(1939-08-29) What the Hell Is a Hackensack?
Details for What the Hell Is a Hackensack?
Summary: Rena bumps into Charlie in a tube station, and becomes his key into wizarding London.
Date: 29 August, 1939
Location: London Underground and the Leaky Cauldron

The London Underground can best be described as a rushing river; excepting that the "water" is replaced by the seemingly endless back and forth of trains as they come and go to their appointed stops. They sweep along the tracks, screeching, clattering and making an awful racket as they transport the ebb and flow of busy people from one point of the city to the next. It is not a good place to stop for very long unless one is waiting for a ride - especially during rush hour traffic. And yet, some people…

A striking little redheaded woman dressed in a pretty green suit hugs close to the wall of the Underground station. Even if she's waiting for her train, she doesn't seem to be in a terrible hurry, truth be told. A street performer finishes his song and holds out his hat for donations, and she manages to find a few coins in her handbag to drop into the cap with a smile. Then, she slowly begins to amble along, glancing up at the theatre posters lining the wall - clearly not watching where she's going.

Charlie is just one of a thousand other men glad in a longcoat and hat, blending in seamlessly with the throngs going hither and thither. But he is going neither thither, nor even hither. He is lingering by a rubbish bin, watching for…ah, there it is. A young man carrying a maroon briefcase. The man sets the case down underneath one of the theatre posters, checks a pocketwatch, and wanders away, seeming to forget the case. Charlie immediately moves forward, fixated on his prize. As he reaches the case, he bends over to pick it up…right on Rena's path. "Whoa. Hello there," he mutters in an American accent, turning to eyeball whomever just collided with his posterior, his hand casually sliding under his coat. Looking upon the little ginger, he lifts his brow curiously. Not exactly the trouble he was expecting.

Poor Rena… Poor Charlie, for that matter. This woman has a bad habit of bumping into things and having accidents when she least expects them. It would seem that today is no exception to the rule as her aimless wandering runs her right into the unfortunate gentleman from behind.

"Oof! So sorry, I.." She exclaims in surprise, starting back from Charlie and struggling to regain her balance. It would be a perfect save… if only the sudden backward movement hadn't put stress on the heel of her shoe. A little *snap!* is followed by the ginger girl nearly toppling sideways as the heel breaks off and her ankle twists.

"Cor blimey! Now I've gone and done it." Rena exclaims, bracing her hand against the wall and holding her foot up in the air.

"Whoa, whoa," Charlie chuckles, extending an arm to support her when it looks like she might fall. "You alright? Didn't twist it, did you?" He tilts his head to looks down at her lifted foot. "It might be salvageable. May I?" He gives her a devilishly charming smile, gesturing her to the shoe.

Terribly embarrassed by the whole situation, Rena's cheeks flush with colour. "I'm so terribly sorry," she apologizes nervously. For the first time, she actually gets a good look at the man and takes stock while he assists her. The fact that Charlie is absurdly handsome just serves to make the situation even more apalling, and her cheeks do turn quite red.

"I did turn it a bit," she admits, regarding her ankle while dropping her gaze to the ground. "It should be alright, though. Th-thanks awfully," she stammers slightly. "But really, I can't ask you to trouble yourself, sir. I don't see 'ow you could fix it in short order."

"Oh, I'm full of surprises. Let me have a look." Charlie bends over again, this time right beside Rena, his arm brushing her thigh as he rather boldly goes to place his hand on her ankle to steady it.

As surreptitiously as he can, using his body to try to block her view, Charlie withdraws his wand from within his coat. Holding the broken heel against the shoe, he says mirthfully, "Hocus pocus, Reparo!" Then, less mirthfully. "Ah. Damn." Tucking the wand away quickly, he stands upright, his fingers (surely by accident) brushing her calf as he rises. He holds up the snapped off heel. "I'm sorry. It looks as if it could fit back into place. Not the style of shoe I thought it was, I guess."

Undeterred by her words, Charlie decides to take the situation in hand, regardless. Still quite thoroughly embarrassed about the whole thing, Rena's dark eyes quickly dart around at the ever-moving crowd of people. One or two passers-by take notice of the situation, but only at a mere glance. The populace seems to have more important things on its mind, at large.

His arm brushing against her thigh causes Rena to blink and snap her gaze back to Charlie in surprise. However, she doesn't do anything… It was probably just an accident. Right?

"Repar… Oh?" The redhead says, quite shocked as the American gentleman makes an attempt at repairing her shoe with magic. Her lips part in surprise as he stands again, offering the broken heel of her shoe. "You're a bold one to try that in public. It ain't safe!" She says tensely, trying to keep her voice as low as possible. "You ought to be more careful," she scolds. "The Ministry'll 'ave to clean up afterward if someone sees you do that."

Charlie's brow lifts as Rena reveals her recognition of his attempt at magic. A happy grin spreads across his lips. "At last. Do you have any idea how hard it is to find you people? I swear, I've been watching owl flight patterns for days. But really, you shouldn't worry so much. A crowd like this? Hundreds of people with better places to be? It's as good as a locked room for keeping secrets in." He takes off his hat, putting it to his chest. A few strands of longish hair flop into his face. "Sorry for tryin' to put one over on you, kitten. Figured you for a Muggle."

"Not surprising since I don't make any effort not to look like one," Rena replies crisply with regard to looking like a Muggle. However, she does offer a little smirk: "I never could get into fashion on their side. I ain't ashamed to be Muggle-born, despite 'ow most people view it."

Charlie does seem to be full of surprises, though. With his hat over his heart, he is quite charming - even if he does call her "Kitten." A truly sympathetic expression fills Rena's features as she realizes the gentleman must have been lost in the maze of London for quite a while. "You poor man! I'll take you over to the other side if you like. I live there, after all. Would you like an escort, so to speak?" She asks, tucking her broken heel into her handbag for safekeeping. She can manage putting a little light pressure on her foot now that the pain has subsided a bit.

"Doll, if you're the escort, you can take me anywhere you like." He dips his head in greeting before donning his hat again. "The name's Charlie, and I'm as Muggle-born as they come, and proud of every drop of muddy blood I've got." He gives her a wink and offers his arm in gentlemanly fashion, explaining, "You got a bum shoe. Better if you lean on me."

Try as she might, Rena can't help herself. A big, sunshiny smile appears when Charlie introduces himself and admits that he's as proud of being a Muggle-born as she herself is. She couldn't look more pleased if she tried.

"Glad to meet you, Charlie!" the little redhead says brightly, gladly accepting his offer of support with an appreciative glance. "It's awfully kind of you. And I'm sorry to be such a bother," she apologizes quickly before adding: "My name's Irene - but people just call me Rena for short."

"Lucky for us the train that's just coming now is the one we need to get on." Rena remarks, pointing at the screeching thing pulling up to a stop. "Charring Cross is the place to go. Once we're there, we go through a place called the Leaky Cauldron, and then into Diagon Alley. Then, you're safe as churches to do anything you like with your wand."

"Rena," he echoes. "I like that." Charlie lets those simple words hang about her as they make their way through the wash of people to step aboard the train. Mind the gap! Fortunately, the hour is late enough that the crowds are beginning to thin, and there are more people getting off than getting on. He leads Rena to a seat, taking her hand to help her down. "So, the 'Leaky Cauldron', hm? That's fantastic. So unbelievably British. Back home we have a place called 'Lenny's.' How's that for class?" He smirks playfully, taking a seat beside her. "So, Rena," he emphasizes the name. "What's a magical dame like you doin' on the subway? The tube, I mean."

Thank goodness for small favors. Once they take their seats, it's a good deal easier to talk. And clearly, Rena enjoys hearing Charlie talk. He doesn't speak like anyone she's ever heard before, never having encountered an American in person. The idea of some place dubiously named Lenny's causes her to stifle a giggle behind her hand.

"I've never met a Yank before," she admits, just a bit shyly. "I'm glad to say I 'ave, now. I'm sorry I probably sound awfully strange to you. I came from a place called Wapping - it's a dark place along the waterfront… and I'm still trying to improve my English a bit."

Charlie's question causes Rena to look puzzled for a moment. "Dame! Oh, that's a word you Americans use for girls. I forgot!" She laughs at herself lightly before explaining. "I work at the Ministry. Only ways in are kind of absurd. You either go by Floo, or the Phone Booth outside in Muggle London. Some days, I just like to ride the Underground like a normal person again."

Charlie shakes his head, waving a dismissive hand. "You don't sound strange. Now, Wapping, that sounds a little harder to wrap my noodle around. Then again, you probably don't have anywhere around here called something like Saskatchewan or Hackensack." He removes his hat again, resting it in his lap, this time smoothing his loose hair back with a gloved hand. "So, you're on your way from work? What do you do at the Ministry? Wait…let me guess. You're…a file clerk. No…no that doesn't fit you at all. Some kind of wand inspector? No, I've got it. You're a charms tester."

"Hackensack?" Rena says, holding back an outright giggle. She casts a dubious look on Charlie that shows quite plainly that she thinks he might be pulling her leg. However, who is she to question American city names? She only knows her own country - not that big, scary place across the pond.

Charlie begins trying to guess at her employment at the Ministry, and Rena just smiles like the cat who ate the canary. Her grin broadens a little, each time she gets to shake her head and answer in the negative. The little ginger minx truly enjoys the fact that nobody ever seems to be able to tell what she is. "You get three more guesses. Then you might as well give up!" She says cutely.

"Am I even close? Damn. I don't even know what people do back in the States. I'm supposed to guess about the British government? Ahhh…secretary?" Even Charlie doesn't seem too convinced that she could be a secretary. "Someone's personal assistant? No?" He rubs his chin thoughtfully, gazing at her through squinted brown eyes. "You're the Director of Muggle Affairs. I give up. Tell me."

Resting her handbag on her own lap, Rena lays her hands across it as she smiles and watches Charlie. She's enjoying this far too much. "Oh, alright…" She says, rolling her eyes a little in feigned annoyance at his inability to guess her position at work.

"I don't know what you all 'ave for law-enforcement over there in America," she says a bit uncertainly, "But, over 'ere, we 'ave two main kinds. Hit-wizards are like police, and Aurors are… well, they're much 'igher up, as you might say. They only deal with Dark magic - and that's all. And that's what I am," Rena finishes, blushing a little as she realizes her tone might be a bit proud. "An Auror Initiate, anyway."

Charlie blinks in genuine surprise. It isn't often something like this gets past him. "You're a flatfoot? Naaaw, you're pullin' my leg. You? You're nowhere near stiff enough to be a cop." He leans back in his seat, still eyeing her skeptically. But finally he chuckles, shaking his head. "I'll be damned. Well, you certainly put a prettier face on it than I'm used to."

Somewhat abashed, Rena's cheeks tinge to rose again, and she smiles a good deal more bashfully. "I… I know I'm not what people expect," she says self-consciously, dropping her gaze to her lap. Her fingers idly toy with the clasp of her handbag. "People seem to think to be a… a cop," she tries using his word for it, struggling a bit to get it out, "That you've got to be cold. Or even a bit cruel. I can't be that way."

Shifting a little on her seat, the redheaded woman looks up at Charlie with a much softer expression. "Maybe I went and got myself into the wrong line of work, yea? I don't do the job because I want to hurt people, as some do. I just want to help everyone." This admission couldn't be anything but genuine, judging by her tone and expression. What a strange concept, though. A soft-hearted cop.

Charlie responds to her softness with a warm, soft expression of his own. "I believe you. Hey, I even know a stiff-necked cop or two that really want to help, too. My brother's one of 'em. You could crack walnuts on his scowl, but I've never known anyone who believes more in what he's doing. You just have a different approach. I get it. I like it, actually. Lady Auror with a heart of gold. I'll bet you can just smile and those Dark wizards just drop their wands."

Charlie is certainly one for flattery, and he doesn't spare her the compliments. Rena's unused to that kind of talk, and she can't deny that she enjoys it, somewhere deep inside. It's almost impossible to hide in her smile. "I wish that were true. Usually, though, a smile just tends to make them angry and want to kill me more."

"Your brother?" the woman asks, perking up a little, now that they aren't just talking about her. "Do you mean your brother is Hit Wizard? Or, do you mean that he's a bobbi…I mean, cop over 'ere?" She has to distinguish between the two, of course. Lightning could have struck twice in a family, and his brother might also be a Wizard.

Charlie cannot help a chuckle at the British terminology. He's still not accustomed to it. "Yeah, he's a bobbie. Or, I guess I should say he's a Detective Inspector. He'd insist on the right title. In fact, he's why I'm here. I wanted to be closer to my family, and he's all I've got left. Him, his wife, and my little niece."

"Oh, that's nice!" Rena says, genuinely pleased and happy that Charlie has family over here in England. He isn't totally alone in the world, after all. "It'll be grand when you get to see them all, again."

Her words are cut slightly short by the abrupt slowing of the underground train. They must be nearing their destination, if the screeching of breaks against metal are any indication. "I bet you can't wait to see your niece!" Who doesn't like children? Clearly she can't imagine why that wouldn't be the main goal. "Will you be living with them a while?" Rena then asks over the din, raising her voice slightly. "Or will you be finding someplace to live on the other side?"

"Actually, I had dinner with them a few nights ago. She's a real peach. Not at all like her father." Charlie chuckles at his little jab at his brother. He stands up as tube station comes into view through the windows. Holding onto the strap over his head, he offers a hand to Rena. "But I don't think I'll be living with them. James and I…we don't always see eye to eye. It's better if there's a little distance. As for lodgings, well, I've rented a room in Hoxton. Not exactly the Ritz-Carlton, if you know what I mean. Guess I'll have to see the other side before I decide for myself. But if they grow 'em like you over there, it'll be an easy choice."

"I can understand that. Sometimes, much as you love someone in your family, sometimes, you've just got to keep some space between yourselves to keep the peace." Rena says, quite sypathetic to the situation the Yank finds himself in.

Still a bit tender on her ankle, Rena manages to get onto her feet with Charlie's help. She smiles and thanks him again. He's been so terribly kind to her since they met, and she truly does appreciate it. His remark about the lodgings he's taken up, and judging the other side by women like Rena causes her to smirk a bit wryly. "I'm afraid you're going to be disappointed," She says, looking up at Charlie regretfully. "Most anybody that knows me will tell you there ain't two of me in the world - and then promptly thank the powers that be for it." Can she help it if she's a walking, talking ball of trouble?

Charlie offers his arm once again, so she has something to lean on properly. "That's hardly a disappointment, kitten. You're the whole package. Looks, brains, moxie…a love of the arts, I'm guessin', by the way you were peepin' at those posters. Guess I'll just have to keep my eye on you." He helps her out of the car onto the platform of the Charing Cross station, still not quite aware of just how close he is to the magical world he's been looking for.

The American's compliments make Rena feel quite giddy in her head, and she has to shake it off quickly before she blushes again and smiles like a self-conscious school-girl. They begin walking, and that gives her enough time to regain some inner balence.

"I was looking at the posters because I miss my old life, sometimes." The ginger girl admits, leaning lightly on Charlie for support as they walk out of the station and toward the Leaky Cauldron. "I know it's nothing compared to being an Auror, and it pays better - and I can help people. But, part of me misses being a show-girl. I don't care how frivolous and silly the job was… It was fun, and the people were wonderful because they were real." Here, she sighs slightly. "I'm sorry, I shouldn't chatter, so. Once I get going, it's like my tongue is hinged in the middle."

"A showgirl? Ain't you just full of surprises." Charlie lets out a slow whistle. "I'll bet you were somethin' to see. Don't you stop chattering on my account, doll. I could listen to you all night." His eyes flicker with recognition as the Leaky Cauldron sign comes into view, shimmering slightly with the charms that turn Muggle eyes away. "This must be the place, huh?" He pauses to push open the door for Rena.

"Mhm!" Rena nods, offering a bright and encouraging smile. "That's the Leaky C. alright. Miss Elly - Elly Dodderidge runs the place - and she's the nicest, kindest person ever there was. Place is always warm and homey - you'll see." It doesn't take much encouragement to keep Rena chattering away quite happily. Silence isn't one of her strong suits.

Into the Leaky Cauldron, Rena leads Charlie. It is indeed warm, inviting and full of a friendly atmosphere. But, more than that, the place just smells downright delicious due to the food being cooked and served. "Welcome to the Wizarding World of England, Charlie," Rena says with a grin.

Charlie takes off his hat as he enters, those errant hairs flopping into his face again. "Huh, look at that. And I thought Lenny's was old fashioned. Hey, they've got rooms here, don't they." He winces, turning to Rena. "I…don't suppose you'd be willing to trade me some wizard currency for Muggle money? I feel like an ass for even asking. But all I've got is a five pound note."

Fortunately for Charlie, he couldn't have run into a better person for this kind of situation. Rena can't say no to anybody in a jam - not if she can help it. "Lord love a duck, don't feel that way about it, I can stand you some money from this side, gladly. You need to 'ave the means to get by, after all." She unclasps her handbag and reaches into it. Withdrawing some currency to count out for Charlie, she says: "And if it bothers you, just think of it as a loan until you get on your feet. I'm in no hurry. I remember what it was like never knowing where my next meal came from. Once I started making money, I swore I'd never begrudge 'elp to anyone who needed it." She offers the money to the gentleman with a willing smile.

Charlie has never turned down money in the hand, and he's not about to start now. He takes the coin, then clasps his hand over hers, capturing it for a moment. "Thank you," he says, tilting his head to try to hold her gaze. "I'll pay this back. You can count on Charlie Johnson." He releases her hand, and holds up a finger. "Wait here a sec." He approaches the bar, speaking with the kind-eyed bartender, Reece. He's back moments later, holding a key in his hand. "Listen, I should probably get to bed. But I'm gonna need someone to show me around, y'know?" He leans his arm up on a wooden support beam, which coincidentally puts him a few inches closer to Rena. "So, maybe you'll be here in the morning," he says in a cool murmur.

Something about Charlie fascinates Rena. He's a charmer, and a bit of a spell-binder… and a part of her probably knows that. But, she likes him, because he's different and exciting.

Studying the man from afar as he talks to tbe barkeep, Rena tries not to appear as though she's watching him like a curious little sparrow, but, for all the world, she does look that way. Upon his return, he makes his request. It leaves her with a bit of an internal dilemma. Her weekend is meant to be devoted to her in-laws visiting. But, perhaps if she came very early… How can she refuse him such a simple request? A poor man all alone in Diagon Alley without a friend to help him along. "I… I have the weekend off. But I can only be here for the morning. If you don't mind a whirlwind tour of Diagon to begin with." She smiles, beginning to move toward the exit that leads to her home. She hesitates for a moment, wondering what she's promised. However, she doesn't second guess for long. "I'll be seeing you tomorrow morning, then! Get a good night's rest, Charlie."

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