Home > White Night (The Dresden Files #9)(11)

White Night (The Dresden Files #9)(11)
Author: Jim Butcher

I almost barked out a bit of laughter, until I realized that he was serious.

It took me a minute to get my head around that one. Since I had gone into business in Chicago, I had spent a lot of time trying to help the supernatural community. I did exorcisms here and there, helped with ghost problems, taught young and out-of-control talents enough discipline to restrain themselves. I've done other things too, smaller, not necessarily directly involving magic: giving advice on how to handle problems dealing with friendly but inhuman beings that mingled with magically aware mortals, helping parents to deal with the fact that their kid was suddenly able to set the cat on fire, and otherwise trying to help.

Despite all of that, the same folks I'd tried to help were afraid of me.

Even Mac.

I guess I couldn't blame them. I wasn't as accessible as I used to be, what with the war and my new Warden duties, and teaching my apprentice. Practically the only times I had appeared in public, things had gotten messy, and people had died. I sometimes forgot how scary the supernatural could be. I lived in a state of relative power. I'm not under any illusions that I can take out anything that messes with me, but I am not a pansy, and with the right planning and leverage I can be a threat to even awfully powerful beings.

Those folks couldn't. They were the have-nots of the supernatural world, and they didn't have the options that my power gave me. And after all, I was supposed to be the one protecting folks from supernatural threats. If they truly believed that the women had been murdered, then either I was cruel enough to do the deed, or uncaring and/or incompetent enough to allow it to happen. Either way, it didn't paint a flattering picture of me. Add in the growing sense of fear, and it was understandable.

But it still hurt.

"It's not me," I said quietly

Mac studied my features for a moment, then nodded. "Needed to hear it."

"Sure," I said. "I don't know who is behind it. But I give you my word that when I catch up to whoever is doing this, I'm going to take him down, regardless of who he is or who he works for. My word, Mac."

He took another sip of beer, stalling.

I reached out and started flipping through the pages, one by one, reviewing the horrible photos. Mac saw them too. He let out a breath barely tinged with a throaty growl, and leaned back in his chair, away from the images.

I put my last beer on the table and spread my hands. "Help me, Mac. Please."

Mac stared down at his bottle for a moment. Then he looked at his sign again. Then he reached out and took the top sheet of paper from the stack. He flipped it over, produced a pencil from his apron pocket, and wrote on the page before passing it back to me.

It read: Anna Ash, Ordo Lebes, four P.M. tomorrow

"What's this?" I asked him.

He picked up his bottle and rose. "A start."

Chapter Five

"Ordo Lebes," Murphy said. She took the lid off her coffee and blew some steam away from its surface. "My Latin is a little rusty."

"That's because you aren't a master of arcane lore, like me."

She rolled her eyes. "Right."

"Lebes means a large cooking pot," I told her. I tried to adjust the passenger seat of her car, but couldn't manage to make it comfortable. Saturn coupes were not meant for people my height. "Translates out to the Order of the Large Cooking Pot."

"Or maybe Order of the Cauldron?" Murphy suggested. "Since it sounds so much less silly and has a more witchy connotation and all?"

"Well," I said, "I suppose."

Murphy snorted at me. "Master of the arcane lore."

"I learned Latin through a correspondence course, okay? We should have taken my car."

"The interior of a Volkswagen Beetle is smaller than this one."

"But I know where it all is," I said, trying to untangle my right foot from where it had gotten wedged by the car's frame.

"Do all wizards whine this much?" Murphy sipped her coffee. "You just want to be the one driving. I think you have control issues."

"Control issues?"

"Control issues," she said.

"You're the one who wouldn't find the woman's address unless I let you drive, and I'm the one with issues?"

"With me, it's less an issue and more a fact of life,"'she said calmly. "Besides, that clown car of yours doesn't exactly blend in, which is what you're supposed to do on a stakeout."

I glowered out the front window of her car and looked up at the apartment building where one Anna Ash was presumably hosting a meeting of the Order of the Large Cooking Po - er, uh, Cauldron. Murphy had found a spot on the street, which made me wonder if she didn't have some kind of magical talent after all. Only some kind of precognitive ESP could have gotten us a parking space on the street, in the shadow of a building, with both of us in sight of the apartment building's entrance.

"What time is it?" I asked.

"Five minutes ago it was three o'clock," Murphy said. "I can't be certain, but I theorize that it must now be about three-oh-five."

I folded my arms. "I don't usually do stakeouts."

"I thought it might be a nice change of pace for you. All that knocking down of doors and burning down of buildings must get tiring."

"I don't always knock down doors," I said. "Sometimes it's a wall."

"But this way, we get a chance to see who's going into the building. We might learn something."

I let out a suspicious grunt. "Learn something, huh?"

"It'll only hurt for a minute." Murphy sipped at her coffee and nodded at a woman walking toward the apartment building. She wore a simple sundress with a man's white cotton button-down shirt worn open atop it. She was in her late thirties, maybe, with pepper-and-salt hair worn in a bun. She wore sandals and sunglasses. "How about her?"

"Yeah," I said. "Recognize her. Seen her at Bock Ordered Books a few times."

The woman entered the building at a brisk, purposeful pace.

Murphy and I went back to waiting. Over the next forty-five minutes, four other women arrived. I recognized two of them.

Murphy checked her watch - a pocket watch with actual clockwork and not a microchip or battery to be found. "Almost four," she said. "Half a dozen at most?"

"Looks that way," I agreed.

"And you didn't see any obvious bad guys."

"The wacky thing about those bad guys is that you can't count on them to be obvious. They forget to wax their mustaches and goatees, leave their horns at home, send their black hats to the dry cleaner's. They're funny like that."

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