Home > White Night (The Dresden Files #9)(13)

White Night (The Dresden Files #9)(13)
Author: Jim Butcher

I started to introduce myself, but before I got my mouth open, the little woman said, "Of course, we all know who you are, Mister Dresden." She put her fingers to her mouth. They were shaking a little. "Oh. I forgot again. Excuse me. I'm Abby."

"Pleased to meet you, Abby," I said quietly, and extended my hand, relaxed, palm down, to the little Yorkie. The dog sniffed at my hand, quivering with eagerness as he did, and his tail started wagging. "Heya, little dog."

"Toto," Abby said, and before I could respond said, "Exactly, a classic. If it isn't broken, why fix it?" She nodded to me and said, "Excuse me; I'll let our host speak to you. I was just closest to the door." She shut the door on us.

"Certainly," I said to the door.

Murphy turned to me. "Weird."

I shrugged. "At least the dog liked me."

"She knew what we were going to say before we said it, Harry."

"I noticed that."

"Is she telepathic or something?"

I shook my head. "Not in the way you're thinking. She doesn't exactly hide what she's doing, and if she was poking around in people's heads, the Council would have done something a long time ago.

"Then how did she know what we were about to say?"

"My guess is that she's prescient," I said. "She can see the future. Probably only a second or two, and she probably doesn't have a lot of voluntary control over it."

Murphy made a thoughtful noise. "Could be handy."

"In some ways," I said. "But the future isn't written in stone."

Murphy frowned. "Like, what if I'd decided to tell her my name was Karrin Murphy instead of Sergeant, at the last second?"

"Yeah. She'd have been wrong. People like her can sense a... sort of a cloud of possible futures. We were in a fairly predictable situation here even without bringing any magical talents into it, basic social interaction, so it looked like she saw exactly what was coming. But she didn't. She got to judge what was most probable, and it wasn't hard to guess correctly in this particular instance."

"That's why she seemed so distracted," Murphy said thought fully.

"Yeah. She was keeping track of what was happening, what was likely to happen, deciding what wasn't likely to happen, all in a window of a few seconds." I shook my head. "It's a lot worse if they can see any farther than a second or two."

Murphy frowned. "Why?"

"Because the farther you can see, the more possibilities exist," I said. "Think of a chess game. A beginning player is doing well if he can see four or five moves into the game. Ten moves in holds an exponentially greater number of possible configurations the board could assume. Master players can sometimes see even further than that - and when you start dealing with computers, the numbers are even bigger. It's difficult to even imagine the scope of it."

"And that's in a closed, simple environment," Murphy said, nodding. "The chess game. There are far more possibilities in the real world."

"The biggest game." I shook my head. "It's a dangerous talent to have. It can leave you subject to instabilities of one kind or another as side effects. Doctors almost always diagnose folks like Abby with epilepsy, Alzheimer's, or one of a number of personality disorders. I got five bucks that says that medical bracelet on her wrist says she's epileptic - and that the dog can sense seizures coming and warn her."

"I didn't see the bracelet," Murphy admitted. "No bet."

While we stood there talking quietly for maybe five minutes, a discussion took place inside the apartment. Low voices came through the door in tense, muffled tones that eventually cut off when a single voice, louder than the rest, overrode the others. A moment later, the door opened.

The first woman we'd seen enter the apartment faced me. She had a dark complexion, dark eyes, short, dark straight hair that made me think she might have had some Native Americans in the family a generation or three back. She was maybe five foot four, late thirties. She had a serious kind of face, with faint, pensive lines between her brows, and from the way she stood, blocking the doorway with solidly planted feet, I got the impression that she could be a bulldog when necessary.

"No one here has broken any of the Laws, Warden," she said in a quiet, firm voice.

"Gosh, that's a relief," I said. "Anna Ash?"

She narrowed her eyes and nodded.

"I'm Harry Dresden," I said.

She pursed her lips and gave me a speculative look. "Are you kidding? I know who you are."

"I don't make it a habit to assume that everyone I meet knows who I am," I said, implying apology in my tone. "This is Karrin Murphy, Chicago PD."

Anna nodded to Murphy and asked, in a neutral, polite tone, "May I see your identification, Ms. Murphy?"

Murphy already had her badge on its leather backing in hand, and she passed it to Anna. Her photo identification was on the reverse side of the badge, under a transparent plastic cover.

Anna looked at the badge and the photo, and compared it to Murphy. She passed it back almost reluctantly, and then turned to me. "What do you want?"

"To talk," I said.

"About what?"

"The Ordo Lebes," I said. "And what's happened to several practitioners lately."

Her voice remained polite on the surface, but I could hear bitter undertones. "I'm sure you know much more about it than us."

"Not especially," I said. "That's what I'm trying to correct."

She shook her head, suspicion written plainly on her face. "I'm not an idiot. The Wardens keep track of everything. Everyone knows that."

I sighed. "Yeah, but I forgot to take my George Orwell-shaped multivitamins along with my breakfast bowl of Big Brother Os this morning. I was hoping you could just talk to me for a little while, the way you would with a human being."

She eyed me a bit warily. Lots of people react to my jokes like that. "Why should I?"

"Because I want to help you."

"Of course you'd say that," she said. "How do I know you mean it?"

"Ms. Ash," Murphy put in quietly, "he's on the level. We're here to help, if we can."

Anna chewed on her lip for a minute, looking back and forth between us and then glancing at the room behind her. Finally, she faced me and said, "Appearances can be deceiving. I have no way of knowing if you are who - and what - you say you are. I prefer to err on the side of caution."

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