Home > White Night (The Dresden Files #9)(5)

White Night (The Dresden Files #9)(5)
Author: Jim Butcher

The guard sitting at the desk where Phil had been murdered was expecting me, but not Molly, and he told me she would have to wait. I said I'd wait, too, until Butters verified her. The guard looked sullen about being forced to expend the enormous effort it took to punch an intercom number. He growled into the phone, grunted a few times, then thumped a switch and the security door buzzed. Molly and I went on through.

There are several examination rooms at the morgue, but it's never hard to figure out which one Butters is inside. You just listen for the polka.

I homed in on a steady oom-pah, oom-pah of a tuba, until I could pick up the strains of clarinet and accordion skirling along with it. Exam room three. I rapped briefly on the door and opened it without actually stepping inside.

Waldo Butters was bent over his desk, squinting at his computer's screen, while his butt and legs shuffled back and forth in time to the polka music. He muttered something to himself, nodded, and hit the space bar on his keyboard with one elbow in time with his tapping heels, without looking up at me. "Hey, Harry."

I blinked. "Is that 'Bohemian Rhapsody'?"

"Yankovic. Man's a freaking genius," he replied. "Give me a sec to power down before you come all the way in."

"No problem," I told him.

"You've worked with him before?" Molly asked quietly.

"Uh-huh," I said. "He's clued."

Butters waited until his printer started rattling, then shut down the computer and walked to the printer to pick up a couple of pages and staple them together. Then he dropped the pages onto a small stack of them and bound them with a large rubber band. "Okay, that should do it." He turned to face me with a grin.

Butters was an odd little duck. He wasn't much taller than Murphy, and she probably had more muscle than he did. His shock of black hair resembled nothing so much as an explosion in a steel wool factory. He was all knees and elbows, especially in the surgical greens he was wearing, his face was lean and angular, his nose beaky, and his eyes were bright behind the prescription glasses.

"Harry," he said, offering his hand. "Long time, no see. How's the hand?"

I traded grips with him. Butters had long, wiry fingers, very precise and not at all weak. He wasn't anyone's idea of dangerous, but the little guy had guts and brains. "Only three months or so. And not too bad." I held my gloved left hand up and wiggled all the fingers. My ring and pinkie fingers moved with little trembles and twitches, but by God they moved when I told them to.

The flesh of my left hand had practically melted in an unanticipated conflagration during a battle with a scourge of vampires. The doctors had been shocked that they didn't have to amputate, but told me I'd never use it again. Butters had helped me work out a regimen of physical therapy, and my fingers were mostly functional, though my hand still looked pretty horrible - but even that had begun to change, at least a little. The ugly little lumps of scar tissue and flesh had begun to fade, and my hand looked considerably less like a melted wax model than it had before. The nails had grown back in, too.

"Good," Butters said. "Good. You still playing guitar?"

"I hold it. It makes noise. Might be a little generous to call it playing." I gestured to Molly. "Waldo Butters, this is Molly Carpenter, my apprentice."

"Apprentice, eh?" Butters extended an amiable hand. "Pleased to meetcha," he said. "So does he turn you into squirrels and fishes and stuff, like in The Sword in the Stone?"

Molly sighed. "I wish. I keep trying to get him to show me how to change form, but he won't."

"I promised your parents I wouldn't let you melt yourself into a pile of goo," I told her. "Butters, I assume someone - and I won't name any names - told you I'd be dropping by?"

"Yowsa," the little ME said, nodding. He held up a finger, went to the door, and locked it, before turning to lean his back against it. "Look, Dresden. I have to be careful what kind of information I share, right? It comes with the job."


"So you didn't hear it from me."

I looked at Molly. "Who said that?"

"Groovy," Butters said. He walked back over to me and offered me the packet of papers. "Names and addresses of the deceased," he said.

I frowned and flipped through them: columns of text, much of it technical; ugly photographs. "The victims?"

"Officially, they're the deceased." His mouth tightened. "But yeah. I'm pretty sure they're victims."


He opened his mouth, closed it again, and frowned. "You ever see something out of the corner of your eye? But when you look at it, there's nothing there? Or at least, it doesn't look like what you thought it was?"


"Same thing here," he said. "Most of these folks show classic, obvious suicides. There are just a few little details wrong. You know?"

"No," I said. "Enlighten me."

"Take that top one," he said. "Pauline Moskowitz. Thirty-nine, mother of two, husband, two dogs. She disappears on a Friday night and opens up her wrists in a hotel bathtub around three A.M. Saturday morning."

I read over it. "Am I reading this right? She was on antidepressants?"

"Uh-huh," Butters said, "but nothing extreme, and she'd been on them and stable for eight years. Never showed suicidal tendencies before, either."

I looked at the ugly picture of a very ordinary-looking woman lying naked and dead in a tub of cloudy liquid. "So what's got your scalpel in a knot?"

"The cuts," Butters said. "She used a box knife. It was in the tub with her. She severed tendons in both wrists."


"So," Butters said. "Once she'd cut the tendons on one wrist, she'd have had very little controlled movement with the fingers in that hand. So what'd she do to cut them both? Use two box knives at the same time? Where's the other knife?"

"Maybe she held it with her teeth," I said.

"Maybe I'll close my eyes and throw a rock out over the lake and it will land in a boat," Butters said. "It's technically possible, but it isn't really likely. The second wound almost certainly wouldn't be as deep or as clean. I've seen 'em look like someone was cutting up a block of Parmesan into slivers. These two cuts are almost identical."

"I guess it's not conclusive, though," I said.

"Not officially."

"I've been hearing that a lot today." I frowned. "What's Brioche think?"

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