Monday came around quicker than Harry expected. He had bumped into Ron getting coffee at the canteen, and they chatted on the way back to the Auror office. Ron had as little as possible to say to Lance and would respond politely in only the briefest of terms. Ron would be totally swamped with books. Unlike Harry who had begun his reading months earlier at the castle, Ron was beginning from scratch. It would be weeks before he could get out from under the pile of books stacked in his cubicle. Harry had chatted with him about Hermione before he left, and tried to convince Ron to give Hermione's point of view a chance. Ron totally agreed, but felt he should continue to appear angry for at least a couple of weeks – on principle. Whatever that meant. Harry barely had time to finish the coffee before Ron left for new employee orientation, and he had to rush to the Ministry car for the airport.
Harry knew from his Muggle Studies book that London Heathrow was was one of the busiest airports in the world and he was looking forward to seeing it. He had charged the mobile phone and packed everything he needed for a few days. He was dressed as a business professional with black oxfords, khaki colored trousers, white shirt and tie with a dark blue jacket. Pretty normal looking outfit designed to blend in the crowds. A slender pocket for his wand and been stitched into the lining of the jacket under the left lapel, he normally kept open. If he needed the wand in a hurry he could open it with his left hand while extracting the wand with the right. Although a custom mostly forgotten, this was the same reason men's jackets unbuttoned with the left hand. It was a throwback from the days when men wore swords on the left side, so as to work the jacket with the left hand while drawing the sword with the right – that is, if one was right-handed. It was the same reason that men should escort a lady by offering the left arm, so to keep the right arm free to draw the sword if danger presented itself. This custom was almost completely forgotten in modern times. Harry owed all this knowledge to his Muggle Studies.
So far there hadn't been much to see of the airport. There was a huge number of approaching and departing flights, but the airport itself was not much to see. It was large but broken up and compartmentalized into small pieces. There would be no grand sights like the Atrium in the ministry or large open spaces like King's Cross Station. He had to make his way to Terminal five to catch the British Airways flight. The driver gave the impression he knew this already. Finally he asked,
"Terminal five for you sir?"
"Yes that's right, thank you." Through a number of twists and turns they finally arrived at terminal five. Harry had his luggage out and was headed to the queue for ticketing. The wait wasn't too bad, and in a few minutes he had checked his bags and was making his way to his gate assignment. It looked like he had way too much time left and he mingled about the shops and newsstands before making his way to the final security check. He had been issued a Ministry credit card for his travel expenses. That was a blessing he thought – not having to go through all the currency exchanges. He purchased a magazine from one of the last newsstands before the security check. Harry entered the queue and there was an advanced receptionist that was waiting well ahead of the gates with a pretty smile. He opened his jacket and pulled a small leather credentials wallet from the inner pocket, just inside and past the wand pocket. He unfolded the wallet and showed the receptionist his U.K. NCIS security credentials. Her expression changes from a smile to one of polite respect.
"Very good sir. Come this way."
"Thank you," he said as the receptionist escorted him to another agent past the waiting queue. This drew a few curious and envious looks. He entered an office out of sight from the crowd outside. There was a security agent there behind a small desk.
"Good morning sir, can I see your identification?" the man asked as Harry withdrew and displayed the wallet again. If you could just place your hand on the computer scanner please. Harry was a little confused as where and what the scanner was. The agent pointed to the device.
"Your first time through sir? Just place your hand flat across the panel."
"Thank you," Harry said as he placed his hand on the scanner and watched a little bar of light run across it.
"Increased security measures as late you know. This device checks your prints against the computer database. Are you carrying a concealed weapon today Mr. Potter?"
"Uh No," was Harry's answer. Apparently his identification matched the file on record and the security agent finally cracked a smile.
"OK you're good to go Sir."
"Thank you," was again his only answer. It was obvious he was new to whole process and a little uncomfortable about it. With plenty of time before his flight left, he walked at a leisurely pace to gate B24. There was still a number of shops along the way. Harry had never been around this many Muggles since Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia took him to the London Zoo. Finally arriving at his gate, he found a seat with a pretty good view of the airport taxi ways. The seat also allowed him to keep a watch on all who entered the gate. After all, this was a work assignment and he was instructed to observe and make a report on his experience. Opening the magazine, he tried to read, but couldn't get settled into reading. Panning around the waiting area, there were three young girls who were apparently traveling together. They were about the ages of Ginny or Hermione he thought. They were very pretty and had a warm friendliness about them. They appeared to be American, but were dressed in what resembled British fashion – from what little he knew about the the two. Muggle Studies were not very good with those things. He did know for sure that Ginny had been dressing a little more fashionably as of late. Maybe that was due to the extra money she was making working for George. Saturday morning's coffee had taken a little longer than ten minutes, but Ginny didn't complain. He apparated with her side-along to the alley just down from George's store. He hoped she wasn't gone long enough to be missed. He felt suddenly aware of her absence and it hurt like a dull ache. For a moment he entertained the thought of how great it would be if she were along. He struggled to turn the thought off. This was business and he needed to keep his head on the task at hand. Ginny would be starting school soon and it would be best to put these amorous thoughts on hold.
The ticket agent made the announcement that Harry's seat was now boarding. Because of his law enforcement credentials, he had been given a single seat in coach that was next to a window, but across the aisle from the stainless steel food bins. There were just two seats and one appeared to be empty. Harry had never been on an airplane before but felt confident in being able to call himself an experienced flier. After all, how would flying on a jumbo jet compare to the Dragon ride out of Gringotts. After all the passengers had stowed their carry-on luggage in the overhead bins and seated, the huge wide-body airbus taxied down the entry queue and finally made ready for takeoff. The plane jolted forward and Harry could feel himself being pushed back into the seat as the four Rolls-Royce engines began to howl and claw at the air. The plane picked up speed and things outside the window began to move in a blur. The plane was moving as fast as a seekers dive in a hot Quidditch match, but still wasn't coming off the ground. The wings were lumbering and shaking and the meal trays were rattling in the stainless steel bins beside him. He was sure the plane would run out of runway any moment when finally the shaking stopped, and the plane broke contact with the ground and lifted smoothly off the runway. The big Airbus tilted it's nose upwards at an angle Harry would use to catch a fast moving snitch high overhead. There was no sound now except the air rushing past and the dragon-like screaming of four engines digging and clawing for altitude. After a few minutes the clouds began to fall away as they ascended into a layer of clear sky. Through the breaks in the clouds below, the distinctive features along the ground began to disappear. Slowly all the mechanical contraptions along the wings began to fold in, making the wings thinner and able to go through the wind much faster. The plane slowly leveled off as they were nearly at altitude.
After several small meals, more intended to relieve tedium than to nourish, the plane was edging its way toward the U.S. coastline. All the meal trays and empty bottles had been collected and the seat belt sign was shining brightly. A pretty stewardess walked by to check for buckled seat belts. An announcement over the intercom stated they were beginning decent into Newark International. Looking at the ticket again, he could see they were about on time if they made it down by eleven thirty. Harry felt as though he had been sitting as long as he could stand it. Hermione said her bum was hurting so bad by the time she reached Australia, she got to the point where she enjoyed getting up to wee. One small irregularity with the seat would be unbearable after fourteen hours or more. Harry's trip was much shorter than that, at just under nine hours. The thought hit him – maybe Quixwood could come up with a magical device of some sort to act a proper cushion. A spell or enchantment that Muggles wouldn't notice he thought. They twisted and turned as the plane descended into Newark. With a small thump and a short squall of the tires, the great plane settled smoothly on the runway and slowed to taxi into their gate.
Harry got off the plane and walked down the long hall to customs. At the end of the hall there was a flight of steps to a rather large room with only one customs teller. They had formed a long queue in a layered zigzag pattern leading to the teller. The odd thing about it was, you kept passing by the same group of passengers as you zigged and zagged your way back and forth toward the entryway. The three girls he had noticed in the boarding gate in London were about a dozen passengers ahead and he would pass them every time the queue changed direction. They had all changed into American style baggy jeans with rips and tears and were still chatting pleasantly, unabashed with no reservations whatsoever. On the third passing Harry had to ask them.
"Excuse me – are you American or British?"
"We're a mixed lot – a little of both really," the closest girl with blond hair said. "Amy is American – Emily and I are Brit." she said.
"Oh I see," Harry said, "my Name's Harry – what's yours?" he finished saying as they drifted away again to disappear behind the customs teller.
He got through customs faster than expected, but it took forever to find his garment bag in the circular rotating baggage pickup. He hadn't thought to mark it with something obvious and it looked so much like all the others. Taking the time to check the tag on each bag that looked like his, he finally found it. Next to find would be his contact, the American Flint Logan, and he began to reach in his pocket for a copy of his likeness.
"Hello there. Haven't I met you in Baltimore?" Harry snapped around to see a young wizard, a little taller than himself. He quickly glanced down at the picture cupped in the palm of his hand. It was a match. He had that American look about him. The skin darkened and the brown hair lightened by sun exposure.
"No I don't think so. I believe it was Surrey," Harry replied as he slipped the picture into his pocket.
"You must be Harry Potter. I'm Flint Logan," he said with a smile and extended his hand.
"It's good to meet you Flint."
"Did you have a nice flight Harry?"
"Well not exactly what I'm used to, but it was very nice." This reply got him a look of confusion from Flint.
"This is actually my first plane flight," Harry said smiling.
"Oh I see," Lance said with a look relief. "I thought we would head toward the Department of Magic. Are you up for lunch?," Flint asked.
"Well, I ate on the plane, but a little bit of lunch wouldn't hurt."
"Well, that's good and I know just the spot. It will take us about thirty minutes in this traffic."
They had landed in New Jersey, but Harry could see New York skyscrapers from the airport. It appeared to be all one big metropolis, and the traffic was just as bad as London.
"We'll take 19 North instead of 78 today – road construction on 78 and besides 19 is a little shorter. Then, this is your first time to New York Harry?"
"This is my first trip to New York. Have you ever been to London?"
"Yeah, a couple of times for training and such Harry. I loved Diagon Alley."
"I'll never forget my first visit there. So Flint, do you have a magical alley as well?" Harry asked.
"Not exactly an alley, but close – we call it Queen Street. There's several portal entrances to Queen Street about the city. We're headed to one now – Chumley's. We'll take lunch there."
"It's something like the Leaky Cauldron then?" Harry could see Flint thinking strongly on this.
"Yes, a little."
They made the long drive through the Holland tunnel and finally popped out into Manhattan onto Hudson Street. About a kilometer later they turned onto Morton and shortly thereafter made their way to Bedford Street.
"Almost there Harry – just a few blocks now," said Flint in a merry voice. "Parking is not so great. We better stop here."
Flint parked the car along the street and paid an old shriveled man a bill or two. As they began to walk away Harry thought he heard a pop then a swooshing sound. He looked back and the old man was sitting on an old wooden chair smiling but the car was gone. He gave Flint a bewildered look.
"Oh don't worry Harry – it's the way we park here at Chumley's when we drive. Old Fred will get it back for us when get back," he said grinning.
"Quite convenient," Harry said. They approached a section of street where a building was obviously under some sort of construction. The building was cordoned off from the street by large panels. There was a little entryway in the panels and Flint walked through the entry as he glanced back to make sure Harry was following.
"It's been closed to the public and under construction for a couple of years, but it's open to us Harry," Flint said with a wry smile. Flint pushed open the weathered door to the building and Harry could see the place was alive with patrons. There was a good luncheon crowd and they were lucky to find an open booth. The building was old and had that smell of old wood mixed with an amalgam of cooking food. There was pictures everywhere. Many of which must have been authors since book jackets were just below the pictures. There were initials of patrons carved into the backs of booths and all the wood had an old distressed look about it. The many good times of the patrons there over the last century had somehow indelibly left a mark.
"It's quite old," Flint said looking for the waiter, "Chumley's was used as a speakeasy during our prohibition years. It's also been a portal to Queen Street for some time now." Harry wasn't really sure what 'speakeasy' meant.
"Speakeasy – what is that Flint?"
"An illegal drinking establishment Harry. They were popular when drinking was illegal – during our prohibition years."
"Oh, I see."
The waiter greeted them and left the menus. The lunch choices consisted of shepherd's pie, fish and chips along with a burger on English muffins.
"You must try one of our American beers Harry!"
"What's good here?"
"Well, the house ale is always a good place to start."
The waiter came back around and Harry ordered the fish and chips with the house ale. Flint ordered the burger on an English muffin and a beer as well.
"So Flint, how was the wizard's staff found?"
"Well from time to time a few magical items turn up in the curio and antique shops around the city. They've come in from who knows where. We have some people that go looking around these places and use a scanning device to detect anything with magic in it," he said as he nodded to the waiter that has just brought the house ales.
"So how many items like this do you catch in a year?" Harry asked.
"Normally in a year in a city the size of New York – it might be a half dozen. Here lately, it's been a lot more than that. That's why your Ministry is so concerned."
"Yes, they are, and it's not just here. Items are turning up in all kinds of places. Wonder how much they're making, selling this stuff – it must be a lucrative business?"
"Couldn't possibly imagine, but it must be profitable. I'd say they're not too far from having a regular black market for magical items." Flint said after a swig of ale. The waiter was stopping by with the plates on his arm and carefully laid down Harry and Flint's orders.
"Looks good," said Harry.
"It's generally very good," Flint said before biting into the burger. "So Harry, how long are you staying with us?"
"My return flight is Tuesday evening.."
"Good, that should give us a little time to show you around."
Harry couldn't finish all the lunch. He had eaten too much on the plane and it had been a long day. He pushed the plate aside, as if to let Flint know he didn't need to wait. Flint took care of the check and they walked toward a hidden exit to the back of the kitchen. One employee, most likely a cook, waved as they opened the back door to leave via the magical portal.
"This used to be a quick exit when the place was a speakeasy," Flint said as he tapped the door frame three times and glanced back with Harry before ducking through. Harry followed into what looked like a long grey tunnel with a small spot of light at the end. Only after a few steps the spot of light at the end of the tunnel got disproportionally large. After a couple more steps they had passed through the portal and were standing in a small alleyway named 'Horn's Hook'. They walked a few paces to Queen Street and stopped to look. Harry could see small shops all up and down the cobblestone street.
"Just down here is the American Department of Magic," said Flint. They passed a fish market and a bookshop before entering the corner of the American Department of Magic building. The building had what appeared to be three levels and a dark brick exterior. The roof was not steep and had high pinnacles in each corner. In the center of the roof there was a large rotunda with a glass topped steeple. They walked up the steps of the entryway and through a series of large columns to enter the huge wooden door to the building. The grand reception hall consisted almost entirely of marble. The floors were covered in marble and the light from the opening in the rotunda illuminated a crest on the marble floor. The Latin inscription and the bottom of the crest read, 'Accipere quam facere praestat injurium'. It was an impressive sight, but nothing like the Atrium in the Ministry. There was a receptionist desk where Harry had to sign in and leave his wand.
They took the stairs to Flint's office on the second level. There was a top ten list of most wanted wizards and witches tacked to a cork-board in the hall. Entering Flint's office Harry could immediately see the staff resting in the corner. Flint picked the staff out from some other boxes and canes in the corner and handed it to Harry.
"What do you think? It that the one you're looking for?"
"Yes, almost a perfect match. Some of the markings are a little different, but essentially it's the same size and design. From what little I understand about them, they always made in pairs."
"Well, Harry do you want to try and meet the shop owner or call it a day?" Flint asked scrunching his brow.
"Let's try early tomorrow if you don't mind. It's been a long day," Harry said glancing down at the watch.
"Sure Harry. I'll get the staff wrapped for you and we'll head down to the shop tomorrow."
"Sounds like a plan," Harry said.
Harry woke to the sounds of cart wheels on cobblestone early the next morning. He had been tired after the trip and the long day and slept soundly throughout the night. He was staying in a small Inn on Queen Street. Looking out from the bedroom window, several old witches were pulling carts of produce and food stuffs to their vending spots for the day. His bags had arrived from the magically parked car about an hour after he checked in. He had turned in shortly after his bags arrived and was now anxious to get cleaned up and see a little of Queen Street before breakfast. The appointment with Flint was not until nine in the lobby.
"Good morning sir. Did you sleep well?" asked the desk attendant.
"Yes very well thank you." Harry pushed the oak door of the Inn open and took in a deep breath of air from Queen Street. They were close to the water he thought. They was definitely a smell of salt water mixed with ocean air. Wandering aimlessly he took in several shops and looked for a small gift for Ginny. Just a souvenir from America he thought. Stopping in the bookstore, he found a book titled The American Cauldron; A hundred recipe favorites. The shopkeeper would have to hold it for him until he could get monies transferred into American Wizarding currency.
"Have you found something?" she asked, and when he answered, she appeared very amused by his English accent.
"Just give me what currency you have hon. I'll get it transferred later," she said in a cheery voice. Looking at a small paper chart she said, "It should be about a British Galleon."
"That's great," Harry said digging in his pockets. The shopkeeper wrapped the book in brown paper and tied it up with a thin cord.
He had stopped back at the Inn and finished a bit of breakfast. He picked up a copy of the American counterpart to the Daily Prophet. The Wizarding Times was not a big newspaper, but every bit magical as the Daily Prophet. It was amazing how the news looked so much like what he was used to seeing back home.
"Good Morning Harry!"
"Good Morning Flint."
"Are you getting over jet lag?" Flint said grinning.
"Well, I feel better this morning – I can say that."
"That's good Harry. Have you had breakfast yet?"
"Oh yeah – I woke up early took a walk around Queen Street before breakfast," Harry said reassuringly.
"You ready to check out the shop where the staff turned up?"
"I'm looking forward to it."
They retraced their walk into Horn's Hook and entered the portal back to Chumley's. The same cook was working in the kitchen and again paused to wave eerily as they entered the dining area. They were out the door and in a few moments were walking up to old Fred. Flint mumbled something and Fred nodded and pointed off in a direction with an weathered cane. They turned to find the car parked and waiting at the curb.
"This way Harry," Flint said pointing to the car.
Harry watched carefully as Flint went through the routine of starting the car and did a U-turn from the parallel parked position.
"How long have you been driving Flint?"
"Several years – three I guess. Does it show?"
"You seem to do a good job, but then I don't drive yet, so I may not be a good judge," Harry said with a smile.
"Are you going to learn? Few wizarding folks do."
"I think it's on my schedule. It's all part of the training to become an international Auror."
"Oh I see. Well I'm one of the few Aurors here that drive. My dad was a Muggle and he helped me learn. This shop, we're heading to – it's close to the docks," he said while pointing over toward the inland water. "Don't know if the lady that owns the shop will be very helpful. She didn't like us taking the staff. They pulled up to rather modern looking building with a sign that read 'Dianne's Curio and Antiques'. There was a young girl dusting a shelf of old china when Flint and Harry entered the shop. They walked casually to where she was working.
"Good morning Miss," Flint said, and when he had her attention, he pulled a badge from the inside of his jacket. When Harry didn't do the same, Flint shot him a backwards glance. Harry quickly pulled his credentials wallet and opened it for the young lady.
"Good morning," the girl said.
"Authorities – just a few questions." Flint stated.
"I believe you may remember the staff we picked up here a couple a weeks ago," Flint continued.
"I think my mother mentioned it. What's this about?"
"Just a few questions Miss," Flint said reassuringly. A woman with a mother's look of concern appeared quickly from out of a back room.
"A man came and took that thing several weeks ago," she said briskly entering the room.
"I understand, we just need to ask a few questions," Flint explained.
"Two other men – they came asking about it not too long ago," she said.
"Men like us?"
"No... one looked like a dock worker, the other average I guess," she said with a quizzical expression. Harry fished through his pockets and found the sketch artist drawings of the three men he tangled with in Knockturn Alley.
"Did they look like any of these men?" Harry asked as he showed her the drawings. She looked at the drawing for a few seconds and handed Harry one of the drawings.
"This one looks familiar," she said pointing at one of the men.
"Is there anything you can tell us about them?" Harry asked. She thought on this question a bit and scratched her head.
"There was something on his cap – the dock worker. I don't know it was 'Carpa...' or something like that."
"Yeah, that sounds right."
"Was there packing material around the staff," Harry asked, but the woman just shook her head like she didn't know. "It would have been like long strips of paper." This brought a look of response.
"Seems like I remember some strips of paper wrapped around the staff. If it was, it's been thrown away I'm sure," she said.
"Well, if you find any – if it was put away somewhere, will you call us please?" Flint asked as he gave the woman a card. She took the card and looked at curiously.
"Yes I will."
"Harry, do have anymore questions?"
"No that's about it."
They left the shop and got into the car before speaking.
"So what do you think Harry?"
"She mentioned the Carpathia. That name was on one of the message strips. Do you think she might be docked now by any chance?" Harry asked a bit sheepishly.
"I doubt it, but it wouldn't hurt to look. We'll have to drive back into New Jersey to see the container ships."
"Do we have time?" Harry asked.
"Sure – I don't see why not."
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