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Chapter 7 : The Good Bad Guy
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“That’s all of it,” she said.
“Thanks,” Al said quietly and continued scrubbing the barrel of his gun. It was laying on the table in several different pieces. Taking it apart and cleaning it was something wizards never had to do with wands but then most wizards didn’t favour firearms.
Shiori stood next to him looking a bit awkward.
“This wasn’t my decision,” she said quickly.
“I know,” Al said before slotting a spring around the barrel.
“No I’m not.”
“Yes you are.”
“Alright, yes I am...but I’m not angry at you,” Al admitted.
“You sure?” she asked.
“Liar. You know, you still get to investigate a high profile assassination. Things could be worse,” she tried.
“I know,” Al shrugged and reattached the barrel to the handle.
“Stop with the short answers!” she barked. She hated when he did this. He acted like nothing was bothering him but at the same time made it very obvious that he was furious.
“Sorry,” Al said deliberately.
“Arg!” Shiori growled. “I’m going back to the ministry. You better not be like this when I get home!”
“Have fun working our case,” Al said sounding a little childish.
“See! I knew it! You’re blaming me for this!”
“No, I’m not. I just said have fun...” he shrugged.
“Thank you! Enjoy having your tantrum!” she huffed before storming away.
Al sighed to himself. Sometimes he wished he could act more mature but it just never seemed to happen. He looked over at the Centaurions whom actually seemed a little concerned after what they’d just seen.
“Don’t worry, we do that all the time,” Al assured.
“Rose! Where the hell are all my clothes?” Scorpius yelled and wandered into the kitchen with no shirt on.
“In the attic,” Rose’s voice echoed through the walls.
“Why the hell are all my clothes in the attic?”
“The Centaurions thought that the draws looked cleaner without any clothes in them.”
Scorpius looked like he had been hit over the head with a frying pan. He turned a looked at the Centaurions who were smiling and looking very proud of themselves. They certainly did pride themselves on their cleaning abilities and to be honest, Rose and Scoprius’s house had never looked cleaner.
“There should be some clean stuff at the bottom of the stairs,” Rose shouted.
In a flash the Centaurions rushed out of the kitchen then returned with a neatly folded blue shirt which they handed to Scorpius. Their big galaxy eyes stared at him waiting for approval.
“Thank you,” Scorpius smiled. “Why don’t you go and put all of Rose’s shoes in the attic as well.”
The Centaurions were only too happy to obliged and rushed out of the kitchen again.
“Don’t mess with the shoes,” Al warned.
“These things are way worse than House Elves! They’ve all got obsessive compulsive cleaning disorder!” Scorpius huffed.
“Yeah, they’ve entered the terrible twos alright,” Al smirked. He kicked himself a moment later for not waiting until Rose was in the room before saying that.
“So, looked at the case file yet?” Scorpius asked.
“Nope, Shiori’s already told me a lot about the case. She hit a dead end trying to find a connection between the shooter and the victim,” Al said as he finished putting his gun back together and holstered it.
“So, that’s where we should start?”
“Why not,” Al said picking the file of the top of the pile.
Over the next few hours, Al and Scorpius went through Shiori’s investigation of the assassination. She hadn’t failed to dot a single ‘i’ or cross and single ‘t’. She had gone into endless detail about the people involved, the place, the timing and speculated on dozens of different motives. Unfortunately, none of it got her any closer to finding the truth.
The problem was that the shooter; a man by the name of Ringo Hauss had barely even gotten a parking ticket before this. He had no prior convictions or history of violence and yet he had walked up to a wizarding activist in the middle of a party and blown his head off before leaping to his own death.
“Shiori’s right. This is not the type of guy I’d peg as a killer,” Scorpius admitted.
“You’d be surprised what a person can do when their pushed,” Al mumbled.
“He’s not married and has no children so it’s not like someone could threaten his family. His bank records don’t show any major financial problems. Autopsy says he wasn’t under the Imperious curse or any other kind of controlling magic. No drugs in his system, no potions and no criminal affiliates. It’s like he just snapped or something...”
“What did he do for a living?”
“He was a foreman at a potions shipping company on the Thames,” Scorpius said. “Shiori already checked the place out though, nothing to report.”
“This doesn’t make sense...if he had snapped then why go after a wizarding activist? I mean, don’ these guys usually just go out and kill their boss or something?”
“I don’t know, but the victim has upset quite a few people. He was trying to get oil drilling stopped in the Baring Sea because it was harmful to the local whale population. He was trying to get a Hydro plant in northern Africa shutdown because it affected the migration patterns of the...lobe fish...what the hell’s a lobe fish?”
“Isn’t that an ingredient in Felix Felicis?” Al wondered.
“I don’t know, maybe. The point is, this guy stepped on the toes of a lot of powerful people. That’s motive to get him out of the way but using a nobody to do it is very odd,” Scorpius said. “I mean, these guys have enough money and power to hire a professional and make it look like an accident.”
Al sat back and rubbed his face. He could see why Shiori had hit a dead end with this stuff. It didn’t make any sense.
“Where’s the spark...we’re missing something here,” Al said.
“You know, you could just ask -”
“No,” Al cut him off.
“I’m just saying, your omnipresent friends might know something,” Scorpius shrugged innocently.
“I won’t ask them for anything!” Al stated.
“Because they’ll want something in return!”
No matter what they had done for him or to him, Al would never trust the All Seers.
“But...there might be someone else I can ask...” he said grudgingly. “I’ll have to go there alone.”
“Well, I’m out of ideas so I say go for it,” Scorpius said.
“Alright,” Al got up and put his jacket on. “Don’t tell Rose or Shiori about this, okay?”
Scorpius made the gesture of zipping his mouth shut.
After a quick floo connection and a ride on the tube, Al found himself walking into Chinatown in Soho as the sun started to set. A pair of stone lions sitting in front of a large oriental archway marked the entrance to the district. Everywhere were red lanterns, stools and people on their way out for an evening of drinking.
It made him slightly annoyed that he was only a few blocks from Albino Bobs restaurant. Nothing would have given him more pleasure than to walk in there and accidently torch the place but he couldn’t.
He was there to see a different criminal.
Al smirked to himself as he approached his destination. It was a club called the Black Dragon and the sign bore a striking resemblance to the mystical tattoo on his arm. But then, that’s why he was there.
He walked inside, past the two very big bouncers that watched him like a hawk.
The club itself was still quite empty but as it got later, it would because packed with people. There was a huge triangular bar in the centre of the massive open room and black leather couches lined the walls. The rest of it was open without obstruction as a dance floor.
There were about thirty or forty people inside. Most of them were gathered around the bar where two very pretty Asian women were serving drinks. None of the customers were Chinese though. The Chinese men in the room were littered around the place, acting almost like secret service agents. They were positioned next to doors or in places where they could observe the entire club.
All of them had turned a wary eye to Albus. They knew he wasn’t going to cause trouble but that didn’t mean they were going to turn their backs on him.
From a door at the back of the club, a large Chinese man wearing dark glasses walked out and beckoned Albus over. Al followed the man back through the door and down a small corridor.
He was led towards the back of the building eventually arriving at a very luxurious office. There were exotic plants, high-tech entertainment and security devices and a large marble desk with a leather chair behind it.
“Quicksilver, to what do I owe the pleasure?”
“John,” Al nodded.
The Chinese man, in his mid to late thirties had short dark hair and was wearing an expensive black suite. John Lee was the head of the London syndicate and high ranking lieutenant in the Hong Kong Triads. He was very handsome and echoed absolute confidence wherever he went. He had a constant suave, laidback attitude and could readily charm the socks off anyone he wanted. His English was perfect and he had a strange habit of talking to people like he was a movie star giving an interview.
He was what Albus called ‘the good bad guy’. He was a well known criminal that had been smart enough to cover his tracks and make it impossible for the police to take him down. But more than that, he valued stability over all else. He was involved in a mile-long list of illegal activities but he wasn’t the type of person that wanted to cause chaos. He loved money but he wasn’t greedy and he favoured intelligence over violence but mainly because his reputation didn’t require him to be violent.
He was also said to be the only man on earth that could possibly out-match Albus with a gun.
The two of them shook hands and as they did, the All Seers dragon tattoo slipped down Al’s arm and onto his hand where it was met by Lee’s mark. He was a triad but he also belonged to the All Seers, just like Al.
This is also where the name of the club had come from.
“So, what brings you to my office?” he asked, walking over to his desk.
He pulled out a bottle of firewhiskey and two glasses and set them on the table.
“I was just in the area,” Al said.
“So is Albino Bob, I hear you’re gunning for him now,” Lee grinned.
“You’re not gonna get all ‘vampire-activist’ on me, are you?”
“Of course not. Nothing would make me happy than seeing Mr. Undead become Mr. Alldead but I hear your ministry isn’t making that easy for you,” Lee said handing Al one of the glasses.
“Don’t I know it,” Al said before staking a swig and feeling it burn.
“Ironic isn’t it? The ministry is either corrupt and can’t function because of it or it’s too law abiding and can’t function because of it,” Lee chuckled. “Personally, I think a little corruption is necessary in this day and age but what do I know, I’m just an ordinary decant criminal.”
“Is that a confession?” Al grinned.
“Are you a priest?” Lee smiled back.
“I think I’ve sinned too much for that.”
“Haven’t we all,” Lee said raising his glass and downing it in one. He didn’t even flinch. “So what’s the story Quicksilver, why you really here?”
Quicksilver had become Al’s title inside the criminal underworld because of his skill with a gun.
“You hear about that assassination a few weeks back?” Al asked.
“Some wizard got snuffed at the party your girl was at. Yeah, I heard,” he said.
“You know anything we don’t?”
“I probably know a lot you don’t. But if you’re looking for answers about why a guy that barely existed decided to pop a wizarding activist, well...you gotta look at the stuff that’s not on paper,” Lee said smugly.
Lee was right. He did know a lot that they didn’t. Al hadn’t even told him about that stuff but he already knew.
“You know, they find it kind of insulting that you don’t want to talk to them,” Lee said.
“I don’t like asking them for favours,” Al mumbled.
“I can understand why but you don’t seem to realize how much they like you. They hold you in very high esteem and of course, they wouldn’t want to do anything to upset Shiori,” he said causally. “And how is the warrior goddess these days?”
“Excelling at everything,” Al said, taking another gulp of whiskey.
“You’re not happy for her?”
“Of course I am, It just spells out the fact that she’s way too good for me,” Al sighed.
“Saya and Ariel don’t seem to think so. They think you’re...’special’.”
“They’ve never gone into details but they have a lot of confidence in you. You’re quite the prize for them. Trust me when I say they aren’t going to do anything that might drive you away,” he explained. “They said you might need me to point you in the right direction.”
“And what direction is that?” Al asked.
“It took me all of about three seconds to know why that guy killed Mr. Greenpeace after I saw his picture in the Daily Prophet.”
“You’ve seen him before?”
“Yeah, at my casino,” Lee smirked.
“The one that doesn’t exist?”
“Yeah, that one. Which, in turn meant that Mr. Hauss’s debts didn’t exist, at least not on paper. He owed me seventy-four grand and someone volunteered to pay up in exchange for him perforating a guys skull,” Lee said.
“Who volunteered the cash?”
“That, I’m afraid is still a mystery to me, but I got a down payment of ten grand so I didn’t bother looking into it. Between getting my money and having to break Mr. Hauss' kneecaps, I’ll take the money.”
“Who would have known about his debt to you?”
“No one but my people and I can vouch for them,” Lee stated. “We keep that stuff very confidential so, by my reasoning, the only outsiders that could have known...”
“Would have had to be there to watch him loose it all,” Al finished. “I need to take a look around your casino.”
“I don’t see a problem with that, as long as you forget that it exists on your way out,” Lee smiled.
It wasn’t his favourite part of the job but occasionally he did have to make exceptions. Allowing John Lee to continue being a criminal wasn’t a good thing but it was also the best option. He knew Lee wasn’t a dark lord in waiting. He was ‘the good bad guy’ and when measured against some of the scum that walked the streets of London, he was the best choice.
Better the devil you know and besides, the All Seers would never allow Lee to go to prison. He was far too useful to them.
“Thanks John,” Al said finishing his whiskey and standing up.
“Oh, Quicksilver, our two favourite masterminds left you a message,” Lee said holding out a small piece of paper.
Al grabbed it, opened it up and read the perfect handwriting within.
Just because you’re off the case, doesn’t mean you’re off the case.
Just once, he’d like something non-cryptic from them. But the message was obvious. Not only were they still watching him very closely, they were still pulling his strings.
Getting past the guard on the door was easy enough. He just lifted up his sleeve to show the moving dragon tattoo on his arm.
The casino was actually hidden underneath a cinema near Regents Park. That way it didn’t look suspicious to have people coming in and out all day and night. Inside was actually decorated quite nicely in a Chinese oriental style. It didn’t have the glamour or the flare of a Las Vegas casino but it was still comfortable. They even had waitresses.
There were a dozen roulette tables, three blackjack tables and a few crabs’ tables as well. The rest of the place was dedicated solely to card games like Texas hold em. There were about fifty odd people in there, spread around with varying levels of success judging by their chip stacks.
However had seen Hauss lose all his money must have come there quite often because unfortunately there is no way to predict exactly when someone is going to make the wrong bet. For him to lose that much must have meant that he had tried several times o win the money back but ended up owing even more.
Al took a seat at one of the empty blackjack tables and was approached by a waitress a moment later. She offered to get a deal over to the table for him but he had declined pretending the he was there to meet someone. Instead he just ordered a beer.
For the next half an hour he scanned the room over and over looking for anyone recognisable. Unfortunately he couldn’t spot a single one. Everyone in there were strangers to him and seemed far more interested in their own games than other peoples.
He waved his empty beer bottle at one of the waitress who nodded back. He turned his eyes towards the door and watched a very unhappy looking man storm away. Shortly after, a group of three young men entered. They were drunk and wobbled over to the nearest crabs table.
“Didn’t know you were a gambling man, Albus.”
He knew that voice.
Albus turned to see Alexandria Valko standing behind him, her face mask as present as ever. This time she was wearing a black dress and looked like she had been out enjoying the London night life.
He knew straight away that this was what Saya’s message had been about. She was behind the Centaurions and the assassination! The cases were connected, that’s why he wasn’t off it.
“I only gamble with my life, never my money,” Al said staring her down.
The waitress returned with his second beer. She set it down next to him then turned to Valko.
“Vodka, straight,” Valko said simply.
The waitress nodded and walked away.
“So, if you’re not here to gamble, then why are you here?” Valko asked.
“I was waiting for you actually,” he hissed.
“Careful Albus, I hear you’ve already been removed from a case for hassling me,” she warned.
“That’s okay. I got a new one now.”
“Yes and I hear that your girlfriend has taken over your previous one. I’ve heard a lot about her,” Valko said casually.
“I’m sure she’d like to meet you,” Al said as threateningly as possible.
The waitress returned and handed Valko a glass of chilled Vodka.
“I’m sure she would. Maybe we’ll run into each other in the future.”
“I wouldn’t recommend ‘running’ into her. She might get offended and crush skull,” Al smirked.
“Now, that’s not a very nice thing to say,” Valko said sticking out her bottom lip.
“I know you’re behind the Centaurions and the assassination at the Concordo Ball,” Al stated.
“Really? Prove it?” Valko dared with a grin.
“Proof’s overrated. I prefer instinct.”
“You know, I thought you’d be a little more grateful,” she said pulling a large Cuban cigar out of her bag and lighting it. “I spared your life so many times during the Tri-wizard tournament...but then, you were working for me after all.”
Albus felt like a lightning bolt had just gone through his chest. Memories of the tri-wizard tournament flooded through his mind. Shiori’s father speaking about a ‘goddess’ and the battle that had followed. The Cuban cigar was the same as the one he had found in the warehouse before killing Katsumi.
It was really was her.
This was the woman that the All Seers had been preparing him to fight for the last half decade.
Rage poured over his body. He felt his limbs willing themselves to attack her. He wanted to throttle her to death right then and there.
“I knew your father’s bleeding heart wasn’t completely lost on you. As soon as you found out about Scarlet’s poor little sister you wouldn’t be able to resist handing her the cup. Maybe I should be thanking you. All the money I won has been incredibly helpful,” Valko said taking a sip of her vodka.
Both she and Albus knew that if he attacked her now his life would be over. There would be dozens of witnesses watching him assault a woman with diplomatic immunity inside an illegal casino with no proof that she was guilty. Her little confession meant nothing. He’d be sent to Azkaban for the rest of his life and if she survived the attack, would be able to continue with whatever she was up to completely unhindered.
“It’s a shame that I had to kill Shiori’s father but after he started flapping his lips to you lot, he had become a liability. The original plan was to kill you as well but you surprised me when you managed to kill my little Toushi friend,” she said as if she were talking about an unfortunate quidditch result.
The gun at his side seemed to be calling his name. Everything inside him wanted to pull it and blow her head off right then and there but he couldn’t. Albus was visible shaking with fury.
“It horrible, isn’t it? To be trapped by the law,” she said relishing the effect that she was having on him. “I used to be just like you. I knew who the bad ones were, I knew what they had done and I knew what they deserved but the law kept them safe. I couldn’t prove what they had done so I had to just sit back and let them walk around. It was frustrating to say the least.”
Albus clenched his fists together so hard that his knuckles turned white.
“Of course, that’s not a problem anymore. Maybe it’s that little similarity that has made me like you so much. You and I are very much alike.”
“I am nothing like you!” he spat.
“Not yet...but, you have to worry Albus. I’m going to give you a chance to stop me...but not just yet,” she drowned her Vodka and began walking away.
“And how are you planning to become immortal?” Albus hissed through gritted teeth.
Valko let out a light chuckle.
“Now, that would be telling...”
“Yeah well, you better do it quick because I am going to kill you,” Albus said with all the conviction he had ever known.
“You’ll try...Dos vedanya Tovarisch.”
She walked away leaving him seething with hatred. She was right. She had just confessed to everything and there was nothing he could do about it. He had sworn to uphold the law and right now, the law was on her side.
For the first time in his life, Albus hated being an Auror. He hated the law and most of all he hated being the All Seers puppet.
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