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I decided to stop by Mercy Hospital to question the two junkies that Susan had told me about. I’d intended to it yesterday but I’d gotten sidelined by Murphy’s call. So I decided that I might as well finish up my investigation of ThreeEye while I had a free moment. If all went as planned, I wasn’t going to be getting out of bed early tomorrow. Or at all if I got really lucky.

Bad pun completely intended.

I would’ve said screw it, and started the date early but I hadn’t been able to talk Marcone into staying with me. He’d needed to run the name Bianca had given him; an acquaintance of the dead girl named, Linda Randall.

So I had Marcone drop me off my apartment because I needed to run my own errands before eight o’clock rolled around. I didn’t trust the new sedan to last too much longer in my presence and at least the Blue Beetle had never burst into flames on me. Well, not counting the couple of times it’s been hit by a stray fireball. That wasn’t really the Beetle’s fault.

The two junkies were being held in the Behavioral Health Center. A young uniformed cop guarded the door of the inpatient room.

I showed him the laminated consultant card Murphy had given me.

The cop was uncertain about letting me in but a bit of compulsion was enough to convince that he didn’t really want to keep me out. It helped that I said that Lieutenant Murphy wouldn’t like it if I kept her waiting. Invoking Murphy’s name really got the cop‘s attention.

Inside the room I found the two junkies, both thin, young men in their mid-twenties, straining against thick, padded restraints.

One of them had his mouth open. I heard a thready, high-pitched sound. The junkie was screaming - or to be more accurate - attempting to scream. It sounded like he’d reduced his vocal cords to hamburger.

Interesting.

The other junkie noticed me enter.

“I see you! I see you, wizard! Wizard Overlord!” he laughed madly. “I, for one, welcome our new wizardly Overlord.”

Okay, I liked this guy even if he was an unkempt mess.

I walked right up o his bedside. “You see what I am? You see what I’ve done?” I asked coldly.

“All of it, yes! The blood! The death,” Messy raved. “The Rules! The Rules must be followed! The Rules rule you, Overlord!”

I rolled my eyes at these dramatics. “Then you know what I can do to you. Tell me who sold you the ThreeEye,” I ordered.

“The shadow sells it! The shadow sells it!” He struggled against the restraints, trying to move towards me. He fell back and moaned, “The shadow sells…the shadow sells it.”

I pressed my palm to face and sighed. Right, this wasn’t going to help.

I reached into my leather duster pocket and pulled out a faded blue Eye of Horus udjat. A year ago I’d picked up the protection amulet at an estate sale. I’d nearly forgotten I had it. I placed the udjat on Messy’s sweaty forehead. I kept my forefinger on it as I let out a small amount of willpower. It activated, throwing off warm, golden light.

Messy stiffened and then went limp becoming a human noodle as all his muscles relaxed.

“Let‘s try this again,” I said. “Who sold you the drug?”

Messy blinked rapidly before his bloodshot brown eyes actually focused locked on mine. “You stopped it,” he said, stunned.

“Yeah, I‘m blocking the Third Eye,” I said, exasperated. Junkies and their fried brains are so frustrating! “Now tell me what I want to know.”

“It was the shadow,” Messy said desperately. He moaned and began pulling at the restraints again. “Help me. Please help me.” His gaze looked around the room wildly. “I have money! Anything I have, it‘s yours!” He stared up at me with wide beseeching eyes. “I need more. Please, I need more ThreeEye!”

I frowned at him before making up my mind. I put my hand over his eyes. “Dormio, dorme,” I whispered. The junkie sighed and relaxed into deep sleep. “Dorme eternidas.” The junkie slipped from sleep and into a coma. He’ll never wake from it. I plucked the amulet off his brow and tucked it back into my duster.

Dammit, what a waste of time. What the hell was this Shadow?

I frowned over at the other junkie, who’d never stopped screaming. He wouldn’t be any help.

I sighed in irritation and spun on my foot to walk out the hospital room. What? I’m evil. I only help people who help me. Consider it a variation on rule 68.-1

The door muted the annoying noise.

“Got what you needed for the lieutenant?” the cop asked.

“No. They‘re both useless,” I answered distractedly as I tried to think of where to go next for answers. I still had a couple of hours to kill before I met up with Marcone. I did have one more source to question, although the chances that he knew anything were incredibly low.

“Oh,” the cop licked his lips nervously. “Does she know about the recently seized case of the drug down in Evidence at the precinct?”

“No,” I said, giving him a smirk. “Thanks! She‘ll appreciate the head‘s up.”

“Just don’t let anyone other than the lieutenant know I told you,” he gave me a wan smile. “I‘m not suppose to share that information with civilians.”

“Sure,” I said, nodding agreeably. So it hadn’t been a total waste of time coming down here. I was in a much better mood as I walked away.

Now I just needed to come up with a way to avoid getting seen by any of Murphy’s spies when I finally did stop by the precinct. I pretty certain she was still ticked off at me for favoring Marcone with information. I’d have to be sneaky when I stopped by to get a good look at the ThreeEye.

I double checked my wallet to see if I had enough cash on hand to bribe the desk sergeant. I did. Good. After I hit up the precinct I’d need to make a stop to capture a fairy. And not the kind that you see in covered glitter at dance clubs.
*-*-*-*

Trapping a minor fae is fairly easy. All you need is bait, a circle and their Name. Of course, if you don’t have the Name then it becomes really difficult. A Name is unique to everyone - human and inhuman alike - because no two people pronounce their name the exact same way. If a wizard knows the Name he or she could compel a fairy or demon to help them out. If wizard was really heavy handed then they could control the being entirely. But only if a wizard had the strength of will.

If you misjudged exactly how much power you needed, you’d be killed… eventually… if you were lucky.

I subscribed to the method of using a light hand. Rule 48 was an important one in my opinion, especially when dealing with eldritch beings.-2

This is why when I called out the Name I tied the gentlest amount of power to it. Then I hid myself in the shadows of the trees and waited. I already had the trap set: a circle hidden by leaves and baited with bread, honey and milk. A drop of my blood in the bread would allow me to spring my trap.

Less than ten minutes after my call a dewdrop fairy that went by the name of Toot-toot, came flying out over the waters of Lake Michigan. He was a spot of silver light barely six inches tall.

I watched silently as he landed near the saucer that held the bread, honey and thimbleful of milk. His dragonfly wings fluttered uncertainly. He looked around, stared at the food, and then looked around again. Finally he made his decision and went for it. As soon as he devoured the bread the power of the circle activated, trapping Toot-toot inside.

He screamed in fury and tried to fly out only to smack into the boundaries of the circle. He tumbled back, crashing into the ground in a puff of silver dust.

“Heya, Toot-toot,” I said, peering down at him.

“You! I should have known it was you, you ugly-”

I nodded, mostly tuning him out. The insults and threats were practically traditional at this point. I didn’t bother getting angry anymore. Toot had said them every time we’ve done this. First time I hadn’t exactly been pleased and almost torched him, but since then I’ve figured out the small fae needed this moment to puff up his ego for getting captured so easily.

It’s not like he ever learned his lesson, so I indulged him. He finally got to the point where he threatened to fill my mouth with dung when I interrupted him. “Toot, I have a job for you.”

He sighed in exasperation and crossed his arms. “You could at least let me finish with my threats.”

“I‘ve heard them before,” I said dryly. “Consider me properly threatened.”

He brightened. “Are you scared enough to let me out?”

“Nope.”

Toot deflated. “Not even if I said the Queen wouldn‘t be pleased?”

“Not even then,” I said.

Toot-toot sulked. “You could at least pretend to be scared, Harry.” His eyes flickered over to the bread and he zoomed over, devouring the rest of bread and honey, and practically inhaling the milk. He sighed happily, and patted his belly. “Because I am both wise and benevolent I will deign to hear your request for the generous gift of your cuisine.”

I resisted the urge to roll my eyes. “I need you to agree to help me in a job and then I’ll let you go.”

Toot wrinkled his pug nose. “What kind of job?”

“There‘s a drug on the street called ThreeEye,” I said, “I‘ve given it a look and it‘s no mortal drug. It‘s a potion. It looks like green madness with floating screaming faces.”

Toot nodded knowingly.

I raised my eyebrows. “You know it?”

“I‘ve seen it.” Toot-toot shook his head, lavender hairs fluffing out making him look like a dandelion. “Mortals can‘t handle seeing the truth.”

“I want you to see if you can find the source because I want to know who’s making it and where.”

“This is a big job, Harry,” Toot said, raising his chin. “It‘ll cost more than bread, milk and honey.”

I blinked down at him. What else did fairies eat? It’s always been bread, milk and honey. “What do you want?”

“Pizza!” Toot shouted, shooting up in the air in his excitement.

“Pizza?” I repeated. Faeries liked pizza. Okay, this was a new one to me.

“With pizza, I can get the help of Blueblossom and Rednose and Meg O’ Aspens, and Goldeneyes- ”

“I get it,” I cut in before I ended with a list of all the faeries in Chicago. “See how many of your friends you can get sign on to help you, say for two large pizzas. And an entire one for you if can get the information to me a soon as possible.”

Toot-toot’s wings went into overdrive making him sound like a buzz saw. “Yes! Yes! Yes! I’ll do it.”

I opened my mouth but ask him promise when he beat me to it.

“I promise! I promise! I promise!” he shouted, flying around the circle so quickly he threw off enough fairy dust to make me sneeze.

I broke the circle with my foot and Toot shot off into the woods.

Huh.

If I’d known that pizza was all I needed to secure his cooperation so quickly I’d have tried bribing him with it a long time ago. I wondered if it was possible get a dewdrop fairy signed on retainer if the promised payment would be pizza. I’ll have to ask Bob.

Since there wasn’t any point in sticking around - Toot-toot wouldn’t be able to find the manufacturer of the ThreeEye potion right away - I turned to leave the area.

A familiar male voice shouted, “Harry Blackstone Copperfield Dresden!”

I groaned and turned to see Morgan - my Warden stalker - standing one hundred feet away, shouting at me from the shores of the Lake Michigan.

“You‘re in violation of the Fourth Law of Magic: Irresponsible use of true names for summoning and binding others to your will!”

“Argh!” I slapped my face with my hand. I shouted right back, “That applies only to mortals, not to the fae! He made the choice to help me! Try dragging me in and see what that gets you! The Merlin said if you called a meeting for something so trivial again you‘d lose your cloak!”

Stars, I hoped he didn’t call my bluff. While I’d love to see the Merlin yank away Morgan’s authority as a Warden I didn’t have the time to waste. If I missed my date with Marcone because of this incompetent idiot I swear I will have him killed. I have a couple of bridge trolls that owe me favors. They could use a good meal, although he’d probably give them indigestion.

Morgan waved his blade in my general direction. “That‘s a technicality!” he bellowed.

I growled deeply from sheer frustration. “Take this for a technicality!” I snarled. “You‘re in violation of your restraining order! You need to be 100 yards away, not 100 feet! That’s 300 feet, you moron!”

Morgan paused mid-wave and silently slid his blade back into his scabbard. Even from where I stood I could see his cheeks flush dark. “You’re a blight and you‘ll mess up one day, Dresden! And I‘ll be there! Everyone will know the depths of your evil!”

He vanished beneath a veil.

I snorted in disgust. At least the man had some respect for mortal authority. If Morgan hadn’t been willing to listen to what the judge had said about the consequences of breaking the restraining order, he would really have been a pain in my ass. Well, he still was, but it was harder for him to be real pest when he had to maintain such a large distance. Anyway, I had something much more important to think about than Morgan, like my date.

Now that reminder really brightened up my dark mood.
*-*-*-*

I almost wasn’t ready in time. I kept getting distracted by the feel of the huge storm building up in the sky above Chicago. There is a lot of energy in a thunder storms, and my magical senses could feel all that gathering power. The mixing of the elements of fire, water, earth and air usually made people tense and jumpy but it made me feel both energized and a little drunk.

This really made it hard to get dressed. My injured arm wasn’t helping me either.

I’d just carefully shrugged into a white button shirt when the door bell rang. I ran out of my bedroom. I hadn’t even had the chance to do up my shirt when I opened the door.

Marcone’s gaze swept me from the top of my shower damp hair to my bare chest to my socked feet. I took the opportunity to admire him right back. He looked so edible in his jeans and dark blazer. It was the sort of casual style that spoke of a man who was both comfortable and confident in himself. Hell, even the weather was on his side when perfectly timed flash of lightning made him look powerful.

It was a sight that made me want to rip his clothes off.

Marcone arched his eyebrows. I grinned at him.

“You’re not ready, should I come back in ten minutes, Mr. Dresden?”

“No!” I yelped. I wasn’t about to give him the excuse to wiggle out of this date.

The corners of Marcone’s mouth went up.

Bastard, gorgeous bastard. “Inside,” I commanded.

He huffed with amusement but listened to my order anyway.

Oh, I liked that.

“You‘re not going to be calling me Mister all night are you?” I asked, as I all but dragged him to my living room.

“Quite possibly,” he said, his gaze drifting over me again. “Depending, of course, on how the date goes.”

I grinned wolfishly. “Then I‘ll make it my goal to have you calling me Harry before the night is over.” I leaned closer to him. He watched me calmly. “Or even better I‘ll have you screaming it.”

I could see how my words hit Marcone as his eyes widened slightly before he exerted control over his expression.

“We shall see won‘t we, Mr. Dresden,” Marcone said without any waver in his voice.

Stars, he was impressive. I loved a challenge. I know, I know, I’m technically breaking Rule 114 but I’d dare anyone to resist Marcone right now.-3

“Oh, I always succeeded in my goals, Agent Marcone,” I purred. I pressed my hand to my chest. His eyes flickered over to my bared skin

I didn’t bother suppressing a smug smirk as I left him to finish getting dressed.

I’d just finished buttoning up my shirt, and was debating whether to wear a blazer of my own or stick with my leather coat when I heard the door bell ring again. I frowned, and cast out my senses for who could be at the door but the storm muddled them and I got nothing.

“Finish getting dressed Mr. Dresden, I‘ll get the door!” Marcone called.

And my heart stopped, because that’s when my senses caught it: magic that was dark and ugly and slimy, bringing forth a spirit-being.

I cursed, snatched up my staff before breaking into a run. I’d barely made it to the hallway when I saw Marcone open the door, revealing on my doorstep a squat figure barely five feet tall in a brown trench coat.

The bright flash of lightning illuminated its face which was inhumanly wrong, toad-like and glowing with bulbous electrical blue eyes.

A demon stood on my doorstep just two feet away from Marcone.

Crap.

*-*-*-*

1- Rule #68. I will spare someone who saved my life sometime in the past. This is only reasonable as it encourages others to do so. However, the offer is good one time only. If they want me to spare them again, they'd better save my life again.

2- Rule #48. I will treat any beast which I control through magic or technology with respect and kindness. Thus if the control is ever broken, it will not immediately come after me for revenge.

3- Rule #114. I will never accept a challenge from the hero.