“Ms. Weasley-” Jessup began, and I interrupted him.
“Shh! Can't you see the baby's sleeping? Keep your voice down.” I gestured at Ramses in his cot. He was curled up on his stomach with his bottom in the air.
Jessup and his partner both looked at my son askance, and then Jessup said quietly, “Ms. Weasley, we'd like to ask you a few questions.”
Scorpius and I were both in our pyjamas, and Ramses was sound asleep. I wasn't going to get dressed again so I could leave the room to speak with them, not after they'd blown me off earlier. I stood right where I was and said in a voice barely above a whisper, “Ask away.”
“What can you tell us about your encounter with the criminal sometimes known as Ambrosia Heggs?” Jessup asked. To his credit, he was keeping his voice low.
“I told you earlier, she's a bloody nutter,” I whispered. “You wasted your chance to track her. Did she kill someone? You wouldn't be here if she hadn't.”
The two Americans exchanged a glance, and then Jessup's partner whispered, “A body was found this afternoon. The cause of death was a blow to the head with a wide, heavy blunt instrument.”
“A shovel.” It was hard to keep my voice low when I felt like crowing triumphantly, I told you so. The thought occurred to me then that this murder probably could have been prevented if I'd managed to convince them earlier to take me seriously, and the sense of triumph was eclipsed by a sick feeling.
Scorpius looked a little sick as well, but he only shook his head slightly and put a hand on my leg.
“You mentioned earlier that Ambrosia Heggs has killed with a shovel before,” Jessup said.
“Shhh. Yeah, she did. In London. A couple of drug dealers. And she nearly got me with it. Oh, and O'Toole, too,” I added.
“O'Toole.” Jessup gave me a blank look.
“It was in the report, sir,” his partner murmured. “Barry O'Toole, another bounty hunter at the same bond agency.”
“He's retired now,” I put in.
Jessup pulled out a notebook and a quill from his jacket pocket, and they floated up into the air, the quill at attention. “How much contact did you have with Ambrosia Heggs?”
“She kidnapped me once. And I saw her a few other times too, then she tried to kill me, broke my wand, another criminal nearly killed her, and then she escaped by jumping out the window and Disapparating.” I would have done it first if I'd been able to get away with it. Apparition is my specialty. It's really my only job skill, to be honest.
“And when she kidnapped you, she simply let you go?” Jessup asked, his face carefully blank.
I wasn't sure what he was getting at. “Yeah. Well, she Incarcerated me first and left me at the Waste Authority. She threw my wand away, too.”
Jessup's partner gave a tiny cough. Jessup shook his head and asked, “How many times did you see Ambrosia Heggs prior to your kidnapping?”
"Shh," I reminded him.
He rolled his eyes and asked again, "How many times, Ms. Weasley?"
“I dunno.” I tried to remember, but to be honest it was a lot harder to remember details these days. Mum says it comes with childbirth. “Once or twice?”
Jessup's blank expression didn't change. “What was the extent of your contact with Ambrosia Heggs?”
Scorpius's hand flexed a bit on my leg. “You already asked her that,” he said tightly.
“Do you have any other information on Ambrosia Heggs? Known associates? Current activities?” Jessup's partner asked then. I got the feeling he felt he was salvaging the conversation. Interrogation, more like.
I shook my head. “It was a couple of years ago that I saw her last, when she leaped out of that bloody window. And everyone I could have named that she was involved with is either dead or in prison. There should be some sort of testimony from Madame Mihalek, shouldn't there?” Ambrosia's former boss had gone to Azkaban when Ambrosia had got away, but I didn't know how much information she'd actually been able to give about Ambrosia, whom she'd known as Mariana.
Ambrosia, or whatever her name really was, was disturbingly good at covering her tracks. She had a new fake identity every time I turned around.
“Thank you for your time, Ms. Weasley,” said the partner, and Jessup's notepad flipped shut and flew to his pocket, with the quill right behind it. They both stood up then, and I stood with them. Scorpius stayed where he was. I reckoned he was annoyed with their questions. “Call me if you think of any further pertinent information,” Jessup's partner added, handing me his card.
After they left, I glanced down at the business card in my hand. It read simply, Agent David Hatchcock, and a phone number. I handed this to Scorpius, who glanced at it.
“A phone number?”
“It's a vague card, isn't it? And they dress like Muggles in those suits. I reckon the card is designed so he can hand it out to Muggles or wizards.” I sat down on the bed next to him. “So?”
“I don't like the way they were asking those questions,” Scorpius muttered. “Like they thought you were suspicious or something.”
“Didn't give us much to go on, either.”
“Much to go on?” he echoed. “Rose-”
“I'll have to do some poking around on my own,” I mused. “I wonder who she killed this time. You wouldn't think they'd be this concerned over a drug dealer getting murdered, so probably she's not killing more of them. They wouldn't send Aurors for that, anyway. Just the MLEs.”
“It must be something big, don't you think? Something with Dark magic or the Aurors wouldn't be following up with me.”
“And threatening you,” Scorpius added, not quite under his breath, then he went on less quietly, “Rose, it's none of our business if something is going on, we're only here for the art gallery, remember? You don't have any authority in America.”
I waved this aside. “I don't need legal authority to wonder what she's doing, do I?”
He didn't look as if he trusted me. I gave him a kiss and hopped off the bed so we could turn down the sheets. Scorpius slid off as well and grabbed a corner of the blankets, but stopped in the middle of folding them back.
“You're not going to get involved, are you?”
“Of course not. We're here for your show,” I told him, flashing my trustworthy smile. He didn't look as if he believed me, so I added, “Would I lie to you?”
He threw me a look. “You lie to me all the time, Rose.”
I tried the trustworthy smile again, and he sighed in defeat.
“You know you could've just put a charm around the cot so the baby wasn't disturbed,” he said as we climbed into bed.
I grinned. “I know. But they wouldn't listen to me earlier.”
“You are cruel.” He gave me a kiss.
“Look at this!” I exclaimed, waving the newspaper at Scorpius.
We were sitting in the hotel's dining area, eating the free breakfast. I'd already finished far too much bacon and waffles, feeling quite American for it, and had picked up the morning's Gotham Magical Times that a neighbouring table had abandoned. Scorpius was feeding Ramses oatmeal and threw me an exasperated look.
I set the newspaper down on the table and read the article off to him. “Prominent wizarding socialite Noah Ellery, son of Judge Greyson Ellery and his wife Cornelia, was found dead yesterday, victim of a vicious murder. I knew it was someone more important than a drug dealer,” I added.
Scorpius rolled his eyes.
“The street his body was found on was just right around the block from where we saw Ambrosia,” I went on. “She might've been coming straight from murdering this bloke before she bumped into us!”
“I like how you include me, even though I didn't see her,” Scorpius remarked.
“We should go by and have a look at the crime scene.” I took a swig of orange juice while my boyfriend turned to stare at me in annoyed disbelief, the spoon of oatmeal still in his hand.
Ramses made a grab for the spoon and then yelled imperiously, “Mama!”
“The baby's hungry,” I told Scorpius, and hid behind the newspaper. While Scorpius fed Ramses his oatmeal, I read the article again. High-profile victims were handy for getting all the details. The reporter had tried to go to the judge's 'Sutton Place brownstone' for a statement and had been run off by the judge's other son. They never went to so much trouble for just anyone who'd been murdered without rich or famous parents. If the judge hadn't given a statement yet to the press, at least a couple of reporters were bound to be camped out nearby, hoping for photos or anything printable. It ought to be easy to find Judge Ellery's home. There was even a photo of it in the article. I could probably Apparate to it if I concentrated hard enough.
“I don't trust that look on your face, Rose,” Scorpius said then, wiping a bit of apple juice off Ramses's chin. “We're going sightseeing today. That's all.”
I folded up the newspaper, tucked it into my purse, and smiled brightly at him. “We can pick up where we left off, in the Financial District.”
Somehow Scorpius agreed to this, though he probably didn't believe that I only wanted to sightsee. We finished breakfast and made our way back to Wall Street, with Scorpius tucked neatly in his pram. I let Scorpius read from his guidebook for a good hour before I brought up visiting the crime scene again.
Scorpius looked annoyed. “Rose, we're not going to the crime scene.”
“Just a quick look. The street is right there, look.” I pointed at his map. “We can dash over, look around, and be gone again in a mo. No one will ever even know we were there.”
He groaned loudly.
The crime scene was roped off with yellow tape, and Muggle-repelling charms had the usual street traffic bouncing off the area and walking on the other side of the street. I strolled up to the edge of the tape, craning my neck to see over the heads of white-robed crime scene wizards. Scorpius hung back with Ramses, tapping his foot and looking impatient.
A man in a rather cheap suit with a badge clipped to his belt saw me and came over at once. “Ma'am, you can't be here, this is a crime scene.”
Of course it was a crime scene. Why did he think I was there? “I know that, I read the tape.”
“Only city officials can be here.” He shooed me away with his hands.
“I only wanted to know what happened exactly-”
“We don't share details from ongoing cases with the general public.”
Blimey, I wasn't used to being the general public. Every MLE in the Ministry of Magic knew who my parents were. Suddenly I missed Jack Upchurch, my usual source of information in the MLEs. Jack always told me whatever he knew about my cases.
Not that this was a case, officially.
The New York MLE was giving me a stern face now, his hand on his wand. “Ma'am, you need to leave the premises immediately.”
I went back to Scorpius and Ramses.
“Do I have to say 'I told you so' again?” said Scorpius.
“Mama!” said Ramses.
I pulled a face at both of them. Ramses laughed, and we set off for more sightseeing. Scorpius was reading the guidebook again, but I was deep in thought as I pushed Ramses's pram, and didn't hear a word he was saying.
Obviously I wasn't going to get anything out of the New York MLEs, any more than I had out of the Aurors. They didn't know me; they didn't have any reason to share details of the crime with me. I didn't have any authority, as Scorpius kept reminding me, to track down Ambrosia. I wouldn't get any paycheck for doing it, either. But for some reason, I couldn't let it go. I wanted to know what she was up to this time, and I didn't want her to get away again.
Ambrosia had escaped before, and now she was obviously setting up shop again in New York. Whatever she was doing, she'd already killed once. What if I could find her when the Aurors couldn't? I might prevent more murders. I didn't think I would endanger myself just from doing a little bit of investigating. Ambrosia was dangerous, but she had only tried to kill me once and that was a couple of years ago. And she hadn't done a thing to me on the street except walk away.
I glanced down at Ramses, who was entertaining himself by chewing on a small stuffed Hungarian Horntail my uncle Charlie had sent him for Christmas. It was his favourite toy. He looked so tiny, so very helpless, and a chill went down my spine at the thought of endangering him. His mummy captured criminals for a living, yes, but none of them had been as dangerous as Ambrosia Heggs. Not since Ramses had been born, anyway. I'd kept the serial killers to a minimum (although really, that hadn't been my fault).
I didn't want anything to happen to my baby, but I didn't want anyone else getting killed if I could stop it.
Besides, I could just look into things, find out a bit about what she was doing, and take the information to the Aurors. They were sure to listen this time if I gave them a solid lead. I could work out what Ambrosia's plans were, what she was up to, and tell the Aurors. I could stop Ambrosia without actually having to stop her myself.
I only had a little over a week left in New York. I didn't have any time to lose.
We went back to the hotel for Ramses's naptime, since he was utterly miserable to be around if he missed his nap. Scorpius tucked the baby into his cot and then flopped out on the bed. The cleaning staff had already been there and made the bed for us. It must have been a nice break for Scorpius, not having to do the housework.
He had only just laid down when I announced brightly, “I'm just going to run out to the store. Back in a mo.”
“To the store?” Scorpius turned his head to get a better look at me. “Rose, if you're going to do what I think you're going to do-”
“Won't take me but a moment,” I trilled, and darted out the door before he could stop me.
Sutton Place was on the East River, according to Scorpius's map, and Judge Ellery's street was right near the Queensboro Bridge. I Apparated to the vantage point the photographer had used for the Gotham Magical Times, which turned out to be across the street. There was a man standing nearby when I appeared, but he didn't seem at all surprised to see me pop out of thin air.
“Who're you with?” he asked, his arms folded across his chest. “He won't give you a statement, y'know. He isn't talking to any of us. The Magical New York Daily already gave up and went home.”
“I'm not a reporter,” I told him, then pointed at the brownstone painted a pale pink. “It's that one, yeah?”
He frowned. “You're British.”
“Yeah, I am.”
“Ellery still won't give you a statement,” he said. Clearly he did not believe that I wasn't a reporter.
I crossed the street and went to the pink brownstone. It loomed over me, an enormous four-storied building divided into terraced homes, each painted a different colour. The pink was a nice pale one, almost salmon. I reckoned I had a t-shirt in that same colour, actually.
I pressed my wand to the door knocker and heard chimes ringing through the house. Eventually a young man with close-cropped dark hair, his eyes red from obvious crying, answered the door and looked me up and down.
“Can I help you?” he asked. “If you're a reporter, you can get lost now. My father is going to release a statement in the morning.”
“I'm not a reporter,” I assured him. “I'm investigating the death of Noah Ellery.”
I was getting pretty good at implying I was an MLE without actually claiming I was one.
The young man at the door obviously bought that I was with Magical Law Enforcement. His eyes welled up a bit, but he blinked the tears away and waved me in. “I'll see if my father's available.”
He ushered me into a large room decorated all in blue, with heavy paintings hanging all over the ceiling. Half of them were empty, and the other half appeared to be just as upset as the young man who'd answered the door. Noah Ellery had been well-liked by his family, it seemed.
I waited alone, looking at the expensive furniture and poking absently at the ornaments arranged on the small end tables, while the young man went to fetch Judge Ellery. There were ornate painted eggs in little gold stands, sculptures of griffins, and in one of the gold-leafed frames on the wall was what looked like part of the hide of a dragon. I had stood up to get a better look at it when I heard a deep, gravelly voice behind me.
I turned to see an older man with steel-grey hair, dressed in long black robes embroidered with silver moons and stars, watching me with sharp brown eyes. Greyson Ellery nodded at the dragon hide in the frame. “My great-grandfather brought that with him when he first came to this country. Claimed to have killed the beast himself.”
“Oh. It's, um, quite lovely.”
The judge gave me a long look. “You're not with Magical Law Enforcement. And you're not a reporter.”
We locked eyes, and I knew I wasn't going to fool him. “No, sir. But I am trying to investigate the woman the Aurors think killed your son.”
“I don't have anything I can tell you, young lady. I don't know why anyone would want to kill Noah. He was a good boy. Always a good boy. My youngest, you know. I can't imagine he could have done anything to bring about this horrible tragedy.”
I didn't believe him. Oh, he was telling the truth about his son, but he knew more than he was saying about why Noah had been killed. I knew how to speak to judges, thanks to my mother, so I tried to frame my next question as respectfully as possible. “Sir, I met the woman the Aurors suspect is responsible. She tried to kill me a few years ago. She's dangerous and mad, but she doesn't kill for no reason. Are you absolutely certain your son wasn't involved in anything that could have brought him into her path? Even accidentally?”
Judge Ellery gave me a long look. After a while he asked, “Do you have children, young lady?”
“Yes,” I said, a little uncertainly. “Just one.”
“Hmph.” He rubbed a hand over his chin. The gesture reminded me of my father, and I suddenly felt very sorry for the judge. “I'm afraid I can't help you. Giles shouldn't have let you in. He's very heartbroken over his brother's death. We all are.”
“I'm so sorry for your loss,” I said, and I meant it more than I would've thought. Maybe it was because he'd reminded me of my own son. Parents shouldn't have to bury their children.
“Thank you.” The judge stepped back into the doorway, and I took this as my cue to leave. He didn't see me to the door, walking off down a hallway carpeted in blue brocaded silk rugs, further into the house.
I retraced my steps to the front door, and just as I was opening it, a noise behind me made me turn. A woman, probably around my mother's age, with blonde hair in an elegant French twist, stood in a doorway, watching me. She wore no makeup, and her eyes were tired, but she was still very pretty. This, I thought, must be Cornelia Ellery.
“Here,” she said, and held out one hand.
I took the small piece of paper, and she disappeared into the depths of the brownstone again.
As soon as I was outside, I Disapparated, reappearing outside our hotel. I leaned against the building and unfolded the scrap of paper. There was a name written on it.