Written for HarrietHopkirk's Film Noir Challenge over at the forums!
It's dark outside. The street lights are on, and the thin, artificial strip lights on the ceiling cast shadows on the starched blinds. It's autumn, and the leaves are falling from the trees, settling on the hard pavement. There's an unusual chill in the air, and it seeps through the cracks in the windows, but it's not unbearable.
Teddy Lupin sighs. He opens up the small cardboard box and pulls out one of the white sticks, lighting it with a Zippo that the others tease him for. He's the only one left in the building, but also the only one with his own office, so they can't laugh at him long.
'I thought you gave up?' a delicate, whispery voice says.
Teddy looks up from the papers in his hands. 'I need it after the day I've had,' he says. 'What are you doing here?'
She shrugs, a small smile on her face, and sits down in the chair before his desk. She's wearing jeans and a pale pink t-shirt, but she covers it with a shapeless black fleece. She's wearing sunglasses, which Teddy stares at. She doesn't take them off.
'I was heading home and I saw your light on. I thought I'd pop in.'
'Heading home at this time?' he says, casting an unconscious glance at the pitch-black sky outside. The air is crisp and the moon and stars are shining.
She's been working as a criminal lawyer for three years now, starting off right out of university. She works for a private firm in a high-rise building in London, and lives in a flat fifteen minutes away. Teddy's office is a five-mile walk the other side of her apartment; she wasn't just popping in.
'What's with all the papers?' she says, pulling her knees up against her chest and winding her arms around her legs. She looks young then, and completely defenceless. Teddy smirks. He knows better.
That sweet face and heavenly voice broke the hearts of countless men at Hogwarts, turning them quickly into naïve boys yet again. She's the reason men have broken marriages and women have thrown themselves into the Thames. There's no DNA, of course, because she's committed no crime. He doubts she'd even need a lawyer, though. Not just because of her own skills, but she'd sweet-talk the judge into a pardon.
'There's been a murder,' Teddy says. 'Hyde Park. A forty-two-year-old white male was found with his head in the bushes and his feet hanging from a tree.'
'And the rest of him?'
'Dotted around the place. A few limbs in one of the ponds. One kid found a finger in the sandpit.'
'Well that motherfucker really went to town.'
'Indeed he did. I don't want to hear that kind of language coming out of your mouth though, Miss Delacour.' She chose the surname because it made her more appealing. 'Weasley' didn't have quite the ring she wanted as a lawyer.
She smiles. 'Sorry, Teddy.'
He shrugs and takes a drag. The room is quickly growing smoky, and the corners of the ceiling are dirty already. He looks down at the papers, then back up at her oddly expectant face.
'Take the glasses off, Vic,' he says quietly.
'Why? I like them.'
'It's dark outside; it's dark in here. Take them off.'
She stands with a sigh. 'I'd better be heading home. It's getting pretty late and you're in a piss-poor mood.'
She makes a move for the door, but he's already magicked it closed. He stands up from the desk and moves towards her.
'Teddy, let me leave.'
'Vic – '
. Teddy, get off of me! Get o
He pulls the glasses of her face gently. Her lower lip is shaking and beneath the light of the door he can see that it's only just healed form a cut. Her right eye is a closed, shining palette of purple and grey, like oil on water.
'Who was it?'
'Who was it
'It was some guy,' she whispers. 'Just some guy who jumped me in the street. But he… he didn't do anything. He just got one hit and that was it.'
She's shaking now. Really, truly shaking, and she clutches onto his tie with one hand, and the front of his starched white shirt with the other as he puts secure arms around her. He's twenty-two, a detective, uniquely handsome, and yet the woman he holds in his arms at that moment is so far from being his own.
'Look, Vic. Come home with me tonight. I've got to work on these files and I'd rather not be doing it in this office. I have a feeling you don't want to be alone tonight, eith – '
The phone on his desk rings, cutting his words off and sounding horrifically loud in the sudden silence.
Teddy casts an apologetic look at Victoire, and then reaches back to pick up the phone.
'Sir? Sir, it's Monroe.'
'What do you want, Monroe? I'm busy.'
'Sir, uh – we've found another body.'
'Same style, sir.'
'Ah, sir, you're not gonna like this very much, si – '
'Kensington Gardens, sir.'
'Kensington Gar – Oh, you've got
to be kidding me.' He pinches the bridge of his nose. 'Monroe. What did I say this morning to you and Peterson? What
did I say?'
'I'll tell you what I said, Monroe. I said that these were the markings of a serial killer
, and that this would happen again. Likely in a similar area. Oh! In fact! I think I may
have even said Kensington Gardens!'
'Sir, calm down.'
'Don't tell me to calm down, Monroe. I try,' he says. 'I really, really
do, but whenever I get close to a lead, or anything that tells me that things are going to work out, something like this
'I'll be there in five, Monroe.'
'Something wrong?' Victoire asks when he puts the phone down. She still looks a little shaken, but there's something in her face that says she's slightly amused at his anger. They shared countless detentions in Hogwarts, he for unleashing his anger on some poor sod that usually deserved it, and her for unleashing her anger on some poor sod that read far too much into a little 'rendezvous' and definitely
They normally just stayed silent and got on with the task at hand – cleaning trophies, sweeping the leaves on the front of the castle's steps, reading over a first year's homework – but then sometimes they just talked. He couldn't help that he was half-werewolf, and she couldn't help that she was a quarter-Veela. It was hereditary, and neither of them could help what they were or where that ended them up.
He was nothing but a friend to her, though. She was far too beautiful and sultry, and he was far too… Teddy. He didn't want to end up as another poor sod that had misunderstood the signals she sent him, even if she really couldn't help it. He wouldn't be able to contain his anger afterwards.
'I've… I've got to Victoire, I'm sorry.'
'I can come with you. Y'know. If you wanted me to.'
'It's… it's not really ideal for someone like you to see what I'm going to.'
She gives him a stern look, though the effect is slightly ruined by the shiner on her face. 'Teddy, I'm a criminal lawyer. I've seen a lot of things. A guy that's been chopped up isn't going to be anything new. I handled the Murkowski case, remember?'
He remembers. It was over the news for weeks both during the period of the killings and the trial. It was her first real case to handle, and she won it inevitably. It gained such publicity that a private firm offered her a job. She was newbie, and the cases weren't quite as glamorous as she'd hoped, but the pay was doubled.
Teddy sighs. He knows he couldn't deny her anything even if he tried, and that bruised eye just makes it harder. 'All right, fine. But put on a coat. It's cold out.'
'Teddy, I'm a witch.'
'How perceptive of you,' he says drily. 'As perceptive as the odd Muggle is going to be when they see you standing outside in late September thinking, hey that's odd. It's freezing out but that woman's not even shivering.'
'Okay, you win,' she says, rolling her good eye.
'Of course I do; it's all about attention to detail in this business, Vic. You've got to keep your eyes open at all times.'
She scowls. 'You're funny.'
'I know. Now let me glamour that for you. Monroe will jump to conclusions.'
Darkness makes everything better – easier. It hides the colour of blood, red and vibrant, and just appears as a thick black mass. If you don't look for too long it could be water, and at a glance it could just blend into the pavement and appear to be nothing at all. Light's clever like that; it holds the key to perception and trickery and it makes you see things you wished you'd never have to.
The red and blue siren lights do that, flashing and mournfully silent. He sometimes wishes he were a civilian, someone with the ability to see the lights and the warning yellow tape that says KEEP OUT even if you can't read the words, with the ability able to carry on your way home, your curiosity melting away with the counted steps you take, and then with the ability to turn the lock in your door and watch TV for a few hours and then go to sleep and wake up and forget every single little detail about the night before.
But he couldn't, because the dead guy's face was staring him right in the eye.
'So the beast rises from its cage, after all,' Detective Paul Stephens says. He's referring to Teddy.
He doesn't know what it is, but there always seems to be some lingering animosity between the police and the private hire.
'Seems like it,' Teddy says, his tone one of boredom as he examines the head with plastic-gloved fingers, careful not to disturb the evidence too much. He's crouched down by the bandstand, at the bottom of the steps. The blood on the three slabs of stone suggests that it was rolled or perhaps kicked down, but he doesn't think Stephens has noticed that fact yet.
The benefit of being half-werewolf is that your sense of smell, eyesight and hearing is increased ten-fold. That was great for this job, but the fools in the police department seemed to think that setting up spotlights on the crime scene would help him somewhat. It just steadily burned away his retinas instead.
'Why are you here, Lupin?' Stephens says, staring down at him, fingers hooked into his belt. The question holds the tone more of a person that has just asked, 'Why are you still breathing?'
'Three strikes and it's mine, Stephens,' he says softly, fingering the neck – or what's left of it – for any marks of indentations. There's nothing. 'You know how these things work.'
'Well it's not right,' he grumbles like a petulant child. 'Police business should stay police business.'
Teddy looks up, squinting at the light that shines like the sun behind the man. He's six-three, built like a winger on a rugby team, and with the cropped brown hair of someone who's fresh out of police training.
'I'm not sure the three victims would entirely agree with you there, Stephenson. Look, just… keep your comments to yourself while I'm working. Then you can say whatever the hell you want.'
He mutters something but he doesn't say anything again after that.
The neck's been cleanly cut off, which is odd. Even with a long knife you’d have to use a few good swings to get the whole thing off. It was more like a sword had been used. Teddy grimaces. At least it was cleaner. One thing that was blatantly clear, however, was that the bodies had not been killed in the parks – there wasn't enough blood for that, and the body parts were colder than they should have been, meaning someone would have noticed them a lot sooner than they did.
'Do we have any ID on the guy?' Teddy asks.
'No, but one of the team recognises him. Andrew Stout, forty-three-year-old man, supposedly single, and son of Mrs and Mr Thomas Stout.'
'Yeah. Seems like this bloke was about to inherit millions when Mum and Dad dropped dead.'
'Convenient.' He peers at the head. 'Or rather… inconvenient.'
He hears a scuffing sound then, and Monroe appears by Stephens' side, nervous and hesitant, as usual. He pushes the thick-lensed glasses back up his nose.
'Sir, the ah – the feet are ready to see you now, sir,' he says, his tone helplessly apologetic.
Teddy sighs. But am I ready to see the feet?
'Are you all right?' he asks her.
She nods, and sips at the Styrofoam cup of hot chocolate one of the officers must have given her. She's sitting on the ledge of the stone fountain, where it's light enough to see a person but too dark to see who's there. She's shivering lightly, and Teddy pulls off his long black Melton coat. Her hands are icy when he touches them and he pulls her arms through the sleeves, buffs the colour up around her thin, pale face, and does one button up.
She looks slightly ridiculous, but colour returns to her cheeks and she doesn't look as cold anymore.
'Better?' she asks when he steps back, amused as always at his antics.
'Much. Though significantly colder,' he says. 'I thought you were a witch.'
'I am. But I never mentioned anything about having a wand on me. We're trying to fit in, remember?'
He lets out a disgruntled sigh. 'Well if not having a wand means that you're going to be victimised and cold, then I'm not sure it's really worth it.'
When Seventh Year came around, that cued the presence of a Guidance Counsellor. Everyone seemed to know where they were headed, and what they wanted to do in life, even if it did include just finding a husband and having children.
But Teddy and Victoire didn't have a clue. He didn't want to be an Auror, because there was always a hint of impartiality when your godfather's the Head of the Ministry's Auror Department, and Victoire just couldn't see herself as designing clothing for baby's in her mother's shop. It wasn't her. So many other people had assumed their futures, but nobody had asked what they
wanted to do.
'What did you say?' Teddy had asked when she came out of the woman's office, standing up from where he'd been sitting against the wall.
'I sent I wanted to get a Muggle PHD and become a lawyer. First thing that came to mind. Why did you say?'
'I said I wanted to be a private detective,' he said. 'For Muggles, that is.'
There was a beat of silence before she started to laugh and he started to laugh, too, deep and quiet, melodic and louder, like a harmony. Out of all the witches and wizards in that castle, they were the most magical beings of all, and yet they were the ones who weren't even going to exist within the world that had been created for them. It just didn't seem right.
'Oh, I'm fine,' she says, brushing away his chiding comments. 'I'm not totally without power, you know.' She flashes him one of her smiles, and his breath catches in his throat, and his eyes grow wide and startled. He feels colour rising to his cheeks and has to stop himself from taking a step forwards. The smile fades.
'Don't do that,' he mutters.
'Sorry,' she says, and he almost believes it. 'Habit.'
He shrugs, and they're back to normal, like flicking a switch.
'So,' she says, 'any leads at all?'
He lets out a tired sigh, and shoves his hands into the front pockets of his black suit trousers. 'Not really. Once the DNA test comes back on the guy we found this morning, we might be able to see a connection. They're both rich buggers, that's for sure.'
'Someone's after the money in their wills?'
'No, not quite like that… More like someone's stopping them from getting what's in their parents'
'Maybe they don't deserve it,' she says. 'Or maybe it's not about the wills, but rather that they've both done something. Have you checked their credit history?'
He gives her a look. 'Vic, we've only just found the guy. I haven't really had a chance to bring up his file from my laptop.'
'Sorry, sorry. Just a thought. I mean, they might have been doing some illicit trading deals. Debts? Drug deals gone wrong?'
'Yeah, maybe…' he says absentmindedly. He's still wondering about the precision of the cutting though. It was almost surgically done, and what are the chances of not seeing someone who's charging at you with a sword? Unless you knew them, or thought it was a joke.
'Monroe!' Teddy calls out.
The small man hurries over, almost tripping over his own feet. He's holding a file in his hands. Teddy's not sure where he's got it, but Monroe never fails to find a way.
'Is this William Maguire's folder?' Teddy says, already leafing through it. Maguire was the man found that morning. It wasn't certain that he was the dead man, but only on the basis that a DNA analysis hadn't confirmed it yet.
Monroe doesn't respond, and Teddy doesn't need to look up to know he's spotted Victoire.
As he reads he learns that the man worked in Financial Management as a Credit Analyst. He and Mr Stout worked in the same building.
'Where did Matthew Owens work, Monroe?' Owens was the first victim, found in Regents Park the previous day.
'Uh, something in business – '
'Oh. I think it was St Helen's. You know, the skyscraper opposite the Gherkin?'
Well that was convenient. Three murders with the victims sharing quite the connection.
'Monroe, I need to speak to someone who knows these three men.'
'Right. Who shall I get, sir?'
'Let's try their boss, shall we?'
I'm very unfamiliar with the genre of Film Noir, but I'm not one to shy from a challenge so I thought I'd give it a go. This is the first of three chapters. :) I hope you enjoy this!