Chapter 1: Somewhere After Midnight
"Vince, don't tell me you have to work tonight, too! Not again; this is ridiculous!" Dana Faraday exclaimed. Her husband sighed as he finished shrugging on his ARK uniform. He’d gotten a phone call from work a few minutes ago.
“Honey, it’s not like I want to go. I have to go to this crime scene. Go to sleep. I’ll be back soon.”
“Right. Like you came right back the night Orwell sent you to the train yards.” Vince stiffened.
“That was different.”
It had been over a year since Orwell, the investigative blogger, the one honest source of news in the city, had warned Vince that ARK Corporation was secretly moving illegal weapons down at the train yards. At the time, Vince had just accepted a job offer from ARK Corporation, which was poised to take over the work of the Palm City Police Department. He’d gone to investigate the tip and woken up bound to a chair in front of Peter Fleming, the C.E.O. of ARK Corporation.
The detective had learned, to his horror, that his new boss was secretly the notorious criminal mastermind known as Chess. And then his day really took a turn for the worse: Fleming had his Chess mask stapled to Vince’s head and framed him for his crimes. The honest cop ran for his life, and only narrowly escaped being killed by faking his death.
He was forced to spend months away from Dana and their son, Trip, unwilling to risk what might happen if Chess learned that he was still alive. It was during this time that his alter ego, the Cape, was born. Based on the Faradays’ favorite comic book superhero, the vigilante was dedicated to two goals--bringing down Chess and restoring his reputation.
Well, at least he had fulfilled the latter. Despite his best efforts, Fleming did eventually learn his secret. Fortunately, the circumstances had allowed Vince to force the billionaire to clear his name and he was able to go home again.
Unfortunately, the only employer that would hire him happened to be ARK. Fleming reveled in having Vince at his beck and call. The Faradays hated it.
Dana couldn’t stand all the overtime hours her husband had been putting in since “coming back from the dead.” Their once happy marriage became strained as the defense attorney became convinced that her husband was having an affair. He tried to explain to her that her fears were unfounded, to no avail.
Still, things could be worse. At least she was talking to him about marriage counseling rather than separating…
Maybe the position really is cursed, Vince mused, as he stared down at the body. Saul Stoykova had been appointed as the Chief of Police after his predecessor, Marty Voyt, pleaded guilty to corruption charges. Vince was one of the few people in the city that knew that Marty was being used to cover up Fleming’s misdeeds. He’d have broken his old friend out of prison if only it weren’t tantamount to signing the man’s death warrant.
Now, the question was: Who had signed Stoykova’s death warrant? A knife protruded out of a stab wound in the man’s chest. Blood had seeped from the fatal wound, as well as from shallower cuts along the man’s arms.
The forensics team had gotten there first. A member consulted with Vince before removing the murder weapon from the body and placing it in a plastic evidence bag. The detective took hold of the bag and inspected the knife inside.
Faraday’s eyes narrowed. The handle was ornate. It was a cream color, and carved into it were chess symbols.
“That son of a bitch,” Vince said, disgusted, before handing the bag back to the forensics team. “I want this dusted for prints immediately and call my cell as soon as you have the results. And don’t even think about going to Fleming first, do you understand?”
“Sir, you should take a look at this,” another officer called to him. Vince looked up at the ceiling. The knot in his stomach tightened. Nearly right over the body, the killer had written one word in what could only be blood: CHECK.
“You can’t possibly believe I’m the killer,” Peter calmly stated. Faraday had angrily stormed into his penthouse at ARK Tower and accused him of murdering Stoykova.
What nerve! Chess thought. Peter did the best thing he could do when his other personality spoke to him: Ignore the voice and hope it would go away. Chess was about to point out that he wasn’t going anywhere, but decided to allow Peter to concentrate.
“The evidence points to you,” Faraday went on. “Chess symbols on the knife, the word ‘check’ on the ceiling, and your fingerprints on the murder weapon. No doubt forensics is going to find your DNA in that apartment.”
“Faraday, really, you’re being unreasonable. I have never been tied to any of my crimes and do you know why?”
“Because you own this town.”
“That, and because I don’t make stupid mistakes. Do you honestly believe I would leave a murder weapon around with my fingerprints on it? I’d hate to think I overestimated your intelligence, Cape.
“Clearly, someone is trying to frame me.”
“Would serve you right,” Vince snapped, crossing his arms.
“Now, now. Don’t be cranky just because you’re missing your beauty sleep. How about I go with you and take a look at Stoykova’s place myself? Perhaps there’ll be a clue there as to who would want to pin this on Chess.”
“Let’s pretend for one moment that I believe you didn’t do it. Peter, whoever did this knows that you’re Chess.”
“As do you. I’ll extend you the benefit of the doubt for now, and hope you’ll do the same for me.” The billionaire crossed to the door, then turned back to his employee. “Well, are you coming or not?”
“I don’t know what it is you expect to find,” Vince said. “I’ve already gone through here.”
“Yes, and at the time you were operating under the assumption that I was your killer. Perhaps we can do a more thorough examination now.” He stepped closer to Faraday.
“You know, at some point, you’re going to have to accept that I’m not the cause of all the evil in this city,” he whispered in the younger man’s ear. Vince shivered and stepped away.
“I never said you were behind all the evil; just most of it. What’s this?” He picked up a printout that had been lying on Stoykova’s desk.
“What did you find?” Peter asked, as he approached. Vince read the advertisement from The Wizard Dresden dot com aloud.
“Harry Dresden: Wizard. Finder of Lost Objects. No endless purses, love spells or entertainment…”
Author's Note: Yes, yes. Right about now I can hear the fans of “The Dresden Files” screaming at me that Harry can’t use the computer. Don’t worry. I’ll explain things in the next chapter.
What did you think? This chapter has not been beta-ed, so feel free to point out errors.
Chapter 2: Want To Stay Home Today
“No e-mail address, but there’s a phone number and it says here his office is in Chicago,” Vince continued. Fleming picked something else up off the desk.
“Well, what a coincidence. There’s a plane ticket here for Chicago. You know what this means, Faraday?”
“I am not going on a road trip with you, Peter.”
“Who said anything about a road trip? We’ll take my jet.”
“Looks like Stoykova had plans to see this Dresden guy. Did you find anything?” Vince asked Orwell. While Fleming was busy giving a press conference about the murder, withholding any potentially incriminating information, they were sitting around the computer at her place.
The blogger had become his best friend after he was framed. The discovery that she had been concealing the fact that she was Jamie Fleming, Peter’s long-lost daughter, had hurt him terribly. But lies or no lies, she was still his friend and the Cape’s unofficial sidekick. (Besides, he couldn’t really blame her. If he were related to Fleming, he’d want to keep that a secret, too.)
“Yeah, I traced the site’s IP address back to Chicago, alright, but not to the address it listed. Get this---the signal’s coming from the Chicago Police Department.”
“Are you kidding me?” Vince asked.
“Vince, I never kid about IP addresses,” the techno-geek replied. “How did Dana take the news that you’re heading to Chicago?” The cop winced. “That bad?”
“She went ballistic. Told me she can’t take it anymore; that every time I head to work she fears I won’t come back, and Trip does, too… I think this might be the final straw,” he whispered.
“Oh, Vince.” Orwell felt for her friend. She couldn’t bring herself to take any pleasure in the fact that he might be on the market again soon, not if it was going to make him so miserable. “Then don’t go. Tell Daddy to take someone else with him.”
“I can’t walk away from the case, you know that,” Vince said, shaking his head. “Besides, if it wasn’t this case, it would be another one. I love her, so much, but I can’t quit my job,” as an officer or as the city’s vigilante. “It wouldn’t be fair for her to expect me to quit.”
“I understand,” Jamie replied, and she did. “Do you need a hug?”
“No, no, I’m fine, but thanks.” He managed a weak smile as he pulled himself together. “I better get going.”
“Don’t forget to pack your cape!” Vince rolled his eyes.
As if I could forget.
“Faraday,” Peter began. They were in a taxi heading towards Dresden’s place. “What would you think about taking over Stoykova’s job?”
“Seriously? His body is barely cold and you’re already set to have him replaced? You tactless, inconsiderate--”
“Yes, yes. I’m well aware of how you perceive me. But are you interested in being Palm City’s next chief of police?”
“The position is cursed, Fleming.”
“Is that so?” Vince started ticking points off on his fingers.
“You sent Marty to jail; you murdered Marty’s predecessor--”
“He was getting too close to discovering Chess’ identity!”
“Oh? Is that what happened to Stoykova?” Fleming glared at him.
“I don’t know what happened to Saul. That’s what we’re here to find out.”
Hrothbert of Bainbridge, or Bob as his friend called him, stood watching his favorite soap opera when the door opened.
“No, you blithering idiot! He’s cheating on you!” he yelled at the set. Then he wiped at his eyes as he heard footsteps approach.
“Hello? Is anyone there?”
“I’m sorry, we’re closed,” Bob called out.
Vince and Fleming walked through the office and into the living room. Harry rented the same space for both his business and his home. After all, it wasn’t as if he had enough money to pay for rent on two different properties. Usually the wizard was lucky to just scrape enough together to keep his landlord from evicting him.
“Harry Dresden?” Vince asked the silver haired man.
“No. Harry is out at the moment,” no doubt on a date with Lieutenant Murphy. He hadn’t the slightest idea why that would bother him… It was probably just that Harry never brought her home so that he could watch that was getting on his nerves…so to speak. At least Harry had left the television on for him.
“I’m his associate.” That wasn’t close to the full story, but he could hardly tell them the truth. Besides, how many mortals would believe that he was a thousand year old ghost?
The former necromancer’s sentence for his crimes was to spend eternity bound to his skull and compelled to serve whoever came to possess it. He had met Harry when the wizard went to live with his uncle, Justin Morningway, the previous possessor of Hrothbert’s skull. The former sorcerer had become Harry’s mentor when the boy had been eleven and was his confidant ever since.
“Perhaps I may be of assistance?” Bob continued, resigning himself to missing the rest of the episode.
“Maybe you can,” Vince said. He introduced themselves as he pulled out his badge and held it up for inspection. After he put his badge away, he reached into his pocket and pulled out the ad they had found in Stoykova’s apartment.
Bob recognized the ad. Harry had had a similar advertisement in the local yellow pages since he had opened his office several years ago. Finally, Bob had pointed out to Harry that he’d have better luck paying the rent if he could reach a wider audience, say by advertising over the World Wide Web. (It was common sense, really. The man wasn’t just the only wizard who advertised his services in the Chicago area: Harry was the only wizard who advertised his services in the United States.)
Of course, there was one minor obstacle: Harry, like all wizards, couldn’t use the Internet himself. Magic and technology simply were not meant to mix. More than half the time, even the bloody answering machine wouldn’t work. Fortunately Harry hadn’t broken the television set, yet.
The solution to the problem was simple. Most of the time, Murphy’s status as an outsider to the world of magic irritated Harry, who she sometimes used as a consultant on the weird cases her department handled. Because of her skepticism, she frequently shoved him between a rock and a hard place--she told him she wanted to know whatever information he had on a case, but, in truth, she often didn’t want to hear anything that would upset her (relatively) nice ordered view of the universe.
In this case, the fact that Murphy had about as much magic as a bar of soap came in handy. She was able to set up the website on Harry’s behalf. The site had brought more people into the office and now it had brought in cops from Palm City.
“This was found--”
“Hold on a moment, Faraday,” Peter interrupted him before turning to Bob. “Would you mind shutting that off,” he nodded towards the television set, “before it gives me a headache?”
Bob frowned. He couldn’t shut the TV off. He was a ghost, he couldn’t touch objects. In death, he’d lost so much of his magic that he couldn’t even foul up electronics if he wanted to. When Harry left the TV on for him, it had to stay on until the wizard turned it off when he got home. Bob would’ve lectured him about the electricity bill, but this was the only way he could watch the soaps…
“I’m afraid, Mr. Fleming, that I seem to have misplaced the remote control. Please, try to tune out the noise,” he hurried on before the billionaire could suggest using the power button on the set. “If you do develop a headache, well, I believe Harry keeps aspirin around here, somewhere.”
“Very well,” Peter nodded.
“As I was saying, we found this in Saul Stoykova’s apartment, along with a plane ticket to Chicago. Was Stoykova one of Dresden’s clients?” Vince asked.
“Stoykova,” Bob repeated. He shook his head. “No, he wasn’t, at least not yet. But clients often come in without making an appointment.”
“You’re quite certain Stoykova never spoke with Dresden?” Fleming raised an eyebrow.
“If he had, I would know.” Harry would’ve told him about a new client to keep him from complaining about the rent coming due. Plus, Harry told him everything anyway…except for the details of his dates with Murphy…
“I suppose,” Bob continued, “it’s possible that Stoykova tried to phone, but couldn’t reach Harry. He often has trouble with his answering machine, even his phone. May I ask what this is about?”
“Stoykova’s dead,” Fleming said bluntly. “He’s been murdered.”
“Murdered? Well, you don’t think Harry had anything to do with this?”
Told you I’d explain the website. But apparently the explanation comes as no surprise to some readers.
So time to weigh in. Think Vince and Dana’s marriage is going under too quickly? Wondering why one-sided Vinwell was mentioned in passing? Disappointed with my first time writing Bob?
How will I know if you don’t tell me? (Once again, this chapter has not been beta’d. Feel free to quibble away.)
Chapter 3: Can't Ignore It
Harry Blackstone Copperfield Dresden stood, eyes half lidded after Murphy kissed him goodbye. He blinked and then just gazed at her. Her brown curls framed her face. At the moment her brown eyes were warm and her lips curved in amusement, no doubt at how his brain seemed to have gone to mush. Finally, he recovered his power of speech.
“Are you sure you don’t want to come inside, Murph?” She shook her head and smirked at him.
“Can’t; have to get back to work. Besides, wouldn’t want to make Bob jealous, would we?” she teased him. Harry groaned.
Not long after he had started dating Murphy, Harry had introduced Bob as his roommate, carefully omitting the fact that Bob was a ghost. (Thankfully, there were no slip-ups; she hadn’t caught him walking through walls or shape-shifting or anything.) Since Murphy lived alone, they would go back to her place when they wanted privacy. Privacy; ha! Murph didn’t know the half of it, which was good, because Harry didn’t think he could explain that Bob wanted to watch.
(Frankly, he was rather disturbed by this, but he could see where his friend was coming from. He figured that if he’d gone a thousand years without sex, he’d be obsessed with it, too.)
For some reason, Connie Murphy seemed to take great pleasure in making jokes about Bob having a thing for Harry. For the life of him, Harry didn’t understand why. Must just be one of her personality quirks. Well, it wouldn’t be the only one that rubbed him the wrong way. They worked as friends, but he couldn’t see anything serious developing between them, and surely, neither could she. She didn’t really know him and never really would.
“Seeya, Murph.” After she walked away, Harry turned back to his front door. Letters on the window proudly announced the office of “Harry Dresden: Wizard.” He’d probably have fewer people questioning his sanity if his sign announced that he was a private investigator instead, but then he wouldn’t have people coming to him for his special expertise.
He opened the door and walked inside.
“Hey, Bob! I’m back. Any customers come by?” he called out.
“Back here, Harry! We have company,” Bob replied. Harry followed Bob’s voice into the living room and took in the sight.
There were two men in there with the ghost. Both were roughly six feet tall by his estimation. One of them was wearing a grey uniform, with the word ARK emblazoned on his shirt. His curly hair was a sandy color, his eyes a rich blue.
The other, apparently older man was wearing a dark suit—probably tailor made—and matching tie. His black hair stuck up at odd angles and did nothing to hide the way his big ears stuck out. Like the younger man, his eyes were also blue, but they were a different shade, lighter, more expressive. Almost reminded him of Bob’s, except that Bob’s weren’t quite blue were they?
…And that was way too much thinking for a heterosexual male about the color of men’s eyes. Stars and stones. If Murphy knew about that, the teasing would never cease.
“I take it you’re Harry Dresden?” the older man asked. Harry immediately placed the accent as British.
“That’d be me,” he replied. Absently, he turned off the television set before facing the newcomers.
Peter sized him up. Dresden’s eyes were dark, rather like the hair that was starting to thin. The stubble on his face indicated he wasn’t a big fan of shaving, or hadn’t shaved recently, at any rate. But his clothes…
“A travesty, aren’t they?” Bob addressed the fellow Brit, as though reading his mind. “Believe it or not, he cleans up well.”
“Excuse me, just because some of us don’t dress like snobs--”
Bob cleared his throat and Harry remembered that they weren’t alone.
“So, uh, how can I help you folks?” Fleming introduced them this time. Vince began explaining that they had found his ad.
“Let me guess: You two don’t believe in wizards,” Harry interrupted him.
“On the contrary, I think we have every reason to,” Fleming drawled. Harry’s eyebrows shot up. That was not a response he expected to hear.
“You obviously haven’t been to Palm City,” Faraday surmised. “We’ve seen witches, zombies, warlocks, demons…”
“Demons?” the ex-necromancer repeated.
“Actually, Raoul is only half-demon,” Fleming corrected Vince, who shrugged.
“Either way, he’s a scaly bastard. His girlfriend’s full-demon, isn’t she?”
“You would know. You’re the one that met her.” Vince shuddered.
“Don’t remind me.”
“Got it; your city is crawling with the supernatural,” Harry stated, catching their attention. If things were as bad as they made it out to be, he wondered why he hadn’t been called in sooner. “So, you came to ask for my help?”
“Actually, we came to find out if our chief of police asked you for help,” Vince answered him.
“Can’t say that he did,” Harry replied. Then he frowned. Long way to go to ask that question. “Why do you ask, anyway? ARK have a policy against bringing in civilian consultants?”
“Harry,” Bob pursed his lips for a moment. “Their chief was murdered. They came here because they found your ad in the victim’s apartment, along with a ticket to Chicago.” Harry turned to the two from Palm City.
“You can’t think I did it?”
“Mr. Dresden,” Fleming began.
“’Cause there’s no way I could’ve,” Harry scrubbed a hand over his face. “Just ask my parole officer,” he quipped, thinking of Morgan. Nice guy; they’d probably get along just great if Morgan didn’t have this habit of pointing his sword at his neck. (Somehow, in comparison to the sword, the hockey stick Harry used as a staff didn’t seem so intimidating…)
It had been Morgan’s job to keep an eye on him ever since Harry had killed Uncle Justin in self-defense with black magic. Now, in the non-magical world, self-defense would get you a full acquittal and, hopefully, allow you to move on with your life. If you were a wizard, self-defense meant that you were (grudgingly) allowed to keep your head, for now. The authorities in the High Council would need to have you watched to make sure that as soon as you slipped up, you could be taken down swiftly. No doubt most of the council members were looking forward to the day Harry slipped.
More often than he’d like to admit, Harry was afraid he would.
“You’re not a suspect,” Vince assured him. “We figure Stoykova just wanted your help with something and we hoped you would be able to tell us what that is--”
“Since it stands to reason that whatever it is got him killed,” Fleming finished. Vince narrowed his eyes.
“Don’t finish my sentences for me, Peter.”
“I can’t help it if you’re predictable.”
“Oh, I’m predictable? That’s rich. You--”
“Gentlemen, I hate to interrupt this spat.” Really, he did; this was almost as entertaining as the soap opera he’d been watching earlier. “But perhaps we could focus,” Bob suggested. “So, right now, all we have to go on is that Stoykova wanted Harry’s help with something. Let’s see if we can piece together what that was.”
“Maybe we should be going,” Vince said. “It’s our job to solve the case, not yours.”
“I think you’ll find you’re mistaken about that, Sergeant Faraday,” Hrothbert said.
“How do you figure? You’re not cops and even if you were, this wasn’t in your jurisdiction.”
“Because the victim was on his way to ask Harry for help. That meant he was going to be a client and, as far as Harry’s concerned, he is one now.
“I know him and I can guarantee you that he won’t rest until he’s found your killer…even if he’s not getting paid for this.” He smiled at his former pupil, who huffed.
“Guess that makes me the predictable one here. Bob’s right, so let’s get to work.
“I don’t suppose the killer left anything behind at the scene?”
Fleming nonverbally communicated to Vince that he was not to mention the knife with his fingerprints.
“No, he didn’t,” Vince said.
Should’ve known it wouldn’t be that easy, the wizard mused. If the killer had dropped something at the scene, he could’ve used it in a tracking spell and found the bastard. Moving on, then. He ran a hand through his hair, thinking.
“You say you guys have had run-ins with demons?” They nodded. “You wouldn’t happen to know any of their names, would you?”
“Well, yeah, we do, but what does that have to do… Oh,” Vince smacked his forehead. “We should bring Scales in for questioning. Wouldn’t surprise me if he had a reptilian hand in this. Okay, that’ll be our first step when we get back to Palm City…”
“Why wait until then?” Harry asked. “Follow me.” He opened a metal door that the out-of-towners would have completely missed and led the way into his lab. Then he started moving various junk off of the floor, until he revealed a large metallic ring bolted into the ground.
Bob stood by the table his skull was sitting on. Runes, indecipherable to Fleming and Vince, were inscribed in the bone.
“Harry, I don’t think this is a good idea.”
“You never like my ideas, Bob.”
“Only because they have a habit of blowing up in your face! How can you possibly intend to summon an unknown demon in front of two mortals?”
“Wait, what did you say?” Vince asked.
“I believe that Dresden intends to summon Raoul here,” Peter explained. Vince’s eyes grew wide.
“You can do that?”
“If you give me his name, I can.”
“It’s Dominic Raoul.”
Thank you to Dragomir for providing beta services for the chapter.
So, impressions? Anyone out of character? Anything you’d like to see? (Aside from shipping; you know the ships have already been determined.)
*Points to pretty comment button*
Chapter 4: Gonna Get In A Fight
Dresden chanted Dominic Raoul’s name three times before the half-demon appeared in the circle. It was his skin that gave him away as only half-human. Depending on the way the light hit them, the scales that gave him his moniker and were the brunt of the Cape’s quips looked almost green.
“Hello, Scales,” Faraday called. Raoul barely glanced at him, the ghost, or the wizard who had summoned him. His eyes landed quickly on the one man there he recognized all too well--the tossbag who thought he was better than everyone else.
“What the bloody hell do ya want, Chess? And how’d you bring me ’ere?”
“Chess?!” Bob repeated. News of the psychopath that preyed on the citizens of Palm City had made its way to Chicago. (Though neither Harry nor Bob could ever hope to use a computer, they were not cut off from news of the outside world.)
Vince looked at Peter expectantly. Fleming frowned.
“It’s old news in Palm City. Raoul’s been under the impression that I’m Chess for close to a year now. Not worth suing a laughingstock for slander.”
It’s not slander if it’s true, Peter.
The CEO ignored the voice in his head and turned back to the smuggler.
“How we brought you here is of no consequence,” he replied.
“Yeah, well I beg to differ. I was wit’ Lydia, you arse, and next thing I know I’m… Where’re we, exactly?”
“We’ll be the ones asking the questions, Gecko,” Vince snapped. Scales narrowed his eyes. That voice was familiar, as was the uncreative insult…
“Where do I know you from?”
“I think it might be best if we interrogate Mr. Raoul in private,” Fleming suggested, addressing Harry and Bob.
“You want us to leave you alone with him?” Harry asked.
“Yeah, we do,” Vince replied. (He tried to ignore the fact that he was agreeing with Fleming on something.) Trying to do this in front of their hosts had been a mistake. Scratch that, trying to interrogate Scales as his alter ego was a mistake. He could totally take the half-breed down with his cape…
…Alright, maybe the scaly bastard had gotten the best of him once…or twice… but that was just luck--and inhuman strength. Besides, one of those times had been the night Vince had first worn the costume, so that shouldn’t count, right?
“Mr. Fleming, Harry is the one powering the circle. He needs to stay here and maintain it,” Hrothbert insisted. As if to prove his point, Scales chose that moment to try to leave the circle and found himself trapped.
“You think you can keep me ‘ere?”
“Dresden doesn’t need to maintain the circle. We have plenty of experience in handling Raoul,” Peter replied. Four heads turned around at the sound of a gun being cocked. Scales had withdrawn a semi-automatic pistol from a holster under his jacket and was aiming for Fleming.
“I’d say it’s been nice knowing you, Chess, but I’m not a lying toss-pot like you.”
“Uh, Harry,” Vince began. “Does the circle keep bullets in?”
“You know, this has to be the first time I’ve ever summoned a demon that carries a gun. Now that you mention it, the circle’s not really meant for keeping inanimate objects inside…”
Vince leapt in front of Fleming as Scales pulled the trigger on the Desert Eagle…and nothing happened.
“…But magic tends to foul up the firing mechanisms,” Harry finished calmly. “Willing to risk your life for your boss, huh?” Vince scowled.
“Hardly; I happen to be wearing a bulletproof vest under my uniform.” Actually, it was more like a bulletproof cape, but he wasn’t going to say that.
“Well, you’re still my hero, Faraday,” Fleming drawled as Scales examined the pistol in confusion.
“Go to hell, Peter.” The billionaire simply shrugged off the invective.
“Please leave us, gentlemen.”
Harry frowned. If he left the lab, the circle would fall, freeing the hybrid. Once the magic dissipated, there would be nothing to keep the weapon from firing… Even as he thought this, he saw Faraday walk around the circle, getting into position behind Scales. The criminal had stowed the semi-automatic away and was currently examining the bottle of beer left in the circle as an offering. Usually when summoning creatures, Harry would leave food in the circle as an offering or, depending on what was being summoned, blood. Vince had assured him that in Scales’ case, beer would do the trick.
Scales seemed to be more interested in hurling the bottle as a projectile than in drinking its contents. Vince lifted his own weapon, ready for the circle to disappear.
Harry nodded. On his way out, he picked up Bob’s skull in what he hoped was a nonchalant manner. There was no way he was going to leave the skull in the lab when the demon might start smashing things or the cops could accidentally break something while trying to subdue him. While valuable, his supplies could be replaced; Bob could not.
“Come on, Bob.” The wizard lifted the circle as he reached the door. Glancing over his shoulder, he saw Vince pistol-whip Scales from behind. The impact to the back of his head knocked the smuggler out. Hmm. Rather tricky to interrogate an unconscious person… What were they hiding?
Out in the hall, Harry whispered to Bob.
“Bob, why don’t you go--?”
“Spy on them?”
“Spy on them,” Harry nodded.
When Scales woke up, the first thing he registered (aside from the throbbing pain in his head), was the Cape looming over him, Fleming by his side.
“So the rumors are true, then. The blackbird is Chess’ pawn.” The Cape swore and hoisted Scales up.
“Oh, I’m the pawn? You’re the birdbrain that didn’t know he was paying the same man twice--”
Fleming cleared his throat. As Chess, the man had pressured Scales into giving him half of the smuggler’s proceeds from his operations on the docks. As the CEO of ARK Corporation, he had collected another share of the profits, until the Cape had exposed his double-dipping scheme.
“My understanding is that the good cop, bad cop routine requires one of us to play the good cop.”
“So why can’t you be the good cop?” the Cape asked. “You forget to pack your sheriff’s hat?” Fleming frowned at the reminder of the white cowboy costume he’d worn to the masquerade aboard the Monte Carlo.
Please tell me we fired the imbecile from Public Relations that suggested that outfit, Chess implored him. Peter nodded. Of course he had, it was the first thing he did the day after the gala.
“I burned it, but I thought that since you’re the hero and I’m the villain, oh, never mind. Continue.”
“Where were you last night, Scales?”
“What’s it to you?”
The Cape took his gloved hands off the smuggler and, without taking his eyes off of him, used the midnight blue spider silk fabric to snatch the pistol that Peter offered him. A moment later the vigilante had the weapon trained on Raoul.
“Now I’m going to ask you again. What were you doing, say between ten and midnight?”
“Fine, I was with me girl, alright? Lydia’ll vouch for that. Don’t go summoning her, though, unless you want a repeat of your last encounter with her.”
“Her power doesn’t work on me,” Vince replied, though his eyes had widened behind the mask. Scales’ girl gave him the creeps.
“Like I didn’t know that already. She’s nearly gone crazy trying to figure out why,” the smuggler added. “’Course, there’s plenty of ways she can express her anger…”
“Enough. We can verify your alibi after we return to Palm City,” Peter cut in.
“In the meantime, you want to tell me what this is about?” Scales asked.
“None of your business,” the Cape replied.
Huh. He really is playing the bad cop… and here I thought he was more submissive…
This was just not the time for following Chess’ train of thought.
Well, you had better make time for it. I won’t be ignored.
“There’s absolutely no point in being secretive when I held a press conference this morning. Stoykova’s dead,” Peter explained.
“An’ I was at the top of your suspect list? I’m flattered, mate. Not that I wouldn’t love to take credit for taking out ARK’s chief enforcer, but it wasn’t me.
“Your killer demonic, then?”
“We didn’t say that,” Vince said.
“No, you didn’t, but something made you think I was involved, made you drag me all the way to--you still haven’t told me where we are--and I’d like to know what that was.”
“The killer knows I’m Chess,” Peter admitted. “It appears he’s trying to frame me.”
“So you can narrow it down to your enemies. Well, sounds like it should only take you a few years to get to the bottom of this. Best of luck. Now how do I get out of here?”
“What’s the matter, didn’t bring a pair of ruby slippers?” the Cape joked.
Ugh, his quips get more and more horrendous by the day. And you said you had no sense of humor.
“Would you get serious, Cape? He’s not riding in the jet with us, and I doubt we can get the local police to help ship him back where he came from…”
“Relax Peter. I have an idea.” Vince dug out his cell and called his mentor, Max Malini. Max was the leader of the Coven of Crime, the band of thieves/witches that had taken him in when he’d been framed. He might not have seen Max summon a demon before, but figured there was probably something about it in the man’s grimoire.
“Bob, what did you see?” Harry asked after the ghost emerged from a wall.
“Harry, do you remember reading newspaper articles about Palm City’s resident hero, the Cape?”
“Uh… yeah: Something about the guy swearing to take down Chess, who he claimed was still alive. And then I think there was an article about the company that publishes the comic book trying to track him down so they could serve him… Why?”
“Well, Chess is very much alive and he and the Cape are currently in the lab!” Harry smacked his forehead.
“Vince Faraday, I knew his name sounded familiar! They said he was Chess, but wasn’t his name cleared, Bob?”
“Faraday isn’t Chess, he’s the Cape. I saw him put on his costume after he’d knocked out the demon.”
“You’re kidding? Huh. I wouldn’t have taken the guy for a superhero.”
“You’re one to talk. You don’t exactly look like you go around saving lives on a regular basis.”
“Semi-regular,” Harry corrected him. Even after advertising online, he still didn’t get as many cases as he would like. “Wait, if he’s not Chess then… You’re telling me the demon was telling the truth about Peter Fleming, billionaire philanthropist Fleming, being a sociopath?”
“Sociopath is such a harsh term,” Fleming drawled from the entrance to the kitchen.
“And yet it’s completely appropriate,” Vince added. The cop had removed his mask and once again hidden the cape underneath his ARK uniform. As Harry looked at him, he wondered how long the two had been listening to them.
“Didn’t anyone ever teach you guys that eavesdropping is rude?” Dresden asked.
Thanks to Dragomir for beta-ing! Credit goes to D for pointing out that Scales carries a Desert Eagle and for the crack about the comic book company trying to track down the Cape, an allusion to a plotbunny that I look forward to seeing come to fruition.
What did you guys think? Too many bad quips? Didn’t like Bob eavesdropping on the interrogation? You know how to let me know.
And now, please excuse me while I rant. I absolutely love the Bob/Harry music videos I’ve seen, but where are the videos for Peter/Vince? Seriously, “The Cape” lasted about as long as “The Dresden Files” did. Am I the only one who feels cheated here? …Okay, rant over.
Chapter 5: You're Coming With Me
“Didn’t anyone teach you the meaning of irony?” Peter shot back. “You were eavesdropping on us, first.”
How on earth did they accomplish that without us noticing?
Few things got past Chess. Peter thought of the personality as a very vocal (not to mention homicidal) part of his subconscious. He was probably grossly oversimplifying things, though.
If only you could ask your shrink… Oh, that’s right, you can’t. Because you killed him, Peter.
Only because Dr. Samuels deserved it…
Hang on. Is Faraday defending us?
…Good lord, he was.
“Peter’s tried to turn over a new leaf since he realized that his daughter, well…” Vince trailed off. He could at least salvage Orwell’s secret identity, right?
“We were estranged for several years,” Peter put in. “She knew who I was, what I had done and she ran. …I didn’t realize the full extent of her hatred until after I found her.
“It’s in my own interest to keep Chess from coming out to play. I don’t want to lose her again.”
“And you believe him when he says he’s changed?” Harry asked Vince.
“I’m a father, too. I can’t even imagine being separated from Trip for as long as he was separated from Jamie. I’m still going to keep an eye on him, of course, but I do believe he is making an effort to impress her.”
“Love is a powerful motivator,” Bob commented softly. He knew it was possible for people to change. How many people had he killed to bring back his love, Winifred? He was not the same person that had been driven mad with grief. Of course, unlike Fleming, he’d had centuries to reflect upon the error of his ways and he was still atoning for his sins… Not that serving Harry felt like penance, most of the time. Being a ghost chained to a glorified paperweight, though, was another story.
“May I be blunt?” Peter asked. “It doesn’t matter whether you trust me or not. You could try to expose me as Chess and no doubt you’d be laughed at, just as Raoul was. In Palm City, I am King.”
Harry frowned. The billionaire had a point. What could he do? Murphy’s people didn’t have jurisdiction over him. Heck, neither would the High Council, since Chess was only human. That still left the feds…
“That’s really going to get them on our side, Peter,” Vince rolled his eyes.
“We don’t need them on our side. Come on, we’re going.”
“We’re going with you,” Harry informed him. He was rewarded with three incredulous expressions. He folded his arms. “What? It’s like Bob said: I have to solve this case now. Stoykova was murdered in Palm City, so that’s where we’ll start investigating.”
“You’re also speaking for your assistant?” Peter lifted an eyebrow.
“It’s alright. If he tried to leave me behind on this one, I’d kill him.”
“Oh, really?” Harry looked at Bob. He gave him a look that said: And how would you do that? Bob caught his meaning and nonverbally replied: Trust me, I’d find a way.
“Anyway,” Dresden turned to the villain. “I might need Bob’s help on this, so yes, we’re both going with you.”
“Now wait a second!” Fleming began to protest.
“Oh, let it go, Peter. There’s plenty of room in the jet,” Vince interjected.
“Harry, I don’t think there’s enough room in the budget for a hotel room. It’s bad enough that you’re not getting paid for this case,” Bob complained while they were in the air.
He and Harry had followed the men to the airport. First the wizard had called Murphy at work, told her he was going out of town for a few days on a case, and arranged for her to take care of his cat, Mister. Then he packed a few things--potion ingredients, his hockey stick, Bob’s skull, all the essentials. He even remembered to bring a few sets of (nearly) clean clothes, before checking the wards on the place and locking it up.
Vince had overheard Bob and spoke up.
“I’m sure Peter can put you up in ARK Tower.”
“Just hold on there, Faraday,” Fleming spoke up. “First, you invited them along in my jet and now you’ve volunteered me to provide them with housing during their stay?”
“ARK Tower is huge and even if you didn’t have extra rooms in there, you could afford to put them up in a hotel,” Vince pointed out.
“That’s irrelevant; it’s not my responsibility to provide them with lodging. Since you seem so worried about it, though, perhaps they should stay with you.”
“I’m sorry, what?” Where the hell would he put two guests? More importantly, what would Dana say about the unexpected visitors? At least they’d bought another house after he’d gone to work for ARK. If his family was still living in that apartment Dana had rented, Vince would’ve strangled Fleming for making that suggestion.
“We wouldn’t want to be a burden,” Hrothbert said.
“Hey, we won’t ‘cause them too much trouble. Not like you’re going to eat them out of house and home, Bob,” Harry joked. No one laughed, but then, the citizens of Palm City didn’t know Bob was a ghost.
“Not going to ‘cause them too much trouble’?” Bob repeated in disbelief. “Harry, you haven’t even warned them about your effect on technology. Frankly, I’m amazed you haven’t crashed the jet yet.” Harry frowned. Alright, he was making a conscious effort to keep his magic and his emotions under control while they were in the air. One stray spell and they’d likely never make it to their destination. But he could keep himself in check, right?
“Uh, how soon until we touch down?” Harry asked.
“About three-quarters of an hour,” Fleming replied. “What’s this about you crashing my jet?”
“He’s kidding. I know it’s hard to tell because he sounds cranky, but his voice is always like that. There, uh, might be a slight risk that my magic will fry any computers in my vicinity, though.”
“And other modern technology,” Bob added.
Vince frowned. Why would that be? Max’s magic didn’t interfere with technology… Then again, maybe it did. Come to think of it, he couldn’t remember Max operating anything more complicated than a coffeemaker.
“Well, in that case, perhaps it would be better for you to stay with my daughter--”
“NO!” Vince shouted, nearly leaping out of his seat. “No, that’s fine. They can stay at my place.” They already knew he was the Cape, after all. If his computer was fried, it wouldn’t be that big a deal. Alright, it would be inconvenient, but he’d deal with it and send the bill to Fleming. If Orwell’s computers were fried… Vince shuddered. He’d seen her angry. It wasn’t pretty.
“You’re sure?” Harry asked.
“Yes, there’s just one thing.”
“My wife doesn’t know that I’m the Cape and I’d like to keep it that way.”
“You’re keeping that a secret from your wife?” Bob asked. Vince nodded.
“And my son, Trip; at least, I don’t think he’s figured it out…” …Nah, if he’d figured it out, he wouldn’t still think the Cape was cool.
“But he knows?” Harry asked, pointing to Fleming. Vince grimaced.
“It’s a long story. I didn’t tell him on purpose. He sort of figured it out. What?”
“Nothing,” Harry said, shaking his head. “How about we talk suspects?”
“From what I gathered while you were interrogating the demon, your enemy list is a mile long,” Bob said, addressing Fleming.
“Yes, yes,” Peter made a dismissive gesture, “but we can narrow it down to the ones that know I’m Chess.” He glanced at Vince. “And I’d like to rule out Faraday and my daughter; at least, for the moment.” He was going to be really disappointed if it turned out one of them was setting him up.
By some minor miracle, the jet landed safely in Palm City without any mishaps. The vigilante only hoped his luck would hold.
Vince braced himself as he unlocked his front door. He started to lead the way inside, but Harry stopped him.
“Vince, could you do me a favor? I need you to formally invite me in.”
“It’s a wizard thing.”
“I thought that was a vampire thing,” Vince furrowed his brow.
“Well, it’s both, actually.” Actually, supernatural beings in general preferred to have an invitation before crossing the threshold of another’s home. Harry could still get inside the Faraday home without one, but if he had to practice magic while he was there, he’d be better off with an invitation. “Please?”
“Alright, but you better not turn out to be a vampire. Please, come in.
“Dana? I’m home!” he called.
“Well, it’s about time,” Dana said as she walked into the foyer. Then she realized her husband wasn’t alone. “Honey, is there something you want to tell me?”
It was a close thing, but he didn’t gulp. He led them into the living room before replying.
“Right; I brought some work home with me. Guys, this is Dana, my lovely wife. Dana, this is Harry Dresden and Bob Bainbridge.”
“Charmed,” Bob said, inclining his head to her.
“Pleased to meet you,” Harry added. Dana nodded absently.
“Likewise,” she said before looking at Vince expectantly.
“They’re going to be consultants on the new case.”
“I see.” No, she didn’t. Since when did ARK hire outside help to solve crimes? Strike that, since when did they solve crimes? Her clients were harmless, law-abiding citizens that had been wrongfully accused, mostly. She hated to think of Vince working for that company. He wasn’t like the others. He was a good cop.
…He was also really getting on her nerves. “What are they doing here?” she continued, looking pointedly at Harry’s luggage.
“Well, they flew in from Chicago and… they needed a place to crash while they were in town so…” So he told them they could stay here, Dana realized.
“Vince, can I have a word with you in the kitchen?” she asked.
“Okay.” He followed her into the other room.
Harry and Bob caught some snippets of the ensuing conversation.
“Now, honey, you’ve brought work home with you, too.”
“I bring home case files, not clients or coworkers!”
Vince’s reply was muffled.
“SO WHAT’S WRONG WITH ARK TOWER?”
“What was that you said about not being a burden?” Bob asked Harry.
“Hey, don’t look at me. They obviously had issues to begin with,” he whispered back.
“And our presence is clearly aggravating them.”
“…Which I’ll bet is precisely what Fleming was banking on. Was it my imagination or…?”
“No, I picked up on it, too. Fleming definitely feels something for…” Bob broke off when someone else entered the room.
“Hey.” Vincent Faraday III, a.k.a. Trip, eyed the strangers. Trip still remembered his dad warning him and his classmates not to speak to strangers, but if his parents had let them in, it must be okay.
“Hi there; you must be Trip,” Harry said. The almost eleven- year-old was clearly an amalgamation of his parents, though Harry suspected he would look like a replica of his father in a few years’ time. Like them, his hair was a shade that was frustratingly difficult to describe. He wanted to say it was brown, and it wasn’t reddish like his mother’s, but…whatever.
“That’s me. Who are you?” the kid asked.
“One of them is going to be staying in your room for awhile,” Dana announced as she walked back into the living room. Vince followed her, seemingly unscathed.
“I don’t know if that’s a good idea,” Vince said, thinking about his son’s computer. Dana looked at him, confused. He wasn’t eager to tell her that their guests would be like kryptonite to their gadgets. “Maybe one of them could use the guest bedroom and the other could use the couch?”
“We certainly wouldn’t want to displace your son,” Hrothbert said. “And we don’t need to take up more than one bed.”
“Bob,” Harry ran a hand over his face. “Do you know how that sounds?”
“What? Oh,” Bob smiled. “I’d accuse you of having your mind in the gutter, Harry, but--”
“--That would be pretty hypocritical because your mind is always in the gutter, Bob.”
“Ninety-nine percent of the time, then.”
Dana coughed loudly. Honestly, her child was in the room.
“Okay, so, about the guest room…”
“Mrs. Faraday,” Bob turned to her. “What I meant to say was that I don’t need much sleep.”
“Oh.” He had insomnia. And here she would have taken them for a couple. My mistake, then.
Thanks to Dragomir for beta-ing! D should also get credit for being the first to figure out that Trip was his nickname and how that came to be.
Now, I quite agree that leaving your door unlocked like Harry did is a reckless thing to do. (Readers, do not try that at home.)
It was never specified in "Walls" where Harry went or how long he was gone when the client showed up. There were a few clues, though:
1. Wherever he went, Harry was on foot, not driving his Jeep. 2. He was out long enough for the young woman to call and say “I’m going to come over” , which should mean that she hadn’t left yet when she’d called. 3. While Bob was trying to persuade her to stay, he didn’t say “Mr. Dresden just stepped out, he should be right back, please wait for him.”
At any rate, while unlocked, Harry’s place was not entirely unprotected. For one thing, there is the threshold, although I admit it is not going to be as strong a barrier in the television!verse, where he combined his bachelor pad with his office, as it would be in the books. Peter and Vince don’t have any supernatural powers (Vince’s abnormally resilient skull notwithstanding), so the threshold wouldn’t slow them down.
*Shrugs* Perhaps I’m just so used to writing adorably naïve!Vince that I didn’t stop to think about writing reckless!Harry. Surely what he did in this chapter (riding in Peter’s jet) would be reckless. Although, if he was using a suppression spell to keep his magic from going haywire, well, it would explain how they made it there in one piece, anyway.
I really do love hearing from you.
Chapter 6: Old Situations
Dana tried to relax under the spray of the shower the next morning. Alright, so her husband had invited two guests to stay with them for an indefinite amount of time without consulting her, but how bad could it be really?
Apparently, pretty bad. She swore as the water abruptly turned to ice. Un-freaking-believable. They used all the hot water? She hadn’t even heard either Dresden or Bainbridge use the shower.
A few minutes later, a dressed Dana stormed into the kitchen to confront them. Her hair was still wet as the hairdryer had mysteriously malfunctioned.
“Good morning, Dana,” Harry greeted her.
“Don’t you ‘good morning’ me. I know you used all the hot water.”
“I what?” Harry blinked at her, confused, before he came to a realization. She could see him trying to come up with an answer. His eyes darted to his friend.
“Bob, how could you?”
“Do you really expect to pin this on me?” Bob asked, refusing to play along. He was a ghost; he didn’t take showers. Of course, they both knew what had happened. When Harry wasn’t suppressing his magic, as he had on the jet, its effect on nearby technology was disastrous. He hadn’t had a working water heater since… Scratch that, he’d never had a working water heater. Harry had had to grow used to taking cold showers. Judging by her ferocious expression, it seemed a safe bet that Dana had not.
Life was unfair. Harry hadn’t even been using his magic much since he’d arrived in Palm City. Alright, maybe he had added some wards to the house, but you could never be too careful, right?
The attorney glared at both of them before she left for work.
“You had me summon a demon,” Max Malini frowned at his pupil. They were sitting in the witch’s trailer. Malini, whose black hair was streaked with gray, poured himself a glass of red wine as he waited for a reply.
“Er,” Vince shifted awkwardly. Max didn’t seem happy. Good thing he hadn’t told the consultants that they could stay at Trolley Park with the Coven. “I didn’t think it would be that big a deal.”
“I had to use some of my wine to summon Scales.” Uh-oh. Max hated wasting wine. There was a reason the witch had created the Alcohol Tolerance Spell.
“Maybe I should get going.”
“Not so fast. The least you can do is tell me about this case.” Vince decided that was fair and proceeded to tell Max what had happened, including how he and Fleming had brought in help from Chicago.
“Does your magic really interfere with technology?” Vince asked as he finished up. “You know, if it does, I better warn Jamie not to bring her laptop here.” Orwell had made a habit of coming by Trolley Park, sometimes to hang out with Vince, sometimes to practice her aerialist skills alongside Raia.
“Yes, it does,” Max nodded. “Why do you think we keep our spells written down in grimoires instead of on computers? Incidentally, one of the reasons Ruvi tolerated you was that having someone around who can work with machines can come in handy.”
“Wait, Ruvi tolerated me? That’s news to me.” Max chuckled, the smile making its way to his brown eyes. He took another sip of his wine, and then wrinkled his brow.
“Vincent, what did you say the names of those consultants were?” Vince told him again. “Bainbridge,” Max repeated. “I wonder…” Max’s talents lay in telekinesis. He used his gift to summon his grimoire and started flipping through it.
That afternoon, Vince sat at his (miraculously still working) computer. He was having a video chat with Fleming.
“I verified Raoul’s alibi,” Peter informed him.
“You did? But that means that you…”
“Spoke with Lydia, yes, I did. You might be interested to know that her powers didn’t work on me, either.” Scales’ girlfriend was a succubus. Vince stared at his monitor as Peter went on. “The working theory is that I wasn’t affected because I’m in love.”
“Chess can love?”* Vince blurted out. Peter rolled his eyes in response. Chess only exists because of love. He’d gone out of his mind when his wife, Jamie’s mother, was taken from him. But it had been a long time since Danielle had passed away and he had moved on.
“So who’s the unlucky girl?”
“I didn’t say that it was a--” Whatever Peter said next, Vince didn’t know. The screen filled with static. The cop turned around and saw a sheepish looking wizard that had entered the room.
“Heh; sorry about that,” Harry apologized.
“Forget it. I’ll send Fleming the bill. How the hell do you get by without technology?” Vince asked.
“I do okay.”
“Is there something I can do for you?”
“As a matter of fact, there is. I was hoping you could let Jamie Fleming know I’d like to talk with her. I’d call her myself, but,” Harry gestured to the computer, which was now smoking slightly.
“Yeah; you’re not going to want to set foot in her place. She wouldn’t be nearly as forgiving.” To be fair, though, her computer was ridiculously expensive. “So why do you want to see her? Wait, you don’t think she’s a suspect, do you?”
“Well, your boss did say she’s one of the few people that know his secret. I’d just feel better about eliminating her from the suspect list if I got a chance to speak with her first.”
“It’s going to be a waste of your time,” Vince warned him.
“No, listening to Bob sing show tunes would be a waste of my time,” Harry corrected him, smirking.
He still wasn’t willing to concede that meeting Fleming’s daughter in the park had been a waste of time. Harry would admit, though, that he didn’t see the brunette as a killer. On the other hand, he didn’t have the best track record when it came to judging women. Still, he’d brought Bob along for a second opinion and the old sorcerer was in agreement with him.
The adults sat around the dinner table that evening. Trip wasn’t with them. He was having dinner at his friend Gerry’s apartment. Dana was trying to pretend she wasn’t insulted by the fact that Bob was refusing to eat anything she’d prepared. (There was nothing wrong with her cooking!) She wasn’t doing as good a job hiding her irritation with her husband. Currently, she was recounting stories from her law school days about one of her former professors.
“So Jack was teaching us about mens rea--”
“Honey, they won’t know what that is,” Vince interrupted her. He never liked it when she talked about the criminal law professor and she knew it.
“It’s the mental component of a crime,” Dana waved a hand impatiently before continuing. “As I was saying, Jack had given us a homicide hypothetical where the defendant had believed he was shooting a ghost.”
“To illustrate the defense of insanity?” Bob guessed.
“I wish,” Dana muttered. “Then later--”
“Dana, I’ve heard this story before; it’s not that funny,” Vince interrupted her again. She ignored him and continued speaking.
“He was giving us a hypothetical on statutory rape where the accused didn’t know he’d been with a minor and he accidentally said the defendant thought he was having sex with a ghost,” she concluded with a smile. Harry, who had been drinking cola, promptly spewed his mouthful across the table and coughed. Dana turned to her husband.
“See? He thought it was funny.”
“Well, I mean, ghosts can’t have sex,” Harry said. They couldn’t, right? He glanced at Bob. His mentor’s expression was unreadable. Dana arched an eyebrow.
“Ghosts don’t exist,” she stated. No one argued with her. Bob and Harry wondered if her instructor had known better.
“In your experience, do they come up a lot in law school?” Hrothbert asked.
“Actually, there was a case from New York where the court held the sellers should have warned the buyers that their house was haunted.”
“That makes sense,” Harry deadpanned. Dana chuckled.
“It was definitely one of the most entertaining opinions I’ve read.”
“I’d better get going,” Vince said, as he stood up from the table. Dana deflated.
“See you later, Vince,” she called after he’d kissed her goodbye. She started clearing the table with Harry’s assistance.
“Where’s he going?” Harry asked.
“He’s going to make sure Trip gets home okay,” she said, not meeting his eyes. She paused and then continued speaking. “I don’t suppose my husband told you that our son’s friends with the Cape.”
Harry glanced at Bob. Vince had told them that Dana didn’t know his secret.
“Before we moved, Trip used to meet him on the roof of our apartment building,” Dana went on, “the same apartment building Gerry still lives in. I guess he felt he would stand out too much in the suburbs, so now they meet after the kids’ play dates.” She would not let her voice waver, damn it!
Okay, so it hurt. Did Vince honestly think she wouldn’t figure it out, even after he always left in time for the meetings with Trip? That alone should have been enough. (Their son hadn’t put it together, yet, as far as she could tell, but he was still young. She’d bet he would within the year.) On top of that, though, she half-wanted to tell him he needed to find a better hiding place for his costume, but she wasn’t ready for that conversation. She was his wife and he couldn’t trust her with where he really went when he was putting in all that “overtime.”
…Oh god, she hoped the secret identity was the only thing he’d lied to her about.
Harry realized she was upset, although he wasn’t privy to her thoughts. He decided to try to distract her.
“So, why do you call him Trip?” Dana shrugged.
“We needed to distinguish him from Vince and Vincent the third was too formal. It was either ‘Trip’ or ‘Vinnie.’” She picked up the phone after it rang. “Hello?”
“Mrs. Faraday,” Fleming answered her. “Is your husband there? I need… to borrow him.”
“Well, you can’t. He’s picking up Trip.”
“I see. I’ll call him on his cell and ask him to come after he drops the boy off. In the meantime, tell Dresden to come meet me. There’s been another murder.”
“Hang on; I’ll put him on the phone.” Bainbridge was closer to her, though, so she offered the phone to him. When he didn’t move to take it she lifted it back to her ear.
“Just tell them to meet me at this address,” Peter rattled it off and Dana jotted it down.
“Got it,” Dana frowned as she heard a click. “Goodbye to you, too,” she turned to give her guests the message.
“The deceased’s name was Reese,” Vince explained to the consultants after they arrived on scene. “He was another upper-level ARK employee; probably would’ve been in the running to replace Stoykova,” if Peter hadn’t taken it into his head that I should take the job.
“Scales will be pleased,” Vince added. “Reese was the one that was assigned as ARK’s go-between with the smuggler.” Looked like the same M.O. as Stoykova’s murder. He’d been stabbed with an identical knife, which Fleming had already pocketed, suspecting the killer had somehow gotten his fingerprints on it. This time, instead of the word “Check” being painted on the ceiling, it had been carved into Reese’s chest.
“And we’re sure Scales isn’t our guy?” Harry questioned the cop.
“He couldn’t be,” Peter put in. “From the estimated time of death, he was present while I was questioning his girlfriend at the time.”
“So you have an alibi, too,” Harry commented.
“One that rests on the word of two demons; I’d hardly want to put my freedom in their hands.
“Whoever is doing this is killing my men to get to me. I want him found at once.”
“Alright, we’re going to take a look around,” Harry said. A few minutes later, Bob motioned Harry over.
“Found something, Bob?” The ghost pointed to an object that had been dropped on the floor of the apartment and Harry picked it up to examine it.
It was a tarot card: The Magician.
“Looks like the killer left something behind this time,” Harry said. He pocketed it before heading back with Bob to the Faraday house.
One tracking spell coming up.
*Based on a line from “Charmed” season 4.
The hypotheticals Dana is recounting were actually given in criminal law and she is referring to an actual case, Stambovsky v. Ackley (1991).
Thanks to Dragomir (the beta)!
Well? Worried about the serial killer’s rampage? More concerned about Vince and Dana’s marriage?
Chapter title from “Comedy Tonight.”
Chapter 7: New Complications
Back in the Faradays’ kitchen, Bob watched as Harry prepared the tracking spell. Nothing to it, really: You mixed together a few potions ingredients and heated the concoction until it resembled a brown goo, then added something that belonged to the person you were looking for. Harry picked up the tarot card he’d taken from the crime scene, ripped it to pieces and tossed them into the pot. Add a little will and a magic crystal and voilá: The crystal should lead them directly to the killer.
“We’ve got him, now. Seeya, Bob!”
“Seeya?” Bob repeated. “You mean you’re leaving me behind while you go off half-cocked, not knowing who or what you’re up against?” Harry picked up his staff. To others it might look like a hockey stick, okay, it was a hockey stick, but Harry had converted it into his staff, which he used to channel his energy. Along with the shield bracelet he wore on his wrist, it was an essential tool when Harry was…well, not so much looking for trouble as confronting it head on.
“Well, I can’t bring you with me! This guy’s a serial killer. He’s not going to come quietly, which means there’s going to be a fight. The last thing I need is to worry about protecting your skull…!” Currently, the skull was in the Faradays’ guest room, where Harry had placed it after returning from Reese’s apartment.
“If that’s your attitude, why didn’t you just leave me behind in Chicago while you were at it?”
“What’s going on?” Trip staggered into the kitchen, rubbing his eyes. Sometime after his return from his friend’s home, he had changed into his pajamas. The boy looked at the pot full of glop on the stove and wrinkled his nose. “Are you trying to cook something?” His tone indicated that if they were, the men were failing miserably.
“What? No, that’s just… Bob will explain it. Bob, why don’t you see that the kid gets back to bed?” Harry knew Bob was good at that.
“I’m too old to be tucked in,” Trip huffed.
“He’s not going to tuck you in, just see that you get to sleep. Rumor has it you like to stay up after your bedtime and read comic books,” not to mention talk to a certain comic book hero.
“Like you never stayed up past your bedtime,” Bob folded his arms. Trip gave him an inquisitive glance.
“How long have you two known each other?” the kid asked. Harry considered this.
“Bob’s known me since I was about your age. It’s how I know he’s better with kids than you might think at first. Anyway, I’m out of here.”
“Harry,” Bob called as the wizard headed for the door, hockey stick in one hand and crystal in the other. The ghost followed him. “Harry!” he repeated.
“Goodnight, Bob!” Harry left the house. Bob tried to follow him, but he’d gone as far as he could. He had to remain near his skull. The door shut in his face.
“I’ll be alright!” Harry shouted, before hailing a taxi. Bob groaned and turned to the child, who had followed the two out of the kitchen. Trip studied his expression.
“You know, that’s what my mom’s face looks like when my dad goes to work,” he commented.
“Oh? Isn’t she used to it by now?” Bob asked. Trip shook his head.
“Not since he…” The preadolescent trailed off, then ploughed on. “You’re not from around here, so I don’t know how much you know, but there was an explosion awhile back, while my dad was on duty. We thought he died in it. Things never really went back to the way they’d been before.
“What about you? You’re not used to Harry going to work by now?” Bob chose to ignore that.
“So, where is your father?”
Harry tried to concentrate on the crystal so he could give the cabbie directions, but the cab’s radio was distracting him. The driver kept fiddling with it, even though more static than music had been emanating from it since the wizard had entered the vehicle. The static died down for a moment and lyrics poured out.
“No; I can’t take one more step towards you…Don’t you know I’m not your ghost anymore?”
Harry scowled in the direction of the radio and it abruptly fell silent. Eh, magic had that effect on gadgets. (The meter was still running properly, though, but that was just by chance, probably.)
He stared down at the tracking crystal. Bob was pretty upset about having been left behind, but he’d come around…
“Stop; pull over there!” he called to the driver when he realized they had reached his destination.
Harry paid the driver, got out of the cab and stared up at the skyscraper before him. The crystal insisted the killer was somewhere in there. He supposed he shouldn’t be surprised that it had led him to ARK Tower. Whoever was behind this had some kind of a vendetta against ARK or at least its CEO. Now he just had to find out what part of the building the perp was in. Sure, no problem.
Now he knew why Vince and Dana had both insisted there had to be room for him at ARK. It was the tallest building in Palm City and Harry was willing to bet it was taller than the buildings in Chicago, too. But maybe that was his imagination. Hadn’t he read something about the Cape once climbing a tightrope to get into the building? (Strange; if his boss owned the building, why couldn’t Vince have just used the front door? …Oh. That must have been before Vince’s name had been cleared.) He’d have to ask Vince about that later. If the story was true, the man clearly didn’t suffer from a fear of heights.
This was it. The crystal indicated that the man he was searching for was behind this door. Harry gritted his teeth, pocketed the crystal and threw the door open…and was greeted with the sight of Peter Fleming sifting through files. The engineer turned billionaire straightened up as the wizard entered the room.
“What do you want?” Fleming drawled. Harry blinked.
“I was following up on a lead…”
“You’re a reporter? How on earth did you get past security?”
The man didn’t recognize him. Either Fleming had come down with a serious case of amnesia since Harry had left the latest crime scene earlier this evening or that wasn’t Peter Fleming. Harry had a sneaky suspicion it was the latter and plastered a fake smile on his face.
“Yes, I’m a reporter for the… Times.” Every major city had a newspaper called the Times, right? “If I could just have a moment of your time, Mr. Fleming--”
“I’m afraid I’m rather short on time Mr. …”
“Dresden,” Harry supplied, holding out the hand that wasn’t wrapped around the hockey stick. The other man grasped it. Fun fact: Wizards can’t tell just by glancing at a person whether he can do magic. Skin-to-skin contact, on the other hand, is a pretty dead giveaway. As they shook hands, Harry sensed the man’s power—power that the real Peter Fleming didn’t possess. At the same time, the faux Fleming sensed Harry’s abilities and Harry saw his eyes narrow.
And not narrow as in the shape shifter lowered his eyelids—narrow as in he narrowed his freaking pupils until they didn’t look human anymore. Dimly, Harry remembered something about Chess’ pupils were rumored to be slits, but the real Chess probably used cosmetic contacts, not magic.
Harry had found the killer and the man was a warlock. Hell’s bells.
The wizard pulled his hand back.
“You know what? It was rude of me to just barge in here like that. How about I go talk to your secretary and set up an appointment for an interview at a better time?”
“Do you always bring a staff with you to an interview?” the warlock hissed.
“What, this thing? I was playing hockey with a few friends before I came over; completely forgot I had it with me. Okay, I won’t take up any more of your time.” Harry turned away from the warlock and headed towards the door only for the man to reappear in front of his path.
The killer could teleport as well as shape shift; neat tricks. Good thing Harry had a few of his own. The murderer pulled out a knife and came at him, but he was ready. The knife bounced harmlessly against Dresden’s shield.
“Or we could have that interview now,” Harry said as the warlock poised to strike again. “Question one: Who are you?”
“Call me Chess,” his opponent snarled.
“Wrong answer,” Harry lifted his hockey stick and aimed it at the other man. A burst of will sent the villain slamming into a wall. “See, I’ve met Chess. He’s looking for you, by the way.” The wizard approached the fallen figure, which was scrambling to his feet. “Question two: Why did you kill Reese?”
“Why don’t you ask your boss that?”
“Okay, couple of things: One, Fleming isn’t my boss. I’m just doing a little consulting work here. Two, if he knew why you were killing his employees, I don’t think he’d have asked for my services,” Harry twirled the hockey stick in his hands and prepared to go again, but held his power back for the moment. “Let me ask you again: Why did you kill Reese?”
“You should be more worried about who I’m going to kill next,” the warlock replied. Harry sent another burst of power hurtling towards his adversary, but the man vanished before it could strike him. The private investigator glanced around the room and found that he was alone.
“He had the last word!”
Harry paid the second cab driver as he was dropped back at the Faradays’ house. Putting his wallet away as the car drove off, he couldn’t help but think that there would be definite advantages to being able to teleport. He yawned. Not that he had a problem with driving his Jeep, but he had had to leave that in Chicago.
He made it back into the guest room before being confronted by Bob. Then smoke billowed out of the skull and manifested as the old sorcerer.
“So, you made it back in one piece. Bravo.” Harry frowned at his friend’s tone of voice. He didn’t like being on the receiving end of sarcasm, honest.
“You don’t need to worry about me, Bob.”
“Oh, but I have so few pleasures in my afterlife.” The spirit crossed his arms. “Did you find him?”
“And you got away without any bruises? Did you hit him from behind or was he unconscious?”
“Neither… I had my shield bracelet. Anyway, he got away--” Bob snorted.
“Would you cut me a break? He teleported away. Turns out the killer is a warlock.”
Bob dropped his arms and clenched his fists. Harry had faced a warlock on his own. He had been worried about Harry enough without knowing that little tidbit. Damn Dresden for taking unnecessary risks. He counted to ten.
“Did you get a good look at his face?” he asked.
“And it looked a great deal like Fleming’s. Did I mention the guy’s a shape shifter to boot?”
“That would certainly come in handy while he’s trying to frame Fleming.” Harry nodded.
“That’s what I was thinking. Are the Faradays asleep?”
“Well, Trip drifted off after I told him some embarrassing stories about you.”
“You didn’t?” Bob grinned evilly at him. “Thanks, Bob. I’ll get you back for this. Don’t think I won’t. Come on. We might as well give Vince a progress report.”
They found Vince in the kitchen, nursing a mug of coffee.
“Hey, guys. Want some coffee?” They shook their heads. “What’s up?”
“Harry chased down your killer this evening.” Vince’s eyes widened. He turned to face the wizard.
“You did? Who is he?” Harry sighed.
“I don’t know.”
“Oh. Okay, then, where is he?”
“I don’t know. Look--” Before he could explain, the doorbell rang. Vince frowned. He exchanged a glance with the others. The three were thinking the same thing: Who the hell could that be at this hour?
The cop headed to his door and opened it. No one was there; odd. He looked down. Something had been left on his doormat. He felt a chill go through him as he picked it up.
It was a tarot card.
Story got a smidge song-fic-y there. Christina Perri’s “Jar of Hearts” was playing on the radio because I didn’t think I’d be able to use the line for a chapter title.
Thank you to Dragomir for assisting with the chapter.
What did you think of the chapter? Like the direction the plot is going in? Enjoying the shipping?
Fans of The Cape, I’d like to draw your attention to the fact that NBC has deleted the show’s Facebook page. If, like me, you find this objectionable, I recommend writing the network, e-mailing them, tweeting them, what have you, to let the nice folks there know.
The term “warlock” is getting tossed around a bit in the story now. For anyone who hasn’t been reading “The Dresden Files”, according to Jim Butcher’s “Proven Guilty”, page 27, a warlock “has betrayed the purpose of magic. Gone bad, right from the start.”
Chapter 8: If I Should Lose You
What have I done to tick Tarot off lately? Vince wondered as he tried to get his breathing back under control. But maybe that was the wrong question. He could have ticked off someone else who had then turned to the hired guns… He’d been forced to face off against the agents before, but that was as the Cape, not as himself. Then again, Goggles and Hicks had shown how easy it was to learn his secret identity, once you had put your mind to it…
Harry came up behind him after he’d shut the door and pulled the vigilante out of his jumbled thoughts.
“Another tarot card, huh?” The cop whirled around.
“What do you mean ‘another tarot card’?”
“I… Well, there was one of ‘em at Reese’s. That’s how I was able to find the killer. You see, I ripped up the card for the tracking spell—”
“Let me get this straight,” Vince began. “You found what was probably the first—maybe the only—real clue in this investigation and, instead of sharing it with us, you destroyed it?” Harry shifted his weight.
“Uh, well, when you put it like that… You don’t understand!” Harry didn’t like the noises escaping Vince. “That’s how tracking spells work! I have to use up something that belonged to the person, okay? Anyway, you’ve got a duplicate card now. Do you know what it means?” Vince exhaled loudly before answering.
“Yeah, it means two things: The killer’s with Tarot—” Harry’s face was blank, so Faraday hastened to explain. “Tarot is a secret elite society of warlock assassins. This is one of their calling cards.”
“You’ve dealt with them before?” Vince nodded.
“As the Cape, yeah. Peter used to be one of their clients…” Vince headed back into the kitchen, Dresden on his heels. Vince picked up his cell from where he’d left it on the table and started to make a call.
“Wait, what was the second thing?” Harry asked.
“The second thing is that I’m the next target,” Faraday said calmly as he listened to the phone ring. “The assassins leave behind a tarot card after they’ve killed or when they want to intimidate their next victim.” Finally, Fleming picked up.
“Peter, you bastard, if you’ve hired Tarot assassins to kill me again, I swear to God—!”
“Faraday? Slow down; what are you talking about?”
“I’m talking about the tarot card that was just left for me! It wouldn’t be the first time you’d sicced the warlocks on me and—” Fleming cursed.
“Faraday, I haven’t utilized Tarot’s services since the Chariot failed to complete its assignment in September.”
It was true. Chess had hired Goggles and Hicks, a.k.a. the Chariot, to kill Faraday (or rather, to kill the Cape, as he hadn’t known the man’s secret identity at the time). The brothers had been unsuccessful and Peter had secretly been relieved. His alternate personality had had no right to solicit the murder of the Cape.
I wanted to get rid of him before you got too attached, Peter. Clearly, it’s too late, now.
Using the brothers’ failure as an excuse, Fleming had ceased to be either a donor or a client of the organization. So either a mercenary had been hired by one of his enemies to launch a campaign against him or this was personal. But either way, the Cape was caught in the crossfire.
“I’ll be right there, Cape.”
“What? Fleming, you don’t have to come here…” Vince trailed off when he realized that his boss had already hung up. He turned to the consultants. “Fleming’s on his way.”
“Is that wise?” Bob asked. “How do you know that was Fleming? Harry caught up to the killer in ARK Tower earlier and discovered that he is a shape shifter who has assumed Fleming’s likeness. You just said that you’re the next target. At the moment, you’re protected here by the threshold of your home and the wards Harry set up, but if you negate that protection by inviting the assassin inside—”
“I see your point,” Faraday frowned. “So what do…?” He trailed off. There was a screech of wheels in the street and the sound of a car door being slammed, followed by knocking on the door of the house a few moments later.
“Faraday, let me in!” Peter’s voice called.
“That was fast,” Harry commented. “You’d almost think he’d teleported here.” He followed Vince to the door. The cop peered through a window.
“No, that’s his car out front. He probably just broke a zillion traffic laws on his way over. Pity I can’t give him a ticket.”
“The killer might’ve stolen his car as well as his identity,” the wizard pointed out as Vince opened the door.
“Bad news, Peter: Dresden says I can’t let you in. Thanks for stopping by, though,” Vincent deadpanned.
“Don’t be ridiculous,” Fleming said as he made to push past his employee.
“Just a second,” Harry stalled him. At this point, he was pretty sure this was the real Peter Fleming. If the shape shifter pushed his way inside without an invitation, most of his powers would be left outside the threshold. Still, there were plenty of ways to kill a person without magic. Better safe than sorry.
“Have to be sure it’s you.” Harry held out a hand and an exasperated billionaire grasped it hard. No magical aura.
“He’s clean. Come on in.” No sooner was he inside than Peter half-dragged Faraday to sit with him on the couch in the living room. He turned so that they were facing each other.
“Faraday, are you alright? Were you attacked?”
“Peter, calm down; don’t go getting overprotective! I’m fine…” Vince looked towards the doorway and his eyes widened.
Dana stood there, staring at the two on the sofa, taking in their body language and facial expressions, the look in their eyes… Realization struck painfully and her mouth went dry.
“Did we wake you, honey?”
“I think the sound of his tires on the asphalt did it,” she replied. “What are you doing here, Fleming?”
“Just checking up on your husband,” he answered.
“I don’t want you in my house.”
“Dana!” Vince protested.
“I don’t want him here,” she repeated.
“Don’t worry; I won’t be long,” the billionaire promised. Dana nodded, and then turned to her husband.
“I’m going back to bed. But tomorrow, we need to talk.”
“Okay,” Vince acquiesced, a sinking feeling in his stomach as his wife headed back towards their bedroom.
“Well, that wasn’t ominous,” Harry tried (unsuccessfully) to break the tension in the air. Then he plopped himself down in a chair facing the couch and began telling the other men how he had tracked down the assassin earlier and all about their confrontation in ARK Tower.
When he was finished with his explanation, Peter frowned. The billionaire thought about what the wizard had said, about where he’d found the warlock and the files he’d been going through. It wasn’t a coincidence that Vince was the new target.
“This is my fault,” Fleming said. “He must’ve found my notes about candidates for replacing Stoykova as Chief of Police. You’re at the top of the list.” Faraday eyed him.
“If you didn’t hire him—”
“Then don’t blame yourself. It’s the warlock’s fault, not yours.”
Harry cleared his throat loudly and then asked about their prior dealings with Tarot.
“Cain was the first Tarot assassin I faced,” Vince began. “He was part of the branch known as The Tower. His specialty was lethal potions and Peter…”
“I had hired him to take out Patrick Portman, the Secretary of Prisons,” Fleming admitted.
“What happened?” Bob asked. The ghost stood by Harry’s chair. He had joined them in the living room not long after Dana had returned to bed.
“The Cape stopped Cain, of course,” Peter replied, the corner of his lips twitching.
“After he poisoned me,” Vince muttered. “He’s incarcerated at Owl Island,” he added.
“What about the second assassin?” Harry asked.
“Second and third,” Peter corrected, before explaining the incident with Goggles and Hicks. He wanted to explain that it had been Chess that had hired them, but they didn’t know that Chess was a separate personality; no one did. So he would just have to live with Faraday believing that he had tried to arrange his demise.
“Just so we’re all on the same page: Between you, you’ve sent two Tarot assassins to prison and pissed off a third. You,” he pointed to Peter, “backed out of the contract on him when the Chariot couldn’t finish the job in 24 hours and then told Hicks that you wouldn’t be hiring anyone from Tarot ever again. Oh, and while you had previously regularly invested an insane amount of money in this scumbag organization, you suddenly cut off the cash flow they had come to rely on,” Harry recapped. “Is that about right?”
“Gee, you think you might have made a few enemies there?”
“You’d better go,” Vince interrupted Peter. “We can continue talking about this tomorrow.”
“Fine, but first: Which card was it?”
“The Magician,” Vince replied. “Do you know who the Magician is?”
“Not offhand, no,” Peter replied. “But I’ll check and I’ll give Jamie a call. If the information isn’t in my databases, it should be in hers.”
“I’ll walk you to the door.”
“Faraday,” Peter said, as he was being shown out, “take care of yourself.”
“Orwell is watching,” Jamie answered sleepily. Peter blinked at the phone in his hands.
“Jamie, do you have to answer the phone that way?”
“I prefer not introducing myself as your daughter,” Orwell replied. “Dad, do you know what time it is? It’s early!” And she hadn’t had her coffee, yet. She hadn’t gotten out of bed, yet, for that matter. Technically, it was morning, but until she’d gotten up and had her coffee, it was still the middle of the night as far as she was concerned.
“My apologies, sweetheart, but I thought you might want to know that your partner received a death threat last night…”
“Is Vince okay?” she asked. Peter heard another voice in the background.
“He’s alright for now. Jamie, was that a man’s voice? Do you have company?”
“Dad, my personal life is really none of your business.”
“Nope; we’re not talking about this. Either tell me what happened with Vince or I’m hanging up.” Peter sighed.
“Alright; we’ve learned that Tarot is behind the recent murders. Last night, Faraday received a tarot card on his doorstep: The Magician. So far, I haven’t been able to find out anything about this magician—”
“The Magician, you say? I’ll see what I can dig up. Talk to you later. Bye!” Jamie ended the call. Rollo stood at the foot of her bed.
“Did you say the Magician?” he asked.
“Yeah, he’s after Vince. I have to hit the computer, so you’d better scram.”
Rollo was a witch, one of the members of the Coven of Crime, and one of Vince’s best friends. He was a little over four feet tall and woe to anyone who underestimated him. The bald man’s talent was in super strength. He’d been hitting on Jamie since he first saw her drive into Trolley Park and seemed pleased enough when she’d finally said, “What the hell?” and went out on a date with him.
“Orwell, I know who that is. We’d better go talk to Max.”
Vince parked his car near Rollo’s motorcycle. He had gotten Orwell’s message to come meet her at the Coven. Dresden had insisted on tagging along, “for his safety.” The men entered the main tent and found that Rollo, Orwell, and Max were already waiting for them. Max had his grimoire out. He raised an eyebrow when he saw Harry’s hockey stick, but didn’t say anything.
Vince introduced Harry to everybody before asking why he’d been called over.
“Max knows who the Magician is,” Orwell replied. Max nodded and sipped his wine.
“Deveraux is back,” Malini announced.
“Who?” Harry asked.
“André Deveraux and, before you ask, no, that’s not his full name. I’m afraid I don’t have that.”
“How do you know him?” the wizard inquired.
“He had been a friend, a long time ago…”
“Back when you were Kozmo?” Vince asked. Max glared at his pupil.
“Not that long ago,” he replied. He didn’t like the reminder of his unsavory past.
Thanks to Dragomir for beta-ing the chapter.
So, explanation time. Deveraux isn’t quite an original character because he was mentioned in “The Cape” once. He never actually appeared in the series. Dragomir came up with a back-story for him while (after?) watching a movie called “Dark Relic.” It involves Deveraux being an immortal shape shifter and both a) makes watching “Dark Relic” tolerable (I know, you’d think James Frain being in it would’ve been enough…) and b) provides the basis for D’s fic, “Time Again.” (It doesn’t involve Pence, but I’d recommend reading it anyway.)
“Another Quixotic Crusade” does not use the same Deveraux that D. used, but, as you can see, I did borrow the shape shifting aspect.
Well? Everyone still following along? Okay with the Orwell/Rollo shipping I tossed in? You know how to let me know.
I’m not sure, but I think there may be one or two chapters left of this story.
Chapter 9: Can’t Believe You Don’t Know
“Gregor and I had already parted ways,” Max continued, referring to the madman who had thought he had been fit to wear the cape. “I was trying to turn over a new leaf and put Kozmo behind me…”
“Kozmo?” the wizard interrupted. He set his hockey stick down by his chair.
“Don’t ask,” Malini replied. “Anyway, I was traveling through Europe. I met Ruvi in Romania,” the telepathic member of their coven didn’t get along well with Vince, possibly because cops and criminals weren’t natural allies. “And together we came up with the idea of the Coven of Crime.”
“Did you say crime?” Harry asked. Vince sighed.
“They’re witches/thieves.” Harry stared at the cop.
“And they’re your friends? And you,” he turned back to Max, “I thought you said you were turning over a new leaf.”
“I was,” he grimaced. “Believe me Dresden, there are criminals and then there are criminals.”
“You were a warlock, weren’t you?” Dresden asked.
“I’d been on the way to becoming one, if you must know, but I managed to see the error of my ways before getting in trouble with the High Council. Anyhow, that’s in the past. I wouldn’t be caught breaking any of the Laws of Magic.
“Where was I? Oh yes, Ruvi and I continued traveling together, looking for new members to join our coven. We were in France when we met Deveraux.” Max slid his grimoire across to the private investigator. It was open to a page with an illustration on it of a young man with tousled dark hair and bright, mischievous eyes: Deveraux. Harry handed the book back and the witch continued.
“André was just coming into his powers. We asked him to join us and he fit right in. Can you imagine how much easier it is to rob a bank when you can change your appearance at will? Or when walls and vaults pose no obstacle to you?” Harry nodded.
“As a matter of fact, I do.”
“What happened?” Vince asked.
“Rollo joined our group,” Malini replied. “He didn’t get on with Deveraux. I don’t mean they clashed like you and Ruvi, Vincent. It was more like you and Gregor. Rollo sensed something about him that I hadn’t.”
“I’m a good judge of character,” Rollo put in. “I didn’t trust him. And sure enough, he started abusing his powers—” Harry snorted. “You got something to say, Mongo?”
“You use your powers to steal,” Dresden pointed out. He turned back to the vigilante. “Seriously, this doesn’t bother you?”
“They were the only ones that stuck by me when I was framed.” Orwell cleared her throat loudly. “Well, besides Orwell, I mean,” Vince clarified. “Although, they were there for me in the days after my ‘death,’ before Orwell and I became partners. If it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t be the Cape.
“And they’ve mostly been stealing from Peter these days,” Faraday said. “They’ve been better at getting back at him than I have. As long as no one gets hurt…”
“You don’t think there’s any danger of someone getting hurt during armed robbery?”
“We’re careful,” Max cut in. “More careful than vanilla mortals would be. But Deveraux wasn’t. He stopped caring, if he ever did.”
“So we kicked his ass to the curb,” Rollo added.
“He was powerful. It took three of us to chase him out of town and make him think twice before taking us on again. Next thing we know, Tarot’s recruiting him. The Magician is quite possibly their best weapon. He can infiltrate any building to get at his target and once the job is done, he can disappear without a trace.”
“Well, what about when he’s around technology?” Vince asked. “He can’t very well blend in if he wreaks as much havoc on appliances as you or Dresden.”
“He wouldn’t have to blend in for long,” Harry mused. “Just long enough to take care of his mark. And in the meantime, he could use a suppression spell, like the one I used when we flew on Fleming’s jet. So,” he rubbed his hands together, “how’re we gonna take down the bastard?”
“Before we get to that,” Max flicked his fingers and the pages of his grimoire turned, as if on their own accord. When they finally stopped, Max turned back to the wizard. “Vincent tells me your companion’s name is Robert Bainbridge?”
“It’s funny, because Vincent identified him as the spitting image of this man,” Max tapped the page for emphasis and held up the book, “the damned sorcerer, Hrothbert of Bainbridge.”
“He, I mean… That could be Bob’s ancestor, for all you know.”
“Except that Hrothbert didn’t sire any children before he was condemned to his skull, which means that you have a ghost at your disposal.” Harry scowled.
“What are you getting at?”
“There you are, Faraday,” Fleming’s voice drawled. The man made his way into a warehouse by the Palm City docks. “What are we doing here? I thought Scales had already been questioned.”
“He was. Thought you’d want to know that I found out why Stoykova was planning a trip to Chicago before he was killed.”
“Oh?” The hero watched the killer approach him without flinching.
“Well, if you’d found out that there was a warlock out to kill you, wouldn’t you look for a wizard for hire?”
Deveraux turned away from his intended victim and towards the speaker. He recognized the wizard he had fought at ARK Tower.
“So you’re calling yourself the Magician?” Dresden asked. He had his hockey stick ready. “Not very creative, is it?”
“You’re too late,” the warlock grinned. He spun around, knife in hand to plunge the blade into the cop…and stared as the weapon glowed and went through the man without harming him. “What the hell?”
“Maybe Faraday really was in that explosion last year and has been dead all along,” Harry suggested. A dark cape wrapped around the shape shifter’s torso and he was flung into the nearest wall. As the villain regained his feet, he looked up to see who had struck him and was met with the sight of Palm City’s beloved vigilante, the Cape.
“I think you’d better leave Faraday alone,” the Cape told him. The faux Fleming clenched his fists and rushed towards him. The vigilante prepared to use his signature weapon again to defend himself, but Harry intervened.
“Hey, that looks like fun. May I?” Without waiting for an answer, Harry pointed his staff at the enraged assassin. A column of air threw the enemy back across the room, but he recovered quickly and came towards them again.
“Oh, come on!” Harry complained.
“André!” Deveraux turned at the sound of his name.
“It’s been a long time, Max Malini. What brings you here?”
“Vince Faraday is a friend of mine,” Max replied.
“I’m sorry to hear that, Max. But Cain and Goggles are my friends. Faraday’s boss betrayed them. That hypocrite rules this city while his associates are left to rot in prison.”
“Give it up, André. We know you’re not Fleming. You won’t get away with framing him.”
Deveraux started to reply, but was pistol-whipped from behind by Dresden, who had snuck up on him. The wizard had laid his staff aside and taken a revolver out of one of his pockets while the warlock was distracted. The foe crumbled to the ground; the blow to the head had rendered him unconscious. Fleming’s features dissolved and were replaced by those depicted in Max’s grimoire. He had aged a few years since he’d been painted.
“I thought he’d never shut up,” Harry quipped.
“That’s rich, coming from you.” Faraday’s features glowed and then morphed into Bob’s.
“Should’ve left you back at the house,” Harry muttered.
“Hey,” Vince said, as he lowered his mask. “What were you going to do, use me as bait?”
“No, using Bob as bait was much safer,” Harry rolled his eyes. He turned to the shadows in one corner of the warehouse. “Can I have the skull back, now?”
Ruvi dispersed the concealment spell he’d been using and he and Orwell emerged from the corner. She held the skull out to the wizard.
“Relax. Here you go, Harry. See? It’s still in one piece.” He grunted.
“That warlock isn’t going to stay unconscious forever,” Bob pointed out. As if on cue, the real Fleming entered the warehouse. The billionaire looked around, approached the group, and nodded.
“Well done. Faraday, you’d better put your mask back on. I’ve got men on the way to bring the prisoner to Owl Island.”
“You know, Fleming,” Harry spoke up, “this guy broke the Laws of Magic. The High Council will want his head—literally.”
You think I don’t want to have his head? Peter frowned.
“Be that as it may, this isn’t Chicago and your High Council isn’t here. We’re in my city and we’ll play things my way.”
“Meaning send him to prison? He can teleport. What’s to stop him from escaping?”
“Dresden, if Owl Island can hold Gregor,” Max replied, referring to the master escape artist he’d once thought would be his successor, “it can hold Deveraux. Vincent, be sure to tell your friend the Secretary of Prisons to use running water in his holding cell.”
Somewhere, Harry remembered reading an article that said, “Pity the poor hero. Oh, he gets the girl and saves the planet, but where’s the fun in that?”* Frankly, Harry thought there was a great deal to be said for getting the girl.
But the hero wasn’t always so lucky.
“Vince?” Dana called out as her husband returned home with their house guests.
“I think we’d better go pack our stuff,” Harry said, before disappearing with Bob into the guest room, leaving Vince alone in the living room with Dana.
“They’re leaving?” Dana asked as they sat down on the couch.
“Yeah, they are. We just closed a case today and…that’s not what you wanted to talk about, is it?” Vince asked.
“No, it’s not. Vince, this isn’t easy for me to say. I want a divorce.”
“I thought it would be better for you to hear it from me than from a process server. I just… I can’t do this anymore.”
“What are you talking about?”
“I can’t keep pretending that I don’t see the things in front of me!” She lowered her voice. “I know about the Cape.” Vince winced.
“I was going to tell you—”
“No, you weren’t.”
“You’re divorcing me because of that?”
“I’m divorcing you because we’ve grown apart! We don’t have the same trust, the same relationship that we had before. And,” she blinked back tears, “and I saw you last night with Fleming.”
“What does he have to do with this?”
“Vince, it’s obvious that he’s in love with you.” The vigilante’s eyes went wide.
“WHAT? Dana there’s, I’m sure that you…” He shook his head. “I mean even if he did, it wouldn’t matter.” Dana wiped a tear off her cheek.
“It matters because you care for him. Maybe you can’t admit that right now, but sooner or later you’re going to figure out your feelings for him. I don’t want to just pretend that everything’s fine while I wait for that day to come. I’m tired of pretending, Vince.”
Rather than take his chances in Fleming’s jet again, Harry decided to return to Chicago by train. Fleming must’ve been in a good mood because he decided to pay Harry’s standard consulting fee.
Harry figured he’d better cash the check before the billionaire changed his mind.
Murphy stopped by the day after he and Bob got back. Harry thanked her for taking care of the cat. He was feeling bad that, while Faraday’s wife was divorcing him, he got to go home to his girlfriend. And then Murphy said:
“Harry, we need to talk.” She was breaking up with him. No, she hadn’t met someone else while he was in Palm City. She’d been doing some thinking and had come to the conclusion that they didn’t have a future together, except as friends.
“We will still be friends, right, Harry?”
“Of course, Murph,” he told her. She turned to go. “Hang on a second. I want to ask you something.”
“Murph, what was with all the jokes about Bob having a thing for me?” She stared at him.
“You’re serious. You don’t know. He does have a thing for you, Harry.” With that pronouncement, she left.
Harry collapsed in a chair, lost in his thoughts. That was how Bob found him some time later.
“Harry? Are you alright?”
“The other night at the Faradays’; I couldn’t quite make out your reaction when I said that ghosts can’t have sex.” He tilted his head. “Was I wrong, Bob?”
“Why do you want to know, Harry?”
*The article Harry read appeared in Time magazine and was “Villains Have More Fun. That’s Why Good Actors Turn Into Them In Summer,” by Richard Corliss.
I am proud to announce that my beta, Dragomir, declared the original draft of the chapter error-free.
So, what did you think of the ending? Not too awful, I hope.
This fic is over, but I’ve promised to write more Pence. Towards that end, I plan to start a fic entitled “The Baby Carriage,” which may or may not be an m-preg, depending on certain factors. Assuming it isn’t, it would not be set in this ‘verse. I’m thinking it’ll probably follow Blame It On the Perfume.
As I said at the start, this was my first time writing for “The Dresden Files.” I don’t know if I will write for it again, but who knows? Maybe I’ll write a Dresden Files/Quantum Leap crossover someday as a sequel to Leap For The Cape.
(Incidentally, The Cape of Kozmo is still on hiatus pending comments.)