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A Weirder Shade of Midnight by momotwins
Chapter 4 : A Man Named Annable
 
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 8


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Lenny's arrest report was giving me a headache. I'd read through it half a dozen times now, hoping it would stop making such terrible sense to me, but unfortunately, it was all pretty logical, if you looked at it on paper.

Lenny was a known drug user with a long history of being arrested for substance-related charges. The victim was his dealer. They had been in the middle of a sale when the victim was killed with Lenny's wand. There was no evidence of anyone else being at the scene of the crime, only the word of the primary suspect. To the MLEs, this was an open and shut case, it seemed: drug deal gone wrong, dealer murdered by crazed junkie.

Somehow, I'd been hoping to find a weird detail, something that didn't fit, didn't make sense with the rest of the report. But there wasn't anything weird: it all made sense. It was something that happened all the time, and the MLEs had seen it far too often.

Except that I didn't believe it when I looked at Lenny.

It was actually the afterwards part that I thought was weird. The arrest and the MLE's conclusion that Lenny was the murderer made such perfect sense that the fact he'd been offered a plea seemed off. It probably amounted to nothing more than Lenny having a famous father, but it didn't gel with the rest of it.

I set the report down on the table and sighed. Scorpius was washing the pans from dinner, and Lenny was sitting on the couch, hugging his pillow against him while he read a book. Neither of them seemed terribly concerned that Lenny was going to go to jail for murder. Or they trusted me to fix it. Yikes.

I watched Lenny reading the book (some kind of horror novel Scorpius had gotten from my cousin Lucy, who worked in a bookstore and was always giving us deadstock that should have been thrown out – we had a very weird library because of it) for a while, considering his face.

He'd been at our flat for two days now. And in that time, he hadn't abused any substances, not even alcohol. He was showered and wearing clean clothes, and generally behaving pretty normally. Scorpius was even willing to play hangman with him now. I hoped it would last. I still didn't entirely trust him if left alone – I was afraid he'd take off – but he was reminding me more and more of the old Lenny. And the more sober Lenny got, the less I could believe he had killed someone.

I wasn't a detective. I wasn't sure I really knew what to do here, so I decided the only thing to do was to start at the beginning: the scene of Lenny's alleged crime. The address was in the report, so I assigned Scorpius Lenny-sitting duties again and took off for Hackney.

Herbert Annable had lived in an extremely dodgy-looking building on a run-down street in a Muggle area. The building was magical, though: I could see pieces of additions jutting out at bizarre angles where the tenants had expanded their flats straight out over the street. None of the Muggles passing in the street could see it. They walked past without a glance, even though the building was so very strange-looking. It must have been nice, once upon a time, but now it was falling apart at the seams, and there was a homeless man, cracked and Spellotaped wand clutched to his chest, sleeping near the door next to a shopping trolley full of junk.

I stepped around a pile of rubbish on the steps, and went upstairs. Herbert Annable had lived on the fourth floor, and the door was still cordoned off, a large note posted to warn people it was off-limits pending a murder investigation. Lovely. I tested the wards on Annable's unit, but I didn't want to set off any alarms, so after a moment I gave up and looked around. Two of his neighbours had a clear view of his front door from out their peepholes. If they were anything like the tenants in my building, they knew what Annable was up to almost as soon as he did it. If anyone else had been there, or anything strange had been happening, they must have seen it or known of it. And they would probably not have told the MLEs, either. People in this sort of place didn't talk to the MLEs.

I picked a door at random and knocked on it. I could hear a shuffling sound, and then the peephole sprang to life, the tube stretching around to look at me. A tinny voice came through it.

“What do you want? I don't buy door-to-door, and I've got quite enough religion to be getting on with.”

“I'm not selling anything,” I said, trying to make my voice sound kind and trustworthy. “I'm investigating the murder of your neighbour, and I wanted to ask you a few questions.”

“I don't like bizzies, neither,” came the voice.

“I'm not an MLE,” I assured the peephole.

The tube retracted back into the door, which opened a crack and a woman who had to be eighty if she were a day peered out. She had a ginger wig, purple eyeshadow up to her pencilled-on brows, and wore the brightest red lipstick I'd ever seen.

“Who are you?” she asked in a thick Liverpool accent.

“I'm Rose Weasley,” I said, hoping she was not among the group of people who would call me a blood traitor and slam the door in my face. I really didn't like it, though I was used to it by now. I'd been called a blood traitor so many times I'd lost count.

She looked me up and down, and then said, “I called the bizzies when I heard that curse. I didn't open my door none, though. Don't want any attention from the wrong sort.”

“Did the wrong sort hang out around Mr. Annable's place very often?” I asked, giving her my best trustworthy smile.

“Dunno. I keep to myself, mostly. He were a busy thing, that one. I could hardly sleep for the people coming in and out constantly. Not that I sleep much anyway. Getting older is a pisser.” She adjusted her wig, scratching a bit at the front.

Dealing drugs did give one a full social life, I reckoned. “Do you remember anyone in particular? Recently? Or any incidents?”

“Like I said, I keep to myself. Here now, if you're not an MLE, who the devil are you?” She eyed me disapprovingly.

“I'm, um, a private investigator,” I told her. It sounded good. And telling old ladies one is a bounty hunter pretty much inevitably winds up with a door in the face. Might as well find out how being a P.I. compares.

She looked mildly impressed. “Cor. Like Sherlock Holmes?”

Wow. It was a good life, being a P.I. I should do this more often. Especially if all their customers pay rates like Lenny. I moved on to the other door, and this one opened to reveal a very large, very stocky man with a shaved head and stained red robes. He had to be nearly seven feet tall. I looked up at him, hoping he wasn't going to squish me like a bug.

“Um, do you mind if I ask you a few questions?”

He looked down at me and grunted. I had no idea what that was supposed to mean. Yes? No? Did he not speak English? I pressed on.

“Did you ever notice anyone strange around your neighbour's flat?”

“Nobody but strange blokes around there,” he rumbled. Whew, he did speak English.

“Maybe someone unusual, then? Not part of his regular crowd?” These people were so unobservant. Honestly, where was the nosy old lady who peers through her curtains to see what the neighbours were doing? The world needs more nosy old ladies.

“There was a man there last week. Right before Herb got killed,” Shaved Head said. “Dark hair, and dark robes. He didn't look nice. Herb was that frightened of him, I can tell you that.”

This sounded promising. “Did you tell the MLEs about him?”

“No,” Shaved Head said, his brows beetling. “They said some skinny kid killed him. Did the kid kill him?”

I gave him my trustworthy smile. It seemed to work all right on him. Poor guy. “I don't think so, no. Is there anything else you can tell me about the man Herb was scared of?”

“Herb said they worked together. He never told me his name, though.”

I thanked Shaved Head and went back outside, stopping on the front stoop to think for a minute.

Annable didn't work. He'd been a drug dealer. Was the other man, the one he was afraid of, a drug dealer too? Or some other kind of bad guy? And why was Annable afraid of him? Was this entirely coincidental? Maybe, but it was the closest I'd come to a lead, and I figured I'd follow up on it. Now I needed to find out more about Lenny's dealer's associates. How did I do that without getting arrested or killed?

I wasn't sure. I wasn't sure Lenny would know, either.

But I was betting someone in Knockturn Alley would know.

“You got any money?” the homeless man asked, making me jump. I'd forgotten he was there. Whoops.

“Um.” I fished in my pocket and came up with a pair of Knuts. I dropped them in his open hand and said, “Sorry, that's all I have.”

He looked at the two small coins and then back at me, giving me a beatific, one-toothed smile. “Cheap bitch,” he said.

“Hey, I'm broke too,” I told him indignantly.

He harrumphed, and I stuck my tongue out at him and Disapparated.

*

I could hear music from the hallway when I got home. I opened the door to find Lenny sitting cross-legged on the living room floor in the middle of a patch of light from the open window, playing an old Weird Sisters song on his guitar while Scorpius sat nearby, sketching busily on a large sheet of paper and singing along.

“What's going on?” I asked, peering down at Scorpius's drawing pad. He was sketching Lenny with his guitar. It looked pretty good to me. Scorpius didn't do portraits often, but it wasn't for lack of talent. I ought to nag him about painting portraits on commission. Maybe he could make some money at it. I remembered the agent then. Hopefully the landscapes Scorpius loved to paint would start making money now.

“Just hanging out with Lenny,” Scorpius said, flashing me a grin as he rubbed at the paper a bit with the side of his hand. “How'd your afternoon go, Rose?”

“Not very productive. How's Lenny?”

“Sober,” Lenny crooned, and then continued singing, to the tune of one of the Weird Sisters' greatest hooks, “Feeling pretty good, all things considered, but kind of wanting a hamburger.”

“I'm going to make a painting of Lenny,” Scorpius said, and held up the sketch to show me. “Have a look.”

I couldn't picture paintings in my head the way he could, but the sketch looked pretty cool. “Nice.”

“Let me see,” Lenny said, and then when Scorpius turned the drawing to him, “Whoa. You're good, man. Can you draw my axe like a flying V instead?”

“I don't know what that means,” Scorpius said apologetically, returning to his sketching.

“Nevermind.” Lenny strummed his guitar a bit. “Hey man,” he added, looking up at me. “Did you find out who murdered Annable?”

Scorpius glanced up at Lenny in disbelief. “Wait, you're accused of murdering a girl?”

“No, man, Annable. He was, like, my friend.”

“I'll explain later,” I told Scorpius. “No, Lenny, I haven't found the real killer yet. I'm still working on it. I did get a lead, so I'm going to go out later to try to trace it. I'm headed out to Knockturn Alley.”

“Pick up some tomatoes on your way home,” Scorpius said without looking up. He was dashing off a second sketch of Lenny and his guitar.

Lenny waved to me vaguely with one hand. “Have fun, man. Hey Scorpius, do you know 'Do The Hippogriff'?”

“Some of it. Do you know 'Get Me To The Church On Time'?”

Clearly I was not needed here.

When I got to Knockturn Alley, it occurred to me that if I went into Angelo's, I would get flack about not having found Lenny yet. I couldn't tell them the truth, obviously; Lydia was one of the biggest gossips I'd ever met, and Angelo would have a coronary for sure. Lying to both of them was the only option, but that meant Angelo thinking I couldn't even manage to catch Lenny Graves. I didn't feel like listening to Angelo yelling at me for being incompetent, so I reckoned I'd just avoid the bonds office altogether. Unfortunately, it was right at the mouth of the street as it feeds into Diagon Alley, and I would have to pass it to go anywhere else in Knockturn Alley. I considered Disillusioning myself, but it seemed too much bother. Besides, I'm not very good at it.

Hell with it. I ducked down below the level of the shop's windows and ran, crouched down, until I was past it. People gave me weird looks, but it worked. Or at least, no one came running out after me, so it seemed to work.

I went into a few shops, asking if anyone had known a man named Herbert Annable. A few people copped to knowing him slightly (by which I assumed they were 'friends' much as he'd been 'friends' with Lenny) but didn't know anyone he might have been associated with. I did get a few hints on other places where Annable was known to do business.

It's amazing how vague people can be when they think knowing something will get them in trouble with the MLEs. Everyone in Knockturn Alley knew I wasn't with the Ministry – I'd been working for Angelo long enough that the denizens of the alley mostly recognized me on sight as a bounty hunter – but they also knew who my parents were. I sort of fell somewhere in between: not a criminal, not an authority, but definitely not a nobody. There are times when being a Weasley, especially Ron and Hermione Weasley's daughter, was a distinct disadvantage, and let's not even get started on Uncle Harry.

I wound up in a pub tucked into the very back corner of Knockturn Alley. The Grinning Troll was a dirty place, staffed by some of the most disreputable people I'd ever met, and it served what had to be the world's most disgusting pub grub. I never ate here, but I did occasionally come in for a drink with Lydia, who loved the place. She'd known the barman for years – he'd been friends with her mum since before she was born.

“Good evening, Rose.” he asked as I slid onto a barstool. “How is life treating you?”

“Hullo, Skone. I'm all right.” I smiled at him. Skone was a huge man; he'd been the strongman in the wizarding circus where Lydia's mum had been a trapeze artist. I'd once seen Skone throw an oak table across the room with one hand. Oddly, he had the most cultivated, upper-class accent you'd ever heard. He sounded more posh than Scorpius's parents.

“What brings you to the Troll today?” he asked, handing me a bottle of butterbeer.

I supposed it couldn't hurt to ask him. “Skone, do you know a man named Annable?”

“His kind isn't allowed in here,” Skone said sternly. “I don't approve of that sort of thing. Annable figured it out after I threatened to break his legs. He stayed away after that. I heard he was killed, and the very next day a new fellow tried to move in on our corner of the street. Well, I put a stop to that, I don't mind telling you.”

This sounded promising. “Someone is taking over Annable's territory?”

“I had to snap his wand in two before he'd leave.” Skone shook his head. “These punks today have no respect. Just because this is Knockturn Alley, they think they can get away with anything. And then just this morning, some cheeky blonde bint came in asking about this as well. Wanted to look at the wand, and a description of the man who'd owned it.”

If it had been violence, he wouldn't have cared. Even if it were Dark magic, Skone probably would have looked the other way. Drugs, though, that was something this lot wouldn't put up with. They were old-school criminals. I didn't know who else would be looking into this, though. Maybe Lenny's dad had hired a real P.I.?

“What did she look like?” I asked. “The woman who came in asking about the man who took over for Annable.” I really needed to find out these people's names, just to make it easier to refer to them.

Skone held up one hand and waggled it in mid-air in a so-so gesture. “Blonde, like I said. A dark blonde, though. Sort of pretty. Not too thin. She was quite average, really.”

I looked up at the array of broken wands nailed over the bar. Skone always kept them. Trophies, I suppose, but it was pretty well-known that if you made Skone angry enough to break your wand, you weren't going to get the pieces back. “Which one was his?”

Skone pointed to the remains of a mahogany wand nailed to the wall. I could see the unicorn hair poking out from the broken ends.

“Mind if I borrow it?” I asked.

*

I visited three wand-makers before I found the right one. Stabbe & Stange was not one of the more popular wand shops in England, but it seemed to do a steady enough business. I had to wait for the man at the counter to finish with a customer – a woman in bright red, nicely tailored robes who looked about the same age as me – before I could ask him about the broken wand.

As she was leaving, the customer caught sight of me and stopped short.

“Rose? Rose Weasley?”

I looked up from the copy of Witch Weekly I'd been paging through. I had no idea who this person was. I hoped I hadn't taken her husband or one of her parents into custody. That seemed like it would be awkward.

“Um,” I said intelligently. “Yes?”

“It's me. Ambrosia Heggs. From Hogwarts.” She smiled at me encouragingly. Her eyes were very blue, with expertly drawn eyeliner, and her dark blonde hair was swept up into a twist. She didn't look at all familiar. Since I still had no idea who she was, and I was starting to feel like an idiot for not knowing, I did the only thing I could think of, and faked it.

“Oh, Ambrosia!” I said, as if I'd just remembered her from an Herbology class or something. “Hi. It's been a while, eh?”

“What are you doing in Birmingham? Gosh, I haven't seen you in forever. What are you up to these days?”

I didn't really want to play catch-up with this person. We must not have been friends at school, because I didn't remember her at all. That wasn't unlikely, though, since I'd spent most of Hogwarts either with various cousins or with Scorpius. I hadn't spared much attention for the rest of my classmates, I had to admit. But I couldn't see a way out of this conversation without being rude, so I just said, “Oh, I'm here doing some, um, research on wands.”

“Are you married? Any kids?” she asked, still smiling widely at me. Her smile was weird somehow, and it didn't reach her eyes. I decided I didn't like her. Probably why we hadn't been friends at Hogwarts. Why do people think you should be friends years later when you had nothing to do with one another in school? I wasn't that nostalgic for my school days, thanks.

“No, Scorpius and I live together,” I told her. “We're not married.”

“Scorpius Malfoy?” she said, a note of surprise in her voice.

I wondered how she could be surprised by this. Scorpius and I had started going out in fifth year. It had been all over the school when we started dating; after all, I was a Weasley and he was a Malfoy. The sheer amount of gossip based solely on our family names had made us pretty notorious, not to mention his reputation (I blamed the showtunes). God, it was exhausting just remembering all that. “Yeah. He was in my year, but in Hufflepuff,” I added, hoping she'd respond by telling me what house she had been in. Maybe she'd been a year above or below me. Oh jeez, was she one of Hugo's ex-girlfriends? There were too many for me to remember.

“Oh, right.” Ambrosia chuckled a bit, and I looked at her more closely.

There was something in her eyes that was off. Had she been in my year at Hogwarts? Who was she? One of those shy kids who sit in the back and never talk to anyone? Why didn't I remember her at all? I was going to ask Scorpius if he remembered her as soon as I got home.

“Well, I better get going,” I said, waving a hand at the counter. “I still have more errands to run today. It was nice seeing you, Ambrosia.”

“Good to see you too, Rose.”

I watched her leave the shop, wondering what the hell that had been about. Ambrosia Heggs. I didn't remember anyone by that name, but now that I thought about it, I could hardly remember the names of half my classmates. Maybe it had been nothing. Maybe she was just one of Hugo's old girlfriends after all. Wouldn't be the first to think I would remember her just because she went out with my brother for a week ten years ago.

The man behind the counter looked up and saw me, and started a bit. “I'm sorry, I didn't see you there. Can I help you?”

Didn't see me? I'd been standing in his lobby for ten minutes while he talked to Ambrosia, and then the last five minutes talking to her myself. That was some crap customer service. I pulled the wand out of my pocket. “I'm a private investigator, and I'm trying to find the owner of this wand.” I set the broken halves on the countertop.

He looked down at them, then pulled out a large magnifying glass. “Ah yes, mahogany and unicorn tail hair, twelve inches. A very nice wand, I thought. Let me see if I can look up the purchase record for you.” He tapped his wand against a filing cabinet and a drawer extended about six feet out. I raised my eyebrows; that was a lot of wands. I wondered how long he'd been in business.

It took him a surprisingly short amount of time to find the appropriate receipt. “Oh, here it is.” He waved a piece of paper at me. “I must have had it out recently, it was right on top. His name was Nicomedes Gormly, of Ashby-de-la-Zouch. He bought that wand from me when he was eleven years old, just before going to Hogwarts.” The salesman beamed in fond recollection, probably of the wand. In my experience, wandmakers remember the wands with remarkable clarity, and the customers not at all.

“Has he been back at all? To buy a replacement for the broken wand?”

The salesman shook his head. “No, I haven't had anyone buying replacement wands lately.”

Gormly must have gone somewhere else for a new wand. Well, at least I'd gotten his name. “You wouldn't have a current address, would you?” I asked.

He looked at me blankly, as if he did not understand the question. “For the wand? It's right there in your hand, dear.”

Wow. Yeah, definitely a wandmaker. I thanked him and headed back to London. I was going to have to get Lydia to find out where Nicomedes Gormly lived now. Great. I was going to have to go by Angelo's for that.

 





A/N: The songs mentioned: Do The Hippogriff is the song the Weird Sisters sing at the Yule Ball in the Goblet of Fire movie. Get Me To The Church On Time is from the Frederick Loewe/Alan Jay Lerner musical “My Fair Lady”.

Sherlock Holmes is the creation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
 


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