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White Night (The Dresden Files #9)(15)
Author: Jim Butcher

Anna frowned and nodded at her. She started toward the door, a gracious hostess politely walking us out. "Is there anything else we can do for you, Warden? Ms. Murphy?"

In the investigating business, when someone starts trying to rush you out in order to conceal some kind of information from you, it is what we professionals call a clue. "Gee," I said brightly. "What happens in ten minutes?"

Anna stopped, her polite smile fading. "We have answered your questions as best we could. You gave me your word, Warden, to abide by my hospitality. Not to abuse it."

"Answering me may be for your own good," I replied.

"That's your opinion," she said. "In my opinion, it is no business of yours."

I sighed and nodded acquiescence. I handed her a business card. "There's my number. In case you change your mind."

"Thank you," Anna said politely.

Murphy and I left, and were silent all the way down in the elevator. I scowled up a storm on the way, and brooded. It had never solved any of my problems in the past, but there's always a first time.

Chapter Seven

There was no time to do anything. Even if I'd been crouched, tense, and holding defensive magic ready to go, I wouldn't have beaten the explosion to the punch. It was instant, and violent, and did not at all care whether I was on my guard or not. Something that felt vaguely like an enormous feather pillow swung by the Incredible Hulk slammed into my chest.

It lifted me up off the ground and dumped me on the sidewalk several feet later. My shoulder clipped a mailbox as I went by it, and then I had a good, steady view of the clear summer sky above me as I lay on my back and ached.

I'd lived, which was always a good start in this kind of situation. It couldn't have been a very big explosion, then. It had to have been more incendiary than concussive, a big old rolling ball of flame that would have shattered windows and burned things and set things on fire, and pushed a whole lot of air out of the way along with one Harry Dresden, wizard, slightly used.

I sat up and peered at the rolling cloud of black smoke and red flame where Murphy's Saturn was, which bore out my supposition pretty well. I squinted to one side and saw Murphy sitting slowly back up. She had a short, bleeding cut on her upper lip. She looked pale and shaken.

I couldn't help it. I started laughing like a drunk.

"Well," I said. "Under the circumstances, I'm forced to conclude that you were right. I am a control freak and you were one hundred percent right to be the one driving the car. Thank you, Murph."

She gave me a slow, hard stare, drew in a deep breath, and said, through clenched teeth, "No problem."

I grinned at her and slumped back down onto my back. "You okay?"

She dabbed at the blood on her lip with one hand. "Think so. You?"

"Clipped my shoulder on a mailbox," I said. "It hurts a little. Not a lot. Maybe I could take an aspirin. Just one. Not a whole dose or anything."

She sighed. "My God, you're a whiner, Dresden."

We sat there quietly for a minute while sirens began in the distance and came closer.

"Bomb, you think?" Murphy said, in that tone people use when they don't know what else to say.

"Yeah," I said. "I was grounding some extra energy out when it went off. It must have hexed up the bomb's timer or receiver. Set it off early."

"Unless it was intended as a warning shot," she said.

I grunted. "Whose bomb, you think?"

"I haven't annoyed anyone new lately," Murphy said.

"Neither have I."

"You've annoyed a lot more people than me, in toto."

"In toto?" I said. "Who talks like that? Besides, car bombs aren't really within... within the, uh..."

"Idiom?" Murphy asked, with what might have been a very slight British accent.

"Idiom!" I declared in my best John Cleese impersonation. "The idiom of the entities I've ticked off. And you're really turning me on with the Monty Python reference."

"You're pathetic, Harry." Her smile faded. "But a car bomb is well within the idiom of ex-cons," she said.

"Mrs. Beckitt was inside with us the whole time, remember?"

"And Mr. Beckitt?" Murphy asked.

"Oh," I said. "Ah. Think he's out by now?"

"I think we've got some things to find out," she said. "You'd better go."

"I should?"

"I'm not on the clock, remember?" Murphy said. "It's my car. Simpler if there's only one person answering all the questions."

"Right," I said, and pushed myself up. "Which end do you want?"

"I'll take our odd corpse out and the Beckitts," she said. I offered her a hand up. She took it, which meant more to the two of us than it would to anyone looking on. "And you?"

I sighed. "I'll talk to my brother."

"I'm sure he's not involved," Murphy said quietly. "But..."

"But he knows the incubus business," I said, which wasn't what Murphy had been about to say. It might have drawn an anger response out of me, but rationally speaking, I couldn't blame her for her suspicion, either. She was a cop. She'd spent her entire adult life dealing with the most treacherous and dishonest portions of the human condition. Speaking logically, she was right to suspect and question until more information presented itself. People's lives were at stake.

But Thomas was my brother, my blood. Logic and rationality had little to do with it.

The first emergency unit, a patrolling police car, rounded the corner a couple of blocks away. Fire trucks weren't far behind.

"Time to go," Murphy said quietly.

"I'll see what I can find out," I told her, and walked away.

I took the El back to my neighborhood on high alert, watching for anyone who might be following, lying in wait, or otherwise planning malicious deeds involving me. I didn't see anyone doing any of those things on the El, or as I walked to my apartment in the basement of an old boardinghouse.

Once there, I walked down a sunken concrete staircase to my front door - one of those nifty all-metal security doors - and with a muttered word and an effort of will, I disarmed the wards that protected my home. Then I used a key to open its conventional locks, and slipped inside.

Mister promptly hurtled into my shins with a shoulder block of greeting. The big grey cat weighed about thirty pounds, and the impact actually rocked me back enough to let my shoulder blades bump against the door. I reached down and gave his ears a quick rub. Mister purred, walking in circles around one of my legs, then sidled away and hopped up onto a bookshelf to resume the important business of napping away a summer afternoon in wait for the cool of evening.

 

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