Rating: A healthy PG-13
Spoilers: Heavy book references in this one, a few book characters appear later on. No plot spoilers, however. TV references: Storm Front, Birds of a Feather, Things that go Bump
Chapter Length: 2322 words
Summary: An unusual epidemic has hit Chicago and Harry's in the thick of it.
Author's Notes: The description of Murphy as she appears under Harry's Third Eye is based on Mr. Butcher's descriptions in the books and modified to work with Murphy's TV appearance.
Murphy was in her dress uniform for Jake’s funeral later that day. She had on her beaked cap, hair pinned neatly underneath and her buttons gleamed in the sunlight.
“Very snazzy,” I told her. “Maybe I should get a uniform.”
“I can probably hook you up with some prison garb,” she said, sweetly.
“How did you sleep?” I asked, as we entered the lobby. I had been contemplating several approaches to that question on the ride over and couldn’t think of a good segue for it. It’s too bad there weren’t any sheep nearby. I could have worked with sheep.
She gave me a suspicious look. “Fine. Why?”
“Just thinking of your well-being, Murph,” I told her. “If you get sick or something, who’s going to keep me out of trouble?”
“I’m pretty sure I only get into trouble when you’re around,” she returned.
“That hurts, Lieutenant.”
She touched her cheek as though wiping away a tear. I laughed. The elevator doors abruptly shorted out and jammed into our sides. Stupid elevators. We freed ourselves and got upstairs without further incident. There were no guards to greet us when we stepped out. They were at the doors of the waiting room instead. I glanced into it as we passed. It was packed with worried looking people.
If Forrester looked exhausted the day before, today he looked half-dead. I wondered if he’d gone home or even lay down at all since I’d last seen him. He eyed me and Murphy with annoyance, though I don’t think it was really at seeing us so much as having something else to do when he was already so busy. He undid his mask and it fell to his neck. There was a fine black stubble around his jaw and he scratched at it irritably.
“Leftenant Murphy, Mr. Dresden,” he greeted us. He looked to me. “You don’t have a title, do you?”
“I’m just Harry,” I confirmed.
He smiled a little and scratched his face again. “Aren’t we all.” I smiled back. “I assume you’ve heard about the recent developments? Nurse Myers informed me he’d talked to you on the phone earlier this morning, Leftenant.”
“That’s right,” Murphy said. “Three more in, he said?”
“Yes, and one out,” he replied, sadly. “Last night, shortly after you left. Serena Bailzow. She was 93 years old. She was - “ His pants started to beep. He pulled out a pager and looked at it. “Pardon me. If you suit up and stay out of the way, you may see any of the patients.” His hazel eyes moved between us rapidly, maybe hoping for a clue as to why we were so interested. “Excuse me.”
He passed us to walk down to the nurses’ station. Murphy sighed and looked at me, letting me lead the way.
“I want to see Catalina Hernandez again,” I said, lying through my teeth. There was no way I wanted to enter that room again, but I’d decided that, since the spell had been working on her the longest, her hair would have the most magic residue on it.
Murphy nodded, without asking any questions. We donned our suits of armour and I took a deep breath before plunging into the uncomfortable atmosphere of the hospital room once again.
It was eerie in Catalina’s room. The magic was much stronger than it had been the day before and it gave me an urgent, panicked feeling. Like I had to do something soon or else bad things would happen. Even Murphy could feel it this time. She shifted uncomfortably and went to the window, looking out at the street below. It was actually good for me. I managed to cut a good sized lock of hair from the back of Catalina’s head without her noticing.
“I’m sorry,” I whispered, as I wrapped the long tress of black hair in a handkerchief. I pocketed it and the pair of safety scissors I’d brought with me. “But you’ll thank me for it, later. Hopefully.”
“I had nightmares,” Murphy said, suddenly. She was still looking out the window.
“Sorry?” I said.
She looked over her shoulder at me. “You asked how I slept. I had nightmares.”
“Oh,” I said. My stomach hurt. “Bad ones?”
“Not as bad as before, after Boone,” she answered. She turned all the way around from the window and folded her arms across her chest. “How did you know to ask? What’s going on?”
“I should like to know that myself,” Dr. Forrester interrupted. He closed the door to the antechamber he’d just emerged from and focused his sharp gaze on me. “I have been in medicine for twenty-three years, Mr. Dresden, and I’ve never seen anything like this. I have called every colleague I have, I have read books, I have even Googled, for God’s sake, and there’s nothing like this ever recorded.” He looked over to Murphy and back to me again. “Now, I’d like to know why the police are interested. It goes beyond Officer Bloom’s death, correct?”
I felt a sudden surge of annoyance at the both of them. Murphy was asking me for an explanation she knew she wouldn’t believe and Forrester wanted a medical reason that I couldn’t give him. I gritted my teeth and the screen of Catalina’s monitor flickered.
“I don’t know,” I said, firmly. “I don’t know what’s going on. If I did, believe me, I would let you know. Both of you.”
“What do you do?” Forrester demanded. “You aren’t a police officer, are you?
I held up my hand to him. “I’m a wizard. I’m a consultant with the police and right now, I am trying to help these people. So, just back off and let me work on figuring this out, okay?”
He frowned heavily under his mask, looking like he was about to ask another question, but retreated, and instead went to look at Catalina’s monitor. Murphy turned her back to me again, her stance tense and angry. I set my jaw and turned my attention back to Catalina.
I opened up my Third Eye. To my left, there was a warm yellow glow. I was used to it, though, that was just Murphy. When you use your Sight, it lets you see things as they really are, no facades or fronts put up. What Murphy was at heart, according my sight, was an angel of justice. Her gun became a sword, her badge became a shield. She glowed with fire and fury and she wore a white tabard, stained with blood and dirt. She also had a helmet on today, which I guess was the true form of her beaked cap. She stood there by the window, wings twitching irritably on her back, sword in its scabbard at her hip, glowing away and she didn’t even realise it.
Forrester wasn’t quite as angelic, but he definitely had a guardian air to him. His stethoscope became a snake, curled around his neck, like the rod of Asclepius. It lifted its head to hiss at me and looked ready to bite Death in the ass if it got too close to a patient. His scrub shirt had a large red cross on the back of it. He was imposing and gave off this feeling of safety, almost like a father. Like, if you stuck with him, you knew nothing too bad could happen to you.
I tore my Sight away from them and aimed it at Catalina Hernandez. As useful as a Third Eye is, there are downsides to it. For one thing, if you look through it too much, it’ll make you nuts. There’s a reason we don’t see things as they really are – it’d make our heads explode. Another downside is that whatever you see stays with you, you can’t forget it. And sometimes, what you see with your Sight are things that you want to forget.
As I looked at Catalina with my Sight, I was reminded of a painting that had been in my uncle’s study. It’s called ‘The Nightmare’ by Henry Fuseli, done in the late 1700’s. It’s of a young woman, draped over a chaise lounge, looking dead, with a gargoyle-esque thing sitting on her chest. I hated it. It freaked me right out. My uncle had explained to me that it represented that feeling of terror and heavy breathing you get waking up from a bad dream, when you can’t move. Scientists call it ‘sleep paralysis’.
A large black cloud of energy hovered over Catalina’s chest, looking like it had hands inside her body. I reached out, tentative, and the cloud parted around my hand, not touching it. I moved my hand around, but the cloud jumped away like when you put the same poles of two magnets next to each other. Murphy still had her back to me but Forrester was watching and had stopped all pretense of pretending to like me. Now he just glared. I lowered my hand under his gaze.
There was a gaping wound in the side of Catalina’s head, where more of the energy was pouring in. She panted heavily and her mouth opened and closed as though she was trying to scream, but couldn’t. I knew then that she wasn’t just dreaming – she was in a nightmare. She was trapped in there. If she was under the same effect, that meant Jake Bloom had been trapped as well. For 68 hours he’d been in a nightmare he couldn’t wake up from.
“Hell’s Bells,” I muttered.
With my Sight open, the terror hanging in the room was worse and made me dizzy. Before I realized it, I was on my knees on the floor. Forrester hurried to me, kneeling down. Up close, his hazel eyes were painfully green and sharp like daggers. The snake around his neck reached out to me and brushed on my chest, hissing in a worried manner. I hastily snapped my Third Eye shut and the snake turned back into Forrester’s stethoscope, which had swung out when he leaned forward to take my pulse.
“Mr. Dresden,” he said, in a way that sounded like it wasn’t the first time he’d addressed me. “Are you alright?”
“Huh? Yeah,” I replied. “Sorry. Just got a little dizzy.” I looked to my side to find Murphy there, her wings gone now, her hand on my shoulder. “I need to get out of here.”
She nodded. She and Forrester hoisted me to my feet with ease. I wobbled unsteadily as they got me out into the antechamber and then into the hall. Forrester directed us to a room next door and ordered me to sit on the bed, dammit. So I sat. The room was empty of patients and I pulled my mask and cap off. Murphy did the same to hers and then sat on the bed next to me while Forrester fussed out of the room.
“I’m sorry,” she said.
“What are you sorry for?” I asked. “Did you make me dizzy?”
“I mean, for getting snappy with you,” she replied. “I should know by now that you don’t make sense to me. I should just let you work. I should trust you.”
I was surprised. “Well, that’d be nice. But then, how would I know you were still my Murphy if you started being nice to me?”
She knocked into my side, with a smile. “Shut up. Everything is just bad, you know? I mean, I know it’s not, not everything, but it feels like it’s all bad.”
“Yeah,” I agreed. “I know what you mean. It’s part of the spell, I think.” She twitched a little next to me. “Would it help if I used a substitute word for spell? How about kitten? Kittens aren’t scary. ‘It’s part of the kitten’.”
She laughed. “I like kittens.”
“There you go.”
She looked at her watch. “I should go get Sid. The funeral starts in an hour.”
“Go ahead, I’ll be fine,” I told her.
“Are you sure?”
“Call me later.”
“I will call you later.”
She nudged my shoulder again and got up. I gave her a reassuring smile that I dropped once she’d left the room. I fell back on the bed and sighed heavily, trying to relax. It felt like the whole world was out of control. I felt afraid. I hate feeling afraid. It makes me very angry.
“Mr. Dresden?” Forrester’s face came into view above mine. “Are you alright?”
“I think I’m going crazy,” I replied.
“Well, I’m glad to have some company,” he said, with a small smile. “Now, drink this apple juice and explain to me precisely what a wizard does for the Chicago Police Department.”
I talked. I had to self-censor, but I told him what I could. To his credit, he didn’t laugh or have me committed. He just nodded and hmmmed occasionally. I downed three little hospital cups of apple juice and two cups of lime jello at his bequest, had my blood pressure taken to make sure I wouldn’t faint when I stood up and was given permission to leave.
“In my profession, I’ve seen some strange things,” he said, when I was done and he’d had a few minutes to ponder. “I don’t know if I believe in magic, but I do believe there are some things I can’t explain. Ruling out any possibility is foolish. So...I hope you do your job, whatever it might be, Mr. Dresden. I’ll keep doing mine. Hopefully one of us will make some difference in the end.”
After that, I had no problems with Darcy Forrester ever again. In fact, I actually started to like the guy, as much as anyone like me can like a doctor. I make it my mission in life to avoid them as much as possible. It doesn’t ever really work out that well.