Chapter: 32 of 35 - Cleanup
Pairings: Asher/Anita/Jean-Claude, Anita/Nathaniel, Harry/Nathaniel/Draco, Harry/Draco, Anita/Micah
Rating: R/15 or NC17/18
Summary: Harry Potter could find trouble in paradise and when Draco sends him to St Louis for a holiday it's not paradise and there's lots of trouble. With dark magic, vampires, lycanthropes and more, who else could sort it out but Anita Blake?
Chapter listing: click here for other parts, publishing schedule and A/N
Disclaimer: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by JK Rowling and Laurell K. Hamilton, various publishers including but not limited to Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books, Raincoast Books, Orbit books, Time Warner Book group, and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.
Warnings: This story is set post Harry Potter and the OotP and post Incubus Dreams and therefore has SPOILERS for all previous books. If you don’t want to know anything that went on in or before HP book five or AB book twelve do not read this story.
Chapter 32 Cleanup
Parker was being a complete pain in the ass. The man was decidedly unhappy that his Mobile response unit had been called in and had only arrived in time to see Anita pulverise the danger. Hudson had been in charge of the operation, but it was just her luck that Parker had decided that coming down to see the clear up of this one was a really good political move. At least he was keeping the press, who had appeared out of nowhere, at bay by answering some of their questions. Anita wanted to just shoot them, but then she was not happy with reporters just at the moment, because if they hadn't blown Harry's cover none of this would have happened.
So far Parker had let the ambulance take Harry and Richard, but he had refused to let Lupin leave even though Anita suspected the werewolf had a concussion. It was unlikely to bother Lupin for long, but she'd have been happier if Parker had let him go with the others. She hadn't been let back into the crime scene or to see any of the suspects since she had followed the paramedics out to the ambulance. She had wanted to go with Richard and Harry, and Parker had been happy for her to leave, but Micah, Jason and Lupin were still being eyed suspiciously. Since she had deputised them she was staying to make sure no one saw fit to incarcerate them for some imagined crime.
So far she had had one phone call from Nathaniel to say that the healer was working on Harry and that Draco had made a miraculous recovery. It seemed that at the same time Anita had been channelling Harry's magic some of it had been working through the marks on Draco and that healing seemed to be a common theme. Richard had been unconscious when he had been taken away, but any and all wounds had been nothing but scars. The only one who had had any physical injuries left out of the victims seemed to be Harry, and Anita had distinctly heard the paramedics marvelling at how fast he was healing as well.
"Blake," finally it was her turn as Parker half walked, half marched towards her.
Technically she could have forced her way back into the crime scene since she was a Federal Marshal, but quite frankly she felt a lot safer in Micah's arms even if he was in catman form. That had caused a few sideways looks as well.
"Would you care to explain to me exactly why you chose to go in without backup?" Parker sounded annoyed to the nth degree.
She wasn't quite sure if the captain was worried about what could have happened to her or just plain worried about what a mess he might have had to clear up, but she didn't really care. She needed to go home and scrub at her skin until at least some of the feel of the demon was gone. Unclean was a good way to describe how she felt and she wasn't sure a shower would do the trick, but at least it would help.
"I had backup, Captain," Anita said plainly, not really in the mood to discus this. "I was trying to make sure no one was killed, including two of my friends. Preternatural creatures are far better at dealing with other preternatural creatures so I deputised some of my other friends. We won, and since we were up against a demon and in mortal peril we didn't do anything wrong."
"You could have been mincemeat, Blake," Parker said and glared at her.
She was surprised, he was actually worried for her. Not worried in the same way Dolph would have been, and she thanked her lucky stars that he had not decided to come to this crime scene, but worried none the less. It was nice to know she wasn't classed as one of the monsters yet. Cops tended to be less inclined to worry about monsters.
"We survived, Captain," Anita said and did not try to hide the weariness in her voice. "I feel like the devil himself shit upon me, so would you please let me go home. I swear I will give a full and complete account to Lieutenant Storr as soon as I am clean."
It had been a very long night and she was willing to beg. Parker looked at the other three and the man was clearly unnerved by Micah and Jason's half and half forms.
"Captain Parker, this is Micah, my boyfriend," she decided to make the relationships very clear.
Relationships tended to make lycanthropes seem much more human.
"And this is Jason, a very dear friend and Remus Lupin, a friend of one of the victims and a magical practitioner," she continued the introductions.
Telling the cops that Jason and Lupin were an item would be okay for some of them and a stumbling block for others so she decided to gloss over that. More hassle was not what they needed.
"I deputised them before we went in and they assisted in the apprehension of the suspects," Anita said slowly and clearly.
From the look on Parker's face it was obvious that he had been told what really happened, but the man did not try and argue.
"Micah and Jason cannot shift back because they'll go to sleep as soon as they do," she said plainly, even though in Micah's case that was not true. "They would if they could, but they can't so I think the sooner I take them home the better it will be for all concerned. We don't want anyone jumpy, do we?"
She had never been so keen to leave a crime scene in her life. The bad guys were locked up, the demon was dead and all she wanted to do was go home. Normally after something like this she was pretty sure her eyes looked like those of a complete psychopath as she distanced herself from all emotion, but she had no will for that now. Quite frankly she metaphorically got down on her knees and begged with her eyes.
"A full report as soon as you're clean," Parker said gruffly, "and I expect statements from everyone involved by the close of play tomorrow."
Anita just nodded she was so relieved. She might have been a Federal Marshal, but the police could still make her life a living hell, especially since she had not been acting on a warrant.
"Thank you, Captain," she said, completely sincere. "I promise all the paperwork will be in order by tomorrow."
A shower and then going to see how Richard was would have been the perfect solution, but a shower, talking to Dolph and then going to see how Richard was would work for her.
After that hullabaloo with the police, Anita had driven them all to her house where Micah had shifted back to human, showered and put some clothes on. Then she had left him to drop Jason at the Circus so that he could remain in wolf form to prevent collapsing, and drop Lupin at the hospital to be with his fellow wizards.
Anita had showered as well, in a different bathroom to Micah or they might never have made it back downstairs, and she was on her way into the station. This was still RPIT's case and she wanted to find out what the hell was really going on. Someone had threatened the triumvirate and she needed to know why. Word of how she had faced and defeated a demon had obviously done the rounds because when she walked into the precinct she received several awed looks. Even Arnet failed to say anything to her.
Walking up to Dolph's office she knocked on the door.
"Come in," was the short response.
The scene inside was not exactly inviting as Dolph glared at her, but Zerbrowski gave her a weak smile. For once she thought that Dolph's attitude might have had more to do with worry than anger, if the way he was looking at her was anything to go by. People could stay mad at people for a long time, but life threatening situations tended to change that for at least a little while. Anita knew this quite well since she had been in one or two life threatening situations in her time.
"The perps are in custody and the demon is dead," she observed in what she hoped was a light tone, "why the long faces?"
"Having the perps in custody is one thing," Dolph said in a terse manner that underlined his mood, "but getting anything useful out of them is another matter."
That surprised Anita, after all the ritualists had been caught red handed. Usually when faced with capture, lunatics such as these tended to want to explain their grand plan and convince those around them they were not insane.
"Are you saying they're not talking at all?" she asked, not bothering to hide her surprise.
"Oh they're singing," Zerbrowski said, but he sounded exasperated rather than pleased. "In fact some of them won't shut up, but mostly they're begging us to save them."
That was not what Anita had expected at all, and it did not sound like their last prisoner at all.
"It seems that not all of them are true believers," Dolph said and sounded as if this was far too complicated; "they were forcefully converted."
"And there's no going home to mom, either," Zerbrowski took up the explanation. "Seems they were invited in by 'the Master', brainwashed and then implanted with something magical that if they don't, and I quote, 'take the sacrament' from 'the Master' every twenty four hours this thing eats its way out of their chest, munching on their heart first. Before you ask, no we don't know what the sacrament is or what is in them."
"But we did figure out who 'the Master' is since he's the only one without a scar and the only one not talking," Dolph said and it was obvious he was not best pleased.
Anita grimaced; she had not met this particular form of murder before, but she had learned long ago never to underestimate the supernatural.
"Anyone ever tried to remove one of these things before?" she asked, knowing that it couldn't be as simple as just going to see a surgeon.
If it was that easy someone would have tried it, and magic never made things straight forward.
"One of the prisoners swears that a cult member tried it and ended up like our first detainee," Zerbrowski looked and sounded very tired.
To find out the whole story they needed someone willing to talk. For a moment Anita considered pretending that they had a cure and then bargaining for the truth, but even she was not that callous. It sounded as if these people had been stupid, but not all of them were in it for the faith. There was only one solution she could think of at such short notice and she pulled open her phone.
"Hello," she said politely, holding up her hand to stop Zerbrowski's question, "I need to speak to Remus Lupin. This is Federal Marshall Anita Blake and it's an emergency."
She took the phone away from her ear and covered the microphone.
"I think I know someone who can help," she said to prevent both cops from bombarding her. "I'll explain in a minute."
She waited patiently and it did not take too long.
"Ms Blake?" Lupin's voice was as polite as usual.
"Hi, Lupin," she greeted quickly, "how's Harry?"
"Sleeping," the werewolf replied, "as is Mr Zeeman, but I do not believe asking me that is sufficient motivation for an emergency."
"No it's not," Anita admitted, "I need to speak to your healer. We have a situation with the prisoners from the ritual and our science is not going to help them."
There was a pause on the other end.
"He will not be particularly willing," Lupin pointed out in an apologetic tone, "he is breaking several laws just by being here."
"I wouldn't ask unless it was life or death," Anita replied. "They are all going to die unless someone can stop it. I will guarantee that his help will be need to know and will not be placed in the official record."
Dolph's face darkened at that, but Anita ignored him.
"There is no other way?" Lupin sounded most reluctant.
"In under twenty four hours their chests get eaten from the inside out," Anita decided that blunt was best.
Silence answered her.
"I will bring him myself if I have to, Ms Blake," was the eventual reply.
"Thank you," she said and hung up.
Dolph did not look impressed in the slightest.
"Care to explain the 'not be placed in the official record', Anita?" the big man asked coldly.
"You remember the whole wizard debate about how they do it so differently over there?" straight to the point was the only way with Dolph in a mood. "Well there is a Wizarding culture here as well, only it's better integrated, but it still exists in secret. They came out of the woodwork when Draco Malfoy was attacked, and they have a magical healer at the hospital now. Since surgery won't work, maybe he can do something. It's against their laws to interact with us so you cannot tell anyone about him."
Dolph didn't seem to be convinced, but Zerbrowski was looking a little happier.
"So this guy can save our perps from a messy end?" he asked in a much more cheerful tone.
"Probably," Anita replied. "Malfoy was a complete mess when they brought him in and their healer patched him up as if it was nothing. No scars or anything, and the kid had been skewered with crossbow bolts."
"No scars at all?" Dolph sounded incredulous.
"Nothing," Anita promised.
She wasn't a hundred percent positive about that, but she was not aiming for halfway here. There were a few tense moments when she though Dolph might start demanding things, but eventually her one time friend just nodded. It seemed Dolph was as fed up of this case as she was and he just wanted it over.
The Wizarding healer had been heard cursing barbaric practices and magic of the dark ages after he saw his first patient, but it seemed that there was hope for the conscripts. Not all were willing to talk or even wanted to be examined since it seemed that some really were true believers, but allowing people to have their hearts eaten out was not something the St Louis police were in the mood for, so all the cultists with scars were looked at.
Anita did not bother to find out what exactly the healer was doing, she had bigger fish to fry and lots of secrets to keep to herself. So far she had heard the word 'triumvirate' mentioned once and werewolf in association with Richard once as well. A quick phone call to the hospital had revealed that Richard's condition was not suspected since he had had no injuries from the silver chains; point one for magical healing. She knew she had to stop both truths from being believed, so it was time to play diversions.
One glimpse of "The Master" had assured her that, although a powerful magician, the man was a complete lunatic; she could see it in his eyes. This was to her advantage, but she had some work to do. Convincing Dolph to let her in on the interview had been relatively easy; a little emotional blackmail about ex-fiancés and mental patients in robes, along with pointing out that she was an expert in this type of thing had been enough.
"Hello," she said, sitting down opposite the suspect in the interview room.
For good measure she gave him her completely psychopathic stare; the one that had been known to send monsters running away. "The Master" really wasn't all that impressive; he was short, completely bald and not anyone she would have picked out of a crowd. The only thing that made him remotely remarkable was the robe he was wearing and the almost religious fervour in his eyes.
"I know you know who I am," she continued as Dolph took up a position by the back wall, "would you care to tell me who you are?"
The man regarded her for a while and surprisingly, given the contempt he had treated the cops with, he gave her a small smile.
"The Master," he replied without any sign that he believed differently. "It is a pleasure to be able to sit down with you Ms Blake; I have been studying you for a long time."
"I suppose everyone needs a hobby," she said, keeping her emotions well in check.
What she wanted to do was push this asshole up against a wall and pump him so full of lead that there wasn't much left of him, but she had lost her chance to do that at the crime scene. Once the police were involved she couldn't exactly play the executioner on this madman.
"Your followers," she continued, "or should I say, your conscripts are cooperating nicely. With the physical evidence and their testimony you're facing the death penalty."
That just made the man smile a little more.
"Oh and if you think they won't be around to testify, you might want to reconsider," she really enjoyed this bit. "You're little surprises have been rendered harmless. Interesting bit of magic that, Chinese wasn't it."
Somehow the Wizarding healer had produced a picture of one of the devices, even though they were going to have to be removed the old fashioned way, and the department's spell expert had gone into raptures about the design. About all Anita had been able to follow was the fact that it used ancient Chinese magical techniques. The effect on "the Master" was satisfyingly abrupt as the smile vanished and the man's eyes became almost as cold as hers.
"Who are you really?" Anita asked in a clipped, short tone. "We'll find out eventually anyway so you might as well tell us."
Not a word came in response.
"You're delusional, you are aware of that aren't you?" she continued, fully intending to reduce the man to his lowest ebb.
What she wanted was for him to start ranting. If he did that then he would be labelled a lunatic and locked away; he'd probably avoid the death sentence, but no one would take him seriously. Right now, that was all Anita cared about; there were other ways to deal with him if he became a problem later on.
"What did you hope to gain by taking Richard Zeeman?" she asked. "Jean-Claude has power, removing him would have unbalanced the vampire population in this city, but why Richard?"
Lying was not her favourite pastime, but she could do it like a master when she wanted to.
"The Ulfric of the werewolves has power as well," the prisoner sounded annoyed, but she hid the smile that threatened as she realised she was getting to him.
"You think Richard is a werewolf," she said in her best incredulous tone, "and not only that, you think he's the head werewolf?"
She managed a perfectly disbelieving laugh; even she was proud of her acting.
"Please, do tell me what you're taking, it must be good stuff," that earned her a frown from "the Master".
Sometimes having a side she could completely detach from her emotions helped a lot; she didn't think she could have pulled off the complete disbelief if she had been feeling too much.
"We had him for hours, Ms Blake," the prisoner said coldly, "and we've been watching all of you. Do not try and deny the truth."
"Truth?" Anita replied, letting a little annoyance into her voice. "You want truth? Okay, how's this? Richard is about as far from a perfect Ulfric as you can possibly get. He's a boy scout, believes in truth, justice and the American way; he's a school teacher for heaven's sake. He's a naturalist who doesn't like to kill things. How exactly do you think he'd be able to be a werewolf, let alone the Ulfric of the pack?"
Since all of those things were actually true it was much easier to make them sound convincing. What she failed to mention was that deep down inside Richard was a born leader and he was slowly getting over his hang-ups.
"He is part of your triumvirate with the master of the city," the prisoner said loudly in a very sure voice.
Anita opened her mouth as if she was shocked.
"You really are insane," she said shortly.
There was just the tiniest flicker of doubt in "the Master's" eyes and she scored herself a point. She wasn't sure she could have done this with any other subject, but this was very important to her and if she could undermine the prisoner's beliefs then her job was done.
"You cannot possibly believe that old vampire legend, even vampires don't believe that," she continued as if she was speaking to a three year old. "Richard was my fiancé. Through me he met several werewolves who are almost as big boy scouts as he is; they're friends. He's squeamish about vampires; runs away if anyone opens a vein for one of them."
That had been true as well, but Richard was definitely adjusting slowly.
"You really think he could be part of some mystical bond with me and Jean-Claude?" Anita sat back in her chair as if she was amazed that anyone could believe it. "I am involved with Jean-Claude, I was involved with Richard, but can we please leave the mystical bonds out of it? Do you want to know what I think actually happened?"
She was on a roll now.
"The moment you dosed Richard with that potion you connected him to Harry," she had worked out a very plausible story in her head. "Harry, by the way, is the name of the kid you've tried to kill, twice. Now Harry is a very powerful young man; he's sensitive to magic; he's a lycanthrope; and he's part vampire with the ability to call wolves. That last bit was what you didn't seem to realise. Harry was throwing off power left right and centre and some of it ended up in Richard. You just saw what you wanted to see. Not everyone that hangs around with the preternatural community is one."
"We would have had the triumvirate," the prisoner all but growled, "we would have had control of this entire city."
"If it wasn't for you meddling kids?" Anita put the last nail in the man's coffin.
She saw rage enter "the Master's" eyes and she stood up before the man tried to pull at the cuffs which were attaching him to the table. Giving him a cold smile she turned to Dolph.
"I think he may rant for a bit now," she said as if she was pleased with herself. "If you want clarification on his delusions let me know, but now I want to go and see Richard."
She looked Dolph straight in the eye and did not so much a flicker. When he nodded she knew she had him and the tiniest bit of her soul shattered; she hated lying to people she called friends.
End of Chapter 32
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