Chapter 3 : Cooperation, Mr. Caine
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Cooperation, Mr. Caine
The horrible, if familiar, sensation of being sucked through the tube of a gigantic hoover enveloped Audrey for a few seconds, before she rematerialized in the brightly lit main hall of the Ministry of Magic. Immediately, Caine’s body slammed into her, causing her to slip and fall heavily on the polished marble floor. Caine collapsed on top of her, still unconscious. Clearly, hovering charms were not meant to withstand side-along apparition.
Audrey scrambled ungracefully to her feet, pushing the detective’s body off her. She glanced around the hall furtively, but thankfully, it was still nearly empty. With a flick of her wand, Audrey restored the hovering charm, and began tugging Caine toward the lifts. She tried to look purposeful and serious, even nodding a curt hello to the dozy security wizard at the desk, who waved half-heartedly in response. Only once the pair was safely ensconced in one of the lifts, did Audrey let herself relax slightly. The doors were about to close, when a young wizard bounded into the cabin, skidding to a halt in front of Audrey. He paused for a moment to smooth back his shiny blond hair, before turning to her.
“Audrey, darling, thank you for holding the lift for me,” he drawled unpleasantly, flashing a perfect set of gleaming white teeth.
“I didn’t,” Audrey sneered, deliberately turning her back on him.
The young man’s grin broadened. “Tetchy this morning, aren’t we? Wake up on the wrong side of the bed?”
“Long night,” Audrey grunted, not looking at him. She had always disliked Alexey Gunner, despite his repeated attempts to flirt with her. It wasn’t that she didn’t think he was attractive—no, any female with eyes would have to admit that he was handsome—but his every word dripped with insincerity and sarcasm. And Audrey hated nothing worse than liars.
“Long night, huh,” Gunner’s eyes drifted over Audrey’s unkempt appearance and came to rest on the floating body by her side. He smirked.
“Party favor?” he asked, pointing to the rope in Audrey’s hands, which was still tied around Caine’s middle. “Kinky. I’m impressed, Ms. Tuesday.”
Audrey reddened. “It’s work,” she replied harshly. “And I don’t know what kind of parties you go to Gunner, but nowhere I’ve been gives out people as party favors.”
“No need to get so defensive, ducky,” Gunner said with mock innocence, raising his hands in surrender. “And please, call me ‘Alexey.’”
The lift ground to a halt, and the doors opened with a little ding. “Level one,” announced a cool female voice. “Minister for Magic and Support Staff.”
“That’s my stop!” Gunner stated cheerfully. “See you soon, Audrey.”
“No need,” Audrey retorted quickly, but the lift doors had already clanged shut. She sighed, slumping against the wall. Why were all men such gits? This was exactly the reason why she didn’t want a boyfriend.
The lift began to slow for a second time. “Level two,” it announced. “Department of Magical Law Enforcement.” The doors slid open.
“Alright, here we go,” Audrey said to no one in particular, dragging Caine out of the elevator. They turned left into Auror headquarters. Audrey proceeded past her usual cubicle, heading towards a door at the end of the hall. The little gold nameplate read: “Oscar Williamson, Head of Auror Office.”
The blinds were drawn. Audrey crossed her fingers, hoping that Williamson was inside, then rapped on the door. She heard movement from within, and the door opened.
“Williamson! Thank Merlin you’re here, I’ve got—oh, it’s you, Harry.”
The dark haired young man holding the door stared at her from behind his round glasses, his startlingly green eyes full of curiosity. Harry Potter was—well, everyone knew who he was. Unsurprisingly, he was a favourite around the Auror office. Even the most veteran aurors respected his opinion, despite his lack of experience in the Ministry. Everyone fully expected that he would succeed Williamson in a few years as Department Head.
“Audrey,” a deep voice called from behind Harry. “Come on in. Harry and I were just finishing.”
Harry pulled the door open wider for Audrey and her charge, a half-smile playing across his lips. He seemed to recognize Caine, but when Audrey shot him a questioning look, he only mumbled that he’d “heard something from Percy.”
“Thank you, Harry,” Williamson said. Harry nodded and shut the door behind him.
Audrey glanced around the office. It looked the same as always: a small, rectangular room, with bookshelves lining one wall, and black-and-white posters of Most Wanted Wizards covering the other. Audrey could see the frightening face of Inigo Mulciber hissing and glaring at her from the nearest poster. There were still a lot of Death Eaters like him out there, the ones who had managed to elude capture since the end of the war. She shuddered slightly, and pulled her eyes away from Mulciber. There was something magnetic about his gaze, like he could actually see her. Thank Merlin his case was a job for only the most highly trained aurors; a nobody like her had nothing to do with it.
At the very back of the office, just under the window (which was displaying a rather seasonally challenged scene of gleaming white snow), stood an enormous wooden desk, covered in neatly arranged rolls of parchment. Audrey moved closer. Williamson was finishing up some paperwork, by the look of it, and she stood patiently, waiting for him to finish. Williamson had been like a father to her since she’d joined the department—he had been her mentor while she was in training, and even now he was still the one she turned to when she needed advice. She watched as he frowned at a line he had just written, wrinkling his nose so that his wire-rimmed spectacles shifted up slightly. He had a very nice nose, Audrey noted. Narrow and pointed, with just the slightest smattering of brown freckles. His barely greying hair was swept back in a long ponytail, which accented his high cheekbones and aquiline features. He’s actually not that old—only forty or so, Audrey reflected. And so much better looking than Gunner.
Just then, Williamson looked up and noticed her eyeing him. His own warm brown eyes crinkled in a smile, and he indicated that she should sit opposite him. Audrey took the seat, fighting embarrassment. He had caught her staring!
“I take it it was an eventful night then?” Williamson’s eyes flicked over to the still-stunned Caine before returning to Audrey. “What happened?”
“I received an emergency call around 5:45 a.m., while I was on stand-by,” Audrey began, almost by rote. Stand-by was a venerable, and despised, tradition at the Auror office, where one or two aurors stayed behind overnight to watch the Floo network for emergency calls. Usually low-ranking or trainee aurors were assigned the duty, since nobody wanted it, but Audrey didn’t mind. The normally hectic office was quiet and peaceful overnight. And she hadn’t been sleeping so well lately, anyway.
“Padma Patil reported that she’d been trying to reach her twin sister, Parvati, by Floo, but had been unable to get a hold of her. She was worried that something had happened, so I said I’d investigate.”
Williamson raised his eyebrows skeptically. “She was trying to Floo her sister at five in the morning? Maybe the sister was just sleeping.”
“She was Flooing from India, that’s why it was so early. As for her concern…” Audrey shrugged. “It’s a twin thing. She just knew something was wrong.”
“And I was a bit bored,” Audrey acknowledged. “But anyway, she was right. When I got to Patil’s house, the door was already open, and all the security spells were down. The den was covered in—in intestines. Someone had murdered Parvati, and spread her guts all over the room.” Audrey swallowed a bit at the memory. “It was while I was examining the body that he,” she jerked her thumb towards Caine, “showed up. Said he’s a muggle detective investigating the case.”
Williamson leaned back in his chair, arms crossed. “But that still doesn’t explain why you brought him back here.”
“I…he may have seen me performing some magic,” Audrey admitted sheepishly. “I used a Confundus charm initially, but then I slipped up again, so I stunned him. I mean, I considered obliviating him, but—”
“The parrot incident?” Williamson gave her a knowing look, causing Audrey to blush uncomfortably.
“No! Well, that was a consideration, but I thought he might have valuable information. I didn’t want to risk corrupting his memory.” Audrey’s blush deepened. What a lame reason. She stared down at her hands, clenched around her wand in her lap. She hated how incompetent she was. “He said he’s been investigating the case of a serial murderer. One who’s killed six people so far. Parvati was the seventh. I didn’t get to ask him what the murders had in common or anything.”
Williamson didn’t respond. Audrey finally chanced a look up. His eyes were focused on something far off, his face inscrutable. “Williamson?”
He blinked, coming out of his reverie. “Okay. Anything else?”
“Just one thing…” Audrey explained about the wand she had found, and the effects produced by the Prior Incantato spell. “I was wondering,” she said hesitantly, “whether it might be for some sort of potion?”
“The intestine? I’ve never heard of anything like that.” Audrey nodded glumly.
Williamson looked thoughtful. “You said the wand was Parvati’s?”
“Yeah, I’m pretty sure.”
“Did you consider that this might be a suicide?”
Audrey stared at him. “A suicide? By evisceration? Who on earth would do that?”
Williamson shrugged. “It’s good not to rule out the most simple solution too quickly. The sister might’ve known something about Parvati’s mental state and been concerned because of that.”
Audrey shook her head. “You didn’t see it. The way that the intestines were spread around the room—I don’t think you could do that by yourself. It looked almost like it was done on purpose, like a ritual or something.”
“I doubt that, but you may be right about the murder.” Williamson sighed gustily as he stood, stretching. “Alright then, let’s wake up Sleeping Beauty.”
Audrey jumped up to follow Williamson towards the stunned detective, who was now drooling slightly on the navy carpet. Williamson raised his wand and jabbed it at Caine.
At once Caine’s body righted itself and floated upwards, his arms and legs dangling in the air awkwardly like an oversized marionette. Williamson guided the body into an armchair, where Caine slumped, his head lolling against his chest. “Incarcerous.” Ropes appeared from nowhere to bind the detective tightly against the chair, pulling him upright in his seat.
“Is that really necessary?” Audrey murmured, looking worriedly at Caine. “He hasn’t done anything, it seems wrong to just—”
Williamson silenced her with a look. “Just wait and see. You’ll be glad we tied him up.” He turned back to the bound detective. “Enervate.”
Caine was jerked back to unpleasant consciousness. The first thing he noticed was the terrible taste in his mouth, like he’d inhaled a week’s worth of bad eggs. The second thing he noticed was that he was trussed up like a bloody Christmas turkey, and tied to an armchair of all ridiculous things.
The third thing he noticed was that two people were watching him. One was the petite blonde he’d met at the scene of the crime. She still looked as anxious as ever, and kept glancing worriedly at the man beside her. This man was older—nearing sixty by Caine’s guess—and powerful. It wasn’t just physically, though he was in good physical shape. Power radiated from his posture, and from his patronizing expression. He was wearing the same strange black robes as the young woman, but on him they seemed impressive and somewhat sinister. They reminded Caine of a BBC show his nearly-ex-wife had forced him to watch about ancient Celtic druids and cult sacrifices. Those robes, and the ropes now tightly encircling his torso, gave Caine a sinking feeling of foreboding. He was in the lair of a crazed cult leader. And he was the bloody sacrifice. Shit.
The blonde—Audrey—opened her mouth as though to speak, but Caine cut her off.
“I won’t say nothin’ ta no damn cult chiefs, nor their flunkies,” he growled, glaring at Audrey and the man. “And don’ ya dare try any disembowelment on me, I’m armed.”
Audrey shrank away, looking to the man for support. The man rolled his eyes as if to say “I told you so,” before moving forward to address Caine.
“We are not cult leaders, and we certainly have no interest in disemboweling you,” the man began in a booming voice, looking down scornfully at Caine. “I’ve heard that you are the detective assigned to the Patil case?”
“I’m Caine, detective investigator for the Criminal Investigation Division at Scotland Yard,” Caine replied, with as much dignity he could muster given the current situation. “Not tha’ it’s any of your business.”
The man began to pace back and forth in front of Caine, acting tough. Caine was unimpressed. He’d been in worse situations. Well, come to think of it, maybe he hadn’t—but he had definitely heard of worse situations. So there.
The man halted directly in front of Caine and leaned forward, so they were almost nose to nose. “It is, in fact, very much our business Mr. Caine,” he said in a deadly soft voice. “We expect your full cooperation on this case, and believe me, we will get it. One way, or another.”
Audrey’s eyebrows jumped together like frightened rabbits. “Williamson,” she whispered in a soft, but still audible voice. “You can’t mean—”
“Let me handle this, Audrey.” She flinched as though she’d been slapped.
The man paced a bit more, then stopped abruptly beside his desk. He leaned back against it, looking unexpectedly relaxed, his intimidating frown replaced by an easygoing smile.
“Mr. Caine, I’m afraid we got off on the wrong foot,” the man stated, sounding apologetic. Well look at that, Caine thought. He’s trying to play “good cop, bad cop” all by himself. Where’d this guy learn his interrogation techniques? Watching The Bill? He should win an award for all this acting.
“Allow me to introduce myself. I’m Oscar Williamson, Head of the Law Enforcement Office for the Azerbaijani embassy. Audrey Tuesday here is my assistant.”
The Azureby-what? Was that even a real country? Caine had never heard such a load of bollocks in his entire life.
“So we do the same thing—we both want to catch this criminal, don’t we?”
Caine remained silent. Williamson appeared to take this as a sign of agreement. “All we,” he gestured to himself and the still-worried Audrey, “need is a little cooperation. You share what you know, and we’ll share what we know. Deal?”
Caine glared at him, stony faced as ever. He had already decided long ago that there was something fishy about this pair. What was with the weird outfits? And the phony job title? He didn’t believe one bit of it, especially the part about “cooperation.”
Williamson sighed. “I can see you don’t want to be helpful,” he said, almost sorrowfully, standing upright again. He reached into the billowing folds of his black robes. “You’re forcing me to do this, Caine. Imperio!”
Caine barely registered Audrey’s startled cry. He felt oddly weightless, warm, and more relaxed than he had been in—God, longer than he could remember. It was like being drunk off his arse, except without the urge to start singing dirty songs and dancing on the table. He could still sense that there were two other people in the room, but he was suddenly unconcerned by their heated words, and merely observed the exchange as if it were an vaguely interesting television programme.
“What are you doing?” Audrey was saying to Williamson in a strained hiss.
“Oh, give it a rest, Audrey,” Williamson replied, sounding annoyed.
“I won’t ‘give it a rest!’ You used an—” Audrey lowered her voice to a bare whisper, glancing nervously at the door as she continued, “an Unforgivable on a muggle! It’s illegal.”
“Is it? I had no idea,” Williamson sneered sarcastically. “Don’t give me lessons in what I can and cannot do, Tuesday,” Audrey recoiled slightly at the use of her surname, “this is the real world. You can’t hang on to all those pretty textbook principles out here—at best, you won’t get anything done. At worst, you’ll get yourself killed.”
Audrey fell silent, chewing her lip. Williamson turned back to Caine, who was grinning foolishly for reasons he couldn’t quite understand. “Are you ready to cooperate, Mr. Caine?”
Say yes, an echoing voice prompted Caine. “Yes,” he repeated obediently, not even pausing to wonder where the voice had come from.
“Very good,” Williamson said approvingly. “Now, tell us everything you know about the Patil murder. Starting from the beginning.”
Williamson was edgy. A muscle in his cheek bunched tensely as he clenched and unclenched his jaw. He waited until the door had closed behind Audrey, before releasing Caine from the effects of the Imperius curse. Before Caine could react to the change, he muttered, “Petrificus totalis.” The detective’s body froze in place, though his eyes continued to roll around in shock and confusion.
What’s going on? Caine’s mind spun in circles like a caged animal. Why couldn’t he move? And what the hell had they given him to make him talk so much before? His memories of the past half hour were fuzzy at best, but he knew he had said more than he should have, than he would have, in his right state of mind. It must be drugs, he realized with a burst of understanding. But he couldn’t think of any drug strong enough to force him to talk like that. If only he’d paid more attention during his training unit on Illegal Substances.
Williamson turned sharply to face the left wall of his office. Caine couldn’t turn his head to see what Williamson was staring at. He tried to remember if he’d noticed something unusual about that wall earlier—a window perhaps, or a computer screen—but all he could recall were some black and white pictures hanging on it, which, after all, was not so strange. Williamson walked over to the wall, disappearing from Caine’s range of vision. Caine cursed whatever freak drug was keeping him immobile. Shit, the man could be doing anything over there, loading up a gun, sharpening his axe, readying the thumbscrews. Shit shit shit.
The word was whispered so softly that Caine couldn’t be certain he’d heard correctly. Vocabo? It wasn’t English, that was for sure. Some kind of code word? Caine strained his ears, trying to catch every tiny sound Williamson made. But the next voice that spoke wasn’t Williamson’s.
“You called?” The voice was nasal and rather high-pitched, but still distinctly male.
“You screwed up, Mulicber,” Williamson’s voice was harsh with barely-controlled anger. “You promised, only muggles. Only muggles, no wizards. And what do I get? A dead witch, an auror, and a muggle bobby on my doorstep!”
Muggles? Auror? Wizards? Caine’s mind whirled in confusion. This must be more code language, he thought. Unless, just maybe—hadn’t Audrey said something about a Ministry of Magic? But no. Caine pushed the disturbing thought away firmly. Magic was not real, whatever strange things were going on. His brain was just being affected by the drugs.
The other man—apparently Mulciber—sighed. “It’s not my—”
“And,” Williamson interrupted, his voice thick with contempt, “and, what’s with this evisceration I’m hearing about? You couldn’t pick a more obvious method!”
“It’s not my fault!” Mulciber cried. “I can barely get him to wear normal robes! He’s completely out of control, that R—”
“Don’t tell me. I don’t want to know about your business partners.” Caine heard the floor squeak as Williamson began to pace. “You got lucky this time. I heard about it before things got out of control, but I couldn’t prevent an investigation. The situation’s too suspicious.”
Mulciber sucked in his breath, as though preparing for the worst. “What about the auror? Who is it?” he asked urgently.
Williamson snorted. “Audrey Tuesday. She’s got about as much brains as a Puffskein. You needn’t to worry, she won’t get anywhere with this. And if she does, I’ve got a few ideas.”
There was a pause. Then Mulciber began, “And what about the muggle? Do you need us to do some cleanup?”
“No,” Williamson replied, “I’ll deal with him.” He had stopped pacing. “You’d better lie low for a couple months. I’ll try to keep the Ministry from getting wind of the muggles, but I can’t be everywhere.”
“I can’t promise anything,” Mulciber responded in a sulky voice. “Like I said, I don’t have control—”
“Bollocks!” There was a loud bang, and Caine assumed Williamsosn had slammed his fist against the wall. “I can’t hold up my end of the bargain, if you’re going around knocking off muggles every other week!”
“You don’t understand my position,” hissed Mulciber, sounding more irritated than whiny now. “We need him. In a few months, I’ll be able to give you what you want, and we can get rid of him. Until then, you’ll just have to manage.”
There was a long silence, during which, Caine imagined, Williamson glowered at Mulciber. Eventually, however, he capitulated. “Fine,” Williamson said, in a soft voice. “Fine, then. Just, no more wizards.”
“There won’t be. She was a mistake.”
Silence. Caine held his breath, listening, but the call appeared to have ended. He wasn’t sure what to make of it. All he knew for sure was that they had been talking about killing, about business, about bargains. Something was going on here, something dark and dangerous, and it was his job to survive this situation, if only so he could help clap these fuckers in irons and ship them off to gaol at the first opportunity. He would survive, or he would die trying. Wait, did that even make sense? Fuck, now was not the time to worry about coherence. Caine steeled himself. Whatever came next, he would face it like a man.
Caine felt his pulse quicken as Williamson crept slowly back into his field of vision. A bead of sweat was dripping down Williamson’s face, but he didn’t move to wipe it off. Instead, he moved slowly and deliberately towards the center of the room, until he was standing directly in front of Caine. They were face to face, the muggle detective and the wizard auror.
He raised his wand.
Oh no, poor Caine! And he's my favorite character too...darn...
In other news, shout out to Azerbaijan (which is, in fact, a real country) for winning Eurovision 2011. Yes, this is old news. Yes, I'm still impressed. ^_^
Please R&R! xoxo wenderbender
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