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: 2586 words
Summary: An unusual epidemic has hit Chicago and Harry's in the thick of it.
Author's Notes: I've made my own history for Murphy's personal life, cobbled together from the books, the show and my own head. I felt I needed it this chapter. Anyway, it's just my own interpretation. :-)
I battled nightmares until four am. Thankfully, I wasn’t trapped in any of them. I didn’t think anyone had my hair or blood or anything, I try to keep those on and in me at all times. You never know, though, and going to sleep was now a very scary concept. It was sad; sleep shouldn’t be scary.
I went downstairs at four, cleared myself a spot in the living room, shoving the books into haphazard piles and did some yoga to try and get myself together. I was in the middle of a very good side crow pose (which, let me tell you, is not easy) when Bob did that thing where he forgets to walk. He popped up right in front of me and said “oh, you’re awake.”
“Ahhh!” I replied, and toppled over elegantly into my mat.
“That was very impressive,” he said.
“Thank you, I spent years perfecting that face plant in the Munich Circus,” I muttered. I rolled over and looked up at him from my back. “Can I help you?”
“No,” he answered. “May I help you?”
“I need sleep, the address to a coven of nightmare enthusiasts and a really beautiful woman to soothe my frazzled nerves,” I answered. “Like, a really beautiful woman. Can you help with any of those things?”
“No,” he said, with a smirk.
“Oh, well then, I appreciate the offer but I think I’ll take a raincheque, thanks.” He nodded. “What time is it?”
He looked around to the clock. “Just after 5 A.M.”
“It feels like it should be at least 9:00,” I said. “Time sucks.” I rolled back onto my stomach and stood up. My muscles felt nicely stretchy. “I need to kill some until I can call Joya.”
“Why don’t you clean?” he suggested, looking around at the mess.
I looked too. “Yeah...alright,” I said, without much enthusiasm.
So, I cleaned. I returned all the books to their shelves. I cleaned out my fridge and disposed of the radioactive food inside it. I organized the shelves in the lab. I changed the sheets on my bed. I filed all the papers on my desk away and saw the top of it for the first time in several months. I dusted Bob’s skull. Then I had a shower. Cleaning includes me, too.
After I was dressed, it was 8:42. I contemplated getting the newspaper and working on the crossword. I’d have to keep it away from Bob, though. He has a nasty habit of giving the answers over my shoulder (and, seriously, how does he know who starred with Patrick Swayze in Dirty Dancing? Guess nobody puts Bob in a corner.) The phone ringing prevented this, however.
I was feeling mildly calm by this point. Having a clean house puts you in a good mood. It puts me in a good mood, anyway. So, when I picked up the phone and heard Kirmani on the other end, it was like being blindsided by a mac truck.
“Connie’s sick,” he said.
To which I sensibly replied, “Fuck!”
“Yeah,” he agreed.
“She’s at Cook?” I asked, in a voice that was very calm considering my decreasing level of sanity.
“Yeah. She -”
“I’ll be right there.”
I hung up the phone over his objections and left. I didn’t have a coat, I didn’t have a wand, and I didn’t have car keys. I went back for the car keys. Then I left again. I may have driven recklessly, but you can’t prove anything. Those traffic cams don’t stand a chance against my magic. I took the stairs up to the second floor of the hospital two at a time, not trusting the elevators to carry me safely.
The isolation had been upped. There were medical personal running around the place and the back of the hall was sealed off. I marched past the security guards at the elevators. They didn’t try to stop me, I must have either looked official (ha!) or they recognized me from another trip. I put on my best ‘don’t mess with the wizard’ face and continued my march forward towards the isolation sheeting. Someone in head-to-toe isolation gear stepped in front of me.
“I’m sorry, only medical personal are allowed past this point,” he said.
“I -” I began.
“He’s with me,” Kirmani said. He appeared beside me and flashed his badge.
“Alright,” the isolation guy said, reluctantly. “But you’ll have to -”
“Caps, masks, gowns, gloves,” I filled in.
“And boots,” the guy added.
“And boots,” I amended.
We were allowed through the sheet. Kirmani and I dressed ourselves up from boxes standing inside the barrier.
“Thank you,” I told him.
He shrugged. “Connie talked to me yesterday, after Jake’s funeral. She said you were on about something weird. I figured I might as well get you in here before you threw a fit.”
“It’s okay,” I assured him. “I didn’t assume you were being friendly or anything. I won’t invite you for tea.”
“Heh,” he snorted.
We made our way down the hall. The little cloth booties I had to put over my sneakers were very slippery on the well-scrubbed floor. I gave up trying to look dignified and settled on trying to look sober. Kirmani swaggered. I resisted the urge to trip him.
Forrester was asleep in the bed I had collapsed on the day before. I could see him through the open door as I passed. He looked as if he’d fallen asleep on his feet and someone had caught him on the mattress before he hit the ground. He was sprawled on his stomach, his feet hanging over the end of the bed and his mouth wide open. The stubble on his chin was more pronounced. I felt sorry for him.
Murphy was across the hall from Catalina Hernandez. We traveled through the antechamber to her. She didn’t look any different from Catalina in terms of symptoms.
“I called her to come in on a case last night,” Kirmani explained. “Around eleven or so. There was no answer at home or on her cell phone. That’s not like Murphy you know?” I nodded. “So, I went over to her place and her car was there, but she didn’t answer the door. I busted it down and she was asleep. I couldn’t wake her up.”
It was testament to how worried Kirmani was that he was confiding in me. I didn’t think about it at the time, though. I was too busy listening to my brain go ‘snap, snap, snap’ in my skull. I didn’t yell at him for not calling me sooner. It wouldn’t help. I went over to her bed and opened my Third Eye.
The black smog was there, over her chest and pouring into her skull. It wasn’t as thick as Catalina’s was. Her glow was dimmed and her wings were missing. It was odd – the first time I’d seen her with my Third Eye, it freaked me right out. Now, seeing what wasn’t there, it freaked me out again. She wasn’t screaming like Catalina had been, but her mouth was set in a furious line and her brow was furrowed. I reached out to the smog again, concentrating on trying to get a sense of what it was.
“What are you doing?” Kirmani demanded.
I looked over to him and took a step back. I don’t know Kirmani that well, so it felt like a real invasion of his privacy to see him in his true form. He had a vicious looking knife at his hip, where his gun was. It slithered in elegant waves and was very carefully maintained to be sharp and shiny. His clothes were tattered and dirty. There was a large patch of dried blood near his right shoulder, where he’d been shot some point, I’d guess. He wore it like a badge of honour, where Murphy would have tried to hide her battle scars. There were rusted medals pinned to his chest, over his heart. Citations, maybe. He was definitely a warrior, like Murphy was, but her opposite in appearance. Where Murphy was aristocratic, Kirmani was peasantry – and not in a bad way. He was just part of the people. He belonged here, in Chicago, and probably knew it like the back of his hand. Furthermore, he’d fight for it. He’d die to protect it.
“Why are you lookin’ at me like that?” he asked, shifting uncomfortably.
I snapped my Eye shut. “Sorry.” I looked back down to Murphy and got back to my train of thought. “I don’t know what to do for her.” I rubbed my eyes. “I have to figure out how everyone connects.” I looked to him. “Can you get me all the victims’ names and information?”
“Maybe,” he replied. “What do you need to know?”
“Everything,” I said. “Name, address, ethnicity, age, job - everything. It can’t be random. They have to connect somehow.”
“There’s only so far I can take things before I’m abusing my position,” Kirmani said. “This isn’t an official investigation. I can’t just interrogate people ‘cause you want me to.”
“Listen, Murphy’s sick,” I explained. “You’re her partner. That means you get to step in when she’s out. You’re my new Murphy.”
He actually shuddered at that. “I’m not yer anything, Dresden, except yer arresting officer the minute I get the chance.”
“She’d want you to help me,” I pointed out. “You’ve already lost one cop, you wanna lose another?”
“Of course not,” he said. “But I’m not gonna be yer rent-a-cop, Dresden. I don’t take orders from you and I’m def’n’tly not going to break laws for you.”
“You don’t have to!” I said, my voice rising. “Do what you can. Work the system. Murphy does it all the time.”
“She shouldn’t,” he retorted, matching my volume.
“She’s dying!” I yelled. The lights flashed and Murphy’s monitor bleeped grumpily. “Unless I do something to stop it. This isn’t about you or me or how much we like each other. This is about stopping this before anyone else dies!”
I might have keeled over dead from the look Kirmani gave me then. He set his jaw and folded his arms across his chest. I thought for certain I’d gone too far and screwed it up. I should have remembered his true form though. Kirmani protects his city.
“I’ll do what I can.”
“Thank you,” I said.
“I don’t get why you gotta save the world all the time, Dresden,” he said.
I shrugged. “Someone has to.”
“We do,” he corrected, tapping his badge. He looked down at Murphy. “We try.”
“There are some things you can’t fight, Sid,” I told him.
He twitched a little. “Spooky stuff.”
“I’ll get what you need.”
“Get lost,” he jerked his chin to the door. “I can only be in the same room with you for so long before I wanna kill you.”
I grinned. “Hey, you’ve got the Murphy gig down already.”
I left and stripped free of my isolation gear, stuffing everything into a large garbage hamper inside the sheeting. I was about to step through when Forrester stopped me. He was rumpled from his nap and clung to a cup of coffee like it was a loved one.
“I’m very sorry about Leftenant Murphy,” he said, sincerely.
“Thanks,” I said. “You been home yet?”
“Not since...I don’t even know,” he said, with a sigh. “My wife came in this morning. I’d almost forgotten how beautiful she is. She brought donuts. That, of course, made her even more beautiful.” I smiled. “I nearly made it out last night, but Leftenant Murphy was brought in and shortly afterwards, Fiona Jackson went into cardiac arrest. She was only twenty.”
“Was,” I muttered.
“She died, yes,” he said, sadly. “She had such a nice father too. I spoke with him during one of the lulls.” He shook his head. “I’m sorry, I’m blathering to you.”
“No problem,” I said.
A nurse called for Forrester. He gave me a tired smile.
“Three more came in last night, plus the leftenant,” he told me.
“1, 2, 3, 4,” I said.
He frowned. “Yes, I suppose so.” He shook his head. “I must run.”
I went on, but as I passed the waiting room on my way out, someone called my name. I turned around; ready to be very grumpy with whoever was trying to stop me. Anna Murphy threw herself at me. My anger died immediately.
“Harry!” she cried. “Mom’s sick!”
A tall man exited the waiting room after her and gave me an appraising look. He had a bulge at his hip that was very clearly a gun and the way his eyes moved informed me he was definitely a lawman of some sort. The colour of his eyes informed me he was also Murphy’s ex-husband. Or, at least, Anna’s father. I didn’t know if those two were the same person or not. Murphy didn’t talk about her ex. In fact, now that I think about it, I don’t even know if Anna’s last name is Murphy. But, she’s Murphy’s Anna, so she will remain Anna Murphy to me until I am told otherwise.
In any case, whoever he was, he was not pleased that I was hugging his daughter, even if she technically had initiated it. I released her.
“I know,” I told her. “I’m sorry.”
“They won’t let me see her. They said maybe later on, but I know they’re lying.” She had a stubborn look that only Murphy women possess and her hands balled into fists at her side. “Dad wants me to go to school like normal, but I’m staying ‘til I know what’s wrong. Did you see her?”
I looked over her to ‘Dad’. He had his arms folded across his chest. He was very handsome, but that didn’t surprise me. He was tall, not as tall as me but a good 6 feet and change, and solid. It would take a lot to knock him over. His hair was very shiny. I had an urge to use my Sight on him to see if he was really all that. I didn’t like him. He gave me a brief nod.
“I did,” I confirmed, after being granted permission. “She’s in a coma, Anna. Do you know what that is?”
She nodded. “I watch House with my step-mom.” She frowned. “But, why’s she sick?”
I shook my head. “I don’t know, kiddo.”
She looked up at me. “Can you fix her?”
“I’m not a doctor,” I said, gently.
“I know that,” she replied, with an impatient sigh. “But you’re a wizard! Can’t you do something to help?”
My first instinct was to say, ‘of course’. You can’t say no to eyes that big and trusting. I resisted though and settled for, “I’m gonna try.”
Anna nodded. “Okay. Thank you, Harry.”
That casual, simple acceptance from her made my heart twist a bit and that growing ball of anger in my stomach a little bigger. I forced a smile and patted her head in a very patronizing fashion. She wrinkled her nose at me and I stopped.
“I have to go now,” I said. “You should go to school. School is important.”
“Mom’s importanter,” she retorted.
I couldn’t argue with that. “Yeah. She is.” I made up my mind to get Murphy out of there. You know, if only to save Anna’s education.