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Gather the Minions

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I didn’t get the chance to talk Marcone into starting up our date or even to reschedule for next Saturday because I got arrested. Okay, not arrested exactly. I was to be brought in for questioning according to the cop who’d slapped me into handcuffs.

The cuffs were because I’ve pissed off Murphy. I’m sure of it.

I also learned from the chatty cop that Linda Randall had been murdered earlier in the evening. And once again, I was fingered as the number one suspect. Really, now this suspicion wasn’t just irritating me, it was ticking me off. Unfortunately, for my attempt to make a good impression on my date, Marcone got dragged along with me down to the precinct. And not even in the same car so I could talk to him.

I was more than a little worried about what kind of questions he’d get. The memory potion was never designed to stand up to an interrogation. It was suppose to neatly cut out a block of memory, so gently and so precisely that the potion-drinker wouldn’t ever know something was missing. If Marcone got asked the wrong question such as: How did you and Dresden get outside? He could start wondering about the missing time. And he really thought about it, he could start suspecting I was behind it.

Then I’d never be able to get him to agree to go out with me again! And to make the situation even worse, the potion was still in the beta stage. I had no idea what kind of problems could crop up from it. It had knocked Marcone out, and it wasn‘t supposed to do that. So for all I knew the memory erasing effects could begin to wear off, or even worse, expand.

I was more than a little lost in thought turning it over and over in my head, wondering if Bob had a memory recovery potion in his repertoire when Murphy walked into the interrogation room. About time, I’ve been cooling my heels for over an hour.

“Dresden,” she said, glaring remarkably well for a woman with such cute nose.

“Lieutenant,” I replied, arching my eyebrows. I rattled my bound hands. “Were the handcuffs really necessary?”

“You‘re a wizard, you tell me,” she said, sitting down across from me. Carmichael took up a leaning stance by the door. He smirked at me.

I smirked right back and popped my wrists out of the cuffs. The year I spent living on the street taught me a lot of interesting tricks: picking locks, jacking cars, you know the things every growing boy should know. I set the cuffs down on the small beat up metal table between Murphy and me. Carmichael scowled at me.

Satisfied, I turned back to Murphy. “Are you still holding, Marcone?” I asked.

“Your FBI boyfriend isn’t under arrest or even considered a suspect,” Murphy said with a snort. “He can leave at any time.”

Boyfriend, I wish. Well, at least now I knew he was still in the precinct.

“Do you honestly believe that I killed Linda Randall?” I asked her. “You do realize that I haven‘t even met the woman or even heard of her name before today.”

“You forget I know what you‘re capable of, Dresden, even if you‘ve managed to fool Agent Marcone,” she said flatly.

“If you really think I‘ve managed that, then you‘re really underestimating him. Talk about a bad judgment call. Hmm, maybe I was wrong to think you‘d make a great trusted lieutenant.”

She narrowed her eyes. “Tell me where you were at 7:15 pm.”

“I was just leaving the shores of Lake Michigan to get ready for my date,” I sighed, “And no, I don’t have anyone who can verify that.” Well, not exactly true, but I‘ll become a white hat before Morgan decided to help me out by giving me an alibi. “Why are you so certain that I was the one to kill her? You could at least give me credit by thinking that I‘d be smart enough not to make it so obvious that they were killed by magic.”

“No, Rule 102, remember,” she said.-1 “I know how you feel about your List of rules.”

I gaped at her. She’d learned the rules from the Evil Overlord List? Hell, for that alone I’m doubling her salary offer to be my trusted lieutenant. I grinned widely at her. “Okay, you got me there.”

“Then I‘m arresting you for the murders of Linda Randall, Thomas Tomm and Jennifer Stanton,” she said, but didn’t make move to get up or to begin read me my rights.

That was unlike her. So I looked over at Carmichael and noticed something I should have realized was odd from the beginning. Right above him was the camera that recorded all the interrogations. It was turned off. That little blinking red light was dark. So either, Murphy had never turned it on so I wouldn’t destroy it or this interrogation was some tactic she was using to make me give her something she wanted. And the only thing I had was information, specifically the same info I’d already given Marcone in exchange for our date.

I gave Murphy a smirk. “Really? Then go ahead. I guess I’ll be invoking my right to remain silent, after I get my phone call.” Ah, lawyers... every evil overlord needs one.

Her mouth flattened. “Dresden,” she said warningly.

“Murphy, I don‘t have patience for games right now. A date that I‘ve been really looking forward to got ruined by a demon”- Carmichael snorted in disbelief - “and the bitch who sent it is out there somewhere using the storms to power her spells. The same spells that killed this Randall woman.”

“The storms? You never mentioned those before,” Murphy said sharply.

“I only thought about it now,” I admitted. I couldn’t believe it took me so long to figure it out. “What I‘m more worried about is that she’s also trying to kill Marcone.” I stared hard at Murphy, being careful to avoid her eyes. I was saving the soulgaze with her until she actually agreed to be my trusted lieutenant. It would be the only way to gauge if she was really the one I could trust at my back. I’ve run the background check per rule 132 but that wouldn’t tell me what was really in her soul.-2 But once she said yes, I was taking a peek. “I‘m the only one that can stop her. You won‘t be able to.”

She stared back at me. “Tell me what you told Marcone.”

I crossed my arms. “You know my terms.”

“I‘m not going on a date with you, Dresden,” she glowered.

I grinned at that. I had to admit that the idea was appealing, Murphy is cute in dangerous, badass cheerleader sort of way - insert here the Buffy joke of your choice - and maybe if my attention hadn’t been so thoroughly caught by Marcone I’d have pursued the idea. But he was the only one I cared about tumbling into bed right now. So I’m obsessed. I’m allowed obsessions under the rules of the List. Amused, I said, “I was thinking more about being let out.”

“Give me the information first,” she said, raising her chin.

The door opened and Marcone walked. “If Mr. Dresden isn‘t being arrested then he can walk out of this room any time he wants.”

I grinned at him.

“Agent Marcone, this is my department! You have no jurisdiction-”

“Linda Randall had agreed to come to us to give a statement in the morning,” Marcone said calmly. I tilted my head and I could see the hulking figures of Hendricks and Spike, trailing after Marcone. Huh. Well, I’m glad to see I wasn’t the only one with a ruined evening. Spike hadn’t even had the chance to spike up his hair; it was rather sad and flat looking.

Hell, even Hendricks looked more squinty-eyed than usual.

“She was negotiating for a deal and protection,” Marcone continued.

“Well she was too late,” Carmichael said, finally moving from where he was hard at work holding up the wall. He pulled out a manila envelop from an inner pocket of his dirty coat and dropped in onto the table top. Crime scene photos spilled out messily, showing a naked, pretty woman in her twenties with a gaping chest wound. Her ripped out heart was laying a few feet away from her. It was barely even recognizable as a heart, whatever had ripped out her heart had also pulped into a red and grey mash.

What a waste of a good heart. Although the most disturbing thing about the bloody pictures - to me - was the calm expression on her face. No one should look so serene with their heart ripped out. No, there should be tears, terror or even anger, riling against that night and all that. Her expression told me she’d made her peace right before inevitable end which meant that not only had she known that death was coming for her but she also had to have known about the curse and the impossibility of fighting it. That told me she known who was responsible. She knew the magic behind the curse therefore she knew the sorcerer.

When I explained my reasoning to everyone in the room I got the most incredulous looks from Carmichael, Hendricks and Spike.

“I’m gifted with both brains and good looks, you know. I have a PI license that I actually earned, I didn‘t pull it out a Cracker Jack box,” I said dryly. Admittedly, I don‘t advertise the fact that I have one. I’ve mentioned that I have quite a bit of money, right? The only paying job I take is consulting for the CPD, and I took it up to make contacts among the mortal authorities. Finding Murphy was just icing on the cake. I could have advertised in the yellow pages, but I didn’t want to deal with crank calls or mortals questioning the existence of magic. Anyone that wants to hire me needs to have the right contacts. Or have managed to have gotten a hold of one of my business cards and I rarely give those out. I don’t get many calls but when I do, it’s usually worth it. There are some very powerful people in this state that owe me debts. And I planned to collect.

“And there‘s something else you don‘t know,” I said, looking into Marcone‘s eyes. “The same person who killed your agent, killed the women, and who sent the demon after us tonight, is also the same one that‘s making ThreeEye.”

This time I managed to startle everyone.

Marcone’s eyebrows rose. “And how do you know this, Mr. Dresden?”

I grinned up at him. “Magic, of course, Agent Marcone.”

The corners of his mouth twitched up. “Of course, forgive me for thinking it could be anything else.”

“You‘re forgiven,” I said magnanimously, “If you agree to finish our date.”

Spike, Hendricks and Carmichael made disgusted faces.

Murphy sighed in annoyance. “The flirting isn‘t cute, you two. It‘s just sickening.”

I ignored the peanut gallery and Murphy. I really didn’t have to listen to her yet. She wasn’t my trusted lieutenant. Afterwards? I’d at least consider her words before I would ignore them.

“We‘ll discuss that after we‘ve made an arrest,” Marcone said. I was afraid he‘d say that. He turned to Murphy. “I propose that we pool our resources to solve these murders.”

Murphy smirked at him. “You mean before you end up just like your agent.”

“Yes,” he said calmly. There wasn’t even a hint of worry in his expression. I was beginning to suspect that he had some Winter fae in his family background. He was cold and controlled and down right sizzling with sex appeal.

“He‘s right,” I said, after first checking that I hadn‘t startled drooling over him. “Since the Shadow-bitch is using the storms, there‘ll be a lot more people dead before the week is out.” Not that I cared about strangers, but there was too much of a chance that Marcone would be the next one on the hit list. The Shadow-bitch had already tried once tonight. If Marcone hadn‘t come to me, or if she’d decided to go after him with her curse instead of her demon, he’d be dead right now, and I wouldn’t have been able to stop it.

I repeat: She needed to die! The sooner, the better.

“The weather forecast did say we‘d be getting storms practically every night this week,” Carmichael added, from where he’d gone back to his spot by the wall.

“I don‘t care about being given credit for solving the murders, Lieutenant Murphy,” Marcone said, staring at her intently. “You can have it all. I only have one concern. Finding and arresting the people responsible.”

Arresting? Stars, he was cute.

She stared back at him, her expression hard. “Fine, we‘ll work together. But SI better get all the credit.”

Marcone nodded calmly. “Agreed. First, you should know that several informants have mentioned Vargassi in connection to ThreeEye.”

Murphy blinked. “Vargassi, as in Tony Vargassi, former mob boss of Chicago?”

Marcone nodded again. Carmichael whistled, impressed. I was just confused.

“Well, that answers the motivation question. Vargassi hates you, Marcone,” Murphy said. “Everyone knows that he holds you responsible for killing his son.”

“I didn‘t,” I cut in. “Care to fill me in?”

“It was before you showed up in Chicago, Dresden,” Murphy explained. “Or you‘d have heard about it. It was splashed all over the news networks and kept making headlines for weeks. Marco Vargassi, Tony‘s son, went nuts when Agent Marcone here-” she nodded at Marcone “- arrived to arrest him. He ran through the streets, shooting a lot of people until he ended up at a park. There he took a little girl hostage.”

I stared at Marcone. His expression was controlled but I could see his eyes. They were hurting, pained in a way that made me want to get up and hug him. And I’m not a hugging type of person. Normally. I’d make an exception for him. “John?”

He blinked, jerked out whatever memories were playing in his mind. He said, “I was the one that ordered the shot that killed Marco Vargassi.”

“But it was Thomas who made the shot,” Spike added. That explained why he was the first one to bite it.

"So Vargassi is using mafioso magic spells. Jesus Christ," Murphy grimaced.

“No, he’s not doing them,” I said, shaking my head. “He‘s gotten someone else to pull off the spells for him. But I have no idea who it could be other than it’s a woman.” I drummed my fingers on the tabletop as I thought. “What other information have you gotten from the drug dealing side of things?”

“Not much, I‘m afraid,” Marcone said. “That‘s one of the reasons I wanted to question you in the first place, Mr. Dresden. Your name is the only other one that came up consistently.”

I grimaced. Getting tied to drug and to blatant displays of black magic did not make me a happy budding Evil Overlord.

“And we‘ve lost track of Vargassi a few months ago,” Hendricks added.

“Just about when ThreeEye began hitting the streets,” Carmichael said. He snorted in disgust. “That’s smart. How long did it take you geniuses to make the connection again?”

Hendricks growled. Considering that Cujo had a good six inches on Carmichael, and had helluava lot more muscle, Carmichael’s unimpressed expression said a lot about his bravery. And about how stupid he could be.

The only clue I had came from the junkie. I hadn’t thought it meant much but it hadn’t been wrong. “Have any of you heard the phrase: The shadow sells it?”

Marcone stared at me, while Spike and Hendricks exchanged startled looks. He said, “Yes. I have.”

“So have I,” said Murphy, “from the ThreeEye junkies. I thought it was just nonsense.”

I shrugged. “I talked to one of them. I wanted to know why my name was coming up and he was right. The demon was controlled by a woman cloaked in shadows.”

“There is something else,” Murphy said slowly. “I didn‘t think anything of it, initially, but the timing is odd. I had a man come in yesterday wanting to talk to me. He insisted that his wife had been taken by the ThreeEye distributors and kept demanding we get her back. He was some down on his luck yuppie type, so I didn’t think anything of it. His wife probably ran away with some richer man. But he said something similar that she was taken by the shadows.”

Spike straightened. “That sounds like the guy who came in to the office a couple of days ago. His name was Victor something.”

“Victor Sells,” Hendricks added. “His wife’s name is Monica.”

Monica Sells. The shadows sells… the shadow sells it.

“Argh!” I said, slapping my forehead. I made everyone but Marcone jump with my frustrated yell. “The junkie said, ‘The Shadow sells…the shadow sells it.’ But he meant the Shadow Sells, as in the Shadow‘s name is Sells. Argh!” Stupid brain fried junkie! I could have found the Shadow bitch and killed her before she ruined my date!

Of course, now that I did have a name it would make it so much easier for me to track her down. Knowing who she was meant I could get Toot-toot to help me. No matter where she’s hiding, I would find her.

I stared at Marcone. And for a moment I was seriously tempted not to share. I hadn’t agreed to the deal with Murphy, I didn’t have to say a word. I could get out of here, find this Sells woman and kill her without any one of them being the wiser. Even the rules of the White Council supported the idea. They didn’t like vanilla mortals getting in the middle of magical fights, even less when said fight involved one of their members. Hell, I wanted to keep that info to myself. I wanted it badly. No one invaded my home, ruined my night and got away without getting some serious payback.

But… that would break rule 117.-3 Because even if I wasn’t saying it aloud to an underling, I was still thinking that she was mine to kill. I had promised myself I’d be better at delegating my revenge. And I’d never given a damn before about the Laws, much less the White Council’s stupid rules. I wasn’t about to start. So I took a deep breath, pushed down my anger until it was a white hot spot in my chest. I would use it later.

“I‘m coming with you. Do you still have my revolver?” I asked Marcone. He nodded. “I‘ll be needing that.”

“And what makes you think I’ll allow that, Mr. Dresden?”

“Because you don‘t know what you‘re dealing with. Not really,” I said, my expression serious for once. “You‘ll need me, especially if you want to survive the night.”

“He‘s right, boss,” Hendricks rumbled. “We didn‘t think we‘d need him at St. Claire‘s place and we did. What if we need him again?”

Spike and I both shot him a surprised look.

Well, maybe I wouldn’t have to kill Cujo for getting in the way. If he was going to be useful then I may just keep him around as long as he kept talking Marcone into doing what I wanted.

“You thought Bianca was scary?” I asked, staring at Marcone. “The Shadow sorcerer will be worse. A lot worse.” I shot everyone a smug look. “And I can find Vargassi and Sells a lot faster than you can on your own. So, you’ll need me either way.”

“How will you find him?” Murphy asked. She added sharply, “And don’t say with magic.”

My grin widened. “Actually, it‘ll be with pizza. And I need to stop by my office to pick a few things.” Like my staff. I have more than one. What? Those things take a month to make, and are way too easy to destroy. They’re only made out of wood, of course, I’ve carved extras. I follow rule 27 almost as religiously as I do rule 4.-4

“Pizza?” Spike asked.

“Pizza… and a little magic.”

Carmichael made noise of disgust. “There‘s no such a thing!”

“Oh, you can keep thinking that,” I said, giving him a wolfish grin. “Just don‘t scream at me for help when the demon rips your face off.”

“Very well, Mr. Dresden,” Marcone sighed. “You can come along. Although I ask that you provide assistance to anyone who requires it.”

I made a face but agreed. If I wasn’t careful, I could end up turning into a white hat.

Ugh. No. I like being evil, dammit!

End.

1. Rule #102. I will not waste time making my enemy's death look like an accident -- I'm not accountable to anyone and my other enemies wouldn't believe it.

2. Rule #132. Before appointing someone as my trusted lieutenant, I will conduct a thorough background investigation and security clearance.

3. Rule #117. No matter how much I want revenge, I will never order an underling "Leave him. He's mine!"

4. Rule #27. I will never build only one of anything important. All important systems will have redundant control panels and power supplies. For the same reason I will always carry at least two fully loaded weapons at all times.