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Fool Moon, Page 12

Jim Butcher

Chapter 13

  Walking down stairs with your hands fastened behind your back is more difficult than you would think. You depend upon your arms for balance, whether you realize it or not. With my hands cuffed at the small of my back, and Murphy walking me up the narrow servant's staircase, and then down the front stairs of MacFinn's building in front of a gaggle of staring police officers, my balance was gone.

  As we came down, I could hear arguing voices. "You want to get in my face about this?" Carmichael demanded. "Look. I'm doing my job. My boss said no one was to go up, so no one goes up. Do I need to use shorter words or what?"

  I looked up to see Denton towering over Carmichael, the veins in his forehead athrob, his three associates spread out in a fan behind him. "You are interfering with a duly appointed officer executing his duties," Denton snarled. "Get out of my way, Detective Carmichael. Or do you want to get added to Internal Affairs' to-do list along with your boss?"

  "It's all right, Ron," Murphy said. "I'm done with my business up there, anyway. "

  Carmichael looked up at me and stared, his mouth opening. Denton and his crew looked, too. I saw Denton's face twist in surprise, and then close again, hedging out any emotion from his expression. Roger, the redheaded kid who worked for Denton, was staring at me openly, his jaw dropped. Benn, the woman who had attacked Murphy last night, regarded me with an almost bored expression, and Wilson, the overweight one, let out a satisfied snort.

  "Lieutenant," Carmichael said. "You sure about this?"

  "He was arguing with the most recently deceased last night. I can connect him to at least one resident of the house, as well as some of the . . . decorations there. I'm taking him in for obstructing and for conspiracy to commit murder. Put him in the car, Carmichael, and then get your ass upstairs. " Murphy gave me a sharp push toward Carmichael, and I stumbled. Carmichael caught me.

  "So let's go, Denton," Murphy said, and turned and stalked away. Denton gave me an expressionless glance, and stepped after Murphy, beckoning his companions to follow.

  Carmichael shook his head and walked me to one of the police cars. "Fuck, Dresden. And here I was getting ready to throw in on your side. Guess I'm just a sucker for the underdog. "

  Carmichael unlocked the back of the car and put his hand on the back of my head as I bent down to get into it. "Watch your head. Christ, what happened to your jaw?"

  I sat down in the back of the car and looked straight ahead. I didn't answer him. Carmichael stared at me for a while, and then shook his head. "We'll have someone drive you downtown as soon as the scene is secure. You can get in touch with your lawyer, then. "

  I kept my eyes forward and still didn't answer him.

  Carmichael studied me some more, then stood and shut me into the car.

  I closed my eyes.

  I have felt low before in my life, have experienced events that left me broken and groveling and wishing I was dead. That was pretty much how I felt now, too. It wasn't that I hadn't found the killer - I've been beaten before, taken the blow on the chin, and come out fighting the next round. I can roll with the punches as well as anyone. But I hated feeling that I had betrayed a friend.

  I had promised Murphy that I would keep no secrets from her - and I hadn't. Not really. But I had been stupid. I should have been putting pieces together more quickly, more instinctively. Perhaps I had some excuse in that I had been distracted by nearly having my head blown off at the Full Moon Garage, that I had been distracted by my soulgaze upon the Streetwolves' leader, and the knowledge that he wanted to kill me. But it wasn't a good enough excuse to clear things with Murphy. I wasn't sure anything would have been. I felt alone. I felt frustrated. I felt like shit.

  And I felt worse, a moment later, when I looked out the car window at the full moon and realized something that I should have put together an hour before - the real killer or killers were still out there.

  MacFinn couldn't have been responsible for all of the deaths the previous month. Two of the murders had occurred on the nights before and after the full moon. If MacFinn's curse was indeed to become a ravening beast during the full moon, he could not have murdered either of last month's victims, or Spike at the Varsity last night.

  Which begged the question: Who had done the killings?

  I didn't have any answers. If the dark-haired woman who had led the Alphas was indeed connected with MacFinn, could she have been responsible? Something wolflike had attacked me in the abandoned department store when all the lights had been out - had it been her? One of the Alphas? Perhaps that would explain how the other murders happened.

  But if it had been true, why hadn't the killer finished me off while I was floundering in the dark, virtually helpless?

  More and more questions, and no answers.

  Not that it mattered to me now. A nice, quiet jail cell didn't sound too bad, once I thought about it. At least it would keep the criminal element off of my back. Provided they didn't shut me up with a four-hundred-pound con named «Hump» or anything.

  And then an odd feeling crept over me, derailing my train of thought. Once more, the hairs on my neck were standing up. Someone was watching me.

  I looked around. There was no one in sight. All of the police were inside the house. I was alone in the back of the patrol car, with my hands bound. I was helpless and alone, and I suddenly became very aware of the fact that Harley MacFinn had yet to be found or apprehended. He was still lurking in the night, unable to keep from tearing apart anyone he saw.

  I thought of Spike's torn corpse. Of poor Kim Delaney, covered in her own blood upstairs in the townhouse. I added imaginary (and far more horrible) images of half a dozen other victims, stacking scene upon scene of blood and death in my mind within a few seconds.

  I broke out in a cold sweat and looked out the other window.

  Directly into a pair of brilliant, feral, amber eyes.

  I yelled and flinched away, lifting my legs to kick should something come rushing through the vehicle's window. Instead, the door opened, and the dark-haired, amber-eyed woman from the department store said, "Be quiet, Mr. Dresden, or I will not be able to rescue you. "

  I blinked at her, over my upraised knees. "Huh?"

  "Rescue you, Mr. Dresden. Get out of the car and come with me. And quickly, before the police return. " She peered past me, toward the house. "There is not much time. "

  "Are you crazy?" I demanded. "I don't even know who the hell you are. "

  "I am Harley MacFinn's fianc¨¦e, Miss West," she said. "I am called Tera. "

  I shook my head. "I can't leave. I'd be buying more trouble than you could imagine. "

  Her amber eyes glinted. "You are the only one who can stop my fianc¨¦, Mr. Dresden. You cannot do that from a jail cell. "

  "I'm not the Lone Ranger," I snapped in reply. "I'm a hired consultant. And I don't think the city is going to foot the bill for this sort of thing. "

  Tera West's teeth showed. "If money is your concern, I assure you that it is not a problem, Mr. Dresden. Time presses. Will you come, or not?"

  I studied her face. She had clean, striking features, exceptional more than attractive. There were crow's-feet at the edges of her eyes, though they were the only sign of age on her that I could see. There was, along the edge of her forehead, at the hairline, a long, slender, purpling bruise.

  "You," I said. "It was you who attacked me in the department store. I hit you, and you took my rod away from me. "

  She glared at me. "Yes," she said.

  "You're a werewolf. "

  "And you," she said, "are a wizard. And we have no more time. " She crouched a bit lower, staring past me. I looked in that direction, and saw Denton and his cronies exiting the townhouse, engaged in an animated discussion. "Your friend," she said, "the police detective, is close to finding my fianc¨¦. Do you really want her to be the one to face him? Is she prepared to deal with what she will find? Or will she die, as the others did?"

  Dammit. The bitch (no pun intended) was right. I was the one who was capable of actually doing something about MacFinn. If Murphy was the one to catch up to him first, people would get killed. She was a fantastic cop, and was becoming more adept at dealing with the supernatural, but she wasn't able to handle a major werewolf berserker. I turned back to Tera. "If I go with you, you'll take me to MacFinn. "

  She stopped in the midst of turning to leave. "When I can. At dawn. If you think you can create the circle, hold him in when the moon again rises. If you can help him. "

  I nodded once. My decision was made. "I can. I will. "

  "She who was called Kim Delaney said the same thing," Tera West said, and spun on her heels to head away from me, crouched low to the ground.

  I rolled out of the backseat and followed Tera West out into the shrubberies and garden shadows around the building, away from the police cars and the lights.

  Someone shouted in surprise, somewhere behind me. Then there was a cry of "Stop!" I just stood and ran, as fast as I could, to get out of the lights and the line of sight of any possible shooters.

  Apparently, the one shout was all the warning I was going to get. Gunfire erupted behind me as I ran. Bullets tore up the dirt next to my feet. I think I started screaming without slowing down, hunching my shoulders and ducking my head as best I could.

  I was maybe five feet away from the sheltering shadows behind the hedges when something slammed into my shoulder and threw me through the hedge and out the other side. I landed in a roll and stumbled halfway back to my feet. There was a second of screaming, confused input from my shoulder, as though my joints could suddenly hear a welter of sound, feel a broad variety of sensation and texture beneath my skin. And then my shoulder went numb entirely, and my vision started spinning. I reached out a hand to support myself as I started to fall - and remembered that my wrists were still cuffed behind me. I went into the turf, felt the grass against my cheek.

  "He's down, he's down!" came a cold, female voice - Agent Benn's, I thought. "Take him!"

  There was no warning of presence, just the feeling of someone jerking me up to my feet by my duster. I felt Tera's hand slide beneath my jacket, then vanish as she pressed it to the numbed area of my arm.

  "You are not bleeding badly," Tera said, her voice calm. "You were shot in the shoulder. Not the leg. Run or die. " Then she turned and started making her way through the hedges.

  Some encouragement - but I had a hunch I would be feeling a lot worse a few minutes from now. So I swallowed the sickly taste of fear and loped after Tera West as best I could.

  We started a game of shadow-haunted hide-and-seek in the little garden, Tera and me against the agents behind us. She moved like a wraith, in utter silence, smooth and steady in the black shadows and silver light of the moon overhead. She immediately cut into the hedges, taking lefts and rights every few paces. She did not slow down for me, and I was somehow very certain that MacFinn's fianc¨¦e would not stop and wait for me should I fall. She wouldn't hesitate to leave me behind if I could not keep the pace.

  I did it for a while. It wasn't even too hard. Oh, I felt a little out of breath, a little hampered by the handcuffs, but other than that, it was almost as though I hadn't been shot, aside from the trickling warmth I could feel sliding down my ribs and over my belly. Endorphins - what a rush.

  Our pursuers plunged into the maze of hedges, shrubs, and statuary, but my guide seemed to have an uncanny knack for avoiding them. She kept to the darkest parts of the garden as we went, checking behind her to make sure I was keeping the pace.

  I wasn't sure how much time passed that way, ghosting through the darkness while our pursuers struggled to coordinate their efforts and remain quiet at the same time, but it couldn't have been long. I've read somewhere that the initial shock of gunshot injuries always wears off after a few moments - besides, I was out of shape. I couldn't have kept up with Tera West for long. She was that fast, that good.

  My shoulder began to pound double time to my laboring heart as we emerged from the last of the hedges to the street outside - and the eight-foot wrought iron fence that surrounded the property. I slid to a halt and stumbled against the fence, wheezing.

  Tera looked over her shoulder, her amber eyes bright beneath the moon. She was breathing through her nose silently, the crouched run having not tired her in the least, it seemed.

  "I can't climb the fence," I said. The pain from my shoulder was starting to become very real now - it felt like a runner's cramp, only higher up. "There's no way. Not with my hands cuffed. "

  Tera nodded once. "I will lift you," she said.

  I stared at her, through a growing haze of pain. Then sighed. "You'd better hurry, then," I said. "I'm about to pass out. "

  She took the words in stride and said, "Lean against the fence. Keep your body stiff. " Then she seized my ankles. I did my best to follow her directions, and she heaved, straining with effort.

  For a second, nothing happened. And then she started, very slowly, to move me up, my good shoulder against the fence. She kept pressing my ankles higher, until I bent forward at the waist, scrabbled with my legs for a second - and then tumbled gracelessly to the ground on the far side of the fence. I hit the ground, and as I did a nuclear weapon went off in my shoulder, white fire, blinding heat.

  I sucked in a breath and tried not to scream, but some sound must have escaped. There was a shout from somewhere behind me, and the sound of voices converging on our position.

  Tera grimaced and turned to face the oncoming voices.

  "Hurry up," I gasped. "Climb it and let's go. "

  She shook her head, a stirring of dark hair. "No time. They are here. "

  I gritted my teeth until they creaked and got my feet underneath me. She was right. The oncoming voices were close. Someone, Benn again, I thought, shouted out orders not to move. If Tera tried to clamber over the fence now, she'd be a perfect target at the top. The pursuers were too close. Tera didn't stand much chance of escaping, and if she didn't, I wouldn't make it far. I'd be caught, and in more trouble than ever - and MacFinn would be on a rampage, with no one to oppose him.

  I blinked sweat out of my eyes and knelt down as my blood pattered to the sidewalk. Little curls of steam came up where it hit the cold concrete.

  I took a breath and drew in every bit of will I could summon, drew in the pain and my fear and sick frustration and shoved it all into a hard little ball of energy.

  "Ventas veloche," I murmured. "Ubrium, ubrium. " I repeated the words in a breathless chant, curling my fingers in toward my palm as I did.

  The curls of steam from my blood began to thicken and gather into dense tendrils of mist and fog. Back along our trail, where more of my blood had spilled, more fog arose. For a few seconds, it was nothing, just a low and slithering movement along the ground - and then it erupted forth, billows of fog rising to cover the ground as the energy rushed out of me, covering Tera from my sight and causing shouts of confusion and consternation to come from the law officials pursuing us.

  I dropped to my side, overwhelmed by pain and fatigue.

  There was a whisper of sound, a creak of wrought metal, and then a light thump as Tera West landed beside me, invisible in the fog though she was only a few feet away. She moved toward me, and then I saw her expression, her eyes wide with wonder, the first emotion I had seen on her face.

  "Wizard," she whispered.

  "Don't wear it out," I mumbled. And then everything went black.