Rating: PG-13 (for violence and some language later on)
Spoilers: None in this chapter
Chapter Length: 3214 words
Summary: Harry's latest case is uncomfortably familiar and starts him on another quixotic crusade. The only trouble is, how do you stop a killer when you're stuck baby-sitting?
Author's Notes: I can't get my head around how Harry's apartment/office is laid out on the show. I try to keep notes in my mind when I watch the show, but it doesn't all connect for me. So, I may be taking a few liberties with the design. Anybody know if someone has made more detailed notes of it somewhere?
I sighed a small sigh of relief that Bob hadn't decided to take a midnight stroll when I unlocked the shop door. Murphy had to give me a hand with it, as I had Graylin on my right hip and was employing my right arm to keep her there. She was half asleep on my shoulder.
"Just up the stairs," I whispered to Murphy, pointing.
Luckily I had cleaned up a bit in anticipation of my date. It wasn't tidy, but there was no underwear or magical paraphernalia lying around either. I shut the door behind us and locked it, making sure all the sigils were in place. Whoever or whatever had killed Tamsin might come after the girl and I didn't want to take any chances.
"I can't see a thing, Dresden," Murphy whispered back. "Turn on the lights."
"Sorry," I said.
I grabbed the box of matches I kept by the door and handed them to her. A fireman once told me that leaving my candles unattended was a fire hazard. You know what else is a fire hazard? Demons from Hell. The fireman didn't mention them at all.
Murphy stared. "What's this for?"
"Seriously?" I just shrugged at her. "Okay, seriously."
She lit a couple that were on the nearest table and I wandered towards the stairs, lighting a few with magic. I could actually set them all ablaze with a quick spell, but not in front of Murphy. Graylin stirred restlessly on my shoulder and wrapped her arms around my neck.
"S'pretty," she muttered, sleepily. "I like candles."
"Me too," I agreed.
I picked up one that had a holder I could carry and climbed the stairs with it. Murphy was a few steps behind. I lit a few more in my room off the one in my hand and set that one down on the bedside table. The lamp there decided to cooperate with me for once and it turned on when I asked it.
"What's with the candles?" Murphy wondered, finally.
"Uh...they're pretty," I answered, with confidence.
She rolled her eyes. She approached us to speak with Graylin. "Is it ok if you come get washed up, sweetie?" She was using her 'mother' voice again. It kinda freaked me out. "Then you can go to sleep, okay?"
"I guess so," Graylin replied, rubbing an eye irritably.
"I'll be right out here," I promised.
I handed her off to Murphy and they went into the bathroom. The lights worked for them in there too. I tried to remember the procedure for putting a kid to bed. I had been a kid once and my Dad used to tuck me in. It was a very long time ago. I pulled down the covers a bit.
"Dresden?" Murphy called.
"You got a t-shirt or somethin' she could sleep in?"
I rummaged around in a drawer until I found a clean T-shirt with a non-offensive logo or slogan on it. I knocked on the door and Murphy took it from me, then closed it again.
A minute later, the door opened and Murphy came out. She shut the door behind her and shortly after that Graylin emerged on her own. My T-shirt hung down past her knees and looked awkward, but fairly comfy on her. Her face and hands were clean and it looked like Murphy had run a brush through her hair. Murphy scooted her to the bed and Graylin climbed into it. She looked very small to be in my big bed, like it might swallow her up if we didn't watch out for her. Murphy fluffed the pillows a bit and Graylin settled onto to them. She looked over to me.
"You gonna stay, right?" She asked, nervously.
"You bet," I assured her.
"You too?" She asked Murphy.
"Yep," Murphy said, with a smile.
"Don't turn off the light, kay?" she requested.
"'Kay," Murphy and I agreed.
"Okay," she nodded to herself. "I'm gonna go to sleep now."
Both Murphy and I nodded back to her. Murphy pulled the chair I normally use to hold my clothes up to Graylin's side of the bed and there was more than enough room for me to perch on the other side without disturbing her. She opened her eyes a few times to make sure we were still there but eventually her breath became even and she drifted off.
"Jesus Christ," Murphy muttered, under her breath.
Her whole face had changed to show how upset and how tired she was. She only ever let me see that side of her, the human side, on very rare occasions and I always took it as a sign that things were bad.
"You okay?" I whispered.
"I am, yeah," she replied. She jerked her head towards Graylin. "She's not. The problem's not. It's disgusting. No matter what I do, if I catch the bastard who killed her mother, I can't make it better. She's still gonna be dead. I hate that about my job."
"I know what you mean," I said.
She looked sort of surprised. "Yeah, I guess you would. Huh." She shook her head. "Anyway, it's terrible. It's the kinda thing you worry about, you know? What if I get shot one day on the job and I'm gone? What happens to Anna? I mean, she has her father still but..."
"A father isn't a mother," I filled in. There was a bit of a pang in my heart that I pushed away. "A kid deserves both." Or any.
She nodded silently and we both watched Graylin sleep for several moments. She looked blank, not really troubled but not peaceful either. The pang in my heart crept back in again. I rubbed my chest uncomfortably.
"Where do we go from here?" I asked.
"In the morning we'll have some of the autopsy results back and we'll see what that gives us. Kirmani's taking a team through the apartment tonight, to make sure nothing's disturbed. I'll go through it in more detail in the morning. Graylin might remember more details too, when it isn't fresh. We're looking for next of kin." Murphy had been speaking towards Graylin's direction and she now slid her eyes to look at me, somewhat mischievously. "And, you know, if you wanna do that voodoo stuff you do, I wouldn't object."
I grinned. "I thought you didn't believe in 'that stuff', Murph?"
"I don't, but whatever you do works," she said, simply. "I can't explain it and it drives me kinda nuts, but you get me results. I have no arguments with that."
"Remember that the next time you want to slap me," I requested. She chuckled softly. "Do you wanna lie down? I have a couch...I can stay here."
"No, I'm fine. I'm used to no sleep," she said, off-handedly. "You can, though."
I opened my mouth to object, but then thought better of it. I could get a head start on my 'that stuff' without Murphy asking too many questions of me. Afterwards, depending on what I found out and how bad it was, I might crash for a few hours. I was used to no sleep too.
"Okay," I agreed. "You take first watch. Come get me if you need me."
"I will. Thank you, Harry."
I had been about to go and paused to look back at her. "For what?"
This made her laugh for some reason and she shooed me away with one of her hands. "For being you. Go."
I grabbed a pillow and blanket from the closet on the pretense of heading to the couch, but dropped them off and moved on to the lab. I'd hoped Bob would be up, but he had already gone into his skull and I had to call him out.
"Good date?" he asked, when he saw me.
"No," I replied.
"Sorry," he said, sympathetically. "Are we doing alchemy, then?"
Usually when things didn't go well in my life, I liked to make potions. It took the edge off and potions work best when you make them with feeling. Despair and hopelessness worked as good as any other feelings. I had Bob with me to remember ingredients and generally make sure I didn't blow myself up.
"No. There's a girl in my room," I explained, pointing at the ceiling.
"There often is," he snarked. "I thought you said it was a bad date."
"It's a little girl," I clarified, holding my hand by my hip to indicate her littleness. He raised an eyebrow. "Eww! God no, not like that. It's a long story. Murphy's there too."
"Lt. Murphy is in your bed?" Bob asked, apparently highly amused by this thought.
"Actually, she's beside it," I said, irritably.
"Fascinating." He raised an expectant eyebrow at me.
I explained about my evening, which took quite a long time and he listened with attentiveness. You don't generally apply 'attentive' as an adjective for a ghost, but Bob was a patient guy. I guess if you're going to live vicariously through someone, I'd be a pretty exciting person to chose. I foolishly endanger myself on a daily basis.
"And so I brought her back here," I finished up.
"Of course you did," Bob replied. "It's only natural you would feel for the girl, after what happened to your father. You have a weakness for affairs of family."
I dismissed this comment with a 'pfft' and wave of my hand, even though I knew it was true. I hate seeing a family broken up. My family has always been unconventional. There was my dad, who was well-intentioned, but kinda hopeless, my uncle, who was evil and Bob, who was a ghost. Not exactly normal.
"So, that ring any bells?" I asked, changing the subject. "Anything stand out to you?"
"This Grace-lynn child - "
"Graylin. She said it was a wizard who attacked them?"
I nodded. "Yeah, but it was dark and she's five. It could have been something in disguise, or she could have seen something vaguely human and just assumed. It's the eye thing that weirded me out. D'jou know of anything that causes that? A demon or...something?"
"I'd have to do some research," Bob said, thoughtfully. "This forensic person thought it might be drugs, you said. You don't think that's a possibility?"
"Oh, it's a possibility. But, okay, Tamsin could have only been 16 or 17 when Graylin was born," I explained. "The restaurant staff says Graylin's father isn't around. She had to go work with her mom every night, so I'm guessing the grandparents aren't helping either. Tamsin probably didn't finish highschool and she's stuck waiting tables. If you worked that hard and cared that much about your kid, would you screw it up with drugs?"
"People do many inscrutable things when they are suffering from an addiction, Harry," Bob said. There was a look on his face that told me there was more than opinion behind the statement, but I knew better than to inquire. "Human behaviour is rarely logical."
"Alright," I conceded. "But, for the sake of the argument, let's say it wasn't drugs. What else could it be?"
"Off the top of my head, I'd suggest she could have been in the midst of some sort of vision, or suffering from poisoning, or enthralled," Bob rattled off.
"Vampire enthralled?" I wondered.
"No, most likely from a spell," he corrected.
"So is murder."
There was a knock at the door. Bob and I exchanged worried glances of 'what now?'. At two AM, visitors were never good. I called my hockey stick to me and went to investigate. The knocking was more of pounding, I discovered, as I opened the heavy door of the lab. It was coming from the back. I hurried to it before it woke up Graylin or stirred Murphy to investigate.
"Oh, c'mon!" I groaned, when the knocker's face came into view. I opened the door. "What did I do this time?"
Warden Morgan glared back at me with an impassive face of stone. He didn't have his sword out in the open, which was a good sign. I wasn't in the mood to be beheaded.
"I want the girl," he stated. One thing you can say for Morgan, he gets to the point. "You are harbouring her."
"She's not a fugitive," I said. "You can't arrest me for harbouring a bystander. One that you can't have, by the way. How'd you even know she was here?"
"We have been keeping eye on the mother," Morgan explained. "She and the girl are important to us."
I fought down a rush of anger. The Royal 'we'. The council. Bunch of very powerful, very ruthless and very annoying wizards who keep things running smoothly in the magic world. Or at least, in theory. We generally didn't see eye-to-eye, me and the council.
"And where exactly were you tonight, when Tamsin Cartwright was getting murdered?" I demanded, sharply.
"There were other matters to attend to," Morgan replied, looking uncomfortable. "A large shipment of Third Eye was discovered on the other side of the city. It required several of our resources."
"Are you telling me that you let a woman get murdered just so you could stop some vampires from getting high?" I said, unable to keep my temper. "Jesus Christ, Morgan! Tamsin was all that girl had!"
"Which is why it is important that the girl be placed under the council's protection," Morgan said, calmly.
"The council that let her mother die," I snapped. "That really seem like a good idea to you?"
He calmly smashed the door into me, pushing me back and slid through the gap. He set a quick pace for the stairs. I had to take a second to catch my breath. The door knob had hit me right in the gut. I ran after him.
"You self-righteous son of a bitch," I shouted at his back. I slammed my hockey stick across the stairs before he could climb them, blocking his path. "Get the hell out of my house."
"Don't be an idiot, Dresden," he hissed, unmoving. "Your standing with the council is shaky at best, do you really want to bring down their wrath?"
I snorted. "No different from any other day of the week. The girl stays with me. There is a cop up there, by the way, a civilian cop. You gonna explain to her why you've come to take her witness away?"
"I have no need to explain myself to any authority other than the council."
"She won't like that." I smirked. "She might shoot you. I might let her."
Morgan was unimpressed. "Remove your staff, Wizard Dresden, or I will break it."
"Oh, don't 'Wizard Dresden' me," I snapped. "Go f-"
Morgan grabbed a hold of the shaft with a sudden movement and I felt it heat up in my hands. I was forced to let go before my palms burned. It clattered to the floor and Morgan marched up the stairs. I followed him, making a grab for his coat but before I could get him, he slammed into me backwards and I had to retreat a few stairs to keep my balance.
He reversed direction and stepped forward, only to bounce backwards again. He put his hand out tentatively and pressed his palm against the air a few times.
"Take it down," he demanded, whipping his head around to glare at me.
"Take what down?" I said, confused.
"Dresden, I'm warning you..."
"What barrier?" I repeated, slowly. "I'm not doing anything."
He tried to press forward again, but just bounced back. Curious, I pushed past him and was easily able to climb the step that stopped him. He made an angry sound and smashed his fist against the air.
"Look, Morgan," I said. "I don't know what's going on. Either you're a very good mime, or there's someone or something else in here who doesn't want you taking Graylin." I leaned forward to be just out of his reach. "I'd take it as a sign. Get out of my house, now."
I think he would have cursed me if the spells wouldn't have bounced off the supposed shield. He glared at me for a minute, maybe deciding whether I was worth the effort. Apparently I wasn't. He turned and stalked down the stairs. I followed a few steps behind, ready in case he rounded on me again. I picked up my hockey stick as I passed and shadowed him to the door.
"The council will not be pleased, Dresden," He growled, turning back."You push your luck."
"Yeah, yeah. I'll live to regret this, I hope I can sleep with one eye open, watch my back, you'll get me and my little dog too," I rattled off, herding him out the door. "Save your breath for your spells."
I closed the door in his face and locked it, making sure all the sigils were still in place.
"That wasn't wise, Harry," Bob said.
"Don't start, Bob," I snapped. "Do you think she's better off with them?"
"I think you are better off if she is with them," He replied. I stared at him and he shifted a bit. "But she is better off with you, I should think."
I nodded to myself and moved my mind onto other weirdness. "Did you put that barrier up?"
"You know it would be impossible for me to do so."
"Yeah, just checking. What the hell was it, then?"
"Perhaps, if the girl is as important as Morgan believes, she was able to do it herself."
"She's asleep. And five."
Bob shrugged slightly. "Not everyone is as late in their magical development as you were, Harry."
I glared at him, then started to laugh. "Thanks, Bob."
I went back upstairs, Bob following me. I jumped over the stair that tripped up Morgan a few times to see if I could figure out what was going on. I felt around for magic or resistance or anything that indicated there was a shield.
"There's nothing here," I decided, after a few minutes. "What the hell was Morgan on about?"
"Perhaps the barrier is no longer in place," Bob suggested.
"Oh yeah, one of those traveling barriers you hear about all the time. Come in, protect your guests and run away again before you can even give them a thank you."
Bob sighed and rolled his eyes. I shrugged, too tired to dwell on it all any more for the moment. I opened the door to my bedroom and peered in to check my guests. Both occupants were asleep despite the noise, Murphy with her chin fallen to her chest. I have heavy doors in my house. You never know when someone is going to try to break through them. Bob looked over my shoulder. I instinctively tried to push him back, but of course my elbow just went into his stomach. I shivered and shooed at him. He adopted a hurt expression and headed back downstairs. I closed the door behind me and followed.
"Is the girl wearing your pentacle?" Bob inquired, when we'd hit the main floor again.
"Yeah, I gave it to her to calm her down," I confirmed. "Why?"
"Well, from your description of the knot she wears, I suspect the combination of the two amulets could have put up the shield. The knot acts as protection and the pentacle would amplify the power."
"Ha!" I said. "She's not a magical genius."
Bob rolled his eyes. "Yes, Harry, you are quite possibly more talented than a five year old girl." He wandered away from me. "Bravo."
I grinned at his back and tried to decide what to do next. I could grill Bob some more, but he'd probably be better off stewing on his own for awhile. I could go lie down for a bit. Things seemed to be calm again for the moment.
Then Graylin started screaming.