monarchy over democratic institutions in Great Britain. Despite the duke being a monarchist, Philip seems to think that he’d prefer a return to the Lancastrians over the House of Windsor.”

“Oh, so now it’s Philip,” Fred countered with a huff.

Mister Hanover,” Daphne correctly loudly enough to show her displeasure at Fred’s comment, “then told me about John Stuart. Seems he used to be a Conservative. He was elected to a safe Tory seat in Parliament, then changed parties when it became clear that the Labour Party was going to win a landslide in ’97.”

“So he’s not as anti-monarchist as he led us to believe, but more of an opportunist,” reasoned Velma, reaching for a cup of the Earl Grey tea she had recently developed a fondness for. “Is there any connection to the royal Stuarts?”

Daphne considered Velma’s statement. “There have been rumors and theories about Charles Edward Stuart having a son, who would have been John’s great-something-grandfather.

“Charles Edward Stuart was Bonnie Prince Charlie, right?” Fred queried.

“Right,” Daphne confirmed. “So if the story was true, that would make John Stuart a possible Jacobite claimant to the throne, but there were a lot of Stuarts and it’s more likely that he’s descended from one of the others.”

“So why does he want to destroy the monarchy?” Shaggy inquired, looking as confused as his faithful dog companion.

Again, Daphne hesitated. “It’s just my view, but seeing as the Jacobite line was deposed, it’s a very weak claim to the throne. He probably sees the creation of a presidency as a better route to power. If Tony Blair were to become president, then he would have a good chance of being next prime minister, with the presidency for himself as a likely step onwards after that.”

“No wonder he wants to bring the monarchy down,” Fred said, whacking his palm with his fist. “It looks like we have two strong suspects for the creator of the ghost. What about the girl?”

Daphne wrinkled her nose in mild annoyance at her boyfriend’s apparent interest in another woman. “Mary York is on the Queen’s staff at Buckingham Palace as one of her Ladies in Waiting and acts as a personal assistant, but that’s not all. It seems that she’s caught the eye of Prince William and his brother Harry. Perhaps that’s why she’s always dressing to show herself off” she added in a disapproving tone, blithely ignoring her own use of similar tactics in the past.

“Any connection to royalty?” Velma put forth the question, already sensing the answer.

“She’s tied to one of the medieval Dukes of York, if that’s what you’re asking.”

“Then perhaps she’s vying with Lancaster for the throne,” Velma said, reminiscent of Holmes hot on the heels of a case. “The Lancastrians and Yorkists fought for the throne back in the 15th century in one of England’s worst civil wars. It was known as the War of the Roses because the Lancastrians took the red rose as their badge and the Yorkists the white rose. It cost the country nearly all of their lands in France and nearly destroyed their own nation.”

“But why would she jeopardize the Crown Jewels if she could just marry into the royal family,” Fred challenged, unwilling to entertain Mary as a suspect. He seemed less interested in Velma’s history lesson.

“Well maybe she might want to get the crown to impress her new husband, whoever that might be… and it would be royalty, I can assure you,” Daphne snapped back at Fred.

“Velma raised her hands to calm the contentious couple down. “Alright, alright you two… Mary York may not be a likely suspect, but she’s still a suspect. Parliament might conceivably decide to pass over Prince Charles to one of his children, due to some scandal. Maybe she’s just trying to speed the process up a bit.”

“What about our fourth suspect, that wonderful source of information of yours?” Fred began, not wanting to end the argument with Daphne.

“For once tonight, we agree on something,” Daphne offered in a conciliatory gesture. “He is definitely creepy enough to try to spook people, but I just don’t sense any motive.”

Shaggy broke the long pause that followed. “Maybe he wanted to, like, make the story of the century by creating a ghost.”

Velma considered Shaggy’s idea. “I find that highly unlikely… but it’s not impossible. So far, nothing seems typical about this case.”

The rain that had begun shortly before Daphne entered the hotel began to increase, blurring the few London lights visible outside their hotel. They were now alone in the lobby, with most of the guests having retired during their conversation.

“Could anyone else have done it?” Fred said aloud.

“Of the security personnel, Sir George Ferguson-Smith can count Sarah Ferguson as a distant relative, but she’s no longer married to Prince Andrew, and she was only ever a royal by marriage” Daphne said sadly. She was a big fan of the former princess, and had never really gotten over the divorce between the royal and the redhead.

“Inspector Kate Dudley, or one of the guards might have done it as a hoax to justify an increase in security,” Velma reasoned.

“Name a suspect, pick a motive,” Shaggy yawned, obviously tiring of the speculation. Scooby had already drifted to sleep at his feet, and was beginning to quietly snore.

Velma ignored his comments. “Not only do we not know who made the ghost, but we aren’t sure how he or she did it.”

“Have you ever considered that we may have finally met up with an actual, real ghost,” Shaggy blurted.

“No, because there’s no such thing as a ghost!” Velma hotly replied. “This is just some cheap parlor trick that we’ll expose… in the morning,” she added after a brief yawn. “OK, it’s getting late. Let’s pick up the trail at dawn, folks.”

Chapter 4: The Crown Jewel Caper

Well before breakfast the next morning, Daphne ran down to the lobby to pick up the London morning papers; the journalist in her never left stopped. But instead of stories about ghosts and mysteries, there was the biggest font she had ever seen for a headline. Her jaw dropped in shock. After spending a few moments in frozen terror, she frantically grabbed the house phone to alert her colleagues.

“Daph… are you sure you’ve only had one coffee this morning?” Velma groggily answered her phone. “You’re speaking a mile a minute.”

“The… Crown… Jewels… have… been… stolen,” Daphne said, desperately trying to restrain her excitement. “It… was… the … ghost…”

Only ten minutes later, all five members of Mystery Inc were in the lobby, scanning the article. “Look… they’ve arrested Sir George!” Fred exclaimed.

“They took him to Scotland Yard for questioning,” Velma corrected. “I think ‘helping the police with their inquiries’ is the phrase that use here. They can hold someone in this country for several days without charging that person with any crime.”

Daphne’s fingers slipped into her mouth. “Do you think he did it… that it was an inside job?”

“Improbable, but not impossible,” Velma reasoned. “We’d better get over to the Tower of London, stat.”

“Stat?” Shaggy looked perplexed.

“Pronto,” Fred answered.

“Pronto?” Shaggy seemed lost.

“We’re going to the Tower like now,” Daphne exploded, attempting to speak in a language decipherable to the bearded hippie.

“With that headless specter running around?”

“Yes!” the girl with glasses commanded, as she and Fred grabbed the two cowards, dragging them towards a waiting black taxi that Daphne had flagged down.

“I’m sorry Miss Blake, but Sir George Ferguson-Smith is not available to be interviewed today,” said Perkins, the guardsman on duty at the Governor’s office.

“May I ask why?” the reporter replied, forgetting all common courtesies and diplomatic niceties.

“He’s not charged with any crime is he?” Fred asked in an incredulous tone.

“No,” said a female voice behind them. The gang turned to come face to face with Inspector Kate Dudley. “But he has been temporarily suspended from his duties for allowing the Crown Jewels to be stolen under his nose. I’m now in charge of security around here.”

She led the group to a room full of cameras and television screens. “This is Sergeant William St. James, who was on duty last night. He has the tape of the crime.”

The five were shown a clip which focused entirely on the Crown Jewels. The view was exactly the same as the one they had seen the previous evening in the footage that General Ferguson-Smith had shown them; evidently it was from the same camera. There were several minutes of little or no activity. If it had not been for Inspector Dudley’s police dog Princess pacing to and fro past the display case containing the jewels it might have been a still frame. Suddenly, in less than a second of activity, the headless lady they had seen before appeared from the right of the frame. She was facing the camera and in a blur of motion hurled her severed head straight at the camera. The image instantly changed to a dark gray blur.

“Told you there was a ghost,” Shaggy muttered angrily.

“Is that all there is?” Velma asked.

St. James raised a remote and pointed it at the video cassette recorder. The time stamp in the corner of the image showed that the recording was being fast forwarded but the screen styed dark. After a few moments, the image changed. St James returned the VCR to normal speed. It was now obvious that the screen had been dark because the camera had been knocked so that it was pointing up at the ceiling. Most of the image was now occupied by an out-of-focus close-up of a guard adjusting the camera. After about two minutes, he disappeared out of the bottom of the frame as he descended the stepladder he had used to reach the camera. The view was now much as it had been to begin with, except that the jewels had gone. Five or six people were milling around, a mix of police and guards including Inspector Dudley. Like Princess, most wore expressions of bafflement and incredulity at the disappearance.

“How did the thief get the jewels past that armored glass?” Fred asked. “You’d need a gang of workmen to do it.”

“The case was already open,” Inspector Dudley told him. The gang looked back at her in astonishment. “The Imperial State Crown is needed for the State Opening of Parliament later on this morning, so Sir George had the workmen open it last night.”

“Isn’t that a bit risky to leave it open all night?” Velma asked.

“Well, it was closed to the public, there are police officers and soldiers on duty and it is in the Tower of London,” the inspector explained. “At least, that was Sir George’s reasoning,” she added pointedly.

“So, who else was in the Jewel House?” Daphne inquired.

Dudley pulled a pad of paper out. “Well, the guards Perkins and St. James were on duty here, as you know. I was in the Jewel House as well and as soon as we discovered the theft, I called in two other police officers who had been on duty outside.” She flipped the first sheet of the paper to look at a new list. “Since the theft occurred shortly after you left, The Duke of Lancaster and Mr. Stuart were still here. Mary York was with Sir George Ferguson-Smith in his office, which is adjacent to the Jewel House.”

“No one else was here?” said Velma, looking skeptical.

“According to Sir George, most guards asked not to be near the Crown Jewels because of their superstitious fear of the headless ghost,” Inspector Dudley snipped indignantly. “It seems their timidity was grossly understated. Not calling for backup and failing to protect the priceless jewels led to Sir George’s suspension.”

The group spent the next hour at the crime scene carefully scrutinizing every detail. No fingerprints were found, and there was almost no dust anywhere nearby to show signs of disturbance. Having nothing to protect anymore, Princess chose to frolic with Scooby-Doo while the others examined the area for clues that seemed to be absent.

“How did Princess react to the ghost?” Velma pointed asked Inspector Dudley.

“Nobody heard any barking, if that’s what you are referring to,” the officer replied. “But given the ghost is transparent, that’s hardly surprising.”

“Hmm,” commented Velma to no-one in particular.

“Mr. Stuart, do you have a moment for a question?”

The bearded man regarded the girl with glasses with mild annoyance. “One minute, no more.”

“Where were you last night during the theft of the Crown Jewels?”

“As I told the police, Lord Lancaster and I proceeded to have an argument shortly after you departed the premises about the future of the monarchy in England. The next thing we knew, the police began swarming the area. Neither of us left the room, which should not only eliminate us as suspects, but also terminate this line of questioning.”

“Lord Lancaster does not give interviews to common members of the media, who are not associated with The Times newspaper… and certainly not someone from America.”

“I’m just trying to clear him as a suspect in the Crown Jewel theft,” Daphne snapped at the nobleman’s private secretary.

“As he told Scotland Yard last night, while the crime was being committed, he spent the duration of the elapsed time in debate with, John Stuart, a prominent member of parliament and government minister,” the elderly man huffed officiously before hanging up the phone.

“So, Miss York, where were you at, say, 9 o’clock last night.”

The blonde blushed before answering the question. “Well, Mr. Jones, I spent some of the time chatting with Sir George in his office, before leaving the Tower to get back to the Queen. At least, that was my plan, but then there was this terrible theft and I had to talk to that horrible inspector.”

“Did you ever approach the place where the Crown Jewels were located?”

“Why… no sir!” she looked up in surprised, her eyes shifting slightly nervously. Then a smile appeared on her lips. “Don’t you believe me?” she said, batting her lashes at him.

“Of course I believe you, Miss York,” Fred replied, his mouth suddenly unaccountably dry.

The guardsman with the thin face and pinched expression growled in anger as he evaluated the young hippie and his mangy mutt nervously standing before him. “Please sir, if you can just answer a simple question or two.”

“I’ve told the real investigators last night, and I’ll tell you now,” Perkins bellowed, “there were only five people in the Jewel House. “Sergeant Bill St James, Inspector Dudley, Lord Lancaster, Mr Stuart and me. Miss York and Sir George were in Sir George’s office.”

Shaggy glanced up from his furious note taking on a tiny pad of paper. “So, like, you mean, Mr. Hanover wasn’t there, sir?”

“Your manners are as rude as your speech is crude!” Perkins thundered. “Didn’t I make myself perfectly clear about who was here last night, and who wasn’t?”

A terrified Scooby snagged Shaggy and ran out of the door before the guard could cuff the bearded lad.

Velma eyes narrowed as they focused on St. James’ camera while the mustached guard glanced in all directions, like a caged animal in a zoo. Clearly this outside investigation had him on edge. But Velma ignored him as she considered a second camera. Then she turned triumphantly to Inspector Dudley and the other members of the gang. “Have these two suspects brought in for questioning,” she announced with an expression of triumph, handing the officer a slip of paper with two names scrawled on it.

“Miss York, do not be alarmed.” Inspector Dudley fired the opening salvo of the questioning with a soft tone. “I am aware that you told Mr. Fred Jones, an American liaison to our investigation, that you left Sir George’s office and proceeded to immediately leave the Tower of London.”

“That’s right, Inspector” Mary York’s eyes were reduced to narrow slits as she evaluated her predator. Her contempt for the officer was plain.

Dudley’s neutral expression began to resemble a cruel smile. “Yet the security camera showed you standing clearly in front of the Crown Jewels for several minutes.”

Now that the trap was sprung, York’s expression shifted from arrogance to a desperate plea for mercy. “I… I…”

“Explain yourself!” Inspector Dudley ordered.

York continued to sputter. “I… I did go back to the Crown Jewel exhibit, but only briefly. I looked through the pane of glass to see my reflection… and… and I wondered what it would be like to wear the jewels myself. Just idle daydreaming, nothing more! Honest!”

“Silly girl,” Inspector Dudley cackled so that the Mystery Inc. gang could clearly hear her ire for the Queen’s representative. “Thanks to your little lie, your precious Prince William… or is your taste a little younger? Is it Prince Harry you secretly admire? Whichever it is, he’ll see you as no more suitable for a royal bride than a common tart!”

Another policewoman came in to lead the blonde away from the interrogation room. York’s slumped posture obscured her face with her numerous curls, but Dudley recognized the dejected gait as a sign of resignation to her unhappy fate.

“Unfortunately, Miss York’s untruth was only given to an unofficial investigator, Mr. Jones, so I can’t formally charge her with anything,” Inspector Dudley explained. “However, I think I’ll have her detained for further questioning under the Terrorism Act. That gives us four whole weeks to come up with something.”

“That should give us plenty of time to investigate her further,” Fred announced in a serious tone. Daphne desperately tried to gauge whether Fred’s comments indicated further interest in the suspect or disdain for her, given her false pretense in answering his questions.

“The next suspect will be more difficult to crack,” Inspector Dudley admitted. “But, with your cooperation, I think we can handle him.”

“So Miss York is now a terrorist?” Daphne whispered to Fred, showing her disdain for the law. “Seems a bit harsh, doesn’t it Freddie?”

“Well, the locals seem to know what they are doing,” Fred stammered uncomfortably.

“I wonder if our inspector isn’t overreacting by lumping her in with al-Qaeda and the IRA,” sniffed the reporter. “Or maybe it’s just a convenient way of circumventing civil liberties?”

“Mr. Hanover,” Inspector Dudley began. “Where were you last night after 8:30pm.”

“I spent the entire evening in the company of a lady,” the youngish man replied immediately. “A Miss Daphne Blake,” he added with a rakish smile.

The redhead could barely contain her fury. She burst into the room, screaming in anger. “How dare you accuse me of…”

“Young lady,” snapped Inspector Dudley. “You forget yourself!” Daphne halted her fist in mid swing, but managed to offer a glowering stare indicating imminent death to its recipient.

Once again, Inspector Dudley’s expression changed from bland professional neutrality to a predatory smile. Hanover’s self-assured swagger melted away as he sensed the change in the atmosphere. Daphne’s punch now looked to be the better choice than whatever the inspector had lined up for him. “Uh… uh… I can explain…” he stammered.

“Would you care to revise your sham statement?” Inspector Dudley asked him with barely-hidden triumph. The tabloid journalist hesitated, then nodded weakly.

Twenty minutes later, Hanover emerged again from the interrogation room in handcuffs, and was led away by two uniformed policemen. Inspector Dudley turned to the group. “He admits to returning to the Tower of London after his brief discussion with Miss Blake, but swears he didn’t touch the Crown Jewels.”

She continued confidently after a short pause. “He’s being arrested on suspicion of obstructing the police in their duties and perverting the course of justice. I’m not sure we’ll get the second one to stick but we’ve got 48 hours before we have to charge him and put him in front of a magistrate. In the meantime, we’re searching his flat, car, possessions, and anywhere he might have stashed the crown. That gives us some time to add theft to the charges. I might even be able to charge him with treason; nobody’s been charged with that for over 50 years.”

While Daphne grinned at the thought of The Rumour Mill’s writer spending a long time in prison, Fred closed his eyes in a triumphant acknowledgement of another crime solved. Shaggy and Scooby seemed relieved that they would not be haunted by a headless ghost. But Velma seemed bothered. “But the State Opening of Parliament is today! We need to find out where the crown is, or the Queen won’t be able to convene Parliament. It’ll be a national disaster for Britain!”

Inspector Dudley fixed the girl with an intense stare. “Then I suggest you search every scrap of evidence linking Hanover to the crime in the next two hours! If you succeed,” she added. “I’m sure Her Majesty will be very grateful. You might even get a reward of some kind.”

All five members of the gang returned to the Tower of London in a black taxi. The mood was subdued, despite the arrest of the pair. “How are we going to find the Queen’s crown before 11 o’clock?” Shaggy wondered aloud.

“Maybe we don’t need to solve this mystery today,” Daphne considered. “It would be awkward if Parliament was opened late, but we’re not talking about the end of the Windsors here.”

Fred fixed the redhead with a skeptical stare. “I don’t know Daphne. This country’s experienced so many problems that people might be willing to follow anyone… maybe including someone who could produce the crown and claim they’re the rightful ruler of Great Britain.

Velma nodded. “Back in about 1950, some Scottish pranksters stole the ‘Stone of Destiny’ from Westminster Abbey. It was eventually returned, but not before a strong outburst of emotion from Scottish nationalists.”

The gang watched as crowds of Londoners marched in the streets. They saw all kinds of banners and placards as the taxi weaved its way through the crowds. Some supported the Queen, but others offered different messages, ranging from demands that the Queen abdicate to calls for abolishing the monarchy altogether.

“No doubt, that MP Stuart’s supporters,” Daphne gritted her teeth as she viewed the black letters E II R with a red slash through it. “He seems to be the one most likely to capitalize on this mess.”

“Or maybe that the Duke of Lancaster has something to do with this,” Fred grumped as others held up enlarged photographs of the mustachioed man.

“But why would they both back up each other’s story if they hate one another?” Shaggy pondered.

“Maybe because they were in on it together,” Fred speculated in a apprehensive tone.

“Just as Mr. Hanover and Miss York could have teamed up together to heist the Crown Jewels,” Daphne countered.

“It’s clear that we have just as many suspects as we did this morning, but no idea which one is responsible or how that person did it,” Velma lectured the gang as they arrived at the Tower of London. “And we only have about an hour to figure it out before that press conference.”

As Velma said that, she caught sight of crowds of people watching hastily erected large-screen televisions. A sour-faced gentleman with a thin mustache was speculating for the BBC television commentator that the morning’s press conference might well be the end of the House of Windsor’s control over the United Kingdom’s monarchy. The loss of British prestige over the jewel theft, coupled with recent economic, political and social scandals, might well be enough to lead the people to demand a new royal ruler.

Daphne gasped. “It’s Lord Lancaster!”

“Look!” Shaggy announced, as he pointed to the largest collection of marchers. Most wore red sashes and chanted “Down with the monarchy! End the aristocracy! Give us more democracy!”

“It’s John Stuart” Fred pointed at the bearded leader of the anti-royal demonstrators. Scooby growled in anger as the picketers approached the Houses of Parliament.

To avoid being swamped by the red-clad radicals, the Scooby gang retreated inside the gates and dashed toward the entrance to the Tower. They retreated into the main courtyard, where the gang took the time to review their notes.

“Seems there’s some inconsistency with Perkins’ response… he claimed that Hanover hadn’t been in the Tower, which we know has happened,” Fred mused. “And that guard had to know the reporter was here last night.”

“It’s kind of suspicious that political enemies Lancaster and Stuart would try to exonerate each other,” Velma thought aloud. “Perhaps there’s more than one culprit.

“Mary York’s the only person we’ve actually seen in the presence of the Crown Jewels,” pointed out Daphne.

“Perhaps we need to review the security cameras one more time,” suggested Shaggy.

As they made their way into the room with security cameras, they found William St. James handing a phone to Velma.

“Sorry to report this,” an angry Inspector Dudley began, “but a busybody judge issued a preemptive order demanding that both Mr. Hanover and Miss York be released unless tangible evidence exists that shows one or the other actually stole the Crown Jewels. Both just walked out of here ten minutes ago. We’re not even allowed to tail them, only to make sure they don’t leave the country.”

After Velma relayed the news at the end of the call, the gang followed the officer’s sentiments.

“Activist judges!” Fred quipped. “They’re even over here in England!”

“Now we’ll never save the Crown Jewels, and the Queen!” wailed Daphne.

“We sure went down in a blaze of failure,” moaned Shaggy, as the clock struck ten.

Blaze, thought Velma, triggering an elusive thought which had lurked in the back of her head all morning. She glanced back at the security detail, eyeing St. James, then Perkins and Princess on separate cameras. Yes! That’s how it was done! What a clever thief!

Fred, Daphne, Shaggy and Scooby were surprised to see a grin on Velma’s face. “I’ve cracked the case! Follow me!”

Chapter 5: The Silver Blaze Solution

Despite it still being only mid-morning on a weekday, the excitement and tension in the capital was such that thousands of Londoners flooded Parliament Square and the surrounding streets, just to get a glimpse of the press conference which seemed miles away from the furthest spectator. Given the multitude of microphones and poised cameras, millions more English, Scottish, Welsh and Irish were tuned in by television or radio. The profusion of international media confirmed that it might well be one of the most followed events in history. Agence France-Presse, Reuters, the BBC, Deutsche Welle, CNN, Fox News Corporation, Al-Jazeera, ITAR/TASS, the Xinhua News Agency, in fact every major news network in the world and most of the minor ones as well, would cover every minute.

The BBC camera panned across the audience to focus on the Duke of Lancaster, who grinned slightly. It then swung to the other side of the delegation behind the podium to zoom in on John Stuart, whispering to Prime Minister Tony Blair. Behind a regal looking Queen Elizabeth II stood a nervous looking Mary York. Weaving in and out of the spectators, attempting to obscure his boyish features with a fedora and overcoat was none other than Philip Hanover, king of tabloid sleaze. Even Sir George and the tower guards could be spotted, surrounded by a phalanx of security officers from the Metropolitan Police.

All eyes focused on a black-unifirmed woman striding to the podium to report on the police progress in the investigation. A hushed silence fell over the murmuring audience as she advanced across the platform, only to be intercepted by a short plump girl with glasses.

“Inspector Dudley, I’ve solved the case!” Velma blurted out excitedly.

“You did?” she said in complete surprise, stopping dead in her tracks.

“Yes,” the young detective responded, then waved her hand frantically at several members of Scotland Yard. They joined her at the podium. “Arrest her,” she instructed them.

Inspector Dudley reacted in horror as two detectives pinned her arms behind her back and a third snapped a pair of regulation handcuffs onto her wrists. “Wha… what do you think you are doing, young lady?! I demand an explanation!” she shouted, loudly enough to be heard over the microphones. The crowd’s collective gasp was deafening.

One of the detectives that cuffed the Inspector reached down to open her bulky briefcase. Pausing only to be sure that every eye and every TV camera was following his actions, he drew the Imperial State Crown from the case. He briefly held it aloft to the sound of a thunderous applause, then walked over to the Lord Chancellor, convener of the House of Lords and England’s most senior judge. Flanked by Prime Minister Blair, the elderly man raised the crown upon the Queen’s head. Those who had not joined in the initial clapping and cheering exploded in a burst of effusive support.

She slowly raised her hand, which set off another wave of applause. Then she turned to Velma and said “Child, I wish you to join me at the podium.”

Velma’s smile turned to a gasp of horror. She didn’t know how to respond. “No, no, your Highness… er, Majesty… er, Ma’am they, uh, want you,” she squeaked meekly.

“What they want is to learn how you rescued the Crown Jewels,” the Queen insisted firmly but not unkindly. Velma tiptoed to the microphones, the look on her face resembling a deer caught in a pair of headlights on a lonely country road.

“Don’t worry,” Fred whispered. “We’re behind you.”

The fear did not seem to fade immediately, but the added presence of Shaggy and Scooby seemed to help.

Daphne gave a cheery wave to the cameras and encouraged her friend with a soft, “Go for it Velma!”

“Uh…” she stammered, all rational thought suddenly deserting her. “Ahm… I’m Velma Dinkley… from America… and I… well… helped solve the case.”

“How did you know it was Inspector Dudley who stole the jewels,” demanded a British reporter.

“Eh… well, my friend Shaggy... I mean Norville Rogers said our attempts to solve the case had been a ‘blaze of failure,’” Velma began hesitatingly. “It reminded me of one of my favorite Sherlock Holmes mysteries ‘Silver Blaze,’ where a prize-winning racehorse was stolen. Holmes kept referring to ‘the dog that didn’t bark’ as a clue that it was an inside job. When I heard the word ‘blaze,’ it reminded me of another dog that didn’t bark: Inspector Dudley’s police dog Princess, who was guarding the Crown Jewels when the theft occurred. If there was a stranger there, she would have been alerted by the unfamiliar scent and would have barked a warning.”

Far from being bored by Velma’s long-winded explanation, they seemed to hang on every word. “‘ow did you know, Mademoiselle, zat ze ghost was not real?” a tall, thin French television journalist asked in a cryptic tone.

“The security cameras showed the ghost clearly. I’m sure you have all seen those pictures on the TV news by now. The image of the ghost was transparent, so you could see the jewels right through her, but the transparency was oddly selective: you couldn’t see the head she was carrying tucked under her arm until she turned to face the camera,” Velma said, her confidence growing. “She was a real person in costume standing on the public side of the glass, but out of the direct view of the security camera, which was focused on the jewels. She installed a small portable spotlight which would come up slowly, so that from the camera’s point of view, the ghost materialized gradually inside the display case containing the Crown Jewels. What the camera was actually recording was a reflection in the armored glass of the case. She positioned herself so that it appeared that the ghost touched the crown during the first encounter.”

Seeing as how everyone was listening intently, she went on with her explanation. “It was quite convincing: after all that’s what a ghost always looks like in the movies on on TV. Positioning herself to seem to touch the jewels was her undoing, for the severed head that she carried was not visible to us until she turned around to face the camera, when it could be seen. That tipped me off that it could not be a real ghost. If you could see the jewels through her, you should also have been able to see the head through her. It’s not used much these days, but this is a Victorian theatrical effect called ‘Pepper’s Ghost.’”

“But how did the ghost appear headless,” persisted a skeptical-sounding American questioner from a prestigious national newspaper.

“The ‘ghost’ simply wore a black velvet hood over her head, which did not produce a noticeable reflection. It also hid the fact that while her body appeared to be facing the Crown Jewels, she was actually looking sideways at her own reflection in the glass, to position herself. The head tucked under her arm was just a dummy of course.”

“So why did Inspector Dudley steal the Crown Jewels, then call this press conference and bring the crown along with her” inquired a bearded writer with a Scottish-accent.

Velma’s expression was surprisingly blank. “I’m afraid we never figured out her motive for both the theft and the press conference. You’ll have to ask Inspector Kate Dudley.”

As if in response, Inspector Dudley broke free from the policemen restraining her and appeared at the podium. Velma shrank back in surprise as the policewoman reached the microphones, her hands still manacled behind her back. “My name’s not Kate Dudley… it’s Catherine Dudley. I’m the direct descendant of Queen Elizabeth I, and I am the rightful heir to the throne of England.”

In the confused silence that followed, Sir George made his way to the podium. “Perhaps I can cast some light on this,” he offered diffidently. “Back in the reign of King James I, there was a woman who claimed that she was Lady Anne Dudley and that she was the daughter of Queen Elizabeth I and Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester following a secret marriage. Her claims were dismissed, of course. Even if she had been who she said she was, the line of succession had already been settled by the Privy Council and Parliament. Attempting to interfere with the rightful succession to the throne is automatically treason, so she was given a summary trial and then executed. Whoever this Lady Anne actually was, she must have been of noble birth because they beheaded her here in private in the Tower of London instead of burning her at the stake at Tyburn.”

“That’s who Kate… I mean Catherine, was trying to impersonate in the Tower of London,” Fred concluded.

“And she was obsessive enough to have a historically correct dress made for her impersonation of her ancestor,” Daphne added.

“What about Perkins’ lie about Hanover?” Shaggy whispered. “Do you think he was in on it?”

“Perkins was probably covering for the reporter because he was Hanover’s source for the theft story,” Velma speculated. Sir George will certainly wish to speak with him tomorrow morning!”

“I never stole the crown… it was rightfully mine!” Catherine Dudley screamed at the Queen, who was watching the furor in dignified silence. “You don’t deserve to wear that. Your family has engaged in enough scandal to disgrace the royal monarchy. Now that the people know the truth, they will proclaim me, Queen Catherine!” she added with triumphant flair.

But instead of cheers, her diatribe was met with boos and jeers. A few pieces of fruit and vegetables were flung from the crowd. A turnip bounced off her head as she was led away by Scotland Yard.

The Queen watched her would-be successor depart then turned to Velma. “I’ll have Miss York make arrangements for you to be my guests to tea at Buckingham Palace tomorrow,” she whispered.

Epilogue: Tea at the Palace

The excitement over the theft and then recovery of the Crown Jewels rather overshadowed the State Opening of Parliament, which, in the event, went without a hitch. The following days’ newspapers were full of the story with pictures of all the main players in the story, including the Scooby gang. The Queen’s Speech to parliament, outlining the government’s proposed program of legislation for the forthcoming session of parliament, was covered but did not receive quite the level of editorial scrutiny that might ordinarily have been the case.

Mid-afternoon, an impressive black stretched Jaguar limousine arrived at the gang’s hotel. At Daphne’s insistence the gang members had dressed appropriately for a visit to Buckingham Palace. As it was neither an evening event nor a formal presentation to the Queen, smart suits were in order for the men, rather than tuxedos. Fred wore a rather dashingly cut navy blue suit with a white shirt and his college necktie, to Daphne’s approval (she secretly wished that he would dress up more often).

Shaggy protested most loudly at being forced to wear something formal. In a previous skirmish with Daphne, he had been persuaded to bring a suit with him to London, but had thus far refused to wear it. Under duress, he agreed to change, seeing as it was to meet the Queen. His suit proved to be a relic of a bygone era with flared trousers and immensely wide lapels. The suit was in a restrained but nevertheless distinctive shade of dark green. The choice of a pink shirt and a bright green bow tie gave him a degree of individuality that he felt he could live with. Velma was impressed; the blend of Bohemian with formality definitely suited her lanky friend.

Daphne had most difficulty with Velma. The girl just didn’t want to be smartened up and she was so darned articulate and persuasive, it was well nigh impossible to argue with her. She would not be parted with her pleated skirt but agreed to wear a dark red blazer with it and a golden yellow blouse. “Do I really have to wear this?” she complained, fingering a discreet pendant on a gold chain lent to her by Daphne. Blows were nearly exchanged over Velma’s insistence on wearing thick knee-socks. “But it’s cold in London.” A compromise was eventually agreed in the form of a pair of ribbed hose matching her blouse.

Daphne decided that the royal purple of her working outfits was just perfect for visiting royalty. It took only moments to choose a purple skirt and jacket set off with a lime green silk shirt. Why couldn’t the others organize themselves as easily?

The car ride would have been a relaxing sightseeing tour past the major landmarks of central London had it not been for Daphne’s last-minute briefing of the gang. She was so experienced at meeting celebrities professionally that she was quite comfortable in the in the presence of anyone, even a British monarch. Velma, she knew became tongue-tied easily if she felt overawed by company but could, on the whole, be relied upon to converse sensibly. The boys, on the other hand, were a different matter altogether. Fred had an easy manner and was generally relaxed in company, but had an unfortunate habit of steering any conversation onto the topic of football. Shaggy was a complete loose cannon under any circumstances and could ramble loudly in any direction from any given conversational starting point.

“Answer anything they ask you, but let me steer the conversation,” Daphne concluded in her lecture to the rest of the gang. “We want to leave the best impression of Mystery Inc that we possibly can.”

The three other human gang members nodded silently at Daphne, hoping that she had finally finished haranguing them. Scooby merely lay on the floor of the car with his front paws covering his head.

By the time the gang had a chance to relax and enjoy their ride, the car was already pulling into the central courtyard of Buckingham Palace. The car door was opened by a footman and a smart young man in military uniform stepped forward and introduced himself as one of the Queen’s equerries. He led the way into the palace.

The gang was led into a huge hallway and up a grand staircase. Their route followed a long series of corridors. As they went the equerry pointed out notable paintings and pieces of furniture but never actually paused so that the visitors could appreciate them. Eventually, the gang and their escort arrived at a small and undistinguished door. The equerry’s posture stiffened noticeably as he came to a halt. He checked that the gang were all still with him then knocked once, opened the door and went in. The gang followed. Standing to attention, the equerry announced, “Miss Daphne Blake and party, Ma’am.” He bowed his head smartly then turned and left the room.

The gang found themselves in a large but surprisingly intimate sitting room with a view over the private grounds behind Buckingham Palace. The only other people in the room were the Queen and her husband, Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh. Both had stood to greet their guests as soon as the equerry announced them.

Daphne discovered that her usual poise was not quite up to meeting royalty in such close proximity and had to take a deep breath and consciously calm her nerves before introducing her friends. “Good afternoon, Your Majesty. I know you met us all yesterday, but we never formally introduced ourselves. May I introduce Mr Fred Jones, my colleague and the camera operator for my TV show, and our good friends Miss Velma Dinkley, Mr Norville Rogers and his dog Scooby-Doo.”

“What an absolutely splendid Great Dane,” the Queen exclaimed with a broad smile. One of her corgis waddled out from behind a chair and sniffed inquisitively at Scooby’s paws. Scooby responded by dropping down onto his haunches and leaning forwards so they were nose-to-nose.

“Yes, Ma’am,” Shaggy replied. “Scooby is my best buddy and a vital part of our gang too.” He looked down proudly at Scooby, who was now making friends with two more corgis. “He seems to like your dogs too, Ma’am.”

“They can be quite boisterous,” the Queen admitted, “but they seem to be very happy to make a new friend today...” The conversation continued on the theme of dogs and the joys of owning them. Both Shaggy and the Queen had a wealth of anecdotes to tell each other and were soon engrossed in swapping them.

Meanwhile, the Duke of Edinburgh had spotted Fred’s necktie and correctly identified the college. “You’re a big lad,” he commented. “Did you play football for the college?”

“Yes, sir,”Fred replied, delighted to have a topic on which he could converse easily and knowledgeably.

“My game was mainly field hockey, but I was a keen rugby player too,” the Duke reminisced.

“I’ve been finding out a lot about rugby since I’ve been in England, sir,” Fred responded enthusiastically. “Have you ever been to the Rugby Union Museum at Twickenham?” An involved discussion of the relative merits of American football and rugby followed.

Daphne suddenly realized that there were two animated conversations going on involving the two most important people in England and she was not engaged in either of them. She caught Velma’s eye and was rewarded by a lopsided grin and a rueful shrug of her friend’s shoulders.

The Queen is a perfect hostess and did not leave the girls out for long. The conversation ranged widely over the tea that was served and ended late in the afternoon. Just before they left, the members of the gang were astonished each to be awarded the MVO, entitling them to a medal to be worn on state occasions and to use the style ‘Member of the Royal Victorian Order.

“Er, Ma’am,” Velma ventured, “as American citizens, I’m not sure we’re allowed to accept these.”

“Nonsense, my dear,” the Queen replied disarmingly. “You have all done this country, and me, a great service and I insist on honoring that. I will telephone the President myself later and tell him to clear it with your government at once.”

The gang belong to the Hanna-Barbera/Warner Brothers. Members of the British Royal Family appear without permission but with respect and affection. All other characters are figments of the author's imagination.