The first time I ever saw my daughter, she was being mugged in a back alley, and holding her own fairly well. She was going after the last of her attackers with a gleam in her eyes that underscored the ferocity of her attacks – her eyes were oddly familiar, and there was a hint of Tiger in them. But the one guy whose arm she had almost dislocated with a move that looked spectacularly like something Murphy would do, was coming at her again from behind. At the time, I had no idea that she was my daughter, but none the less the girl was about to get her backside kicked and the only thought running through my head was ‘oh, hell no’.
Yeah, I’m a chivalry lemming or whatever. Doesn’t necessarily equate to a bad thing.
So I dove into the fray with my staff swinging, and got jumped by four of them. The staff got left by the wayside, and I was getting royally thumped despite my throwing them around with a word, when a soft, contralto voice murmured ‘forzare’ in a questioning tone, and then swore, creatively and religiously, as all three of the men attacking me went flying.
“Holy Saint Gabriel the bloody Archangel!” she yelped. “What the hell just happened?”
I smirked. New talents are so funny.
“That was you using magic, sweetheart. I’m going to need to talk to your parents. Where do you live?”
She raised an eyebrow at me, like ‘why would I do that, Mr ….. oh yeah, I don’t know your name!’. I sighed, and introduced myself.
“Melpomene.” She gave me two addresses. The first, I dutifully wrote down. The second I almost broke my pencil as I did a double take over – it was my own.
“Not funny, sweetheart.”
“I’m not joking, Dad.” She winked, and gave me her name again. “Melpomene Elaine Dresden.”
I swore, but took her home none the less.
Bob and I spent the next three hours putting together a heritage tracing spell for Mel, less because I didn’t believe her, and more because I was worried that, with a middle name like hers, she might have actually been Elaine’s – God knows it was possible – and who knows what had happened to her if she was. Hell, if she was Elaine’s, then Justin DuMorne could still be alive, and that meant all kinds of tragic things could have been done to Mel. She did look like me. She had the thick, curly black hair Thomas and I shared, except hers was far longer than either of ours, coming down to her elbows. She was the same tall, lanky build as me, and her eyes were oddly familiar, but not mine. Or, now I came to think about it, Elaine’s. Bob finished dictating the spell to me and I jerked myself out of my thoughts as I drew the runes onto the floor in chalk. Mel sat at the top of the stairs to my basement, drinking a coke – her third, I thought – and watching with interest. I waved my staff around a bit and spoke the words and left the spell to work.
“Do you remember anything about where you came from?” I asked as Mel took another swig from her coke and leant back against the trapdoor.
“I remember you, and being here. And your office. And I remember Uncle Thomas, and a big dog, and Mister. And, for some strange reason, I remember Bob.”
The skull spluttered. I turned to glare at him and he started to laugh, informing us our expressions matched exactly, and Mel laughed, but it turned into a strangled cough as she choked on her coke. “I remember Bob,” she said finally, after I’d pounded her on the back a few times, “with purple lights in his eyes.”
I stared at her for a moment, taking in the information.
“That would mean you knew Bob with another owner…” I muttered.
“I hate to break it to you, Boss, but I’ve never had purple eyes.” Bob said, beginning to look uncomfortable.
“So I’m what, foremembering?” asks Mel, her forehead crinkling with confusion. I smiled at the Disc reference, and jumped as Bob made a dinging noise to indicate the spell was done. We both turned back to the floor, and Mel grabbed the far side of the trap door to swing herself to the floor. The chalk had re-arranged itself, making it obvious that Mel was my daughter. The other parent, however, was blurred and unrecognisable, but it was making Bob choke and splutter, and I had the oddest feeling that he was grinning at me. Mel smiled up at me and I wrapped an arm around her shoulder. Almost on a whim, I pressed a kiss to the top of her head, and smiled as she snuggled into me.
Things changed quickly after that. Mel became a part of my life faster than I had ever expected possible. She cooked, and cleaned, and baked – the best damn cookies I have ever eaten, ever, period – and sang. She liked to wear flowers in her hair (normally fake), and typically dressed in a Gypsy-bohemian style that involved a long flowing skirt and a peasant blouse. And she took a liking to calling my friends her ‘Aunt’s and ‘Uncle’s. Murphy was Aunt Karrin – to the amusement of all of SI, right up until she started calling Rawlins ‘Uncle Henry’. That caused a small amount of confusion before Mel was ‘Little Lady’ and they all looked at her like a little sister. Mel made me very popular at SI, and made me a regular consultant.
Well, she did. Right up until we had our first fight.
Mel loved to bake, and did so more than I could eat. She was also baking more than I could afford. She’d started doing odd jobs around her magical education – ushering at the local movie theatre, waiting tables at a café across the road from the Uni. And, apparently, selling baked goods in a small market on the uni grounds. Rawlins had pulled her out of a trip to the cells because she’d been selling them without a permit. We’d started fighting over it. Finally, Mel had enough, and stormed out of the small apartment with her keys and her bag, and didn’t come back for three hours, at which point it was getting dark, I was getting worried, and Bob was running through tracking spells.
He’d never admit it, but Bob loved Mel as much as I did.
But right as I was about to cast the first spell, the phone began to ring. I could almost hear Mel’s quiet contralto over the line, telling me where she was and could I pick her up, please? The voice that echoed down the line after my embarrassingly anxious ‘Dresden’ was not the one I was expecting.
“Harry.” said John Marcone, at his cool, calm and collected best, “Would you like to inform me as to why a very pissed off teenager is sitting at my kitchen table, cussing you out over chocolate covered strawberries and discussing Nietzsche with Hendricks?”
I may have sworn then.
Marcone gave me an address, and I leapt into the Beetle and drove across the city. At a red light halfway to the Loop, I double-checked the address in my pocket. Instead of the crisp white notepaper, I drew out a battered scrap with one and a half addresses on it that I hadn’t looked at in months. The first address Mel had given me was exactly the same as the one Marcone had just read out to me. “Dammit Mel.” I muttered flooring the accelerator as the light turned green. “What have you gotten me into?”
Marcone met me at the door, and smiled.
“Nathan and Mel have moved on to Plato and Aristotle. You would have liked the Nietzsche – your daughter has some pressing evidence for the continued existence of God.” I hated the idea of Mel spending time here, but, in all honesty, I had no idea why she was here. I watched her through the door as she laughed with Cuj – Nathan, I corrected myself, and then wondered why – and then, on a hunch, tried the heritage spell again – in the middle of Marcone’s living room floor, because I knew it would annoy him. This time, the second name was shockingly clear.
My Godmother’s laughter was mocking.
“Well done, Harry. You and John ought to raise a fine daughter.”
It was all she would say to me before she leapt back into the Nevernever, and I turned to look at Marcone with frustration in my eyes.
“You could…” said Mel, softly, and then faded into silence.
“We could what, Melly?” I asked.
“You could move here, with Father –“ we both stiffened at her use of the name for Marcone. I was Dad, and I knew it, but to hear her use the term for Marcone was very strange. “And we could all live together. With Uncle Nate and Aunt Sigrun!”
John was actually gaping now, but Hendricks just grinned.
“Uncle Nate?” he said.
“Who else but the crazy Uncle would talk about Nietzsche with me.” Mel joked, making him laugh. I raised my eyebrows at John.
“I’m not moving in with him.” I snarled.
He raised his eyebrows at me.
“I rather pull teeth.” sneered John.
Mel pulled puppydog eyes on the both of us.
They are terrible, those eyes, and they ruin any hope for resistance. I think Mel learnt them off Ivy.
And that is how I moved in to a house on the Loop with John Marcone, and my daughter became the little sister of both the Chicago mob (to whom she was Lady Mel), and SI. It is also, however, far from the end of the tale.