Home > White Night (The Dresden Files #9)(8)

White Night (The Dresden Files #9)(8)
Author: Jim Butcher

"I gathered that much," I said. "What else?"

Molly kept shaking her head slowly. "Nothing else. Just that. It was all sensation. Ecstasy." She frowned a little, as if struggling to order her thoughts. "As if the rest of her senses had been blinded by it, somehow. I don't think there was anything else. Not sight nor sound nor thought nor memory. Nothing. She didn't even know it when she died."

"Think about it," I said quietly. "Absolutely anything you can remember could be important."

Butters came back in just then, carrying a bottle of water beaded with drops of condensation. He tossed it to me, and I passed the cold drink to Molly. "Here," I told her. "Drink up."

"Thanks." She opened the bottle, turned on her side, and started guzzling it without even sitting up. The pose did a lot to make her clothing look tighter.

Butters stared for a second, then sighed and quite evidently forced himself to go over to his desk and start sharpening pencils. "So what do we know?"

"Looks like she died happy," I said. "Did you run a toxicology check on her?"

"Yeah. Some residual THC, but she could have gotten that from the contact high at a concert. Otherwise she was clean."

"Damn," I said. "Can you think of anything else that would do... that to a victim?"

"Nothing pharmacological," Butters said. "Maybe if someone ran a wire into the pleasure centers of her brain and kept stimulating them. But, uh, there's no evidence of open-skull surgery. I would have noticed something like that."

"Uh-huh," I said.

"So it must be something from the spooky side," Butters said.

"Could be." I consulted my packet again. "What did she do?"

"No one knew," Butters said. "No one seemed to know anything about her. No one came to claim the body. We couldn't find any relations. It's why she's still here."

"No local address, either," I said.

"No, just the one on an Indiana driver's license, but it dead-ended. Not much else in her purse."

"And the killer took her clothes."

"Apparently," Butters said. "But why?"

I shrugged. "Must have been something on them he didn't want found." I pursed my lips. "Or something on them he didn't want me to find."

Molly abruptly sat up straight. "Harry, I remember something."

"Yeah?"

"Sensation," she said, resting one hand over her belly button. "It was like... I don't know, like hearing twenty different bands playing at the same time, only tactile. But there was a prickling sort of sensation over her stomach. Like one of those medical pinwheel things."

"A Wartenberg Pinwheel," Butters supplied.

"Eh?" I said.

"Like the one I use to test the nerves on your hand, Harry," Butters supplied.

"Oh, ow, right." I frowned at Molly. "How the hell do you know what one of those feels like?"

Molly gave me a lazy, wicked smile. "This is one of those things you don't want me to explain."

Butters let out a delicate cough. "They are sometimes used recreationally, Harry."

My cheeks felt warm. "Ah. Right. Butters, you got a felt-tip marker?"

He got one out of his desk and tossed it to me. I passed it to Molly. "Show me where."

She nodded, lay back down on her back, and pulled her shirt up from her stomach. Then she closed her eyes, took the lid off the marker, and traced it slowly over the skin of her abdomen, her eyebrows furrowed in concentration.

When she was finished, the black ink spelled out clear, large letters:

EX 22:18.

Exodus again.

"Ladies and gentlemen," I said quietly. "We have a serial killer."

Chapter Four

Molly said little on the way back. She just leaned against the window with half-closed eyes, probably basking in the afterglow.

"Molly," I told her in my gentlest voice. "Heroin feels good, too, Ask Rosy and Nelson."

The little smile of pleasure faded into blankness, and she stared at me for a while. By degrees, her expression changed to a frown of consideration, and then to a nauseated grimace.

"It killed her," she said finally. "It killed her. I mean, it felt so good... but it wasn't."

I nodded.

"She never knew it. She never had a chance." Molly looked queasy for a minute. "It was a vampire, right? From the White Court? I mean, they use sex to feed on life energy, right?"

"That's one of the things it could be," I said quietly. "There are plenty of demonic creatures in the Nevernever that groove on the succubus routine, though."

"And she was killed in a hotel," she said. "Where there was no threshold to protect her from a demon."

"Very good, grasshopper," I said. "Once you consider that the other victims weren't done White Court style, it means that either there is more than one killer or the same one is varying his techniques. It's too early for anything but wild guesses."

She frowned. "What are you going to do next?"

I thought about it for a minute. "I've got to figure out what all of the killer's victims have in common, if anything."

"They're dead?" Molly offered.

I smiled a little. "Besides that."

"Okay," she said. "So what do you do?"

I nodded to the papers Butters had given me, now resting on the dashboard. "I start there. See what I can extrapolate from the data I've got. Then I look people up and ask questions."

"What do I do?" she asked.

"That depends. How many beads can you move?" I asked her.

She glowered at me for a minute. Then she unbound the bracelet of dark beads from her left wrist and held it up. The beads all slipped down to the bottom of the bracelet, leaving three or four inches of bare cord.

Molly focused on the bracelet, a device I'd created to help her practice focusing her mind and stilling her thoughts. Focus and stillness are important when you're slinging magic around. It's a primal force of creation, and it responds to your thoughts and emotions - whether you want it to or not. If your thoughts get fragmented or muddled, or if you aren't paying complete attention to what you're doing, the magic can respond in any number of unpredictable and dangerous ways.

Molly was still learning about it. She had some real talent, don't get me wrong, but what she lacked was not ability, but judgment. That's what I'd been trying to teach her over the past year or so - to use her power responsibly, cautiously, and with respect for the dangers the Art could present. If she didn't get a more solid head on her shoulders, her talent with magic was going to get her killed - probably taking me with her.

 

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