A/N: Sorry for the wait, folks! My only excuse is that both my beta and I are extremely busy people.
If you try to make your way around Donegal Town by locating place names found in"The Rocky Road to Rosier," I guarantee you, you will become hopelessly lost. ;-)
As a point of note, I learned from my beta, Christina, that the Irish police force are known as the garda, rather than police, and do not carry firearms. As much as I genuinely despise plot holes, I'm going to take a bit of poetic license with my garda and give them guns.
Alastor knew he couldn't Apparate to the Bulstrode's hiding place. In order to Apparate, you had to have a clear picture in your head of the place where you intended to go.
This was an impossible thing to have, seeing as he'd only passed through Donegal Town once in his lifetime. He remembered the town square well enough, and shouldn't have trouble getting there, but that left the matter of finding what was sure to be an obscure, out of the way cottage on the outskirts of town. Even with an address, this would be difficult.
"You know where you're going, gov?"
Alastor turned to see Mundungus Fletcher standing there, pulling a pipe from his jacket and lighting it.
"I've got a pretty good idea. Why?"
"'Cause you ‘aven't Disapparated yet."
"It's not a good idea to go rushing into things."
Mundungus smirked. "Right, you know as well as I do that it won't take long at all for one of the blokes in the taproom to excuse ‘isself and get a message to the Bulstrodes."
"Is there a point to this line of questioning or are you just further wasting my time?" Alastor said with a glare.
"I want to ‘elp. Benjy…" Mundungus started.
"Yeah, you liked Benjy, I got that the first time. How could you possibly be of help to me?" Alastor asked.
"I've an old mate who lives in Donegal. ‘E's an ex-wand-for-hire by the name of John O'Rourke. Owes me a few favors from a while back," said Mundungus, puffing away on his pipe.
"And what do you want in return?" asked Alastor.
The ginger haired crook looked genuinely hurt. "Benjy was my bloody cousin, gov."
"You're not answering my question." Alastor growled.
"Nothing, all right?! There's not a bloody Knut in it for me, save for getting that bugger back for what he did to my cousin," said Mundungus, throwing his hands up in the air in exasperation.
"All right, lad. Heaven knows I'm not one to chastise anyone for wanting vengeance. I know how to get to the town square in Donegal Town; can you get us to your friend from there?"
Mundungus nodded. "Sure thing, gov."
"Then let's do it."
The town square was much as Alastor remembered it – a line of shops, town hall, two pubs, and several groups of houses. Alastor and Mundungus were standing next to a great stone pillar that rose from the center of the square, with a small stone wall built in a large circle around it.
Alastor scanned the streets. No one was outside at this time of night, though the sounds of music and voices could be heard from the nearest pub, even at this distance. "All right, Fletcher, where's this friend of yours?" he asked.
"'E doesn't live in the bloody town, gov. ‘Es got ‘imself a house near a burned out church several kilometers from ‘ere," said Mundungus.
"And how exactly do you plan to get to him before one of those tossers in the Red Griffin decides it would be neighborly to warn the Bulstrode brothers that their hiding place is compromised?" Alastor asked, exasperatedly.
"Oh, that won't be an immediate thing, mate. There's only a couple blokes in the Red Grif' who'll sink low enough as to work with Death Eaters. And the price has got to be right. So the Bulstrodes ‘ave got to negotiate a bit before they know anything," Mundungus replied, shrugging.
"Answer the bloody question!" Alastor growled.
"Well, I suppose we could commandeer us some transportation, if you're that desperate," Mundungus said.
Alastor weighed his options. It was by no means certain that either the Bulstrodes or Karkaroff would have any leads on Rosier. He'd been tracking Karkaroff for five months, but the man's crimes paled in comparison to the high body count left behind at every crime scene thus far associated with Evan Rosier. Still, it was the only lead he had, and if he was lucky, he'd manage to put three Death Eaters in Azkaban instead of one. Yes, he decided, these things were worth stealing for.
"All right," he said. "But the vehicle gets returned when we're done with it, do I make myself clear?"
Mundungus looked annoyed but nodded in agreement.
They made their way over to the line of automobiles parked outside of the Dog & Onion Pub. Alastor hadn't bothered learning anything about Muggle vehicles since he entered the Aurors following the Second Great War. He certainly didn't have a clue as to which car or truck was the better one.
Mundungus, on the other hand, seemed to know exactly what he was doing. Pulling his wand, he walked right up to a battered looking truck, pointed it at the door handle and muttered "Alohomora!"
There was a clicking sound as the door unlocked. Alastor glanced about to make sure that no one was around, then pulled the door open and climbed in, moving into the passenger seat. Mundungus climbed in after him. He tapped the ignition twice with his wand and said "Citare!"
The engine sputtered and came to life. Mundungus pulled the truck into reverse and they roared out of the parking lot. Alastor checked the rearview, and was surprised to find that not a single person was running after the vehicle.
Mundungus noticed the expression on his face and laughed. "It's twelve past ten on a Friday, mate. Like as not the owner wouldn't notice if you stole the truck with ‘im in it!"
Alastor ignored him and was silent for the rest of the trip. Mundungus began whistling ‘Whiskey in the Jar', which was a funny thing for an Englishman to be singing, but the bandy-legged crook clearly spent a fair amount of time on the Emerald Isle. They turned onto a dirt road surrounded by trees on either side and drove on a ways.
Just over the tree line Alastor could make out the shadowy outline of the church Mundungus had mentioned, or what was left of it. The truck came to a stop in front of a graveyard, which was overgrown with tall grass and weeds. The church itself was at the other end of the field, and had a wall of trees on either side. It was clearly centuries old and was missing much of the roof, and one of its towers.
Alastor threw open his door and stepped out of the truck, wand in hand. Mundungus stepped out as well. "John's place is inside," he said needlessly, pointing at the church.
"You don't say," growled Alastor, limping after the crook towards the ancient stone doorway.
Mundungus stopped at the entrance and tapped his wand thrice in two different spots on the moss covered wall to the left of the doorframe. A vague scent of cardamom filled the air as a heavy oak door shimmered into place in what had been an empty doorframe leading into the church. Mundungus gestured at the heavy brass knocker. "D'you want me to knock or was you going to test it first?"
"If your ex-wand is any good, he already knows we're here, and has known we're coming for about five minutes," said Alastor flatly, who had just sensed movement to his left.
"Brilliant deduction, Alastor Moody," said a deep voice to Alastor's right. Moving on instinct, Alastor spun in the direction of the voice and performed the first jinx that came to mind, "Expelliarmus!"
There was a slight shimmering, and the tip of a wand came into view as an unseen someone deflected Alastor's spell. Another shimmering, and a white haired man with a thick mustache and muttonchops was standing there, holding an Invisibility Cloak in one hand and smiling. "Care to try again?"
"That depends upon whether or not you're John O'Rourke," growled Alastor, aiming his wand at the man.
"'E is," said Mundungus, looking from the man to Alastor and back again with a strange expression on his face.
"In that case, can you tell me where to find -" Alastor started.
"The Bulstrode brothers and Igor Karkaroff," said John, smilingly thinly.
"How'd you know that?" Alastor pressed.
"I'm an information broker. I make it my business to know," said John. "Care to come inside?"
"Right here is fine," growled Alastor, not lowering his wand a centimeter.
"As you wish," said John, his smile vanishing. "How much are you willing to pay?"
""Would you be wantin' to pay up for the first, second, or third time I saved your greedy ‘ide, John?" asked Mundungus, grinning.
"Who saved your ungrateful hide from Hit Wizards on that Greek job?" John countered, smile returning.
"All right, so that's one paid, two you owe me," said Mundungus, shrugging.
John nodded. "Fair enough. Well Mr. Moody, I'm afraid there's no possible way you can talk to either of the Bulstrode boys,"
"I didn't ask you that; I want you to find me an address," said Alastor, annoyed.
"Ahm…St. Mungo's Hospital, London, for the younger son. Imperious Curse is lifted but he's gone half crazed."
Alastor didn't like the sound of this. "And the elder?"
"Isn't speaking to anyone on account of a slight case of death," John answered.
Alastor felt his heart sink. He was back to the beginning, without a single lead for the third time in this case. "What about Karkaroff?" he asked, guessing the answer.
"No idea," said John, looking genuinely sorry. "He's a slippery little divil, I'll give him that. I sent one of me better people after him, but the lad made a hash of it and lost him on the roads headed east."
Alastor cursed softly. "This is the third dead end this week. I haven't got any leads left to follow."
John's smiled widened. "Oh, if you're looking for Evan Rosier, he's holed up in a hotel on the east end of Liverpool."
Alastor inhaled sharply. "He's there now? How do you know? Do you have an address?"
"Slow down, will you? Aye, he's there now, I'm not telling you how I know, and yes, you can have the address. Just wait a moment, I'll fetch me quills and ink."
Alastor nodded. "Be quick about it."
John threw open the door to his house and stepped through, disappearing inside. He reappeared a minute later with a scrap of parchment in his hand. He offered it to Alastor, who looked wearily at it.
Mundungus rolled his eyes and took the paper from John. "Thanks, mate. ‘ppreciate it."
John nodded. "Don't mention it, Dung. Feel free to drop in any time." The information broker bowed quickly to both men and stepped into his house. The door shut behind him and promptly disappeared from sight.
Alastor peered at the address in question. "I think I know that street. It's in a dodgy neighborhood. Backup might be nice."
"'Ow much do you reckon we're going to need?" asked Mundungus as they made their way back to the stolen truck.
Alastor opened the passenger side door and climbed in, quietly recalling who was on duty in the Liverpool area that night. He remembered, and cursed softly to himself.
"What is it, gov?" asked Mundungus as he climbed in the driver side door and started the trunk.
"Our backup possibilities don't look too good," said Alastor. There was one Auror on duty tonight, Amelia Bones. She was fresh out of the Academy, without a single arrest to her name, and no combat experience.
"Oh, I don't know about that. I've got-,"
"I don't care who you know in the Liverpool area or otherwise. I've enough trouble trusting you alone," growled Alastor.
"Don't get your knickers in a twist," grumbled Mundungus as they steered the truck back towards town.
Suddenly, from off to their left a pair of headlights turned on. Alastor immediately shut one eye on instinct, leaving one to adjust to the light and one still attuned to darkness in case of the lights going out.
At the same time, Mundungus was putting pedal to the metal; the truck lurched forward at a speed Alastor wouldn't have thought possible.
Glancing in the rearview mirror, he saw two Muggle police cars – garda, Moody reminded himself; that's what they call police in Ireland -- on their tail.
"No one will notice, they're all too drunk," Alastor spat sarcastically, paraphrasing Mundungus' earlier remark.
"Don't be silly, gov. Coppers don't get drunk on duty," said Mundungus, half smiling as they drove past the Dog & Onion at top speed. Alastor could see the crusiers were gaining on them.
"Shut up, turn the corner, stop the truck, and Dissapparate back to the Red Griffin," sad Alastor.
"Are you mad?" Mundungus cried, as they sped around the corner without slowing down.
"Not sure. I jinxed my last psyche evaluator when he tried to reach for his desk drawer," Alastor admitted.
"Um, right, gov. What if they see us Disapparate? This is already going to be the bloody newspapers, we don't need ‘weird disappearances' added on to all that."
"Fine," growled Alastor. "Can you make this bucket of bolts any faster?"
"Already ‘ave, why do you think we're still in the lead?" said Mundungus as they sped over a bridge leading into the countryside.
Alastor looked behind them. The patrol cars will still hot on their tail, sirens blaring. "Not fast enough," he muttered. Thinking quickly, he drew his wand and rolled his window down.
"Hold tight, what are you up to?" asked Mundungus.
"I'm going to see if I can't slow them down some," said Alastor. He unbuckled his safety belt and leaned out the window, pointing his wand at the further of the two cruisers, he shouted "Impedimentia!" A jet of light shot from Alastor's wand and hit the car, bringing it to a screeching stop. The car flipped forward and would have smashed into the ground had it not been for Alastor's hastily performed Hovering Charm. He could see two occupants in the lead car, the man on the passenger side was turned around and appeared to be gaping at the hovering car.
Mundungus brought the truck to a stop, knowing full well what would happen if Alastor lost eye contact with the hovering police car.
The lead car screeched to a halt as well. The doors opened simultaneously and the officers crouched behind them, fire arms drawn.
"They're going to fire any second," said Alastor. "I need you to take over for me."
"Take over what?" asked Mundungus.
"The Hovering charm. These four have to be Obliviated…I think I can pull it off but you'd get pumped full of lead."
"'Ave it your way," said Mundungus. He cast his own Hovering Charm as Alastor quickly analyzed the situation.
From what he could guess, the officers in the hovering car were terrified out of their wits, and were staying put for the moment. The other two were also scared, but Alastor could see they were more than willing to use the weapons now pointed at the stolen truck. Ducking down, he opened his door.
"Don't move!" one of the officers shouted. "Put your weapons on the ground and come out with your hands in the air!"
In the distance, Alastor could hear a new sound; sirens. More police were coming their way. He cursed softly; they had less time then he'd thought. Slowly he stepped out of the car, wand in hand.
"Drop your weapon!" shouted the police officer on the driver's side.
Alastor "So that's it gentleman, is it? This is what you're going to do? Follow procedure? Lads, there is a car behind you, floating three feet in the air, with nothing holding it up."
"Being in league with the Devil doesn't make you immune to bullets, or you wouldn't be hiding behind your door!" came the reply.
Alastor didn't answer; he was in position now. Pointing his wand to the ground he muttered "Serpensortia." A conjured serpent appeared, moving quickly towards the driver side of the police cruiser.
The startled officers cried out and discharged his weapon at the snake, and in doing so exposed themselves to view for a moment.
Diving for the ground, Alastor pointed his wand at one of the officers and cried "Stupefy!"
The officer on the passenger side collapsed to the ground, unconscious.
The other officer drew a bead on Alastor at the exact moment a second red bolt shot down from the hill above them. The bolt hit him in the side, and he too collapsed.
Alastor looked up the hill to see John O'Rourke running down the hill towards them.
Alastor pulled himself to his feet and limped quickly towards the other car. "More in there!" he shouted.
John shook his head. "They're already unconscious, but you can expect some of the townsfolk to be here in another minute or so." The aging information broker pointed his wand at the hovering car.
"Put a Cushioning Charm on it, Nine-Lives. Dung and I should be able to bring it down without too much jarring, but it never hurts to be safe."
Alastor's Cushioning Charm was cast before John was done with his sentence. Together, Mundungus and John lowered the car gently to the ground.
Mundungus ran over, and the three of them crouched behind the upside down squad car as several pairs of headlights came into their line of site, fast approaching.
"Dissapparate, both of you, I'll summon the Department of Magical Accidents and Catastrophes and cover both your hides. Dung, that means we're even."
Mundungus nodded. "The Red Grif, Nine Lives?"
Alastor nodded, and with two loud cracks the unlikely allies Disapparated.
To be continued...
A/N: Thanks to Christina Teresa at the Sugar Quill, for being helpful all around, and providing useful information about rural Ireland. Thanks also to Sherry for the rebeta