Chapter 16 : Notoriety
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Anita's face was filled with that same insane rage that I'd seen when I'd brought her daughter back to her. Ambrosia seemed to recognize this, because her body tensed.
“You kidnapped my baby,” Anita said evenly.
“You wouldn't cooperate,” Ambrosia retorted.
“You had some thug keep her in a dirty room for days.”
“I skinned him alive for letting her get away, if that makes you feel any better,” Ambrosia told her.
They stared at each other over drawn wands, and after a moment Anita said, “A little.”
I was almost afraid to breathe, in case they remembered I was there and one of them tried to kill me. It seemed best for now to let them get on with their argument. I wasn't sure Anita really could take Ambrosia in a fight. If she could, she would've gone after her before Ambrosia got a chance to kidnap her daughter.
But then Anita's gaze flicked into the other room and she saw Stanis the arms dealer. A muscle twitched at her temple, and she gripped her wand more tightly, stepping closer to Ambrosia. “I didn't want to work with him. He's insane. Do you know what he does to the women he works with?”
“Runs off at the first hint of trouble,” Ambrosia said sourly.
“I just wanted to make a decent living in the States, to take care of my daughter. And you forced me to work with that monster.” Anita's eyes were wild.
Ambrosia's jaw clenched and she shot back, “You tried to hex me when I asked nicely.”
I could only imagine what Ambrosia's idea of asking nicely was. She'd once kidnapped me, dropped me in a rubbish dump, and Incarcerated me to get me to stop bothering her, and I had a feeling she thought that had been asking nicely.
Anita made a sudden slashing movement with her wand, and Ambrosia was a second too slow to prevent being Disarmed. Her wand went flying and Anita stepped forward, pressing her wand into Ambrosia's chest. There was a faint sizzle, and a weirdly unpleasant smell as red sparks fell from the tip of the wand, burning into Ambrosia's flesh. It must have hurt like hell, but she didn't so much as twitch. Luckily Anita was twitchy enough for both of them. The muscle in her temple was still going, and her eyes were deadly cold now, flat like a doll's.
She was really going to kill her, I realized. I didn't want Ambrosia dead. I wanted her safely behind bars, preferably behind a dragon first and then some bars. I didn't like seeing people killed in front of me, even people who'd tried to kill me. There was only one thing to do. I aimed my wand at Anita. “Stupefy!”
She fell with a look of surprise on her face. I reckoned she hadn't been expecting me to turn on her.
Ambrosia went to pick up her wand, but I had mine trained on her now, and she held up both hands in surrender as I stepped closer.
“Don't do anything you'll regret, Rose.”
“I'm not going to kill you,” I told her. “Anita would've done that for me if I wanted you dead.”
She looked irritated, as if an insect were bothering her. “Do you expect me to thank you?”
Nice. Technically I had saved her life, even if it was to spend it in jail. “I expect you to come into custody and let the Aurors take you in.”
“I think not,” Ambrosia said, and before I could react, she shoved me hard with her upraised hands.
I landed hard, knocking the wind out of me, and automatically tried to brace my fall. A searing pain shot up my arm as my right hand took the worst of my weight. My wand clattered away, and Ambrosia lunged for it. She scooped it up and took off running, and I scrambled to my feet to follow her.
She was heading straight for the front door, through the fight that was still going on between my parents and her henchmen. Hatchcock was on the fringe of the melee, duelling with his fellow Auror. I bent to pick up a fallen wand from beside the unconscious body of one of the less-talented-at-duelling bad guys and caught snatches of Bleach's snarled insults as he and Hatchcock threw hex after hex at each other.
“Friggin' rat squad! You shoulda stayed behind your desk, Hitchcock!”
I didn't have time to stop and help him, because Ambrosia was getting away. Mum seemed to appear out of nowhere beside me.
“She's getting away,” I yelled before she could say anything, and grabbed her arm with my uninjured hand. We took off after Ambrosia together.
She was nearly to the end of the long corridor that had led us into the building when Mum and I barrelled through the broken door.
“Stop!” Mum called, throwing a curse I didn't recognize at the steel doors. They flared blue, as if they were coated in flames. Ambrosia wasn't able to stop in time and slammed into them with her shoulder, then stumbled back with a cry.
“You don't have the authority to detain me here, Mrs. Weasley,” Ambrosia managed to say.
“I think we're well past authority,” Mum told her, and then waved her wand to Disarm her. My wand went flying out of her hand, and I stepped closer to pick it up. Ambrosia's eyes followed me, her face filled with frustration and rage. She appeared to have realized that the jig was up.
“I should have killed you a long time ago,” she snarled. “You ruined months of my hard work in London, and now you've come over here and screwed things up for me in New York.”
“I didn't mean to,” I said without thinking.
“Why couldn't you just stay the hell away from me?”
“Incarcerous,” Mum said quietly. Thick ropes shot out of her wand to wrap around Ambrosia.
Ambrosia looked as if she wanted to spit fire. “Charles Rocke was gone. That old bastard from Queens was gone. There was no one left in my way. Dammit, dammit, dammit.” She kicked the wall in a fit of fury.
I tried to feel some sympathy that I'd wrecked her rise to the top of the underworld, but somehow I couldn't manage it. My rear end still hurt from where I'd landed on the concrete floor, and I was pretty sure I'd fractured my wrist, too. It was throbbing much worse now that I had time to breathe.
I tucked the extra wand I'd collected into my pocket, and looked at my mother. “Have you got her? I'll go help Dad.”
Mum's eyes didn't leave Ambrosia., her face still and hard. Nobody messed with my mum when she looked like that, not even my dad. “Oh, she's not going anywhere.”
I jogged back into the main room, trying to hold my wand left-handed and hoping I'd be able to cast a decent spell with it, but it turned out I didn't really need to. Dad was just finishing off the last of the henchmen with another textbook-perfect Stunner. Honestly, it was like he'd trained people to cast that spell for the last thirty years.
I changed direction and headed for Hatchcock, who'd got Bleach down on the ground and was fighting Muggle style. Bleach was obviously past the point of fighting back, but Hatchcock was still hitting him. I put a hand on Hatchcock's shoulder, and he gave Bleach one last punch to the nose and then stumbled to his feet. Bleach laid there groaning and didn't move. There was blood everywhere. Hatchcock was sporting a fat lip, a cut above his eye still flowing freely.
He spit out a broken tooth and looked down at Bleach with contempt. “It's Hatchcock, you ass.”
Mum dragged Ambrosia, still bound tightly and now immobilized as well (Mum favoured overkill in times like these), into the room with her defeated crew. While Dad gathered the remaining defeated henchmen, Mum fixed my broken wrist, though she fussed a bit about it, wishing my brother was there to do it properly, seeing as he was a fully qualified Healer. Still, she got the job done. Hatchcock returned to Auror headquarters and brought reinforcements back with him. It only took them fifteen minutes. Apparently the sight of him had been enough to dispense with worries about warrants.
Somehow in the commotion, Stanis had disappeared. I hadn't kept count of the number of henchmen about the place, but I thought we were missing one. He must have revived his boss and helped him escape while the rest of us were busy. Dad wasn't pleased about that, and gave the Aurors a chewing-out over their lack of willingness to provide backup. To their credit, they didn't bother pointing out the warrant thing again.
Jessup had arrived with the rest of the lot, and didn't look any happier to see me now than he had done the time he'd arrested me. You'd think he'd realize I wasn't a bad guy. Apparently I was bothering Aurors as well as criminal masterminds. I couldn't decide whether or not I was relieved that he wasn't a dirty cop, only a big fat jerk.
“Hell of a mess,” Jessup said to Hatchcock, ignoring me completely.
“Yes, sir,” Hatchcock said, mopping at the blood on his face with his sleeve. No one had patched him up yet, and the cut on his forehead was still oozing.
“At least we didn't knock the building down,” Dad put in sotto voce. He was grinning, one arm wrapped around Mum's waist. She had her head on his shoulder, still watching Ambrosia, who was now surrounded by Aurors. Both of them appeared to be in excellent spirits.
I decided not to comment on that. I hadn't destroyed a building the entire time I'd been in New York. It was probably a record for me. The holes in the wall at Kid Shaw's place didn't count: it had still been standing when I'd left.
Jessup eyed him for a moment, and apparently decided it wasn't worth his comment, either. “Please escort the Weasleys back to their hotel, Hatchcock. And get yourself fixed up in the infirmary, too.”
“You're welcome,” Dad said pointedly. “My wife and I don't accept awards for doing what's right, but we wouldn't say no to a free dinner.”
“Ronald.” Mum elbowed him in the ribs. “He's only joking. We've accepted any number of awards.”
I grinned at them. Hatchcock let out a chuckle. Jessup was not amused.
Mum and Dad headed outside with Hatchcock, still looking rather smug, but I paused as we passed the main prisoner of the day.
Ambrosia was seated on the floor, still wrapped up in Mum's Incarceration Curse. She looked very sullen. With five Aurors around her and no wand, she seemed to have decided not to fight her way out. They did have jurisdiction and probably weren't afraid to use it.
“Don't get too close,” one of the Aurors warned me, rather unnecessarily. I had no intention of getting within headbutting distance of Ambrosia.
I crouched down in front of her, a few feet away.
“What is your real name, anyway?” I asked. She gave me a mulish glare, and I went on, “It's going to come out whether you like it or not. You might as well just say.”
She put her head back and stared at the ceiling for a while, and I was sure she wasn't going to answer. I stood up and started to walk away when she said loudly, “Susan James. It's Susan James, all right?”
Holy Kneazles. That hadn't been what I'd been expecting. I could see why she always made up such exotic names.
“Um,” I said intelligently. “That's very, uh, average.”
“Oh, shut up, Rose,” she snapped.
The Ellery brownstone loomed large over us as I climbed the front steps with my parents. The reporter bloke, the one who'd warned me off when I'd come to interview the judge, tried to intercept us. Mum and Dad have far more experience with the press than I do, so after they'd cleared him off, he simply stood at the corner on the pavement, scribbling into a notebook as fast as he could. I had a feeling we were his next big scoop, even if he had to invent the details.
Giles Ellery answered the door. He seemed to recognize me. “You're that P.I., aren't you?” He glanced my parents. “You were investigating my brother's death, right?”
“Yeah, I was.”
Giles waved us inside, glancing down the street at the reporter. “Come inside. The vultures are still out there.”
“Giles? Who is it?”
I looked up and saw the blonde woman who'd tipped me off to Heckie standing halfway down the stairs. She was gripping the railing tight now that she'd seen us, and her face had gone a bit white.
“Did you find them?” she asked me. Her face held mingled dread and hope.
I nodded. “The Aurors have her now, the woman who killed Noah.”
Mrs. Ellery sagged against the railing, then sat down on the elegant and expensive carpeted stairs. “My God. It's over.”
Giles had tears running down his face. He wiped them away quickly, trying not to let us see.
I had never done this bit before. Dad looked rather at ease, since he'd told any number of families that the monster who killed their loved one was no longer roaming free, but normally I never saw the victims. I only saw the loved ones of the monster. Although really the worst monsters I generally went after were shoplifters and bar brawlers. Still, seeing this part of the legal process was new to me. It was very satisfying, I had to admit.
“It won't be over until after the trial,” came the gruff voice of the judge.
Everyone turned, except Cornelia Ellery, who was still crying quietly on the stairs. Greyson Ellery stood in the doorway to the study where I'd met him. He looked very stoic. I would have thought he was unmoved if I hadn't seen the emotion in his eyes.
And he was right about the trial. He certainly knew better than most about that.
“When she's convicted, then it's over. Come in,” he added, waving us in.
Giles went up the stairs to hug his mother, and Mum and Dad followed me into the judge's study. He sat down in a large upholstered chair by the window, and I perched next to my parents on the sofa. The judge leaned back, examining us closely.
“Your father, I believe you said?” he asked me.
I nodded and made appropriate introductions. “Yes, sir. This is my father, Ron Weasley, and my mother, Hermione Weasley. Dad is an Auror and mum works in the Department of Magical Law Enforcement.”
“Lawyer?” the judge asked mildly.
Mum nodded firmly.
“Thought so. You have the look.”
I wasn't sure if that was a compliment or an insult, but Mum didn't take umbrage at it. Probably she was used to people hating lawyers by now.
“We wanted to ask you, sir, what you said to your brother that evening in his office,” I began. “He was there when we found Ambrosia.”
Greyson Ellery rubbed a hand over his chin. “He did it, then. I told him if he didn't make an attempt at making amends, I'd make sure he never won another election.”
I had a feeling the judge's political clout was pretty hefty. Nobody can shoot a political campaign in the foot like an enemy in your own family. “What did you ask him to do, exactly?”
“I wanted information on that... that woman.” The judge's jaw tightened, and his hand clenched on the arm of the chair. “I knew who she was, that she'd had Noah killed to make me throw that trial. I had no proof, no name. I told my brother to bring me something I could take to the Aurors or he could kiss his road to the White House goodbye.”
“You must have known he was endangering himself by doing that,” Dad remarked. There was no censure in his voice. Dad had no sympathy for people who got their family members killed.
Evidently the judge didn't either, because he gave Dad an even look and said, “So be it. He got my son killed through his greed and stupidity, and he didn't even realize who he was getting in bed with.”
“She'll be going away for a long time now,” Mum said gently. She leaned forward and took his hand briefly. “She'll never hurt anyone again. And we are so very sorry for your loss.”
Greyson seemed genuinely touched. He nodded to her. “Thank you, Mrs. Weasley.”
“I doubt we can say the same of your brother, though,” Dad said shrewdly.
“I wouldn't mind seeing him do jail time, but I doubt he'll ever get convicted,” Greyson agreed. “The old bastard is slippery. He's a lot like our grandfather. He was what you might call a robber baron, though if he were alive now he'd just be called a mobster. Wyn would like to be the same, only with politics instead of questionable finances. I'm very glad that my brother didn't get your daughter killed as well as my son.”
“Rose is harder to knock down than she looks,” said my father.
They smiled at each other. I could see Mum repressing an eye roll. I thought it was rather sweet that Dad and the judge seemed to understand each other so well, even if it was through jokes at my expense.
“I take it you'll be returning home soon?” the judge asked.
Dad nodded. “Tonight.”
“It was truly a pleasure. I don't know how our family came to your attention,” Greyson added, looking me in the eye, “but I am very glad that we did. Thank you for catching my son's murderer.”
I nodded, feeling a bit embarrassed. “You're welcome.”
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