Rating: PG-13 (for violence and some language)
Spoilers: Brief references to Birds of a Feather, Bad Blood and Storm Front
Chapter Length: 2538 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: None.
Everyone filed out of my place in a timely fashion, leaving me on my own. I promised Murphy I'd lie down, but I couldn't do that. I wouldn't have been able to sleep, knowing that Graylin was out there, in danger. I did decide the danger would not be any worse if I stopped for a peanut butter sandwich, though. It actually ended up being the end crust of bread, folded in half. More of a peanut butter envelope. It was what I could find. I wolfed it down hungrily and took some ibuprofen for my headache. I remembered that I was still wearing the same pants from the night before and decided I might as well see if I could find a clean pair to wear. I was kind of hoping the cleaning elves might have been by to clean up the mess in the time since my last visit, but my room was still a mess. I sat down on the bare mattress of my bed and let my mind go blank for a moment or two. Then I began to sort my thoughts out in an orderly fashion.
I banished the physical thoughts ("I'm tired," "my head hurts,") to one part of my brain. I pushed the worries ("Graylin's in danger," "that guy took you down right through your shield") to another. Negative thoughts ("you let her get kidnapped, you dolt," "figures the one potion that you make that works as planned still bites you in the ass") went left and trivial thoughts ("you need to buy bread," "you need to buy everything") went right. I was left with the productive, helpful thoughts, of which there were few.
"He couldn't have taken everything that Graylin touched," I mused, out loud. "He couldn't have known. There has to be something left. Go through everywhere she's been, everything she did since she came here."
I did, from the moment I brought her in. I replayed every second I could remember. I thought of my pentacle, but it was too closely associated with me. I'd worn it everyday for years and a few hours on someone else's neck wouldn't be enough to erase my experience from it. I kept going, until it hit me.
"She cried on you," I reminded myself. "You had to change your shirt."
I moved my eyes around the room, searching. My first glance turned up nothing, so I started to dig through the mess, tossing everything up on my bed after I'd looked at it. I'd nearly gone through it all when I saw blue fabric sticking out from behind my dresser. I crawled over and yanked the piece of furniture away from the wall. My shirt had slid behind it when I threw it on there. I snatched it up.
I got to my feet and raced down to the lab, all thoughts of pain and fatigue disappearing in my excitement. I threw open the door to the lab and pushed a bunch of stuff off the table, to clear space. Bob's skull teetered on the edge. I picked it up and shook it energetically.
"Hey, get out here," I ordered, before putting safely back on the table.
I raced around the room, gathering up what I needed for my tracking spell. Bob appeared in a glow of yellow and I ran right through him in my haste. I didn't even bother to stop and shiver.
"Harry?" he inquired, tentatively. "What is going on? Have the police..."
"I have her tears," I cut him off, holding the shirt up over my head for him to see as I pulled my crystal from a drawer. "I can track her through her tears, right?"
"In theory, yes," Bob agreed. "If they haven't - "
"Good," I said, eagerly. I began to pour and mix.
Thankfully this was my best spell as it wasn't a time for task requiring careful measuring. I set the potion to boil and set about cutting out a piece of my shirt. Bob gave up trying to ask questions and simply watched with a critical eye, making sure I didn't mess anything up.
"Here goes," I said, a few minutes later.
I dropped the piece of fabric in and let it dissolve, then dunked my crystal into the mixture. Bob looked as tense as I felt and I think he was holding his non-existent breath. The crystal twitched, then swung around and faced me confidently.
"No!" I growled. "No, I'm not looking for myself. I know where I am. Where's Graylin?" I ripped a larger piece off and tried again. Bob shifted restlessly beside me. This time the crystal twitched and kept twitching, pointing away from me, latched onto something weak. "There we go, there she is." I beamed at Bob. "She's not dead. I can still get to her."
"What are going to do?" He asked.
"I'm going to find her," I declared. "And I'm going to rescue her. I'm going to rescue the damsel in distress, defeat the bad guy and then, if I can find some beautiful woman, I'm going to kiss her before the credits roll."
He rolled his eyes. "I meant specifics, Harry. What is your plan?"
"Oh." I frowned. "Hold on, I have to come with it first."
"Alright, do you get it?" I asked Bob, fifteen minutes later.
He sighed. "Yes, Harry. It's not a terribly complicated scheme."
"Hey, it may not be complicated," I said, pointing a finger at him. "But it's gonna work."
"We shall see."
"Such an optimist, Bob, that's what I like about you."
I turned to the table and retrieved my crystal, which was twitching in an anxious manner, eager to lead me to my goal. I put it in the pocket of my jacket, grabbed a sports bottle and called my hockey stick to me.
"Okay," I said, turning back. "Time to get the show on the road. Ready?"
"Indeed," Bob said.
He blurred out and blurred back as me. Well, me if I was a centuries old British dead guy.
"Loosen up a little," I commanded. "I look too..."
"Dignified?" I suggested, in Bob's voice. My doppelganger slouched his shoulders and gave me a goofy looking smile. "Better?"
"Yeah," I had to admit. "You'll do. So, just make yourself seen once in awhile. Look worried, pace a little. Try to - "
"Harry, I have known you for 25 years, I can be you. You are not that multi-layered," Bob interrupted, impatiently. "And we do not have time for acting lessons. That child is in danger and you need to rescue her."
It's very odd receiving a pep talk from yourself, but it did the job. I took a deep breath and uncapped the sports bottle then took a long swog of it. It tasted like flat soda and cheetah hair. Yuck.
"Don't walk through any walls," were my final words to myself.
There was a pop and I was torn into tiny little pieces, reassembled and thrown out on my ass. I was readier than the last time I'd taken the escape potion (you know, without a crazy demon trying to kill me) and managed to land with some grace on the pavement. It took a moment to get my bearings. I headed out to the mouth of the alley and peered around the building. About two blocks away a police car was parked in front of my shop. Perfect. I allowed myself a moment of triumph.
I couldn't get the jeep, since it was parked too close to the cops in charge of keeping me inside. I had a plan for that, too, though and started to run down the sidewalk. People looked at me funny, charging down the street as I was. They moved out of my way though. One benefit of being thought a nutter. The diner wasn't too far away from where I'd landed, only a couple more blocks and I got there in record time. I burst in, drawing everyone's attention to me. I have a way of doing that.
I beamed at Laura when she emerged from behind the counter, relieved that she was working that day. "I need to borrow your car," I said, breathlessly.
She cocked her head at me. I suppose that when the guy that you occasionally date and make watch sappy French movies, the guy who, by the way, thinks he's a wizard, runs into your place of employment looking like he hasn't slept in awhile, carrying a hockey stick and demanding the keys to the vehicle you worked very hard to buy, you're bound to be a little jarred. She took a good look at me and then pointed to the coat rack in the corner.
"My keys are in my pocket," she said.
I gave her a big hug and kissed her hard enough for her to stagger back, then snatched the keys and ran with a call of 'thanks!' over my shoulder. Laura's good people.
Her car was a red Fit, of which she was very proud, and easy to find in the parking lot. Machines have a way of malfunctioning on me, but I managed to get going without injuring me, the vehicle or anyone else.
Following the crystal is delicate work. You go too fast and it gets confused, you go too slow and you go in circles. I was feeling especially impatient at this point and it took every ounce of self-restraint not to go barreling around the city like a maniac. I followed it and my instincts to the into a more suburban neighbourhood. It wasn't really the place I expected to find a crazy ass dark wizard, but I guess that was the point.
It wasn't a long drive to the small, well-kept house where my crystal made me stop. I drove down the block a bit and parked the car, then walked back to the house. It was white, very clean and had bright open windows on the upper level. The windows of the basement were curtained, however, and the taste of black licorice hung in the air.
I could have stayed back, assessed the situation and compiled a plan of action. I could have called Murphy and told her I thought I'd found the girl and let the police handle it. I could have been rational. Of course, I wasn't. I walked up to the front door and blasted the lock. There were spells there to keep me out, but I foiled them pretty quickly. They weren't designed to be the real challenge, just to keep away pests.
The living room was painfully clean and unlived in looking. I kept my hockey stick out in front of me as I carefully looked around the top level. There were more rooms that looked to be there for decoration but no people were present. At the far end of the hallway off the living room was another door, but this one tripped up my magic sensors. I paused to open my third eye. There were...things. Squirmy, slimy, wiggly things that crawled around the doorway. The kind of things that feed of dark energy. The kind of things that give me the heebie jeebies. I also found a nasty looking sentry demon there too, hidden. He was ready to eat me the moment I got too close.
Sentry demons are little like guard dogs. They can block a path like nobody's business and they just love to do it. As demons go, summoning one isn't the worst thing that you can do. They're pretty tame and as long as you give them something to stand in front of, they can be fairly loyal. For the person trying to get past them, though, they're a real pain in the ass. Fortunately, they were also kind of stupid.
"Hi there," I said, conversationally.
"Unopass," he replied.
"Right, back atcha. Anyway, I need to go down there. Save a kid, stop a dark wizard, you know, that sort of thing. You wouldn't be interested in just stepping aside, wouldja? Please?"
"Unopass," he growled.
"Yeah, that's what I thought. Alright, well, catch."
I tossed a ball of fire at him and he reached out to catch it. Like I said, kind of stupid. He let out a yelp as the fire burned his slimy skin and then set his yellow eyes on me furiously. Then he charged. I may not be the most athletic guy, but I can do two things really well: fall down and get the heck out of the way. I dodged, let him go barreling past and then ran top speed down the hall. It's never that easy, though. He reoriented himself and grabbed me by the shoulder, then threw me back away from the door as though I were a piece of lint he was flicking from his clothes. If he were wearing clothes.
I landed on my back, which was better than my head, and the wind was knocked out of me. Obviously the simple dodge and dash tactic wasn't going to work, he was too quick. The demon repositioned himself in front of the door, not bothering to come finish me off. His job was to guard that door and whatever happened on either side of it was none of his business.
I got myself upright again and did some quick thinking. I had to get him out of the way. Not necessarily defeat him, but keep him away from that door long enough for me to get through it. I fished around in the front pockets of my hoodie, where I keep lots of things that often come in handy. There was nothing there but a grocery receipt that had gone through the wash and Laura's car keys, though. Her key chain was a glittery disco ball. I weighed the heavy Fit key in my hand and got an idea. I aimed it towards where I had parked and hit the car alarm button. A siren started to wail. In this neighbourhood, fairly well to do, a few other cars joined in, triggered by the noise. Then a few more. Sometimes, very rarely, I love technology.
The demon screamed at the high pitched noise and threw his head around angrily. I set my hockey stick aglow and held it up to Laura's key chain. The disco ball sparkled. I held it up by the key and spun it back and forth, sending the mirrored pattern spinning. The demon went nuts at the sensory input and charged at me again. This time, when I dodged him, he was too disoriented to come after me right away. I bolted for the door, silently reminding myself to buy Laura some flowers or something, and did a baseball slide towards it. I kicked it open and it erupted with a green burst of light, but I had already slid safely through before it could catch me. I thumped down three stairs before I slowed to a stop. My ass was bruised, but I was intact. I looked upwards to the door. The demon was there, staring at me angrily with no idea what to do. His job was to keep people from passing through he door, what was he supposed to do once they'd already done it? With an angry snarl he slammed the door shut. I'd have to come back and deal with him later.
Right then, I had a girl to rescue.