I yawned and stretched my arms above my head to stretch out the stiff muscles in my back.
“Boss, you should consider getting rest,” Bob the Skull said. His blue eyelights shifted from the bubbling potion to me.
The spirit of air and intellect that was in the skull had been nameless when I’d killed the Warden who’d owned him. Justin DuMorne had been a moralistic idiot and had kept the spirit locked up instead of using him. Bob was the best investment I’d ever made, for he was an excellent advisor and not just on eldritch topics. I usually didn’t ignore his advise but this situation was mild enough that it wouldn’t hurt.
“Later,” I said absently. I considered the potion for a moment. I hadn’t quite managed to get the components right but once it was finished, the potion would allow me to wipe my presence completely from the mind of anyone who drank it. Any witnesses who saw me during my more enthusiastic uses of black magic would forget it. The potion would leave no trace for Wardens to find. Killing all those witnesses had quickly become a boring chore and while bullets were easy to get, there’s always the risk that I’d leave evidence behind. A risk that got greater with every murder. I didn’t like taking those chances even when the corpse was burned beyond recognition with a swift application of magical fire.
I do admit that I couldn’t help but laugh whenever I read the medical examiner’s report about spontaneous human combustion. Though, no maniacal laughter, I had to remember rule 20 from the Evil Overlord List.-1
Of course, if I had a servant, I wouldn’t have to be thinking about this.
“Bob, what do you think about a ghoul?” I asked.
“Well, they have rather tough meat. And I wouldn‘t like to think about how they‘d taste,” Bob said dryly.
I laughed, both amused and disgusted at that mental image. “Not for dinner, for a servant.”
Bob’s cold blue eyes were unwavering as he thought. “It is true that they are dangerous and having one around would help you get rid of those extra body parts you end with sometimes.”
I nodded. There was only so many fingers I could feed to Mister. He has a big cat but even he had his limits.
“But that same hunger makes them unreliable,” Bob continued. “I‘d recommend against it.”
I sulked. “Fine. No ghoul servant.” I sighed, “I just don‘t know if I want to invest in finding a another human who I like as much as Murphy.”
“With the right mental controls-”
I waved that away. “No! I‘ve told you. Mindless puppets are useless for delicate work. If I wanted a Renfield, I could make one. What I need is a trusted lieutenant.”
“Have you been reading the Evil Overlord List again?” Bob asked with a sigh. He’d told me more than once that he thought it was ridiculous that I followed the List. But I’d pointed out that there was a lot of good advice on it such as him being my adviser as opposed to by my slave. He’d quickly changed his tune about it.
“Yes. I’ve been thinking about the rule about having a kid advisor. And isn‘t the Archive just a little over five years old? So young, so malleable and so very powerful,” I said dreamily. The entire wealth of human knowledge in one little young mind. Talk about temptation.
“You‘d never be able to get her away from her protector,” Bob warned.
“We’ll see.” My grin was wide and sharp. “I need a kid to implement rule 12.”-2
Currently, my favorite person in the city was Lieutenant Karrin Murphy. She was in charge of the most corrupt, lazy, and sinful cops in the entire city of Chicago, which with its history was saying something. Special Investigations was the department that the rich and powerful called when they wanted their crimes swept under the radar. They got a lot of calls, and knew where a lot of skeletons were buried. Literally.
Murphy had enough blackmail material to control the entire city if she wanted. I’d been trying to convince her to come work for me instead, but she was a paranoid bitch who didn’t trust anyone. If wasn’t for the fact that mind control would make her useless for the job I had in mind, I’d have mind-whammied her years ago. Well, if she let me get close enough to try.
Paranoid, powerful and deadly. She was perfect.
If I thought I was capable of it, I’d say I was in love. But I knew I was just greedy to get her loyalty. She’d be an excellent lieutenant. If I could win her loyalty I’d never have to worry about watching my back. Well, I’d still would, I was a bastard not stupid, but I’d have less reason to worry about getting knifed.
Murphy was surprisingly loyal considering her job and it showed in how she treated her people. She’d been the one to find and hire me on as a consultant to make their lives easier. And I consulted alright, by getting rid of evidence and using my magic to obliterate details that forensics people would have been able to find. I’d also burned down the occasional building for her. Magic fire is perfect for convincing insurance companies to pay out for an ‘accidental’ fire.
The spike in insurance premiums since I’ve come to Chicago is no accident.
“Lieutenant,” I purred as I leaned against her oak desk. The golden wood shone softly with polish. Her officer was bigger than some apartments I’d seen. Once I’d have said it was bigger than my apartment, if I hadn’t bought the entire building a couple of years ago.
She arched her blonde eyebrows at me. “Dresden,” she sighed. “Are you my karma for the Claudine case last week? Because if you are I‘d rather trade you in for a flat tire. Get your ass off my desk.”
“Lieutenant, I‘m hurt,” I said, not moving. “I‘m here to ask you to reconsider my job offer. Again.”
“And here I thought you were working for me,” she said, her blue eyes were flat and hard.
“Like I need to,” I said with a low chuckle. First thing I‘d done when I‘d gotten to Chicago was to make a tidy fortune. Magic was useful in so many ways especially without pesky morals getting in the way.
She started to get that look that said she was thinking about getting out her gun so I finally got off her desk.
“I just wanted to come in for my monthly job offer.” I put my palm to my heart. “I promise I’ve taken out the clause about you needing to wear a black leather bikini, not even for special occasions.” I hadn’t been happy when I realized that I had to adjust rule 33, but Murphy was worth it.-3 She was a martial artist and a crack shot.
She rolled her eyes.
I smirked. “Think about it, you could make your minions wear the skimpy leather outfits.”
She snorted and thawed enough to quirk up the corner of her mouth.
I considered it another solid blow against her defenses. Since I haven’t been able to get her to sign on with me right away, Plan B was to wear her down. And it was working.
I left her office with a smug smirk and a saunter.
By the time I hit the exit doors of the SI precinct, I was cheerfully whistling. Considering my reputation, and my known connection to Murphy, I wasn’t expecting to get flanked by two large bulky men.
I narrowed my eyes at them as I walked.
“Please come with us, Mr. Dresden,” the blond said. His hair was spiked up with hair gel.
“Now why would I want to do that?” I asked Spike with a wolfish grin.
“If you don’t we‘ll arrest you,” the redhead growled. His hair was a bright shade of red, shaved close to this head, and a nose that looked like it had been broken more than once.
Spike pulled a out a badge with the blue letters of the FBI.
I snorted derisively and stretched out my long legs, forcing the agents to speed up. “If you wanted to arrest me you won‘t be accosting me on the street.”
My change in speed made me notice the dark blue sedan. It had sped up with me. Now it was following me along on the street. I considered it thoughtfully, and that’s when the redhead thumped a meaty hand down on my shoulder and all but shoved me into the car.
I scowled as I sat on the seat across from a man whose demeanor all but screamed federal agent. He had on a suit, one that fit him well, but you could tell it wasn’t tailored to his frame by the more exacting and expensive tailors in the city. He was a little over six feet tall and had intelligent green eyes that reminded me of old dollar bills. He took every inch of me in with a cool assessing glance. He didn’t look dangerous. Not at first. And if you didn’t know who he was it would be easy to dismiss him since he looked more like a handsome football coach or a PE teacher than anything else, but I did know him.
Agent John ‘Gentleman’ Marcone, the head of the major crimes division for the FBI here in Chicago. A man who’d made it his life’s mission to take down the mafia in the city. And he’d succeeded too. Every major crime family in Chicago was in jail or had agreed to turn witness against other criminals. He’d gotten that nickname of ‘Gentleman’ for the polite demeanor he had of treating suspects. And don’t make the mistake in thinking that made him the good cop. Once he made his arrests there was nothing gentlemanly about him.
Hell, I wouldn’t have been able to create such a large powerbase in Chicago without him clearing the path for me. You could say, I owed him one, so I didn’t burn up the car with a one of my fire spells.
“My apologies, Mr. Dresden, I didn‘t intend us to ambush you like this,” Marcone said calmly.
“Really?” I asked dryly. I looked over where the redhead kept scowling at me then back at Marcone. “Because if I had to guess, I‘d say that‘s exactly what you wanted to do.” I gave him a confident smirk
“I’d intended to speak to you later in the week,” Marcone explained. “But seeing you here was an opportunity that I couldn‘t pass up.”
“Are you aware that there has been a new drug released in the streets of Chicago called ThreeEye?”
I shrugged. “I‘ve heard of it, but what’s it got to do with me?”
“There’ve been some interesting reports of what has been said by the people under its influence. For example, your name has been mentioned more then once,” Marcone said.
I arched my eyebrows. Now, that I hadn’t heard. As far as I knew, ThreeEye was a normal mortal drug. There was no reason that my name should be coming up and getting to the ears of mortal authorities. I don’t deal with drugs. It’s one of those rare lines I don’t cross.
My eyes narrowed. But if my name was really being bandied around then some people were going to lose that ability to talk… along with their heads.
“According to the CPD files on their consultants you describe yourself as a wizard?”
There was enough of a questioning tone in Marcone’s voice to make me roll my eyes. That’s one of the things that I hate about dealing with vanilla mortals. They are so skeptical about everything related to magic. At least until you blow up something in their faces. Then they screamed so satisfyingly.
“Yes, I am,” I said, and caught his eyes with my own. I held his gaze long enough to spark off a soulgaze.
And I wasn’t expecting what I saw in the depths of Marcone’s soul. I had expected to see a white knight. The sort of foolish sop who tilted at windmills. Someone who was a ‘hero’. And I wasn’t going to deny that I didn’t see some of that heroic quality in him for Marcone was a man who would stand in front of a bullet for a stranger. But I also saw a man with such a ruthless core that if he hadn‘t been able to use legal means to accomplish his goals, it would’ve been just as easy for him to break the law. He was a man capable of killing without remorse, especially those who threatened the ones he considered to be under his protection. He was a predator through and through, kept in check by his oaths to uphold the law. All that and he was being driven by something I couldn’t see.
The soulgaze ended as I breathed in deeply. I noticed something else that surprised me about the man. Marcone had sat back after the soulgaze ended. That was it.
I’ve had people scream, faint, turn pale and even become gibbering wrecks after a soulgaze with me. Marcone had taken a deep look at my soul and hadn’t even flinched.
You know how I’d said before I wasn’t capable of love? I’ve changed my mind. I was in love.
Marcone was a man with a tiger soul. I wanted to call him mine. And not just in a trusty lieutenant kind of way though he’d be a good one, maybe even better than Murphy. No, I wanted more from him than that.
I wanted him at my side, not at my back.
“My apologies, Mr. Dresden,” Marcone said calmly. “I can see for all your various sins you’re not a drug dealer.”
“I‘d never touch the stuff,” I said as I gave Marcone my best charming smile. I leaned closer to him. Spike stiffened while the redhead went for his sidearm gun. “Calm down,” I said to them, without looking away from Marcone. He merely tilted his head and watched me calmly. I asked him, “Are you doing anything on Friday?”
“Are you asking me on a date, Mr. Dresden?” Marcone asked. The incredulous tone in his voice made my grin widen.
“Yes, I am, John,” I said.
“I would prefer if you called me, Agent Marcone,” he said dryly.
“If that‘s the way your kinks run,” I said with a shrug.
Spike stifled a laugh into a cough and the redhead pulled out his gun.
“Agent Hendricks,” Marcone warned. “Put away your sidearm.”
Hendricks reluctantly did so. I mentally tagged him for elimination whenever I could spare the time. Clearly, he was going to be an obstacle.
“As flattered as I am by the attention, Mr. Dresden. I‘m afraid I must decline,” Marcone said. He signaled to the driver and the sedan slowed to a stop.
“Call me, Harry,” I said. I pulled a card from my pocket. “This is my private line. If you have any more questions for me, any at all, I‘m always available for you, Agent Marcone.” And as I handed him the card, I caught his hand in my own. He tucked away the card without commenting on the way I’d slid my fingers down his palm. “I‘d be more than willing to consult with you anytime,” I continued.
So I wasn’t being subtle. No one ever said that being evil required subtlety. Well… not all the time.
Marcone inclined his head and I stepped out of the car onto the sidewalk.
As I watched Marcone and the rest of his FBI agents vanish into Chicago traffic I couldn’t help but think about rule 53.-4 I hadn’t exactly broken it. Marcone was no princess, and I hadn’t exactly proposed marriage with my date, but I had the feeling that if it did get to that point I wouldn’t be able to follow through and kill him.
Hmm, I’d almost consider it a problem but I was honestly looking forward to talking him around to my side. I had time on my side.
I returned to my cheerful whistling as I stalked off to find my car, and I wondered if the hetero-normative slant of the Evil Overlord List should be revised. Or better yet, not changed at all. I kind of liked it that nowhere on the list was there a rule were the Evil Overlord couldn’t set out to seduce the hero, because that was exactly what I was going to do.
And if seduction didn’t work, there's always rule 8.-5
1- Rule # 20: Despite its proven stress-relieving effect, I will not indulge in maniacal laughter. When so occupied, it's too easy to miss unexpected developments that a more attentive individual could adjust to accordingly.
2- Rule # 12. One of my advisors will be an average five-year-old child. Any flaws in my plan that he is able to spot will be corrected before implementation.
3- Rule # 33: I won't require high-ranking female members of my organization to wear a stainless-steel bustier. Morale is better with a more casual dress-code. Similarly, outfits made entirely from black leather will be reserved for formal occasions.
4- Rule #53: If the beautiful princess that I capture says "I'll never marry you! Never, do you hear me, NEVER!!!", I will say "Oh well" and kill her.
5- Rule #8: After I kidnap the beautiful princess, we will be married immediately in a quiet civil ceremony, not a lavish spectacle in three weeks' time during which the final phase of my plan will be carried out.