The whole thing started with Hendricks' stupid homemade lunch.
Actually, it really didn't start there -- as usual, it started with an ugly demon who was out for either my blood or John Marcone's, or possibly both. It was a little unclear to me at this juncture, which was why we were sitting in an elevator stuck in-between floors with as much protection as I could write onto the grimy walls.
But that -- the being stuck in an elevator business -- that was all par for the course. A freakishly routine day for Harry Dresden. It was probably also starting to be a little routine for Marcone, and I spared a brief second to wonder if it affected his business.
Knowing Marcone? I'm betting not.
It sure as hell was affecting me, though, because given the choice, I'd rather not be stuck in a metal box with a linebacker-reject and a mob boss while waiting for a demon to exceed his limited-time-only jaunt on this plane of existence.
Actually, that wasn't even the part that was freaking me out. Oh no, of course not. The above was not sufficiently crazy for my life.
Please add one sleep-deprived mafia lord who settled in the elevator with aplomb, cast one put-out glance at his non-functioning Blackberry, and said, "Mister Dresden, would you do me a favor?"
"I assume you mean beyond making sure Mister Pointy-Teeth out there doesn't eat you and the homecoming king, here," I said, scrutinizing the protections I'd written on the walls.
"Well, as we're going to be here for another six hours, perhaps I could borrow your lap?"
"My lap?" I repeated.
Marcone sighed. "Mister Dresden, my business hardly runs from nine to five. If we're to be stuck here, I would like to use the time profitably. And as I am apparently unable to get any work done at the moment, that leaves me with one alternative."
I tried to wrap my mind around the idea that the premiere mob boss of Chicago was telling me that he'd like to take a nap. "Wait, why do you need my lap? You've got a perfectly good henchman over there."
"Mister Hendricks has enough knives on his person that I'm wary of using him as a pillow. You understand, of course," Marcone said urbanely.
"I could have knives on me, too," I said.
Marcone just looked at me.
I was about to suggest that Marcone make use of the floor instead of me, but realized that, as ever, Gentleman Johnny was supremely practical -- it really wasn't a large elevator, after all. So I threw my hands up and muttered, "Fine, be my guest."
Marcone carefully folded up a trenchcoat that would have cost me three months' rent and put it across my thighs.
And that's how I ended up with a mob boss snoozing on my lap. I seriously don't know how the hell I get into these situations.
If anyone was under the impression that John Marcone had done a sufficient number of suitably horrible things that he wouldn't be able to sleep at night, they were sadly mistaken. I've really never seen anyone drop off like that. Hell, it usually takes me a good half hour of tossing and turning before I fall asleep.
He didn't even snore, which was beyond unfair.
Hendricks, that big lug, was just sitting there watching me. All things considered, I think my nerves are pretty steady, but anyone would get antsy with someone just staring at them for an hour.
"What?" I said finally, trying to be quiet. "Quit staring, you're creeping me out."
He looked pointedly at his boss's head, resting in my lap.
I sighed. "Look, I get that it's your job to protect him. You might remember that I'm doing my best to keep us all from getting killed by Ugly, Green, and Goopy out there -- why bother to save you if I was just planning on getting homicidal in the elevator?"
Hendricks' little piggy eyes narrowed in suspicion. Clearly, logic wasn't that reassuring. Or maybe he was just that loyal to Marcone.
"Look," I said. "Would it make you feel better if this was on your side of the elevator?" I gestured to the blasting rod lying against my side.
Evidently, some logic was able to penetrate Hendricks' thick skull. "Keep it," he rumbled. "Just in case." And then he redirected his stare just slightly from me to his boss.
Well, that was less unnerving, anyway. Except for the part where John Marcone was still breathing softly on my lap.
I was really starting to get bored. I'd take a page out of Marcone's book if I wasn't, you know, trapped in an elevator and trying to evade a demon who had some serious issues with spatial relations.
I shifted my legs slightly. Even sitting on my duster, certain parts of my anatomy were definitely falling asleep. Hendricks was really trying to stay awake, but enforced inactivity was taking its toll on the both of us.
I tried to think of a conversation starter, even though I knew Hendricks wasn't a talker, not by any stretch of the imagination. And really, how many innocuous topics are available when you're talking to a thug? If Marcone had been awake, we probably could have found something to talk about relatively easily.
Then Hendricks took a deep breath, and said, "Cubs."
"Huh?" I admit my mind immediately went to the actual animal, which maybe proved that I needed to get out more.
"Cubs game yesterday. Played the Tigers."
Oh my god, I was about to make small talk about Chicago baseball with a mob enforcer. In an elevator. With his boss on my lap, while waiting out a demon. Why is this my life?
Hendricks really had a crazy encyclopedic knowledge of baseball. And here I'd thought the inside of his head was all muscle.
"I'm hungry," I said eventually. "We missed lunch."
Hendricks frowned at that, and then dug into the pockets of his coat and produced a brownbag.
I stared at him. "You brought lunch with you?"
He shrugged. "My girl made it for me."
I tried to come to terms with the idea that Hendricks, who really did look like someone had flattened his face with a bat, had a girlfriend. One who packed him lunches.
The universe was manifestly not fair.
The brownbag contained two turkey sandwiches, an apple, and what looked like a homemade brownie wrapped in plastic.
"I'm not giving you the brownie," Hendricks warned.
I held my hands up in a non-threatening gesture. "Half a sandwich and the apple?"
Hendricks grunted. "Boss doesn't like Granny Smiths, anyway."
Everyone in the elevator, with the exception of me, was asleep.
Hendricks had dropped off pretty quickly after devouring his lunch. He saved half a sandwich and half the brownie for Marcone -- I think he honestly meant to leave Marcone a whole sandwich, but the guy was the size of a tank, after all, and probably needed almost as much fuel.
I was trying to keep myself occupied by remembering all the potions I'd worked on in the last few weeks. To be honest, I might have dozed off a little myself, because the next thing I knew, Marcone said quietly, "Don't stop on my account, Mister Dresden."
"Huh?" I said intelligently.
And then I realized my hand was in his hair. And that I'd probably been absently stroking it. I don't know why I keep giving people new and inventive reasons to have me killed.
"How long have I been asleep?" Marcone asked, sounding calm, and not in the deadly sort of way, either.
My wind-up watch was generally pretty reliable. "A little more than three hours, I think."
Marcone stifled a slight yawn. "You're quite a patient man."
I hunched my shoulders and looked away, a little embarrassed. "You looked like you needed it."
I didn't have to look at his face to know his mouth curved into a sly smile. "Worried for my health, Mister Dresden?"
"Don't look at me. Your flunky's the one who saved you some food. Did you know his girlfriend packs him lunches?"
Marcone sat up slowly, and I passed him the leftovers. "How remarkable," he said, accepting the sandwich and brownie with good grace. Clearly, he wasn't too proud to turn it down -- or maybe he was just that hungry. I wondered how far down he'd started -- maybe this had been normal to John Marcone, once upon a time.
He looked strangely charming, his hair rumpled while he slowly ate his sandwich.
I really needed to get out more.
"Another two hours, then?" Marcone asked, as though he were waiting for a plane and not for a demon to get shredded up by its time limit.
"Almost exactly," I said. "Seriously, John, I don't know what you did to piss that thing off, but I'd really recommend that you not do it again."
"And how do you know, Harry, that it wasn't you who upset it?"
"Don't call me that," I said automatically.
"Fair's fair," he said, those money-colored eyes heavy-lidded with amusement.
"Bite me," I muttered without any heat.
"You seem a bit cranky -- perhaps you could use a nap, as well."
I scowled at him. "That's a generous offer, really, but I'm not about to crawl onto your lap and --"
"And what?" he prompted. I made the mistake of looking in his eyes, and gulped a little at what I saw there.
It was entirely possible that I had cabin-fever and was hallucinating or something, but it really seemed to me that John Marcone wanted me on his lap, and not to sleep, either.
At least, that was what I deduced from his hand on my thigh.
"You were the one who said you were bored," he murmured, leaning closer.
"That doesn't mean we should -- Jesus, your bodyguard is right here!" I whispered in horrified panic.
"Is that your only objection? I assure you, he's a sound sleeper."
My mind raced, trying to come up with some other really compelling reason why I shouldn't make out with Gentleman Johnny in an elevator, beyond the fact that he was a mob boss, decidedly male, and his goon was less than a foot away and dead to the world.
He slid one hand across my cheek and leaned over, pressing me against the elevator wall, and kissed me.
Rational thinking was probably overrated, anyway.
There were probably some things that John Marcone wasn't completely shameless about, but apparently, making out in elevators with other men wasn't one of them.
Maybe, I thought dazedly, this was what a regular high school kind of life was like. Getting it on in confined places, trying not to get caught. Undoubtedly, a regular high school guy didn't have to contend with mafia lords who had some seriously roaming hands and were maybe a little too fond of giving hickeys.
"You should really stop being so stubborn," he murmured in my ear, "and agree to work for me."
I was trying hard to ignore the fact that I had both hands up his expensive dress shirt and was clutching at his back. "Can we please not talk shop while we're--"
I could feel him smile against my neck. "My apologies."
Marcone was nice enough to cease and desist when Hendricks made a snuffling sound and woke up, about half an hour ago.
Of course, there wasn't much doubt as to how we'd been occupying ourselves. If Marcone was a little mussed, I'm sure I looked like I'd been rolled in a haystack.
Hendricks didn't look too shocked, although he was clearly trying not to think about it. Hell, I was trying not to think about it. I'd clearly taken leave of my senses, or maybe Marcone had.
"A shame," Marcone was saying. "I'll have to reschedule all of my appointments from this afternoon."
I rolled my eyes. "Yeah, what a pity -- you had to take a break for a few hours so you didn't get slimed."
"Don't think I'm not grateful, Mister Dresden," Marcone said. "Perhaps you'll allow me to escort you to dinner as thanks."
"That's really completely unnecessary."
"Oh, I disagree. You did give me lunch, after all."
I waved wildly in Hendricks' direction. "I told you, it was his lunch! Packed by his girlfriend! I had nothing to do with it!"
And just then, the hand on my watch clicked over, and the protective writing on the wall of the elevator disappeared, as if it melted away. I pressed the appropriate button on the control panel -- hoping that all things electrical wouldn't bail on me at once -- and the elevator resumed its descent.
We were out of the building before I stopped and said, "We're not going to one of your places."
Marcone just smiled, as ruthlessly charming as ever. "Of course not," he said, and I allowed him to hustle me into his stupidly expensive car and off into the fading sunset of downtown.