Because I’m not a total idiot, even if Bob said otherwise during those times some of my spells didn’t come out quite right, I went looking for the supplier of ThreeEye.
I wasn’t happy that my name was being connected to the drug, and while I do occasionally kill people, that’s usually because I need their lives to power a spell or their parts for spell components. I don’t waste them with addiction. I have very strong and negative feelings about drugs. When it comes to the evil things I’m willing to do, pushing drugs are not on the list. Hell, there’s a reason I pick drug dealers to kill, a lot of the time. And not just because everyone knows those guys have short life spans anyway.
I hate dealers and their drugs with a passion. They’re the reason my mother died.
I never knew my father. He’d died as soon as I was born, and my mother raised me until I was ten. She taught me all she could about magic, including how to use the darker arts without becoming a raving maniac. She’d died from a shoot out because some idiot had seen her witness a drug deal gone bad and had killed her rather than risk her becoming a witness. At least that’s how the cops had explained it to me.
It took me a year but I found the bastard who‘d pulled the trigger. He’d been my first kill.
I ended up in the foster system for a couple years afterwards before DuMorne found me. He’d taken me in as a foster father because he’d thought he could save me. I don’t know why, I never asked him to. Then when I turned sixteen he found out about the dark magic and tried to kill me. I killed him first. And no, I wasn’t stupid enough to use magic to kill him. I’d shot him, rule four was very important rule to follow, especially for a wizard.-1
I carry a gun because my mother had taught me about the Laws of Magic. One of them is that a wizard can‘t use magic to kill people. The Laws carry an automatic death sentence if a wizard is found breaking them. But they‘re not as absolute as the White Council likes to think. My mother explained to me the limits, the grey areas and how to manipulate those borderlands of magical law.
Since my killing of DuMorne was clear cut case of self-defense, at least that was how I spun it to the Wardens that showed up afterwards, and I hadn’t broken any Laws of Magic, they had to let me go. Because I was fully aware that Wardens could kill me without even a trial if they caught on to me, I made doubly certain that my name was never attached to mortal crimes. While it wasn’t their area of jurisdiction, a lot of Wardens kept track of which wizards broke mortal laws in order to know who to investigate for magical crimes.
So hearing my name was mentioned in connection to an illegal drug had me seething.
Which is how I ended up in the bar of a disreputable man best known by the name of Mac. MacAnally’s Pub, was the gathering place of low-powered practitioners of magic. Mac not only produced some of the best microbrew in the city, he also kept an eye on the rumors passed around and for a fee he passed them on to me. For an even bigger payday, he’d added lies to the rumor mill.
I was lucky that he liked me enough not to bleed me dry when I’d signed him on retainer. It helped that I scared off a lot of the local riffraff that had been hassling him for protection money. With most of the old mafia families locked up in prison a lot of small time gangs had begun to move into their territories at least until I’d chased them away and claimed the area around the pub for my own. Obviously, the inside of the pub was still Mac’s.
“Mac,” I greeted him, as I leaned against the bar. Mac grunted, grabbed a bottle of beer, opened it with a twist of a large hand and placed it right in front of me.
I picked it up and swallowed it down with an appreciative hum. I preferred to drink cold beer, but there were limits of what I could pay Mac to do. Serving me his beer cold was one of those things. I finished off the bottle then set it back down. “What do you know about this ThreeEye drug that‘s going around?”
“Nasty stuff,” Mac said.
“And?” I asked impatiently. For a man whose side business involved trading in information, getting it out of him could be like pulling teeth.
“Opens up the third eye.”
Hell’s bells, that wasn’t possible. At least, I hadn’t thought it was. Clearly, I needed to revise that line of thought.
“Do you know where it‘s coming from?”
“No,” Mac grunted.
“Dammit,” I sighed. Then I pulled a brown envelop from my jacket pocket and handed to Mac. It vanished under his counter. “The moment you hear more, call me.” The money would make certain that he would.
Mac grunted again and I left the pub lost in thought.
The second source of information that I could use was Susan Rodriguez. She was a reporter that worked for a tabloid: The Midwestern Arcane. It was the sort of newspaper that published articles about alien abductions or Bigfoot sightings. The occasional accurate article came from Susan’s fingers, usually because I was her source. We had a mutually beneficial relationship in that we used each other for information.
Where Mac was my ear in the supernatural community, she was my one for mortal information. She doesn’t know it but she was my spy master. She could ferret out a lot of info that I couldn‘t. Mostly, I admit, because she can use a computer. I kill technology especially anything so delicate and advanced as a computer, which made it difficult for me to look up a lot of information unless I was willing to sink hours into a library. Susan had access to a lot of databases which meant she could answer a question for me in minutes, and she knew better than to lie to me. She was also pretty easy to control because all I had to do was the dangle the promise of a potential story in front of her and she’d do anything I asked.
Well, nearly anything. I knew my limits. Because if she ever found out about my darker activities, I’d be splashed all over the Arcane‘s front page with the screaming headline: Harry Dresden: Wizard Serial Killer!
Ugh, no. I’m not a serial killer. Mass murderer, on the other hand? Is more accurate.
I found a lone payphone on a street corner and plugged in enough quarters to get through to Susan’s line at the Arcane.
“Rodriguez. What do you have for me about ThreeEye?”
I chuckled at her demanding tone. “And here I thought I was going to be asking you that.”
“Harry Dresden,” she purred. “My favorite wizard in the world.”
“I‘m the only wizard you know,” I said dryly.
“You‘re calling about ThreeEye?” she asked. “Aw, I was hoping that you would be calling to set up another date. I need another night like Saturday.”
Oh, did I forget to mention we occasionally hopped into bed together? What can I say? I’m a man with needs as much as I am an aspiring Evil Overlord.
“That was a good night,” I said, smirking at the memory of her very lovely screams. “But I‘m going to have to make a rain check for next time… if there’s a next time.”
“Oh?” She laughed wickedly. “Don‘t tell me you found someone. I don‘t believe it. You only care for yourself.”
I rolled my eyes. “Yes, well, I can make an exception.”
“Who is it?” Susan’s voice was deeply amused. “Who would put up with you?”
I scowled. “It doesn’t matter right now. I want everything you’ve got on ThreeEye.”
“Hmm, no,” she said.
I narrowed my eyes. “Susan,” I said, warningly.
“Give me a name, then I‘ll spill,” she said. “Come on, Harry. A girl likes to know who‘s the competition.” Her voice dropped dangerously. “It‘s not that bitch of a cop, is it?”
Murphy and Susan hated each other. I fully expected to find one of them standing over the other’s body one of these days. Or in bed together. Their animosity was so intense that I was almost tempted to implement rule 98, just in case.-2
“It‘s not Murphy,” I said, rolling my eyes. “You wouldn‘t know them.”
I sighed in irritation and reminded myself that I couldn’t kill her for annoying me. I really did appreciate her talents and not just in bed. “His name is Marcone.”
I heard a thump through the phone and then Susan distantly cursing.
“Agent Marcone? FBI Agent Marcone?” she yelled, once she got a grip on the phone again.
“We‘re not actually dating,” I admitted. I grinned as I heard her sputter. “Give me time, I‘ll change that.”
“I know he‘s investigating ThreeEye,” she said. “Is that why you‘re looking into it? You want to impress him?”
That was a good of an excuse as any.
“I‘ll only impress him if I can find something,” I said pointedly.
“Harry, just to help you tumble him into bed I‘ll help you for free,” she said with a laugh. “But I‘ve got to warn you, he’s a hard man to get a hold of, and even harder to get into bed.”
“He refused to let you interview him, didn‘t he?”
She sniffed in disgust then sighed. “I didn‘t even get past the front desk.”
I smirked. That sounded like the Marcone I wanted. “ThreeEye,” I reminded her.
“Promise me one thing.”
“What?” I said warily.
“That you‘ll try to talk him into a threesome.”
“Okay,” I lied easily. When I succeeded in getting Marcone at my side, I wasn’t going to share. I’m too much of a possessive bastard, but there’s no reason to tell Susan that.
Just as well, as it turned out the information that Susan had wasn’t much. She did manage to give me the details of an article that wasn’t yet in print about a pair of junkies who’d burned down a store. They’d sworn to the reporter that it had been destined to burn down and so they‘d decided to help fate along. At the moment they were in the hospital.
Which meant that’s where I was going next.
I didn’t make it to the hospital.
I’d decided to stop by my office to pick up a few tools to use to interrogate the junkies when I’d gotten a call from Murphy. Considering the urgency in her voice, and that I was still trying to soften her up, I changed destinations and headed for the Madison Hotel. It didn’t take me long. The hotel was close to my office building so I didn’t even bother driving my car.
When I got off the shuddering elevator onto the seventh floor I could feel the slimy feel of dark magic permeating the air.
I know - I know, I have no room to talk considering how often I used black magic. But I wielded it in a completely different way than how it‘d been used here.
Long ago, my mother told me the White Council has a position called the Blackstaff. Whomever held the staff could use magic to kill. They were essentially exempt from punishment from breaking the Laws, as well as having the neat trick of not ending up with a black magic addiction.
It’d sparked off the idea that dark magic could be used if there was some sort of barrier between the magic and the wizard. I considered it analogous to how mortals used radioactive material. If person touched uranium isotopes without the proper protection it would hurt them. The radiation energy would cause cancers or outright kill the idiot. But if they protected themselves with radioactive blocking materials, they could use that uranium or plutonium in things like nuclear power plants.
Black magic, if treated the same way, could be used without turning the wizard into a crazy psychopath intent on destroying the world for no good reason. At least, that’s how I used it and I haven’t picked up a black magic addiction. And yes, I’ve tested myself to be sure. One of Bob’s jobs, other than to be my adviser and magical computer, was to keep an eye on my aura. He was under direct orders to tell me the minute anything changed.
The black magic I could feel on the floor of the hotel was crude, ugly and powerful. It felt like cold slime. A sensation that got stronger as I walked to the correct room number. It wasn’t a pleasant mix with the heavy smell of rotting blood in the air.
Not that I needed those hints that I was getting closer. In front of the door stood the hulking man-mountain of muscle that was Agent Hendricks. At the sight me of he growled like a mad dog. It reminded me of the noise Cujo made right before attacking. This Cujo’s growl got louder as I approached.
“Down, dog,” I told him, with a cheerful grin. “I was invited.”
Hendrick’s beady blue eyes stared at me. He didn’t move.
I was debating whether I could shove past him without getting stuck with the charge of assaulting a federal agent or if I should call for Murphy when the door open and Carmichael’s head popped through. “Huh. I thought I smelled the stink of charlatan around here.”
Detective Carmichael’s was Murphy’s partner. He was an irritating man with a surprisingly sharp intellect considering his slovenly appearance. He also had good instincts and didn’t trust me an inch. I’d have killed him long ago if it wasn’t for rule 155.-3 That and if I did and Murphy found out? She’d try to kill me. I say try, because I’d already made plans to stop her cold in case she ever went for it.
She wasn’t a my trusted lieutenant yet. Of course, I made plans.
“Carmichael,” I said dryly. “I‘m impressed you can smell anything over the blood.”
“Let him in,” Carmichael told Hendricks. He grunted and stepped aside. I passed him with a smirk.
I waited until the door closed behind us to arch my eyebrows at Carmichael. “FBI?”
“It‘s one of their dead,” he said.
Interesting. “Then why is CPD still here?”
“The other victim is one of Bianca‘s girls,” he answered.
Bianca could call SI because she was the most powerful pimp - sorry I mean - Madame in Chicago. She was rich, powerful, politically connected and a freaking vampire. The last fact wasn’t actually common knowledge, at least not if you were the average Joe on the street. Hell, even Murphy wouldn’t know it.
I wonder if Marcone knew. I wouldn’t be surprised. And speaking of Marcone…
There was the man, standing right out of reach of the blood puddle that surrounded a large queen-sized bed. It held two corpses.
I gave my attention to Marcone. He was the most interesting thing in the room right now. At least to me. Everyone else in the room was staring at the bodies. He was also the only one that wasn’t showing a reaction to the gruesome scene. The FBI agent I’ve been calling Spike was hurling into a bucket. Even Murphy looked a little green around the gills. Carmichael refused to take a step closer than the bedroom doorway, leaving me to enter it on my own.
I walked until I was right next to Marcone. I turned my head to him and murmured, “If I‘d known you‘d be here Agent Marcone, I would have at least taken a moment to powder my nose.”
Marcone didn’t react. His money green eyes studied the bodies without acknowledging me.
I resisted the urge to pout. Have I mentioned that I’m very tall? I’m a few inches above six and half feet tall and I dress with expensive taste. I wasn’t used to being ignored when I came into a room.
“Flirt on your own time, Dresden,” Murphy snapped, as she stepped at my side. “You‘re here to work.”
I sighed. “Fine.”
I turned to the corpses, and considered them intently. Two lovers, a man and a woman, were sprawled out naked. The man was in his forties but in good shape, while woman was about half his age and wearing lingerie. They’d been in the middle of sex when they’d died. Someone had hit them with a spell that had exploded their hearts, leaving their chest cavities exposed with ribs that stabbed outwards.
“Huh,” I said eloquently. “Well, I can name a couple of Christian fanatics who‘d love to use this as their centerpiece for their sex out of wedlock kills campaign.”
“Mr. Dresden,” Marcone finally spoke with a voice colder than ice. He turned to stare at me with equally cold eyes. “Agent Tomm was one of mine.”
And I knew exactly how Marcone felt about those he considered his. I’d seen it in his soul. “Sorry,” I said softly. “My humor gets away from me sometimes.” I felt Murphy staring at me. “What?” I asked her.
“You apologized,” she said slowly. “You never apologize. I‘ve seen you get punched in the face because you don’t apologize.”
I blinked at her. “I have no idea what you‘re talking about,” I said innocently.
Marcone took in her words with a blink. Out of the bedroom, Carmichael started snickering.
Ahem. “Well, I can tell you that they were killed by magic,” I said.
“How, precisely?” Marcone asked. There was no flicker of doubt in him. I guess once you’ve seen the soul of a wizard, you believe in magic.
Agent Spike had cleaned himself up and gotten a hold of himself enough to snort in derision. “There‘s no such thing.”
“You tell him, kid,” Carmichael said. He leaned against the doorway, smirking.
“That‘s Agent to you,” Spike said.
“Sure, Agent Kid.”
I ignored them both. “I can‘t say precisely,” I told Marcone. “Not without knowing exactly what sort of spell was used. I can tell you that they probably used thaumaturgy.”
“They established a connection to the victims by using something like hair, fingernails or blood,” I explained. “You know how voodoo dolls work?” Both Murphy and Marcone nodded. “That‘s thaumaturgy because voodoo dolls use something that belongs to the victim to establish a connection to them. Then whatever happens to the doll also happens to the person.” I nodded to the two bodies. “Same principle. But instead of a streak of bad luck or aches and pains, their hearts exploded. Now that is helluava lot more difficult than a voodoo doll.” And I had no clue whatsoever how it could be done.
“Can you do something like this?” Murphy asked suspiciously.
Spike shifted from foot to foot at her words. Marcone eyed me calmly, waiting for my response.
Thanks a lot, Murphy. If I was going to wear Marcone’s handcuffs it won’t be because I got arrested by him. Her yearly salary offer to be my trusted lieutenant was going to lose a zero for that comment.
“If I knew how it was done, maybe,” I said reluctantly. I could've lied but I didn’t want to, not to Marcone, at least. “But the question you should be asking is if I would. I have no reason to kill either of them.” Bullets are so much neater, and less expensive than a lot of spell components. I embrace rule four as a lifestyle for a reason.
Marcone nodded. He was the only one in the room not giving me a suspicious look.
It made me want him all over again.
“Can you find out how it was done?” he asked me.
“Sure-” I barely got out when Murphy interrupted me.
“Now wait just a damned minute,” she snarled. “Dresden is a consultant for the CPD. Any work he does on this case gets sent to SI.”
Marcone turned to her and eyed her coolly. Her chin went up and she glared up at him.
“Thomas Tomm was an FBI agent and his death falls in our jurisdiction,” Marcone said coldly.
Thomas Tomm. His parents had no imagination. Or hated him.
“And Dresden‘s contract is with the city, with the local government, not the federal!” she shot back.
I suddenly wished I had popcorn. Talk about an interesting cat fight: the tiger versus the hellcat. Marcone was bigger but that wouldn’t stop Murphy. She had a lot of marital arts expertise. I was reminded all over again why I wanted her as my trusted lieutenant.
“Mr. Dresden,” Marcone said, turning to me. “Would you be willing to sign a contract as a consultant with the FBI?”
Murphy’s eyes narrowed to slits and she all but hissed in anger at his ploy.
“Ah,” I said stalling, as I looked from her to Marcone. “Wouldn’t the paperwork take too long?” It had taken a couple weeks to get me processed as a ‘psychic’ consultant with the CPD. I suspected it didn’t get any faster when the paperwork reached the federal level.
Murphy smirked at my comment.
“Of course,” I continued, tilting my head in a show of thought. “I could decide to look it up on my own time.” Murphy’s smirk froze and Marcone eyed me intently. I had to bite back a grin. “And maybe I‘d pass that info along during a conversation with my date. Tomorrow night. Say eight o‘clock.”
Murphy glared at me.
The corners of Marcone’s mouth twitched. I couldn’t tell if he was amused or not. He controlled his expression too well. “Very well, Mr. Dresden, I will pick you up at eight.”
Behind me, Carmichael made gagging noises. I gave Marcone my address and left the bloody murder scene cheerfully beaming. I think I freaked out Hendricks.
Overall it was a great way to end my day.
1- Rule #4. Shooting is not too good for my enemies.
2- Rule #98. If an attractive young couple enters my realm, I will carefully monitor their activities. If I find they are happy and affectionate, I will ignore them. However if circumstance have forced them together against their will and they spend all their time bickering and criticizing each other except during the intermittent occasions when they are saving each others' lives at which point there are hints of sexual tension, I will immediately order their execution.
3- Rule #155. If I know of any heroes in the land, I will not under any circumstance kill their mentors, teachers, and/or best friends.