Chapter 6 : Hostages to Fate
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The Muggle statue in the river turned out to be quite interesting, although I think the boat ride was the highlight for Ramses. We toured the statue for a while, pointing things out to Ramses, who didn't seem at all interested in it. Scorpius pulled a pad of paper and a pencil from his backpack and handed Ramses off to me to he could dash off a few sketches. While he was doing that, I walked over to the edge of the walkway facing south to get a good look at the rest of the harbour.
Montain was clearly visible in the distance, a couple of hundred yards out. It wasn't as big as I'd been expecting, but it was built like everything else in New York City: extremely tall. It stuck up out of the bay, a shiny black tower with slick sides and no visible openings. It was sleeker than Azkaban, and skinnier, but it looked like it could still house hundreds, if not thousands of prisoners.
The worst of the worst of American wizards. I wondered how many more prisons like Montain were scattered around the United States. They were a larger country than the United Kingdom, and probably needed a lot of prisons, while we made do with only one.
I wondered if it was at all possible that the Americans would let me interview Charles Rocke, just to see if he knew Ambrosia. Probably not. I didn't have a shred of evidence to connect them.
Not yet, anyway.
“Mama,” said Ramses, shifting in my arms. I turned to see Scorpius walking toward us, his sketchpad now tucked safely back into his backpack.
“What is that?” he asked, nodding out into the bay.
“It's Montain. The wizard prison,” I added in a whisper. None of the Muggles near us seemed to notice anything.
Scorpius gave me a suspicious look. Ramses reached out both arms to him and said, “Mama.”
Scooping our son into his arms, Scorpius said in a low voice, “Rose, don't even think about it. There's no way you're getting in there, unless it's because they've arrested you. So just don't. My show is tonight.”
Honestly, it was like he didn't trust me at all. “I never said I wanted to go there. I just wanted to have a look at it.”
We both rolled our eyes and looked back at the prison. A passing Muggle, heading back to the ferry boat, glanced at us strangely for staring off into what looked to him like an empty bay.
When we got back to the hotel, Scorpius's jittery nerves were making him quite ill-tempered. He was annoyed that I'd finished reading the file from Lydia on the ferry back to Manhattan, and harangued me about it all through lunch. I agreed not to continue the case so he would stop bothering me, although I'm not sure he entirely believed me.
Scorpius tossed his backpack onto the bed and set Ramses down on the floor with the small pile of toys we'd brought along for him. Ramses immediately set off for the plush stacking rings (he loved to chew on them), and his father heaved a sigh as he sat on the bed. I sat next to him, and we watched Ramses pull apart the stacking rings and gnaw happily at the blue one.
“I reckon that's a molar coming in,” Scorpius said.
I nodded. I was debating how to tell him that I planned to go out and do some more investigating. Now that I had Heckie Shanahan's home address, thanks to Lydia and the Gotham Magical Times, I was dying to go pay him a visit and see what he knew about Noah Ellery's murder, and about Ambrosia Heggs. Maybe I could wait until Scorpius went to the bathroom and then slip out while he was occupied and couldn't stop me.
“Oh, just go,” he said, and I started.
Scorpius gave me a kiss on the temple and then a little shove. “Go. But if you're not back before I have to leave for the gallery, I'm going without you, and I'll eat all your favourite canapés before you get there.”
I leaned over to kiss him, and then hopped up. After giving Ramses a pat on the head (“Mama,” he said, but I think he was addressing the stacking rings), I was out the door.
Heckie Shanahan lived in Midtown, in a large flat in Gramercy Park. It seemed like quite a nice neighbourhood, and Shanahan's building overlooked a wide avenue. The doorman let me in without question; apparently he was used to odd-looking people turning up to see Mr. Shanahan.
I knocked on the door and waited a few minutes. No one answered, but I thought I heard someone moving around inside. I knocked again, louder this time, and finally heard the door locks click open. A purple chain stopped the door from opening more than a few inches, and I saw a round, red face appear right at eye level.
“Who are you?” the man asked nervously.
“Are you Heckie Shanahan?” I asked, trying to look unassuming and trustworthy.
He'd asked me twice what my name was, and wouldn't confirm his. I wasn't new to confirming identities of people who didn't want to be found. This was definitely Heckie Shanahan. And he was scared.
“I'm Rose Weasley,” I told him gently. “I'm a private investigator-” this wasn't strictly true, but I'd used it in the past and found it got better results than admitting I was a bounty hunter “-and I'm looking into the murder of Noah Ellery. I'd like to talk to you, if you don't mind.”
He gave me another nervous stare, and then the door closed and I heard the chain sliding back. Heckie opened the door and waved me inside. His flat was comfortably decorated in a way that said he had money enough to hire a decorator but not taste enough to put his own stamp on the place. It looked quite like an expensive office. But then, the man was a money launderer. He probably didn't have official premises anywhere. Heckie didn't match the place at all, though I expected he could dress up well enough when he wanted to. He was currently wearing a pair of sweatpants and a t-shirt with a plaid dressing gown, and a bit of sweat shone on his bald spot.
“I really don't know anything that could help you,” he told me, waving me onto one of the grey sofas. He spoke with a thick New York accent. It was just the way I always imagined Americans speaking, so I quite liked it. “I never met Noah Ellery. Only his dad, and only in court when my trial date was set. He hardly even looked at me.”
I decided to spring my next question on him out of nowhere, to see his reaction. “Do you know a woman named Ambrosia Heggs?”
Nothing sparked behind his small, round eyes. “No.”
“You might know her by another name. She goes by a lot of them. I met her first as Ambrosia, but she's been called Mariana Peffer, Electra Marwick, Xanthe Black. She's got blonde hair, a bit pretty, and she likes to kill people with a shovel.”
Heckie drew in his breath sharply, and his eyes darted away. Ah. That was the reaction I'd been hoping for.
“I don't know anything about her,” he said firmly. “I don't know who you're talking about.”
“We both know that's not true. What name is she using now? She killed Noah Ellery, didn't she?”
He was silent for a while, and he looked afraid. I let him stew it out, hoping he'd start talking. Eventually he said, “Shovel ain't a good way to die. Why do you want to know about her? Who are you?”
I wasn't sure what to say to him. I didn't want to tell him I was a bounty hunter, because even without legal jurisdiction, criminals tend to not want to hang out with me and tell me things. “She tried to kill me once, a few years ago. She got away, and I never caught her. I want to see her go to prison.”
“Someone else will take over in her place,” Heckie said. “Someone always does.”
“Maybe. But she'll be in prison.”
He frowned, as if he didn't quite get me. “You're not a cop, are you? You kind of talk like one, but you don't act like one.”
“I'm not a cop. My dad is an Auror,” I admitted.
Heckie nodded. “Cops' kids are almost as stuck as criminals' kids. Got to go one way or the other, don't you?”
He had a point. A lot of MLEs were second or third generation at it: following the footsteps of their parents and grandparents. I didn't know as much about multi-generational criminals, but hey people did like to keep up family businesses, so I was willing to take his word for it. “I'm not an MLE or an Auror, though. No one is even paying me to do this. I want to find enough about Ambrosia Heggs so that the Aurors can put her behind bars.”
It was actually true. Even if no one ever paid me, I wanted Ambrosia put away. It bothered me that she was out there, murderous and insane and knowing exactly who I am. Now that I had Ramses, the thought of her bothered me even more. I wasn't going to be able to sleep well until Ambrosia was in prison.
Heckie was silent again for a while, watching me closely. He must have decided in my favour, because he told me, “She wanted my trial changed. She didn't say anything else to me about it but that. Next thing I know, that Ellery kid is dead and my lawyer won't return my phone calls. It ain't good. I should've turned state's evidence. The feds have been asking me to, but I thought I'd get off and be able to keep working – but I don't think I will, not now...”
“She'll probably kill you when she's done with you,” I said, thinking of the good-looking forger who'd helped Ambrosia out in England. “She's done it before.”
Heckie didn't look surprised. He'd probably already figured that out. He leaned back against the back of the sofa and rubbed a hand across his face. “Cripes. I never should've worked for that crazy bitch. But when the Rock went away-”
“Charles Rocke?” I interrupted, trying to keep the note of excitement out of my voice.
“Yeah. I used to work for him. Then he got sent up the river, and here's this little blonde witch telling me I work for her now. She took out three of my best men. I couldn't fight her any more. I got family in Weehawken and she knew it. She knew where my house is there, and where my ma lives. I had to do it.”
I felt a little sorry for him, even though he was laundering money for mobsters. He seemed like a nice guy, and after all, he didn't kill people, he just did paperwork. Shady paperwork, but still.
“She's got cops in her pocket,” he added, watching me intently. “I think there's a dirty Auror, too. I didn't want to go into MLE custody because of that. She could make me disappear if she wanted to, and then my ma right behind me.”
“What name is she using now?” I asked again.
He seemed to be loosening up, because this time he answered right away. “Anastasia Leatherby. It's not her real name. I looked her up once, when I was setting up one of her dummy corporations. Anastasia Leatherby didn't exist until three years ago.”
I wondered if it was one of the identities set up for her by McBride, the forger she'd murdered in England, or if she'd gotten a new pet forger. I was starting to doubt that I would ever track down her real name.
“Why did she murder Noah Ellery, then?”
“I don't know,” said Heckie, looking troubled. “I think it's because of me, though. If I go to court the day I'm supposed to, I can't get to this deal I've been working on for her. She needs me free to finish it, and if I go to court, I'm going to Montain. Judge Ellery will make sure of it. I think she killed the judge's son so the trial date would be moved. But now I'll never get a fair trial if the judge thinks his son was killed because of me.”
A fair trial would probably put him in Montain anyway, but he didn't seem to see that. “She sacrificed you in the long term to get what she needs in the short term.”
“Yeah.” Heckie's face was drawn. He knew full well he would be discarded after she'd decided he was all used up. I was willing to bet she had another money launderer available to take over when Heckie was gone. Maybe she had a whole battalion of them, for all I knew.
“What's the deal you've been working on for her?”
“I don't know all the details,” he admitted. “I do the money, and she keeps me in the dark about most everything else. I don't really want to know too much. There's a meeting coming up soon, and she has to have the money ready by then – bringing large amounts of cash is problematic,” he explained. “Showing up with a hundred thousand dutch is a lot of weight to carry, even with charms to counter for the weight of the gold. It's not safe to carry that much in Lions. So I convinced the Rock that it was safer to do it electronically. It's how the Muggle criminals move their money. Sometimes they use cash, because Muggle money is paper, but the big-timers wire their money to anonymous bank accounts in the Caymans and Switzerland. The Rock saw it as modernizing. Leatherby, she seems to think the same way. But this guy she's working with, he doesn't like it. He's been real skittish about using electronics. I've spent a lot of time working on him.”
“Why doesn't she just give him the gold if that's what he prefers?” It seemed easier. I didn't entirely trust electronics. They shorted out at the worst times, or didn't work properly. Wizards had finally adapted the Wizarding Wireless Network in the UK to show pictures as well as sound about ten years ago. The picture was small, and black and white, but it was a step forward, everyone said. My mum's parents were Muggles and had television at their house. Apparently Muggles had had that for years. Wizards are slow to catch up on technology, what can I say.
“Leatherby doesn't want to give in. She told him they were doing it electronically.”
Typical. Ambrosia was making a power play and wouldn't back down. “What type of deal is this? Who's her partner?”
“I don't know. I hear things. He's got a reputation,” Heckie said, now looking more troubled than ever. “I don't really want to meet this guy, but I don't have a choice.”
Great, another scary bad guy. Just what I needed on my holidays. “So when is the meeting?”
“I don't know the exact details yet. Soon, though. Down at the docks.”
There wasn't much he knew. It was a little frustrating talking to Heckie Shanahan. “Any ideas how I could find out more about this shipment?”
Heckie was silent for a while. I was starting to recognize this as an indication that he knew something and wasn't sure if he should talk about it. “He don't speak English very well. Some kinda European, Russian or Slavic or something. She's got a translator. I had to arrange pay for the poor thing. Only met her once. She looked scared as all hell. I don't think she took the job willingly.”
“Can you give me her address?” I asked, trying to hold in my excitement. If she was the translator, she was bound to know quite a lot about the deal and when it was taking place.
While he was writing it down for me, I said as kindly as possible, “Thank you for telling me all this.”
“Yeah,” he muttered. “Think I'll go talk to the D.A. again. If I testify against her, maybe they'll give me immunity and put me in Witness Protection. It worked for one of Charles Rocke's enforcers. Dunno where he is now.”
I hoped he was going to be all right. I sort of liked him, despite the criminal alliances and illegal financial activity. “I think that's a good idea, Mr. Shanahan.”
“Yeah,” he said again. “Hope it doesn't get me killed. Good luck.” He handed me the slip of paper with the translator's name on it.
The translator lived in one of the outer boroughs of New York, in Queens. Her building looked tiny and run-down after seeing Heckie's place in Gramercy Park. There was no doorman, so I went straight up to the fifth floor and knocked on her door. She opened it, and the same purple chain that I'd seen on Heckie's door kept hers open only a crack. I could see about half of her face. She had the same cafe-au-lait skin that my cousin Roxanne has, and her curly hair floated around her face. She looked a little exotic and when she spoke, she had a slight accent that I couldn't place.
“Who are you?”
“I'm Rose Weasley. Are you Anita Spiker?”
She nodded, and I could see the fear in her eyes. It was a sad commentary for whatever Ambrosia was up to that the people she was terrorizing were even afraid of me.
“I wanted to talk to you about a few things, can I come in?”
“I don't think that's a good idea.”
“Heckie Shanahan gave me your name-”
“Please go away,” she begged. “Please, I can't talk to anyone, she'll kill me – she'll kill my little girl, please go-”
“She'll what?” My shock must have shown on my face, because she seemed to realize now that I wasn't going to hurt her.
“She has my daughter. She took her from school one day and I have to – look, you have to go. Please just go.”
“Okay.” Her fear was contagious. “Okay, but if you change your mind, you can find me at the Thistle Hotel. Rose Weasley.”
She closed the door in my face, and I went downstairs to the street again, feeling a little shaken.
Ambrosia had kidnapped her daughter to make her cooperate. Threatening to kill a child... And she had killed the judge's son, though he'd been of age. She would probably be only too willing to kill Anita Spiker's daughter, even if the little girl was only a child still.
Suddenly I felt afraid for Ramses as well. Ambrosia knew I was here. She'd known about Scorpius the last time I'd met her. Did she know about Ramses now? Only if she'd been keeping tabs on me this whole time. Somehow I doubted that – why bother if she wasn't going to come after me? And if she'd wanted to come after me, she would have by now. She probably didn't know about Ramses.
Still... I ought to warn Scorpius to be more alert while he was alone with Ramses. Just in case.
I hurried back to the hotel, and found Scorpius was already dressed for the gallery show, wearing a set of navy blue dress robes.
“Oh good, you're back. I'm going to run over to the gallery and just check that everything looks right, then I'll be back to get you and we can go to the show. So make sure you're ready. Oh and Ramses will need to be fed in a bit here,” he added, and gave me a quick kiss.
I was about to tell him about Anita Spiker's kidnapped daughter, but he was so focused on his show, I didn't want to ruin it. I could always tell him later. Tomorrow morning would be soon enough. We'd be at the gallery show, and Ramses would be with the babysitter, and I could tell the front desk not to tell anyone that he was in the room or let anyone up.
I mustered a smile for my boyfriend. “Have fun. I'll see you later.”
He left, and I was alone with Ramses, who was laying on the floor on his tummy with his favourite dragon toy beside him, playing with blocks. The sides changed colours as he stacked them. I sat down next to him, and he crawled into my lap, knocking down the tower of blocks he'd been building. I hugged him tight, and held him until he got bored and wriggled away.
The gallery show was in already in full swing when we arrived. Yuvia had convinced Scorpius to show up fashionably late, because as she'd put it, “Everyone who's anyone will get there half an hour late anyway.” Scorpius had paced the hotel lobby for fifteen minutes before the anticipation had finally gotten to him, and we'd arrived twenty minutes late. Apparently we weren't quite anyone who was anyone.
Quincy greeted us at the entrance, and led us straight to the drinks table. Cocktails and New York seemed to go hand in hand, which was perfectly fine with me.
“So far, so good,” Quincy told us cheerfully. “Drink up, and I'll start introducing you to some select people. Rose, would you like to look around for a bit? I know you haven't seen the installation yet.”
I agreed, and let him lead Scorpius away before I started wandering the gallery. I'd already seen everything Scorpius had ever painted, but it was different seeing it all this way. The lighting was low, with small balls of light hovering over each painting to illuminate them in a small pool of ethereal light. They cast a glow that managed to be both hazy and bright, and highlighted the canvases. It looked beautiful. In the landscapes, trees waved in a faint breeze, their leaves shivering delicately, and waves lapped at gentle seascapes or crashes against rocky shores. A few still portraits were scattered around: Muggles in Hyde Park, whose likenesses didn't animate with the final painting charms. I'd always found that odd, but then, the still Muggle photographs were odd to me too, no matter how many times I'd been to my Muggle grandparents' house.
Scorpius, who had no Muggle relatives, found the idea of still portraits completely fascinating. From the looks on the faces of the guests at the gallery, most of them agreed with him.
I saw Scorpius a few more times the rest of the night. He would pop up now and then to kiss me, obviously having the time of his life.
“Having fun?” he asked, two hours after we'd arrived.
“Of course,” I told him, smiling, and he went off again, to explain a particular portrait of an old, homeless man to one of the well-dressed witches. I hoped she bought that painting; it creeped me out a little. What can I say, he had crazy eyes.
I spent most of the evening staring blindly at paintings, deep in thought about Anita the translator and her missing daughter.
She was my best lead, but she wouldn't talk to me as long as her daughter was in danger. I had to rescue the girl so her mother would help, and I had to do it without anyone finding out I'd had anything to do with it. It was a tall order.
If Ambrosia found out the little girl was gone, Anita might be killed outright. I hoped she'd need her translator enough to let her live until the meeting was over, and then maybe Anita could escape and disappear. America was a big country. Surely it would be easy to lose one's self here. If this client of Ambrosia's was as skittish as Heckie had said, then he might get suspicious of a last-minute change of translator.
I couldn't count on that, not with a child's life at stake. I pictured what I would do if Ramses were in danger, and the urge to run back to the hotel and snatch him up into my arms was almost overpowering. I had another drink and tried to calm down, tried to focus on a plan to get Anita Spiker's daughter back.
It was going to take a powerful Confundus Charm and some judicious memory altering to trick the bodyguard into thinking the girl was still in his custody. And probably a Disillusionment Charm for me. I wasn't that great at that spell. Normally I got my cousin Victoire to do it for me. She could make you practically invisible. But Victoire wasn't around.
Memory charms were a bit easier, since I'd done them often enough in my line of work, but this was on a scale I hadn't dealt with. I wished my mum were around to ask for advice, although probably she wouldn't tell me anything if she thought I was going to do something illegal with the information. Dad might, though, and so would my old friend Jack Upchurch, and both of them could perform memory charms legally.
It was really hard to function in New York without my usual resources.
I was starting to feel a bit antsy again about having left Ramses with a babysitter. It'd been hard to leave him; I'd wanted to stay and hold him all night so I knew he was safe, but I'd convinced myself he was safe enough for tonight. I had kept my nervousness hidden so I didn't spoil the evening for Scorpius. This was his big night, and he'd been waiting a long time for it. It wasn't easy to put aside my anxiety over the baby, though.
My dad had told me once, when I was ten and he'd had a particularly scary case, that the bad guys will often leave your family alone because everyone has hostages to fate. Going down the road of kidnapping an Auror's child only makes things worse. I could still picture his expression that day. He'd glanced at Mum, hugged me, and said, “Sometimes you have to do what's right, even if there's temporary danger, to get to permanent safety later.”
My dad and uncle hunted down the worst of the worst, even when their families might have been endangered by it, because it made the world a safer place. I'd always admired that greatly about them, but I'd never fully appreciated the strength it took to do that until I'd had my own hostage to fate.
The world would be a safer place with Ambrosia out of commission.
But I didn't think she was one of the criminals who didn't go after families, or at least not any more. Last time our paths had crossed, she'd known about Scorpius but had never attacked him or anyone else in my family, only me. She seemed to have got worse since then, though. She'd wanted something from Judge Ellery, and she'd killed his son to get it. She'd had the translator's child kidnapped to force her to cooperate. I was afraid she wouldn't hesitate to hurt Ramses if I went any further down this road.
I didn't know how to stop, though.
Somehow I had to keep Ramses and Scorpius safe, and like my dad, I was willing to risk it for the permanent safety – at least for now. If things got worse, I could always send them home to London. Warning Scorpius was the first thing I had to do, as soon as the show was over. I couldn't spoil it for him.
A murmur going through the crowd drew my attention, and I looked up to see Yuvia climbing up on a chair, calling for everyone's attention. She was wearing the most elaborate dress I'd seen yet, with ruffles charmed to change colour in a hundred shades of blue, so that it looked like waves of navy and sky and turquoise were travelling down her skirt.
“I just wanted to thank you all for coming tonight – and for purchasing tomorrow-” this drew a smattering of laughter “-and to toast to tonight's fresh new talent from across the pond, Scorpius Malfoy!”
She held up her glass, and I saw more toasts from all around, amidst the applause. Scorpius was beaming, waving and thanking people, and looked absolutely thrilled. I watched him fondly. It was nice to see him so happy and successful.
He made his way over to me a bit later. “Ready to go?”
“Yeah. Did you have fun tonight?”
“Loads.” He was still beaming. “You?”
“Yeah, but I'm ready to get back to Ramses now.” I smiled at him and leaned in to kiss him. He wrapped an arm around my waist as we left the gallery.
When we got back to the hotel, the antsy feeling had increased, and I dashed ahead to the room. Scorpius was still exhilarated from his success, but he seemed to have finally registered my mood.
He didn't say anything when I rushed past the babysitter to check on Ramses, who was sleeping soundly, and he didn't say anything when I collapsed onto the bed with relief that our son was all right. After the babysitter was thanked and sent home, he finally turned to me.
“What's going on, Rose?” he asked, kicking off his shoes. “You're not usually this mental over leaving the baby with a sitter.”
He gave me a look, still pulling off his clothes.
“All right,” I admitted, “it is something, but let's talk about it tomorrow. Tonight we can celebrate your show, okay? It was a huge night for you. Everyone loved your paintings.”
Scorpius still looked a bit suspicious, but he was mollified by my praise of the show. I spent the rest of the evening mollifying him further.
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