Rating: PG-13 (for violence and some language)
Spoilers: None in this chapter
Chapter Length: 3382 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: We're getting into chapters that I have parts of written, but not completed, so the last parts of the story might be slower in coming.
I swatted blindly at the person shaking me. She obviously didn't understand that she was disturbing the nest of woodpeckers living in my head. I cracked an eye open and groaned at the sharp light. My eye closed again and I was shaken again.
I opened the other eye to see whether that was better. It wasn't, but I got enough of a glimpse to identify my shaker.
"Murphy? Turn down the lights," I said. Or, that was what I tried to say. It came out as "Mmmm? Bri...ght..."
"Sid, close the curtains there," Murphy ordered. There was a moment's silence. "Okay, Harry. The light's gone."
I cracked an eyelid and found the view much less painful. The light still hurt, but not as badly. I opened the other eye and tried to get Murphy in focus. If she could just stop duplicating and stay still, I thought it would be easier. She pressed something to my forehead that was cold and it felt very, very good.
"Harry, what happened?"
What an excellent question. I had to think about it. I had read the newspaper...there was a bit with a stuffed bunny...something about birthday cake? Thinking hurt. I decided to stop and I closed my eyes again. Grey eyes suddenly came to my mind and I would have shot straight up into a sitting position if Kirmani hadn't had his hand on my shoulder to hold me down.
"Graylin!" I said, desperately. I looked wildly to Murphy. She gave me a sympathetic look. "She's gone." Murphy nodded. I groaned and set my head back down on whatever soft thing someone had placed under it. "Hell's Bells!"
"It's not your fault, Harry," Murphy soothed.
"I - wait, it's not?"
"There were four cops around your building and block and nobody saw anyone come or go," she growled. "You're not the one I'm angry with right now, Dresden."
Well, that was a pleasant change of pace. I allowed myself a small moment of enjoying Murphy NOT being mad at me before I went back to fussing and self-loathing. This was not good. This was very, very not good.
It was then I noticed that my kitchen was trashed. The table was knocked over, all the dishes that had been on the table or in the sink were smashed to bits. A few cops were going through the wreckage carefully.
"My stuff," I muttered.
"Yeah, he did a real number on the place," Murphy said, sympathetically. "Your bedroom is a mess too. He even took your sheets."
There was question there that I wasn't with it enough to pick out at that point. It made sense to me, even if it didn't to Murphy. He'd taken care to get rid of anything that might have been able to lead me to Graylin. I felt like having a tantrum. It would have hurt, though, so I resisted.
"Did you see who took her?" Kirmani asked, suddenly pushing his face into my line of sight.
"Gah," I replied, wincing and closing my eyes. "Don't move so fast." I opened my eyes again. "No." There was a flash of something near the lab. Bob. I tried to focus on him without focusing on him enough to draw attention. He was transforming into...a guy a wearing what I would wear if I was gonna go kidnap someone. "Yes. Maybe."
"Harry?" Murphy asked.
She has this way of saying 'Harry?' that tells me instantly what she's thinking. Here it was 'do you have a head injury or are you actually coherent?'. You have to admit, it's pretty impressive to put that much nuance into a two syllable word and a question mark.
"Can I just get a second?" I asked. "I have to...just gimme a second."
"Harry..." 'I don't have time for this crap, wizard.'
"Just one second, Murphy, please."
She nodded and I got up with the help of her and Kirmani. The room toppled dangerously to one side, then righted itself again. I stumbled my way into the downstairs bathroom. The very cold something on my forehead was an ice cold facecloth that had stuck to me even when I was upright. I wet it again in the sink and put it on the back of my neck. The thing with magical bludgeoning, as opposed to your garden variety whacking, is that you don't have a bump. Just a nasty mark at the point of entry and pain all over your skull. I found the entry mark above my ear on the left side. It was bleeding and tender.
Speaking of pain in the skull. "Hi Bob. You shouldn't be out when we have guests."
"I didn't know half of the Chicago police department counted as 'guests'," He replied. "And I was attempting to be of some use."
"You were," I assured him. "Are...will be. I'm going to sit down." I balanced myself on the edge of the bathtub and looked at him. "Do that changey thing again."
He did so and I took a good look at him. About my height, maybe shorter, Graylin was right. I couldn't see much of his face with the ski mask over it and Bob seemed unsure about eye colour, as it didn't change from his own unique shade of pale blue. His hands were covered up with gloves and he was all in black. Altogether your typical thief, except for something in the pocket of his pants. I almost reached out to remove it, but stopped myself in time.
"That's his anthame," I told Bob, pointing to the handle sticking out of the pocket. "His foci. It's the same person who killed Tamsin. Or at least, he has the same knife." I sighed and rubbed my brow. "Was she scared? Did you see him take her?"
"She was asleep, Harry," Bob said, apologetically. "She didn't wake up."
"Shit!" I hissed at myself. "That's the potion. My fucking potion! If she could have screamed, someone might have - "
"Harry, he was clearly very intent on what he was doing," Bob interupted. "He managed to get through your wards, he seemed to have a found a way to neutralize the effect of the child's necklace, he ambushed you, he was able to cloak himself and walk right out the door with her with no one noticing. He is a very talented sorcerer, Harry. You have no need to blame yourself." He sighed. "I was of no more use than you."
"Well, if I'm not allowed to blame myself, you can't blame yourself either," I decided. "We'll just have to fix it." I got up purposefully and then crashed sideways into the wall.
"What do you intend to do?" Bob asked, with a skeptical eyebrow raise.
"No idea," I said, confidently. "But it'll be very heroic and spontaneous, and probably stupid and piss Murphy off and did he hit me with a truth spell or what? Why can't I stop talking?"
"Side effect of the brain addling," Bob replied, making a waving motion by his head. "Energy interfering with your synapses. It should wear off shortly. In the meantime, just nod as much as possible and try to not to tell all your secrets."
"I really hate this guy," I stated, unnecessarily. "I am going to set him on fire or something. No I'm not, that wouldn't be good. Let's pretend I didn't just say that, alright?"
Murphy banged on the door. I removed the face cloth from my neck and tossed it in the sink, then stumbled my way out of the bathroom. Bob walked through the nearest wall just in time for me to throw the door open. I put my hand on Murphy's shoulder to steady myself.
"I'm good," I said.
"Were you talking to yourself?" she asked, eyeing me nervously.
I opened my mouth, remembered Bob's advice and closed it again, opting for a nod instead. Murphy shot Kirmani a look I don't think I was supposed to see. I described the guy Bob had turned into before I forgot him. I managed to do it without running off at the mouth, though I did use the word 'fancyknifema-bob' before I could stop myself. Kirmani took notes.
"You saw all that before he hit you?" he questioned.
"Before he hit me and before I passed out completely," I improvised.
"Alright, I'll go call out an APB for a guy in a ski-mask with a 'fancyknifema-bob' in his pocket," Kirmani snarked. "And a girl in an oversize t-shirt wearing a shield around her neck. You'd think these people would stick out in a crowd..."
He pulled his phone out and I took a step back before I fried it. I wasn't in a magic controlling state at that point. Thankfully he went outside to make the call. Murphy rubbed her forehead, looking pained. Aside from my head injury, she probably felt about as good as I did and she had been out fighting crime all morning on top of it.
"You okay?" I asked her.
"I really, really wanna catch this guy and..."
"Set him on fire?" I suggested.
She snorted. "Maybe. God. I just..." She trailed off.
"I know. We'll catch him."
"I know. I just want to catch him in time."
I shuddered a little and nodded. "I know."
I walked through the rest of my place with a few cops, to see if anything else was taken besides the pint-sized female. My bedroom, as Murphy said, was a mess. My drawers had been out-turned, all the sheets were gone. Graylin's clothes were no longer in the bathroom and even the book I'd been reading had been ripped to shreds. There wasn't one bit left of Graylin left anywhere. Bob was right, this guy was good.
My brain settled down as I toured, so I was able to think more clearly. I didn't have anything really deep to think, I was still exhausted, but my tongue seemed to remember that it didn't need to relate everything in my head to the nearest party.
I came back down to find Murphy on her phone, pacing the living room. I stopped short to avoid shorting the device and there was a rather cartoonish moment where the trail of cop-ducks behind me all bumped into one another. Murphy hung up and looked to me with a glint in her eye that let me know she was back.
"Jordana Cartwright just arrived at the station," she announced, somewhat triumphantly. "She's Tamsin's older sister. She's on her way over."
Jordana Cartwight looked so much like her sister that, if I hadn't known she was coming, I probably would have thought her Tamsin's ghost. It took me several minutes to find the subtle differences between them. Jordana was older, by a few years and her face had sharper, more mature angles to it. She had the same blue eyes, however, the kind that made you want to pay attention to them. At that time, they were red and puffy from crying, which made the blue stand out even more prominently. She was dressed in jeans and a sweater with socks that didn't match and her brown hair fell in messy, unbrushed waves over her shoulders. I made some tea with what dishes I could find that were intact and brought it out to the living room.
"I got the c-call this morning, early," she explained, trying very hard to keep control of herself. She had an interesting voice, very deep and smooth, with good annunciation. "I drove in, all night. The man s-said he found my phone number in an address book. I don't live here."
"When's the last time you talked to your sister?" Murphy asked, gently.
"About...two years ago, I guess," she replied. "Uh, when Tamsin told our parents she was pregnant they freaked out, badly. They didn't kick her out but they sort of implied they'd prefer it if she wasn't around. She was gone the next morning. We looked for her, my brother and I, but it seemed like she disappeared. She sent me a letter after her daughter was born, no return address. Just said she was okay and stuff. Det. Kirmani told me she's missing? Her daughter?"
"Yes, she was taken from here this morning," Murphy confirmed. "We're trying to find her now. We think the man who took her might have been the same man who killed your sister."
Jordana shuddered and her hand shook so badly that tea spilled over the sides of the cup. She didn't seem to notice.
"Two years ago, our father died of a heart attack, Tamsin came to the funeral," she continued. "She didn't bring her daughter."
"Graylin," I interrupted. "Her daughter's name is Graylin."
"I-I didn't even know, she didn't tell us," Jordana said. She wiped some tears from her eyes. "Anyway, she just came for the funeral and left before my brother or I could even talk to her. That's the last time I heard from her."
"So, you wouldn't know if there was anyone here she might have been afraid of, or who had threatened her recently?" Murphy questioned.
Jordana shook her head. "No, I'm sorry."
"Do you know who Graylin's father is?" I asked, pushing my hunch. Murphy gave me a curious look. I ignored her.
"We didn't know for sure, she wouldn't tell our parents. I think she was afraid our dad might go after him or something. He had a bit of a temper. She just said that the father wasn't interested in being the father and she couldn't count on him for help. If I had to guess, I'd say it was Jeremy Blake. He was her boyfriend then, and I don't think she would have slept with anyone else."
"Can you tell us what you remember about him?" I prompted.
"He was older than her, by four years or something," she said. "He knew Dylan, our older brother. She was really in love with Jeremy. He was charming, you know? Knew what to say to everyone. I think he was probably smart too. You know how you can sometimes look at someone and know they're smart? He had that look to him. He was a good match for her, she's really quick. She was." Some tears rolled down her cheeks, but she kept talking. "Uh...he had dark brown hair with some blond in it and these really grey eyes. Handsome, I guess, in a Greek god sort of way. D-do you think it's him?"
Murphy gave me a sideways look. "Apparently, we do." I put on my best innocent face. "Did Mr. Blake seem to you like he would be capable of something like this?"
"Yes," she said, without hesitation. All three of us looked surprised at the readiness with which she answered, even herself. "I mean...he was never violent or anything, but he was arrogant. He seemed like he would have done a lot to get his way. Just a vibe I got from him."
"Alright," Murphy said. "I'm going to run a check on Mr. Blake. I'll be right back." She gave me a look that said 'we'll talk later, Dresden' and got up to make the call on her cell phone.
I moved quickly, as soon as I was sure she was out of earshot. I held my hand over the tape recorder sitting on the coffee table between myself and Jordana and a little spark jumped from my palm, cutting off the power. I hoped that I didn't erase the tape in the process, but this had to be off the record.
"Miss Cartwright, are either of your parents wizards?" I whispered, cutting to the chase. I didn't know how long it would take for Murphy to run her check.
Jordana looked taken aback. "Y-yes. My father was. I saw on your door...you're a wizard too? I wasn't sure if that was serious or not, so I didn't want to say anything...weird."
"It's serious," I assured her. "Do you or your siblings have the gift?"
She nodded. "All three of us. Dylan's the strongest and Tamsin is...was, very good. I don't have the touch for it. I can only do what my dad called 'kitchen magic'. None of the big, elegant stuff."
This was all going quite how I wanted it to. I leaned forward eagerly. "And is Mr. Blake a wizard?"
"Yes," she breathed. "My dad took him on as an apprentice for a few months when Tamsin was dating him. They didn't really gel, so it was mutually ended. My dad said he was too...um...pretentious, I think it was." Her eyes widened, suddenly. "Wait...was Tamsin...did he...?"
"I think she was killed with black magic," I confirmed. She set down her tea cup with a small 'click' on the table. Half the tea was on her hand anyway. "And I think Mr. Blake did the killing."
She lost it then. She started to sob. My record for making girls cry was holding steady. Hell, maybe I could get Murphy bawling by the end of the day. I had no handkerchief on me for once and I dashed off to the bathroom to fetch her a facecloth. When I returned, Murphy caught my eye and crooked a finger at me. I handed the facecloth to Jordana, murmured something vaguely comforting and headed over to Murphy.
"Why did you ask about the father?" She hissed at me. She had her cell phone held to her shoulder, waiting for whoever was on the other line. "How did you know?"
"Graylin remembered some more stuff this morning," I half-lied. "She mentioned the guy who attacked her had grey eyes. I thought...Tamsin had blue eyes. Grey eyes are more unusual so - "
"Why didn't you mention this to me before?" Murphy demanded.
"I was unconscious!" I defended myself.
"You've been conscious for at least a half hour," she snapped. "What else did she tell you?"
"Nothing much, just about his eyes," I said, quickly. "I'm sorry, Murph, I forgot. There's a lot of stuff going on."
I rubbed my head and I must have looked stressed because she softened slightly. Very slightly.
"Well, I didn't tell you something either," she admitted. "We went through Tamsin Cartwright's phone records. There's been one persistent caller for the past two months. We checked it out, it's a from a pay phone on the other side of the city. Which is useless, we can't pull prints off it. A hundred people probably use it everyday."
"You won't get what you want."
"Last chance, Tamsin.
"She was being threatened," I surmised. "Or harassed at least."
"Most likely," Murphy agreed. Her phone made some noise and she held it up to her ear again. "I'm here. Yeah. Okay, thanks." She snapped it shut. "Jeremy Blake doesn't have a criminal record, but he did have an apartment near the pay phone for a while. I'm going to go check it out."
"I'll come too."
"No, you won't," she disagreed. "You are going to stay here and lie down and rest your head."
"Murphy - "
"You haven't slept, you were unconscious for God knows how long. You're staying here. I'm pulling my team out, they've got all they can from here. I'm leaving a black and white outside and instructions to bring you right back in if you try to leave."
I felt angry frustration fill up in my stomach and it made me dizzy. I glared at Murphy and she glared back. I wanted so much to hex her right then, find Blake's address for myself and go do some useful detective work. My fists clenched up and Murphy's cell phone popped, then let out a puff of smoke in her hand. She dropped it in surprise and it smashed on the floor.
"Shit!" she growled. "That's the third one this year. I don't know why they keep buying the same damn model for me."
I started to laugh. I didn't mean to and I didn't want to. I was fully aware of how much danger Graylin was in and how bad things were, but I couldn't help it. I was on the edge of sanity and that was the last straw. Murphy gaped at me, clearly under the impression I had lost it completely. Her mouth twitched, she smiled slightly and shook her head.
"Go to bed, Dresden, please." She put a hand on my shaking shoulder, affectionate and motherly. "I'll call you, I promise."
My laughter died down and I nodded, tiredly. "Alright, Murph." I paused and added. "I kind of hate you right now." Maybe my synapses weren't as back to normal as I'd thought.
"Yeah. I kind of hate you too," she said, with a fond smile. "Go to bed."