Turn Coat, Page 13Jim Butcher
Murphy went back into the interrogation room. Twenty minutes later, I came in and shut the door behind me. The room was simple and small. I A table sat in the middle, with two chairs on each side. There was no long two-way mirror on the wall. Instead, a small security camera perched up high in one corner of the ceiling.
Binder sat on the far side of the table. His face had a couple of bruises on it, along with an assortment of small cuts with dark scabs. His odd green eyes were narrowed in annoyance. A foot-long hoagie sat on the table in front of him, its paper wrapper partially undone. He'd have been able to reach it easily-if he could have moved his arms. They were cuffed to the arms of the chair. A handcuff key rested centered on the edge of Murphy's side of the table, in front of her chair.
I had to suppress a smile.
"Bloody priceless," Binder said to Murphy as I entered. "Now you bring this wanker. It's police torture, is what it is. My solicitor will swallow you whole and spit out the bones. "
Murphy sat down at the table across from Binder, folded her hands, and sat in complete silence, spearing him with an unfriendly stare.
Binder sneered at her, and then at me, presumably so I wouldn't feel left out. "Oh, I get this now," he said. "Good cop, bad cop, is it?" He looked at me. "Stone-cold bitch here makes me sit for bloody hours in this chair to soften me up. Then you come in here, polite and sympathetic as you please, and I buckle under the stress, yeah?" He settled more comfortably into the chair, somehow conveying an insult with the motion. "Fine, Dresden," he said. "Knock yourself out. Good cop me. "
I looked at him for a second.
Then I made a fist and slugged his smug face hard enough to knock him over backward in the chair.
He just lay there for a minute, on his side, blinking tears out of his eyes. Blood trickled from one nostril. One of his shoes had come off in the fall. I stood over him and glanced at my hand. It hurts to punch people in the face. Not as much as it hurts to get punched in the face, granted, but you know you've done it. My knuckles must have grazed his teeth. They'd lost a little skin.
"Don't give me this lawyer crap, Binder," I said. "We both know the cops can't hold you for long. But we also both know that you can't play the system against us, either. You aren't an upstanding member of the community. You're a hired gun, wanted for questioning in a dozen countries. "
He looked up at me with a snarl. "Think you're a hard man, do you?"
I glanced at Murphy. "Should I answer that one, or just kick him in the balls?"
"Seeing is believing," Murphy said.
"True. " I turned to Binder and drew back my foot.
"Bloody hell!" Binder barked. "There's a bloody camera watching your every move. You think you won't get dragged off for this?"
An intercom on the wall near the camera clicked and buzzed. "He's got a point," said Rawlin's voice. "I can't see it all from here. Move him a couple of feet to the left and give me about thirty more seconds before you start on his nads. I'm making popcorn. "
"Sure," I said, giving the camera a thumbs-up. Odds were good that it would fold if I was in the room for any length of time, but we'd made our point.
I sat down on the edge of the table, maybe a foot away from Binder and, quite deliberately, reached over to pick up the hoagie. I took a bite and chewed thoughtfully. "Mmm," I said. I glanced at Murphy. "What kind of cheese is that?"
"Beef tastes great, too. "
"Teriyaki," Murph said, still staring at Binder.
"I was really hungry," I told her, my voice brimming with sincerity. "I haven't eaten since, like, this morning. This is excellent. "
Binder muttered darkly under his breath. All I caught was ". . . buggering little bastard. . . "
I ate half the hoagie and put it back on the table. I licked a stray bit of sauce off of one finger and looked down at Binder. "Okay, tough guy," I said. "The cops can't keep you. So that leaves the sergeant, here, with only a couple of options. Either they let you walk. . . "
Murphy made a quiet growling sound. It was almost as impressive as her grunt.
"She just hates that idea. " I got off the table and hunkered down beside Binder. "Or," I said, "we do it the other way. "
He narrowed his eyes. "You'll kill me-is that it?"
"Ain't no one gonna miss you," I said.
"You're bluffing," Binder snapped. "She's a bloody cop. "
"Yeah," I said. "Think about that one for a minute. You think a police detective couldn't work out a way to disappear you without anyone being the wiser?"
He looked back and forth between us, his cool mask not quite faltering. "What do you want?"
"Your boss," I said. "Give me that and you walk. "
He stared at me for half a minute. Then he said, "Set my chair up. "
I rolled my eyes and did it. He was heavy. "Hell's bells, Binder. I get a hernia and the deal's off. "
He looked at Murphy and jiggled his wrists.
"Bloody hell," he snarled. "Just one of them. I haven't eaten since yesterday. "
I snorted. "Looks to me like you aren't in any immediate danger of starvation. "
"You want cooperation," he spat, "you're going to have to show me some. Give me the bloody sandwich. "
Murphy reached out, picked up the handcuff key, and tossed it to me. I unlocked his left wrist. Binder seized the sandwich and started chomping on it.
"All right," I said, after a moment. "Talk. "
"What?" he said through a mouthful of food. "No soda?"
I swatted the last inch or two of hoagie out of his hand, scowling.
Binder watched me, unperturbed. He licked his fingers clean, picked a bit of lettuce out of his teeth, and ate it. "All right then," he said. "You want the truth?"
"Yeah," I said.
He leaned a bit toward me and jabbed a finger at me. "The truth is that you ain't killing no one, biggun. You ain't and neither is the blond bird. And if you try to keep me, I'll bring down all manner of horrible things. " He leaned back in his chair, openly wearing the smug smile again. "So you might as well stop wasting my valuable time and cut me loose. That's the truth. "
I turned my head to Murphy, frowning.
She got up, walked around the table, and seized Binder by his close-cut head. It didn't provide much of a grip, but she used it to shove his head roughly down to the top of the table. Then she took the key back from me, undid the other set of cuffs, and released him.
"Get out," she said quietly.
Binder stood up slowly, straightening his clothes. He leered at Murphy, winked, and said, "I'm a professional. So there's nothing personal, love. Maybe next time we can skip business and give pleasure a go. "
"Maybe next time you'll get your neck broken resisting arrest," Murphy said. "Get out. "
Binder smirked at Murphy, then at me, and then sauntered out of the room.
"Well?" I asked her.
She turned and held out her hand. Several short hairs, some dark and some grey, clung to her fingers. "Got it. "
I grinned at her, and took the hairs, depositing them in a white envelope I'd taken from Rawlin's desk. "Give me about a minute and I'll have it up. "
"Hubba hubba," Rawlins said through the intercom speaker. "I like this channel. "
"This is a great way of chasing down the bad guy," Murphy said half an hour later. She gave me a pointed look from her chair at her desk. "Sit here and don't do anything. "
I sat in a chair next to her desk, my hand extended palm down in front of me, holding a bit of leather thong that ended in a simple quartz crystal in a copper-wire setting. My arm was getting tired, and I had gripped it under my forearm with the other hand to support it. The crystal didn't hang like a plumb line. It leaned a bit to one side, as if being supported by a steady, silent puff of wind.
"Patience," I said. "Bind
er might not be a crispy cracker, but he's been in business for a couple of decades. He knows why you grabbed him by the hair. He's learned to shake off something like this. "
Murphy gave me an unamused look. She glanced at Rawlins, who sat at his desk. The desks were set up back-to-back, so that they faced each other.
"Don't look at me," he said, without glancing up from his sudoku puzzle. "I don't run as fast as I used to. I could get used to chasing down bad guys like this. "
The crystal abruptly dropped and began swinging back and forth freely.
"Ah!" I said. "There, there, you see?" I let them look for a second and then lowered my arm. I rubbed my sore muscles for a moment. "What did I tell you? He shook it off. "
"Oh, good," Murphy said. "Now we have no clue where he is. "
I put the crystal into my pocket and grabbed Murphy's desk phone. "Yet," I said. I punched in a number and found out that you had to dial nine to get out. I started over, added a nine to the beginning of the number, and it rang.
"Graver," Vince said.
"It's Dresden," I said. "Tell me what he just did, like thirty seconds ago. "
"Be patient," Vince said, and hung up on me.
I blinked at the phone.
Murphy looked at me for a second and then smiled. "I just love it when I don't know part of the plan, and the guy who does is all smug and cryptic," she said. "Don't you?"
I glowered at her and put the phone down. "He'll call back. "
"The PI who is following Binder," I said. "Guy named Vince Graver. "
Murphy's eyebrows went up. "You're kidding. "
Rawlins began to chortle, still working on his puzzle.
"What?" I said, looking back and forth between them.
"He was a vice cop in Joliet a couple of years ago," Murphy said. "He found out that someone was beating up some of the call girls down there. He looked into it. Word came down to tell him to back off, but he went and caught a Chicago city councilman who liked to pound on his women for foreplay. What's-his-name. "
"Dornan," Rawlins supplied.
"Right, Ricardo Dornan," Murphy said.
"Huh," I said. "Took some guts. "
"Hell, yeah," Rawlins said. "And some stupid. "
"It's a fine line," Murphy said. "Anyway, he pissed off some people. Next thing he knows, he finds out he volunteered for a transfer to CPD. "
"Three guesses where," Rawlins said.
"So he resigns," Murphy said.
"Yeah," Rawlins said. "Without even giving us a chance to meet him. "
Murphy shook her head. "Went into private practice. There's a guy who is a glutton for punishment. "
"He drives a Mercedes," I said. "Has his own house, too. "
Rawlins put his pencil down and they both looked up at me.
I shrugged. "I'm just saying. He must be doing all right for himself. "
"Hngh," Rawlins said. Then he picked up his pencil and went back to the puzzle. "Ain't no justice. "
Murphy grunted with nigh-masculine skill.
A couple of minutes later, the phone rang, and Murphy answered it. She passed it to me.
"Your guy's a nut," Vince said.
"I know that," I told him. "What's he doing?"
"Took a cab to a motel on the highway north of town," Vince said. "Stopped at a convenience store on the way. Then he goes to his room, shaves himself bald, comes out in his skivvies, and jumps in the damn river. Goes back inside, takes a shower-"
"How do you know that?" I asked.
"I broke into his room while he was doing it," Vince said. "Maybe you could save your questions until the end of the presentation. "
"Hard to imagine you not fitting in with the cops," I said.
Vince ignored the comment. "He takes a shower and calls another cab. "
"Tell me you followed the cab," I said.
"Tell me your check cleared. "
"I'm good for it. "
"Yeah, I'm following the cab right now," Vince said. "But I don't need to. He's headed for the Hotel Sax. "
"Who are you, the Amazing Kreskin?"
"Listened in on the cabbie's CB," he said. "ETA, eighteen minutes. "
"Eighteen?" I asked.
"Usually found between seventeen and nineteen," he said. "I can't guarantee I can stay on him at the hotel, especially if he tumbles to the tail. Too many ways out. "
"I'll take it from there. Do not get close to him, man. You get an instinct he's looking in your direction, run for the hills. This guy's dangerous. "
"Yeah," Vince said. "Hell, I'm lucky I haven't wet my pants already. "
"I'm serious. "
"I know you are. It's cute. Seventeen minutes. "
"I'll be there. "
"With my check. I've got a two-day minimum. You know that, right?"
"Right, right," I said. "I'll be there. "
"What have we got?" Murphy asked as I put the phone down.
"Binder thinks he shook me," I said. "He's headed for a meeting at Hotel Sax. "
She stood up and grabbed her car keys. "How do you know it's a meeting?"
"Because he's been made. If he was here alone, he'd be on his way out of town right now. " I nodded. "He's running back to whoever hired him. "
"Who is that?" Murphy asked.
"Let's find out. "
The Hotel Sax is a pretty good example of its kind in the beating heart of downtown Chicago. It's located on Dearborn, just across the street from the House of Blues, and if you look up while standing outside of the place, it looks like someone slapped one of those fish-eye camera lenses on the sky. Buildings stretch up and up and up, at angles that seem geometrically impossible.
Many similar sections of Chicago have wider streets than you find in other metropolises, and it makes them feel slightly less claustrophobic, but outside of the Sax, the street was barely three narrow lanes across, curb to curb. As Murphy and I approached, looking up made me feel like an ant walking along the bottom of a crack in the sidewalk.
"It bugs you, doesn't it?" Murphy said.
We walked under a streetlight, our shadows briefly equal in length. "What?"
"Those big things looming over you. "
"I wouldn't say it bothers me," I said. "I'm just. . . aware of them. "
She faced serenely ahead as we walked. "Welcome to my life. "
I glanced down at her and snorted quietly.
We entered the lobby of the hotel, a place with a lot of glass and white paint with rich red accents. Given how late it was, it was no surprise only one member of the staff was visible: a young woman who stood behind one of the glass-fronted check-in counters. One guest reading a magazine sat in a nearby chair, and even though he was the only guy in the room, it took me a second glance to realize that he was Vince.
Vince set the magazine aside and ambled over to us. His unremarkable brown eyes scanned over Murphy. He nodded to her and offered me his hand.
I shook it, and offered a check to him with my left as we did. He took it, glanced at it noncommittally, and put it away in a pocket. "He took an elevator to the twelfth floor," Vince said. "He's in room twelve thirty-three. "
I blinked at him. "How the hell did you get that? Ride up with him?"
"Good way for me to get hurt. I stayed down here. " He shrugged. "You said he was trouble. "
"He is. How'd you do it?"
He gave me a bland look. "I'm good at this. You need to know which chair he's in, too?"
"No. That's close enough," I said.
Vince looked at Murphy again, frowned, and then frowned at me. "Jesus," he said. "You two look pretty serious. "
"Yeah," I said. "I told you, this guy's dangerous. He have anyone with him?"
"One person," he said. "A woman, I think. "
Murphy suddenly smiled.
"How the hell do you know that?" I asked him.
"Room service," she said.
Vince smiled in faint approval at Murphy and nodded his head. "Could have been someone else on twelve who ordered champagne and two glasses two minutes after he got off the elevator. But this late at night, I doubt it. " Vince glanced at me. "I'll take the bill I duked the steward out of my fee. "
"Appreciated," I said.
He shrugged. "That it?"
"Yeah. Thanks, Vince. "
"As long as the check clears," he said, "you're welcome. " He nodded to me, to Murphy, and walked out of the hotel.
Murphy eyed me, after Vince left, and smiled. "The mighty Harry Dresden. Subcontracting detective work. "
"They're expecting me to be all magicky and stuff," I said. "And I gave them what they expected to see. Binder wouldn't have been looking for someone like Vince. "
"You're just annoyed because they pulled that trick on you," Murphy said. "And you're taking your vengeance. "
I sniffed. "I like to think of it as symmetry. "
"That does make it sound nobler," she said. "We obviously can't just go up there and haul them off somewhere for questioning. What's the plan?"
"Get more information," I said. "I'm gonna listen in and see what they're chatting about. "
Murphy nodded, glancing around. "Hotel security is going to have an issue with you lurking about the hallways. I'll go have a word with them. "
I nodded. "I'll be on twelve. "
"Don't kick down any doors without someone to watch your back," she warned me.
"No kicking at all," I said. "Not until I know enough to kick them where it's going to hurt. "
I went up to the twelfth floor, left the elevator, and pulled a can of Silly String out of my duster pocket. I shook it up as I walked down the hallway until I found room twelve thirty-three. Then, without preamble, I blasted a bit of the Silly String at the door. It slithered cheerfully through the air and stuck.
Then I turned and walked back down the hall until I found a door that opened onto a tiny room containing an ice dispenser and a couple of vending machines. I sat down, drew a quick circle around me on the tile floor with a dry-erase marker, and got to work.
I closed the circle with an effort of will, and it sprang up around me in a sudden invisible screen. It wasn't exactly a heavy-duty magical construct, but such a quick circle would still serve perfectly well to seal away external energies and allow me to gather my own and shape it for a specific purpose without interference. I took the Silly String and sprayed a bunch of it into the palm of my left hand so that it mounded up sort of like shaving cream. Then I set the can down, held the mound of Silly String out in front of me, closed my eyes, and gathered my will.
Working magic is all about creating connections. Earlier, I'd taken Binder's hairs to create a link back to him and used it for a tracking spell. I could have done any number of things with that connection, including some that were extremely nasty and dangerous. I'd seen it happen before, generally from the receiving end.
This time, I was creating a link between the Silly String in my hand, and the bit stuck to the door down the hall. They'd both come from the same can, and they'd been part of one distinct amount of liquid when they'd been canned. That meant I would be able to take advantage of that sameness and create a connection between them.
I focused my will on my desired outcome, gathered it all up together, and released it with a murmur of "Finiculus sonitus. " I reached out and smeared away a section of the circle I'd drawn, breaking it, and instantly began feeling a buzzing vibration in the palm of my left hand.
Then I tilted my head far to my right and slapped a bunch of Silly String into my left ear.
"Don't try this at home folks," I muttered. "I'm a professional. "
The first thing I heard was hectic-sounding, hyperactive music. A singer was screaming tunelessly and drums were pounding and someone was either playing electric guitars or slowly dipping partially laryngitic cats in boiling oil. None of the supposed musicians appeared to be paying attention to anything anyone else in the band was doing.
"Christ," came Binder's accented voice. "Not even you could dance to that tripe. "
There was a low-throated female laugh, and a slurred and very happy-sounding Madeline Raith replied, "This music isn't about skill and precision, my sweet. It's about hunger and passion. And I could dance to it to make your eyes fall out. "
"I am not 'your sweet,' " Binder said, his voice annoyed. "I am not your anything, ducks, excepting your contracted employee. "
"I'm not sure I'd emphasize that if I were you, Binder," Madeline said. "Since you've been a crushing disappointment as a hireling. "
"I told you when I got started that if anyone from the White Council showed up, I couldn't make you any promises," he shot back, his voice annoyed. "And lo and behold, what happens? That buggering lunatic Harry Dresden shows up with backup-and with the support of the local constabulary, to boot. "
"I'm getting so sick of this," Madeline said. "He's only one man. "
"One bloody member of the White bloody Council," Binder countered. "Bear in mind that someone like him can do everything I can do and considerable besides. And even people on the bloody Council are nervous about that one. "
"Well, I'm sick of him," spat Madeline. "Did you find out where he's got Morgan hidden?"
"Maybe you didn't hear, love, but I spent my day chained to a chair getting popped in the mouth. "
Madeline laughed, a cold, mocking sound. "There are places you'd have to pay for that. "
"Not bloody likely. "
"Did you find Morgan?"
Binder growled. "Dresden had him stashed in rental storage for a bit, but he hared off before the cops could pick him up. Probably took him into the Nevernever. They could be anywhere. "
"Not if Dresden is back in Chicago," Madeline said. "He'd never let himself be too far from Morgan. "
"So check his bloody apartment," Binder said.
"Don't be an idiot," Madeline said. "That's the first place anyone would look. He's not a total moron. "
Yeah. I wasn't. Ahem.
Binder snickered. "You're money, Raith. Money never really gets it. "
Madeline's voice turned waspish. "What's that supposed to mean?"
"That not everyone has a bloody string of mansions around the world that they live in or extra cars that they never really drive or cash enough to not think twice about dropping two hundred bloody dollars on a bottle of forty-dollar room service champagne. "
"So, Dresden's a bloody kid by Council standards. Lives in that crappy little hole. And pays for an office for his business, to boot. He ain't had a century or two of compounded interest to shore up his accounts, now, has he? And when he set himself up an emergency retreat, did he buy himself a furnished condo in another town? No. He rents out a cruddy little storage unit and stacks some camping gear inside. "
"All right," Madeline said, her tone impatient. "Suppose you're right. Suppose he's got Morgan at his apartment. He won't have left him unprotected. "
"Naturally not," Binder replied. "He'll have a bloody minefield of wards around the place. Might have some conjured guardians or some such as well. "
"Could you get through them?"
"Give me enough time and enough of my lads, and yeah," he said. "But it wouldn't be quick, quiet, or clean. There's a simpler way. "
"Burn the bloody place down," Binder said promptly. "The apartment's got one door. If Morgan comes scurrying out, we bag him. If not, we collect his bones after the ashes cool. Identify him with dental records or something and claim the reward. "
I felt a little bit sick to my stomach. Binder was way too perceptive for my comfort level. The guy might not be overly smart, but he was more than a little cunning. His plan was pretty much exactly the best way to attack my apartment, d
efensive magicks notwithstanding. What's more, I knew he was capable of actually doing it. It would kill my elderly neighbors, the other residents of the building, but that wouldn't slow someone like Binder down for half of a second.
"No," Madeline said after a tense moment of silence. "I have my instructions. If we can't take him ourselves, we at least see to it that the Wardens find him. "
"The Wardens have found him," Binder complained. "Dresden's a bloody Warden. Your boss should have paid up already. "
There was a quiet, deadly silence, and then Madeline purred, "You've been modestly helpful to him in the past, Binder. But don't start thinking that you would survive telling him what he should or should not do. The moment you become more annoying than useful, you are a dead man. "
"No sin to want money," Binder said sullenly. "I did my part to get it. "
"No," Madeline said. "You lost a fight to one overgrown Boy Scout and one pint-sized mortal woman, got yourself locked up by the police, of all the ridiculous things, and missed your chance to earn the reward. " Sheets rustled, and soft footsteps whispered on the carpet. A moment later, a lighter flicked-Madeline smoked.
Binder spoke again, in a tone of voice that indicated he was changing the topic of conversation. "You going to clean that up?"
"That's exactly why it's there," Madeline said. She took a drag and said, "Cleaning up. It's too bad you didn't get here five minutes sooner. "
"And why is that?"
"Because I probably would have waited to make the call. "
I felt myself leaning forward slightly and holding my breath.
"What call?" Binder said.
"To the Wardens, naturally," Madeline said. "I told them that Morgan was in town and that Dresden was sheltering him. They should be here within the hour. "
I felt my mouth drop open and my stomach did a cartwheeling back-flip with an integrated quadruple axle.