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White Night (The Dresden Files #9)(7)
Author: Jim Butcher

"So how come you don't do it all the time?" he asked.

"It's delicate," I said. "When it comes to magic, I'm not much for delicate."

He frowned and we started rolling the gurney. "But your only half-trained apprentice is?"

"The wizarding business isn't standardized," I said. "Any given wizard will have an affinity for different kinds of magic, due to their natural talents, personalities, experiences. Each has different strengths."

"What are yours?" he asked.

"Finding things. Following things. Blowing things up, mostly," I said. "I'm good at those. Redirecting energy, sending energy out into the world to resonate with the energy of what I'm trying to find. Moving energy around or redirecting it or storing it up to use later."

"Aha," he said. "None of which is delicate?"

"I've practiced enough to handle a lot of different kinds of delicate magic," I said. "But... it's the difference between me strumming power chords on a guitar and me playing a complex classical Spanish piece."

Nutters absorbed that and nodded. "And the kid plays Spanish guitar?"

"Close enough. She's not as strong as me, but she's got a gift for the more subtle magic. Especially mental and emotional stuff. It's what got her in so much trouble with..."

I bit my tongue and stopped in midsentence. It wasn't my place to discuss Molly's violations of the White Council's Laws of Magic with others. She would have enough trouble getting past the horrible acts she'd committed in innocence without me painting her as a psycho monster-in-training.

Butters watched my face for a few seconds, then nodded and let it pass. "What do you think she'll find?"

"No clue," I said. "That's why we look."

"Could you do this?" he said. "I mean, if you had to?"

"I've tried it," I hedged. "But I'm bad about projecting things onto the object, and I can barely ever get something intelligible out of it."

"You said it might not be pleasant for her," Butters said. "Why?"

"Because if something's there, and she can sense it, she gets to experience it. First person. Like she's living it herself."

Butters let out a low whistle. "Oh. Yeah. I guess that could be bad."

We got back to the other room, and I peered in before opening the door. Molly was sitting on the floor with her eyes closed, her legs folded lotus-style, her head tilted slightly up. Her hands rested on her thighs, the tips of her thumbs pressed lightly against the tips of her middle fingers.

"Quietly," I murmured. "No noise until she's finished. Okay?"

Butters nodded. I opened the door as silently as I could. We brought the gurney into the room, left it in front of Molly, and then at my beckon, Butters and I went to the far wall and settled in to wait.

It took Molly better than twenty minutes to focus her mind for the comparatively simple spell. Focus of intention, of will, is integral to any use of magic. I'd drawn myself up to focus power so often and for so long that I only had to actually make a conscious effort to do it when a spell was particularly complex, dangerous, or when I thought it wise to be slow and cautious. Most of the time, it took me less than a second to gather up my will - which is critical in any situation where speed is a factor. Drooling abominations and angry vampires don't give you twenty minutes to get a punch ready.

Molly, though she was learning quickly, had a long damned way to go.

When she finally opened her eyes, they were distant, unfocused. She rose to her feet with slow, careful movements, and drifted over to the gurney with the corpse. She pulled the sheet down, revealing the dead girl's face. Then Molly leaned down, her expression still distant, and murmured quietly beneath her breath as she opened the corpse's eyelids.

She got something almost instantly.

Her eyes flew open wide, and she let out a short gasp. Her breath rasped in and out frantically several times before her eyes rolled back up into her head. She stood frozen and rigid for a pair of quivering seconds, and then her breath escaped in a low, rough cry and her knees buckled. She did not fall to the floor so much as melt down onto it. Then she lay there, breathing hard and letting out a continuous stream of guttural whimpers.

Her breathing continued, fast and hard, her eyes unfocused. Her body rippled with several slow, undulating motions that drew the eye to her hips and breasts. Then she slowly went limp, her panting gradually easing, though little, unmistakably pleased sounds slithered from her lips on every exhalation.

I blinked at her.

Well.

I hadn't been expecting that.

Butters gulped audibly. Then he said, "Uh. Did she just do what I think she just did?"

I pursed my lips. "Um. Maybe."

"What just happened?"

"She, um." I coughed. "She got something."

"She got something, all right," Butters muttered. He sighed. "I haven't gotten anything like that in about two years."

For me, it had been more like four. "I hear you," I said, more emphatically than I meant to.

"Is she underage?" he asked. "Legally speaking?"

"No."

"Okay. I don't feel quite so... Nabokovian, then." He raked his fingers back through his hair. "What do we do now?"

I tried to look professional and unfazed. "We wait for her to recover."

"Uh-huh." He looked at Molly and sighed. "I need to get out more."

Me and you both, man. "Butters, is there any way you could get her some water or something?"

"Sure," he said. "You?"

"Nah."

"Right back." Butters covered up the corpse and slipped out.

I went over to the girl and hunkered down by her. "Hey, grasshopper. Can you hear me?"

It took her longer than it should have to answer, like when you're on the phone with someone halfway around the world. "Yes. I... I hear you."

"You okay?"

"Oh, God." She sighed, smiling. "Yes."

I muttered under my breath, rubbed at the incipient headache beginning between my eyes, and thought dark thoughts. Dammit all, every time I'd opened myself up to some kind of horrible psychic shock in the name of investigation, I'd gotten another nightmare added to my collection. Her first time up to bat, and the grasshopper got...

What had she gotten?

"I want you to tell me what you sensed, right away. Sometimes the details fade out, like when you forget parts of a dream."

"Right," she murmured in a sleepy-sounding drawl. "Details. She..." Molly shook her head. "She felt good. Really, really good."

 

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