Home > Storm Front (The Dresden Files #1)(2)

Storm Front (The Dresden Files #1)(2)
Author: Jim Butcher

People who know diddly about wizards don't like to give us their names. They're convinced that if they give a wizard their name from their own lips it could be used against them. To be fair, they're right.

I had to be as polite and harmless as I could. She was about to hang up out of pure indecision, and I needed the job. I could probably turn hubby up, if I worked at it.

"Okay, Monica," I told her, trying to sound as melodious and friendly as I could. "If you feel your situation is of a sensitive nature, maybe you could come by my office and talk about it. If it turns out that I can help you best, I will, and if not, then I can direct you to someone I think can help you better." I gritted my teeth and pretended I was smiling. "No charge."

It must have been the no charge that did it. She agreed to come right out to the office, and told me that she would be there in an hour. That put her estimated arrival at about two-thirty. Plenty of time to go out and get some lunch, then get back to the office to meet her.

The phone rang again almost the instant I put it down, making me jump. I peered at it. I don't trust electronics. Anything manufactured after the forties is suspect - and doesn't seem to have much liking for me. You name it: cars, radios, telephones, TVs, VCRs - none of them seem to behave well for me. I don't even like to use automatic pencils.

I answered the phone with the same false cheer I had summoned up for Monica Husband-Missing. "This is Dresden, may I help you?"

"Harry, I need you at the Madison in the next ten minutes. Can you be there?" The voice on the other end of the line was also a woman's, cool, brisk, businesslike.

"Why, Lieutenant Murphy," I gushed, overflowing with saccharine, "It's good to hear from you, too. It's been so long. Oh, they're fine, fine. And your family?"

"Save it, Harry. I've got a couple of bodies here, and I need you to take a look around."

I sobered immediately. Karrin Murphy was the director of Special Investigations out of downtown Chicago, a de facto appointee of the Police Commissioner to investigate any crimes dubbed unusual. Vampire attacks, troll mauraudings, and faery abductions of children didn't fit in very neatly on a police report - but at the same time, people got attacked, infants got stolen, property was damaged or destroyed. And someone had to look into it.

In Chicago, or pretty much anywhere in Chicagoland, that person was Karrin Murphy. I was her library of the supernatural on legs, and a paid consultant for the police department. But two bodies? Two deaths by means unknown? I hadn't handled anything like that for her before.

"Where are you?" I asked her.

"Madison Hotel on Tenth, seventh floor."

"That's only a fifteen-minute walk from my office," I said.

"So you can be here in fifteen minutes. Good."

"Um," I said. I looked at the clock. Monica No-Last-Name would be here in a little more than forty-five minutes. "I've sort of got an appointment."

"Dresden, I've sort of got a pair of corpses with no leads and no suspects, and a killer walking around loose. Your appointment can wait."

My temper flared. It does that occasionally. "It can't, actually," I said. "But I'll tell you what. I'll stroll on over and take a look around, and be back here in time for it."

"Have you had lunch yet?" she asked.

"What?"

She repeated the question.

"No," I said.

"Don't." There was a pause, and when she spoke again, there was a sort of greenish tone to her words. "It's bad."

"How bad are we talking here, Murph?"

Her voice softened, and that scared me more than any images of gore or violent death could have. Murphy was the original tough girl, and she prided herself on never showing weakness. "It's bad, Harry. Please don't take too long. Special Crimes is itching to get their fingers on this one, and I know you don't like people to touch the scene before you can look around."

"I'm on the way," I told her, already standing and pulling on my jacket.

"Seventh floor," she reminded me. "See you there."

"Okay."

I turned off the lights to my office, went out the door, and locked up behind me, frowning. I wasn't sure how long it was going to take to investigate Murphy's scene, and I didn't want to miss out on speaking with Monica Ask-Me-No-Questions. So I opened the door again, got out a piece of paper and a thumbtack, and wrote:

Out briefly. Back for appointment at 2:30. Dresden

That done, I started down the stairs. I rarely use the elevator, even though I'm on the fifth floor. Like I said, I don't trust machines. They're always breaking down on me just when I need them.

Besides which. If I were someone in this town using magic to kill people two at a time, and I didn't want to get caught, I'd make sure that I removed the only practicing wizard the police department kept on retainer. I liked my odds on the stairwell a lot better than I did in the cramped confines of the elevator.

Paranoid? Probably. But just because you're paranoid doesn't mean that there isn't an invisible demon about to eat your face.

Chapter Two

Karrin Murphy was waiting for me outside the Madison. Karrin and I are a study in contrasts. Where I am tall and lean, she's short and stocky. Where I have dark hair and dark eyes, she's got Shirley Temple blond locks and baby blues. Where my features are all lean and angular, with a hawkish nose and a sharp chin, hers are round and smooth, with the kind of cute nose you'd expect on a cheerleader.

It was cool and windy, like it usually is in March, and she wore a long coat that covered her pantsuit. Murphy never wore dresses, though I suspected she'd have muscular, well-shaped legs, like a gymnast. She was built for function, and had a pair of trophies in her office from aikido tournaments to prove it. Her hair was cut at shoulder length and whipped out wildly in the spring wind. She wasn't wearing earrings, and her makeup was of sufficient quality and quantity that it was tough to tell she had on any at all. She looked more like a favorite aunt or a cheerful mother than a hard-bitten homicide detective.

"Don't you have any other jackets, Dresden?" she asked, as I came within hailing distance. There were several police cars parked illegally in front of the building. She glanced at my eyes for a half second and then away, quickly. I had to give her credit. It was more than most people did. It wasn't really dangerous unless you did it for several seconds, but I was used to anyone who knew I was a wizard making it a point not to glance at my face.

I looked down at my black canvas duster, with its heavy mantling and waterproof lining and sleeves actually long enough for my arms. "What's wrong with this one?"

 

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