Rating: PG-13 (for violence and some language)
Spoilers: None in this chapter
Chapter Length: 2586 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 on the home stretch now. Whoot!
There were more creepy crawlies in the stairwell, writhing on the walls and ceiling. I shut my third eye with haste. They didn't pose a threat and I didn't want to have to look at them. I stood up, brushed myself off and hoisted my hockey stick up again, then moved slowly down the steps, using my Senses to warn me about trouble. The smell and thrum of dark magic got stronger the closer that I got to the bottom. I peeked around the wall and couldn't decide where to put my eyes first. There was the giant altar set up against one wall, filled with objects that looked nasty, except for the fluffy stuffed bunny perched sadistically in the middle of it. The bunny I'd given Graylin to hold. Then there was the guy standing in the middle of the room, chanting under his breath with energy crackling the air around him. What finally grabbed my full attention, was the large circle constructed on the floor from what looked to be metal. Inside, Graylin lay on her side, curled up in a ball, still fast asleep. I struggled between feeling relieved that she couldn't see what was happening or where she was and self-flagellation that she couldn't do anything to help herself. At least I knew I could make one hell of a sleeping potion if I needed to.
As I stood there, the circle started to glow, the light slowly working its way around the rim. I knew whatever was going to happen, it was going to happen when the circle closed and I really didn't want it to happen. So, without really thinking about it, I charged into the room, past the creepy altar, past the guy chanting in Latin and slammed my foot down on the edge of the circle just as the glow was about to merge with itself. Pain shot up my leg and my knee was knocked out of joint with a sickening pop. The glow died with a fizzle and I screamed out something that I don't think was in English.
"You!" A voice behind me roared.
I whirled around in time to be hit with a blast from the end of Jeremy Blake's anthame. I decided it was him as I was thrown back against the wall. He was definitely the guy from the alley and seemed to fit Jordana Cartwright's description. I hit the wall and fell to the floor, both my back and my ass protesting the continued abuse and my knee popping back into place.
"You should be dead!" Blake shouted.
He was terrifying in full fury, nothing to what I'd seen in Graylin's memory. He glowed with rage, his eyes were ice and his face was all angles, painfully cold and still managing to be handsome at the same time. He reeked of black magic and it sparked off him in a dark aura that the average person couldn't have seen. I saw it clearly, though. It made my stomach churn.
"You have no idea how often I hear that," I said.
I pulled my hockey stick up and gave him a good blast from it. He stumbled back a few steps, but remained upright. I sent a couple more blasts his way, knocking him away from the circle and Graylin. He barely flinched. I found that very annoying.
"I don't have time for you," he growled. "Everyone keeps getting in my damn way!" He sent a wild ball of flame at me, which hit the wall above my head and singed my hair a bit. I rolled out of the way and behind a foundation pillar. "There's not enough time for this crap!"
"Loony," I muttered, under my breath.
Chunks of plaster flew by my face from another shot of energy. This would have been an excellent time to tell Graylin to run to safety while I distracted the bad guy. Too bad I'd put her so soundly asleep, we probably could have removed her appendix without her noticing.
There was a large rune painted on the wall in front of me. Rune identification has never been my strong point, but I was pretty sure it was 'blood'. I looked to my left and right and found two more runes on those walls. One I couldn't decipher and the other seemed to be 'family'. Bob's voice in my head immediately told me I was being too literal and I reevaluated. 'Kin' was a better word. 'Relation'. I couldn't see the rune on the wall behind me but the combination of 'relation', 'blood', an altar, his daughter and a giant circle made me guess it was some sort of ritual. I also guessed that Graylin would have to die to complete it, or at least shed some blood. I decided that was not going to happen.
"Blake!" I shouted back, as more plaster flew around me. "Look, whatever you need, whatever you're doing, let me help you. Let the girl go and I'll help you get it done in time, okay?"
Murphy says you have to give criminals a chance to be reasonable before you attack them. That's civilian law. Wizard law says you can try, convict and sentence somebody without them knowing about it, then come and try to behead them. Subtle and quick to anger, that's us.
"Fuck off!" Blake snarled.
Okay, I'd covered reasonable. Time to kick some ass. I picked up a large chunk of plaster that had landed by my feet and peered around the pillar to mark my target. He was standing the same spot as before, his anthame pointed in my direction. I don't think it even occurred to him to move or come after me. That's what happens when you rely on magic too much. You forget there are other ways of doing things and you get corrupted by that power. I could use that to my advantage.
I stepped out from around the pillar and hurled the plaster at him. He wasn't expecting that. He wouldn't have thought that I'd use anything but magic against him. Sometimes magic doesn't compare to hurling a rock, though. I think that belief is why Bob says I'm a troglodyte. The plaster collided with Blake's shoulder and knocked him to the ground. He screamed in rage and I sped towards him, tackling him as he started to get up.
My highschool principal once told my uncle that I fight 'teeth, fist and toe'. That was a polite way of saying I fight dirty. I was a skinny wizard living in a mansion with his rich uncle. I didn't drop out of highschool just because I was failing math. I had to fight dirty to survive.
I punched Blake in the face a couple of times. He finally realized what was happening and punched me back, hard. I saw stars. He pushed me off him and kicked me in the stomach. I twisted as I fell and he wrapped his arm around my neck from behind, bringing his knife down towards me. I bit his hand. He recoiled in pain and disgust. I snatched up my hockey stick and brought it down on his head, knocking him out.
I took a moment to catch my breath and kicked the knife across the room. Then I got up and limped over to Graylin. She was still asleep. I shook her, hard.
"Graylin?" I called. "Graylin, sweetie. You have to wake up now." Blake stirred slightly. "Seriously, kiddo, wake up. Now."
She groaned a little and opened her eyes for a moment, before closing them again. She murmured something cute and wriggled before opening her eyes once more and looking around. Then she started to scream.
"It's him," she whimpered, looking at Blake's prone form. "Harry!"
"I know," I said, scooping her up. "I know, sweetie. I'm really sorry. I'm gonna get you out of here, okay?"
I hurried to one of the windows and tore the curtain down. I used my staff to break the glass and ran it around the frame to knock the jagged pieces loose. Then I lifted Graylin up and helped her crawl through. She hissed as some of the glass on the grass outside bit into her, but she kept going, spinning around when she was done, peering in at me.
"You have to run," I told her. "You get far away from here and you find someone to help you, okay? A mother who has kids with her, or a police person. You get them to call Lt. Murphy and she'll come and help you. Got that?"
She nodded, eyeing Blake over my shoulder. "What about you?"
"I'll be okay," I assured her, with a smile.
"He'll hurt you!" she whispered. "You have to come too."
"No, I can't," I said. "I won't fit. You have to go, okay? Don't worry about me. Just run."
She hesitated, then got to her feet and left. I sighed with relief, then turned around to see a giant ball of fire flying towards my head. I guess Blake had woken up. I ducked and rolled, but there was nowhere to roll to. He hit me with a battering of spells that beat me down until I managed to get control of my hockey stick and fire a few volleys back. What happened next was a good ol' fashioned shoot out, wizard style. Spells flew back and forth, bouncing off one another.
Smash! Went the altar. Smash! Went one of the walls. He knew more spells than I did, but I had more control than him. We weren't getting anywhere, just slapping at each other's faces. I felt exhausted. Then he changed tactics and made a stabbing motion with his knife. I felt myself snap to attention and I lost the ability to move of my own accord. I dropped my staff and started to march towards him.
Enthralling someone, taking over their mind to do your bidding, is illegal in the magic world. It's right up there with 'thou shall not kill' and 'thou shall not mess with the time-space continuum'. It's considered black magic, if not quite Black Magic and can get you in a lot of trouble if you're caught doing it. It takes a large amount of skill to do and the person's mind needs to be open to suggestion or very weak. At that point, I was exhausted enough from the fight, from the lack of sleep, from the worry, that getting into my mind was a snap. That had been Blake's intent with both Tamsin and I. Wear us down until we were weak enough to bend to his will.
A voice was very insistent telling me to lie down. It was my own voice, inside my head and it was damned convincing. Lying down seemed like a great idea. And you know what would be even better than that? If I lay down in that circle on the floor. Excellent idea. Brilliant.
I told it to shut up.
I fought with every ounce of strength I had left, every bit of magic I could muster. I didn't want to die. I kept telling myself that, drowning out the other voice telling me that it was the best idea I'd ever heard. Blake's Will burned through my body but didn't do any damage to my physical being. My spiritual being was in agony and screaming, silently because I couldn't control my mouth. It suddenly occurred to me that, despite my best efforts, I was gonna die eventually. He was very powerful, very angry and very dark. A lethal combination. The only way that I was gonna beat him was to be more powerful, angrier and darker. I could do it, too. I could go that dark. It wouldn't even be hard. It's always been there, inside me.
I could feel it rising, the dark, the anger, the ability to lash out and kill this bastard. I fought it. I didn't want to win that way. I couldn't go there again and come back as myself. I didn't want to go as a dark as a guy who would kill his own daughter in a ritualistic sacrifice. So, I resigned myself to dying. It actually wasn't that scary. I'd done what I set out to do, Graylin was free. I looked up at him, looked him in the eyes and showed I wasn't afraid. He sneered at me. Then he flinched slightly, once, twice, three times. Spots appeared on his shirt, dark spots that started to spread. He looked surprised and turned away from me. He aimed the knife elsewhere, but before he could do anything, the back of his head exploded. It wasn't pretty. He fell to the ground, hard. I fell with him, released from the spell. Murphy came down the stairs, her gun out in front of her. You would not believe how beautiful she looked to me at that moment.
"Harry?" She called, skirting carefully around Blake's crumpled form. "You okay?"
I couldn't answer, I was sucking in oxygen as deeply as I could. I managed to lift a hand and wave it at her. Kirmani had joined us, gun at the ready and several little cop-ducks followed him. Murphy lowered her gun and came over to me, kneeling down. Her eyes went all around the room to the symbols on the walls and the circle on the floor and the smashed altar. She was creeped out, I could tell. After taking it all in, her attention snapped back to me with determined focus.
"What the hell are you doing here?" she yelled, giving me a hard smack to my side. I yelped. "Do you have to do the exactly opposite of everything I say? You're worse than my daughter."
I didn't have enough breath for a defense. "Graylin?" I asked, when I could manage it.
"She's safe, we saw her running down the road on our way here," Murphy informed me. She seemed to calm down fairly quickly, maybe realizing how pathetic I looked. "She insisted we come here to help you. She was hysterical about it."
I relaxed and flopped over on my back. "How did you know where to come?"
"Oh, well, between one of the neighbours calling to report a man with a hockey stick was breaking into the house across the street, a report of strange noises coming from next door and the sudden malfunction of every car alarm on the block, you weren't exactly hard to find, Harry," Murphy grumped. She looked like she wanted to smack me again. "Also, the landlord at Blake's old apartment building gave us the name of the gas station where Blake used to work. A guy there thought Blake was buying a house in this area, saw some paperwork, but couldn't figure out how he was affording it on his salary. We ran a check with the real estate agents and found the house being leased to a guy who matched Blake's description."
I nodded, impressed. Murphy was an awesome cop.
"How did you know where to come?" she asked.
I thought. I thought really hard. I could not come up with a lie, I was too tired. "I cast a tracking spell on her tears," I said.
Murphy rolled her eyes. "Alright. And what is all this?" She gestured around her.
"Stuff to do a ritualistic sacrifice," I answered, promptly.
"And why would he do that?"
I frowned. "I haven't figured that out yet."
Murphy nodded. "Well, when you do, let me know." I gave her a thumbs up. She sighed heavily. "Harry - "
"I know," I interrupted. "You kind of hate me right now."
"Yeah," she said.
Then she smiled.