Chapter 5 : V. Murder the Fifth (Almost)
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The small card table shoved in the corner of the cramped kitchen was burdened under the weight of three sets of elbows and at least as many alcoholic beverages. The kitchen lamp flickered, threatening to plunge the room into darkness. The only sound in the air was the occasional tinkle of ice against the glass.
Roxanne washed the bubble of guilt that had been growing in her throat since looking at her brother’s flatmate with a hearty swig of firewhiskey. She barely recoiled as the liquid seared its way down her throat. Victoire was dead, and her murdered cousin’s husband would be crawling into her bed later that night.
Fred’s eyes flitted back and forth from his younger sister to his flatmate and best friend. He helped himself to another beer as he studied their behaviours. Immersing himself in their grief helped him to ignore his own, a trick that every therapist learned very early in their career. His sister looked unsettled, nervous almost. She couldn’t hold her attention nor sit still. She refused to look up across the table at either of her companions. His flatmate clutched his empty glass in shaky hands adorned with stark white knuckles. His face was drawn, and his clear blue eyes were welled with tears that he refused to cry. His virility was all that was left of his thin shroud of composure. Fred sighed and placed his hands lightly on both of their arms.
At Fred’s touch, Dom looked up from the table. He realised that he had been clutching the bottle of Merlot tightly and dropped it. It tottered on the table top before toppling over. The remaining red liquid poured out over the table. Dom quickly reached to upright it, but stopped. The blood-red wine ran over the surface of the table and dripped onto the tiled floor. The tears he had been holding back erupted from his eyes. His sister was dead.
Nobody moved. There were no spoken words that could have consoled any of them. The wine continued to drip. The sound of it splashing onto the floor was the only sound in the room.
A knock against the flat’s chipped door startled the trio. Pulled to their senses, Dom quickly siphoned the spilt wine off of the floor and table with his wand. Roxanne chanced a sympathetic glance at her aggrieved cousin, and Fred rose to answer the door.
Opening it a crack, he could see Teddy on the other side of the door. Fred breathed out a heartfelt sigh and undid the chain latch on the doorway. Roxanne picked her dark cloak up off of the fourth chair at the table and gestured for Teddy to sit down at the table with them. The older man smiled appreciatively and pulled his hood from his head before sitting down.
“Fred, Dom, Roxanne,” Teddy nodded to each of them in turn. The sound of her name uttered so casually from his mouth stung, though she knew she could not be his lover outside the safety of her flat. The others returned nods of greeting. “I didn’t mean to interrupt,” Teddy continued, “but I thought that you should know. There’s been another murder. Roxanne, I think that you should come with me so that we can discuss the details.”
Fred and Dom eyed to two Aurors as Roxanne slipped her cloak over her shoulders and Teddy pulled his hood up over his head. They didn’t envy the Aurors’ task one bit.
“How are they doing?” Teddy asked Roxanne once they were out of earshot.
“How do you think they’re doing, Teddy? Dom’s lost his sister and Fred his cousin.” Roxanne continued walking though he had paused in the corridor. “Shouldn’t we be hurrying into the office? Didn’t you say that we had another murder?”
“We do have another murder.” Teddy nearly whispered. “James contacted me. It’s our witness from the McNair scene. The apothecist, he found him while he was poking around the shop.”
“So what’s the problem? Let’s get going.”
“It’s not that easy, Roxanne.” Teddy took a few steps towards her and ran the back of his hand down her cheek. “We haven’t reported the murder yet. We’ve been pulled from the case. James shouldn’t have been there, seeing as we aren’t allowed to be within a hundred metres of the crime scene.”
“So where’s James at now?” Roxanne’s heart rattled nervously in her chest. “And how does this involve me? I wasn’t pulled from any investigations. You do realise that the department could have both your badges for concealing a murder?” She stepped away from him. “And where’s John at?”
“John’s fine.” Teddy snapped. “I happen to be a competent father, Roxanne.”
“I’m sorry, Teddy. I didn’t mean to –”
“James is gone. Wasn’t at the crime scene when I got there.” Teddy’s words alarmed her, and left her jaw slack. “That’s why I came to find you. Thought you’d want to help look over the scene, or know where James had gone.”
“Teddy, this isn’t good. James is gone and you still want to sneak around and risk you badge?” Her voice was nearly a screech. Teddy recoiled a bit. “I’m going into the department. I’m going to talk to Harry. He needs to know that there’s been another murder and the his son has gone missing after finding the body. Are you coming or not?”
Teddy sighed. He knew that she was right. It was dangerous for him to poke around the scene, to put too much at stake. He pulled Roxanne into his arms and could feel her tense body melt ever so slightly in his arms.
“No, I really should pop back to your flat and check on John. He’s still sleeping where you left him.” He kissed the top of her head. “I’ll write Kara and see if James is there before we make a fuss over this.” He dropped his arms and stepped away from Roxanne. “You’ll be home soon, right?” The word home rang pleasantly in her ears and she nodded.
She watched as Teddy turned on the spot and disappeared into the night before pulling her golden coin from her pocket. It seemed that it was ages ago when she had last used it, but in reality, McNair had been dead for less than a week.
“It’s Auror Roxanne Weasley, off-duty. Rumoured fourth victim found in the upstairs apartment of the Apothecary. Nobody on the scene now.” She slid down the corridor wall to the floor and closed her eyes, earnestly hoping she was doing the right thing.
A soft hooting sound echoed in her head. She must have drifted off in the corridor outside Fred and Dom’s flat. Roxanne stirred and slowly opened one eye; a sharp, stiff pain shot up her lower back. A familiar great horned owl stared back at her and dropped a thin roll of parchment into her lap. It was a letter from her uncle, requesting her immediate presence at his office as soon as possible.
She jumped to her feel. Perhaps the department had been alerted to the most recent murder scene and made some headway in the case. Her hear raced nervously and her mouth was dry. Roxanne shuffled through her cloak’s multiple pockets for a quill and hurriedly scribbled a response for propriety’s sake before turning on the spot.
The world spun and compressed around her. When she opened her eyes, she was standing in the Ministry’s Atrium. Roxanne let out an exasperated groan and broke into a jog. The damn spells that kept the government’s many offices secure were certainly a nuisance to anyone in a hurry to reach any particular department. The lift didn’t appear to be in working order or moving much too slowly for her satisfaction, so she entered the stairwell, skipping down the steps two at a time. Reaching the Auror office, she pushed a few loose strands of hair from her face and struggled to catch her breath.
The only light in the department spilled out of Harry’s office, painting a faint path across the tiled floor. Roxanne followed the path nervously, worried for what news awaited her on the other side of the door. A deep breath of the stale, underground air did not have the calming effect she had hoped it would. She gingerly knocked on the door, though it was cracked open.
“Roxanne?” Her uncle’s voice sounded strained. Something was very wrong. “Roxanne. Please, come in.”
She hesitantly pushed the heavy wooden barrier open and walked into the well-lit office. Her eyes reflexively squinted in protest. Sitting around the lavish room was Harry, Senior Auror Jones, and Uncle Ron.
“Please, sit down.” Harry’s round, wire-rimmed glasses sat on his desk, and his eyes were puffy. Roxanne suspected he had been rubbing the heels of his hands into them. “We need to know how you knew about Mr. Turpin’s murder. You weren’t on the scene when you reported it. How did you know that the murder had occurred?”
Ron and Jones followed Harry’s gaze and stared at Roxanne. Her heart froze, and her voice caught in her throat. She had been the person to report three of the four murders now attributed to the serial killer. Though she had only graduated from the academy eight months ago, she knew how this looked. Perhaps she should have listened to Teddy. Perhaps she shouldn’t have called in the Apothecist.
“You can’t, er, I mean, you don’t,” her mind raced, and her mouth struggled to articulate intelligible sentences.
“Roxy,” To her surprise it was Ron’s voice and not Harry’s that interrupted her inane babble. His voice was not that of Department’s second in command, but of a concerned uncle. “We don’t suspect you, if that’s what you worried about.”
“Of all people, you should know that I understand unfortunate coincidences.” Harry’s green eyes connected to her own, instilling a small comfort to her soul. “But we do have a suspect,” he continued, his voice uncharacteristically grave. “Which is why we need to know how you knew to report this last murder to the department.”
Roxanne could feel her voice trembling. “Well, I was over at Fred and Dom’s flat. We were having a few drinks, and Teddy showed up.” She fought the telltale blush that crept up her cheeks at his mention, having still not perfected the casual demeanour that Teddy had. “He pulled me out into the corridor. Told me that James had found the body –”
Around the room, the men’s heads sunk to their chests and Roxanne’s voice froze dead in her chest.
“How could Harry possibly think that James is the serial killer?” Livid did not even begin to describe Teddy’ mood as he slammed his fist down into the kitchen counter. “Surely Harry has lost his mind. The idea of him believing that his own son has been traipsing over London, committing the most perfect murders this generation has seen is just repulsive I don’t understand how he could possibly think that.” He spat across the room as each syllable articulated from his mouth. The volume of his voice rose with each word.
“Teddy, quiet.” Roxanne whispered from the corner, her voice urgent. “You’ll wake John.”
“Don’t tell me to be quiet, Roxanne.” Teddy paced across the length of the tiny room. “I won’t bloody wake John. I’m his father. I think I know how soundly my son sleeps.” He resented how much she sounded like Victoire right now. Even in her death, his wife hadn’t truly left him.
He paused both his words and his pacing as Roxanne left the Kitchen to check on the tiny blonde boy sleeping in her room. The walls of the flat pressed in on him, feeling more like a prison than the warm refuge they had come to feel like.
“I told you already,” Teddy’s head snapped up as Roxanne re-entered the room. “Kara contacted Uncle Harry. She told him that James wasn’t home the night of the first murder, and that he came home late, covered in blood the night that McNair was killed. She also said that he had fought,” her voice was trembling as she spoke, and tears ran down her broad cheeks. “That he had fought with Victoire right before she turned up dead. And now. Now he is alone and finds the only witness to the McNair murder dead. Doesn’t report it to the office, but to you, and then flees the scene?”
Teddy crossed towards Roxanne. It killed him to see her so distraught. He lifted a hand to pet her wet cheek, but she ducked away from it.
“No, Teddy. Not now.” Her voice was stiff, full of a resolve he hadn’t heard from her before. “I don’t want to believe that James is capable of something like this just as much as you don’t, but we’re Aurors. We have to face the facts, and all the facts are pointing to James right now.”
Teddy watched as she clamped her eyes shut and inhaled deeply. He took the opportunity to run his hand over her hair and down her jaw line to her chin.
“Teddy,” her voice was less severe when she spoke, “I said don’t.” She did not pull away from his touch. “I need my room. I want to review everything from these four murders. You should take John to the Burrow. You know Nana Molly wouldn’t mind looking after him.”
“Aye.” Teddy dropped his hand from her face. “Then I think I’ll go look for James. I have a decent idea of where he may be.”
James breathed in the country night air. How had anything come to this? He looked around the quaint tree house and smiled. It was hard to believe that his mum had also sought refuge from the world within its wooden walls at one time. He very much doubted that whatever she had sought refuge from was quite as serious.
The metallic, irony scent lingered from the Apothecary in the back of his nose trickled down to the back of his throat. The taste of blood threatened to make him hurl. It was all so clear to him now, the struggle for justice and power, for respect and notoriety. He knew what he had to do.
He knew that Teddy would look for him here, but he could only hope that innocent and young Roxanne would never know the truth about any of this.
Two figures stand in a small wooden room. Both draw their wands slowly from their waistbands, the taste of their immanent incantations tickle their lips.
One figure smiles.
The other figure’s eyes close.
Somewhere, across the garden, the sound of a young boy crying halts both figures in their tracks.
A/N: Thank you for Reading. A huge thank you to all of you who have reviewed or favourited this story. One chapter left. dun dun dunnnn. So, what did you think? Any predictions??
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