Characters: Harry, Murphy, Bob, a duck
Rating: PG (for some brief gore)
Word count: 1592
Summary: Harry makes a new friend.
Author's notes: Done for dresdenflashfic's 11th challenge. The prompt was 'animal'. I did a some research, but I'm pretty sure the zoology here is not realistic. Still, some things must be fudged for the sake of cuteness.
I stared at the little flapping thing on the floor of my jeep, trying to wrap my head around it. Its wings were too small for flying and did little more than give a bit of height to its frantic jumps. Accompanying the acrobatics were little chirps of 'qwan-qwan-qwanqwanqwan' which was what had alerted me to its presence in the first place.
There was a duck in the back of my jeep. In fact, there was a whole nest in the back of my jeep, but there was no sign of the mother and it seemed the rest of the eggs had not survived. Just this little thing, all down and fluff and determination. I suppose the fact that my jeep doesn't technically have windows might have made it easily accessible to a confused hen. I don't bother to put the rain screens up when it's nice out. Frankly, the jeep is so old it's actually worth more to me stolen than un, thanks to Bobby the insurance broker who consolidated my bills into one easy low payment a month.
What was most disturbing was the fact that I had failed to notice a nest being built back there. The back of my jeep is a depository of stuff I use in my work and then forget about. There were empty potions bottles, boxes of books, stained clothing, some foci, a first aid kit and a goblin eye in a jar that I should probably remove before someone gets the wrong idea. Now, underneath the passenger seat and woven into a ripped t-shirt, there was a nest of large eggs. One of the eggs was in pieces, where the little duckling had emerged. It was closest to the edge, next to a plastic ball of burning faerie fire. I guess it was enough to keep it warm.
Having finally noticed my presence, the duckling came waddling towards me in almost a relieved way. It quacked noisily and I suspected it might be asking me questions. I backed away, but it followed me right to the edge of the jeep, where I was forced to dive forward and catch it before it fell out. I knew that I was screwed after that. It looked up at my from my palm in an adoring manner. I had just become its mommy.
Not knowing what to do, I carried it into the apartment and called for Bob. He's like my encyclopedia, or Google if you're computer literate. He has hundreds of years of experience and he knows things. I ask him a question and if he doesn't know the answer right away, he'll have it within a couple of hours.
"Why are you holding a duck?" he questioned, when he popped into existence. This was said in a tired tone of voice, as though this was just one in a long line of ducks I had been holding. "You haven't been letting clients pay you in goods again, have you?"
"No," I said, impatiently. "It was in the back of the jeep. It looks like its mother left it there."
'Quack' said the duck to Bob, by way of explanation. 'Quack-quack.'
"You cannot keep it," Bob declared. "We have no room for a duck."
"I don't want to keep it, Bob, I'm not four," I said. "I want to know what to do with it."
"Shouldn't you call Wildlife Services?" Bob said.
"Right," I agreed. "Good idea."
He followed me over to the desk where I leafed through the phone book with one hand, holding the duckling in the other. It ruffled its plumage a little and then settled itself comfortably, twisting it head to the side and lowering it to its chest.
I found the right number and dialed, receiving a busy signal. I got up and brought the bird to the kitchen, where I gave it some bird seed I had left over from a previous case. The ghost I'd been sent to exorcise turned out to be a very aggressive pigeon. It ate hungrily out of my palm. I tried Wildlife Services again, but it was still busy. Half an hour later, it was still busy and the duckling had become bored and decided to go exploring. I had trouble keeping it safely in my hand and decided to try to call later. I was late, anyway.
After discussing it with Bob, I ripped open a Kleenex box and made a small bed for the duck. I placed it inside and it took approximately . 2 seconds for it to hop out, quack with displeasure at me and chase after me across the desk. I tried reason, I tried bribery, I tried scolding it, but it was bound and bent to follow me and finally, I dropped it into the front pocket of my shirt and left.
As I drove, it righted itself in my pocket and stuck its head out of the top, looking around excitedly. Occasionally it offered me opinions on what was going on, but it was mostly silent and still. I parked illegally, hopped out of the jeep and beat it into the 27th District.
"'Bout time Dresden," Murphy said. "I called you half a - is that a duck in your pocket?"
"No," I said. "I'm just happy to see you."
Murphy ignored my display of razor wit. "Why do you have a duck in your pocket?"
"Why don't you have a duck in your pocket, Murph?" I replied, folding my arms across my chest. 'Quack' my pocket said. "Did you lose yours?"
"You can tell me on the way," Murphy said, tugging at my sleeve. "I have a dead body for you."
"It's not even my birthday," I muttered to the duck.
"Quack," it agreed.
The duckling eased Murphy's annoyance with me. There is some correlation between baby animals and women that is beyond my ability to fathom. She kept smiling at my pocket as she told me about the grody body they'd found in an alley. I made a mental note to secure myself a puppy the next time I broke the law.
The body was certainly nothing to smile about. It wasn't especially odd, except that its eyes had been taken in a fairly violent fashion. I had an irrational urge to shield the view from the duckling, feeling it was too young to see this sort of thing. It had disappeared into my pocket, though, and seemed to be asleep.
I did my usual investigation and found nothing of use. I might have labeled it as a simple psychopath murderer, but there was something in the air that made me uneasy. It wasn't until Kirmani's shadow started to move independently of him that I was confident black magic was a foot.
The shade had been hiding in Kirmani's shadow and separated itself from it, creeping along the wall towards Murphy.
"What's that?" I asked, pointing to a random spot on the opposite wall.
"What's what?" Murphy responded, squinting.
I pointed more insistently. "That...right there."
"I don't see anything, Dresden."
"It's right there."
She finally moved away from the shade and across the alley to look at my non-existent spot. I sighed with relief and extracted my drumstick. It wouldn't have done me any good. The shade attacked my shadow. It clawed at my head and I felt a burning sensation under my eyes. I clutched my face, uselessly.
"Harry?" Murphy asked, alarmed. "Harry, what's wrong?"
'Quack!' Came a fearsome sound. The duckling stuck its head out of my pocket and began to squawk like mad. I could feel its little wings flapping away against my chest.
The shade hesitated. The duck quacked. The shade stopped altogether. The duck quacked some more and the shade backed away, hands up in a peaceful gesture. Then it melted away, leaving a slimy mess of ectoplasm running down the wall.
"What was that about?" Murphy demanded. Her eyes darted to where the shade had been. "I thought I saw..."
"Trick of the light," I muttered.
'And don't come back!' My pocket said, decidedly.
I managed to get hold of Wildlife Services later that evening. They were extremely busy and had no one to spare for a few days. So, Switch the duck moved into the Kleenex box on my desk.
"It's short for Lightswitch," I explained to Bob. "'Cause she scared the shade away. You know, shadow/light?"
"Yes, a brilliant moniker," Bob said, with a roll of his eyes. "I'll be in my skull."
"I think it suits you," I told Switch.
'Quack!' she agreed.
A little research found that shades are nearly impossible to defeat, but fear the cry of a bird. I think the authors of the book were thinking more along the lines of an eagle or a raven or maybe a phoenix. Something more elegant than a duck. Still, if Switch hadn't found me, everyone in that alley would have lost their eyes and probably their lives as well. Fate and I don't get along too well, but everyone once in awhile we call a truce.
I was sad to see Switch go. She quacked noisily when the WS man put her in a cage. I fed her some seed and thanked her again for saving my life. She nipped my finger, sadly. The man promised to call and tell me how she got on in the wild, but he never did.
However, the following spring, I went out to my jeep one morning to hear a cheerful quacking coming from the back. There, between the remnants of a Happy Meal and a broken clock, was a small white duck, sitting on a nest of eggs.
"Hey Switch," I said. "How're the kids?"
'Quack!' she replied.
I suppose that makes me a grandmother.