A/N: Devout apologies for not getting this chapter finished sooner. As you probably guessed, I have now posted everything I wrote during NaNoWriMo, so now have to finish the story (no comments on my not having done that sooner!) with fresh stuff. So... New chapters will hopefully be every other week now. I'm off on a vacation trip next week, so the next chapter may be about three weeks off. I'll try to get one done and posted before I go, but I can't promise anything. And now, onwards...
I went by my dad's office the next morning. And by morning, of course I mean one in the afternoon. I figured I'd better tell him what Lenny had said about Ambrosia being Annable's boss. Since I couldn't just tell him Lenny had told me about it, I was going to invent a former customer of Annable's whom I had allegedly run into down Knockturn Alley. It sounded a little dodgy, but half the things I actually did were dodgy, so I was hoping Dad wouldn't question my source.
Dad was at his desk when I got there, behind a very large and rather precarious pile of papers. He looked up when I came in and smiled broadly at me.
“We found Andrew,” he told me. “Well, we didn't exactly find him. It was more that he was delivered to us.”
I moved a stack of papers from the chair opposite Dad's desk to the floor and sat down. “How do you mean?”
“Well, we sent the MLEs after him yesterday after your mum started looking into him a bit more – turns out old Andrew has put out a few other dodgy plea bargains – but no one knew where he was. They were supposed to go out again this morning to find him when his superior reported that he hadn't turned up for work. Funny thing, though, when we got up to the Auror department, we found Andrew on our doorstep, trussed up like a suckling pig and covered in green tentacles, with a sign pinned to him saying Cheating bastard, ought to be locked up.”
I snorted. Hugo and the boys had been busy. “Tentacles?”
Dad was grinning. “Yes, it was a terrible thing. Poor bloke was completely unconscious. Your uncle Harry thought the handwriting on the sign looked a lot like your cousin James's handwriting, but you wouldn't know anything about that, would you?”
“Nope, not a thing,” I assured him. “You'll probably never find out who assaulted him like that. London has a lot of crime. Could've been anyone.”
“That's what I thought.” Dad chuckled. “As soon as the mediwizards brought him round and he saw your mum looming over him looking like she might put the tentacles back on, he clammed up and asked for a lawyer. We haven't got anything out of him yet, but hopefully he'll make a deal and give up whoever he's been working with. He's down in a holding cell now, waiting for his lawyer.”
Dad seemed pretty chuffed about Andrew turning up so easily, even if he had refused to talk without an attorney. I decided it was probably safe to go with my invented Knockturn Alley drug user story after all – Dad in a good mood might overlook the dodginess.
“I have a bit more on Ambrosia,” I told him, trying to stick to the truth as long as possible. “I was canvassing Knockturn Alley yesterday, and I ran across a few people who knew Annable-”
“Ex-customers, no doubt,” Dad said with a grunt, but he still seemed in a good mood.
As much as my parents say I've been lying to them since I was a little girl (and they have a point), I don't really like telling my dad a bold-faced lie if I can avoid it. Just small ones. White lies, as it were. Just so I don't get in trouble over something unimportant. But I'd gone as far as I could with the truth: I had canvassed Knockturn Alley yesterday and had run across a few people, but now I had to lie to my dad. “Yeah. I was asking them if they knew Ambrosia Heggs as well, and one of them told me she was Annable's boss.”
Dad sat up straight. “Tell me exactly what this person told you.”
“Ambrosia brought Annable his 'products' to sell and took some of his profits, and they didn't get along. Annable thought she was a right bitch. He said she was Annable's boss, and in charge of greater London.”
“That's not a bit more, Rose, that's a lot.” Dad had his Auror face on, that keen look he got when he was on a case. “I'd say that's our first solid point of connection between Ambrosia and this whole Lenny mess. She's definitely part of this Organization, then.”
“She can't be that high up in it,” I pointed out. “If she's some sort of regional boss distributing illegal substances to drug dealers, doesn't that seem like a mid-level sort of thing to be doing?”
“Yeah, it does, but we won't know unless we can get her. I wonder how Andrew got involved in all this.” Dad rubbed a hand over his face. “I can't believe someone married to my niece is cutting deals for organized crime.”
“Lenny isn't organized crime,” I pointed out, and Dad shook his head.
“Not Lenny – the other plea bargains Andrew's been offering were to mobsters and crooks. I don't know how Lenny fits in to all that, except that he used to buy from Annable.”
I didn't know either, but I was willing to bet Andrew did. It was almost a shame the Ministry already had him in custody; if I'd gotten to him last night when my brother and cousins had him, I could've questioned him myself. I didn't have to worry so much about legal issues when I questioned someone the way Dad and Uncle Harry did, so sometimes I wound up getting a bit more out of them. And I knew a bit more about Lenny than I'd told Dad, of course. I wondered if there was any way Dad would let me talk to Andrew now.
Well, it couldn't hurt to ask.
“Daddy, can I talk to Andrew?”
Dad eyed me. “Rose, he asked for a lawyer. We can't let anyone speak to him until his lawyer gets here or he'll sue us.”
“But I'm not an MLE,” I pointed out. “Or an Auror. Talking to me won't violate any of his rights. I'm not an official. I'm just his cousin, concerned for his well-being.”
“That's true,”said Dad slowly. He appeared to like this particular rationalization. “As a member of his family – legally speaking – you have every right to go see him. And you're not with the Ministry... You'll tell me everything he says?”
“It'll be hearsay,” Dad added, mostly to himself. “But it might give us something we can use. Come on, Rosie.”
I followed Dad down to the holding cells and waited while he exchanged a few words with the MLE on duty. The man grinned broadly when Dad told him who I was. Maybe I really was a legend.
Being a legend seemed to have its uses, though, because the MLE – Stark, his name badge said – took my wand for safekeeping, then led me back into the cells and unlocked Andrew's.
Andrew was lying on the bench, looking sullen, but he sat up when I came in. I sat down on the bench on the opposite wall (lucky Andrew had managed to get a holding cell all to himself) and Stark locked the door behind me. I could hear his footsteps clacking down the hall as he walked back to his desk, where my dad was waiting.
Andrew seemed surprised to see me, and more than a little wary. I supposed this was only to be expected, since I wasn't exactly close with Dominique, and had only had an actual conversation with him on a couple of occasions. And my brother had, after all, attacked him only last night. Probably I wasn't someone he really wanted to see right now.
I sat there across from Andrew for a minute. I had to talk to him, I knew. He was involved in this whole mess somehow – this was probably the man behind the mysterious plea bargain. But all I could see when I looked at him was the bastard who'd made Dominique burst into tears over her complicated dinner. If Stark hadn't taken my wand, I might have hexed him.
“I don't have to speak to you without my lawyer,” Andrew said. He looked pretty defensive about it. Guess he thought I might attack him any moment.
“I'm not an MLE, Andrew,” I told him. “I'm not with the Ministry at all. I'm just your wife's cousin. You can talk to me without a lawyer present.”
I watched Andrew weigh this. He wasn't dumb, for all he might be an ambitious, unprincipled man. He knew perfectly well anything he said to me would only be hearsay to the Wizengamot if I tried to testify against him. He could very easily get my entire testimony thrown out of court.
He had twitched a little when I mentioned his wife, though.
“What do you want?” he asked eventually.
“I just want to talk to you about a plea bargain you made to Lenny Graves.”
Andrew blinked in surprise. “Lenny?”
I got the impression he'd thought I wanted to talk about Dominique. I wouldn't mind telling him what a jerk he was for that, but right now I had more pressing matters. “Yes. Did you know Herbert Annable? And do you know a woman named Ambrosia Heggs?”
There was a blank look on his face. Either he didn't know Ambrosia, or he was a better liar than I'd ever given him credit for. “No, I don't know her. And I didn't know Mr. Annable personally, either.”
“But you did know him,” I said sharply. He wasn't going to trip me up with that 'personally' bit. I hated lawyers. Except my mum, of course. “How?”
“I didn't know him at all,” Andrew said, backpedaling a bit. “I only knew who he was. I prosecuted a case against him once, that's all. Drug charges. He was a nobody.”
Nice. “Then why did you offer Lenny Graves a plea bargain when the MLEs were sure he'd murdered Annable?”
“It was a favour for... a friend.” Andrew's demeanour changed completely as he said this. He frowned at me and folded his arms across his chest.
“What about all those others? My mum says you've offered several illegal plea bargains.”
“I know,” he said sourly. “She's investigating me for corruption now.”
Um, yeah, because he was corrupt. I stared at him for a minute, trying to think how to get him to open up. I reckoned I ought to back away from mentioning his shady dealings.
“A favour,” I said slowly. I thought I had an idea. “Who asked you to do this favour?”
Andrew brushed this off with an irritable wave of his hand. “It doesn't matter.”
“Did you get paid for this favour?”
He bristled. “It wasn't like that. I just... did someone a favour, that's all. Don't tell me you've never done someone a favour, Rose.”
I tried not to look embarrassed. I was presently committing some sort of felony by hiding Lenny instead of bringing him to the authorities. Andrew sort of had a point there.
Andrew gave me a look that I thought was a little overly familiar, even considering he was married to my cousin. Well, used to be married to my cousin. “Xanthe's boss, she knows Lenny's dad or something. She didn't want to see him get in trouble, and Xanthe just wanted to have her boss be pleased with her. You know how it is with bosses. You scratch their back, and they'll scratch yours.”
I couldn't imagine Angelo scratching anyone's back, no matter what they did for him. Angelo didn't respond to kindness, only threats of bodily harm from his bookies. “Who is Xanthe?”
“My fiancée,” Andrew said, looking a little surprised. “Didn't Dominique tell you her name?”
I seriously wanted to punch him in the face. He'd scream bloody murder for Officer Stark if I did, though. I pictured Hugo and the boys hexing him with tentacles and felt a little better. “Xanthe,” I repeated.
“Yeah. She's brilliant, absolutely brilliant.”
“She asked you to let Lenny off on murder charges?”
“Not off, really,” Andrew said. “Just reduced sentence. You know Lenny, he probably didn't mean to do it anyway. His dad's got highly placed friends in the Ministry, you know. He'd have gotten it anyway. I just saved everyone some time and media trouble.”
He actually seemed proud of himself. Unbelievable. Unfortunately, he was also not terribly helpful. If he really hadn't known Annable, and didn't know Ambrosia Heggs – and I believed him about that – then he probably wasn't directly involved in the Organization. But the other criminals he'd let off had likely been part of some sort of organized crime.
“So Lenny had nothing to do with the other plea bargains that my mum's investigating?”
Andrew's face went sour again. Whoops, maybe I should have asked that differently. “No.”
“Did you hand out those other plea bargains because of Xanthe, too?” I asked. I wasn't sure where that had come from, actually. It had popped out of my mouth without my really thinking about it.
Something flashed across Andrew's eyes. Surprise, maybe, and a little bit of guilt. “No, of course not.”
“Why were you offering those other plea bargains, then? Did someone pay you to do that?”
Andrew shook his head. “I'm not talking about that without my lawyer, Rose, MLE or not.”
Crap. I found it hard to believe there was nothing worse going on there, and that Lenny's case wasn't somehow connected to this. Where did the Organization fit in? And Ambrosia Heggs? And who had really killed Annable? Was everything that had happened to Lenny just happenstance? I had an itchy feeling that something more was happening here with Andrew. Maybe more than even he knew about, but whatever it was, this wasn't the whole story. I couldn't think of an angle, though. “So you only offered Lenny a plea bargain to make your girlfriend happy? That's all?”
He nodded. “Yeah. I'm going to marry her. I want her career to go well.”
Now I really wanted to punch him.
“You should meet her, Rose,” he went on, smiling suddenly in a disgustingly lovesick way. “Oh, she's beautiful. She has these blue eyes like the sky in Majorca, and this hair-”
“Dominique has blue eyes,” I cut across him loudly. This git had been to Majorca and I hadn't. I didn't want to hear him waxing rhapsodic about the woman he'd left his wife for. “And she has great hair.”
Andrew's smile faded. “Yes, well...”
“And you have a son with her. Victoire said that Dominique said that you haven't even been by to see the baby.”
“I've been busy,” he told me. “Plans with Xanthe and all...”
I pulled a face at him. “You're a fantastic example of fatherhood, Andrew.”
He glared at me. “No one asked you, Rose. I want my lawyer now.”
I reckoned that was probably as much as I was going to get out of Andrew, so I called for Stark to come open the cell.
When I got back to the desk, my dad was still standing there, looking a little impatient. Another MLE, this one a man who looked fresh out of Hogwarts, was behind the desk now, watching Dad out of the corner of his eyes and looking a little nervous. I supposed my father was probably quite intimidating to a rookie MLE.
“What did he say?” Dad demanded as soon as the door to the holding cells closed.
“Not a lot.”
“Come to my office.” Dad grabbed my wand from the desk and then ushered me back to the lifts, heading for the Auror offices.
We waited in silence for the lift, and managed to get one to ourselves when it finally came.
“What did he say?” Dad asked again as the lift set off.
“A bunch about his girlfriend, Xanthe.”
Dad snorted. “Git. What did he tell you about Lenny?”
“He says he only offered the plea bargain because his girlfriend's boss is friends with Lenny's dad, and he wanted to help her out at work. He said he reckoned Lenny would get off light anyway because of his dad. He called it a favour.”
“That's insane,” Dad said. “He'd jeopardize his career over this woman?”
“He'd already jeopardized it with those other plea bargains,” I pointed out. “He probably figured one more wouldn't hurt.”
“True.” Dad went on in a mutter, “He'd already thrown away his marriage for her, anyhow.”
We rode in silence a bit longer, then I said, “I asked him if he knew Annable, or Ambrosia Heggs. He said he'd prosecuted Annable for drug dealing once, but he didn't know either of them.”
The lift doors opened, and Dad waved me out first.
“So,” he began as we went inside his office and plopped down onto the orange sofa, “Lenny's plea had nothing to do with the rest of this mess, then.”
“That's what he said.” I wasn't sure how much I trusted Andrew, and I was pretty sure Dad didn't trust him much either, but there wasn't anything much else to be done.
“I find it hard to believe there isn't a connection between Andrew, the plea bargain, and this whole Organization thing, including Ambrosia Heggs, or whatever her real name is.” Dad shook his head. “Maybe he was lying about that.”
“I don't know, he seemed to be telling the truth, at least about why he did it. He had a weird look on his face when I asked him if he'd done the other dodgy plea bargains as a favour for Xanthe, too.” Now I thought back on that, maybe he hadn't been feeling guilty for leaving Dominique at all. Maybe he felt guilty because he was lying to me about offering those pleas.
“Interesting. That's an angle we'll have to look into,” Dad said thoughtfully. “We don't know anything about this girlfriend of his. Get a last name on her?”
I shook my head. “No, I didn't think of it.”
“I'll find it. We'll get a background check on her.”
This was really not going well for Andrew. First he was attacked, then his career imploded, now the woman he'd left his wife for would be investigated, too. Chalk up another enemy for the Weasley family after this. He wasn't going to want anything to do with us.
Cheered by this thought, I asked, “Do you think when you question him with his lawyer present, you might get any more out of him?”
“Doubt it,” Dad said. “His lawyer will advise him not to say a word, they always do.”
Dad set off to get his flunkies to look into Andrew's girlfriend, and I set off back home. I wanted to check on Scorpius and make sure he hadn't done anything mental while I was gone. He was still in a bloody awful mood from the mess with the imposter agent yesterday, at times depressed and at times angry. I wasn't entirely sure what to do with him, actually.
When I got home, Scorpius had the painting of Lenny playing guitar propped up on his easel in the middle of the living room. I stopped to admire it, and realized the painting was moving now. He must have done the charm this morning. The portrait of Lenny strummed his guitar and sang in a soft voice. I couldn't make out the words, really, but it was oddly soothing. Lenny had a pretty decent voice.
The real Lenny was sitting on our couch, reading an Auror novel and eating cheese puffs. He looked relaxed, and his thin face was smiling slightly as he read.
“How do you like it?” Scorpius asked, nodding at the portrait. He was standing at the kitchen table, cleaning his paintbrushes. His wand twirled as he worked. “It's finished now.”
“It's amazing. You should do portraits more often.”
He seemed pleased, and smiled at me. I went and sat on the chair and stared at the painting of Lenny, thinking.
Getting Andrew in custody, even though he wouldn't tell them anything without a lawyer, and knowing that the MLE who'd mishandled Lenny's case was no longer at the Ministry, probably meant that Lenny could now safely be turned in to the authorities. I wasn't quite sure how to do it, though.
This had all gotten far more complicated than I'd expected when I'd agreed to help Lenny. I had thought I would hide him for a while, find out who the real murderer was, and then produce Lenny at the appropriate moment and pick up both my bounty on him and the money he owed me. Easy. Gormly's murder had thrown a wrench in my plans. I was pretty sure he had murdered Annable, although I didn't know why, but then Ambrosia had murdered Gormly and now he couldn't testify. She was probably the only person who knew for sure what had happened between Gormly and Annable. And she was still out there on the loose. The Ministry wanted her for questioning in Gormly's murder after what she'd said to me when she kidnapped me, so at least Lenny was in the clear on that one. As far as I knew.
I couldn't decide. Would it be more potential trouble to turn him in now, or to wait until Dad had found out a bit more? I reckoned I might as well give it a bit longer, see what Dad turned up on Andrew once he was able to question him. And that background check on Andrew's girlfriend. Maybe something helpful would come out of that.
Scorpius came over and sat on the arm of the chair next to me. “Everything okay, Rose?”
“I have no idea any more,” I said honestly.
He held out his hand, and I laced my fingers through his.
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