In the shadows on an empty road in a darker part of London, a lighter was lit then clicked shut. A cigarette tip glowed bright for a moment then dimmed as its owner blew out a ring of smoke, sighing.
Down the road, a black Mercedes came around the corner, fish-tailing as it did so. The motor roared as the car slammed forward, racing towards the curb. Whoever was driving was exceptionally good because they turned at the exact moment the car's wheels would have run up on the cement curb and cut the engine at the same moment.
Two police cars came around the corner a moment later, motors revving, as they didn't take the fishtail as well as the Mercedes. Sirens wailing, they shot down the empty road, not even noticing the parked Mercedes they'd been chasing.
The owner of the cigarette slowly walked over to the car, boot heels clicking softly on the concrete sidewalk. Just as they got within three feet of the vehicle, the driver's door opened and a pair of dark heels slid out. The body of a lithe redhead wearing a tan skirt and a plain white shirt followed them. Both hugged her curves and revealed her well – but not overly – muscled legs, arms, and torso. She slipped on a tan coat as she stood, allowing a vague glimpse of the shoulder rig she wore, its leather dark against her shirt.
"You're late," said the owner of the cigarette in a gruff voice as the woman closed the door of the car and stood with one hand on her shapely hip. It was clearly a man.
The woman fixed him with cool brown eyes and said, "I ran into a few – difficulties."
The man snorted as though this was not an unusual thing. "What did you do this time?" he asked.
"Speeding," replied the woman in an innocent tone, leaning against the car and looking at him from underneath her lashes.
"Speeding," he repeated.
"Speeding," she agreed.
The man walked to the front of the car and bent down. Smoke swirled about his head as he stood back up and said, "Or perhaps it is the fact that you forgot to put the license plate on again."
"Oh," said the woman with a coy smile. "My mistake."
The man snorted again and took another drag at the cigarette. He started to throw it on the ground but the woman snatched it from his hand, putting it to her own lips.
"Those can kill you," said the man.
"Really?" said the woman in a condensing tone.
The man took the cigarette from her lips on her next exhale and released it, crushing it beneath the heel of his dark boot when it hit the ground. "Time to go," he said then, stepping out of the shadows into the light of a streetlamp. A black overcoat and a dark fedora hid his features and clothes – which must have been dark as well – as he continued on down the sidewalk. The woman followed him, heels clicking against the concrete as her right hand slid up under her coat.
The man turned after going a few steps and mounted the set of stairs that led up to an ancient apartment building. As the woman followed, he pressed one of the buttons that rang the apartments. The legend beside it read "A. B. Marx" in a neat, computer-generated script. Scribbled in the margin of the piece of paper in a bad hand was the name "Shanks".
"Are we sure he's here?" asked the woman as the sound of the bell inside faded away. "He could have taken off."
"True," said the man, pushing the button again. "But Oscar's never wrong."
The woman smiled coldly at that.
"That's what you said about Henson."
"Henson was a fucked up piece of shit."
"Yeah," said the woman, "but it looks like Oscar was wrong too. He's not home."
"Oh, he's home," growled the man darkly, punching the button a third time. "And he knows its us." He took a casual step back now, considering the door for a moment before he put all his weight on his left foot, turned his body, and rammed the steel rimmed heel of his right boot against the door. The cheap wood groaned in agony but valiantly held. After a moment, the man repeated this action and the door broke. The doorknob remained in its place, splinters sticking out from it sharply, while the rest of the door swung inward and thumped hard against the dingy wall before slowly swinging halfway back.
The woman entered first, drawing a .45 Smith and Wesson revolver from her shoulder righ as she looked around. Outside, the man watched, hands in the pockets of his coat, as the lights in the building across the street came on. He followed her in, saying quickly, "The neighbors are up."
"Shit," remarked the woman, eyes narrowing. But there was no hurry in her brown orbs. Only patience. "What floor's this asshole on?"
"Third," replied the man. "Let's get this done before your cop friends come back."
The woman snorted at that remark and stalked towards the staircase, the barrel of her gun pointed towards the dank looking carpet. The man tailed her, hands still in the pockets of his overcoat.
On the third floor, the woman stopped and – not looking back at him – said, "Room?" Her eyes scanned the corridor going off in front of them and the one heading off to the right as she spoke.
"Sixteen B," came the gruff reply as the sirens suddenly came close again, perhaps two miles away. "Damnit. Your friends are back."
The woman snorted and headed down the straight corridor towards the battered door that read "16B". She took up position against the wall, her gun up now with its muzzle pointed up at the ceiling, which was as equally dank and dingy as the walls and carpet. The man nodded to her and stepped up to the door, lifting his right hand from his pocket and rapping his knuckles against the thin wood.
"Open up, Shanks," he called. "I know you're at home."
"Fuck off!" came the reply from inside the apartment, the voice heavy with its Cockney accent.
"Oh, now you know I can't do that, Shanks," purred the man. He lifted his head enough that the hall light shone on his jaw, revealing a wide smirk. "You owe me something."
"Fuck off, damnit! I doan owe ye nothin'!"
The man was cut off as the apartment door slammed open, spreading a rectangle of light on the dimly lit corridor. A twelve-gauge, twin-barreled shotgun was leveled at his head; a pair of wild blue eyes peered down the barrel from underneath a head of greasy black hair.
"I said fuck off!" screamed the man, finger tightening on the shotgun's trigger.
"Shall I shoot him?" asked the woman in a calm voice as she thumbed back the hammer of her revolver. The gun's muzzle was an inch from the crazed man's earlobe and her index finger was rubbing the trigger.
The man shook his head and said, "Not yet, lovely." He looked at the crazed man and continued, "Isn't she a marvelous woman? Beautiful beyond words, serpent-tongued, and a crack shot. What more could a man ask for?"
The shotgun barrel's quivered and the man held out his right hand, the left still in his pocket.
"Give me the gun, Shanks," he said. "I won't ask twice. And if you don't, I'll let my lovely companion here blow your brains out through your other ear. I daresay it would be an improvement."
Shanks shook, eyes wide with fear now. His grip on the shotgun tightened and the woman tensed, moving the barrel of her revolver so it rested against his earlobe. With a yelp, Shanks practically threw the shotgun at the man, who caught it in his right hand then flipped it open.
Shaking his head, the man said, "Tut, tut. Not even loaded. Shanks, what a pitiful creature you have become. Three years ago this would have actually had shells in it." He reached into a pocket inside his coat and pulled out two shotgun shells, rolling them in his palm before he slid one in, then the other. With a flick of his wrist, the shotgun popped back together and he leveled it at Shanks heart, smirking when the shirt, barrel-chested man nearly jumped out of his muddy sneakers.
"You owe me a pricey amount, Shanks," said the man, letting the shotgun's twin muzzle rove over Shanks chest. "And you're five days overdue."
"I – I doan 'ave it," stuttered Shanks, eyes wide enough that the whites showed all around.
"Nothing?" said the man, lifting the shotgun to point at one round shoulder then the other.
"I…" began Shanks then stopped. He swallowed hard then stammered, "I – I've got a li'le bit o' money. S'Italian…"
The woman scoffed, cutting him off.
"That doesn't take up two pence worth of your due to me," said the man. "Unless, of course, you happened to find something particularly special that might interest me."
"We – well…I – Ah did find tha' thing ye tol' me abou'…"
Outside the sirens came closer and the man growled, "Now, Shanks. Where is it?"
Shanks swallowed hard and said, "I's…um…"
The man lowered the shotgun at Shanks crotch and spat, "Where? Or I'll blow off the only thing left that recognizes you as a man."
"I sold i'!" screamed Shanks, blue eyes completely round now. He looked to have pissed in his soiled pants as well.
"To who?" demanded the man as the woman pulled back from Shanks and inched towards the stairwell, leaning over the banister and peering down to the first floor.
"The name, Shanks! The name!"
"I doan know!" screamed Shanks. "Please…please doan kill meh. Doan kill meh!"
The woman pulled back from the banister as she saw the first flash of a police uniform. She turned around and waked briskly over to the ma, touching his arm as she slid her gun back into her shoulder rig.
The man snorted and pulled his index finger off the shotgun's trigger, letting his arm and the weapon fall so his coat hid the gun. He looked down at Shanks, who had slowly slid to the floor against the doorframe, with contempt and a sneer. "Find out who," he snarled darkly, "or you're a dead man."
With that he turned on a heel, offered his free arm to the woman, and they were gone, disappearing down the back stairwell. The police came up the stairs a moment later and saw only Shanks, sitting on the floor in the doorway of his apartment, muttering to himself and his eyes glassy.
Back down on the first floor, the man and woman came out of the back stairwell and left the building. As they walked towards the black Mercedes, they saw a young officer standing in front of the car.
"A rookie," whispered the woman as the young officer turned towards them. "Still green about the gills."
"Mmm," said the man in agreement.
"Is this your car, sir?"
"Its mine," said the woman, smiling at the rookie, who blushed but kept speaking.
"Do you know its illegal to drive without a license plate, ma'am?"
"Yes," purred the woman, her eyes shining darkly. "But the car's new." She smiled sweetly and added, "Won't you let me off just this once? I swear I'll get it put on right away."
The rookie looked skeptical then said, "Alright. Now get out of here. There were vandals reported outside this building."
"Vandals!" exclaimed the woman, sounding appropriately horrified. "How dreadful! Let's get out of the officer's way, darling."
"Yes, dear," said the man, smirking beneath his fedora.
The two of them moved past the rookie officer to the Mercedes, the man crossing to the passenger side as the woman slid into the driver's seat. As she turned the key in the ignition, the man leaned across the gearshift and whispered in her ear, "You are a devious little minx."
The woman smiled and said, "Thank you," as she pulled away from the curb.
"And so good with officers."
"I'm just a multi-talented woman."
"How I know," murmured the man, his hand reaching out to rub her thigh.
"Not until he get home, dear heart," purred the redhead, removing the wandering hand.
"You do enjoy torturing me, don't you?"
"Of course." She glanced in the rearview mirror just then and added, "Shit."
"What?" said the man in an annoyed tone.
"The damn cops. One of them is one the cars that was chasing me."
A siren wailed, quickly joined by another and the man growled, "And there's the other one. " He turned to look back at them through the back window then shifted back and ordered, "Lose them."
"Right," said the woman, her hands tightening about the leather covered wheel. The Mercedes shot forward as she put the accelerator to the floor and threw the gearshift into fourth, the engine growling gamely as they rounded the corner on two wheels. Behind them were the two police cars, sirens wailing.
A high-speed chase ensued along the empty, narrowed London roads, the Mercedes leading by three car lengths or more. They lost the cop cars for a moment then had them on their tail again a moment later.
"Persistent bugger's, aren't they?" growled the man as he peered at the cars in the side mirror. He pulled the shotgun from where he'd laid it in the floorboard then popped open the glove compartment, pulling out a revolver identical to the one the woman carried in her shoulder rig. Stuffing the revolver in his coat pocket, he punched the electric button on the door to roll down the window and leaned out, bringing the shotgun up to bear.
One police car swerved out of the way but the other came on, the officer in the passenger side leaning out, a pistol in hand. The shotgun roared and the right front tire blew out with a loud bang. As the car swerved, the second car came around, the driver firing wildly out his window. A bullet shattered one of the Mercedes' taillights and the woman cursed.
"Fuck! I just fixed that damn thing!"
Two bullets from the passenger side shattered the back window and the woman roared, "Damnit! Take the fucking wheel! I'll kill the bastards myself! Nobody shoots up my car and gets away with it!"
"Just drive!" bellowed the man as he threw the shotgun into the backseat, holding onto the car door with his knees. Grabbing the panic bar in one hand, he drew the revolver from his coat with the other and thumbed back the hammer.
"Well then shoot the fuckers!"
The man snarled in response and took careful aim. One shot rang out, followed swiftly by another. The first bullet buried itself in the metal of the police car's hood while the second went wild as the woman jerked the Mercedes into a sharp turn.
Four more shots rang out in rapid succession as the police car came around the corner after them. The first splintered the windshield and the second shattered it, going on through to punch a hole through the back window. Shot three went right between the driver's eyes, killing him on impact. As the car started to spin, the officer in the passenger side trying to get control, the fourth bullet rammed into the hood and went straight through to the engine. The engine exploded in a burst of orange and red flames, sending the spinning car five feet up into the air before it crashed back down.
The man swung back into the Mercedes, his fedora clutched in one hand, his dark hair wild about his face, and spat, "Happy now?"
"Yeah," growled the woman in response as she turned the Mercedes down a one-way street, slowing down to the correct speed limit. "The bastards shot up my car. I need a little retribution."
"As I said, you are a devious creature," remarked the man as he put the revolver back in the glove compartment. "We'll need to remember to reload that."
"I'll remember," said the woman, her eyes on the road. "And thanks. Shall we go home now, Harry?"
Harry Potter, twenty-three years of age and not the same boy who had walked into Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry thirteen years before, leaned back into the leather seat and said, "Yes, Gin. Let's go home."
Virginia Weasley, better known as Ginny, twenty-two years of ago and not even the shy young girl who had once had a crush on the man beside her years before, nodded and turned the Mercedes out of the one-way street onto the road that would carry them home.