I spent the next three days hiding in my apartment, not even daring to stick a toe out past my wards. I was finally forced to leave because Mouse needed more than just a quick run to the back. He’s a big dog: he needs his walk, and I’m not a proponent of animal cruelty.
Besides, you try resisting his adorable furry face. It’s impossible, I tell you.
After I finally braved the outdoors everything went back to normal; I’d even stopped jumping whenever someone came up to me unexpectedly. I relaxed and let down my guard.
Which - surprise, surprise - is exactly when Marcone struck. Just my damned luck that I wasn’t walking Mouse then, I’d have loved to have him as a bodyguard. I’d been coming back from a much needed grocery run when I found Marcone waiting for me, leaning against the side of one of his sedans, parked on the street nearly the boarding house. He wore jeans, a black t-shirt and a Cubs baseball cup pulled down low. I probably would have walked by him if I hadn’t recognized the car.
I looked around, half expecting to be suddenly flanked by Hendricks and/or Gard and herded towards Marcone and into the backseat. But neither of them appeared. Was he actually here by himself?
He waited, pale green eyes watching me with an intensity that made me want to run away again. Not that it would do any good. The man knew where I lived, where I worked, even who my friends were.
Man up, Harry, and go talk to the big scary crime boss… that you all but molested.
I took a deep, fortifying breath and walked towards him, stopping just a few feet away, just out of reach though not necessarily out of knife range. “Before you say anything or pull a gun - which I wouldn‘t blame you for,” I said quickly, “let me say: I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have done that. Really, I have no excuse.” Except that my subconscious was a bastard and apparently trying to kill me by making the idea of touching him so appealing.
This close to him, the urge was rising all over again. Stupid, stupid subconscious.
“Mr. Dresden,” Marcone said calmly. “Please, get in the car.”
I braced myself, reflexively reaching for my magic, just in case. “Not if you’re going to have me killed.”
He snorted. The corners of his mouth twitched up. Then he began to chuckle.
I shot him a bewildered look and he burst out laughing.
I stared. Had I accidentally slipped through a wormhole on my way back from the grocery store or something? Marcone was genuinely laughing. I’ve never seen Marcone laugh before. Dry chuckles and amused looks, sure, but not full out laughter. It was a surprisingly warm sound.
“I‘m not going to kill you, Mr. Dresden,” he said, as he wound back down to a chuckle. “I just thought you might prefer this conversation not take place on the street. Or would you rather we enter your home?”
Huh. I hadn’t been expecting this. Of all the possible scenarios I’d imagined happening, Marcone smiling at me hadn’t even made the list. Admittedly, most of those scenarios involved new and painful ways for me to die, which could still be Marcone’s plan, no matter what he said. That alone made me want to head into my apartment, where I had access to all my weapons, and Mouse.
Marcone is scary, but no one is tougher than my dog.
“I‘d rather we did this in my apartment,” I said.
“Do you need help?” Marcone asked, his eyebrows rising as I tried to juggle the paper bags full of groceries and my keys.
I handed him the groceries, and got the door unlocked. Then I had to ram it open with my shoulder. My door sticks. It’s a safety feature, I swear, and has nothing to do with shoddy carpentry.
I turned to Marcone, who patiently waiting for an invite.
Stars, it was weird seeing him at my door like that. I had to give myself a discreet pinch, just to be certain wasn’t dreaming.
“The wards are down,” I said, stepping aside to let him in.
Marcone nodded and walked into my home.