I’ve never been followed by an entourage of law enforcement types whenever I’ve called Toot-toot before. It was rather disconcerting. Which is why I made them stand back far enough away from the shores of Lake Michigan that they wouldn’t be able to see me or hear me say his Name. Names are valuable. I’m not about to let one slip into another’s ears for free. But mostly I didn’t want them to see who - or specifically what - I was talking to.
What? It wouldn’t help my badass image for it to get around that I talk to dewdrop fairies. I mean the jokes alone…
The only thing I carried to the shore was the three large pizzas that Murphy had ordered Carmichael to pick up to me. It was a good thing that calling a fae didn’t require any complicated rituals. Not that it turned out I even needed to use a drop of magic because I’d barely stepped on to the same spot where I’d set up the circle before when Toot-toot came flying like shot out of the trees.
“He brought pizza! Pizza! Pizza!” Toot shouted eagerly.
I blinked as about ten more multicolored lights came right after him all shouting ‘pizza‘. Toot-toot came to an abrupt stop right on the pizza boxes, landing on the first S of the Pizza ‘Spress label. I had to suppress more than one sneeze as silver fairy dust puffed up. The other fairies flew around me hyper-excitement. I’ve never had Toot-toot show up like this without me calling his name. I was impressed by the power of pizza to call the fae.
“Okay, guys,” I said, smiling at Toot-toot‘s eagerness. “If you guys know where I can find the sorcerer who’s been producing ThreeEye, a Monica Sells and you‘ll get the pizzas.” High-pitched cheers came from all the fairies. “I want her exact location.”
“We know it!” Toot said, his dragonfly wings buzzing away rapid. “We‘ve been waiting for you! You‘ve been among too many mortals and we haven‘t been able to contact you! But we know where she is, the Shadow Sorcerer, she is nearby.”
“Tell me, tell me everything you know about her,” I said. “And the pizzas are yours.”
Toot-toot, with the occasional squeaky interjection fro the other fairies, gave me all the details of the house where Monica Sells has set up her potion making factory. It was actually on the shores of Lake Michigan.
My smile became a wide toothy grin. “Excellent! You guys earned your pizzas.” The fairies cheered again.
“And Toot? I‘ll bring you guys more pizzas tomorrow if you‘ll keep an eye on her. Track her movements, and let me know if she leaves the house. For any reason.”
“I promise, I promise, I promise!” Toot shouted, and I set the pizzas with the boxes open onto the ground.
The fairies descended on the gently steaming pizza. I stared at them with raised eyebrows as they devoured the pizzas in less than a minute. Damn. I now knew what it felt to see a real live feeding frenzy. It was an impressive sight even without the sharks, blood and sharp teeth. And I was very glad that dewdrop fairies never developed a taste for human flesh like some of their bigger fae cousins. Otherwise? There would be a lot more people who'd go missing on hikes and a lot more skeletons found picked clean.
Hell, they could probably still do that if they really got ticked off and I made mental note add them to the list of beings that fell under rule 54.- 1
Dewdrop fairies were a lot more dangerous than I ever expected. Good. I have mentioned I was planning on getting them on my side, right?
Once I got the information back to Marcone and Murphy, everyone split up. Murphy needed to go strong arm a judge to get a warrant. Marcone needed to change into more professional attire which were his words not mine because I had no problem with how he looked, if fact he could have been wearing a lot less and I’d would have been perfectly happy. I never got the chance to take them off him like I wanted. I promised myself I would get the chance. I’d been so close!
But he didn’t agree with me about his clothes or lack thereof. Dammit.
Hendricks gave him a ride. And Spike got assigned as my chauffeur, which made me really smug at having him at my beck and call. What can I say, I’m still a budding Evil Overlord. Other than a couple people on retainer, and Bob, I don’t exactly have servants or henchmen or minions. Yet. I could get used to this kind of service.
“We‘re here, Mr. Dresden,” Spike said.
“I can see that, Spike,” I said. We were parked right in front of the huge building that housed my office.
Oh, right. I haven’t called him that aloud, have I? I smirked, “Or considering your hair right now, I could call you Flat, or Matted, Mattie?”
He shot me an annoyed look. “My name is Sharpe, Sam Sharpe. But to you, I‘m Agent Sharpe.”
I nearly died laughing. Damn, I guessed pretty good with Spike. Spike glared at me. I chuckled as I stepped out of the sedan. “Stay, Spike. I‘ll be back soon.”
I was still snickering by the time I made up the stairs. I could have risked the elevator, but only if I was willing to take a chance of getting stuck in it. My ability to kill electronics had done that to me a few times since I moved my office into this building. That‘s why I’d deliberately chosen an office on the fifth floor. It was low enough that I could walk up the stairs everyday without having a heart-attack but also high enough that I got a decent view of the Chicago River.
I had decided to let Marcone hold onto my revolver until he got a new service weapon because I didn’t want him to walk around with only Hendricks providing protection. So I was debating what weapons to bring with me other than my staff when I heard an odd scuttling sound. I frowned and looked around. Then cast out my senses. That’s when I felt it. The familiar feel of the Shadow-bitch’s dark magic.
Then a scorpion the size of a terrier burst out from under my desk, arching a stinger towards my foot. I yelped and jumped back. It missed by less than an inch, but venom sprayed in all directions. I kicked it hard, smashing into the scorpion’s side, sending the creepy critter off across my office like a soccer ball.
A scorpion. A freaking magical, venomous scorpion.
The scorpion bounced off a wall, righted itself with a quick flip and ran for me again. I’ve never been happier that I’ve upgraded into larger office space. The distance it had to cover gave me the precious second I needed to grab my staff.
“Ventas servitas,” I shouted, pointing the staff. The blast of air whistled, sending papers into the air. The scorpion slid back before it dug its legs into the plush carpet. Damn. Who’d have thought luxury would end up being a drawback? I narrowed my eyes, focused, and poured more will into my staff. The air’s whistling went up in pitch. And the scorpion’s shadows widened. Then the scorpion grew bigger to fit until it was the size of a golden retriever. The blasts of air weren’t strong enough to hold it back and it came at me.
So I reached into my desk, pulled out a K-bar fighting knife, caught the stinger with the wood of my staff and jammed the knife in straight through the scorpion’s head when it was less than a foot a away. The sharp blade pierced the carapace like butter. The scorpion twitched, snapping its claws, its tail flailing, trying to stab me even as it died, but I jerked back expecting the death throes. “Rule 23, Shadow-bitch,” I panted.- 2
“I‘m sorry about this but I don’t have a choice.”
I turned to face a handsome guy with scruffy eyebrows giving him a skewed look. The huge gun he was pointing at me made him look more maniacal. The tip of the gun barrel trembled in his grasp. “I‘m sorry, but I have to kill you, Mr. Dresden.”
“You have got to be kidding me,” I muttered.
“I‘m sorry, but I have no choice,” he repeated, gun steadying.
“You wouldn‘t by any chance be Victor Sells?” I asked, narrowing my eyes. I raised up my hands, shook out my shield bracelet, gathering my power.
He blinked in surprise. And that gave me the time to activate my shield bracelet, just as he squeezed the trigger, shooting three times. Flashes of blue-white light burst against my shield, a and the bullets ricocheted away. I snarled and swept the staff towards him. “Fozare!”
He stumbled back, dropping the gun. I pulled the k-bar out of the dead scorpion then rushed him. His eyes widened in fear and I stopped the blade right at his neck. Colorless ectoplasm dripped from the knife to his neck. I narrowed my eyes as I felt the tingle of a practitioner. And at that now very familiar ugly feel of black magic, but it was faint. Fainter than any hint I've come across before as if it was smoke from a cigarette that‘d been stubbed out. The source was dead but some of it lingered.
And I had a hunch to what had happened that had led both Sells to where they were now. Victor probably got drawn to magic because he’d seen something or felt something and to explain it he sought it out. And taken his wife with him. But for some reason he’d changed his mind and he’d managed to set the magic away, not only burying away his talent but also that gnawing need for the dark arts. But it was too late for his wife. She was addicted to the black magic, and it ate away her sanity.
Making her into the Shadow-bitch.
And that’s why I don’t support the use of black magic by newbies. It just drove them crazy. Actually, I was more interested as to how Victor had been able to step away from black magic. Like any extremely addicting substance, it wasn’t easy to go cold turkey.
“Oh God, my children… just kill me because she‘s going to kill them now.” Victor stared at me with tears in his eyes. I stared back at him coldly. “She‘s going to give them to that demon. My children.” He sobbed in my grip.
Ah. Kids. That would do it.
I frowned down at him as he blubbered. I debated taking the opportunity and killing him while he was clearly begging for it. I would be able to claim self-defense with his prints all over the gun. I really hated it when people tried to kill me and I don‘t want to set a precedent where someone who tried got off scot-free. But then did I really want deal with all that blood until I could get my carpet cleaned?
But before I could make up my mind, Sharpe burst in through my door.
Great, now I wouldn’t be able to kill Victor.
“Mr. Dresden?” he said, pointing the gun at us. Then his eyes widened as he caught sight of the dead scorpion. “What the hell is that?”
“That Spike, is a violation of rule 119,” I said flatly.- 3 He just gave me a wide-eyed stare. “Forget about it.” I stepped back from Victor. “This is Victor Sells, I think Marcone will want to talk to him.”
Victor hiccoughed. “Marcone? FBI Agent John Marcone.” He laughed bitterly. “He won‘t be able to help me.”
“Who said anything about helping,” I muttered. I looked at Spike. “He came here to kill me.” I nodded at the scorpion - that was finally turning to clear ectoplasmic goo - then at the gun.
“Marcone is going to be dead before day is over,” Victor said.
“What?” I grabbed him by his shirt and brought up to my face. He dangled in my grip. “What do you mean?” Victor choked at little from the tight hold I had on him so I loosed my grip. Not that I cared if I choked him but he needed to breathe to answer. Spike stepped up to my side but didn’t make a move to stop me.
“As a civilian you can question him as you see fit,” he said, glaring at Victor.
“What do you mean?” I repeated, with compulsion thickening my voice. The black gem at the center of my pentacle necklace, both legacies from my mother, glowed as it protected me from this heavier use of black magic.
“My wife- she got his hair from his car, last night,” he gasped. “She plans to use it tonight with the storm.”
And outside my window, through the wide-paned glass I could see the storm rolling from Lake Michigan. The storm was rising. And when it broke? It would take Marcone’s life with it.
I dropped Victor to a gasping heap on the floor, and turned to Spike. My voice reverberated with compulsion. “Give me the car keys.”
Spike jerked his head up like I’d slapped him and reached at once for the keys, dropping in my waiting palm. Then he looked at his hand with a betrayed expression. “You can‘t take the car, that‘s federal property.”
“Yeah? Watch me,” I snarled, and tucked the K-bar into my coat pocket, as well grabbed my staff. I cursed that I left my blasting rod at the apartment. So I opened up the second cache of mortal weapons I had locked behind a solid oak cabinet.
“Please, tell me you have licenses for those,” Spike choked, at the vast array of guns, ammo, blades and other neat toys I’ve stocked up.
“Don‘t be a moron, of course I do,” I said. I wasn't about to get arrested over such a minor thing. I lived in the U.S. I was embracing my right to be armed to the teeth. I shrugged out of my coat long enough to pull on a bullet-proof vest, and a holster for my second favorite revolver which I quickly loaded. I gave Spike a flat look. “Tell Marcone I‘ll be at the Sells' lake house. And to hurry.”
Then I ran down to stairs, and tore out in the FBI’s sedan, breaking most traffic laws speeding away towards the location where Monica Sells was about to kill the only person that I’ve fallen for in nearly a decade.
1. Rule #54. I will not strike a bargain with a demonic being then attempt to double-cross it simply because I feel like being contrary.
2. Rule #23. I will keep a special cache of low-tech weapons and train my troops in their use. That way -- even if the heroes manage to neutralize my power generator and/or render the standard-issue energy weapons useless -- my troops will not be overrun by a handful of savages armed with spears and rocks.
3. Rule #119. I will not attempt to kill the hero by placing a venomous creature in his room. It will just wind up accidentally killing one of my clumsy henchmen instead.