Angelo was happy that I'd finally gotten Knapper. He showed it in a typically Angelo way, by accusing me of gross incompetence for taking so damn long, and trying to skim some of my bounty. Lydia made sure I got the full amount, bless her. Angelo slammed his door on us, grumbling about worthless employees and probably Flooing his bookie a payment. Mum had the referendum to repeal the custodian law before the Wizengamot by the end of the month. She'd set up a foundation to buy out the bond agreements of the current custodians, so the bondsmen weren't out any money, and she, as head of the foundation, could control how the contracts ended. Angelo wasn't out any money on the contracts, so he grudgingly admitted that maybe Mum wasn't trying to bankrupt him after all. This time.
Since Pulford was dead, Worthing was going to be tried alone for all of Venatici's crimes. He really had cleaned up their tracks - so thoroughly that the Aurors couldn't find any evidence to tie him to Venatici. Fortunately, Knapper was willing to testify in exchange for immunity for his involvement in the whole thing. My testimony, telling the Wizengamot that he had saved Johnny Lupin's life by not revealing his true identity to Pulford and Worthing, had helped with that as well. What can I say, I felt bad for the guy, and punching him in the face had put me in a forgiving mood. Knapper still had to serve time on his original charges, so he didn't get off scot-free, but he was out in a few months. Lomatia Knapper had already changed the locks, though, and Butrus Knapper got out of jail in time to sign their divorce papers. Mum was Lomatia's legal counsel.
Dad was in the paper for Venatici's capture. The article interviewed a few of Worthing's neighbours, none of whom could believe he'd been murdering and dismembering people for the past ten years. “But he's such a nice man,” says neighbour Geraldine Fish in dismay. “So very quiet and polite...” They had a really good picture of my dad, looking very heroic and leading the squad of Aurors who escorted Worthing from his cell to stand trial. Between Knapper's evidence of his activities as Venatici and my retelling of his kidnapping of me and Johnny, Worthing was never going to get out of Azkaban.
Johnny seemed undeterred by the entire experience. Victoire had confided that she'd been sure he'd have nightmares from being kidnapped by serial killers, but apparently he was unfazed. If anything, he was even more firmly convinced that he was going to be a manticore when he grew up. After all, he'd been a manticore when he defeated Venatici. Half of Venatici, anyway. His kneecaps, at least. Victoire did not decide that I was never allowed near her children again. Nor did Teddy, though I tried to convince him I was having a bad influence and ought never be asked to babysit or change nappies. Victoire had talked him round first, though – she thought I owed her some free sitting for having gotten her son into that situation, and Teddy reckoned anyone who could be forced to watch his children for free couldn't be that bad an influence. Worse, Johnny decided I needed him to watch out for me, and followed me around like a puppy every time I went to the Lupins'. My own personal manticore protector. I have no luck, honestly.
Scorpius quit his job at the Ministry. I didn't even argue that his job had basically saved my life (aside from what Johnny had saved, that is). I had promised him that he could quit when I caught Knapper, so he tendered his notice as soon as I had the Galleons in hand. He seemed a lot happier, more relaxed. He dyed part of his hair purple in honour of his freedom from Corporate Britain. I bought him new dish gloves to celebrate. He didn't think it was as funny as I thought it was.
I may have gotten saved from the murderous knife of a serial killer by my three year old nephew, but I still felt pretty good about myself for having caught Knapper (well, for a given value of the word “caught”). Large piles of gold often have that effect on my self-esteem. I didn't get a reward for the whole Venatici capture, since I hadn't actually captured him – it had been the other way round – or given the Ministry anything to lead to his capture, but I was kind of okay with that. I never really expect any windfalls. My expectations run pretty low most of the time when gold is involved. Meeting Venatici and living to tell the tale felt like enough luck to me.
“Are you going out?” Scorpius asked. He was scrubbing the kitchen sink, his hair pulled back with my pink hair elastic. He was wearing his new dish gloves. They were purple, sprigged with white flowers. Very stylish.
I patted the small stack of skips Lydia had given me. “Someone's got to pay the bills.”
He quirked an eyebrow at me. “Well, it is your turn.”
“I know. But don't ask me to do any cleaning now you're not working,” I warned him.
“Don't worry. You're rubbish at cleaning, I'd rather do it myself.”
I brightened. “Good.”
He rolled his eyes and went back to scrubbing, humming quietly.
I grabbed my handbag and left. Clearly he was busy. When I closed the door behind me, I heard a familiar baritone voice raising in song.
“Wunderbar, wunderbar, there's our favourite star above, what a bright shining star, like our love it's wunderbar...”
I leaned against the door for a minute and listened to him sing, grinning widely. When he finished that number and started into “Climb Ev'ry Mountain”, I decided I'd better get a move on. I've never really cared for that song. Gran goes into raptures for it, though. I set off down the street and stopped for a coffee, then pulled out the stack of new skips that Lydia had given me and opened the first folder. I read the name and let out a groan.
It was only two in the afternoon, so Parmenter was at work. I hate taking people into custody at work. It's almost always more trouble than it's worth. I prefer to catch them unawares at home. But taking Parmenter down was a huge pain no matter where he was. Unfortunately, Parmenter worked selling ice lollies to little kids out of the back of a cart down Diagon Alley. It is impossible to adequately explain to a child that you have to take the ice cream man to jail because he got drunk and destroyed a liquor store. At least he wasn't working in a Father Christmas grotto, I suppose. Small favours.
I managed to sneak up on him while he was rooting around in the cart for a strawberry ice. He reared back when he saw me, almost tripping over the cart. I tried to look tough to Parmenter but non-threatening to the small crowd of children who were watching. Tricky.
Parmenter didn't look or smell good. If he wasn't drunk now, he'd only just sobered up. Fan-bloody-tastic.
The audience was making me nervous. I got right down to it. “I need to take you in, Parmenter. You missed another court date.”
“I don't know what you're talking about,” he told me, red eyes rolling madly. “My name is Chuck Finley.”
“Parmenter. Come on. I've taken you into custody a dozen times. I know who you are.”
“No, no, I'm Chuck Finley.”
“You're not fooling anyone, you know.”
Parmenter looked around frantically for an escape. “I d-don't know what you're t-talking about-”
This was just embarrassing. The kids were all staring at us, quite impassively, eating their ices, their eyes bobbing between me and Parmenter.
I grabbed his arm; he twisted away. He was sweaty, and it was hard to get a good grip. He managed to get his wand out and waved it somewhat frantically.
A cloud of ice lollies flew up out of the cart and began shooting at me. I ducked and dodged, and they splattered all over the wall behind me. One of them hit me in the leg. It kind of stung, I have to admit. Parmenter took advantage of my distraction while I rubbed my leg and sent a new barrage. This time several of them hit me, mostly in the hair. I could feel chunks of frozen berries running down my back. Gross.
I shot a couple of spells at Parmenter. He ducked behind the cart, and I tried to aim around it. The kids were still watching us and calmly eating their lollies and ices. Parmenter tried to hex me, and I managed to get him with an Incarcerous.
Trudging over to where he lay on the ground, squirming against the ropes, I tried to shake the remains of the lollies out of my hair. Really, I should get hazard pay for picking up Parmenter. Or send my laundry and shampoo bill to Angelo.
“Fair play to the girl,” one of the kids said judiciously, nodding. The little crowd dispersed, and I hauled Parmenter to his feet.
“Chuck Finley!” he squeaked.
“Sorry, Parmenter,” I said, and Apparated us both to the Ministry.
A/N: Whew! I can't believe I finished it. Thank you all for reading, and all the lovely reviews! It really means a lot to me. A quick disclaimer: Chuck Finley is from “Burn Notice”. It's Sam's favorite alias :) And the songs mentioned: “Wunderbar” is from the Cole Porter musical “Kiss Me Kate”, and “Climb Ev'ry Mountain” is from Rodgers & Hammerstein's “The Sound of Music”.
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